I recently returned from the Toronto Fringe Festival where I had the pleasure of seeing 9 shows over 4 days. One of those shows was Morro and Jasp do Puperty. Spoiler alert: The show is about periods.
Right off the bat, Morro is freaking out on the toilet and then comes out to tell what I am assuming is typically a female audience member a secret. On my night, the audience member said that it was totally ok. So Morro asked her to tell everyone in the room. Suddenly it wasn't ok anymore.
We all laughed at the discomfort, of course, but something else stayed with me.
I both identify as a woman and have all the working ladybits that come with that biological designation.
A few weeks ago, I was in Toronto for work and I was also on my period. Since I have been getting periods for the better part of my life, I am well acquainted with the ahem ebbs and flows of my cycle. My day in Toronto would fall on my "heavy" day. No matter. I was prepared.
Work started at 9:30. I popped a Super Absorbent tampon in and added a liner for safety's sake.
11:15 break - everything normal on the southern front.
12:15 lunch - I was fortunate enough to have booked an audition with a prominent theatre company while I was in town and work was kind enough to let me go on my lunch break. I went to the washroom and, to my absolute horror, realized that I had had an accident. My underwear was completely soaked through. I had not had a situation like this since my teens and I was mortified. As if it was something I could control and my body had suddenly betrayed me. Fortunately, it didn't seem to have reached my pants. Doubly fortunate: since I had spent the night in Toronto, I had brought a suitcase and packed way too many clothes for an overnight trip.
I cleaned myself off, refused the kind offer from my coworker to let me borrow his bike, and walked to my audition. I mentally congratulated myself on choosing to wear dark grey pants that day and sauntered into the audition room. But something didn't feel right. They were behind schedule so I asked for the washroom.
Once again, I was absolutely mortified to find out that in the 15 minutes it took me to get there, not only was my underwear soaked through but it had also seeped into my dark grey pants, leaving a giant crimson stain. I was grateful I had another tampon in my bag but freaked out that I had left my clothes at the office.
I quietly panicked in the washroom stall. What about my audition? I couldn't just leave, could I? Actually, yes I probably could have, but they had already seen me. I couldn't reschedule since I would no longer be in town so instead I made the decision to go in and be honest about it. As I paced in the lobby, a gentleman walked by and said I could have a seat. I took one look at the plush seats and, as sweetly as I could, muttered a "Nope, I'm good."
Minutes later I walked in dead set on explaining my predicament, but I froze when I saw there wasn't a single woman in the group, only three men. I suddenly felt embarrassed and thanked the universe for the small favour of a plastic chair in the room. We had a brief chat as I clamped my legs together praying for... I don't know what. Not to be a woman anymore?
Now time to deliver my monologue, I felt grateful that the whole scene took place on a bus. "I'm going to be sitting down," I said, proud of my own quick thinking.
Oddly enough, I pretty much killed that audition about a young woman on a bus feeling awkward and embarrassed when the guy of her dreams walks in and sits down next to her. Gee, I wonder why?
High off a job well done, I heard the words tumble out of my mouth before I was able to stop them: "So, you also wanted me to read for another character in the script?"
No! Nonononono, stupid actor brain! We don't want to read for anything else, we want to get the fuck out of there as quickly as possible.
But before I knew what was happening, I had new lines in hand and I was jumping around the stage, praying that they were just looking at me from the waist up. And... it went really well. Again, addicted with performance power, I heard the words: "You also wanted a song, didn't you?"
WHY?! WHY ARE YOU STILL TALKING?!?!
So I did a song. And it was lovely. I finally FINALLY said my goodbyes and made a beeline to the pharmacy next door.
At this point, the adrenaline rush was leaving me and panic was setting in. I grabbed supplies and ran to the pharmacy station.
"Excuse me, I need to talk to a pharmacists."
A bright-eyed, twenty-something asian kid proudly answered me: "Well he's busy at the moment, but I'm a pharmacy assistant. I can help you!"
Oh kid. I sighed and asked if we could speak in private. Behind closed doors I took a deep-breath as I explained my situation. How this had never happened to me before. That soaking through 3 super absorbent tampons in less than an hour felt excessive. I told him my worries looking for an ounce of reassurance.
His face fell as the eagerness drained from his eyes. "Um. I'm going to get the pharmacist."
