Real life period stories: Office SOS

December 8, 2022

By Maya Mwansa-Munkombwe

Your 7.30am alarm jars you awake. It’s only Tuesday but it already feels like the longest week of your life. You didn’t go to the gym last night in the hopes that an early night would cure your tiredness.

It did not.

Rolling out of bed, you resolve to have a good day. You reach into your wardrobe for the baby pink dress that you haven’t worn for a while because a brightly coloured dress will surely kickstart your newly discovered good mood.

A rare sunny day greets you as you begin your morning commute to work. The birds are chirping merrily, the bus arrives on time and there are plenty of seats to choose from – the universe is clearly conspiring to drag you out of your funk.

You walk through the beautiful foyer and ride the lift up to the 6th floor, walking through the dozens of desks in your swanky open plan office.

Today is going to be a good day.

At 10am, you make your second pilgrimage across the office floor. This time the office is full and bustling. You open the doors to the toilet and make your way into a stall. Suddenly something feels wrong, you look down and you realise, oh no, it’s here.

Has it been a month already?

You’re shocked at how much blood you can see and remember the colour of your dress. Oh no. You clean yourself up, dash out of the stall and turn around in front of the mirror.

Suddenly your good day transforms into the worst day ever.

You frantically dab your dress with soap and water, hoping the stain will disappear. You repeatedly back into the dryer and watch the red turn to brown and turn to a weird whitish stain.

Your brain flashes through all the people that might have seen the stain on your dress. The bus. The café. The foyer. The lift. The open plan floor.

As you rush across the office at breakneck speed, you imagine yourself to be Queen Cersei, heckled by the crowd shouting “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

You dive towards your bag, rummaging frantically. Nothing. Drawers. Nothing.

You fire up your computer and urgently draft an email to some trusted colleagues.

Subject: Private

Marked: Highly Important.

SOS! I’ve just started my period and I don’t have anything on me. Can someone come meet me in the toilets with supplies asap pleaaaase???

The panic starts to rise. Have you bled through your dress again? You should never have worn the pink dress.

You lock yourself away in a stall and wait for the calvary to arrive. The first responder rushes in and taps on the door, “Hello, are you in here?”. You crack the door open and step out, giving her a big hug. She’s armed with tampons and pads, the equivalent of frankincense and myrrh in this moment. The second person comes in with a jumper to tie around your waist just in case you needed it. The third person arrives empty handed but full of some moral support and reassuring words.

Fast forward 3 years and Scotland has become the first country to make period products free for all to tackle period poverty and promote period dignity. The Period Products Act places a legal duty on local authorities to provide free period products to anyone that needs them. More and more companies are following suit and now providing period products to support their employees and break the stigma around periods.

I’m grateful for my friends that came to my rescue, but the responsibility to provide products and alleviate my embarrassment should not have fallen on them. The period dignity movement embraces the fact that periods are natural and normal. Access to period products should be readily available and periods should never be considered an embarrassing experience. My hope is that soon enough the “time of the month” will not be thought of as taboo, but instead a positive and supported experience.

Find out more information here about the the Grace & Green workplace initiative for businesses.

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