#RealTalk About Menstruation: Period ISH
In this episode of Adult ISH, the co-hosts open up about … you guessed it: periods! Merk Nguyen leads a lively discussion on menstruation myths and period stigma (ft. Vicious Cycle co-host and comedian Kate Elston). Then co-host Nyge Turner gets his period for the first time too! Will he struggle with his cycle or be able to show Mother Nature that it’s no big deal?
Scroll to the bottom for the full transcript of the episode.
Real Talk About Periods
Merk sheds light on periods — why we don’t talk about them openly (but should!) and where our bad blood beliefs came from in the first place. She’s joined by Nyge, YR Media’s network coordinator Lauren Rascoe, graphic artist Desmond Meagley and comedian Kate Elston who also co-hosts Vicious Cycle, a podcast about periods and the people who get them.
Nyge’s First MANstruation
Nyge puts the “men” in menstruation for the sake of empathizing with people who bleed. He concocts a blood-like recipe (thanks to “Yes Queen” founder Daysha Veronica) and undergoes a period simulation based on Merk’s menstrual cycle. This social experiment was not FDA approved.
Nyge: Hey Daysha, it’s Nyge.
Daysha: Hey, what’s up?
Nyge: So the last time you were on our show you talked about a male birth control pill experiment, and if they messed up on it, they had to do a simulation period with a period like substance…
Daysha: (laughs) Yes. That was it.
Nyge: Fasho fasho fasho. So, uh, on this episode my co-host Merk thought it would be super fun if (laughs) I experienced my first period coming up…
Nyge: So, we need that recipe for the period-like substance.
Daysha: Okay from what I remember it was corn starch, red food coloring and water, obviously.
Nyge: Yeah. Cool. Just tryna make sure we got all of that down. Any tips?
Daysha: Make sure that you get it all nice and clotted.
Nyge: Alright make sure that the clots … are a nice…
Daysha: … gets a nice gooey chunk.
Nyge: How do you know if it’s good clot? I don’t even know what we’re talking about right now to be honest.
Nyge: I just started saying “clot” like I know the word but I have no idea what that means.
Merk: Nyge, you really don’t know what a blood clot is?
Nyge: Nah. I know the word, but like a period clot?!
Merk: It’s the same thing as a regular clot. When you have a cut and your blood is congealing and is jelly-like, it’s ’cause your body is trying to stop all the blood coming out. So, it’s like the same thing, but the blood is coming out of your uterus.
Nyge: Which I don’t have … at the moment … but, listen up everybody. Later on in this episode, I’m about to have my first period.
Merk: Yes he is because this is the Period ISH episode on Adult ISH by YR Media and Radiotopia. A show for and by young people where we do things like watch our co-hosts suffer through all-too relatable pains! I’m Mother Nature Merk.
Nyge: And I’m experiment 626 Nyge … and, like, why are we even doing this episode in the first place?
Merk: We’re talking about periods because they’re something I used to keep on the DL. I was like “This is so embarrassing!” And I didn’t want people to be grossed out about it, but then I thought, “This is a part of my life that I can’t control, and it’s actually very normal.”
Nyge: Yeah, a normal part of yours but not everybody’s.
Merk: That’s true. And I totally get that some people like to just keep things personal. That’s fine, to each their own. But I shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed about something that naturally happens to my body, you know?
Nyge: Educate yourself mayne!
Merk: Yes! Periods are powerful! Think about it. You’re here, I’m here, and you, listener, are here because someone along the way missed their period. My mom has told me, “You weren’t a planned baby, I missed my period.” She told my dad and he was like, “What, how?” And she was like, “What do you mean how?”
Nyge: “What do you mean, how did you miss your …” (laughs) See, that’s why you need to have that knowledge. That’s why you got to know about periods.
Merk: Were you a planned baby?
Nyge: I actually was a planned baby. My dad always tells me this story about how [my parents] went to Vegas and how they were on this tour. The tour guide was like, “What is everybody here for?” Everybody was like, “I’m here for vacation, or a bachelor party, or (random gibberish).” My dad was just like, “To make a baby!”
Merk: Ohh! Just goes to show the power of the unfertilized ovum.
Merk: Alright first, I’ll be leading a roundtable discussion all about period beliefs and ending stigma on it. And later experiment 626 Nyge …
Nyge: (weird alien voice) … is going to be (laughs, normal voice) … suffering, what I am not looking forward to … my first ever period. But, I guess that’s the point right?
