Growing up, I hated pink.
I mean, really hated pink. Irrationally, completely, unceasingly hated pink.
I also hated hair (though I refused to allow mine to be cut — I just hated fussing with it or styling it or, um, brushing it. that led to tears not a little.), and skirts, and sometimes dolls (but sometimes not), and make up, and fashion, and, well, anything “girly”.
I got really pissed off in the third grade when the school photographer called me Mr Red. But I wasn’t about to stop wearing plain t-shirts in dark colors and boy’s shoes (they fit better) and nondescript pants, my unbrushed hair pulled messily back in the same pony tail for days on end.
It wasn’t that I had “gender dysphoria”, though perhaps gender role dysphoria. No, I think it was simpler and more insidious than that.
I think it was internalized misogyny.
Now, really, truly, one doesn’t have to like “girly” things to be a girl (cis or trans). And boys (again, cis or trans!) can like “girly” things and still be boys. But what I experienced, and to some extent still struggle with, was not just a simple lack of like for the “girly”, but an active, complicated rejection of it — not each thing on its own merits, but the entire category out of pure prejudicial loathing.
What else is that — hatred of the feminine — but misogyny?
I don’t know quite where this hatred came from. In part perhaps because I was the daughter of second-wave-era more-or-less-feminists, raised at a time when rejection of prescribed (and severely limiting) gender roles translated to rejection of all accoutrements of that gender. In part perhaps because I’m not particularly femme, but had no model for not-femme that wasn’t anti-femme. In part perhaps because I bought the lie, fed to me by every part of my culture, that there were “girls”, who were vapid and shallow and adored pink, and there were people, who weren’t and didn’t — and I was raised in the certain knowledge that I was a person (thank you Mom and Dad). In part perhaps because my mom didn’t wear make up or read fashion magazines or shave her (very sparse) body hair — though unlike me, she always wears skirts, and carries a purse. In part perhaps because I was simply a weird kid, raised by nonconformists but not, at so young an age, sure of the difference between nonconformity (good) and anticonformity (not so good). In part perhaps because I was already manifesting early signs of my neurological atypicalities and mood disregulation.
For whatever reason, I was really not comfortable with this whole being a girl thing (which I could not then distinguish from the doing the girl thing).
And then, at barely 10 — though already around 5’7″ (eventually to end up at 5’10″) and well on my way to well-endowed — I started menstruating.
My coping mechanism? I ignored it, as best I could.
It wasn’t that I had menstrual shame, exactly — I would happily stay up until midnight telling all the other Girl Scouts at camp about sex and pregnancy and busting “but tampons will take my virginity!1” myths, I’d gleefully bring my copy of Where Do Babies Come From? to school and pass it around at recess, I’d say “period” and “vagina” and all the other words considered “dirty” or “bad”. I had no problems — and no lack of knowledge — discussing the reproductive cycle.
But that was all academic. Theoretical. Separate from me. The idea that I menstruated, that I was a girl-going-on-woman, that I had to deal with this tangible, inescapable reminder of pinkness every month forever (given that I most completely and emphatically and seriously did. not. want. children)… it horrified me. And, yes, embarrassed me. I hadn’t yet come to grips with my female-ness, and I was supposed to relish talking about my need for “feminine hygiene products”?
So, mostly, I didn’t. I used a lot of toilet paper (the first true bleeding came when I was at school — on an elementary school campus, like that helped the situation! — and I used those little pre-folded toilet paper squares for the rest of the day), and I filched from my mom, and eventually — truly, I don’t remember how — I found a favorite brand and style of pad and tampon (and for a short while, disposable menstrual cup) and managed to make sure I generally had enough in stock.
But I also tried to flush the pads2.
Eventually — as you can tell — I got more comfortable with both my gender and my sex. I stopped longing for uterine replicators. I started letting people hold open doors for me (though I, of course, also still hold open doors for others). I stopped using toilet paper (except in emergencies!) and trying to flush unflushable things. I started saying “I’m having cramps”. I never did stop cringing at staining the bed, but I did start buying dark red sheets, and I didn’t let the stains stop me from getting help moving our uncovered mattress from The Man’s burly, macho coworkers. (I always was fine having sex and masturbating while menstruating, once those were happening at all. So no change there.) I stopped sending The Man out to buy paper pads, and started making cloth ones myself — and soaking them in the sink.
And I started blogging about it. Which you may take as a sign of my complete recovery, but rather has been a rather key component of it. Because I’m not just talking about menstruation in general, which I’ve always been comfortable doing, but telling you, my readers, that I am currently bleeding. Which, well hell, is half the time how The Man knows my period’s here, because I still haven’t figured out a way to say “And by the way, honey…”. (To be fair to myself, the other half of the time is split between me asking him to bring me a pad while I’m on the toilet, or him happening upon one in the sink.)
But now? After telling a few dozen/hundred/thousand people about it, um, many times, it really doesn’t feel like a big deal any more. It’s just something I do, because that’s the type of body I have.
I still don’t like pink, and am a bit neutral on red, but I don’t hate or reject either any more. It’s just a color, just a body function, and although I still can rage with the best of them at the meanings assigned to each by my society, I don’t have any arguments with them any more. We’re ok, pink and red and I. And I’m happier for it.