[sil.]FILMAKERS LIBRARY, INC. NEW YORK, N.Y. fL PRESENTSSusan Stone I was intenth grade and I had a boyfriendat the time who was about three years older and we’ve been out to lunchor something and we came back home and nobody was at the house andI had a Saint Bernard at the time who we had left in the house.And she was you know ran by the (inaudible) will be and we came to the house and there was cottoneverywhere, in the whole house, just little… little tuffs of cotton and I was just, I thought well you know,what has she been into? And I thought may be my mum’s cotton balls or something, but it just didn’t look right.I just wasn’t sure at all. And Archie and I got down in our hands and knees and startedpicking up all these little pieces of cotton, they’re behind the couch, under chairs and stuff.And I was behind one of the chairs on my hands and knees and I picked upthis piece of cotton and it had blood on it. And it like I realizedthat this was my Kotex.This was my used Kotex that the dog had fished out ofthe trashcan and proceeded to distribute through the entire house.And I knew that he was like on his hands and knees on the other side of the chair picking it up at the same time and Iwas just… I was just so freaked out. You know, I… I… I told him thatyou know, I thought we should stop cleaning up, that we’ve done enough.Growing up and liking it
Peggy Sung Junior High seventh grade,and I was playing tennis. I was on tennis team and I was on the… on the court and I waswearing this you know, I was trying to be cute because I was getting this, trying to get the attention of this guy.So I was wearing white you know skirt and white T-shirt and my hair was pigtails, it was like bobbing up and down.All of a sudden, my brother is also, he was also on the tennis team too,and he looks at me from the other side and he is like; “Oh my God, you’re bleeding!”So I mean, what the hell are you talking about? I’m not bleeding you know. And I didn’t realize anything was happening,because I it feel like coming out. So, all of a sudden I turned on, I looked on my, looked at the back of my skirt,it’s like covered with bright red blood. So, I thinkyou know, I… I don’t understand what’s going on. No one told me about when I was supposed to get my period,you know. I mean, my parents don’t talk about this. My mother especially doesn’t talk about this at all.So, I’m like running into the bathroom, crying my eyes out, and I’m like,look at my underwear, I’m like, oh my God, it’s covered with blood. So, I called the school nurse,”Oh my god I’m bleeding, I’m dying here”. She said “Oh no, no, you just got your first period.You just got your first period”. “So then send me home.” I go into my house crying, bawling my eyes.I’m like, “Mummy, mummy, mummy! I’ve blood all over my place.” All over my, you know, skirt, all over my underwear, and I’m likedripping with blood now. And she just hugs me and she said, “You become a woman.”So, she calls my father, calls… calls him. He’s in a meeting,in a business meeting. Dad calls me back, “Congratulations, you’ve became woman.”He calls the entire, calls my entire family up. “Peggy has become a woman.”So, my bro… my father comes in from work and he has this huge chocolate cake.And he says congratulations for no reason. I’m like, “Why are you congratulating? I’m in pain. I’m cranky.”First of all I’m bloated, you know. And I’m like, this is no time to celebrate.So, that was my first encounter with womanhood.Jill Loris I had found sanitary napkins in my sister’s drawer. I was like sniping through and playing with her clothes. And I didn’t knowwhat it was. And I went to my mom and I just said, you know I found this in someone’s drawer you know what is it? And I neverexpected this, she told me everything. She explained about making love, and where babies come from and periods.And I just was mortified and I said I’m not gonna let this happen to me. I said I’m not gonna get older. I’m not gonna do this.You know, my sister is four years older than I am, but she got a period much younger. So, I mean I was really littleand I just said, no this is not gonna happen. And mom would said, yeah, yeah, well it’s nice, it’s beautiful. And I said,no, no, never, never.
Val Clark This whole subject has always terrified me.And my parents and I and my brother traveled a lot. And we were driving in a car,long time, all day and we stopped for the night in a hotel.And my brother, you know I were young and we… we’re very happy to have been stoppedand we went racing around the hotel room, and we were just jumping on the beds. And then my brother went into the bathroom.And he called my mom and dad. And he was, “Hey, what’s this?”And my mom’s face clouded over and my father was about toexplain something to him. And mother said, “Jack, don’t… don’t tell him anything.”And somehow I knew that it had something to do with me.And I was sacred to find out why or what… what it was, but I knew it didn’tboard well.
