First Year Teaching: I bled through my skirt

I am a woman who has periods and it’s not the end of the world. I promise.

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Welcome back! Many of you are probably prepared to pity me or sitting on the edge of your seats to hear the full story.  Others of you might think this subject matter is too private or personal or taboo. For those of you fall in the last category, I wrote this post for you, as a female human. Cue rant:

One of the things that I am very passionate about is talking about periods. I feel compelled to talk about periods and “feminine products,” because people do not want to talk about them…NOT EVEN OTHER WOMEN (sometimes). We have grown up in a society in which speaking out about periods, vagina, tampons, pads, or diva cups, is to be whispered. I live in a world which makes me feel as though having a period is a negative consequence, bleeding is disgusting and unsanitary (hints “sanitary products”), and being open about my personal life is “unlady like.” Well here’s my lady card, because I’m about to complete this full rant.

I was in a bit of a rush to get to my office hours before teaching a course. So I am frantically whipping eggs into a skillet and brushing my teeth while putting on a turquoise, floor length maxi skirt (because I was a goddess that day). I take a transit bus up to campus and walk into my office ready for the day. I finish speaking with other graduate assistants and realize that I should head to my class at about 15 minutes til. I stand up and one of second year students exclaim, “Oh, we have a problem!”

I was so shook and startled that I am intensely listening to hear what just happened. He then motions to another woman in the room to enlighten me on the problem (which only confuses everyone more). After putting two and two together, I look at my skirt to find a nice red smear in a sea of turquoise fabric. I explained to him that it wasn’t a big deal, because I am a female human and this is nothing new. He then suggests that I sit the whole class, so that my students can not see the stain. So I had to get him together:

First of all, as a young black woman teaching at a predominately white institution (PWI), I will not be sitting to teach a lesson with the intention to not make my students uncomfortable with the fact that I had a period! I hold myself to a high standard and make a point to live my life unapologetically.

Secondly, this was nothing to panic about. I will admit that I did not like the idea of walking around campus with a stain, but that would be for blood or even coffee. As a teacher and graduate student, you want to look presentable to a certain extent…especially at the beginning of syllabus week! The only concern at this point was to not let it dry, because that turquoise skirt is my favorite.

So I head to a near by restroom to put some water on it and dim the vibrancy. I rotate the skirt, so that the stain is on my front hip and then I roll up the skirt from floor length to mid-calf. Still a cute skirt. Still professional.

Thirdly, if you were bleeding…and sitting…wouldn’t you…bleed through the skirt again?! Logic went straight of the window for my male counterpart, because he does not have to think about these things. I make an effort to be conscious of that which is not conscious to my everyday reality. Just because you do not deal with it everyday, doesn’t mean that it never happens. For example, I think about race ALL THE TIME. Why? Not because I’m racist or looking for an opportunity to “play the race card.” I think about it because I have to. It is a defense mechanism. I live in a country that separates families, hosts Nazi and KKK rallies/ marches, and doesn’t look for missing people with brown skin. I do not have the luxury to live life without think about the fact that I am black nor a woman.

As a woman, I bleed. Maybe it’s once a month. Maybe it’s once every two months. It all depends on my body, diet, and stress level. When this happens, I may have cramps and mood changes. For some women, cramps can be so severe that they physically can not move. So we take pain medication, warm water bags, or eat those food that just…hit the spot. I am a free-flower. If I can get away without using tampons or pads, I will and here’s why!

Tampons and pads are expensive and dangerous. I spent an hour in a Target aisle once trying to figure out which brand to get. I challenge you. The next time you go to the store, go to the women’s section. Notice that it will be at the back or in the cut and always linked to “family planning” or “pregnancy tests.” I want you to look at the prices and quantity. Just with a quick google search alone, the cheapest set of tampons is about 5$ for 40 of an off-brand and pads is about 3$ for 22. If we pretend that your cycle is monthly, let’s assume that your period will last at least 4-7 days per month. Your period flow will also be important in these calculations. You may change 1-3 times a day (some friends have done more in one day). So for the tampons that’s about 2-10 months worth, pads about 1-5 months. Reminder that you really need both, because sometimes just one pad or tampon won’t avoid stained clothes and there are time limits for wearing these products. Also, don’t forget the special taxes and also, do you know what they’re made with?

Our sanitary products are laced with all sorts of chemicals and pesticides. I don’t even think that companies are required to tell you what’s in them. So recently, there’s been this new wave of interest in organic or diy products. But I purchased a diva cup. This isn’t common within my family or friend circle. It is 40$ and you can use it up to a year and wear it for longer hours than tampons. The material doesn’t have nasty chemicals. As I am writing this, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but again…it adds up and men don’t have to think about any of this. Plenty of women live their mature lives without knowing about their bodies or cycles. I am not good at math but worst case scnario, you could be paying about 10$ for 2 months of period related products…which could be 60$ a year (depending on flow, brand, and financial status). These products are a luxury that many women do not have access to all over the world. We shouldn’t have to pay for this…or worry about where to get the funds to do so.

