Menstrual cramps sent her to her bed this afternoon. She lay reading, curled in the fetal position, a heating pad wrapped around her lower abdomen.
Lying there, she began to calculate The Time She’s Spent Menstruating. She got her first period at 12. She’s 32 now. Twenty years of periods. Twelve periods a year. Some women have inconsistent periods; she is like clockwork. Every 28 to 30 days, her uterus sheds its lining and begins again, like a bloody phoenix. (You’re welcome.)
Twelve periods a year times twenty years of periods. Two hundred forty periods. Each period lasting 4-5 days, which brings her to 1080 days of bleeding, if she figures 4.5 days/period. Twenty-four hours in a day times 1080 days equals 25,920 hours of bleeding.
Twenty-five thousand, nine hundred twenty hours, an expert two-and-a-half times over by Malcolm Gladwell standards. Michael Jordan and Steph Curry have their ten thousand+ hours playing basketball, Tiger Woods his ten thousand+ hours on the green. She has twenty-five thousand hours bleeding out her vagina, many of the hours accompanied by cramps. Pain twisting itself through her lower torso, sapping energy and turning her bowels to violent juice.
She is an expert.
Poor woman. Pity me, she cries melodramatically, for these Hours I have lost to Pain and Blood. Pity me for the underwear I have ruined and the classes I have missed, lying in the nurse’s office. Pity me for the cramps-induced vomiting that empties my stomach. Pity me for the blood that came too soon – twelve? Twelve-years-old, innocent, naïve, now bleeding.
But what she really means is, This isn’t fair. This sucks. I hate this. And then what she really means is, Life isn’t fair, and then what she means is, I hear you, Dad, telling us as you often have, ‘Life ain’t fair, kid,’ and I know that you are right and I know that bemoaning this particular curse is futile and I know that my focus should actually be gratitude for the bed I lie upon, for the mom and sisters and friends who coached me through the first few years of periods, for the money I’ve always had to purchase pads and tampons, for the washing machine I’ve had nearby to wash blood-stained underwear and skirts and jeans, for the heating pads and ibuprofen nearly always within my reach.
Then the cramps subside, dulled by analgesic, and, drained from fighting pain, she turns back to her book.