Georgette Nelms I think I slept in the bed with three other people, because I’m fromvery large family. And I recall feeling very wet.And in the middle of the night when I investigated I saw this brown stuffthat wasn’t really, really wasn’t brown. And something in the back of my mind said, oh that must be itand you must, you know, you must be getting your period. So, I did…I didn’t… I didn’t move. I mean, I just stayed there until the next morning. And then… But…But as I… as I lay in bed, I began to concoct this tale, you knowhow I would I get out of this? How I’m gonna explain this you know? What would I say, because that’s bad?So I decided, since I had a history of havingtoothaches and problems with my teeth that sometimes blood and etc. I decidedI’d just tell my mother that I had a toothache and that’s what happened.
Peggy Sung Who the hell thinksabout thinking getting their period when they’re 12 years old, you know? You’re worried about getting the attention ofthose cute little idiot boys in your class. No one things about, okayhere is your tampon or blah, blah, blah, you know once you get your firstperiod, then your life goes down the hill from there.
Jill Loris I went home and I told my sisterand I was kind of shy. I mean, I was happy to tell her, because I knew it was a big deal, but I was really shy about it. And I told thissort of in confidence and she slapped me. I was really shocked. I thought that she’d say,oh that’s great or don’t feel so bad. I mean, I don’t why I thought that that she was going to give me sympathy, but she slapped meright across my face and then she grabbed me, and she hugged me, and she started crying. And I was just in shock, but apparently that’spart of the Jewish culture, to go a good whack across the face. So, that’s what happened.SUSAN TERRILL And what does it mean about this slapping?
Jill Loris It means… The slap means, welcome to the pain of being a woman.Sunita Mukhi When my mother got her period, she had got it I thinkat about 2 o’clock in the morning in the cold months.And she was asked to get up and take a shower. And you know there’s not hot and…hot and cold running water in… in India, just cold water. So, she had totake a bath, take a shower actually, because she was considered impure.And I think as I remember her telling me, she, the next morning everybody,everybody was depressedthat she had gotten her period and everybody had a long face and was feeling quite sad thatnow their daughter or their granddaughter, as the case may be,was a woman and therefore a burden. And I think it’s related to the fact now she’s,she can get pregnant if she fools around or whatever. And so she was shocked that thatcould happen and in turn she got depressed. But my experience was not like that at all.I felt quite proud to be a little lady.
Judy Helfand My mother looked at meand what did she see, you know she saw her baby who is gonna become a woman.I’m sure my mother felt frightened aboutthe potential of me being sexually active and what that would mean and… But I think my mother feltvery excited, because my mother wants grandchildren.
Georgette Nelms What exactly did she say to me?Well, now you better be a very careful when you’re talking to boys and don’t let themtouch you, because if you do you’ll have baby. And I remember thinking, even if they touch meI have baby you know?
Susan Stone In elementary school, in fifth grade and in sixth gradethey took, without any warning they said for all the girls to come to the auditorium,which of course made all the boys immediately suspicious. And so we all got to the auditoriumand there was some sweet little kind of namby-pamby flowery thing,they talked to you about this and that. It was really a beautiful thing and aboutthe child bearing aspect of it. And they gave you alittle booklet that just condensed everything and hadillustrations of the uterus and all that. And… And it was something on the front, the title is something like,What Every Girl Should Know. And I think it was put up byKotex or Modess, that was one brand of things back then. And so you go back to classand you’ve got this little pamphlet in your hand, which is very… I mean, all the girls are coming back with it and all the guysare like, what is that? That was you know totally embarrassing.
Val Clark It was a general overallembarrassment and to me a certain humiliation, because I often thought I want to be,you know my brother and I were very close, and I wanted to be you know like him in many ways.And in where we lived, it’s like girls were treated certain way and boys another.And I wanted to be like on an equal level. And I felt that when I had this,that it somehow, I don’t know it somehow humiliated me and made me feel more vulnerable.And you know, I don’t know. And…And also, I guess I should tell you, that I had embarrassment to humiliationand frustration was my parents moved to a city named Tampa,which reminded me constantly of tampon.Jill Loris Well, this is what a tampon looks like. It’s very, very scary the first time.Well, this is what a good tampon looks like. But you’ve to like push this like this,and then this comes, oops it seems I broke it. Well, this isn’t a great demonstration.Then this piece comes off. Well, I think this comes off too? I don’t know, you see I’m still not good at this.This is where my friends have to help me.
