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I'd been waiting for my summer holiday to Ibiza for about, oh, at least six months, and had done that standard thing of buying a ton of holiday clothes that I'd never wear again. One thing I'd picked up was this amazing white off-the-shoulder dress and I was particularly excited about wearing it to this bar where you could watch the sunset over the beach.
So we're sat drinks in hand, front row at this bloody sunset, me, in my white dress, and I feel a sudden leak... you can guess what happened. So I grab my friend who's mid conversation with the girls next to her, and whisper very frantically in her ear. I lean over and get her to check my dress and I can tell by the look on her face that it's bad, very bad. So she whips her scarf off and I calmly try and wrap it around me as I run to the loo. I had to pass the sarong off as a fashion statement for the rest of the night.
I was interailing with a friend last summer and I ran out of tampons. It was 11pm in Venice and we were leaving the next morning at 5am to take five different trains to get to Barcelona. I was annoyed but assumed it would be fine as half the population of Europe has periods so it should be fairly easy for me to buy tampons on the way, right? Wrong. All I had left was one night pad so I put that on to get to the station. No possibility of buying any tampons in Venice train station at 5am.
We go to the next station and the only place that did sell them was a pharmacy on another floor of the station so I had to choose food over getting a tampon. No worries I thought, I can get it at the next town.
In the next three stations no shop, bathroom dispenser or cafe had any tampons, nor did any of the trains. The shops, I should say, were very well stocked. They had mouthwash, razors and playing cards. The trains were super modern and overly designed. But no one in Italy or France had thought that a menstruating woman might be anywhere near them.
At 7pm that night (14 hours and five train seats since I put the night pad on) I finally got to a station shop which sold tampons. The tampons, however, were behind a little barrier which marked off "luxury" products that due to some obscure French law weren't allowed to be sold at the time of day I was there. I was so angry and felt so disgusting, I just didn't care. When I was told I couldn't buy them I just told the woman at the till I was on my period and I wasn't leaving without a tampon.
Eventually the woman behind the till decided not to argue with the hormonal English girl and graciously allowed me to pay her money for the tampons. I've never felt angrier than when I think about the consistent stream of morons who set up an entire transport system without considering that there may one day be a woman who might need a tampon.
I know it's a very first world experience but I also had never really felt excluded and penalised just for being a woman until that day.
I woke up really early one morning with a guy (let's call him "Ben") that I had been casually seeing and he pounced on me for morning sex, which we usually did. Nothing weird there. It was dark and we went about our business. I did feel that I was a bit more "lubed" than usual but I just shrugged it off. Shortly afterwards, his flatmate came bounding through the front door (great), still a bit drunk-sounding, and shouting for "Ben" to come and talk to him. While he was out the room, I realised that I had gotten my period overnight and there was blood everywhere. Seriously, Eli Roth could have directed the scene.
When "Ben" came back in the room I saw that he had blood all over his hands, even some on his neck. He had no idea (I guess the flatmate was too drunk to notice). So I had to tell him that not only had I gotten my period, but I had ruined his bedsheets and, actually, my blood was right now all over his hands, Lady Macbeth style. He was remarkably chill about it. I think he said something like "Don't worry, it's only natural" and went to the bathroom to wash it off. What a trooper. If any guys are reading this, this type of reaction will only win you points. Just FYI.
Periods have never been a bother for me. With a high pain threshold and the blessing of a light flow, they've never really been all that much of a hindrance besides avoiding white dresses in summer.
What has been an issue is the sanitary items involved, and in particular, tampons. Show me a YouTube video of open heart surgery and I wouldn't flinch, but when it comes to those little blobs of cotton, I freeze. The reason? About four years ago one got stuck, and I got very stressed. Having spent a good 10 minutes tugging in the bathroom I had to try lying down and realising my bedroom-barging flatmate was due home shortly, I knew it had to be quick. It soon became an hour-long struggle but with the help of a pair of tweezers, the light of a Blackberry, and a zoom mirror, the little bloodied bugger was out. Now, every month when I get that little scarlet greeting I remember this dark November night. Childbirth won't be this stressful, right?
When I was 19 I was travelling in India and took a camel trip far into the Thar desert, where we were to spend the night. When we got to our destination (sand dune 4026), something about the discomfort of being shaken up and down on that creature for five ungodly hours had brought on an unexpected period. I wasn't a virgin or anything, so I'm not sure what the sudden bleeding was per say, but more pressing than the 'why?' was the 'what to do next?' There wasn't a tampon to be seen. I asked around the girls in the group but no one had one. When I realised that the toilet was the spot of ground behind the only bush within 200 metres, my panic heightened. I squatted behind the bush, ripped the bottom of my t-shirt off, and rolled it into a tampon shape. By the end of our time in the desert, I was wearing a crop top – and couldn't quite find the words to explain to people why.