I slammed the door. Ignoring the dark empty room, I jumped into the bed and sobbed. The unknown fear started to rush. And I cried as loud as possible.
This process of crying occurs routinely—often once a month when I am in pre-menstruation. Most acknowledge the difficulties of pads, blood and hygiene, but barely anyone ever cares about my psychological fatigue during the period. My friends are loving and caring people who are always there in my darkest times, but why should they be there for me when I cry with no purpose? The reiteration of "be strong" neither disables my headache nor eliminates my vulnerabilities.
There is no moment that a girl can be lonelier than the moment when they deal with premenstrual syndrome.
I picked up my phone, flickered through my friend list and saw no one I found comfortable enough to share with. The stigma of being sentimental, the worry of inducing negativity and the insecurity of appearing to be a not-so-cool girl all barred me from calling my loved ones. I envisioned my “save me” call being constantly rejected.
I used to be infatuated with the ideal image of a can-do feminist. I tried sports to show my strength. Taking a ball to the face turned my joy into humiliation. I tried board games to show my mentality. My easily-guessed poker face turned me into an uncomplicated, stupid player. I wondered why my emotions had to thwart my plan.
The journey of showing my determination continued when I took up golf, my dad’s favorite sport. Alone with my own sovereignty and liberated from others’ jaundiced nods, I was an icon of self-reliance and assertion. Then came my dad’s lamenting about my intermittent practice. I put more time into homework and spared no energy for golf because the heavy exercises might exacerbate my menstrual cramp. My sporadic golfing schedule now turned me into a debilitated creature.
Saying goodbye to the feminist trope, I became categorized as a fully feminine girl due to my dainty-clothed and dreamy characteristics. I no longer participate in athletic activities or precarious ventures. Books chaperone me in my leisure time. Solitary promenade captures most of my time. Dresses dominate my wardrobe. But the deluge of unexpected tears never ceases hassling me. I never get enough courage to talk about my menstruation proudly.
Emo-sensitivity always triumphs when it wants to. I am not strong. The insanity distracts me all the time. The physical tiredness harnesses me from blooming. The affliction of overthinking is ineffably harsh.
Emo-sensitivity is the quintessence of my being. The purposeless tears release my tensions. Bleeding is not burdensome but symptomatic of my health. This dichotomy forces me to confront my emotional unease.
There is nothing regular yet so capricious as a girl's period.
Ordinarily, I can be this savvy, friendly and appealing girl. Periodically, I can be this maniac, insomniac and sentimental girl. I avoid talking about my PMS not because I am ashamed, but because I get fed up with the hollow encouragement of “poor you,” “hope you get over it” or “what a pity.” In conversation, the period, rather than soliciting the necessary sympathy, is tainted as a biological flaw that will inflict on others its craziness.
It stopped for three months. That was a red flag for a girl. “Be glad you don’t have one” turned into “That’s dangerous.” The biological process of a girl jumbles between comfortable and uncomfortable. It is part of her identity. But it is only deemed as a stain. The era of “love yourself” omits the ugly parts of bodies that also need love. The craving for rationality and efficiency produces the neglect of uncomfortable emotions.
The internalization of subordination occurred so implicitly that it became entrenched in my view. It is hard for me to abandon the pursuit of a contradictorily perfect girl—a girl of captivation, moderate intelligence, composure and submissiveness. Making a fuss about appearing gorgeous effortlessly is normal in the perfect-girl competitions. Therefore, any expression of pain signals game over.
I decorated myself with all this clothing just to be someone's accessory. The charms, beauty and wittiness I present just to create someone's pride. I listen to and laugh at someone's lame jokes just to look attractive. In striving to perfect myself, I objectify myself. And an object does not have emotions nor tears. My mercuriality, temperamentality and sentimentality during PMS-affected days are defects for a Barbie-like human being.
However, menstruation is my health. And I silently embrace it. I wait for it every time. Pride in periods and blood is my guilty pleasure. I am tired of “poor you” responses to my wellness, my being and my selfhood. I stop crying “save me” in vain. Now, I save myself not from the pain of bleeding but from being rejected due to bleeding.
Chi Nghiem is a Duke Kunshan University first-year. Her column runs on alternate Fridays.
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