This is a Period Piece


I love talking about a period. Period period period ellipsis period. Maybe it's because I was the latest bloomer of all time. Or maybe it's because I have three girls. Or maybe it's because I rejected feminism for so long that I now have this overwhelming need to make up for all the years I rolled my eyes instead of opened them. Or maybe it's because there are all these incredibly outspoken artists and activists who are normalizing menstruation and having frank discussions about things we all grew up hearing should "remain discreet." And I'm like, "hold on... Yes. Wait, you're right. What the fuck, Man?"
Kiran Gandhi : Medium

Whatever it takes to get us all talking, right? Whatever it takes to get women who were taught not to go there... to go there.  Welcome to having a human body, though, you know what I mean? The mute button has its place, for sure, but not here. Not when there's so damn much to talk about.

I never had pubes as a teenager because "pubes were gross" and every girl I knew shaved hers, myself included. When pornography is allowed everywhere and the natural female body is being heavily censored, we have a fucking problem, Houston. I was influenced by so many things without realizing it until much later and I am ever so grateful that my daughters will have artists like Petra Collins and Kiran Gandhi and Staceyann Chin to look to as they grow into their bodies and learn to embrace maturation, something I was unable to do myself.

soccer25 Me (far left) the month I got my period. I was 14.

Speaking of periods, I recently interviewed Rebecca Slavin, mom of three girls/creator of the It's That Time Period Tote about periods and t(w)eenagers and t(w)eenagers with periods. Because, even though we're years away from this, it's never too early to empower our daughters (and sons) with frank and celebratory body talk. Bleeding once a month may be a pain in the ass but it's also something to embrace with pride, solidarity and tote bags full of supplies.

GGC: Rebecca! Let's talk about this It's About that Time Period Tote. Why did you decide to create this product and what has the response been like from your daughters? 

Rebecca Slavin: Creating the It’s That Time tote came out of need. I have three daughters and when my oldest started showing tell-tale signs of puberty (breast development, pubic hair, body odor, etc.), I realized she could start her period at any time. I went online looking for a first period kit and, though I found a few out there, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I wanted something that had a softer feel, a lighter look and different product. I went to several local stores trying to build the perfect kit but was completely unsuccessful. I couldn’t find the right box, bag, case, etc. and I couldn’t find the items that I wanted to include. Eventually, I gave up and just bought a box of tampons and pads and handed them over to my daughter. She looked at me with her eyebrows raised like, “Are you kidding me?” I was totally disappointed. (I’m that mom who loves all things Pinterest…why couldn’t I build a first period kit?!?) I told her that I wanted to give her something completely different and explained this idea I had for creating an actual kit. She said, “I would have loved that!” so we started brainstorming together about things we’d both like to see in the kit and came up with what we think is the perfect tote:

- It’s That Time Canvas Tote Bag (with zipper closure) to store products at home
-  It’s That Time Canvas Accessory Bag (with zipper closure) to carry pads/tampons and wipes in a purse or backpack, or keeping in a locker
-  It’s That Time Lipstick Pen (to write down thoughts)
-  It’s That Time Lined Journal (a place to keep those thoughts)
-  Sealed Box of 24 U by Kotex Tween Pads Combo Pack (12 pads and 12 liners)
-  Sealed Box of 18 U by Kotex Click Regular Tampons
-  Sealed Box of 24 U by Kotex Refresh Wipes (for cleansing and comfort)
-  Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover (to remove any blood stains from clothing)
-  It’s That Time BCBs (to better understand the monthly cycle) 
-  It’s That Time BCBs Tracking Calendar
-  It’s That Time Tips (helpful tips to ease PMS symptoms) and PMS Bars Recipe
-  A copy of It’s That Time Burning Questions/Answers

At first, I thought I would purchase enough supplies for just my daughters and their friends, but a business plan was developed, a website was created, an OBGYN was consulted and…here we are!

GGC: My daughters are all fascinated (and slightly petrified) of periods but I have always felt it important to be as honest as possible with all of my children about bodies and puberty, sexuality, etc. I don't want to make it awkward later so I introduce them to the "tough stuff" early on, give them a chance to mull it over, ask questions, etc. (Young kids will ask the questions that tweens and teens will not.) When did you start talking to your daughters about puberty? When would you recommend parents start having "talks" with their daughters about body changes? 

Rebecca S: I’m also in the “be as honest as possible” camp and believe it’s important to start those puberty/human sexuality conversations early on. Some girls start their period as early as nine years old, so it’s important to educate them about their bodies and why they might be feeling the way they are (both physically and emotionally). We have a couple of books floating around our home that are age-appropriate and full of pictures (It’s So Amazing by Robie H. Harris and American Girl’s The Care and Keeping of YOU). They piqued the girls’ interest about the human body at young ages. I sometimes find those books under a bed, in a nightstand or right on top of our coffee table. Some of those chapters provide a great springboard for discussion.

GGC: Everyone has a "first period" story, amirite? (I wrote about mine, here.) What was yours like? 