So back to the original story: I checked in with some women around me to see the adjustment with my skirt looked like it had been planned. I strolled across campus and walked into my classroom to teach about 5 minutes or so early. After class, I took the transit back home, so that I could soak the skirt, because it makes me feel like a goddess. So I left all my clothes to soak in the sink with cold water (you can also use your own spit or hydrogen peroxide, apparently). I drove back to campus in my personal vehicle to pay for parking, so that I wouldn’t be late for my next meeting and class that I TA for.

I began by stating that this post was written for those of you who think that this topic is too “private, personal, or taboo.” I wrote this piece for you because I wanted you to know that this happened to me and the world kept going. I want you to know a little bit about the world that I live in which doesn’t support me. Having periods is normal and sometimes an interestingly timed surprise, but that’s okay…or at least it should be. I wrote this piece for you because I want you to be able to calmly say to another woman, “You have started your period and there is a stain on your skirt. Do you need help getting anything?” I wrote this for you, so that when you go to the store and see all of these products hidden a way, you start to imagine the unspoken shame attached to that. I wrote this piece for you to notice those who may not have access to pads, tampons, or cups. I wrote this piece because it is a real life, every day occurrence. I am writing you so that you may one day ask the right questions to the right people. I am writing you this piece so that you can help the next woman. 

Yes, I am a woman and I have periods, but I continue to thrive…and next time I’ll have spare clothes.

Best,

CDJ

I’m Trying Not To Care

Semi-Structure Mini Rant about how fake and sick my view of my world is. And gee, was it cathartic.

Semi-Structure Personal Rant Here:

And suddenly, somehow, everything you know is smoke and mirrors. But, you know, not even the real smoke, just an intern dropping dry ice.

I’ve been taking some days to myself, since I’ve fallen back into my busy bee habit. I was hoping that with every renewed 24 hours I’d get closer to answering that which doesn’t exist yet stings so hard and rings so loud. It’s human logic and greed that suffocates and confuses me.

It’s the reason I cringe when people ask “what’s all in you” or “how’d you get good hair.” It’s the reason I pause when I catch myself saying “why would she accept the drink” rather than “when did they learn it was okay to poison the drink.” Its that learned reason I smile and pleasantly get myself out of situations of sexual harassment on a weekly bases. Its the hesitation I face walking into a gender neutral bathroom, even though I believe people have a right to pee and poop in which ever stupid room has toilet paper and soap. Its the boiling in my gut when people say “i need to eat more” or say that I’m not their standard of beauty because I’m not a curvy girl. It’s the helplessness that divides me when students are pleading in blood, everyone but the 1% is praying for a better tomorrow, and the U.S. looks like some terrible, sick joke in a world full of knowledge. It’s the reason I tell myself not to care because people vote and things don’t change, people march and things don’t change, people document and things don’t change, people cry and beg and reason and things still don’t change.

And you’re told to pray, because even if things don’t change, tomorrow might be a little brighter or maybe you’ll be lucky enough to die and take refuge in heaven. And you’re told to be persistent and optimistic, because not everything is all bad, I mean look at your privilege. And you’re told to watch your words, tone, and actions, because you’ll fit the stereotypes or you won’t get that job or you’ll just be another misunderstood social media meme.

Every day you scroll through articles and posts that are so triggering and terrifying, you’re paralyzed. But I’m not sure others see it. And you focus on work because you need a house and food and zero debt. But I don’t think others think it’s problematic. And you try not to educate yourself because you see the dots and it makes you sad. And maybe others won’t think you truly understand.

And hey, maybe you don’t understand that a country built on the back, blood, spirit, and knowledge of the oppressed, has written its history to have been the savior of the unjustifiable horrors. And then celebrate such hatred in subtly or heck have a memorial day for it. Maybe you don’t understand that years of neglect, trauma, and insane classification, have lead to broken families, wounded hearts, violent communication, and nonexistent bootstraps. Maybe you don’t understand that intersectionality and a multifaceted identity, has caused so much internal and external confusion. Maybe you don’t understand how toxic relationships and situations can be so normalized. Maybe you don’t understand that it’s not about you and you can’t fix your country (that’s not even really your country because your ancestors didn’t choose it, but for some reason anyone who does choose it, has to wait to be chosen).

