Rosalyn D'Mello: The pains of being a woman
It’s hard not to see the monthly cycle as a pain, especially since it is used to make women feel impure or mark their bodies as baby factories
I recently suffered the worst period of my adult life. While I’m accustomed to what I call ‘period brain’, where the inside of my head feels like it’s made of sawdust. The phenomenon usually lasts a day or two and I’m often functional by day three. This time around, I was incapacitated for over 10 days, and soon lost track of how many painkillers I felt forced to consume for the sake of maintaining my sanity. I was surprised by how profusely I bled, and how inclined I was to simply hang my head within the expanse of my palms and weep uncontrollably.
This time around, I was incapacitated for over 10 days, and soon lost track of how many painkillers I felt forced to consume. Representation Pic/Thinkstock
As a woman who, at 30, feels no maternal calling and even occasionally resents the perpetual reminder of one’s body as nothing but a baby-making machine, I was reminded of this meme my sister had shown me that perfectly encapsulated how frustrating it often is to have to put up with the monthly occurrence of dreadful Aunty Flo. Mediating between lower-case and caps-lock as a punctuating device, it read as follows: “Seriously though, your period is like coming home one day and finding that your spouse has constructed this entire new baby bedroom inside your house and you have to tell them, ‘Sweetie we don’t have a baby’ and then your spouse FLIPS THE #!@# OUT like “The #!@# do you mean we don’t have a baby I DID ALL THIS WORK” and then they spend the next week tearing the whole room apart and throwing it out to the street and screaming at you and then finally when the room is completely gutted they calm down and say, ‘It’s okay hon, we’ll have a baby next month’ and then they start building the room again AND THIS SHIT KEEPS GOING ON FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE UNTIL YOU HIT LIKE 50 AND THEN YOUR SPOUSE LEAVES YOU BUT NOT BEFORE SETTING THE WHOLE HOUSE ON FIRE SO IT’S NEVER THE SAME AGAIN.”
As the gynaecologist’s assistant began to investigate my past and future, I had several moments of realisation. My friend who made the appointment had wrongly put down my age as 31 even though I still have three months left as a 30-year-old.
I wasn’t mentally prepared to be 31. Did I have any intentions of marrying and starting a family, I was asked, to which I said a calm and cool, “No”. Mercifully, she left it at that and didn’t ask me much more. I was relieved. Another friend who has yet to turn 30 and who was diagnosed with endometriosis had recently found herself at the receiving end of an elaborate lecture on how having a child was the best solution for her condition. Since she was in fact married and had a supportive husband, the gynecologist couldn’t fathom her adamant refusal of the joys of motherhood and warned her about the distinct possibility of potential regret. When she and I met up later over a drink, we lamented the insidious manner in which the cult of motherhood uses the threat of regret as currency for blackmail. But what if you had a child and later regretted having said child? Such a scenario is similarly irreversible.
I found myself increasingly angry with my body. I couldn’t help feeling like my uterus was deliberately betraying me with its unrelenting eagerness to conceive, eagerness I do not share. I hate the fact such little scientific research has been conducted to ease the plight of us victims of dysmenorrhoea. I am still upset by how the biological process of menstruation that we do not necessarily elect, as women, to facilitate, is used against us; to deny us entry into places of worship, to make us feel sullied and impure, to make us seem somehow defective because for most married women under pressure to conceive, a period implies a physiological failure.
When the debate was raging on about patriarchal forces that be upholding the regressive stance against menstruating women entering the sanctum sanctorum of temples, my upstairs’ neighbour recounted a diary entry she made after hitting puberty, when she was first made aware of women’s alleged impurity during that time of the month. “I do not want to visit any god that doesn’t want to see me,” it read, clearly demonstrating early symptoms of feminist behaviour, the only form of conditioning whose benefits I am eager to espouse.
Despite the unprecedented levels of suffering I endured over the past 10 days, thanks to my faulty bodily machinery, the only thing that kept me whole was my coterie of female friends whom I could consult and who could empathise with me. But naturally, our cycles are synchronized, which cements our bond. That’s the one thing we women can boast of that men can never comprehend.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputed art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org