I have two great fears.
The first is that I will end up one day, reasonably soon, in a mental asylum. I imagine myself strapped to a cot, squirming under fluorescent lights, as a nurse threatens me with a three-foot needle of sedative. The nurse is bald, but oddly buxom. I try to convince the bald buxom nurse that I’m not, in fact, crazy, but all my calm, rational arguments come out CRAZY.
It’s like those times when you’re really drunk, but in your head you’re totally sober. Yet when you try to explain this calmly and rationally to everyone around you, all that comes out of your mouth is, “I’m naaaht derunk. I’m tolallee fiiine.”
The second fear is that my parents will somehow find out everything that I do at college and curl up into balls of shame and die.
I think the second fear is pretty common. Maybe you have parents who if they knew the amount you drank, or that you drank at all, would curl up and die. Maybe that goes for smoking. Or drugs. Or sex.
Take, for example, my friend, Kris Baxivanos, who was taken aside by her professor after class last week and told: “I need you to be aware of your sexual energy in class and to please tone it down.”
“Well, do you have a lot of sexual energy in class?” I asked. Kris contemplated this for a moment. “Well I guess I fidget a lot and touch my boobs sometimes.”
Parents. Balls of shame.
Or take as another example: Sancho ’09, who, finding it hard to construct a coherent sentence one night, confessed that all he had eaten that day were diet pills.
“Diet pills?” I asked incredulously.
“Yep, we found them in my house.”
“You found the diet pills? That’s really sketchy, Sancho.”
He shot me a sass-glance. “Do you know me?”
Parents. Balls of shame. Death.
But, to be honest, our parents probably know a lot more than we think they do. In the end, they say, almost everything is known and almost nothing matters. Yet much of our mental energy is still spent navigating over and under and through the post-adolescent terrain of shame and mortification.
Case study three: my friend from Harvard, who called me a couple days ago to ask for some advice. She just started seeing this guy and was about to go over to his room (read: hook up) and was on her period. For the first time with this particular guy she was going to have to make the Period Admission.
Even though women spend almost 25 percent of their reproductively viable lives on their period, there are still no standardized rules for the Period Admission. When do you do it? Before you begin hooking up? Just as you begin hooking up? When he reaches for your underwear?
How do you say it? Apologetically? As a statement of fact? Should you say “period” or use a more palatable euphemism? Are there any palatable euphemisms? “It’s my time of the month.” Gross. “I’ve got the curse.” So gross. “I’m on the rag.” NOT OKAY GROSS. “Aunt Flo has come to visit.” I’m pretty sure a deadpan delivery of “I’m bleeding” would be less awkward.
“I hate this so much,” my friend said. “How should I say it?”
I fumbled for some helpful advice. “Maybe make some kind of pun involving the word crimson…? Crimson wave, crimson tide… You know, because you go to Harvard?”
She moved quickly on to part two of her dilemma. My friend didn’t want to dedicate her evening to satisfying this guy, given the unlikelihood of any reciprocation.
“I’d like to hook up for a little bit, but I don’t want to have to ‘finish the job.’ I don’t want to be a tease though.”
I groped, again, for some comforting words. “In how many of your hook-ups has the guy not ‘finished the job’ for you?”
“Hmm… maybe 90 percent.”
“Have you ever considered those guys teases?”
“No. I just dealt.”
So I have a theory. About periods. I’ve only had three theories in my life and two of them are about periods. I just think people should know that about me before they decide to be my friend.
Anyway, my theory is that if pornography was made by women in a way that degraded men, as opposed to men usually degrading women, then instead of “cream-pies” and “facials” there would be a ton of period blood. Like so much period blood. And we’d all learn to love it.
Gross? Totally. But so is a face-full of semen.
I was thinking of ending my article there with “face-full of semen.” But then I thought that might be a little jarring. So I think I’ll just quote Gloria Steinem’s essay “If Men Could Menstruate” so you can get over the “face-full of semen” thing. Let’s just pretend it never happened.
If men had periods instead of women, Steinem speculates that right-wing politicians would cite “men-struation” as proof that only men could join the military (“You have to give blood to take blood”) and that women weren’t fierce enough for high political office “without a monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars.” “Men-struation” would be evidence that women couldn’t be priests, and “give this blood for our sins,” or rabbis, as “without a monthly purge of impurities, women are unclean.”
Masculine hygiene brands would include: “Paul Newman Tampons” and “Joe Namath Jock Shields — ‘For Those Light Bachelor Days.’”
The only attempt tampon companies make now to sound cool is to end their brand names with an “x”: “Playtex,” “Femtex,” “Tampax.” “Kotex.” And you can’t even use them to score big in a scrabble game because they’re proper nouns. But “tissue” and “sock” are a-okay. I’m pretty sure that’s DISCRIMINATION.