I know it’s an icky little topic and it might make you uncomfortable but I’m on my period, and I don’t care. I’ve decided that what’s missing in our society is a menstrual hut. They have them in places like Zaire, West Africa, Mali, Hawaii. Native American Indians had them. Why not Maryland?
The menstrual hut was apparently the result of ancient beliefs about the magical properties of menstruating women. A menstruating female could curdle milk or blight crops with a glance, despoil weapons and tools with a touch, and sap the strength of any warrior foolish enough to have intercourse with her. She was feared, basically, because it was considered unnatural to be able to bleed for so many days without dying. So she was shunned.
When a woman gets her period in a place like West Africa she is banished to a hut along with the other “unpure” bleeding women, where she waits for 5 days until her “curse” passes. I’m thinking that it’s probably most women in the village at the same time because women tend to follow each other’s cycles. Also, I’m not an anthropologist and this is just me surmising here but I think some of these cultures invented menstrual huts because men were afraid of women on their periods (and rightly so). So all the women from the village are in the huts menstruating, bitching, talking to each other, bingeing on chocolate, crying, laughing, finding ways to reduce their bloating & cramping. Basically they’re communing - or if they’re alone, they’re isolating - meanwhile back in the village, I assume, the dads are making Mac n’ Cheese for the kids. Right? Or millet porridge with baobab sauce – whatever’s quick.
In West Africa, women are required to sleep in these menstrual huts. The village streets and family homes are off-limits and sexual intercourse and cooking for a husband are strictly forbidden. This to me sounds fantastic.
Note: I understand that in some cultures the menstrual huts are used as a way to oppress women, and also as a way for men to limit cuckolding by tracking their wives’ fertility, but for the purposes of this post I am just going to side-step the whole oppressive history aspect. I’m just talking about me wanting to isolate when I’m on my period, and how the hormones make me a crabby parent.
I think there should be some kind of menstrual village here in Maryland. When I’m on my period it’s like I have rabies: a creature with rabies foams at the mouth, loses its temper, and goes crazy. It has to be chained to a tree or it will attack someone with his front teeth, and rip them apart.
The psychology involved in the daily grind of parenting is hard enough all by itself, but parenting while menstruating – for me – just isn’t possible. I’m sorry to have to over-share like this but I’ve always had unusually harsh periods. I spend the first day clutching a hot water bottle and the whole bottle of Bayer aspirin, moving from the bed to the couch to the bed and back, complaining, carping at people, bitching, apologizing, crying, losing my temper, apologizing, ransacking the pantry in search of chocolate, losing my temper, apologizing – and on it goes at least 48 hours – usually up to 3 days. One time a decade ago, a male therapist suggested that PMS was just my excuse to let myself feel my feelings once a month. (I nearly killed him.) But it was a good point. The good part about my cycle is that it’s a time I get to release all my emotions – whether I want to, or not. This would be fine if I lived alone, but I have other people living with me who are relying on me to be a constant, and to be a role model.
Last year, my husband (who is from Ireland, where in general men-folk do not discuss “female troubles”) quietly took me aside and suggested that maybe it’s not a good idea for me to complain so much about how awful my period is month after month, because our daughters are listening and may grow up to dread their own periods somehow. Or – shock, horror! – bitch about their periods one day, too.
These were really good points. Insightful. And when I heard them, it felt like I’d been hit in the face with a pie: I got it. My self-absorbed complaints needed to stop.
I tried to shut up about it, I really did. This lasted about a month. It turns out that silencing myself while menstruating wasn’t an option, at all, because I say such out-of-character, shitty, moody things the first 48 hours of my period that I have to explain myself, somehow – to my children. It really is like I have rabies, because I blow my top about things that normally don’t bug me, like if someone spills milk or leaves a toy on the stairs or looks at me the wrong way, I can really blow my top. I’ll apologize, of course, but then I’ll blow my top again – within the hour. I understand that this is just about the worst way to parent, because it’s the definition of inconsistency – and we all know that inconsistency totally screws with children’s little psyches because the kids don’t know what to expect next. My monthly moodiness has been going on for years, and by now my family knows instinctively to just take a step back and give me space when I get that rabid, I’m-on-my-period look in my eye – emotionally, and physically – because they know I’m really not in my right mind or body.
My apologies have lost most credibility, at this point, but I continue to apologize and explain that I’m on my period and I’m really not myself so at least they have an understanding of why I’m so werewolfian. So yes, I’m probably setting my daughters up to dread getting their periods, and to perhaps even fear the mood swings that they see me go through, and I know this is a terrible parenting flaw. The only good part about it is that because I’m continuing to verbalize that “I’m on my period,” my children can at least know why Mommy is being such a grouchy-pants. If I had a menstrual hut, I wouldn’t have to apologize so much, because there wouldn’t be anybody to shout at.
The menstrual hut was basically a rest. The pre-cursor of today’s The Red Door spa. And what woman, whether hunter-gatherer, artillery truck driver, CEO, or stay-at-home-mom, could not use five days a month where nothing is demanded of her, no one bugs her, and she’s not required to tend to everyone else’s needs? The menstruating tribeswoman gets to leave behind her pesky children, her husband’s family, her usual obligations, and all the water-hauling, food-gathering, pig-tending, tedium of her everyday life.
When I’m on my period I need to be kept away from all humanity, particularly my husband and children (and other drivers), because I get possessed by a mean version of myself. I’m rude, I think mean thoughts, I tail-gate people, I nag, I snap, I glare at clerks impatiently, and I’m just not fit to be in public. All I want to do is lie on the couch in the darkened basement – alone – with a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups – watching Inspector Morse videos.
Me, Reese’s PB cups, and Morse.
The truth is I’m not a very good parent for about 3 days when I get my period, I’m an awful one. I really just want everybody to fuck off.
So that does it. I’m going to build a menstrual hut behind our house.
Here’s a link to an interesting movement – the Red Tent.