Ellen Dreesen And I remember the first time when Tampax was invented,which was a great wonderful thing, but I didn’t know how to use it.And I didn’t know what one did with this cotton that wasaround it, which one had to push. And so next to me, I was only very young,I was 19 or so. And I rememberour neighbor, it was a young girl of my age and so I asked her.I said; “I don’t know how to use these things.” (Inaudible),“Come on I’ll show you”, and she did. She just said, “You put one foot on the rim of thetoilet seat and then you take this, and then you push the other and you throw the…the cotton you have throw away.” I said; “Oh I see!” So that was that.That was a godsend.
Cynthia Madenski I mean, it’s a constant problem, tampon…Alisa Lebow (crosstalk)(inaudible) tampons of, because I think they’re really hard ones and…
Cynthia Madenski Why?Alisa Lebow Well, I also think that this like this whole toxic shock syndrome.And it’s just not, you know natural to put something up here. And I don’t you know it’s just this whole…Cynthia Madenski You mean to plug it up?
Alisa Lebow Yeah, just (crosstalk)(inaudible). Yeah, just stuff it up, to put thishard coarse piece of manufactured cotton up you. You know, you knoweither is it just doesn’t make sense. It’s mustflow the blood and here you’re stopping it up, which is of course I think like this harm on,perception of it, we should just science, the woman just stop her up when shehas a period.
Cynthia Madenski You know, but there’s a lot of different things about that.
Alisa Lebow I just don’t…Yeah, I mean it’s… it’s definitely a lot more comfortable for women to use versus the sanitary napkins.Cynthia Madenski Right! So, is it a whole male thing?
Alisa Lebow So, it’s like trying to find another alternative,which I think women did in the 70s, when you know in the early 70s, with the (crosstalk)(inaudible),using the natural, which aren’t current either.
SUSAN TERRILL What ones are you using?Alisa Lebow Well…
Cynthia Madenski Tampons.
Susan Stone Oh, bees like as through the…the ones that are like the… they do the least to mess up the environment, which I appreciate,you know that not being extra plastic applicators and stuff. They just you know come in thejust the cellophane wrapper and it’s just, it is the tampon, but then you’ve gotto use your finger. And then when you use your finger,then that means you’ve got blood in your finger, and then you know you have to deal with that and with the blood that’s under your fingernails.So, that’s kind of a hassle too.
Alisa Lebow It was the first time that a tampon made a womanuse her fingers. Tampons are always you know you have that little upper kit, so you don’t have to touch yourself where it’s dirty,which is you know connected to the whole myth about you know a woman’s menstruation and it’s adirty time of the month. So, in the sense they were really great.But they are really abrasive. I mean, they’re all are to me.Ellen Dressen I guess I have to tell my that my husband was a diplomat. And the firstterrible hemorrhage I had was in the Mexican ambassador’s car.And we had been to the horse races. And on the way back,I got a terrible hemorrhage and messed up the whole limousine. And my husbandinstead of saying, “Oh my dear I’m so sorry”, said,“Couldn’t you have picked the better place? I’ve all stains.”I said, “Well, I’m very sorry”. And then, of course the Mexican ambassador was a darlingand so was his wife. And they understood perfectly. We were all young then.They said, “Well it just happens. I mean, she didn’t do it on purpose.”
