[ PAST LETTERS ]
When you decide to write about the things that you’re not supposed to, you choose reality over censorship, boldness over fear and embarrassment, and authentic messes over guises of perfection.
The day that I decided to write thoughtfully about something that I was “not supposed to write about” was the freest writing moment that I ever had. The date was Saturday, April 21, 2018. I was attending a 6-hour long writing workshop and I was dreading sitting through it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write and learn about awesome strategies to help improve my writing. I was actually excited about that part. It was the sitting through that made me nervous, anxious, and had me constantly squirming in my chair. It was day two of my period.
To some of you that means nothing. To me, it is everything. My story could stop there and would have told itself a thousand times over, but I’ll continue because I’m trying to make a point. The writing group developed a list of writing strategies, and one was “write about something that you’re not supposed to.” My mind had been consumed with thoughts about my “current state”, and I thought to myself “I’m going to write a letter to my period.” It sounded silly then, but it also made such great sense to write about the one thing that had been on my mind for so long- the one thing that I never ever wrote about in detail. So I did it. I began a letter to my period, and when it was time to stop and talk about my writing during the workshop, the embarrassment that I thought I would feel was replaced with a boldness that I was more ashamed had not existed before.
Recently, I flipped through my writer’s notebook to that date. It’s amazing how much blood loss and the constant worry of leaks, bathroom breaks, and hydration can suddenly make me so eloquent and carefree in writing about my true feelings. On March 23rd, basically a month before I thought much more about it, I started with some journaling, and I chose to write about how I felt in that very moment:
“Physically, I feel horrible, and I know that I am masking my cramps and fears along with that very well. I wonder how many other women go through this same thing every single month, knowing that they are surrounded by people who are completely unaware of what they are experiencing. I guess a lot. “
A month later (I mean, it’s called “menses” for a reason), I was in the same condition- staring at my notebook’s blank page while sitting in a room full of people who had no idea that I felt like crap. In my letter, I wrote:
“I remember the first time you embarrassed me @ Denisse’s job. I sat on a white loveseat, and I stood up, leaving behind a bright red stain. You didn’t give a fuck about my pad, my jeans, or that loveseat. I had to call my dad to pick me up, sit on a newspaper for the whole ride home, and take a shower just to feel clean again. Every time you come, I fear that same embarrassment. Every time you come, you usually embarrass me.”
I share this because I know that it is easy to keep our writing “safe.” If we write about things that people like to read, share ideas that make people smile, and feel pride when we publish “feel good” pieces, it is easy to think that we are somehow making the world a better place. Well, there is plenty of space for those feel-good pieces in Feminessay, and there is also room for the narratives that share things that we feel like we’re not supposed to write about.
There are plenty of things that I always felt like I shouldn’t write about because they were messy, uncomfortable, awkward, and confusing. I remember the moment when I calmly sat my mother down and, on the verge of tears, I told her “I think I’m gay.” Spoiler alert: I’m not. It turns out that noticing the sway of a woman’s hips as she walks is very different from being attracted to the motion. But what an awesome story to share! The conversation that followed that statement, the answered questions and changed outlook on appreciation of the human body, and the feelings that I felt and understood are all things that I could include in that story. Imagine how many readers would be able to relate to a piece like that. The more I think about moments like these, the more I realize how much power is held in our stories. You know the ones- the stories that describe little moments that were once a HUGE deal, times that we wish we could forget but they continue to haunt us, and stories of embracing the various identities that form our being no matter how controversial they may seem. None of us are perfect but our stories are so worth telling and I choose to share my worth with the world through my writing.
For me, writing about my period was extremely vulnerable. While I had (and I still have) so much to say about my experience, I now recognize that there is much in my story that others can relate to. Remember that gasp or thought of “giiiirrrl” you had when I mentioned “It was day two of my period”? Remember how your curiosity sparked when I shared a confession I made to my mother over two decades ago? Those are the kinds of reactions that come from reading about what we think we shouldn’t write about.
I encourage you to be vulnerable with me. Share more of the stories that make you laugh and also share the ones that make you cry. They all hold truth. Let’s connect through writing about the moments when we want nothing more than to remain quiet because when you decide to write about the things that you’re not supposed to, you choose reality over censorship, boldness over fear and embarrassment, and authentic messes over guises of perfection.
— Tiye Naeemah Cort,
Global Editor-in-Chief + Founder