Rebecca S: I love your story. I’ve never shared mine (publicly) and never thought I would (totally embarrassing), but here goes: I wasn’t a late-bloomer per se, but most of my friends had already gotten their periods by the time I started at 13. My mom and I talked about anything and everything when I was growing up, so I thought I was totally prepared for my “moment.” But nothing (NOTHING) prepared me for the complete and utter shock of waking up thinking a chocolate bar had somehow been put in my underwear overnight. I remember looking at the brown stain and thought, “Wait! How did chocolate get in there?!” I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, totally confused. It was such a mystery. I finally gave in and went to tell my mom. She, of course, knew right away. I had no idea blood turned brown! We went to the store and she purchased some pads for me. They were bulky, uncomfortable and felt like a diaper. I was mortified. That night, we had plans to go to my mom’s boyfriend’s house for dinner. He had four daughters who were all older than me. My mom told me to talk to the 16-year-old about what she uses. I approached her, but it was apparent she didn’t want to talk to me about period products. She took me upstairs to her bathroom and handed me a SUPER sized tampon with a cardboard (no tip) applicator. She didn’t explain anything (I think she even rolled her eyes) and walked out. I didn’t have any instructions to look at, but figured I had to get the cotton thing out of the cardboard thing somehow. I just pushed it out into my hand and then tried to insert the cotton tampon with my fingers. I think I pushed it in about half way and thought that would be enough. It felt awkward, uncomfortable, a bit painful and, well, wrong. But I pulled up my pants anyway and went downstairs to dinner. Everyone was already sitting at the table when I walked in. I’ll never forget the dinner that night - lamb with mint jelly. The moment I sat down on the bench, the most excruciating pain shot through my entire body. The force of sitting pushed the tampon in even further, but not all the way. It was hanging out. I was dry. I think I must have ripped tissue. On the verge of tears, I excused myself right away, removed it carefully, went back to the table and haven’t eaten lamb since.

GGC: What are your thoughts about ceremonies celebrating a girl's "turn" into womanhood?

Rebecca S: To each their own! Celebrating a girl’s first period is often a cultural experience. In some cultures, a large celebration is expected. In others, families give gifts. When the time comes for my daughters, we might go out for ice cream or maybe get our nails done. I won’t do anything that would make them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

GGC: What are your thoughts on the recent surge of art/activism which intend to normalize menstrual blood and menstruation?

Rebecca S: I think it’s interesting and a fascinating concept. I love that there are women out there making their voices heard and making bold statements that menstruation is a natural occurrence and no girl should ever be ashamed of bleeding.

GGC: I was MORTIFIED talking to my mom about puberty-y things as a teen but I think that's because she was always very sit-down-and-let's-have-a-talk-about-it. (Love you, Mom, but... yeah.) I feel like there are two very different ways to go about this and my whole thing has been nonchalance. Like, "You guys. I'm on my period. When you're older, you're going to be on your period, too. High five because we will all sync up and start a Period band!" (My three-year-old daughters know all about tampons, what they do and how they are used because they ask a lot of questions and I feel it is my job as their mother to answer them as frankly and excitedly as possible. But maybe my cavalier attitude has been too cavalier?) Thoughts? 

Rebecca S: At baby showers, when I’m asked to offer a “piece of advice” to the mother-to-be, I always say the same thing: “Take every piece of advice you get with a grain of salt. Every parenting style, every child and every situation is different. Follow your gut and do your best.” I have to think that this falls into that category. My six-year-old knows exactly what a tampon is. I’ve hollered out to her from the bathroom asking her to get one for me and she asks, “What size?” Other moms may not feel so comfortable sharing that information with a three- or six-year-old.

GGC: You've recently teamed up with Girls.Inc. Can you tell us a little bit about that collaboration?

Rebecca S: Girls Inc., a program across the US and Canada, ROCKS! Their motto is for girls to be Strong, Smart and Bold. When I lived in SoCal, I volunteered at Girls Inc. teaching dance to teens after school. Many of the girls who attend the program come from low-income homes and do not have opportunities to enroll in extracurricular activities outside of school. Girls Inc. provides programs for elementary, middle and high school girls. They learn to take risks and master physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. When I started It’s That Time, I knew I wanted to find an organization to donate totes to. Girls Inc. of Metro Denver was the perfect fit. In October, I will be donating totes to their elementary health program and will meet with the girls to explain the contents of the tote. I can’t wait! My hope is to expand beyond Girls Inc. of Metro Denver and reach other Girls Inc. programs across the nation. There is a “donation tote” option on my site for those who would like to purchase a tote for a Girls Inc. girl.


I'm giving away two It's That Time period totes for those out there with a tween girl in your life! To win? Share your first period story. I'll pick two winners next Wed, 9/15. 


I also wanted to take this opportunity to send a shout-out to two incredible organizations making a difference in the lives of young women and girls in developing nations. One of those is Femme International which offers reusable feminine hygiene supplies (diva cups) to girls who desperately need them. Another org to put on your radar is Days for Girls International, which provides period kits for girls worldwide and invites you and/or your daughters to contribute by making/sewing your own DfG kits to donate to girls in need. Learn more about Days for Girls International here and here