On some level, periods are cool. But on another, much more realistic level, periods are gross, terrible, and just a horrible pain in the uterus. Sure, it's great to know that no rogue sperms have made first contact with your ovaries over the past month, and periods are sometimes a fun excuse to either act like a groovy Stevie Nicks-style witch or eat 10,000 cheeseburgers. But mostly, they are a messy, expensive, painful slow-motion nightmare.
And yet, there's something charming about their grossness, about the way that every menstruating lady can trade gross period war stories that would make any dude's gross stories sound like a walk in the park. Oh, you put your dick in a cantaloupe? I had a blood clot fall out into my sex partner's mouth! Back off, buddy!
So let us gather here today to celebrate the grossness of our periods together, by reflecting on these 17 totally gross things that women deal with on our periods. I say "gross" not in a shaming way, but in a "let's all celebrate the inherent foulness of living in our awkward human bodies together" way. Our periods are like a flaky younger sister — we may not always see eye-to-eye with her, and we may think the way she spent part of her student loan money on an 20-day "electrolyte cleanse" was a very bad idea, but we're stuck with her, so we may as well just roll with it. We're in the Sisterhood of Washing Stained Panties in the Sink, so let's try to embrace it.
That's the formal medical name, right? "Gushes"? Or has science not gotten around to classifying that moment when you're just going about your day, trying to ride a bicycle or make coffee or encourage a historic treaty between the U.S. and Cuba, and you just feel blood ... gush forth out of you.
Who among us has not gone to bed convinced that their sleep period game is beyond tight — fresh tampon, liner, thick pajama pants — only to wake up with a huge spot of dried blood on your sheets? And that stain isn't even anywhere near your vagina — it's near, like, your knees. What the hell are you doing in your sleep, woman?
Of course, major blood leakage does not only happen in your sleep. It can happen while you're exercising, while you're trying to look serious and together at work, or, in one particularly traumatic incident that I have definitely not had to discuss in therapy, while you're trying to show off your new stone-washed jeans to the rest of the 6th grade class on the school bus to Madison Middle School.
Is it worse when a leak happens without your knowledge, or when you know it's happening but there's nothing you can do about it? That's like one of those unanswerable questions you're supposed to meditate on at the end of yoga class.
Dripping Period Pee Onto a Toilet Seat
For once in your life, you are the one ruining the bathroom at Starbucks!
Getting Your Period in the Middle of Sex
Period sex is fine when you're prepared. But when you think you're getting one last blood-free bang in before your flow starts — only to look down and see that your oblivious partner now looks like they recently committed a particularly messy homicide — that is less fine.
Underestimating How Heavy Your Flow Is
Remember when I said period sex is fine when you're prepared? What I meant is, period sex is fine when you're prepared ... except for the times when you're way off about how heavy your flow is, and that dainty little bath towel you laid down on your bed does nothing to staunch the heavy, chunky, fast-flowing blood running out of your vagina.
There is a scientific reason that your period may find you in a serious relationship with your toilet bowl. Hormone-like chemical compounds called prostaglandins are how your body tells your uterus that it's closing time for the month — you don't have to go home but you can't stay here, uterine lining. But when those chemicals misfire — and they do, often; hey, you're dealing with hormones, not Katniss — and hit you in the bowel, that is when you become a bloody poop machine.
A side effect of the above-mentioned constant pooping, of course. And it turns out that discussing that feeling when you fart while wearing a pad and it's almost like the fart travels through your pad and kind of into your vagina ... is honestly a little too gross even for me.
Squeezing Your Tampon Out When You Poop
We can develop a "smart" thermostat that will surely turn against us in the coming Robot Wars, but we can't design a tampon that won't shoot out of your vagina like a heat-seeking missile every time that you poop? (I recommend menstrual cups for this very reason.)
Getting a Tampon Stuck in Your Vagina
Even if it was only stuck in there for ten minutes, those ten minutes — during which you vividly pictured yourself having to walk into an emergency room and fill out a form asking a doctor to reach into your vagina and take a tampon out — were certainly among the worst of your month.
... Or Getting a Tampon Stuck in Your Vagina and Not Knowing It
Judging from the Internet (and if there's one thing we can do, it is judge the human experience based on the Internet) inserting a tampon, then forgetting all about said tampon, then having sex with said tampon inside you by accident, and then realizing it is still in there a few weeks later, is actually pretty common.
Accidentally Inserting Two Tampons
A common problem for both hard partiers and people who get up to pee in the middle of the night a lot, the double tampon can lead to the aforementioned "tampon I didn't know was stuck in there" — or it can just lead to the unique agony of pulling an almost completely dry tampon out of your cooch.
The scourge of heavy period-havers everywhere, those weird, blood jelly-like clots aren't a medical issue most of the time; but it's kind of hard not to feel like a science experiment gone wrong when they start just raining out of your vagina.
Blood Matted Into Your Pubes
People always complain that pads feel like diapers, but I say, who cares? I personally would love to go back to being a baby, and wearing diapers, and devoting my days to careful study of the complex interpersonal dynamics between Bert and Ernie. No, the real problem with pads is that if you have pubes, your period blood WILL crust on them in a way that will make you feel like your vagina is a living crime scene.
Oh yeah, there are also the pad wedgies. If you're going to complain about pads, complain about the pad wedgies!
Agonizing Boob Pain
Nothing comes out of or gets stuck to your boobs during your period, which is some small comfort, I guess. But walking around all day feeling like your boobs have been body-checked during a particularly vicious game of ice hockey feels way more foul and disgusting than just your run-of-the-mill period cramps or headache.
Your Dog Loving It
This is has nothing to do with the mechanics of your period, per se; but that doesn't make your dog's raw, unbridled enthusiasm about your crimson wave any less gross. And somehow, the fact that they're not consciously trying to make you uncomfortable when they sniff on your be-padded crotch actually makes it a little bit worse.