The one night stand

Let’s Talk about Periods

By Clémence Waller

“You seem pissed off, are you on your period?”

“Really, it shouldn’t be talked about in public, this is a private issue.”

NOPE. Sit down ladies and gentlemen, we need to set some things straight as this affects everyone, women and men.

Before I start, I want to say that I do understand that not all women have periods and that not everyone that has a period is a woman. I am writing this in mind of anyone who does have to go through periods, regardless of their gender.

Periods are messy: yes. Can they be painful? Sometimes, depends on the person. Are they optional? No! Is it “normal”? HELL YES! Is Period Poverty real? Yes! Should it be? No!

So What Is It All About?

Quick recap for those of you who have never heard of this natural phenomenon. Periods are when someone’s body expels blood from their uterus and out their vagina. This process allows the body to eliminate the old uterus lining, avoid infections and clean out the space for a fresh new set up to welcome an eventual baby.

Think of it as a monthly deep clean of the oven so you can put a fresh bun in it.

It is understandable why, at first, this topic may make some of us uncomfortable, both male and female. You are practically bleeding for 5-10 days without dying. That’s some Walking Dead shit right there!

It sounds scary: sometimes women who go through it, experience unpleasant emotional and physical changes because hormones are playing tag in their body. But it is a completely natural, healthy process and talking about it, educating both boys and girls about it, is the only way to break the taboo that affects half the population.

It’s not “dirty”, it’s not “sinful” or “disgusting”, it’s just a process you have to go through once a month.

A Matter of Dignity

In 2015 Christian Eckert, a French politician compared his razor and shaving cream to be equally important or vital to men’s dignity as period pads or tampons are to women. To paraphrase Sophia Aram, French comedian: between his opinion and toilet paper, toilet paper has more value.

If a man does not shave, his dignity is not affected. Men have a choice whether or not they want a beard, most women do not have a choice about whether or not to have a period. Aunt Flow is coming at some point during the month, you just need to be ready for her when she does.

Ladies, who has not asked another female at least once, if she had a pad or a tampon because you got caught off guard?  Who here has not gone into a public bathroom hoping she had enough change to pay for a pad? That fear of standing up and revealing that bright red stain on your butt that screams “I’M ON MY PERIOD! I’M SO ASHAMED AND DIRTY”, is very real and it’s time to do away with this once and for all.

Gentlemen, who has not been asked at least once by a close female relative or significant other if they could go to the store to get an emergency supply of tampons or pads? Why is it so embarrassing or “emasculating” to help out a woman you love who is in need? Tampons and period pads are no more embarrassing to buy than pants or shirts. You need clothes in order to go out and about in society and menstruating women need these products to do the same.

In 2016 France finally reduced the taxation on female hygienic products from 21% to 5,5% (the standard first necessities rate throughout most of Europe, barring a few exceptions such as Italy at 22%). Whilst this reduction is absolutely a great way forward, the cost of these necessities still adds up to a hefty monthly and yearly budget. There is still more that can be done, like having social security cover part of the cost. Scotland has already made a landmark decision and is making period pads and tampons free for students and low-income women; more countries should follow this example.

A Violation of Human Rights

In Western Europe we are “lucky” in certain ways that we can shout out about our periods or talk about them more or less openly, however that is not the case for everybody.  In December 2016 a young Nepalese girl died of poor ventilation in a hut she had been exiled to during her menstruation as part of the Chaupadi ritual. Women should not have to be put in physical danger just because they are experiencing a non-optional biological phenomenon.

In France, in schools of disadvantaged neighborhoods, girls find themselves unable to afford period pads and schools are having budgetary trouble providing them to girls. In the US, Medicaid, SNAP and WIC don’t cover the cost of hygiene products as they are deemed “luxuries”. I can promise policy makers that anyone who has to go through periods does not feel that glamorous or luxurious.

In the UK one in ten women between the ages of 14-21 cannot afford period products and girls find themselves skipping school for fear of staining their uniforms. At this point this becomes not only a health issue, but also an educational one.

An important female demographic to consider who are severely impacted by period poverty would be homeless women and incarcerated women. These members of our society are unable to receive regular income to pay for those expensive products and so are forced into a situation that not only compromises their dignity but also their health.  

In 2017, the British charity Shelter estimated that 68,000 women were sleeping rough on the streets, in emergency housing or shelters. In an address in the house of commons Paula Sherriff explained that the government funds homeless shelters to buy condoms and razors but not sanitary products.  They have to rely on charitable donations for those. Homeless women have said that to cope, they makeshift their own sanitary products by ripping up socks, clothes and even stuffing newspaper in their underwear. They sometimes overuse their sanitary products which can lead to dangerous diseases such as toxic shock syndrome.

Incarcerated girls and women face similar problems. In Arizona state, female detainees are allowed on 12 pads a month. Any person who has had heavy flow periods will know that 12 pads may not be enough. These women are paid 15 cents an hour and have to pay for extra pads via the commissary, which charges them full retail price. Detainees are often forced to come up with alternative solutions to sanitary products, have to barter amongst themselves or ‘free bleed’.  

A bill was proposed in February of this year to combat this and was decided by a panel of nine men. Not a single woman was on the judging committee. In the UK, women are often left to bleed in their cells and do not have access to water to wash their hands. With restrictions to their access to affordable sanitary care, female detainees are constantly humiliated and their dignity discarded.

As part of the western world, we often laud ourselves in being nations that respect human rights and hold human dignity to a high standard. Women and any person who has periods are included in the word ‘human’. Article 3 of the European convention of Human Rights provides that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.  This is an absolute right. In laymen’s terms, under no circumstances are any member nations of this convention allowed to breach this basic human right. By denying sanitary products to the women that cannot afford them, their human rights are being violated.

