When I saw Isaac’s post from last month, I laughed and clicked on it. I winced at his mother’s description of pilonidal cysts—that they hurt worse than childbirth—and cringed with him as he described the Incident in the Canoe. “No one noticed a thing,” he wrote of his saturated jumbo pad. “I don’t know how.”
Only if by “triggered,” you mean that I had a critical analysis of the piece based on a different perspective (and I do).
And I have a different story. Senior year of high school, and I’m sitting at my desk waiting for all the other students to leave. Please, please leave because I’ve bled through my pantyliner, my underwear, my skirt. It’s on the chair. The teacher—one of the few male teachers, my bad luck—is chatting with a student and it’s gotten weird that I’m still in the room sitting and waiting. I get up and leave the stain on the chair, walk to the bathroom, and come back with damp paper towel. I clean the stain as they try not to watch and then I leave.
I can’t be the only woman who read his post and thought, “You’re kidding, right?” I can’t be the only woman who read his post searching for the punchline.
We wore pads while wearing the tight jeans our more fashionable sisters assured us looked good, while our male classmates checked out our butts. While we would have wanted our male classmates to be checking out our butts, if we didn’t have to be paranoid of a leak, a stain, or a bulkier pad that you swear must be visible in profile because it’s annoying as hell to sit in/on/around.
I guess I’m getting a little emotional. . .
If by “emotional,” you mean I have thoughts and feelings about a subject in which I am interested (and I do).
Being thirteen is hard enough, but then add the problem of being female to the mix—
(If by “problem” you mean the frustration of knowing you’re a person of equal value to the boy next to you in the classroom, but having the teacher call on him twice as often as you and knowing it’s partly your ‘fault’ because you don’t raise your hand enough—
If by “fault,” you mean socially conditioned habits that you try very hard to break, but overwhelm you from time to time even though you’re twenty-seven and your consciousness is super raised—
Did you say “super” ironically there? Did you use vocal fry? Do you want to lose people’s respect? Because that’s how you lose their respect, Elaine. Think before you speak. Be kind. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.)
I guess I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean anything by it.
I don’t mean anything.
No, yeah, totally. I get it. Definitely. That’s completely right. It’s hard to be thirteen and female and bleeding out of your vagina and it’s hard to have a pilonidal cyst. Both are true. I’m a good feminist who wants to validate that discrimination against men happens too—they can’t cry, they have to “provide,” or they’re sex-crazed animals. I agree. Really.
I wanted to maybe
make the point, though,
if you have a second and are willing to listen, that the shame of this incident only existed because our society tells women’s needs are shameful matters, related to weakness and—
. . . I’m ranting now—
(If by “ranting” you mean writing my opinion, but I know you don’t mean “writing my opinion,” and I’m too tired to redefine the world in a way we can all agree.
So, I think I’ll stay here now, here in the parentheses. Thinking about what you said. Trying to find the words to say what I need to be said.
I don’t suppose you’d like to join?
Elaine Schnabel (’11) spent her twenties traveling, blogging, and earning various master’s degrees. Now earning her PhD at the University of North Carolina in organizational communication, Elaine researches and writes at the intersection of religion and communication. You can find her blogging at Religious (Not Crazy).