Merk: That is the point! Wait… you mean the period?
Nyge and Merk: (laughs)
Merk: So here with us today we’ve got Kate Elston, a San Francisco-based comedian and co-host of Vicious Cycle, a podcast on periods and the people who get them. Hey Kate.
Kate: Hey, how’s it going?
Merk: It’s going. Lauren Rascoe, a YR Media co-worker who event plans and is basically a human LinkedIn connector. Is that right, Lauren?
Lauren: Something like that.
Merk: Something like that! We got my bro-host Nygel Turner, who does NOT naturally get periods but is here to go with the flow. Hi, Nygel.
Merk: And joining us from New Zealand is Desmond Meagley! They are a former YR writer and designer who created the podcast square of Nyge and I that y’all always see. Basically made us famous. Hey, Dez.
Merk: So, in this roundtable it’s going to be a judgment-free zone, especially in this first question. In five words or less, how would you describe your experience with periods? And it could be color, smell, ooze factor … anything.
Kate: I got one. It’s graphic, but I’m all about that. “Clockwork. Smells of cat food.”
Lauren: That’s not my smell at all. Mine smells like iron.
Merk: Is that yours? “Mine smells like iron.”
Lauren: Well, that’s only four words.
Nyge: You could [add] “my period.”
Lauren: Oh yeah, “My period smells like iron.” That’s five words.
Nyge: I ghost wrote that.
Merk: We’re going for a lot of smells here.
Nyge: I don’t have a personal experience but it would be, “They are very difficult, apparently.”
Kate: That’s fair.
Lauren: That’s a fact.
Merk: “Yes times five” is how I would respond to that.
Desmond: How about, “Nobody expects it, including me?”
Kate: It’s true, there is nothing more regular in my life than my period and I am still surprised by it. You know what I mean?
Kate: If I had a friend that literally came over every 28 days I’d be like, “What’s up?” I would expect the friend and prepare the guest room.
Lauren: That’s not how I would describe mine at all.
Merk: So it sounds like people have different relationships with their periods. I think mine would be … I think of sneezing while on my period a lot. You know, like when the chunks come out?
Desmond: Oh God!
Merk: So I’d say, “Ooey-gooey when I sneeze.”
Kate: Oh, that’s good.
Merk: Yeah, because I feel like that’s a pretty underrated part of the period that encapsulates when you’re flowing; it’s all coming out.
Kate: So mine was the grossest? That’s great, thanks!
Merk: Cat food. I think it kinda smells like cardboard.
Nyge: I never knew about the chunks until you told me about them. And you were talking about sneezing, and I was like, “For real?”
Merk: Uh huh. They come out in clots and stuff.
Nyge: I mean it makes sense.
Kate: It’s tissue. People who don’t bleed often think it’s like a paper cut and like the ooey, runny blood. It is part of your tissue and your insides.
Merk: So when did you realize that you do or don’t openly talk about periods?
Lauren: I openly talk about it with other female friends and other girls, or when I just want to get on a guy’s nerves and be like, “I’m bleeding!” Outside of that, I don’t know. It’s not a thing that happens very often, but I find myself not uncomfortable talking about my period. Very strange.
Kate: Do you use euphemisms to talk about it, like Aunt Flow or Time of the Month or…
Merk: Mother Nature? When did you realize that you do or do not talk about your period, Dez?
Desmond: Well, I feel like my situation is a little unique. I generally don’t ever talk about it, even if I’m really close to somebody because I just don’t feel totally comfortable. It’s not that I think it’s gross or taboo or anything like that. But, it’s just not a part of my life that I feel compelled to share with anyone except for, maybe, my doctor. Especially not with casual friends because a lot of people in my life don’t know that I’m not a cis male. So it really limits the amount of times I’m able to be super honest. Like, “Why are you in such a bad mood, Desmond?” “Because I’m bleeding out of my vagina!”
Merk: Eliminating my eggs! Give me peace.
Desmond: If I told someone that, like a coworker, they’d think I was joking or being incredibly inappropriate. But I was just being honest.
Merk: That kinda leads me to a question of what are some things that you have experienced with periods that you are frustrated about? That people don’t really see? Because you can’t just look at someone and say “I know how you bleed! I know what it’s like!” It’s totally different for everybody.