So What Can We Do?

Period Poverty needs to end. This is not asking for special treatment or considerations, this is asking for basic respect. Make period products affordable and accessible to all so that we can achieve our full individual potential and give back to society.

All in all: be cool, support women who are menstruating by supporting initiatives that make period products accessible and affordable, donate pads and tampons to local charities and go with the Flow.



The one night stand

An Homage to Her

by Edward J Szekeres

A friend of mine recently lent me a book written by a teenager about other teenagers. “It´s basically a cluster of thoughts and opinions on love by a bunch of teens,” she said. Seeing its strikingly pink cover and smelling the sweet scent of fragrance rising from its pages, I did not expect the book to provide me with an enriching psychological exposé of the hearts and minds of today´s adolescents.

“Just wait and see,” said my bookworm friend with a cheeky smile, releasing another aromatic cloud of her perfume. So I waited, and I saw. And it only took a few seconds.

There it was, at the very beginning of the book, under a heading ostensibly claiming to explain the “Theory of Love”, a sentence that hit me right between the eyes: “The main problem of people today is not that they fall in love too fast, but that they fall in love with anyone who dares to show them a wounded soul, the brutal truth or exciting savagery. We don´t fall in love with the person, we fall in love with their story.”

I have been in a long-distance relationship for more than 6 years. Me and my girlfriend, L, bore the blows of the expanding physical remoteness between us with much-tried resilience. I have grown to know L as a tremendously strong and patient woman who had slowly but surely become my soulmate, my best friend and the light of my life, all in the span of roughly half a decade.

During our turbulent time “together”, however, we lived in a combined 4 countries and rarely saw each other for longer than a couple days. You must have heard of “weekend relationships” before. Well, ours was more in the category of “once in a blue moon” relationships. I don´t think we have been physically together for even a quarter of those six years.

Nurturing the love you share with someone who is so close yet so far requires a specific kind of care and attention. Compensating for the lack of the other´s physical presence is extremely demanding, both mentally and physically. At one point, it all became too much. I realised that the bridge we built over the glooming gap swallowing nearly all possible physical proximity was connecting our past and not our future. A future that was menacingly uncertain.

We were together for our story, not in spite of it. We cherished its legacy and did not want to let go. It was full of cracks chronically longing for repair, but help was only one bridge too far.

It is quite ironic that the first ever column published in the shade cast by the “One Night Stand” title is all but a feeble effort to come up with a self-assuring apology. Or maybe it´s just a cry for forgiveness, a desperate last-ditch attempt to salvage the remnants of my sanity. But then again, irony is the little chili pepper that spices up the stirred soup of our thoughts and feelings. And boy, do I like soup!

DISLCAIMER: Please excuse my sentimentality, but I can´t cope otherwise. The fabric of these sentences consists of randomly selected threads of thoughts and quotes that are confusingly floating around my gasping brain cells. They have been picked from my personal library of memories and relics but most of them do not belong to me. I only borrowed them from the genius and creative minds of others. However, as my customised collection of poignant titbits has not been tended to in a systematic fashion you would expect from a properly functioning library, I am missing the slightest idea of where they came from or whose creative spirit gave birth to them. So please accept my apology for not keeping my records in order and I hope I won´t offend anyone by omitting to give credit where credit is due.

As I am writing these words drunk from a relentless rage against the dying light of my relationship, I am using up my precious wordcount on this hopeless crusade to demonstrate that ideas are bulletproof, eternal and universal while being the property of no one and everyone at the same time. But now that we have (hopefully) settled the plagiarism issue, let´s get to it.

L taught me to speak the language of wordless emotion. She brought colour to the chaos of my life and fed me a rich soup of thoughts and feelings with a fork so sharp it shut my mouth at once. She took me to the devil´s carnival where the brutal din of cheap music, booze, hate and lust defined this world in its absolute madness and insanity. And then, suddenly, she deepened the night into silence and rest and banished my demons with her angelic smile.

We fought fiercely for our chance to finally be together. We fought bravely. We battled through the mud that makes up the maze and riddles of fondness and attachment with our hearts filled with passion and desire. Our tenderness was both illicit and intimate at the same time. We fought for each other.

We were wanderers, never lost, always home. My time spent with her was still and endless and the places we visited were fenceless. For a while, we even transcended the ominous jaws of distance. She flashed fleeting glimpses of eternity in front of my eyes and her gaze broke through the fiery clouds of doubt, pride and vanity. And the world beyond the trappings of our minds glimmered, just out of reach.

Of all the fish in the sea, I was so glad she swam to me. But after more than 6 years, I am finally ready to let her go back in the ocean of unexplored hopes and opportunities. Our roads have led us away from each other. Have they led us astray? I am not sure. But they led us too far. Our lives became overburdened with our personalised habits and routines and we missed out on that fabled entanglement that made all distance seem trivial. In blunt terms, our love has become a burden in and of itself.

Now, as I am watching her slowly sink to depths most would drown in, my heart is full of sorrow knowing that I will not be there when she rises to new heights, sitting on the wings of someone else.    Yet, the legacy of what we had will always be worth carrying a torch for. As long as the flame of that torch is lit, our memories will not die.  In my heart and in my mind, I will always be with her. Because how do you go back to being strangers with someone who has seen your soul?

L was one of the very few fucks I actually gave in this life. And I will continue giving that fuck unless stated otherwise.

Lest I forget.

Goodbye, L.