Susan Stone I wasbleeding profusely that day and I knew it, but I thought I was on the top of it. I thought I had enough things onand then I was at my desk and I realized that I was about to like be in trouble, so I rushed to the bathroom.And when I sat down and I pulled outthe tampon, when they get real soaked, sometimes when you pull them out, you know you haveto kind of, they’re… This awkward, but you know you’ve to kind of pull at it and when youpull at it, it kind of… sometimes it kind of flies out. And… And it… it flew out and it…it threw blood all over the bathroom walls, all over the floor.My… My pantyhose were soaked with blood. And…And there was blood like outside the cubical where I was, in the common part of the bathroom.And I was just… I couldn’t believe it. And in my… in my freak out,I like immediately leaned over it, like start trying wipe off some of the blood on the floor with sometoilet paper. And I leaned with my dress into my bloody pantyhose,at which part I had blood all over the front of my dress, around my breast,which was really strange. And there was… No one was in the bathroomand it was like, I was trying to get the pantyhose off and to deal with the blood on my dress, and to deal with theblood on the floor and the blood on the door. And I was just, you know totally freaked. I did as best as I could.I threw the pantyhose away. And I went back to my dress… my desk,you know kind of with my dress folded over. And I grabbed my coat,my heavy winter coat. And I put it on and I told the other women that I worked with that I had to leave right away.And I just left.
Jill Loris Look what my mother buys and look what I buy. Let’s just look at that first. I mean, the…Could you just see? Actually, I didn’t even buy this is my grandmother’s. She passed away.I mean, I wouldn’t say fortunately, but unfortunately. But the only thing that was fortunate about is that she had left five bags of theseand I got them (inaudible), but so good for my periods. So, I have this,five bags of this, which means (inaudible). And this the (inaudible) that my mother brought me with the little wings.And if you could see in the back there is a long structure, but you put it on and you put this on your pantiesand that’s it, okay.
SUSAN TERRILL So you never ruin your… your underpants that you are wearing now?Jill Loris No, I mean nothing gets through the sucker. This is very good. This is really good to sleep into), it’s like when I’m alone.Peggy Sung My mother told me, when she got her first period, when she was very young,she couldn’t tell her mother for the longest time, for seven years she didn’t even tell her mother she got a period. And she wasafraid of getting a period, so she didn’t know what was going on. Because in those days it was,you know nothing was explained, nothing. So, she thought she committed a sinor something. So, she goes in the bathroom, scrubs herself and all those horrible things she did.
Sunita Mukhi She was not allowedto come before the religious idols orto do any kind of prayer in front of the, not do a pooja, a pooja service is likea worship service. She was not allowed to do that, because she was considered polluted.The same thing she tried to do with me. I say she tried, because she wasn’t successful.Especially, because I was a little bit defiant and you know rational,a rationalist. And she would have preferred for me not to come in frontof the icons or to do any religious ceremony. Not that I am very religious, but I didgo and told her that I did go and have, I am on my period.And she was a little peeved but then she realized that I wasn’t really wrongin doing that, because I had told her that, ah… God gave this to me.He made me have. He had make me have my period, why is he not allowing me to go in front of him?Jill Loris Recently my boyfriend explained something to me about the Jewish culture that not onlyJews get slapped across the face but when you get your period it’s considered unclean and you have to wait from the first daythat you bleed to the last day. You have to sleep in separate beds from your husband.And then from the day after you stop bleeding, you count seven days, so it’s a total of about12 days. And then you have to go into a (inaudible), which you’re immersed in water and the rabbiblesses you and now you’re considered clean again and you can go back home and you can be with your husband. So for about 12 days a monthyou sleep apart and that’s what it is. I think also you can’t go to show like most of the Jewish women) and orthodox women don’t go to show during those, that time.
SUSAN TERRILL And your boyfriend ismore religious?
Jill Loris Yeah, he’s more religious. We talked about this, you know in terms of us,because he thought that you know he want to know how I felt about it. And he thought that this might be something that we would consider to do one day.I think more… I don’t think he believes in it, but I think more in terms of you know making ourrelationship better. Because we found that many old Jewish couples are very, very happy still and we werejust thinking about may be the separation has something to do with that, stay in for so long.Sunita Mukhi I don’t know whether it’s Indian, but I guess it is Indian.This… This idea that when a man does sleep with a menstruating woman,because of the… the power of the blood he can go crazy.And crazy, mad over her or crazy, mad in lust.But it makes him crazy.
