5 min read
by English Taylor | 06/17/2018
I recently stumbled across screenshots of a dad and daughter text exchange about periods. The dad was clearly overwhelmed in a drugstore’s feminine care aisle, struggling to locate the exact product his daughter needed. Tampons? Pads or liners? Wings or no wings? (Wtf are wings?) Light or super? Super’s the best, right?
When the father texts his daughter to ask what she wants, she replies, “Always.” He promptly texts back, “Always what?”
She patiently explains, “No, that’s what they’re called!”
This got me thinking about my own dad. I grew up in a house dominated by vaginas. The only males to join my father were Poncho, the three-legged guinea pig, and Bubbles, a 150-pound Great Pyrenees. My family openly discusses cramps, bloody skivvies, IUDs, and everything in between.
Though most of the dialogue occurs between me, my sister, and mom, my dad has always been there—offering us ibuprofen and hot water bottles, unclogging toilets stuffed with tampons, and never leaving the room or expressing discomfort when the conversation turned towards periods (which, let’s be honest, it frequently did).
I sat down with my dad to reflect on some of the lighter and heavier (no more period puns, promise) moments that my family has experienced over the years, as well as why it’s so important for men, regardless of whether you’re a dad, to care about periods.
ET: Hey, Dad! Thanks for doing this interview with me.
Dad: Sure. We’re talking about periods, right?
ET: You know it. So, do you remember when I got my period?
Dad: Vaguely. I remember you were 12 and in the sixth grade. I knew it was a big transition. I don’t remember you sitting down and being like, “Dad, I want to let you know that I got my period. Let me tell you how I feel,” but I asked you and Mom about it, just to try to understand or help.
ET: What emotions did you experience, if any, when this happened?
Dad: It was a mixture of emotions. On one hand, it’s happy and exciting. One of the most wonderful things about being a woman is the ability to conceive. Having your period is a sign of this.
But part of my role as a father is making sure you are safe and protected. When you were younger, this was about teaching you to swim, making sure you wore a bike helmet, and had our home address and telephone number memorized. When you got your period, I was like, “Holy shit. Things are different.”
I suddenly realized that I had to start worrying about boys and pregnancy. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t afraid of this. Essentially, getting your period ramped up that typical dad-like, protective mode for me.
Deep down, I really just didn’t want you to be ashamed. Because of this, I was never going to put my hands over my ears or eyes or anything like that. This type of behavior wouldn’t be accepting of what you were experiencing. I was focused on noticing and asking how you were feeling and making sure you got the support you needed at home and at school. I remember you had very painful periods. I was sympathetic. I was always thinking to myself, "Should I get the heating pad? Where’s the Advil?"
ET: Any period-related stories or memories you want to share?
Dad: I remember making tampon and pad runs for you, your mom, and your sister at Walgreens. One time I was searching for the brand you all used and a woman came up to me, chuckled, and asked if I needed any recommendations. She meant well, but I was a little offended. I thanked her and told her that I knew exactly what I was looking for. I was never squeamish or embarrassed about purchasing tampons or pads. I’d always throw two packs into the cart, just in case.
I always had a supply of tampons or pads in the glove compartment of my car. Once, when I was driving a male client to a construction site, he somehow cut his hand. I thought I had a first aid kit in the glove compartment, but all he found were pads. He looked at me like I was crazy, but the pad worked perfectly to stop the bleeding.
Of course, I washed my fair share of bloody sheets and underwear. I also got so pissed off at you all for flushing tampons down the toilet. We had to pay for a plumber to come to the house a couple of times.
ET: I definitely remember McKenzie’s tampon treats. You mentioned never feeling squeamish. But some men may feel this way or grossed out by periods. Any thoughts on this?
Dad: Personally, I think communication and acceptance are the most important values for fathers to focus on when raising daughters. Even if you’re not a father, promoting acceptance and communication will be beneficial in your relationships with women. How can it be helpful to completely cut yourself off from her by making a disgusted face or remaining silent?
Now, it’s not like I got into the middle of period discussions, made recommendations, or pretended like I understood what you were going through. But I was always willing to engage, ask questions, and help how I could.
Actively choosing not to talk about periods sends the message that there's something wrong or shameful about them. If someone reacts this way, it’s conveying that menstruation is something unnatural or to be ashamed of. I don’t think anyone should ever do this.
English Taylor is a San Francisco-based women’s health and wellness writer and birth doula. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Healthline, Refinery29, NYLON, Modern Fertility, and LOLA. Follow English and her work on Medium or Instagram.
by English Taylor