*~Winning Entry in Women’s Intimate Health Contest by Blogadda and 18again —
Her name eludes my memory right now. It was a fairly sweet, pretty Indian one though. She looked all fidgety one afternoon in school. Every few minutes into a new circle that the Maths teacher drew on board, she would shift in her chair. Now, why I noticed all this is because she sat right in front of me. Just in case you were snickering about how my attention wasn’t taken up by Geometry.
So, I traced her out after class. She looked horrified with my innocent question –“was your chair uncomfortable today?”
It turns out she was feeling itchy ‘between her legs’ and sitting was quite a pain. What was the matter? She didn’t know. She couldn’t even scratch there and what could she tell her Mom? “Between your legs” was sacrosanct. Untouchable and silent. The very fact that the area had reddened and was scratchy had her head hung in shame. Never mind the contribution yeast had to the effect.
I have grown up among a cluster of self-proclaimed modern people, flaunting branded clutches purchased at the price you could easily get a decades supply of medicines for. These people crib about ‘the man at the lingerie store’. Why does it have to be a man behind the counter? Variants of that man seemingly make smug faces at them when they wrap their ‘monthly supplies’ in black polythene and ask them if they require another packet. It is embarrassing you see. How can you own up to bleeding from ‘down there’ or needing a more comfortable bra because your breasts hurt around menstruation time? All of this wasn’t something you spoke about, especially not in a society where men live.
Perhaps, it is a question of inertia. When Standard Sixth girls are taken up to a room, lectured on their bodies and given free samples of sanitary pads, the smarter ones advise the rest to hide the pads in the deepest recesses available. Also, you could not take them to the puja room or touch the Gods when you were wearing one. Blood made you dirty didn’t it? And bleeding from ‘where you peed’ had to be disgusting. In such conditioning, it is too much to expect rejection of values you keep mainly because you have always been taught to keep them. The tummy aches, the mood swings, the possible complications of a period are to be endured with pressed lips. Much like the blood to be split on the ‘night of marital union’ and the pain that penetration means for several women. You need to better be hushed than inappropriate, irrespective of painful urination due to a bladder infection, unnatural discharge from the breasts or a stinging cyst on your hips. You are to tell people you saw the doctor for a seasonal flu and feign ignorance if word spreads out.
Personally, we have hushed up for too long. Just because our pair of breasts and other genitals are under cloth and cover, they do not become infallible parts of the body. They function and then, they dysfunction. Keeping mum about a fact so elementary adds to the existing trouble, creates a sense of awkwardness and major uncleanliness and above all, a disorienting social need of being isolated for no fault of yours.
Hushing up is passé. It is also unnecessary, ignorant and dangerous. If I have an itch in my groin or the need to change a pad, I shouldn’t have to creep through – with an apologetic look – layers of scrutiny, titters and judgment. Possibly, if this spiral of silence is broken, our society will graduate from producing “lightening creams” for a fresh and intimate vagina and move towards a more inclusive, vocal world that is comfortable with women addressing their private health issues without shame.