I was in middle school. That opening right there should alert you to the fact that something bad, something cringe-worthy, is approaching. I was in middle school, in seventh grade, and I had just started my period that year. With some practice, I thought I had a handle on things: I could still swim, do gymnastics and be a ridiculous teen while bleeding.
Until I wore white jeans to school. Sitting in my class, mid-day, I felt something wet on my bottom, and glancing down, I was horrified to realize that my period had started. IN WHITE JEANS. I spent ten minutes getting up the courage to stand up with my never more loved flannel tied around my waist, and bolt for the nurse’s office. The nurse tried to talk me into staying at school: I don’t think so.
In the name of all that is female, bloody and a fountain of fertility, we offer you these stories of our periods.
1. The Tampon Torpedo
“I do kickboxing 3x a week, which can be pretty high impact when you do jump kicks and running man knees. My period is super heavy, and one morning when I went to do a jump kick, I landed and my tampon shot out like a torpedo. I could feel it lodged just inside of the elastic of my underwear. I had to walk super slowly out of the class and to the bathroom because any jostling would mean the saturated tampon would most likely drop out of my pant leg. It didn’t, but I will never again trust anything that isn’t glued to my underwear for that class!” -Jennifer, 42.
2. When Soil Meets Clotty
“I wear a diva cup (menstrual cup). I woke up one morning with major period shits – you know, the awful, soft, smelly almost-but-not-quite-diarrhea? It was first thing in the morning, so i hadn’t emptied my cup yet. In the process of emptying my crampy bowels, I had inadvertently pushed out my cup, and it fell on top of this heaping pile of smelly period poo, not to mention that the cup was full of blood, and it dumped all over. So it basically looked like the apocalypse in the toilet. I had to fish out my cup from the toilet; perched on top of the heaping pile of smelly shit; then I spent the whole morning boiling it to sterilize it.” -Cheryl, 28
3. The Red Heels
“The new white boards had been fitted the week before. Mr Hopper stood in front of the new board now, with a smile on his lips, touching the smooth, clean board with his fingertips, then with the tip of his black marker he scrawled the words ovulation. Everyone smirked, and wriggled in their seats, then looked at me. I stood, clutching my clothes as blood seeped into the cotton folds of my beige dress and tricked down my leg to christen my new white pumps.” -Henrietta, 37
4. Blood Is Thicker Than Water
“My husband and I met my husband’s half-brothers (and the woman his dad left his mom for) for the first time at a beach house they rented in PB. Everything at the beach house was white. EVERYTHING. I started bleeding heavily the second we sat down for dinner and upon running to the bathroom to make things right discovered the toilet was clogged. So I shoved toilet paper up my birth canal and wrapped all bloody paraphernalia in 500 layers of more toilet paper to hide the evidence. I kept bleeding and couldn’t sit on anything for the rest of the night. I also walked funny to keep the toilet paper torpedo wedged in my vagina for protection: It made for a real charming first meeting.” -Debbie, 30
5. Bloody Hell
“I was 18 and living in NYC. I was on my way to the subway at Grand Central after work. There was this good-looking guy walking along who started talking to me. We were walking and talking down the street together and somehow we decided that we were going to get a room the Hyatt at Grand Central. Needless to say, we had a very wonderful night of hot sex, however I started my period and bled all over him, and all over the white sheets. It was quite embarrassing, but we both laughed it off and took a shower and we left. I have always wondered to this day what the maids thought about that; it looked like somebody was stabbed, there was so much blood.” -Heather, 40
6. The Exorcism
“My husband picked up tampons for me — our bodega only had the ones with cardboard applicators. I’m at work with this type of tampon — go to the bathroom. It says the applicator is flushable, so I stand up to flush and the cardboard gets stuck horizontally in the hole while the water is trying to go down. Since the water is spinning it starts shooting out of the toilet like a bloody-pissy sprinkler all over the entire stall and me. I turned my head so it wouldn’t get in my face and I tried not to scream or run out of the stall because I wasn’t sure I was alone in the bathroom. So basically I stood there getting sprayed by my own mess until the water finally went down.” -LaToya, 38
7. Sharing Bloody Good Times
“Changing my two tampons and a leaky back-up pad every two hours was as unfair as the acne I woke up with that morning. But my long lost bestie came to see me at my hotel after the conference, and there were hugs and laughs, whiskey and wine, and I forgot all about the bloody besiege– girlfriends are healers like that. So much old time carrying on we never even made it past the lobby, the two of us, girl-huddled, on a love seat. At three a.m. we stood up to say goodbye, sleepy-drunk and at once sober. Where I’d sat on the cream-colored love seat, a deep, wide, crimson pool.” -Shannon, 40
8. Poop, I Did It Again
“‘Use a tampon,’ my sister said. ‘Here. She handed me a small brown paper covered box. There are instructions inside.’ I returned to the toilet and closed the door. My sister had told me about this place called vagina but she had not told me how to locate it; at school we had been taught to leave our bodies alone down below. I persevered and forced the tampon inside using my index finger for a final push against the pressure of my body’s resistance.
I limped off to bed and tried to ignore the throb of pain in my behind, but it got so bad I had to wake my sister for further consultation. ‘You’ve put it up your poo hole’ my sister said after I had described my symptoms.” -Elisabeth, 42
9. The Mexican Restaurant Fiasco
“I stepped to the loo to empty my diva cup. It was my heavy flow day but I had to work. My heavy flows are river delta floods. I went to take the cup out in a Mexican restaurant bathroom stall but it didn’t detach properly. Blood was suddenly everywhere. My face, mouth, hair, clothing, hands, floor, bathroom stall walls. The bathroom was busy. I don’t remember what happened next. The trauma has blocked it out.” -Dena, 43
10. Another School Period
“Shooting hoops in the gym, the boys perched like pigeons on the bleachers, pointing at my butt, whispering and snickering and shooting glances. I turn around so they can’t see my backside, try not to make a big deal out of it, dribble backwards off the court. My sister teased me all last summer about my butt– maybe they think I have a big butt. In the locker room, on my knees, I reach around a pom pom’s legs to my padlock. I check out my butt in the mirror, and for once, I don’t notice its size, instead: bloodstain. My first period. Now. In the gym. Fuck being a girl. I’ll get my uterus yanked out.” -Karrie, 41
11. Just Another Manic Monday
“When I was a teenager working at Target, I needed to use the bathroom to change my tampon, but my manager wouldn’t let me take a break because we were in the middle of a rush. When I was finally able to go, I had completely bled through my khaki pants. An older employee rushed to put her sweater around my waist as I walked to the bathroom, and I had to be sent home early because I didn’t have a change of clothes. It was mortifying.” -Gemma, 30
12. The Jacket Disguise
“In high school, I got invited to a baseball game by a boy I liked. It was super last minute and I ran out of pads so I asked around and ended up only finding one friend who had a tampon–which I had no idea how to use. I figured out, but bled through it within an hour and spent the entire baseball game with a jacket around my waist and a wad of toilet paper shoved in my underwear. Mortifying.” -Mary, 35
Related-Ish: Everything You Need To Know About Trying Period Sex