Moonlighting and Menstruation

courtesy of

courtesy of

Caitlin Moran has a whole chapter about periods in her book, How To Be a Woman.

It’s brilliant shit. Her honesty is refreshing, if not at times blush-worthy — and well — kinda gross. But I like her for that. Jess DC of Lost Girls wrote a recent blogpost about it and made a telling statement.

It is unfortunate that so many of us grow up not in wonder and excitement about turning into women, but horrified at all the changes and taught to hide them (out of shame) as much as possible.

Jess is so right. And this is why I love Caitlin Moran. She’s honest. She’s open. And that honesty and openness makes puberty seem “doable.” Scary — but doable. And comforting in the knowledge the we ALL as women will bleed out of our vaginas and get boobies, among many other things. If only this book were appropriate for adolescent girls.

I was lucky that my mom was very open with me. When I was 8 years old, I picked up a copy of Time Magazine with a picture of a teen mom on the cover. This confused me immensely as I was taught that only married women had babies. Yes, I had it in my sweet little 8 year old brain that when you got married you magically became pregnant whenever you wanted. So my sister and I went to my mother and asked THE question. Or rather, questions.

How are babies made?

How does the baby get IN THERE?

How can she be pregnant without being MARRIED?

My mom looked at us in her motherly way and sighed.

“Well, girls,” she said. “After dinner tonight I think we need to have a lady talk.”

Oooooh. This sounded enticing. Special. Secretive.

After dinner my mom gathered us into our bedroom. She had a chalk board. And the woman launched into the story of sex. The details. How babies are really made. And she drew pictures. This was the craziest shit I’d ever heard… or seen.

And then.

The news.

We would eventually have periods. Yes. We would, in fact, bleed out of our vaginas once a month for about three or four decades of our life.

Holy shit. This was some big mother fucking news right here.

But my mom made everything okay. She reassured us. And even made it sound special. Having a parent who is matter-of-fact with the details and supportive is so essential for any girl approaching puberty.

And Moran obviously had the opposite experience.

My mother never told us about them [periods] –“I thought you’d picked it all up from Moonlighting,” she said vaguely.

Which is funny, of course. But the lack of information is what probably made the idea of menstruation all the more terrifying for Moran. But either way. Puberty sucks. It just does. And I love the following Moran quote.

Sex hormones are a bitch that have turned me from a blithe child into a bleeding, weeping, fainting washerwoman. These hormones do not make me feel feminine: every night, I lie in bed feeling wretched, and the bulge of my sanitary napkin in my knickers looks like a cock.

Yeah. Periods. They DO suck. But they’re doable. And having a period is kinda nice — especially when you don’t want to be pregnant.



  1. Jerimi

    Love it. 🙂 I’m adding “How To Be a Woman” to my reading list. I’m all for sex ed in schools – if not for that, I’d not have known what was going on.

  2. Alana Mautone (@RamblinGarden)

    I am on “the other side” of menstruation so will share my wisdom, such as it is. You were lucky to have such a cool Mom. Me? It was 1965, I didn’t have a clue, I got my first period in gym class, thought I was bleeding to death and when I came home, convinced that I was dying, my mother….slapped me on both cheeks. This is actually a tradition in the culture I grew up in. Ughhhhh! But let me tell you, menopause isn’t a picnic either. Still, i wouldn’t trade it for puberty.

    • sonjaessen

      Hi Alana — Thanks for sharing. Yes, I’m very lucky that my mom talked to me at an early age. It was strange though, because I grew up in an evangelical household. Even though my mom talked about periods, she told me and my sister that sex was strictly for married people. The different experiences that girls have are vast due to culture, religion and family dynamics. It all varies. I’m closer now to menopause than to puberty, so I’m sure I’ll know what you’re talking about within the next ten years!

  3. Jess

    First, thank you for the mention! Moran definitely got me thinking about a lot of stuff I’d left by the wayside long ago. And I agree with Alana, your mom was definitely cool. My experience was a little more like Moran’s. I certainly could have used her book back then, or just someone to prepare me in a practical, matter-of-fact way. If I have daughters, they’re going to hate me for all the horrible things I tell them to get ready for!

    • sonjaessen

      Hey Jess — Yeah, I know I was lucky. I think because my mom’s own experience growing up wasn’t so great, she wanted to ensure that my sister and I were prepared for the inevitable. Which makes me think… my daughter is 8 now. The exact age my mom had the talk with me. Shit. It’s almost time.

  4. Amy Lambert

    This is brilliant! And confirms that I really must read How to be a Women. Caitlin Moran has a great column in the Times magazine every Saturday. And on the subject of periods, there’s also a fantastic video from Bodyform made in response to a facebook comment from a guy accusing them of not telling the truth about periods that I think you’d love…

    and I want to put this quote somewhere I’ll find it when I have daughters… “Having a parent who is matter-of-fact with the details and supportive is so essential for any girl approaching puberty” You’re so right!
    Amy x

  5. Winnie

    Enjoyed this a lot. I was just telling my hubby how my mom told us only “married people have babies” when I was a kid. i believed that for many years into school etc. It was a surprise for me in my first hygiene (I think it was called that back then) class that marriage had nothing to do with it. Mom’s response was to me “Well, in this house that is how it happens..” At grade school age, i had no clue. Different generation and information then. I was told about my “time” at age 7 as mom got her “visitor” at 9. Sure enough, I did too, so I am glad and wasn’t afraid etc. As for “Aunt Flo” I don’t miss her one bit now.. Some do, but I am in my mid 40’s and happy to be done with all of it. Now, the flashing begins and that is worse for me. ha ha

    • sonjaessen

      Oh yes, as I said to another commenter — I’m closer to menopause now then I am to puberty. Which is kind of weird to think about. Life gets so crazy busy that you don’t realize you’re aging. Ha. And I didn’t get my “visitor” until I was 14 — so I suppose I had plenty of time to mentally prepare for it. That’s awesome that your mom gave you a heads up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s