Jevyn Nelms It’s if a man somehowgets the blood in his mouth, somehow… either you know like I guess some people havedone on purpose or whatever, but he will always be attached to you. You know like, I never wanna leave you.And unfortunately, that happened with me like this, you know thismy daughter’s father by mistake, it was like at the end or something, he was,you know doing and doing all of it, and he got in his mouth like a little and he…And I was like… At the time I was like, oh great I do love him, but now I swear to God, I can’t get himaway from me. And I really believe but it’s true, I really can’t, he has followed me like from you know from another city,you know, it’s like horrible. I just wanna undo it. I have to find the thing how to undo it.Susan Stone Sex during periods, I… I…I have and I probably will again. It’s not reallymy favorite thing, because it requires a… a lot oftowels and rags and… and, well I guess you wouldn’t have to do it that way, but the mess issomething to be considered, however you can do it in the shower and that seems to kind of take care ofthat problem.
Georgette Nelms Never, that’s the taboo. Never,never ever, you must never do that. And I am trying to remember now who told me that,I don’t believe it was my mother, but I think it might have been a sister or a girlfriend or somebody thatyou never do that. Why? And I’m trying to remember why?It was just taboo.
Susan Stone I can’t remember everusing my period as an excuse not to have sex. I wouldn’tdoubt that I’ve done it, sometime in my life. But I’m not…I usually don’t. I’m not… I don’t play games about why I do or don’t wanna have sex.I usually say, you know that I do write down and why. So, I don’t really rememberusing it as a crutch or an out. Although it’s a good one, if you need something.Georgette Nelms Always! Yeah, yeah, when I was married,yeah! In fact, yeah, you can cock that excuse up all the time.And men never count. You can have two periods in one month and they don’t know.Sunita Mukhi My mood does change because my, because of theonset of my period. And it is because I’m physically uncomfortable and I doget depressive. And it’s not an excuse, it’s for real.I mean, my body is going through a physiological change.
Cynthia Madenski I think things likePMS had been so stigmatized and hysterized, obviouslythat’s what… that’s what the way it’s connected to. That I thinkwomen in relation to men have to figure out how to overcome that stigma.Well I’ve seen and I’ve heard and I’ve talked to people about it. For example, they don’t wanna admit that they’re…they’re premenstrual that day, because you know they wanna be able toappear rational and appear you know not weak,because it’s also been associated with being weak and women have to go through any of that with a women lover.She knows what it’s like to be premenstrual, last for a day and sometimes on a bad monthit might last for two. And you know your… your hormones are up and your you knowweaken out and your skin is kind of crawling and you know but it’s not a big thing. It doesn’t mean that you can’t think.
Jevyn Nelms My mother,I considered her to be like a weakling, you know around that time, because she was getting like really, you knowjust soft and she want my father to like rub her legsand massage her. And she’ll be all weepy you know walking around the house. And everyone knew, like me and my sisteryou know, it’s totally obvious. So I said, well when I get mine I’m gonna be strong, you know.Jill Loris People have told me that I might be in a bad mood. They ask me do have a period, ‘coz you’re really cranky? But it’s usually when I don’thave my periods, so I don’t know what the story is.Jevyn Nelms I’m really afraid of menopauses like, because I felt it’s like a sign of getting oldand I’m afraid I’m gonna miss, you know like having the ability to bare children and just like…I think I’ll feel really old, like an old hag, you know. And then I’m afraid of the (inaudible).My mother was a mad woman. You know, she was really, you know she used to do things likeget into shower all of a sudden, you know and like leap on the bed with like no clothes,just like the air was like cooling her body off, you know it’s like horrible.Ellen Dreesen We were living in Turkey at the time and I went to the American Hospital and I saidto the doctor that I thought that I probably had fibroids, because my motherhad had fibroids and I could see lumps in the lower regions.And he said; “Well let me see.” And; “You’re absolutely rightand you have to be operated on immediately.” And so they sent me to Germany and I went thereand had a hysterectomy. I mean, not a complete hysterectomy justthe uterus was removed. And the doctor said; “I’m so sorry,you are only 39 years old and I would like to save it for you,if I can.” And I said; “Oh please doctor don’t! It’s has given menothing but trouble. I already have two children. I don’t want anymore. And please keep it,because I don’t want anymore cramps and hemorrhages.”And so he laughed and he said; “Well I’ll do what I have to do.” And that was that, but he couldn’t safe it.And I’ve never had any problems since.
SUSAN TERRILL So you didn’t miss having your period at all?
