A great museum, period 


"The Shining" was on TV not too long ago. Flawed it may be, but no other movie can claim a psychic child who refers to his visionary powers as "the little boy that lives in my mouth." This pinch of psychosis alone makes it worth watching.

There's a scene in the movie where the little boy gets one of his coming-attraction visions of the horrors to be visited on his dysfunctional family (and with a couple of prizes like Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson as parents, he was doomed without help from any ghosts). He sees an open elevator, out of which pours, in slow motion, a tidal wave of blood. I thought (a) how did they get corn syrup to splash with such sickening perfection? (b) how did they clean up that mess? and (c) what any girl might think: "Ye Gods, I've had periods like that." Redrum indeed.

I tell you this in order to screen out the queasy who cannot handle discussing the menstrual cycle. This is more than anyone ever does for me. I must just have one of those faces that says, "Go ahead, tell me," because I cannot transact even minor business with women I do not know -- in stores, in offices, in passing -- without them treating me to discussions of their cycles. It sounds like a complaint, but I like it. Misery loves company, and just the way old people love to talk about their crumbling innards and workmates like to complain about their managers, I enjoy hearing about cramps. It either relieves me that I don't have them or makes me feel like part of the club -- the Bloaty, Weepy, Hurty Club, but I'll take my exclusivity where I can get it. Besides, for all its bad qualities, it's really great: cleansing, natural, universally female but ultimately personal. It may not seem so great and normal when you feel like you've swallowed four gallons of Sprite and a porcupine, but it's still cool.

Launch pads

Launch pads

You wouldn't think people would really like talking about this subject, especially if, when you're talking to them, you tell them to go to hell, grab their butt suggestively and start crying within the same minute. But evidently a lot of people not only want to talk about it, they want to dwell on it, discuss it and even get a close-up look at its accessories, artifacts and the creative expressions it inspires. And it does inspire expressions besides "Get me some ice cream. TODAY."

So many people appeared to be interested in periods that the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health, which Harry Finley used to run out of his basement, was so popular that he finally had to close it down because it was impinging on his free time. In a stroke of brilliance, though, he put it on the web, so now those of us intrigued by such things don't have to travel farther than our computers to have a look at vintage sanitary devices, Egyptian hieroglyphics discussing tampons and profiles of the felines who used to occupy the physical museum, such as Minnie Padd. You should be so devoted to your hobby. Or even your job, for that matter.

Blood on the tracks

The museum's board of directors is, according to the site, swarming with doctors, nurses and college professors, and the site is full of fascinating female culture that used to be relegated to a hushed and rushed conversation with mom and studiously avoided thereafter. My personal favorite part of the site is a list of what appear to be hundreds of euphemisms from around the world. From America: Cousin TOM (for Time Of Month), mooning, the mean reds, the playground's muddy and George Cloony's visiting; from Germany: rose blossoms; from the Netherlands: change the cork; and from Norway: Communists in the arbor. If you prefer visuals, you can look at ads for period-specific underwear from olden times and far-flung places, Susan Dey in an early '70s femme hygiene ad, and a tampon-related painting by Judy Chicago that's so explicit even I don't want to look at it. There's all kinds of information and essays here that even the most devout readers of "Our Bodies," Ourselves might not be aware of, and message-board postings from women and at least one I read from a man.

In all, though, not only is the idea of an online museum a cool one, but the stuff contained in this particular shrine will probably be more absorbing to most women than anything made by Stay-Free, because it's an absolute wallowing celebration of our girliness. We may not all have had careers, degrees, kids, mood swings, intuition or common sense, but we have all had cramps. It's unifying.

As for you guys out there, I don't know why I'm telling you this. I guess you just have that kind of face.


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