Presented in partnership with THINX.
I still remember my inaugural period, initial embarrassment, shame and all.
One of the first things I did after I got my period for the very first time was tell my mother not to tell my dad.
“I already told him,” she replied, with the kind of casual attitude about bodily functions only a doctor can have.
I was so upset. How could she betray this most intimate of secrets so casually? It hadn’t even been a full 24 hours since the event!
“He has to know,” she shrugged. “He’s your dad.”
Why I was so adamant that this very normal and expected part of a young girl’s life should remain hidden from one of her primary caretakers is something that I’ve thought about a lot since then, particularly around Ramadan.
Every year, my father and I pretend that I’m fasting the full month when we both know that’s not possible since women on their periods don’t fast. “I don’t think I’ll go to prayer today,” I say casually when he asks if I’m ready for nightly prayers. “I’ll just pray at home.”
There is definitely an aspect of shame when it comes to discussing periods and other normal female bodily functions, particularly in Muslim communities. The irony here is that the Prophet Mohammed himself never shied away from such discussions, but somehow today’s Muslims can’t get away from these conversations fast enough. And, in my case, I had the same shame, hidden beneath layers of secret Ramadan periods and conversations with friends.
With that, a façade of normalcy is carefully constructed. I know, and my father knows, and my brother couldn’t care less probably, but we all pretend not to know when it’s that time of the month. I sneak in glasses of water and packets of yogurt to my room throughout the day, and the rest of my family turns a blind eye to my behavior.
It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it can be frustrating sometimes. What is the worst thing that could happen, I think to myself if I just went up to my dad and told him, “Baba, I have my period today.” It’s a thought I always quickly push out of my head. Who knows how that conversation could unfold? I didn’t even want to consider it.
The awkwardness of pretending not to be on my period is not helped by the fact that having one’s period is full of discomfort and irritation. When a friend of mine turned me on to THINX underwear, swearing up and down that it absolutely worked, I had to try it for myself. The idea of ridding myself of the grossness and discomfort (and let’s face it, accidents) of pads, at least for a portion of my monthly torture, was too appealing to pass up.
Given the unreliable nature of actual pads, however, I approached THINX and the concept behind it with no small amount of skepticism.
The first thing that struck me about it was that it’s very sturdy (I got the style designed for heavy flows). It looks like a very nice pair of normal underwear, but it feels a little more reinforced. It really holds you in, which at least made me feel like if even if there was a leak, so painfully common with pads, it at least wouldn’t be a complete disaster.
I’d completely forgotten about the underwear for almost the entire time I was wearing it. No intermittent glances to see if there’d been any leaks, no worries about when I was going to get a chance to change. There was no gross smell, and the underwear was dry. It was the next best thing to not having my period at all.
For the first time, I could believe that everything was normal. And it was – periods are a normal part of life for grown women, and all healthy women get them with some kind of regularity. Getting it should not be a cause of shame and dread, at least not because you’re worried about family members and the general public catching wind of your body’s state. In that way, THINX isn’t just revolutionizing women’s hygiene, it’s changing the way women think about that hygiene and their bodies.
I’m no longer ashamed of my period. It’s a reality that I’m proud of, but a reality that I know my father and brother might just not be comfortable with yet. So I’m still going to be faking it this year – but this time, it won’t be because I’m too embarrassed to admit that I’m an adult woman who gets her period like a normal person. It’ll be because they don’t get to experience the awesomeness I do. My brother, in particular, would probably think I’m taunting him if I lay around the house stuffing my face in full view of everyone (and maybe I would be, just a little).
Maybe this year, though, I won’t be so quick to run and hide if someone happens to walk in while I’m preparing a little snack. Let them make the effort of faking it this time.