Kate: I think the thing that has been getting on my nerves the most is how little is known. So I just did a bunch of research on athletes who bleed and there’s just not research. Menstrual hormones affect them in their cycle and how they run, how they sprint, how they jump. [But] research has been so focused on cis men. Menstruation is a vital sign and I don’t know if I knew that until recently. It’s like urine. If your urine is orange, there is a problem. Same with menstruation. If your cycle changes duration or length of period or color; that means something is wrong with you. I don’t think people know that.
Lauren: Speaking of athletes, I actually first started my period when I was 16 and in high school.
Kate: That’s pretty late.
Lauren: Yeah, I started late. On top of that, I was really tiny, so I wasn’t that big. And I was an athlete, so I was going every other month or every two months [without a period]. But, when I was in grad school in 2014-15, I didn’t have a period for like nine months. I attributed it to stress. I was still working out. I walked everywhere. My boxing coach, last year, was saying that it sometimes has something to do with BMI and your weight and how much you’re eating which … my nutrition was trash.
Merk: As it is when you are in your 20s.
Lauren: Right! So I didn’t have a period from the moment I moved to Boston for grad school… not the moment, but the month that I moved until I came home for Christmas. That was when I got my period again.
Kate: That’s a sign that something was going on.
Nyge: I didn’t know how much everyone’s period varies because I didn’t hear anything about periods growing up from none of the women in my life or none of the women in my family. It was always so taboo. We had this little vase in the bathroom and it had a label on top of it that said, “For Ladies.” I would always look at it and be like, “I wanna open that thing!”
Nyge: I remember I got caught getting a little too close to it one time and my mom was like, “What are you doing?!” I was like, “Ahh, alright. I won’t look.”
Kate: But, you should be able to look.
Nyge: I remember my mom had this little trash can in her bathroom and that is where she kept her stuff. And that was it. I would take out the trash, because it was my job to take out the trash, except for that one. Like, “You don’t touch that one.”
Nyge: But it’s just so interesting, the difference in the generation gap. It was like, people my age would talk about it all the time. Everybody else in my family who was older, like, you don’t talk about that. If I would’ve dared brought that up it would be…
Merk: It would be like, “Why would you say that?!”
Nyge: It would be so out of pocket.
Merk: What are some of the things you grew up being told about periods and believing, but the more you looked into it you realized, “Oh, that’s not really true.” Like, when I was watching “Anchorman”, Steve Carrell’s character said, “Periods attract bears!” There’s actual research done by the National Park Service that says that’s not true. So, any myths or beliefs here?
Kate: One thing that gets thrown around a lot is that people that bleed get really moody when they are on their period. And yes, everyone is different. That’s one thing I learned, literally everyone is different with their cycle. But, PMS is pre-menstrual, so it’s like the week leading up. I think there must be this cultural or societal thing that is like, “Oh, she must be bleeding.” Donald Trump even said, “She is bleeding out of her whatever, that’s why she is mean to me.” But, I think there’s this societal thing that’s like, “She’s on the rag, she’s a monster.” I don’t know if it’s for most, but for me and a lot of bleeders, it’s the week before. The day I get my period I feel mentally great, but it’s the week before where I’m a disaster.
Lauren: My mom and several other women in my life, for whatever reason, told me that using tampons would break your hymen and that virgins didn’t use them until after they’ve had sex. I was just kinda like, “Okaaay. ”
Kate: It’s very common.
Lauren: My mom was one of those moms that liked to be informative and talk about sex and things all the time. And I’d be like “stop!” But, that was one of those things that she told me very early on and I was like, “Okay, won’t be using those.”
Merk: The whole hymen test, it’s totally a myth. Your hymen can break when you’re just riding a bike or stretching in a weird way.
Lauren: I have a question about tampons though. Who teaches people how to use tampons?
Kate: Were you guys taught by your friends?
Lauren: I still don’t use those.
Lauren: I tried…
Kate: After this do you want to go to the bathroom?
Kate: We’ll shut the door, I’ll talk you through it through the door. It’ll be great!
Merk: I had a friend tell me how to use tampons. But it was just painful. I did not know how to do that… I have another question. When have you experienced people not believing you about the effects of your menstrual cycle, or using the menstrual cycle to belittle you or your abilities? Because when I’m talking to my sister and my mom, I feel like “Oh yeah, I think it’s because of my period.” But, if I was talking to my boyfriend, I would really not want to say it that way because I don’t want that to be used against me.
