Written by Melissa Robertson, Chief Executive Officer at Now.
I’ve always felt that, to do our jobs well, we need to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. We should use and believe in the brands we work on. I eat New York Bakery Co bagels and Florette salad, we use BT for our business capabilities, in the past I even made my husband and kids go on a P&O Cruises holiday (the kids loved it, let’s leave it there).
One of our new clients is betty – a new sanpro brand, aiming to empower a new generation of teenage girls (and boys) to be pioneers and trailblazers; to be the first generation that has truly felt comfortable and at ease talking about their periods, and all the other stuff that is happening to them.
So, this is it, time to walk that walk, get out of the period closet and start breaking those taboos. Should I be putting it on our agency blog? Will it make some people feel uncomfortable? Yes, probably. Maybe that’s the whole point. So there are some who shouldn’t read on. But the thing is it’s something that around 50% of the population will have at some point in their life. For the vast majority, every single month for around 40 years of their life. I’m no mathematician, but apparently the average woman has 350 periods (or to get all technical about it: ‘menses’) in their lifetime. Mine last a tortuous average of 6 days, which is 2,100 days, or 5.8 years. That’s less than sleeping (25 years), but more than cooking (2.5 years) or eating (3.66 years). That’s a shed load of your life bleeding out of your vagina. Why on earth are we so repressed when it comes to talking about something so normal and natural?
Part of it is because we’re squeamish – after all, when you menstruate, it’s essentially your body shedding the lining of your uterus. In fact, it’s the very action of the uterus contracting to shed the lining that gives you cramps. And, the old reassuring adage of ‘it’s only the equivalent of a thimbleful of blood’ is somewhat misleading. It might be technically correct, but it fails to acknowledge the volume of other fluids (look away now if you are of a nervous disposition) – cervical mucus, vaginal fluids, bacteria, discharge, plus that wonderfully thick endometrial lining – all covered in blood. Which transpires to be quite an extensive volume. And there are occasional chunks – yeah, chunks. You think they are blood clots, or tiny beginning-of-babies, but they’re not.
Anyway, I’ve been having periods for over 30 years now (with a blissful gap of 6 childbearing and breastfeeding years) and it never fails to take me by surprise. That moment when you go to the loo and realise… it brings out the Hugh-Grant-at-the-start-of-Four-Weddings-And-A-Funeral-sweary side of me. Every single time. I just sit there and either think or actually say ‘Shit, shiiiiiit, oh fuck and bollocks. BOLLOCKS. Oh fucking arsing bollocks. Fuck.’ I’ve never been regular, so it’s always a surprise. And the flow is so damn erratic – one day you’re sneaking off to the loo with a tampon surreptitiously shoved up your jumper sleeve every couple of hours, the next you’re having to tug hard to get it out for lack of moisture (sorry, sorry, too much information, I know, but this is what happens, and no-one tells you!) And if you misjudge it, blood is really hard to get rid of – I still confuse myself about whether cold or warm water is better. I invariably get it wrong.
But I’m one of the lucky ones. Bar a few cramps, I’ve never really suffered from agonising pain, or rollercoaster mood swings. And when all that is happening for the first time, as you enter puberty, and are going through one of the most tumultuous hormonal changes in your life, it’s one of the most lonely places on earth. Being able to talk about something so natural should be normalised. Yes, it’s a bit gross, but it’s a bit gross for everyone, so we should share and empathise. It shouldn’t be embarrassing for girls, or indeed boys. It’s what happens. With the success of projects such as #HeforShe and #EndTamponTax bringing these narratives to the forefront, the time is right. So, let’s begin the revolution, and start talking.