I think I’m ready to tell you about the time I got my period in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
It was a Sunday.
I was in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City to take pictures for a story I wanted to write, and I was with a guy I had never met before who wanted to come along.
We were in the Church — Christianity’s Holy of Holies, where they say Jesus rose, where the air shimmers with the voices of the faithful and rarefied by the scent of frankincense.
And there I was, camera out, standing near the marble slab where they say Jesus was anointed, when I felt it. Everywhere.
The Original Sin.
The First Plague.
The Red Sea.
If I were just three tenths of a hair more sacrilegious, I would have extended my arms and shouted STIGMATAAAAA and had a go of it while I leaked blood from my vagina all over the floor, but instead this nice Jewish girl panicked.
The blood drained from my face (and from everywhere else, apparently) while I stood there aghast.
Frozen. Rooted to the spot.
A crimson fleur de lis bloomed on the marble below me.
Sunday, bloody Sunday.
“Did you get a shot of the priests over there,” my colleague asked.
I swung my big old bag behind my back while I tried to walk.
I could feel the stain spread.
I know the Church of the Holy Sepulcher like the back of my hand. I know where the electricity outlets are. I know where the 4G reception is strongest. And most importantly of all, I know where the bathroom is.
But I also know the bathroom has no soap, or toiletpaper, and the toilets… Remember the Golgathan Shit Demon in the Dogma Movie? Like that. He comes from there.
No, I would not try to clean myself there.
Instead, I decided I’d go to the Lutheran Church of the Holy Redeemer… because why not. Those Lutherans have clean bathrooms. AND I’m non denominational.
And at that point while I could feel blood dripping down my legs, toilet paper + soap + running water = redemption!
“I’ll be right back,” I told my colleague.
“Oh, I”ll come with you!” he said.
It was the longest 100 meter walk of my entire life.
Three — no, FOUR — cats followed me, mewling and hissing and nipping at my heels. A police officer looked concerned. After all, I was covered in blood in the Old City.
And throughout it all, my colleague had NO IDEA.
“You know, one of the things I like about your work is how you put it all out there,” he said.
(Oh dude, you have NO IDEA. None at all.)
So, there it is. I’ve put it out there.
Why am I telling you this? Because it happened. Because even though I am a grown woman with 2 kids who has basically bled every month for the last 20 years, I’m STILL squeamish about my period.
Because every woman I know has a story like this. Even my mother told me about the time in the supermarket that she bleed all over aisle 4. And THEN she told me the time that HER mother bled all over the passenger seat on a family trip to Lake Whatchacallit in Wisconsin.
Because whether we’re at home or in an office or in the field or wherever, women deal with this: It hurts sometimes. It’s messy. And we’ve grown up believing it needs to be hidden.
Because every man or woman who has ever made us feel ashamed of our bodies.
Because I’ve learned to carry tampons religiously — not just for me, but for any woman I see who is doing the shuffle-walk with a bag swung behind her back, with a feral look in her eye as she searches for a little redemption.