Merk: But then I feel like I use it against myself in a way! It feels like this really weird, double-edged sword.
Kate: I think it comes from people not understanding exactly how we operate. We’re not the same. Our hormones are not the same as people who don’t have a uterus. If there was more of an understanding, it might be more understandable. Like, I was talking about athletes. If people knew how athletes would perform best wherever they are in their cycle, we wouldn’t have to demonize them when they aren’t playing well. There would be more of an understanding about it.
Nyge: Well, cis males always make that dig at each other too. Even if you don’t have a period, they definitely say that. That happens all the time.
Merk: They say that to you?
Nyge: They’ll be like, “Nyge on his period or something.”
Desmond: I heard that that at work this morning. My co-workers were going at each other talking about exactly that.
Nyge: They for sure say that if you’re ever moody.
Kate: I feel like cis men have hormones that we just don’t understand. I call it manstrating.
Nyge: We were looking it up, it’s called IMS.
Kate: That’s the middle school I went to!
Merk: Ayy, represent!
Nyge: That is one of the nicknames for it, manstrating.
Merk: So, two things I’ve known for a long time that you don’t talk about to the world are one, periods, and two, sex. And Kate, you did an episode all about period sex! So, in the people that you talked to for that episode, what kind of stigmas were associated with that?
Kate: It’s gross. For a lot of people it’s gross. For men and women, it’s not pleasant. You don’t have to enjoy it. I think a lot of people stigmatize their partners. Their partners are like, “I don’t want to do it, we’re off limits this week.” That’s fine, especially because if we, as people who bleed, are grossed out by it, that’s gonna rub off on the cis male partner or whoever else. Then I heard a lot of people are obviously into it. I heard a phrase I never heard before called “down to clown,” which is going down on a woman who is … and you get a little red on your face or on your nose and you’re down to clown.
Desmond: I’m sorry, I hate that term.
Kate: Have you heard of it before?
Desmond: I haven’t, but just to hear you describe it is incredibly… Oh God.
Kate: People out there are proud of it. And like, good for them.
Lauren: More power to ya.
Kate: Everyone has their thing and it’s not unhealthy. It’s just like any other sexual act. There’s germs and things can be transmitted. But, as long as you’re healthy, it’s totally fine.
Merk: I want to know more about what other benefits there are for that?
Kate: You know, if it feels good, then do it. You could be having weird cramps on your period, so do whatever makes you feel good. If it feels good to get the tension out by having a couple O’s then do it. We heard from a lot of people that have the designated period sex towel. You put it down, then you put it away.
Desmond: Hopefully you wash it too.
Kate: I skipped a step. You wash it, then you put it away. (laughs) Lauren is not about this conversation.
Lauren: No, not about the conversation, but on my period I feel gross. I feel like I want to take a shower like three, four, five, six times a day.
Nyge: I have a question… in water does it stop?
Kate: I feel like it stops.
Lauren: I do too.
Nyge: I’ve always heard that it stops. But, then I heard another girl say “Heck no. I ain’t about to go swim with this going on!”
Merk: There has got to be more research.
Kate: I think I would still wear a tampon or a menstrual cup when I swam. But, I feel like nothing ever comes out.
Nyge: But wouldn’t that compromise the tampon?
Lauren: Speaking of that, that was another myth that I heard growing up. They say “Black girls don’t swim,” but I swim! (laughs)
Nyge: Me too. They say we all don’t swim! (laughs)
Lauren: They would say you can’t go swimming because you bleed or you can’t go in the ocean because of sharks.
Kate: I think it’s just a way to get women to stay home. Bears and sharks are going to come and eat you? That’s all shit to just keep us locked away in our kitchens. I’m not about that.
Lauren: I still went.
Merk: So now that we’re openly talking about periods in this space, I wanted to challenge everyone here to think about one thing that you are going to do in playing your part to normalize period culture. Nyge, will you go first?
Nyge: Yeah. First thing that popped into my head was like, if I have kids later on, a daughter or something like that… What I really wanna make sure is that I don’t have that “ladies only” jar. You don’t have to be ashamed about that.
