First Series: Fanny, 34

Fanny Cool takes time from her crusade to get you to love to reusable sanitary wear to tell us all about the tie she started her period. 

Blood and Grunge

It was 1992 and hopes were high. Madonna filled the air waves, Bill Clinton was President of the USA, and fashion was going grunge.  Fanny Cool was a mere 10 years old, although the tallest girl in her class and was very proud of her fledgling boobs (even though one of her friends gave them a squeeze in the playground and declared them to be ‘ewww..like jellyfish’).

Just a week after her tenth birthday Fanny was at home, with her coat on, running late for an appointment at the optician, when she rushed upstairs for a last minute pee.  She flung her bag down, shoved down her pants and plonked onto the seat in her usual whirlwind rush.  And then she saw it….The little blob of blood in her pants caught Fanny unawares and she let out a blood-curdling scream.  What the heck was going on?! Whatever it was, this could not be good.  Fanny wailed down to Mamma Cool, who bustled immediately into the loo with a sanitary pad.  “I thought this might happen soon”, she announced briskly.

Now, Fanny’s recollection is that the whole bleeding thing was a total mystery, although Mamma Cool swears blind that Fanny had been well informed prior to the event.   To be fair, Fanny probably hadn’t paid very much attention as she was enjoying playing with Lego and beating her brother up in the garden.

In a bit of daze and with a mega thick and sturdy pad in her pants, Fanny headed off to the optician and selected a pair of ginormous red early 1990’s glasses that made her look like whacky children’s presenter of the era, Timmy Mallett (Fanny can’t be entirely sure if the choice of red glasses was because she had blood on the brain, or whether they were simply reflective of the glorious fashion of the day).   The rest of the day is somewhat of a haze, although Mamma Cool recalls that by the evening Fanny was laughing – whether this was due to genuine delight at entering womanhood or just nervous hysteria is unclear.

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                                                         Timmy Mallett: style hero

A period VIP

Once the initial shock wore off, Fanny readily adapted to her new role as the menstrual star of the show, a period VIP.  There were no sanitary bins in the children’s loos at school, so Fanny had to use the staff loo which was very exciting.  Imagine how grand one must have to be, to be seated upon the special teachers’ throne.  Fanny felt like a glamorous, albeit spotty and hormonal celebrity telling the children at school all about what they had yet to experience.  When the ‘period education’ video was rolled out, Fanny thoroughly enjoyed being the ‘chosen one’, and scaring the other children with tales of unknown.  Fanny felt very grown up indeed.

But whilst Fanny felt special, it was tough at the top, and starting her period so early was sometimes rather lonely.  Fanny had quite a lot of period pain – more than most – but found it difficult to swallow pills and, as a result, missed out on fun from time to time, spending lunch breaks with the school nurse and a hot water bottle, or sitting on the coach during a school trip to the zoo because it was too painful to run about.   Was this what womanhood was all about? Fanny had NOT signed up for this!  Fanny grudgingly learned to live alongside her menstrual cycle in a resentful sulk. Pressing on despite the pain and inconvenience.   But oh, did Fanny have a surprise in store…

 

Period perfecto!

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                                                    Fanny likes to ‘period’ in style

Some twenty years later, and, incidentally, around the time that 90s grunge made a come-back, Fanny stumbled across reusable sanitary pads and experienced a very radical change of heart about her periods.   The sanitary pads and tampons of Fanny’s childhood were thick wedges – like a massive uncomfortable jam sandwich in your pants. But the reusable cloth pads Fanny discovered were comfy and came in lovely colours and patterns and were very cheering.  Periods turned out to be a lot more fun when Fanny used them as an excuse to accessorize! Instead of the familiar dread, Fanny began to look forward to her periods so she could try out new pads.

And once Fanny stopped being frightened of her periods, they stopped being quite so painful in return.  It was a Fanny-tastic new way of experiencing her cycle.

Upon reflection

Now, Fanny only discovered reusable pads at the ripe old age of 34.  For 24 whole years, Fanny believed that disposable pads and tampons were her only option, and that totally hating on her cycle was totally standard.   Fanny firmly now believes that girls starting out on their menstruating adventures should have more choice about how they experience their period – pads, tampons, cups, reusable, disposable.  One size sure does not fit all.

But more than that… In preparation for this post Fanny probed Mamma Cool for her memories of Fanny’s first period.  Mamma Cool remembers that “I didn’t want to make a big deal out of you starting your period.  I hated my periods – they were heavy and painful and I didn’t want to influence your thinking about them. But I thought it was a real pity you started so early”.  Fanny appreciates this – for sure.  However, Fanny does rather suspect that the silence on the subject rather hung in the air.   Fanny really wishes she’d had some kind of period mentor, to learn not just about the practicalities and logistics, but to talk about how having a period feels, and how to take care of yourself now you have this new regular thing happening to your body. That the actual bleed is just one part of the cycle experience. And that starting your cycle has the potential to really be a really positive thing too, a full on and glorious celebration of becoming a woman. A period party! Preferably Definitely with cake and balloons.

Fanny wants to holla this from the rooftops and talk about menstruation to anyone who cares to listen. And even to those who don’t. It’s time to start smacking down the period taboos wherever we find them, to challenge the fearful silence and to fully own our bodies and experience – menstruators unite!  I am Fanny – hear me roar!!  Anyway… it’s just a thought, from one Cool Fanny to another.

Follow Fanny’s adventures here

 

 

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