Something’s Giving Me Cramps And I Can’t Tell If It’s My Period

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Dear Gyno,

First of all – this online portal thing is neat! Second of all – I hope it’s okay if I just call you Gyno and not by your real name. I’ve spent a few minutes trying to remember it, but honestly I’m usually too busy visualizing beaches and pretending I’m somewhere else whenever I’m in your office, so it’s been kind of hard.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing is because I’ve been having some major cramps recently. They’re strong and come on suddenly and without warning. I’m sure they’re somehow related to my period, but sometimes I have this crazy notion that they’re actually a visceral reaction to the institutionalized sexism and prevalent microaggressions against women that permeate our modern society. I know that sounds silly – it’s probably the period thing. But you’re the expert, so let’s start at the beginning.

The first time it happened, I was on the treadmill at the gym – watching the news. A breaking story came on – another woman accusing our president of sexual assault. Immediately, I felt a tight clenching across my mid-section. At first I assumed it was because of the upsetting story. It’s a fact that emotions can modulate physical sensations, so this theory made sense. But, then I was struck by the fallacy of my argument – I had completely forgotten one major data point – I’m a woman and my period was only 4 days away! (Well, actually, it could be more like 2-10 days away – I’m not sure because I’m inherently bad at math). But the point is, not only were these cramps most likely a result of incipient uterine contractions, but really anything I was currently thinking or feeling could be chalked up to PMS and hysterics! How flighty and emotional of me! I immediately disembarked from the treadmill and went home to hide under my bed covers with a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s Boom Chocolatta Cookie Core ice cream.

The second time, I was at work. The first signs of ventral ache came on as my colleague, Jeff, was mansplaining to me a paper I had written. When I tried to correct him on a misinterpretation of my thesis, he interrupted and spoke over me – loudly. Later I heard Jeff telling another colleague that I’m bossy and frigid, and that It’s probably because I don’t go on many dates. Or maybe the reason I don’t go on many dates is because I’m bossy and frigid (It seemed to be a chicken-or-the-egg type thing for him). Anyways, that’s when the ache got worse. Could it be the patronizing speech and tone policing brought on by implicit bias that caused such discomfort? Or… was it because ‘twas but a fortnight before the summer solstice’s first full moon –  and the only thing more mercurial than the tides are my progesterone levels? Well, duh! I chuckled at my ditsy anxieties and left work to go get my chakras aligned before the next lunar cycle.

The third time, I was at home. I’d just come back from a long day at the office when my boyfriend greeted me from the couch with a frequent salutation of his – “Hey honey. Could you do my laundry? Also, I’m hungry.” At first I was annoyed – I mean, he’s unemployed and brings home zero income, yet because I’m a woman, I’m the one expected to do the chores? My intestines balled up in what I assumed was a convulsion of injustice and rage. But, not so fast! I remembered my period would be coming sometime within the next month and that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Not because I’m a good cook – in fact, I don’t know how to use an oven (I only make sandwiches.) But, because the kitchen is the only non-carpeted room in the house and it’s best to keep me there in case I leak. I decided to make him a BLT.

The fourth time, I was walking down the street when I encountered an assembly of wrinkled men holding up anti-abortion signs. The pain was like a sucker punch to the solar plex, acute and awakening, imploring me to shout out – you don’t own my body! But that’s when I realized the discomfort was probably just because of my upcoming menses and that, more importantly, my body actually belonged to an isolated yurt in the middle of the woods. I immediately axed my current destination and instead set out to find my yurt so that I could sit atop a pile of semi-decaying (but nonetheless absorbent) leaves while a village elder warded away my red demons with sticks of cinnamon incense.

The fifth time, I was enjoying a peaceful stroll through a local park. That’s when a man walking in the opposite direction leered at me and solicited a smile with a simple, but smutty, “Smile, baby!” When I didn’t smile, and instead avoided eye contact, he screamed “Bitch!” and threw an empty coffee cup at me. Again, the abdominal pain was vivid and blindsiding – most likely a response to the unexpected violence. But wait! Maybe not! I suddenly remembered that the pheromones associated with my monthly cycle can send out confusing and coercive signals to men, and that their actions really aren’t their fault. How airheaded of me! Furthermore, I remembered that I was in a wooded area and that sooner or later the bears would smell my womanly fluids. I began to run. Unfortunately as I was running away from the bears, I realized I was inevitably running towards the sharks – they’d be able to smell me too. Exhausted of running destinations, I curled up in a ball and prayed for what I could only hope would be a swift, if not gentle, death by sharp-toothed carnivore.

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