Lauren: When I’m buying pads and tampons and things, especially if it’s a male cashier, I won’t make it an awkward encounter. It’ll just be like, “Here.” Just not being weird about it. Or, when I feel myself starting my period, I have a tendency to stick the pad in my pocket and then go to the bathroom. So I think just not being so “hidey” about it, and not making myself feel so secretive and encourage other people to not be so secretive.
Desmond: That’s a good one.
Kate: Since I’ve started working on the podcast Vicious Cycle, I’ve been trying not to use euphemisms. Period itself is already a euphemism of menstruation, or whatever medical term. I really don’t want to be like “it’s that time of the month,” or “red week,” or “shark week” or whatever people say. They’re all funny, but I wanna be like, “No, I have my period.” There’s no need to hide behind that.
Merk: Yeah, just being explicit. Well, thank you Nyge, Lauren, Kate and Dez for being here today. Make sure you check out Vicious Cycle, Kate’s podcast, where she and her co-hosts go in-depth about periods. And, catch some of Dez’s designs on Instagram @d.ezigns. Thank you, everybody.
Nyge: Alright, everybody. It’s time for that part of the show that I’m not really looking forward to. I’m not gonna lie.
Merk: What? Did all this conversation about periods make you not wanna have one?
Nyge: No, it’s just like … Okay, yeah sure.
Nyge: I kinda didn’t have one in the beginning. (laughs) Like, I didn’t wake up like, “Ooh! I can’t wait to have a period.” But hey, we’re gonna do this.
Merk: I just wanna know what hesitations do you have?
Nyge: I don’t know. Okay, I got a question.
Nyge: So when you’re about to have your period or whatever, do you have something there already? Are you already rocking a pad leading up to it? Or do you wait until it hits your underwear every time?
Merk: Okay, so, everyone is different. I’m only speaking to my experience. I can usually sense when my period is coming because of those pre-period symptoms, which I’ll get to in a second. But I will typically rock a pantyliner versus a pad. Do you know the difference?
Nyge: Yeah. So I know the pantyliner is for the light stuff.
Merk: A little spotting.
Nyge: Yeah, the little bloop bloop! Then the pad is for like the …
Merk (in masculine tone): Oh yeah! (laughs) Yeah, so you’re going to be using both of them for this experiment, which we’re gonna be basing off my cycle because I didn’t want to have to flow alone. So, your girl is gonna be sending you text message instructions throughout this whole thing.
Nyge: Fasho. So you can let me know how much to put in?
Merk: Yeah, ‘cause we got the recipe from Daysha. And to help hold you accountable, I’m gonna be texting your girlfriend, Brandi. So she’s gonna be watching you through this too.
Nyge: No she’s not, but fasho! (laughs)
Merk: But to get into the logistics, the period is not just those days where blood is coming out. It’s those days I mentioned, pre-period stuff. For me, I get pretty bad cramps before my period. So Nyge, we are going to mimic cramps!
Merk: We are going to have you do a lot of crunches because you usually get really sore down there. So how many does it usually take for you to feel some kind of … ? (grunts)
Nyge: Let’s say a hundred.
Merk: Okay, we’re gonna make that two hundred.
Nyge: How are you just gonna double it? Alright, we doing two hundred.
Merk: Those cramps on those pre-period days. They’re really intense.
Nyge: Two hundred crunches in a day?
Merk: The uterine tissue comes out. I have to deal with that too.
Nyge: I feel like you really don’t care about my health or well-being, but alright. It’s lit. Go off. (laughs)
Merk: So again, I’m gonna be sending you messages. When I’m feeling this way, you’re feeling this way too. But also, you’re gonna be recording and documenting this all so everyone can hear.
Nyge: Fun. Tell me how else this gets worse.
Merk: You’re welcome. So for the “blood” itself, you’re going to pour it into the pad. I usually change mine, depending on the flow, every … on lighter days, maybe four or five hours?
Nyge: So if I’m in the middle of a movie you’re gonna be like, “Yo. Leave the movie. Get yo Ziploc and pour that in yo…”
Merk: It’s chunk time.
Nyge: (sighs) See?
Merk: Yeah! You can just go to the … It’s like when you gotta pee, you’re not gonna hold it and sit there in it.
Nyge: You’re not?
Merk: Do you wait for your bladder to explode?
Nyge: Yeah, you know how much I love movies! I’m not tryna dip out of the movie and like — If you got your pad on and whatever, it’s caught in the stuff, right?
Merk: Yeah but you don’t want to sit there in that. Okay, Nyge, for the sake of this experiment and everyone listening, you’re gonna do this.
