Periods are like Murphy’s Law: they materialise when you were least expecting them, but you had that nagging feeling at the back of your head, an ominous voice that said, “It’s going to happen.”
How many momentous occasions have been ruined by the appearance of the red stain on the panty when it is most abhorred – a night before your fairy-tale wedding, on the day you’ve decided to wear white trousers or skirt to a party or to work, moments before you hit the sandy coast in your bikini, or gear up to climb the mountain you’ve been training to scale – or at the Olympic Games.
In Rio this week, 20-year-old Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui was interviewed after competing in the 4x100-meter relay. She was squatting on the ground and, when asked if she was unwell, she said, “My period came last night and I’m really tired right now. But this isn’t an excuse, I did not swim well. I am not worthy of my teammates.”
Sigh. The Period, a woman’s lifelong companion (who else appears every single month, like a steadfast friend, whether you want it to or not?) is also one that causes her most heartache when it appears at inopportune times.
Until a few years ago, the simplest, easiest and supposedly most efficient method of postponing the period was by popping a pill. Eventually, science proved that committing this atrocity to the hormones in our bodies was causing us way more harm than delaying a first sexual encounter would.
Now we are stuck. Delaying a period seems to be very extreme, and is often forbidden by doctors. But is it sensible or even practical to avoid a trip, postpone an event, just for the period?
I am a trekking enthusiast who also conducts hikes and treks across Himachal and Bhutan. Inevitably, in my groups, someone does get their period (that Murphy’s Law in motion) – unannounced and before time – just as we are gearing up for the hike we’ve been waiting for.
Left with no choice, we deal with them, as we must, all the good and bad things that happen to us as women. We begin the cycle – carrying pads (check), meds for cramps (check), slow down the pace of climbing (check). But there is nothing we can do to alleviate the discomfort.
Contrary to what popular sanitary napkin ads promulgate, le’ts face it, undertaking a sporting activity with a pad tucked between your legs is disgusting, especially in a country where finding a toilet to replace a blood soaked towel is next to impossible. Personally, I am a tampon user, and I know that in a country where men are still ‘hymen-obsessed’, most unmarried girls don’t use them. Bulky, scratchy pads are their only option.
Clients often write in to me and ask, “What will happen if I got my period during the trek?” They fear that they would ‘enjoy’ less if ‘it comes’. Worse still, they’re mostly all concerned about the stains. Somehow, the appearance of a stain on clothes is more stressful than the pain of the abdominal and breast cramps and the discomfort associated with expelling foul-smelling blood.
I often reply, “We’ll handle the period. And don’t worry about the stains. Periods are a biological process and the stains are not the end of the world.”
Most of them, unconvinced, give the trip a skip just because of the period.
I am going on a trek in four weeks. Just as I wrapped my recent period, I suddenly realised that I am going to be on a 5-day trek, in the absolute wilderness, with a male contingent (I am the only female on the trek) and my period is scheduled to start on the day of the trek. I won’t have the resources to change tampons, and may have to wear the bulky pads while climbing 4-6 hours a day, up to an altitude of 4100 metres.
I have a few options before me: Should I skip the trek? Postpone the trip? Or postpone my period and take those dastardly pills? Or should I, like Fu Yuanhui, manage it?
What do you think?
Ritu Goyal Harish is a journalist, photographer, music lover, full-time mommy and activist in disguise. She runs two travel start-ups, one in India, www.easeindiatravel.com, and one in Bhutan. Read more posts from her on her Fashion101 Blog.