I asked for the nearest washroom. In the backroom of the pharmacy, a staff member pointed me in the right direction. To my absolute dismay, there was no toilet paper. I ran back to the staff member who left to get more. I'm sure only took two minutes but it felt like two hours. He offered to put it in the holder for me as I quickly snatched it out of his hands. "No thank you!"
Back at the pharmacy counter, the elderly male pharmacist was finally able to see me. I quietly asked if there was a woman I could talk to. He tells me she wouldn't be in until 5. So I took another deep-breath and laid out my story once more, now with 4 tampons instead of 3. Without missing a beat: "You need to go to emerg."
"Excuse me, what?"
"That is excessive. You need to go to the emergency room."
I am now royally freaking the hell out wondering what to do next. I'm feeling wet, dirty and ashamed and now I'm worried that something might be really wrong with me. I rush to pay for my supplies but I am living in a fucked up sketch comedy show meaning the lineup for the cash register is all the way out the door. I decide to go to the makeup counter instead where the girl refuses to serve me because my things aren't from her section.
I'm about to cry and I plead with her that this? Is an emergency! She sighs and starts punching it in. Where the hell is the sisterly support? I hate her and her stupid eyeliner.
Stepping out into the world, I can't imagine myself walking back to work so I flag down a cab. I thank whatever deity there is that the seats are leather.
In the meantime, I call Telehealth Ontario and speak to a nurse who also tells me to go to the emergency room. I had hoped the pharmacist was just trying to get me out of his hair, but it looked like I had no choice but to go to the hospital.
At the office, I approach my male supervisor and explain the situation. He is incredibly understanding. He gives me access to a private washroom so I may once again clean up and change. He even offers to flag me a cab and get someone to go with me.
"Can it be a woman, please?"
Feminine hygiene product count: 5 in 1.5 hours. At this point, I've switched to the Ultra Super Mega Absorbent kind.
The emergency room at Mount Sinai was all kinds of alright. The staff was incredibly friendly and patient. Not to mention unbelievably attractive. All those doctor shows you see on TV? They were probably based on this place.
At this point, I'm feeling pretty miserable & scared but grateful that the staff here seems to be a majority of women. So of course the universe sends me the super hot twenty-something male nurse to deal with me.
He asks me what's wrong and I take a deep-breath as I look him directly in the eye. Hold onto your hat, we're doing this.
"I'm bleeding from my crotch. Like a lot."
For a split second, I see a shadow cross over his face, but he recovers quickly (Note to pharmacist's assistant: this is how a professional behaves). He is very kind and in good spirits. He takes my vitals, some blood samples and sends in the doctor. The coolest hippest woman I have ever met. Have I mentioned how great the bedside manner is at Mount Sinai? If you're ever in Toronto, you should go.
Feminine hygiene product count: 6 in 2 hours.
I'm given some pills to help reduce excessive bleeding and I wait for my test results. I wait a couple of hours and the doctor approaches me again. My test results are all... normal.
Excuse me, what? This whole thing is not "normal" to me.
The doctor tells me sometimes excessive bleeding just happens. And now I feel incredibly embarrassed. I'm told I shouldn't be. As I was flying out that night, it was a good thing I came in to make sure everything was ok.
I spent that entire nightmare of a day feeling varying degrees of shame and embarrassment. I kept having to talk to men and I didn't want to because I figured everyone of them would recoil in horror (and a few kind of did).
This whole situation made me realize that I still have a lot of issues around being a woman and periods in general. And if I feel this way, I can't imagine what it's like for a girl in a developing country. It took me well into my twenties to not be embarrassed to walk down the feminine hygiene aisle, to carry a box of tampons in my hands, to pay at a cash register manned by a, well, man.
Why is that? Because we don't talk about it. And feeling like I couldn't talk about it made me stress out even more.
Which brings me back to Morro and Jasp do Puberty.
Not only is this a super fun, funny and at times cringeworthy show, it's true bravery comes in tackling a topic that rarely gets any attention.
The show sold out most of its run at the Toronto Fringe and is getting extra performances as a Patron's Pick and Best of Fest before heading out to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. Check out the show if you can or support their Indiegogo Campaign to help them get to Scotland.
Let's be more open about this so it can eventually be the best period of our lives.
*Yeah, even I groaned at that last one.*