Today, my favorite work partner was editing a presentation of mine. He said, “is there a reason you didn’t use a single possessive apostrophe throughout this entire piece?”
I said the reason I didn’t use any was because I have zero clue how to use them.
It’s not that I haven’t tried. I have. I somehow learned enough to pass third grade. And since then, I’ve read about them, I’ve asked people to explain them to me. But in practice, they just don't click. Besides being complicated, using one doesn’t change the sound or the cadence or the rhythm of anything. So instead of wasting brain energy worrying about the misplacement before or after an s, now I just leave them out altogether and assume someone who likes and understands the rules will take care of it.
But periods? I love them. They’re my favorite, by far. Strong and certain and complete. Signaling the end of one thing before the start of something new. Periods add rhythm.
Time to stop.
They're so useful.
Mine started on a summer Saturday when I was thirteen.
I woke up, went to the bathroom, and there it was. My First Period, just waiting for me. It arrived without a warning, but I felt confident, prepared. I knew how everything worked, what it all meant. My mom (your grandma) was out of town that day so I went into her bathroom, found the tampons, grabbed the instruction sheet from inside the box and figured it out. Then I went out to the pool to swim. Just like the girls in the school Sex-Ed videos, splashing freely with their new periods and their practical tampons.
For those first several years, I hated the bleeding. It lasted seven long days and the cramps were debilitating. At school, I constantly worried. Was it leaking through my jeans? If I stood up, would there be a puddle? Would the boys laugh? Did I leave my tampon in too long?
My main goal was to control it. To make it less than it naturally was. I used the pill so it would be shorter and more regular. I took Ibuprofen and Midol to lessen the cramps. I complained when it came. I worried when it didn't.
Think about how horrible it is that the very process that enables life is something we learn to hate and hide - a secret, unworthy of sharing. It’s easy to see how period shame can become body shame.
Hadley, remember what I told you about the freckles on your arms? The ones I hope you learn to love because you'll get more and more every year? The same goes for your period.
Periods don't really get easier over time. Cramps are still painful. And anyone I’ve ever dated could tell you the challenges that begin a whole week before it starts, when my irritability is off the charts and I simultaneously want to be left completely alone and held really close (I'm so grateful that people choose to love anyway).
But I've come to love my period because it feels real and important and purposeful. It elicits big feelings, both physical and emotional, and demands that I tune into what’s happening with my body. Now that I've given it a chance to regulate on its own, it comes like clockwork. An on-time monthly confirmation that things are working exactly as they should. Tangible proof that my body is powerful and feminine and capable.
It’s also proof that I’m not pregnant. Which is something I’m consistently glad about. (Someday that will change. And I wonder how I’ll feel when my period arrives after hoping it wouldn't. But for now, its predictable hello still feels like a great gift. Something worth celebrating until it makes sense for me to make you a cousin.)
Now, I have a deep appreciation not only for the four days of bleeding, but for the nuances of the entire cycle.
There are times of the month when I feel most creative. There are certain days when my skin looks glowy and certain other days when my skin looks more like a sixteen year old than the adult that I’m trying to be. There are days, right before my period starts, when I'm more tired and always need more sleep. And there are also days when I have more energy, when I feel faster and lighter and have better workouts.
When I pay close attention, I can usually feel when I’m ovulating, too. Which I’m obsessed with because I think it's completely magical. An egg! One of the 2 million I was born with! One that could make a human! Just kicked out of my ovaries and sent traveling down my fallopian tubes, hoping to meet a sperm along the way. It seems like science fiction. Or a video game. But it’s actually real. Which is the most wild thing ever.
And like all the ones I've used throughout this letter, the thing I appreciate most about my period is the simple signal to stop. To pause. To let change happen. Instead of trying to control what my body does, I now use the pain or tiredness or moodiness as reminders to slow down, to be just a little kinder to myself. Because I think our bodies are exceptional at telling us things. But it's impossible to hear what they have to say unless we actually stop. And listen.
You are extraordinary, Had. You and all your eggs and cramps and tears and future life-making abilities.
I love you.