My period catches me off guard every month.
Maybe it’s because I’m one of the unlucky ones whose ovaries are super irregular and love holding surprise parties for my underwear, or maybe – maybe – it’s because, after 14 years of having them, I’ve never actually bothered to track my flow. Who knows.
But as a result, I have chapter upon chapter of period stories under my metaphorical belt (a belt that is, fingers crossed, not looped through a pair of white jeans).
Here’s every badly-timed period I’ve ever had – so that next time you’re creating a makeshift sanitary towel out of plasters and first aid tape (see 2016: Up a Volcano) you can know you are not alone, my fabulously fertile friends. You are not alone.
2002: Winnie the Period Pain
Everyone’s first badly timed period is their first period. There’s just no way of knowing. For me it was on a family holiday aged 12, wearing a pair of Eeyore pyjamas (read the whole story here). Infinity pools still trigger flashbacks but I’ve not held it against A A Milne.
2003: Plump It
School netball match. I’d pulled a pre-match Art Attack in the changing room toilets and fashioned a sanitary towel out of a combination of loo roll and that blue paper you use to dry your hands (TIP: the blue paper is more absorbent but toilet paper is softer, so wrap the blue stuff in the white stuff to get the best of both worlds).
A combination of big knickers and the jumping necessary in the role of Goal Keeper meant my patchwork sanner slipped out of my shorts mid-game. Luckily no one cares about the GK so the episode went unnoticed. I tucked the fugitive into my Reebok Classics before escaping back to the changing room to riffle through the rest of the team’s school bags for a solution.
Within 10 minutes I was back on court wearing my first ever non-applicator tampon, having treated myself to a generous layer of the Wing Attack’s plumping lip gloss. Needless to say I felt like a sassy super hero on a secret mission, and in a way I was, you guys.
2004: Hoodie heroes
White combat trousers. Thorpe Park. Here’s a fact; taking a ride on the aptly named Tidal Wave does not help wash away red crotch stains (a friend’s hoodie tied round the waist hid the evidence in the end).
2005: My Oracle
Day date with an older boy. I didn’t want to buy tampons in front of him – I was 15, incredibly nervous and on my first ever date – so I headed straight to the toilets at The Oracle shopping centre in Reading. The whole situation would have been totally manageable, had this period not coincided with the six months where I thought wearing leggings made knickers redundant.
The tampon machine was broken, so I solicited strangers and ended up meeting an amazing woman who gave me an entire pack of Regular flows, a spritz of her Chanel No.5 and the most empowering feminist speech I’d ever heard. I went to bed that night with a ruined pair of H&M leggings in my bin, having not had a regretful snog with the older boy. It was actually a really good day.
2006: The Treaty of Versailles
I was sitting my History GCSE exam. You’re not meant to stop your classmates mid-essay to ask for a quick show of hands on who’s got a spare tamp in their pencil case, so I felt lucky that my friend’s mum was invigilating and understood the panic in my eyes.
She escorted me to the canteen where a sensational group of dinner ladies offered a selection of sanitary options for me to choose from. They should go down in history for being so cool and sweet. I was predicted a C and got a B, but it felt like I defied more than just my history teacher that day.
2008: Red Light
I was 18 and got my period at the exact same time that I drove too fast on an icy bend and crashed my first car at a ring road junction in Basingstoke.
I remember staring at the hood, which now resembled a ball of crumpled up paper, and while the snow fell and Jamie T sang about his brand new bass guitar, I felt the familiar first clump of my disused womb wall slipping into my knickers. I wasn’t sure if the back ache was whiplash or period pain, but I did know that the kind man named Dave who helped me drive out of the way of oncoming traffic and into a nearby carpark would not be able to shed any light on it.
He bought me fish and chips and a can of Rio while I waited for the AA van and secretly stuffed wads of napkins into my parka pocket, before pleading with the chippie owner to let me use his family toilet. I cried on the loo with my knickers round my ankles before stealing two paracetamol from his medicine cabinet.
2012: Here comes the cramp
While being a bridesmaid, right in the middle of the ceremony. If anyone finds an abandoned pair of Spanx in the loo at a country house in Berkshire, they’re mine.
2012: Ovaries on tour 2k12
In a sweaty Passport Control queue full of lads-on-tour types at Malaga airport. Trapped, tampon-less and rejecting the advances of a boy with ‘BONERSAURUS REX’ printed on his baby pink polo shirt. 2012 was a bad year for my white knicker collection.
2014: Off the record
In the middle of a phone call in which I was interviewing a ‘TV personality’. Tried to disguise the sudden bathroom echo in my voice as I masterfully inserted a tampon whilst juggling my phone, a USB cable and a dictaphone. Deserved a pay rise, to be honest.
2016: Up a Volcano
I thought my badly-timed period days were behind me until this summer’s episode, which finds me at the top of a volcano in Guatemala in rainy season. Anything is possible when you come on your period unexpectedly and manage to get creative with a packet of plasters and first aid tape. I made a promise there and then with my confused Guatemalan guide, Silvio, as my witness that I will start carrying tampons on me at all times.
I will, I swear.