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If men had periods…

Clutching a hot water bottle, I held on to the bag of maltesers like they were a life-saving ring tossed to me in choppy waters.  I set up camp on the sofa and moaned about cramps and the likes to himself.  He told me he had never come across someone who suffered so much with periods… (he wasn’t being sympathetic here, he probably had spotted the Maltesers earlier and hoped to have some too).  For the record, I don’t suffer to the point that some women do, my complaints were run of the mill.

His comment got me thinking, did he genuinely believe other girls and women sail through periods and I am an exception?  And why wouldn’t be think otherwise?  I asked him how many other women routinely spoke to him about their periods; he was silenced and I was now under no obligation to share the maltesers.  In the general course of things, we don’t discuss our periods and associated issues with men in our circle of family, friends and colleagues other than close friends and partners.

Men are in the dark about the monthly hormonal roller-coasters, cramps and general discomfort (when you’re getting off lightly) that a considerable chunk of the population experience.  How are they meant to properly understand what we are going through when so much of it is hidden from public view?  I’m not suggesting we all talk incessantly to anyone and everyone about menstruation, it is a personal experience and every woman has her own feelings on how much she wants to share.  But if you do want to talk more about it, why not?

So as I ruminated further and inhaled the Maltesers (wondering if we had a straw and I could try that trick from the ad?)  What would life be like if men were the ones who had a monthly visit from Aunt Flo?

I realise that periods are part and parcel of being a woman and that if no woman ever had a period, no woman would ever have a baby.  Or would that mean all women were just pregnant all the time?  Anyway, you know what I mean.  I also know that there are biological differences here and men aren’t about to start bleeding monthly from their nether regions.  However, for the sake of pondering an alternate universe where the hormonal roller-coaster is ridden only by men let’s think about how it might play out.

  1. When a boy got his first period, he would get a present, and a party.  Maybe a presidential congratulatory note.
  2. Each month, there would be a delivery of sanitary products, pain-killers and chocolate courtesy of the Government.  No man would be out of pocket as a result of his period.
  3. Period days off work would be a protected employment right.
  4. Men would talk freely about cramps and other period issues without caring if anyone heard.
  5. Telling your boss that you have a doctor’s appointment because of “men’s issues” would not cause both parties to break out in a sweat and go beetroot.
  6. There would be no annoying names like Aunt Flo, That Time of the Month, the Crimson Wave and other nick-names that demote the reality to something fluffier; and any man-period nick names would be hard core, properly representing
  7. Tampons would not be hidden up sleeves on the way to the ladies
  8. Sanitary bins in toilet cubicles would never, ever be full or overflowing.  If this was to happen, there would be serious penalties imposed.
  9. There would be no “funny” comments made such as “oh don’t mind, he has his period” to try and down-play his reactions or opinions.  That man is dealing with his biological issues, there is no need to try and disrespect him.  He should be revered.
  10. PMT would be understood by the women watching their men folk fall apart over a toilet roll ad or losing the plot when they can’t find their favourite pair of fluffy socks.
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How the number of children affects society

It doesn’t.

There you go, it’s nobody else’s business how many children you have.

That’s the short answer, if you’ve just popped in quickly to see what I have to say on the matter. Here you will find no arguments over global warming, over-crowding, snow-flake children, pensioners needing more tax payers to prop up the welfare system in their old age…

Your reproductive choices are not open to public discussion, comment or approval. That’s the bottom line.

I guarantee you that no matter how many, or how few, children a woman has, there is a comment considered appropriate to her family situation. How many of the following have you heard?

“Ah you can’t just have the one, it would be cruel to deprive little Barry of a sibling.”

“A boy and a girl! Perfect, the gentleman’s family; you’re done now so.”

“They’ve no children, just the pair of them in that house. Wouldn’t you think they’d get a move on?”

“So, do you think you’ll have another?”

“Pregnant again? Don’t you have two at home already?”

“Only children are selfish adults and can’t share.”

“Are you going to go again for the girl?”

“Are they all from the same father? Jaysus.”

“A fourth? Don’t you know what’s causing it?”

“That poor father, living in that house of girls. Wouldn’t you think the wife would try again for a son?”

Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, in people’s hearts and a couple’s relationship. I know that for the most part people are just making conversation, idle chit-chat to pass the time while waiting for the bus to arrive.

But for those of us in the trenches, with young kids and not so young kids, chances are we know someone who is trying desperately to get pregnant; someone who would love another baby; someone who suffered a miscarriage or endured the tragedy of losing a child.

Personally, as a result of being more aware of the experiences I have seen people wade through, I am more sensitive of how comments I may have flippantly made in the past might now cut a little close to the heart for some people.

I think before I speak.

I’m not some kill joy who wants everyone reading from a set list of conversational topics, keen to stamp every interaction with a large “PC approved” label. These throwaway comments are made without any hidden agenda, but sometimes watching to see how they are received can make all the difference.

There are so many comments that can be made that are a safe zone; simply saying that someone’s children are lovely and must bring so much happiness is fail safe. No probing comments there. And if the little darlings before you aren’t acting quite so darling, then a simple “How old are they?” is enough to break the ice and open up a conversation.