Recently I went to a parents’ briefing meeting for a camp trip that Big is going on this summer. One of the points the instructor chose to stress was that girls need to bring enough ‘personal hygiene essentials’ because they don’t want the male instructors to have to go to a supermarket and try to work out what to buy. It’s not pretty he said, or words to that effect.
And now we’ve got the packing list. In the admin section it says wash kit – tooth paste, brush, soap, flannel, shaving kit (if required), shampoo, shower gel. A few lines later: females, don’t forget your own personal hygiene essentials.
Now, I get that men don’t menstruate. But many (the vast majority I’d have thought) will at some point in their lives live with women who do. And it’s about time, I feel, that we stopped whispering about it like it’s this horrific mystery.
There are a varieity of reasons, dear instructor, why you might get girls on camp without the right ‘personal hygiene essentials’.
Some might forget. I’ll bet you get boys who forget all sorts of stuff. And you probably mutter about it, but go to the supermarket and buy toothbrushes, deodorant (which isn’t on your packing list, incidentally. Do you really want to spend 10 days with teenage boys without deodorant?) and so on without too much of a fuss. Why are you carrying on about sanitary equipment? It’s not actually all that complicated. There are basically towels (various thicknesses and lengths, with and without wings to attach to underwear) and tampons (similarly varied. No wings though). The girls will know what they usually use, if they aren’t too embarrassed by your attitude to discuss it with you.
(It’s not catching, you know. You won’t suddenly start menstruating if you talk about it, or buy things for it, amusing and fitting as the idea would be.)
Some girls might not have started their periods yet. And 10 days away from home might just be when they start. Personally if I was sending a teenage girl away from home who hadn’t started, I’d send her equipped, but not every parent plans ahead that way.
Teenage girls who have started can come on unexpectedly out of rhythm – change of routine, extra exercise, stress, all sorts of things can trigger it. Teenage girls aren’t that regular anyway, and to be honest, even grown women with years of experience with this get caught out. I’m currently wearing a pair of brown jeans that I had to buy in a hurry some years ago when I came on unexpectedly during the day in cream jeans. (I might add a Vanish stick to your packing list too. Although salt and cold water is good for blood stains as well.)
The bottom line (ho ho) here is that periods are not gross, disgusting, dirty or shameful. Messy, perhaps, but dirty, no. And if the grown men who are in charge of taking my daughter and her friends (male and female) away for 10 days could get over themselves and just grow up and deal with this perfectly normal thing that women cope with regularly, I’d really appreciate it.
Is that really so much to ask?