Welcome to Time of the Month, a Mic essay series that looks at how people who get periods consciously — or subconsciously — mark the passage of time, not by days but by when they start menstruating. Read the first entry in our series, about menstrual math, here; our second, about the first post-breakup period, here; and our fourth, about how many periods you can have with a guy before it’s time for The Talk, here
Aunt Flo — that bloody red lady of the night who visits for one to seven days every month — generally appears right as we are about to have fun, as though timed to spoil it.
Like everyone, I thought I had my body perfectly understood, in order to avoid her nagging presence when it mattered. But, during a recent vacation to the desert, I found out that I was just so wrong. You can’t plan on Flo or set a clock by her: You’re simply subject to her whims.
I probably just did not anticipate the impact of all of the stress I was under: I’d just moved across the country, started a new job, and finished my first book, The Selfie Generation. But Aunt Flo (like that well-meaning, yet nagging, Jewish auntie who always shows up at the holiday party — even though she said she was going to be “out of the country” on some vacation — with a terrible present for you, something you’d never want or need and actually can’t stand but you have to take because come on, you don’t want to look like a dick!).
She made her imminent presence known right before I boarded the plane for LAX; I discovered her bloody arrival when I landed.
One emergency trip to the pharmacy later, my were-we-or-weren’t-we, something-more-than-a-friend Alessandra and I set out for Palm Springs, California, that glistening oasis town littered with Art Deco-style buildings, random celebs, and fellow homosexuals who seek the desert’s heat by day and coolness by night. I hoped, maybe even prayed a little, that our third, silent visitor would take leave of us soon, maybe wandering off to some desert ghost town never to return.
En route, we realized that we still hadn’t booked a hotel, so I cruised through the Palm Springs Airbnb selection and found a 420-friendly and super-queer-oriented place owned by an “artsy” gay dude named Jeremy who had a friendly French bulldog. Sure, I got a weird vibe about the Airbnb place based on the description — there were quite a few misspellings, and it was hard to tell how much space we were guaranteed in a “private” room — but I figured that was one of the side effects of it being 420-friendly. I clicked through to “purchase” on the Airbnb app while Alessandra sped east through the desert in a black Bimmer.
Before heading over to Jeremy’s place, we stopped at the Ace Hotel to lounge poolside and smoke a few cigarettes. I scurried off to the bathroom, noticed some red drips and pulled out a deep-red, blood-soaked tampon.
I sat there, imagining Aunt Flo, questioning me at every turn, never letting up on her nagging.
“Alicia, what are you doing here? Do you really think you’re gonna get some action while I am here?! Give up!”
“Flo, listen. First of all, you’re a figment of my imagination! Second of all, there are plenty of other things to do, with or without you dripping out of me.”
“Oh yeah, like what you weirdo queerdo?” she sneered.
“Flo, there’s this thing. ... and it’s so much fun!”
“Whatever girl. Good luck in this literal desert! Hahaha.”
I shook my head and headed back to the pool,
After a few hours, we headed over to Jeremy’s place, and I realized my initial vibe about it was true: Not only was the dog more slobbery than the original ad implied, but the pool was littered with bugs and leaves, and the room we were renting smelled like dust and barely fit a full-sized bed. And while it did have a door that separated it from the rest of the hallway, it felt about as private as my teenage bedroom in my parents’ house.
Alessandra looked at me with dismay and, in the back of my mind, Aunt Flo laughed at me, wagging her finger and tsk-tsking me for taking this trip knowing she was in town. It was like she had jinxed me: Everything that could go wrong on my romantic getaway was clearly going to go wrong.
I ran to the bathroom to change my tampon again; it had barely accumulated any blood! Maybe she was gone. But then I realized that I had only changed it about an hour ago.
I emerged from the bathroom to find Alessandra and Jeremy smoking up on the plush purple couch. (At least one of the parts of the ad was true.) They passed the bowl to me, but I declined. Someone amongst us had to remain sober if we were going to escape.
After they finished the smoking ritual, we went back to our room to discuss what to do next. Certainly, no sex could happen at this location. Plus, I was not in the mood to make friends with a new dog. And Aunt Flo’s mockery rang in my ears: The only reason for her to come early was to ruin this all for me.
We grabbed our suitcases and opened the bedroom door. I made Alessandra go first: She would know what to say, and her delivery was always so hot.
In the living room, we encountered Jeremy lounging on the couch, blissed out with a fat joint in his hand. The slobbering dog was outside in the backyard, probably slobbering into the dirty pool.
“Jeremy,” announced Alessandra. “We are leaving you!”
He bolted up, shocked at the decision.
“What!! Why?!” he asked.
I stared at him with a blank face, then looked to Alessandra. Her announcement came off more like a three-way relationship breakup than some guests leaving a shitty Airbnb and hoping to get their money back. In the scene she created, the two women had paired up, and they were leaving the third behind — some dude who was not keeping up — because this arrangement just wasn’t working anymore.
We all went with it, until I apparently I blew it by implying that the place wasn’t what we expected it to be. I’d knew I’d never get my $200 back. I thought of all the great organic tampons I could buy with that money; Flo would’ve been so happy with all of those tampons. But it was useless to think about that — we had to get out.
It was 11 p.m. when I pulled away from the curb and sped toward Joshua Tree. Jeremy warned us of the strong desert winds gusting through the air that he claimed would make it hard to drive, and the road was pitch black as I nervously drove the Bimmer deeper into the desert, thinking about how my body had betrayed what my mind knew it wanted.
In Descartes’ mind-body dualism, he argued that the mind (a thinking, nonextended thing) is different entirely from the body (an extended, nonthinking thing) and that it’s possible for one to exist without the other. Yet the mind and the body are indeed united to form an entire human being.
Descartes also didn’t take into account a lady’s menstrual cycle, which willingly takes over both mind and body at usually the worst possible time, making the potential dualism impossible to ignore, let alone disconnect from. Like the desert locations where we stayed, the waters between Alessandra and I ran dry. The only moisture came from bloody Aunt Flo, screaming into my ear and roaring out of my body, asking what I was doing.