Life as a Bleeding Woman
by Jennifer Gardner
God is a man. I know because I am a woman. As a woman I have convincing
evidence. Throughout almost twenty-three years of living, I've been convinced
that I have little to no blood in my body, aside from the gallons of it
I seem to lose for five to seven days out of the month. In all other ways
my body is basically flawless and to complain about it would be like Marilyn
Monroe griping about that extra toe she was said to have. As if anyone ever
looked at her feet anyhow. Inside my body, as I said, there flows coffee
and cola, a great amount of icy water but no blood. I don't mind it really,
except in the winter when I feel colder than Santa streaking at the North
Pole. Really, the only gripe I do have about my lack of blood is the surplus
I find coming from between my legs at the end of each month.
As a vampire enthusiast, I prefer skin cold to the touch. I prefer alabaster
flesh. When people say I look anemic I say, "Thank you!" Someone
might occasionally brush up against me and say, "My dead Grandma is
warmer than you," and comments such as those puts a toothy grin across
my face. Being cold occasionally becomes a hindrance but that's nothing
a lot of hot chocolate and a warm waterbed won't fix. Living in Michigan
doesn't always help either but I deal with it as any good amphibian would.
I've learned to come to terms with my own literal frigidness. I only wish
my icy composure would be consistent throughout the month. Because for three
weeks out of four, I'm a vampire's drought. But for that other week I become
a vampire's dream date.
I began menstruation when I was 13 years old. Friends of mine got it
before me, and talked about it like it was a gift. They made those of us
who didn't yet have it feel left out. "Did you get yours yet?"
they would ask, like a girl's period was the next best thing to a visit
from Publisher's Clearinghouse. So when I finally spotted red at the tender
age of thirteen I was actually happy and proud of myself. I looked at it
as a part of maturing, and my first experience with maturation hadn't gone
"How big are they gonna get?" I asked my mom when my boobs
started growing. I was a child athlete and I couldn't afford to have two
jugs hanging off my body, bouncing as I ran. My fears were unfounded because
as it turned out, my boobs never grew much. I've had bigger mosquito bites.
Once I walked into a tree. The lump on my head was the size of a C cup,
a size bigger than my chest. But I'm not complaining about my chest size.
Being small chested has its advantages. I can squeeze into small elevators.
I can even play pool without toppling over. I've dealt nicely with this
form of maturation. I tried to deal as nicely with menstruation.
When blood started to leak from my innards, I made the mistake of believing
that it qualified me for womanhood. In my idealistic way, I imagined that
I'd be in complete control of the menstruation process at all times. I'd
only bleed a few drops here, a few drops there, a small price to pay to
be a woman. Since I'd always been active, I wouldn't have to worry about
cramps. It all seemed nothing I couldn't handle.
Boy was I wrong.
The reality is that once a month I lose more blood than a hemophiliac
gunned down by Al Capone. I've had clots the size of golf balls. And I don't
care if I trained for the triathlon, I'd still get terrible cramps. I wonder,
is childbirth this painful? Gallons of precious blood flows from me each
month. I always wonder, considering how pale my complexion is and how cold
in temperature I always am, where does all that blood come from? With my
endless supply of blood, I should be sitting on a shelf in Wes Cravin's
prop closet for his next Nightmare on Elm Street movie. If blood were kerosene
I could heat the world. My little blood cells must reproduce like bunnies.
And all I can do is pad up like a football player and stay away from sniffing
dogs for five to seven days.
Naturally I've underpadded before. Sometimes my period sneaks up on
me like a mugger in a dark alley. Once I was visiting a friend in Minnesota,
"Aunt Flo" came along. "I think you sat in chocolate,"
her father said to me after I'd gotten out of his luxury Cadillac with leather
interior. Sure enough, it wasn't Fannie May on the back of my pants. It
was the menses of my own embarrassed little body. My friend's family were
strict Christians. So I suppose the nervous little joke I made about blood
sacrifices happening between my legs wasn't a very good joke to make. As
my blood flows from my body, so too does my tact.
I tried to give blood once. I said to Red Cross, "Take my blood,
please!" But my temperature was one tenth of a degree too high. I was
sitting next to Homecoming King, and my blood sensed it. I tend to run fevers
and get sick around my time of the month, doubling the pleasures of being
a woman. I'm a weekend bartender who waits tables and also cooks. Typically
the last weekend of the months are the busiest. Typically it's the last
weekend of the month when I'm bleeding more than a Gacy victim. My customers
aren't always interested in hearing about my menstruation, even those who
drink Bloody Marys. Coincidentally food sales also go down.
Once I fainted. My blood pressure was something like 30/10 or some other
outrageously low number. My mother called the ambulance but I refused to
go to the hospital. I might be a woman but I'm also a gutless wimp. I didn't
want to go to the hospital. I wasn't wearing clean underwear. Since then
I've really had to take my body into consideration around the last of the
month. I load up on much needed rest. I overindulge in sugar in case I'm
diabetic. And I make sure to eat large meals high in nutrition, something
that doesn't come easily when menstruation, cramps, and cold-like symptoms
destroy your appetite.
I've recently discovered PMS. As a young menstruating girl my emotions
were always in key, independent from mother nature. But in my older teen
years, when my emotions became unstable pre-menstrual syndrome conquered
me. I would cry over a busted fingernail, yet remain dry eyed at my grandfather's
funeral. I especially get emotionally distraught over school grades. Anything
below an A seems reason enough to jump from a bridge. PMS usually occurs
for me about four days before the first onslaught of bloody warfare. By
calculation, this means that I'm not myself for the four prior days to my
menstruation, and for five to seven days after it begins. This totals as
much as eleven days of menstrual taxing out of a thirty-day month. Is this
fair? Is there a menstrual labor board I can call to report this?
I don't try to understand the actual effects PMS has on me. I just try
to avoid all social contact, which is rarely possible. For the other nineteen
days of the month I think thoughts like, "I have very little blood
in my body. Lacking essential blood, I'm already very much dead." Then
just days later I find streams of blood gushing out of me like a geyser.
As soon as I find proof of that I have precious life essential blood, I
lose it. This is God's best practical joke. Only a man could justify such