My web reading is somewhat limited, but one of my favorite sites (to which I've linked you all at http://www.tonywoodlief.com/ ) is Sand in the Gears, Tony Woodlief's earnest words on family, distress, melancholia, politics, faith, music, et cetera- all told with a wonderful dash of zeal and humor. One of his latest posts, "Whatchamacallits" is no exception. (I've been having difficulty lately with maintaining my blog - difficulty linking you to the correct posts of others, you can find this entry of Tony's on July 11, 2008)
"Whatchamacallits" is his wonderfully stark commentary on the naming of the male genitalia in the Woodlief household. He's a boy, who happens to be a dad, and his language is that of a boy- one of concern and sincerity juxtaposed by playfulness and irreverence. I'll not spoil it for you- go to his link posted above to read it.
Tony's speaking into the chaos of naming has inspired me. Just as his comments could be received by some as childish, over the top and sexist, so may the remainder of this post be for you, dear reader. However, I am coming at this from a different angle. I, a member of the female gender, am possessed of a uterus that rages in torrents for about eight days a month. I've decided to pen a few words on the bloody matter. I have seen portions of the stage play, The Vagina Monologues, and something about that production fits well into this theme- speaking of body parts is not gauche in itself.
Now, there are those, most of whom will be men, right this minute, who'll elect to go read CNN, ESPN or their local weather, all well and good-understood.. Or, given that it is the Lord's day within Christendom, some of you may be wincing and wanting to wash my mouth out with soap. For those of you who've the stomach (most will be women, and that is no mere coincidence) to continue, read on.
Girls become women, not by forfeiting or losing their virginity, but, I submit, by bleeding. You women may recall the day you had your first 'period' or 'menstrual flow'. And the event of going from a relatively carefree, "blood in the veins and arteries where it is contained life" to one where blood gushes from your insides is quite the shock. My mom did her best to educate me with one of those booklets with the black and white line drawings of the vagina, uterus, and ovaries, sat me down, looked me in the eye, and said, read this, but I do not remember if I read it before or after I started my period. I suspect that no matter how carefully and deliberately the subject is addressed, the trauma remains a vivid one for most girls. For those of you who cried tears of joy when you first 'got your period', I do not understand you. I may love you and cherish you, but I do not understand that strange joy.
Much is made of what to call this rite of passage, and heretofore the references of "flow", or "Flo", "my period", which to me sounds so grammarian, and allusive to the time that feels for me like one in which time stops; "the curse", while accurate, hardly seems the word you want to start using at age 12 or so and stick with through your entire life. "My time of the month" was ever popular with some, but so direct and without earnestness, it carried less weight than "my period".
I never did stick with one word. My mom used "the curse" "period", and I said as little about it as possible. If you want a name with shock value, and one in particular to describe that part of your menstruation that doubles you in two and prompts you to want to rip out the throat of the nearest bystander, try THE CRAMPS. "Have you got the cramps?"; or, "God, I've got the cramps, do you have any Midol?"
The previous two phrases are all but lost on the male species, that is, until they are fortunate by Providence or get old enough to have a cramp in their groin muscle; women can then have a strange empathy with them as they moan in dire pain, limp to the shower and stand under running water to alleviate the knot in their muscle tissue while clutching cold tile.
I'd like to delve deeper in theological issues surrounding a woman's menstrual flow, (e.g. blood covenant, blood offering, original sin, the curse, the fall, et cetera,) but I do not want to tread lightly on the topic of my dear Saviour's offering. I'll resort to a banal illustration instead. How many of you are familiar with the band called THE CRAMPS? Not many, I presume. Suffice it to say, their garish make-up, horrible sound, and provocative lyrics are as intense a contrast to the precious blood of Christ my God as is possible for me to convey. I thought I might insert a photo of them, or a poster, but after I looked at google images of them, I decided against it. One poster of theirs had the words Christian death inscribed on it; fitting, both to describe their monstrosity, and the actual thing taking place when we undergo this rite, this comi-tragic cycle.
Call it what you will, I have opted for the neutral words "The Visitation"- describe sort of a spiritual activity and intimates there is, thankfully, an end to the bloodshed. By God's great wisdom, mercy and timing alone, I rejoice that it is one day going to cease.