Menstruating for the first time
I still remember the first time I calmly went to my Ma and informed her that I got my first period. I was still a kid, but my mom said, "My baby's all grown up now" in an emotional voice.
To say that the first experience can be overwhelming for menstruators is justified. However, there are people who never really get prior education and so almost always end up panicking.
It's scary to gain first experiences in life, but it's even scarier to not have a proper guide about what to do beforehand. When I was younger, I heard a story from someone who never knew what menstruation really is, and so went to their dad when they first started menstruating. She had a hard time understanding and came to the only rational conclusion she could come to at that moment, that maybe she got hurt. Her dad, perhaps unable or reluctant to explain, said that they should talk to her sister or mother instead. Since then, I wondered why this is such a hard topic to talk about, especially for most men in our households.
Before I started menstruating, I remember telling my cousins who are much older than me that my mom talked to me about periods and told me to be calm and not frightened when the time comes. She said that it's a normal process and so my very young mind registered that, thankfully.
However, when my cousins began acting awkward and tried to suppress their laughter for some odd reason, I first came to the revelation that maybe this is something I should not talk openly about. However, my mom did not tell me about this taboo. I learned of the taboo surrounding menstruation as I grew up.
Since I live in a joint family, I always witnessed my chachi at sehri not disclosing to my chacha that their daughter started her period and so would not be able to observe her fast. The matter was closed at something along the lines of, "...she could not wake up."
During the day, she'd always have her meals in her bedroom behind closed doors. This, unfortunately, is a common practice in many households. No one expects anyone to bring up a healthy conversation about periods because they just don't wish to.
This taboo seeped into our community ages ago, and has since passed down from generation to generation. When it comes to menstruation, some people's lips are tightly pursed. They simply don't want to raise their voices to normalise something that should naturally be normal. Now, the younger generation and I can only hope that one day, we can see a world where no one fears menstruation.
Ayra Areeba Abid's favourite word is 'serendipity' and she's a linguistics geek. Connect with her at [email protected]