I love my dad, but sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth. This morning he told me about a conversation he had with my mother, who recently turned 52:
MOM: I got my period again today – I thought I was through with this.
DAD: Well that’s okay – that just means you’re still all woman.
MOM: (with a raised eyebrow) So when it does stop, I won’t be a woman?
DAD: (stammer, stammer) No, no, I meant you’re still a young woman.
MOM: So then I’ll be old after menopause?
DAD: (stammer, stammer, and um, more stammering)
Now Mom’s been with Dad long enough to know he’s not purposely trying to be a jerk, and that, in his insensitive way, his intent was to make her feel better, but it did bring up an interesting question – why are conversations about women’s bodies – and I mean conversations, not commentary - often uncomfortable? I admit to feeling grossed out by what my body does sometimes, even though it’s always natural – is it a result of this discomfort?
The problem is that there isn’t enough open dialog about this, so it’s no wonder the men in our lives don’t know how to support us through these changes, or even the women for that matter. I can’t remember exactly what my dad said when I got my first period, but it was something like “congratulations – it’s supposed to be a good thing, right?” And my mother has trouble getting advice about menopause from my grandmother; Grandma can't shake growing up in a "don't ask, don't tell" atmosphere. We do have women’s health product commercials on TV, but let’s face it – those are often cringe-worthy, too, and don’t do anything to make having a period, or not having one, feel more normal. Usually these products (I’m thinking douches, estrogen pills, etc.) are focused on “fixing” the condition.
I’m lucky enough to have a Mom who will talk about any and all of this with me at great length, and I hope that others do, too. Let’s start the conversations now, with our children, moms, grandmas, partners and our dads, too – my dad may always be unsure of what to say, but at least he can learn what not to say, and why. What is this conversation like for you? How can we make it better?