Although touchy topics such as impotence and masturbation are no longer considered unmentionables thanks to television, the subject of menstruation is still deemed taboo. "Early on, we're taught to be embarrassed about this natural bodily function," notes Hilda Hutcherson, MD, an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and author of What Your Mother Never Told You about Sex. "Menstruation is viewed in a negative light '- it's called 'the curse' or 'on the rag' '- even though menstrual periods are natural, normal and a sign of health."
Since there's almost an unspoken code that you don't dish about your period '- especially if something truly embarrassing has happened '- you may think you're the only one who's dealt with a mortifying menstrual moment. But after reading the following real women's stories, you'll know you're not alone when it comes to coping with a period-related disaster.
It's a Dirty Job
"I was at a business meeting with a client. I was at the end of my period, so I (a supersize girl) was wearing a regular-size tampon. At a break in the meeting, I went into the bathroom and discovered I'd had a final surge of blood that my tampon just couldn't absorb. I bled all over my underwear and right through my pants! I couldn't just ditch my client, so I freaked out. I took off my pants and underwear and tried to perform some personal hygiene triage. Thank God I had an extra tampon in my bag. I put my pants back on and exited the stall with my bloody panties in hand. I had to dump my underwear in the bathroom trash can and try to wash the outside of my pants while worrying that someone would walk in. Luckily, I had worn dark pants and a longish shirt. Suffice it to say, I could not concentrate on anything for the rest of the meeting. All I wanted was to get out of there so I could head home to clean off."
--Melinda Simmons, 37
Never Date a Clean Freak
"My periods usually last five days, but just to be safe, I waited until the seventh day before having sex with a guy I'd been dating. He got on top of me, and we went to it with gusto until, mid-thrust, he noticed his penis was covered in blood. We were on really expensive 300-thread-count sheets. What's more, his cleaning lady does his laundry, so the thought of leaving bloody sheets for her to find mortified him. So he did what any true gentleman would and lifted up my legs, then walked me off the bed and across the room in reverse wheelbarrow position. All this so I wouldn't drip on anything. I just laughed the entire way."
--Terry Sullivan*, 31
Why Women Take So Long in Bathrooms
"I wasn't supposed to get my period for at least another 10 days, but it came early '- on the day my boyfriend and I had planned to go on a romantic one-day getaway to the beach. Needless to say, getting my period that morning was annoying, but I was certain it wouldn't be that big a deal. So, along with my beach towel, bathing suit and sunscreen, I packed the necessary toiletries and decided to make the best of it. It took us an hour and a half to get to the beach. I'd been laying out for about 30 minutes when I started to sense that my tampon might not be holding in everything that it should. I whispered to my boyfriend that I had to make a run for the girls' room. By the time I made it, blood had soaked through my tampon and all over my brand-new cream-colored bathing suit. I changed my tampon and decided the only thing I could do was wash out my suit. So I reluctantly made my way out of the stall with only my top on and got to work scrubbing my bloody bikini bottoms in the sink. Those were some of the longest minutes of my life. Miraculously, I managed to wash out all signs of blood with cold water and soap. I put the bottoms back on, headed back to my towel and hoped no one wondered why my bikini bottoms were soaking wet while the rest of me was completely dry!"
--Reilly Martin, 33