Last night at dinner at a lovely old school Italian restaurant on Thompson Street, we were deep in discussion about what Jack should be for Halloween. We've been through Jesus Christ (might make people uncomfortable), a Buddha (covering his entire body in gold paint might not be the greatest idea), a baked potato (I don't know that I'm up for that costume challenge), John Lennon (but last year's Slash wig was really uncomfortable), a flapper (I think he'd look a bit too good) and Mario (this hasn't been completely written off yet). He wants something instantly recognizable and we were throwing out ideas to see if anything hit the right note: Paula Abdul, Mario Batali, a character from Sponge Bob, when Jon said, "How about a tampon?" I told them about a friend of mine, years ago, who came to our Halloween party with a 3 foot tall Tampon hat on her head. A tube of white cardboard with stuffing out the top and a braided string hanging over her shoulder. She was a great photo op at the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which was happening downstairs. When the laughing died down, Jack took it in, paused a second, and replied, "Would it be bloody?"
There was a moment of silence. And then we all completely lost it. I doubled over, fighting back tears, noticing other diners looking our way as the hilarity at our table was impossible to ignore. I was blown away—Jack's comeback was edgy, witty, relatively gross, remarkably funny . . . and this from an 8-year-old boy, not the typical person for that kind of response.
That's the FLOW difference. Jack's been listening to menstrual chatter for almost 3 years. He does tell me I talk about Flow way too much (although I am sure that it's not as much as when he obsesses about something like the Sims 3, his latest heart's desire). But all that talk has made it a topic of conversation that's now just that, a topic of conversation. Growing up, I don't know that my brother even knew what a period was and I did everything within my control to make sure it stayed my super private secret. I remember stashing pads as far back in the bathroom cabinet as possible, artfully arranging extra roles of toilet paper and hair drying equipment in front, so no one could possibly notice the box. The first few years my periods were brutal, with cramps that kept me in bed for 2-3 days month, clutching a heating pad to my lower belly, popping tylenol like m&ms. But I would never, EVER, let people know what I was suffering from. I'd say I hurt my back or had a stomach ache.
But these days at my house, cramps are cramps. PMS is PMS. Heavy days are heavy days. It's not always easy for me to be so open after so many years of stringently keeping everything mysterious and hidden. But the fact that my kids can question, wonder, discuss, make rockets from tampons, watch vintage menstrual education films noting differences in facts and presentation, and even come out with exceedingly funny, if not questionable rejoinders is one of the reasons I wanted to write Flow. To start conversations. To take away the stigma. To let people feel comfortable talking about a completely natural process.
(day 14 is a wrap)