Ellen Dreesen Not at all,I was delighted.
Peggy Sung I won’t regret. You know, when I hit that stage,when I get menopause, I’ll be like that’s it, that’s it. No, 30 years of period coming every monthand I’ll be done, over, forget it. I’ll be ecstatic.Judy Helfand Every couple of months since last year when I had my hysterectomy,and that was because I had cervical cancer.It dawns on me, cheers now I don’t have my period anymore. It just doesn’t happen.And it’s something that you think about everyday and it’s not evensomething that you think about once a month. But because what happens is your body chestkeeps on going. I mean, instead of having this inner pull and these…these feelings, physical feelings inside, letting you know, oh, you know it’s the end of the monthor it’s the beginning of the month or there’s a change happening. And you knowall the things that happen inside your body that let you know that you’re part of a cycle and you’re part of timeand part of other women cycles and that… You know, it’s not just one big continuumthat there’s… that there is a cycle going on in your body.I don’t have that anymore.
Sunita Mukhi Because you know I have suchpremenstrual tension, when I do get my period I feel vibrant like, oh thisgush of blood in between my legs and all. And it’s… it’s quite sensuous,even if it is messy. And it is you know this redness.And it is this redness again and it’s full and it’s… it’s womanly.
Judy Helfand It made me feelvery much like a woman. And it… And it made me feel like I wasn’tjust living in New York City, that I was you know, that I was part of the earth on some level,I’m part of all these cycles. So, I miss… I missthe cyclical nature of it. I miss a sought of being summoned to take care of myselfand remember that my body is on a clock.So, I hate that. I hate that. I am really… Like I said,every couple of months it will dawn on me and I realize that I instead ofyou know I used to have a force that will come from the outside, from the inside outand remind me that I was part of a cycle, I’m part of time. And even partof history. And now I don’t have that anymore. And so I feel like I have tosort of to take it from the outside in. And maybe once in a month I mean I have to go to the ocean and sitby the water, have a go in and out. I mean, I actually missyou know the drawing sensation that you know that you have, because it’s very personal.And I miss my body talking to me like that.Yeah.
Val Clark It scares me very much because itlets you know that nature has its own forces and it’s in control and that your bodyis just a part of nature, you can’t say when this is gonna start and it has it’s own timewhen it stops. And to me that’s very frightening. And it’salmost like a precursor of death. I’m terrified of death and (inaudible) control of everything.And I’m really not in control of much at all. And you knowa time comes for everything and this was just like that initiationinto that or a realization of that that I try to ignore and deny and forget,but it’s there nevertheless, and there’s a reminder monthly and it’s a sore one,and a painful one. I’m always having one.Ellen Dreesen If I had had my choice whichI would have rather been a man, but then I had to go to warand you have to get up every morning and work and that I didn’t like either.So, it was choice of either being married and having babiesand not too many, and I to work the rest of your life or shave.I thought that was horrible.
THANKS TO (IN ORDER OF APPERANCE) SUSAN STONE PEGGY SUNG JILL LORIS VAL CLARK GEORGETTE NELMS SUNITA MUKHI JUDY HELFAND ELLEN DREESEN ALISA LEBOW CYNTHIA MADENSKI JEVYN NELMS DIRECTOR / PRODUCER SUSAN TERRILL EDITORS SHELDON SERKIN SUSAN TERRILL CAMERA ANNA CELADA SHELDON SERKIN SUSAN STONE SOUND YUMIKO MURAKAMI MICHELE PATTON SPECIAL THANKS TO GEORGE STONEY LORA HAYES RICK RETA PRODUCED AT N.Y.U. C 1991 S. TERRILLJevyn Nelms A friend of mine told me that it’s been like a traditionI think not only here with the native Americans but may be throughout the world wherewomen would put like the blood back into the earth and so you have women who…who either like go and squat over in their gardenor like me, I try to capture it in like a plastic cup and pour itback into the earth. And supposedly good things are supposed to happen to the woman who does that. Like, you know because you’re in sinkyou know with the earth. But actually it’s like a little secret,because I live in city I’m not always around, so I put it like in my plants.So I don’t really… I hope it has the same of back to the earth, but that’ll be really funky of someone, you knowbut I’m not about it.[sil.]