I’m not angry, I’m disappointed. I’m not a know it all, I’m curious. I’m not “not black enough,” I’m a culmination of my ancestors prayers. I’m not unappreciative or woke, I’m honest. I’m not adding to the “black agenda” or on some bandwagon, I’m hurt. I’m not “too sensitive,” I’m speaking out. I’m not steady and won’t just smile and be pretty and be happy…I don’t even know where to start.

It feels like there’s been a huge valley carved into the body of someone silenced by labels and stupid human’s needs to consume everything good. But instead of assessing the injury or stitching them back together, we lay 1/5th of a bandaid over it and then set it on fire and try again. I hate being confused, hypocritical, and unrightfully judged. I hate thinking that common sense isn’t so common. I hate feeling toxic, powerless, and just not enough. I hate wanting approval and perfection. I hate explaining my hesitation to living life, suspicion in new places (without enough black people), or my experience with race to those who “just don’t agree.”

And suddenly, somehow, everything you know is smoke and mirrors. But, you know, not even the real smoke, just an intern dropping dry ice.

Because race is some bull that oppressors made up to make themselves feel better. And gas lighting allowed terrible people to sleep better at night. And ethnicity determines your eulogy. And all of the isms just feed into some constructed lens of reality that just isn’t real. And people say what they hear without a question, yet only question you because they haven’t placed you yet.

We owe money to people we can’t see and for a system that doesn’t support us. We sell our time, bodies, and minds for a machine that doesn’t nurture us. We have blind loyalty to that which we don’t understand and we’re okay with it because we see only what we want in our mirrors. Because maybe it’s more frightening to see what’s just outside of the funhouse. Some idea of fun it is.

I don’t know. Millennial rant over. I’ll go back to eating avocados while trying to rationalize my choices.

I’m Looking For Motivation

We talk about being productive and not procrastinating. Yet, the real question is, “Where’s the motivation? Does it exist?” This post discuss just that.

We finally made it out of January which seemed to last about three years. February comes with is own challenges like having less than 30 days, finding a Valentine, or whipping out black history facts. Today we’re going to talk more about finding motivation.

In an earlier post, I covered getting past procrastination. However, the true goal is getting face to face with motivation and learning whether or not it’s real.

Motivation can be authentic and natural, but this can be inspired by intentional redirection. Some people are naturally driven to complete certain tasks or goals, while others feel forced to complies with those requests. The difference here is whether something has become second nature or habitual for the individual.

So I am of the mindset that motivation is innate: you either have it or you don’t. However, if there’s something you really want, you can do things to create motivation. For example, by nature, I am quite the perfectionist and artistic. Those two qualities can be the best combination for a piece or lead to it’s demise before it even manifests. Due to my perfectionism, I’m often paralyzed to create things because I want them to look a certain way. In art, this is not always the case, but it could be with years of practice. So when it comes to painting, I have to find my own motivation to get the job done.

Earlier, I mentioned that motivation can be created. The most effective way for me has been to make a schedule and stick to it. When you make a schedule, you prioritize certain tasks and actions according to your own value scale. Therefore, if I need motivation to paint, I start with a small commitment to myself of painting for one hour at least 2-3 times a week. As time progresses, painting becomes more important for me and I get into a habit of working a certain amount of hours on it.

This could be done with almost anything. Need motivation to finish an essay? As soon as you get the assignment and answer all your questions about the prompt, open up that calendar. See how many days you have until it’s due. Then do yourself a favor and change the due date to a day earlier. Look at the number of stages or pages required for this essay and build a schedule backwards. So if I have a 10 page essay on why left feet are associated with bad dancing:

  1. Identify the due date and made your personal due date.
  2. I have 2 weeks to write 10 pages. This means I have to write 5 pages a week or be more specific. Ex. I will write this many words a day. I will write 2 pages on Tuesday and Thursday, then 1 page on Sunday.
  3. Determine what stage you have to be in the process. Ask yourself, “How much do you know about this topic? What do I need to research? How many sources do I need?”
  4. Then you can pick a date to either just conduct research and gather sources. Or set a date for your research to be completed, so you can just write and edit.
  5. Be sure to edit on your due date and submit as earlier as possible so it’s off of your mind.

So again your motivation can be created from having easy tasks on a variety of days. Eventually you’ll get into a habit of scheduling out enough time to complete those assignments. That’s how I find motivation: doing small this here and there with an end goal in mind.

Untitled (Blue) 2017

This piece was the heart of my show last spring. It was the last piece that I began working on and the first one that came to life. Although loosely created as a self-portrait, it embodies the spirit of the impact I wish to leave and the person I am creating.

6' by 3.5" acrylic portrait painting
Portrait of my guiding spirit and mood of my new mindset.