Merk: This is gonna be a great journey. You’re gonna have your granny panties period underwear ready.
Nyge: My what?
Merk: Oh my gosh!
Nyge: Like a special type of underwear?
Merk: Yes. So there are period underwear where you wear it just for the purpose of bleeding onto it. But period underwear is, like, one you’re gonna wear with the pad that you understand that there’s probably gonna be a little bit of leakage but that’s okay. So I usually wear loose ones. No one’s gonna see that underwear. It doesn’t really look that cut, but it’s comfortable.
Nyge: I wear boxer briefs. Would that be…?
Merk: Yeah! That should be fine. As long you’re ready for the (thump) droplets.
Nyge: Who’s payin’ for this? I gotta pay for all this stuff too?
Merk: Yes! You gotta pay for the pads, the pantyliners. You’re gonna get the ones with wings. That is my tip to you.
Merk: See you when we start flowing!
Nyge (in tape): I really don’t know what I’m looking for at all, so I thought it would be cool to bring someone who doesn’t know anything.
Nyge (narration): Despite Merk’s pep talk, I felt completely unprepared. More importantly, I was broke. So I made my best friend Micah tag along…
Micah: Well, you found the right person.
Nyge: Do you know about periods?
Micah: I do know that — as some may not know — that it is once a month. So if I’m just dropping that on someone’s head…
Nyge: Well sometimes it doesn’t.
Micah: Yeah yeah. We’re getting real deep already! Let’s relax.
Nyge: “Let’s relax.” That’s what Micah usually says before ISH goes down. But to his point, our mission here was pretty simple. Walk into the department store, grab the goods, have Micah pay for said goods, and walk out. Easy right?
Nyge: This is so awkward, I’m going to look like a creep
(sound of Nyge’s car door closing)
Nyge: Once Micah and I get inside, we grab a basket and start walking towards the “feminine care” section as stealthy as two grown black men can. But instead of making a beeline towards the goods, we pretend to browse different kinds of eye shadow and contact solution. As if that is any less weird.
Nyge: An employee just walked by and we pretended that this recorder was a cellphone.
Nyge: Finally we arrive and right after the diapers, and before the haircare, are two tall aisles filled with panty liners and pads. Now, for the grab n’ go.
Nyge: Grab them! What about the Koteezy’s?
Micah: What about Vagisil? I think Vagisil is where you start?
Nyge: What is Vagisil?
Nyge: This is when I realize Micah is not the best partner in crime for this mission. When we’re together, we’re known to get distracted by literally anything.
Nyge: Yo, we are spending a lot of time here. I pictured us going in and out. So imma get the liners.
Nyge: We grab a box of thin, clean-scented liners and a pack of Always size 5 radiant pads. The one with the “flex foam” technology because that is how we do it. Now all we need to do is pay at the self-checkout. But this boy Micah…
Nyge: You left your wallet?
Nyge: Alright I’m gonna give you the keys. You run and I’ll pretend I’m doing something else.
Nyge: This is when panic kicks in. What does one grown man do with a basket of pads and liners?
Nyge: I should have grabbed something to throw on top of this. (sees friends in store) Aw, dang! I went to school with them. (sings) I went to school with them. (normal) They were on my basketball team. (sings) I feel wierd!
Nyge: Finally, Micah comes through with his wallet.
Nyge: Yo Micah! Micah! Secured the asset?
Micah: Secured everything. Almost cramped up on the way there but, good thing we got them liners.
Nyge: Shut up.
Nyge: We ring up our total at the self checkout. Total cost?
Micah: It was $10.38. Not bad. We did well.
Nyge: But once a month? Sheesh.
Nyge: Few days go by and the waiting game is the hardest part. Like, when is my first period gonna drop? Every day I get a text from Merk saying, “Oh it is about to happen! Wait, no. It’s not!” I’m all false alarmed out until two evenings later, right as I’m about to get off work, Merk texts me.
Nyge (reading Merk’s text): “I’m legit starting to have cramps right now. Nygel Turner, you gotta stop and do 200 [crunches] right now.”
Nyge: At this point I realize I forgot that pre-period symptoms come before you actually start to flow. So I walk over to our boss’s [Davey] office for extra moral and physical support. He says he’s going to accompany me on just the cramp journey. And with that, it was pre-period game time.
