Welcome to my very first guest post! This week my hilarious and wildly talented writer friend, Melissa McCue-McGrath, has taken over and shares her experience of all the super fun shenanigans that can ensue when you’re a woman just casually bleeding in a field.
The most woman-thing-to-ever-woman happen to me happened at the “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” taping at Tanglewood a few weeks ago. For the uninitiated, “Wait Wait” is NPR’s weekly news quiz and, as of 2016, a necessary spoonful of sugar to help the news-medicine go down.
My husband and I were enjoying a date night, our first in nearly a full year. We were planning on going out for drinks with some friends after the show taping and then go home to take advantage of the whole kid-is-sleeping-over-at-a-friends-house situation. We were very much looking forward to the entire evening until I went to the bathroom and discovered that my period started a week early. This wasn’t a uterus version of, “Knock-knock, is anyone home?” with a little light spotting. This was Kramer from “Seinfeld” bursting through the door. It was go-time. This was not a drill.
Instead of going to the bar to meet up with some friends and hopefully run into the panelists, including Mo Rocca and his amazing mom (girl can rock a pair of cat eye glasses like WOAH!), we had to first find a way to a 24-hour anything so I could handle my bleed-mergency. There is no cell service or WiFi out in Lenox, MA, which made it impossible to know which direction to drive for supplies. None of this mattered yet, however, because we first needed to locate the car in one of several field parking lots.
I was doing the “play it cool but try not to bleed everywhere” shuffle. Ladies, you know this doesn’t work. Men, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We don’t have control over how this works. It’s basically a faucet that once is switched on, you wait 5-7 days until someone in maintenance hits the menstruate switch to off.
Thank you to whatever Gods are in charge of keeping Meghna Chakrabarti’s voice on point (pun intended) and Terry Gross’s line of questioning unparalleled, we found the car in the second multi-acre field we looked.
Still shuffling in the direction of our car, I noticed a group of women giggling near a blue all-wheel-drive Subaru, the official car of every New England state (and Wisconsin). I instructed my beloved to stay put, which he did.
With a hushed voice, a lowered head, and a lot of stiff gesticulations, I uttered the only thing I could: “Um, I need a little help.”
One woman grabbed my wrist and pulled me into the center of the circle. They all circled around, laser beam eyes at my husband, and dropped their voices. Woman #1 asked, quite seriously, “Do you need help?”
“No – he’s good.”
It was at this point, the curtain dropped, and we all laughed. The woman still holding my wrist from pulling me into the sacred coven pointed to the woman directly across from me and said, “Oh, Michelle can help.”
Michelle then pulled out her Sherpani purse, opened it like one of Howie Mandel’s boxes from “Deal or No Deal,” and casually blurted out, “I have them all, sweetie. What kind? Super? Plus? Regular? Do you prefer a pad or a tampon? Pink or yellow?”
“Give me the biggest one you got. We have a long ride home.”
“Here, Hon. Take two.”
My eyes had finally adjusted to the greyish-black that can only occur when the night sky is blanketed with a light cloud cover. I looked around and saw five women…
…and a dude. His eyes were as big as saucers.
I then rewound the tape in my brain. From his perspective, he saw a woman briskly walking away from a quiet, small-framed blonde man, asking for help, communicating, “No, I’m not getting murdered” and his friend opening a purse with a million feminine products. That purse must of looked like the Weasley’s car in Harry Potter – much bigger on the inside than on the outside because the only explanation all those products could fit is wizard magic.
He was so quiet, so dumbfounded, so in awe of what goes on behind the curtain of womanhood. There were no questions asked, no actual language about my “condition” – it just happened. We must be telekinetic! Women can just speak with their minds.
Because here’s the reality about being a woman in 2018. If a woman walks up to a group of women she doesn’t know in the middle of the night, there is a 50% chance that she thinks she is in serious trouble and needs you to call the police NOW. There is also a 50% chance she needs a tampon. There is a zero percent chance of any other option.
Since it was so dark, I couldn’t see if his face turned as red as…well, let’s leave that analogy alone. I could only assume it did. I then did what I would do in any situation when meeting someone first time and it’s uncomfortable: Immediately make it worse for the other party.
I grabbed his hand and said, “I’m Melissa.”
“Hi, Greg. Yes, I got my period tonight. It sucks. So very nice to meet you.”
It’s not on me to be uncomfortable for getting my period. It happens. Monthly. It’s supposed to. So, if he’s uncomfortable, fine. He’s around literally five other women. Hell, because of me, they all likely started to instantly cycle. His night was going to get a lot more descriptive. As a woman, we have to protect our own, and find a way to be powerful, and not be ashamed of our actual bodies. It starts here. In a field parking lot after an NPR news quiz.
This must look quite strange to a dude in the circle, the coven, but there’s nothing like telling your husband, “Yes, dear, they wanted to call the cops on you. Once it was clear we didn’t have a code blue but literally a code red, you were no longer on their shit list. They thought you were cute, once they realized you weren’t trying anything illegal or unconsented.”
Both these men got a glimpse of what it’s like to be a woman in 2018. My husband totally understood it, but poor Greg. He must think women are inSANE for jumping to the immediate conclusion that the other dude was perhaps going to cause great harm, but I, for one, am glad they did. I’m glad women will often take care of their own in exactly the way we are trained to, that we’ve learned to, that we sadly still have to. Because once the onus is on men to not rape instead of the woman to not dress in a way that’s theoretically “asking for it,” or once men can hear the word “period” or “vagina” without feeling taboo, then we’ll be in much better shape. In order to get there, we women have to handle our shit, use our language, and let men see all of it. Maybe they’ll see why we jump to the very real conclusions we must to stay safe and powder fresh.
Maybe next time I’ll get to meet Mo, Faith or Alonzo. Until then, I’ll keep a few extra supplies in my bag in case a woman approaches me. I’ll keep one hand on the emergency call button on her behalf, one on the Tampax Super Fit. I’m ready to help her whenever she needs it.
Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA is a certified professional dog trainer living outside of Boston. In addition to dog training and writing books about living with urban dogs (Considerations for the City Dog, 2015), Melissa keeps a blog, Letters to Little, where she writes letters to her daughter, Aislyn, with the intention to share it in 20 years. It starts off with a lot of poo, (as these things often do) and wades into deeper waters including inadvertently introducing her Kindergartener to The Mariner’s Revenge Song (a dark and grisly revenge-murder song on the high seas), school lockdowns, and explaining the song Get Lucky as a song about watching a meteor shower instead of staying up all night getting stoned and boned.
Everything can be found at melissamccuemcgrath.com.