I got my first periods when I was in 6th grade and to everybody’s surprise, I didn’t tell my mother. I hid it for the first month. I don’t clearly remember how because I used to go to school as well. I was scared of revealing it to her and even when I told her it was in a very unnatural way.
The question is not how I hid it but why did I hide?
I had a neighbourhood friend who was 3 years older than me. She and I would talk about everything that kids of our age possibly could. One day, she just randomly started talking about maturity and body transformation women’s bodies go through. I could sense that she wanted to burst out something but was afraid. It was on her face. Slowly and gradually into the conversation, she talked about periods but, in a way, that as if she would be stoned to death if someone overheard us. She told me that her mother asked her to keep it to herself and not to talk about it with anyone, not even to her younger sisters who were my age.
In our society, women fear to talk about menstruation even to other women and mothers ask their daughters to keep it to themselves — not even to discuss it with their sisters.
Out of fear and curiosity, I asked why? And what she told was the reason why I kept it hidden from my mother and a lot of other women fear to talk about it too.
She mentioned menstruation as something very natural yet shameful and normal yet dirty. As something that women experience every month but are not supposed to talk about it because that’s just a very gross and shameful act. That imprinted in my mind in such an unnatural way that I was so afraid to tell it to my mother even when I had them because it just kept triggering me that blood coming out of my body is just disgusting and now I was supposed to keep it a secret because even mentioning it without an absolute necessity is shameful. Growing up I would see elderly women in my family and around talk about periods with so much shame and disgrace. Every time there is the “Always” ad on the TV either there is an awkward silence in the room or the channel is switched politely. Girls on their periods are cornered in school so that nobody notices them being unwell if they would be. Bloodstain on clothes while in public is supposed to be a huge disgrace on women’s part.
Every time when there is an advertisement mentioning menstruation on TV, the entire room falls into an awkward silence, — or the channel is switched politely.
Over the years I internalized the fact that talking about periods is culturally not acceptable. if I need sanitary napkins, I can NO WAY ask the opposite gender to get me a pack because that way they will know I have my days going on and that’s just so disgraceful. If I am going to buy it myself, I should buy it with other grocery items and hide it in a brown bag because the shop keeper will notice it otherwise and would know the girl bleeds and that is shameful. In Ramzan, I have to pretend fast during my mensuration days and get up for Sehri (Sahur) as well because no male in the house should know I am bleeding since it’s a dirty act.
I am to stay quiet about periods as if they don’t exist but how? I have them every month. I bleed and I feel the pain and while I do, I cannot even talk about it? If it is natural then why do I have to hide it? The process of mensuration is God-given so how does it make a female disgusting and gross?
Over the years I let go of this fear. I told myself that periods are as normal as any other biological process. They are natural and serve a purpose for the human body with the only difference that periods are women-specific and hence have become a taboo.