(audio of Davey and Nyge doing 50 crunches inside the office)
Nyge: Yeah I know I’ll never know what actual cramps feel like, but this is as close as I’m gonna get. Around 50 crunches, we realize we’d never be able to walk again if we did 200. So we put our business hats on and call Merk to see if we can haggle the number down.
Davey: Hey, umm… can we do push ups instead?
Merk: No! You don’t get cramps in your arms! Okay, you know what? You can do 75 leg lifts, but don’t put hands under your butt. They have to be by your side.
Davey: I’m down to take that trade.
(audio of Davey and Nyge doing 30 leg lifts)
Nyge: Even though we negotiated for less intense cramps, Davey decides to drop out of his hot-boy summer workout. And I realize, this is going to be a long week. I have that same realization again when I get home cuz Merk hits me with a text saying I had to stop, drop and do more leg lifts.
(audio of Nyge doing more leg lifts)
Nyge: The next day I ask Merk if I should be wearing the pantyliners in case the period unexpectedly drops. She says she’s currently rocking a pad to be extra safe and made me (or Micah, I guess) purchase the panty liners for the experience. So, I place my box of thin, scented liners on my desk for inspiration as I struggle to sit still on my chair. If I make a sudden move or keep my back straight, I get a cramp. And if I do anything else, I feel like throwing up. Merk says that’s normal. I contemplate hitting up HR to see if forcing your co-worker to workout is normal. That’s when Merk hits me up… again.
Nyge (reading Merk’s text): “Good morning sunshine. Period day is here. Congratulations! You’re not pregnant.” Oh my gosh, Merk is so annoying. (laughs) “Got a light flow this morning but I have on a regular pad. Using the recipe I gave, and the plastic bag, put a line of blood…“
Nyge: So it’s officially go time. My period journey has begun. Merk has me mix up four teaspoons of cornstarch, one tablespoon of water and half a teaspoon of red food coloring. Then I repeat that process for a few batches. Then finally I combine all the period cocktails together to get a multi-textured substance. It looked a bit like Silly Putty but felt a little rough and chalky when it dried. She had me put all that in a plastic bag, so I could cut off a corner and easily squeeze the blood onto my pad.
Nyge: This is so fun guys. I’m having a great time.
Nyge: One last step: the application. Now this might be TMI but a recent UTI makes my period setup a bit more complicated. In order to avoid another infection I have to ultimately put on two layers of boxer briefs. Think of it like a sandwich. First I put on underwear. Then I apply a pinky’s length of the period mixture to a pad and stick that on to my second pair of underwear. The whole thing makes me feel like I’m wearing a diaper, so skinny jeans are out. Changing the pad every three to four hours and just existing feels like having an additional part-time job that feels like a full-time job. Like how do you get used to walking when there is something wet and chunky and chalky leaning against you? When I get home after work, I look forward to a restful night of sleep. And then my girlfriend hits me with some nonsense…
Nyge: Okay, so you just said I have to do what?
Brandi: You have to wake up in the middle of the night to change your pad.
Nyge: I have to wake up in the middle of the night to change it?
Brandi: Yes or else you will have a leak and your sheets will be messed up and you will be all uncomfortable!
Nyge: So what time should I wake up?
Nyge: If it is up to chance you should just call me at a random time and wake me up.
Brandi: What! Okay, I’ll do that.
Nyge: So just pick a random time, call me and just be Surprise Mother Nature and I’ll wake up.
Nyge: So I go to sleep already knowing I’m going to have to wake up, which somehow makes the little sleep I get trash. So, sometime around trash o’ clock…
Nyge: What did you say?
Brandi: Mother Nature is calling. She’s waiting for you at the door.
Nyge: So I have to get up and change this thing?
Brandi: Yes… You know what you have to do.
Nyge: Thank you, Mother Nature. I gotta change this thing.
Brandi: Mother Nature is going back to sleep. (laughs)
Nyge: Just in the last 24 hours alone, I have a million new reasons to be grateful that I wasn’t born to menstruate. Yet the sun rises and it’s another beautiful day to have a period.
Nyge: Merk texted me this morning. She said, “Welcome to Day Two typically known to be my heaviest day! Had leakage on le underpants.” (laughs) This girl is a fool. “So changing out the diaper situation to another pad. I’m also half sleep.” (laughs) Fasho.
