The average age of the start of menstruation is 12 in a young female and the age when menopause begins is between 45 and 55 years of age, that is around 43 years on average of her life. In some cultures, it is ceremoniously celebrated and in some it is a taboo. Especially in the Asian community, it was/is frowned upon and known as dirty and disgusting, unbeknown that this is one of the signs that a woman is fertile and is a crucial part to advance with the lineage of generations.
I recall a friend mention that she was visiting family in India when she started her period. She was treated as the untouchables, at mealtimes she was not allowed to sit with the family, in fact she was made to sit on the floor away from everyone and looked at with disgust. There were a lot of myths I heard growing up such as not to touch flowers during a period because they will die or hold a jar of pickle in case it goes off, or you cannot visit the temple and seek blessings from the Goddess. In the 90s it was another story…
Flashback to 1993:
Its 12.45pm and I am home for lunch from school, before I went for lunch I went to the loo, while wiping myself I discover blood stains on the toilet paper, I drop it in the loo, just to be sure I reach out for more clean toilet paper to wipe one more time and there is more blood on it, and it freaks me out. I look in the toilet pit and I see blood, I panic even more, without flushing the toilet I run to my mum, extremely worried. She was making rotis in the kitchen to feed the masses (dad, grandma, and sisters), I call her to the side and ask her to follow me to the toilet and show her the blood. She looked angry and all she said to me was “Eat more eggs, when I tried to stop you, you still carried on!” and she walked off into her bedroom.
By now I am worried sick, wondering can eggs really make you bleed? She comes back and gives me a strip of elongated cushion like thing and said to me to put it on in my underwear, she shut the toilet door and left me to deal with it. I looked at this cushion strip, at close inspection it looked like cotton wool encased in a mesh like outer coating. I turned it over and there was a peel off sticky thing, which logically was the bit that I needed to stick on my underwear with the cottony bit facing upward. Once I completed the task, I washed my hands and went to have my lunch. My mum would not look at me and she looked completely vexed with me. “Make sure you do not drink any cold things, and don’t tell anyone about it, look at Inde (she was one of the neighbourhood kids), she is older than you and she has not started her PERIOD!” said my mum and I freaked out even more, luckily it was time to go to school for the afternoon classes, and I practically ran out to the waiting car.
That afternoon, all the girls in my class and 2 classes above mine were asked to make our way to the auditorium. I was so moody and irritated, because I was still processing the dialogue I had with mum, trying to connect the dots on why did eating eggs cause the bleeding and avoid having cold drinks and on top of that I had a slight pain in my lower belly that would not go with a feeling of nausea.
We were introduced to a woman who came to speak to us about menstruation. As the session progressed, she pulled out a pair of panties and this made all the girls giggle, and then she pulled out an elongated cotton cushion just like the one I was wearing, now this got very interesting and got my attention. That day I found out the real name of the elongated cotton cushion was a sanitary pad, and it is worn when a girl bleeds to avoid staining on the outer clothing. Then she went on to explain that we are at that stage where we will start our menstruation, or the common term is PERIOD! At that point I wanted to shout out “I STARTED MINE TODAY!” but the little girl in me was subdued, and I was so relieved to learn about it, and that it was normal for girls my age to have their period, and there was no connection between the bleeding and eating EGGS!!!
Image from Canva
Fast forward to 1997:
“Kiran, something is wrong!” said my sibling, Kay, I looked up from my maths book. She looked worried and about to cry. “What’s the matter?” I ask. She pointed to the toilet and asked me to follow her, “I pissed blood and I am freaking out!”, she said. Now I was thinking whether I should really freak her out or just be calm and nice about it. “Don’t worry, you started your period, here I will give you a pad to place it in your underwear, so you do not leak on your clothes,” I said. And proceeded to show her how to use a sanitary pad and explained what it all means, and she seemed relieved that it was not a life-threatening situation.
Mum came home from grocery shopping, and she asked if there was anything to report. “All good, by the way your daughter has started her period,” I replied. I saw the same rage she had when I started my period, and I said to her “Before you start your crazy talk about eating eggs, she doesn’t need it now, I have shown her how to use a pad and put her mind at ease. I wish you had done that with me and not freaked me out.” And I walked back to my study room without waiting for an answer from my mum back to work on my math equations.
Do not worry, I already made my peace with my mum, we had a long chat about many things, and we cleared the air, and I saw the situation from her point of view and the sort of environment she was in at the time. You see I could not solely put the blame on her and say it is her fault, mum was born in the late 1950s, so I can only imagine what her first period scenario was like, coming from a conservative family.
When one looks at the situation and understands it with maturity then there is room for forgiveness and letting go. Keeping in mind that our children are our future, and it is up to us to bring that love and normality and break the generational rut that we are in, defy it and not to accept it as “This is how it is always done!”
By Kiran Kaur
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