Dear Woman,

Do menstrual cramps really hurt? How badly? I realize this might sound like a ridiculous question but I’ve been wondering about it for awhile, so I thought I’d just ask and clear it up. My girlfriend has really bad cramps, to the point where she is usually in bed for the first day, or whatever. Though I’m always sympathetic and try to help her out, there’s a small part of me that wonders if she’s milking it a little so she can get waited on and get sympathy. If they were that painful, wouldn’t every women be calling out of work and stuff every month? Thanks for clearing it up.

Sincerely, Just Genuinely Curious

Dear Genuinely Curious,

Yes it really hurts. Jeez, man. What did you think? That our great, great, great, great, great, great grandmothers all got together and decided to create an elaborate ruse to fool men into pitying us? Do you imagine that when a young woman gets her first period, she’s taught about feminine sanitary products, becoming a woman, and the fact that, although the shedding of the endometrial lining does not hurt in the slightest, we all pretend it does and she must, too? Do you think we do the same thing about labor and childbirth pain? We’re simply not that organized.

I certainly hope you’re keeping these thoughts deep inside your head and not scoffing at your poor menstruating girlfriend from across the room like a skeptical psychiatrist, with your eyebrow raised in suspicion, writing notes about her behavior in a little pretentious Moleskine notebook.

Yes, it generally really hurts, but there are varying levels of pain. Some lucky women only find it mildly painful, like having an eggbeater inserted into your uterus and slowly rotated while diarrhea like cramps cascade down your lower back for anywhere from five minutes to the duration of your curse (as I like to call it). Then there are the poor souls with Dysmenorrhea, which is an extreme form of cramps usually accompanied by back pain, diarrhea, nausea and debilitating cramping in their abdomens and pelvises.

Are you feeling sorry for us yet? Whenever I have the flu or something really, really painful, I always wish that my husband or whomever is taking care of me could experience what I’m experiencing for just like 10 seconds so they can fully understand what I’m going through. I certainly don’t want to complain non-stop, but I think it’s only fair that everyone know just how incredibly brave and strong I’m being for not complaining. It’s kind of a catch-22. Unfortunately, the technology does not exist yet, so I guess we should all just believe our partners when they’re doubled over on the couch mumbling about wanting to die. Treat them like the brave souls that they probably are.

I have no idea what your girlfriend’s level of pain is, so why don’t you ask her? This will give her the opportunity to help you understand what she’s really dealing with, and it will help her feel seen and heard.

Of course, you didn’t give me many details as to why you have suspicions, so for all I know you could have literally walked in on your girlfriend putting drops of water in her eyes to appear like she was crying or whispering in the phone, “Gotta go, I have to pretend my total painless cramps are hurting me so I can get affection from me boyfriend.” If that, or something similar, is the case, your girlfriend is probably not exaggerating her pain because she’s a budding sociopath. She probably just needs more affection and attention from you on a regular basis and is using this tactic to get it. So, start showing her that attention in your day-to-day relationship and I’m guessing she’ll back off on the theatrics. Though, I must reiterate, she’s most likely just in pain.

Now go buy your poor, bleeding girlfriend some ice cream. And if you ever wanna fess up about anything, I’m happy to spread the word. I mean, getting kicked in the balls can’t be that painful, can it? Come on.

Sincerely, A Woman

Ask A Woman is an anonymous advice column wherein this Asheville writer gives candid, honest advice about everything from consent to dating to harassment and whatever else you people cook up. I’m providing a platform of anonymity, not so either of us can hide behind invisibility, but to eliminate egos and insecurities and cut out the bullshit in an effort to perpetuate education. If you would like to ask me a question for my column, drop me a line here-Eve S. Dropper

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