Nyge: Another irritating thing about all this is that before this whole experiment, I was trying to eat healthier. But Merk says that every time I feel any food craving, I have to lean in and eat … which was actually comforting to hear. A little treat to ease this discomfort.
Nyge (to phone): Why is this not calling? Calling Wing Stop!
Nyge: This cycle of eat, change pad and repeat is pretty much how the next three days go. And by the time the weekend hits, I find myself moodier than usual. I know that I’m not actually going through biological changes but nevertheless, I start an argument with my girlfriend over literally nothing. Like a whole argument over, “How was your day?” Also my stomach isn’t happy with the midnight Takis and mango habanero wings. But Merk says just a few more days.
Nyge: It’s a party tonight and I’m glad she just said one-fourth of the recipe so it seems kinda like it’s getting a little lighter, so that’s a plus. Probably not going to be much dancing for me, which isn’t usual for me.
Nyge: Okay, so I don’t get tape from the party but since it was more like a kickback, I get to sit down for most of the time. There was one moment though where my bros did start jumping up and down when “Life Is Good” by Drake and Future came on, so instinctively I hopped up and started jumping up and down with them. But then, mid-jump I was instantly reminded why I was sitting down in the first place … I ride out the rest of the weekend at home and on Monday I get the best text of my life.
Nyge: Merk texted me this morning and was like “Congratulations, we are through!” Whoo! This has been a struggle for real, and probably not even close to or near how much of a struggle it actually is for people who have real periods. But I’m juiced to be through it. I was just sitting here thinking like, “Dang. It’s a good feeling when you are through ‘cause now I can get back to my life.” But for people who have periods this is just until next month. And that’s what’s been tripping me out. Y’all are freakin heroes cuz I can’t do this for another second. Nyge, signing out.
(sound of pad being ripped away from underwear)
Merk: And now I can officially welcome you to the Period Club! Or at least an honorable mention member.
Nyge: Oh, thank you so much. It truly is an honor to be here. I mean I could never make it to like bottle service in the Period Club, but I’m just happy to be here at the bar, you know?
Merk: So what would you, as a cis male who’s gone through this simulation, say to somebody about to get their period for the first time? Whether they’re biologically bleeding or nah?
Nyge: Sheesh… I still don’t feel qualified for that question, but I guess I would say from what I know: have painkillers that work for you on deck, surround yourself with people who will sympathize and not minimize your feelings and Takis and mango habanero are good on the way in, but not on the way out.
Nyge: On the next social experiment we are going to have Merk be the test subject… I hope y’all enjoyed putting me through yet another beautiful teaching experiment.
Merk: You can make me bleed in the experiment, just make sure there are no needles, please.
Nyge: (laughs) Adult ISH is a production of YR Media — a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation. A big shoutout to our Senior Producer Davey Kim, Sound Engineers Galnadgee Joe-Johnson and Cari Campbell, Executive Producer Rebecca Martin, Adan Barrera for transcribing our web and social content and all the young people at YR for the music and art for this episode.
Merk: A special thanks goes out to Marjerrie Masicat, Michelle Klug, Lissa Soep, Lauren Rascoe, Amber Ly, Daysha Veronica and Nimah Gobir for sharing your period experiences with me and informing the roundtable. And extra special props to Nimah who did the art for this week’s episode!
Nyge: Yo! It’s one of my faves ever.So Be sure to give it a look on our socials @YRadultISH and for more head on over to adultishpodcast.com.
Merk: You can also follow Nyge @nygelt. That’s Nyge with a Y. And you can find me @ultraraduberfad where I’ll be posting a new menstruation fact every Monday for the rest of the season.
Nyge: You got a fact right now?
Merk: It’s not that time of month yet! We’re also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX. An independent listener-supported collective of some of the most bloody-good shows in all of podcasting. Find them at radiotopia.fm.
Nyge: Until our next episode, keep it real everybody, and keep those period conversations flowing.
Merk: Like the many people in your life just tryna get through their cycles! Peace!
Merk: And now … For a sneak preview of next week’s episode!
Alexis: How common is this for people under the age of 25?
Valeria: It’s very common. I feel like my friends look at me and think “How are you in a healthy relationship without tracking him?” And I think “It’s a healthy relationship because I don’t track him!“
Nyge: But I mean what if you want to be tracked a little?
Nyge: Yeah, I like a little chase … but okay, now we are REALLY out.