Mad Menstruation

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Internet, there is an important conversation we need to have. A word of warning: that important conversation is about Sally Draper’s period. In an episode where SPOILER ALERT Pete Campbell sawed through a noose and SPOILER ONLY IF YOU ARE MATTHEW WEINER momentum killer Glen was out-acted by a stuffed moose, what I remember most is this:

Girl, I understand. I ruined some panties like that in my day.

Look! I can’t help myself — seeing a period on television is exciting! It’s been referenced enough: it arrives late or it never shows, or its the reason a woman’s behavior has taken a turn for the comically erratic. The truth is that menstruation is happening all the time, ALL AROUND US. Someone you know is vacating her uterine lining right now. Not since Judy Blume confused everyone born in the 80s with sanitary pads that require a belt have I seen the old moon blood front and center in a piece of popular culture, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is forty-two years old!

Sally Draper, I’ve got your back. The first time this happens it’s scary. One day, you’re going about your business when you look in your underwear and you see blood. It came from your genitals, and that is gross and not normal. Even though you know it’s coming, you’re not ready. I knew about menstruation and the first time it happened I thought I had masturbated too much and busted my vagina. Then I cried and ran to my mom.

Speaking of moms, Betty Draper killed it. I haven’t liked her this much since she shot her neighbor’s birds. There were tears. Hey, it’s that time of the month when emotions take over. I can’t control it, get me some chocolate and Midol and stay out of my way.

“There’s a lot of responsibilities, but that’s what being a woman is. And when it happens every month, even though it’s unpleasant, it means everything’s working. It means everything’s ready for a baby when you want one. And maybe you’ll have a beautiful girl and you can tell her all this.”

Now, is there a point to all this, or are we just going to stand around talking about our periods? We can have both, but if there must be a point, here it is: this is a nearly universal experience for a woman. Half the population of the planet has been through this (and if you have my planning skills, you’ve probably pulled Sally Draper’s ‘grab a ton of toilet paper and get that under control’ maneuver). Yet we only see it used in media as part of a pregnancy plot line or for ‘bitches be crazy’ cheap shots? Okay, I’m generalizing: sometimes it’s also used to spice up your bestselling BDSM fan fiction.

There aren’t a lot of positives to the period. You either want them on time or you don’t want them at all, and when they aren’t there you get worried or hopeful. They make you bloated and cramped and sick and always seem to pop up when everyone agrees it’s a great day for the beach. You can’t wear white pants and you might cry at a Mastercard commercial. It’s a few days every month when everything is just a little bit different.

Somewhere deep in every woman’s genetic code is the blueprint for an improvised toilet paper maxi pad.

Mad Men┬áhandled the turmoil and terror of that first time with such tenderness and humor it’s difficult to understand why boners, bowel movements and boobs are fair game but the weeks a lady spends riding the cotton pony are taboo. No one wants every book, movie, television show or operatta to throw up some stained panties every other week, but I wouldn’t mind a story like this coming around more than once every forty two years.

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