Love, Life Stories

How my period brought me back to my brown roots

That’s where I let loose. And this might seem weird to you - but part of that letting loose involved my period. Typical sheltered kid.

Presented in partnership with  Lunapads.

I knew I was different from everyone else before I even learned how to multiply.

It didn’t stem from the fact that I was weird – unless, of course, you counted being from another country as weird. Living in a small country town in Kentucky, a daughter of the sole Indian family for miles around was interesting, to put it lightly. The food I brought to school for lunch was smelly and foreign. I was constantly asked by my classmates to “speak Indian.” I even found myself having to correct kids around me about how I wasn’t the other kind of Indian.

The author during her early years.
The author during her early years.

I once got in trouble with a teacher for not eating during lunch time. It was Ramadan. I was fasting.

My childhood was the complete opposite of those of my white friends. I was barely allowed to leave the house outside of school, because that’s just the way things were, according to my parents.

[bctt tweet=”I knew I was different from everyone else, before I even learned how to multiply.” username=”wearethetempest”]

My days in high school were spent hanging out in the basement with my two best friends, because that was the only way I could ever see them – my parents still refused to let me hang out at their place. Because that was who we were.

Even now, having graduated college, I’m expected to be home before midnight whenever I’m visiting my parents.

I’m an adult. I have a curfew as an adult. Because it’s just the way things are.

These stark rules drove me crazy when I was in high school. They set me apart from the other kids, opening me up to the ridicule of those around me. I was constantly enraged by the lack of freedom I had, and even more frustrated when my mom would tell me, “You’re an Indian girl, you don’t do x, y, z.” I would retort with “I’m not Indian, I’m American!” and rejected much of what it meant to be Indian.

It was difficult to understand why they couldn’t let me be American – especially when that was who I felt I was.

So, of course, when I got my college acceptance letters, I decided to go to a school on the other side of the continent. Typical sheltered kid.

That’s where I let loose. And this might seem weird to you – but part of that letting loose involved my period.

Let me backtrack a bit. I got my period in 6th grade.

I grew up with three older sisters, so this development wasn’t shocking or particularly distressing. I mean, it sucked – don’t get me wrong. Periods are a whirlwind of emotion and pain, especially in those weird middle school years.

[bctt tweet=”I’m an adult. I have a curfew as an adult. Because it’s just the way things are.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In 7th grade, I was hanging out in the school bathroom with my (white) friend, talking about how our periods had synced up (best thing ever, right). And that’s the moment that ties to that later-in-life crisis: I looked into my purse, realized I had run out of pads, and asked her for one. She was in total shock: “WHAT? Seriously? You still wear pads? They’re so gross – tampons are so much better.”

The author (left) chilling with friends.
The author (left) chilling with friends.

I blinked at her for a second, confused. It didn’t match up to the warning that my mom had hammered into my sisters and me, that we could only wear pads because it was absolutely wrong and forbidden and awful to put anything up there. My two worlds were colliding: school and home – and I couldn’t help but think, in that moment in our school bathroom, that it would be impossible for me to ever be truly normal. To actually fit in like everyone else.  

[bctt tweet=”That’s where I let loose. And this might seem weird to you – but that involved my period.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Fast-forward to college, when I started wearing tampons to become more like other girls…and realized, soon enough, just how tiny that rebellion actually was. But in the process – in the moments I had chosen to make myself part of the crowd, I lost myself.

Weirdly, as I struggled to figure out who I was, I found it all linked back to my period: how I dealt with it, how the experience was more than just about being clean or not – how my period was a part of me. And I’d pushed it aside to fit in, a rejection neatly wrapped up in a colorfully packaged tampon.

[bctt tweet=”My rebellion had, in some sense, only served to show me just how little I knew myself.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It wasn’t until after I’d walked onto that stage to get my diploma, packed up my things, and left college that I began to have the chance to really understand my roots again. To become comfortable with what it meant to be Indian – and American. Beyond watching more than my fair share of Bollywood movies, learning how to cook Indian food, and making more Desi friends, I couldn’t shake myself of the fact that there was still something missing. Every month I was reminded of a deep part of myself I’d struggled to assimilate.

Every month was a flashback to my seventh grade self, confused and standing in the school bathroom. I couldn’t go back to pads, to convention, to my mother’s strict rules. But I didn’t want to rely on tampons anymore either. It was too much of a reminder of my younger-self’s need to fit in. My rebellion had, in some sense, only served to show me just how little I knew myself.

The moment I found myself came sort of suddenly, a brash suggestion by one of my Desi American friends during an unprompted rant about my period: “You’ve heard of those cloth pads, right?” I stopped short, confused. She continued, “Lunapads. Haven’t you heard of them?”

It took me a second to put two and two together. “You use them?” She nodded – “Okay, but isn’t the…aftermath…gross?” My friend laughed and explained to me how they worked.

[bctt tweet=”Didn’t matter – I was intrigued. Too intrigued to stop from buying a couple @Lunapads.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Being the skeptic that I am, I found myself scrolling through the site later that night, the blue light of my phone shining dimly as I read through the different options. It seemed slightly weird to me to have to wash my pads in the sink, throw them in the laundry, and use them again.

That wasn’t normal, right?

It didn’t matter – I was intrigued. Too intrigued to stop myself from buying a couple, and waiting impatiently as the package made its way to me. When I finally got the package, I texted my friend – and, of course, told my mom all about it. To my surprise, she said a lot of Indian women actually use reusable pads, too.

lunapads.com
lunapads.com

So, I dove right in.

And y’all, I loved the way they look and feel. At the end of the day, I give my pad a quick rinse and stick it in my hamper. Done. After using them for a cycle, I no longer found myself cringing at my period – or the experience – like I had started to do after that middle school bathroom conversation.

Things had finally come full circle; weirdly, wonderfully, amazingly – in the most intimate moments of my life, I had found myself as an Indian-American woman – all through a few adorably decorated cloth pads.

For too many years, I’d tried to distance myself from certain parts of my Indianness that I had negative experiences about. But Lunapads have helped me move past all of that – and transform my period into a moment of self-love and acceptance.

[bctt tweet=”I’d found myself – all through a few adorably decorated @Lunapads.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I’m finally taking back the things that made me “different” as a kid, and loving that they make me different as an adult.