DARE TO ASK: That 'lady business' will fluster a guy
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why don't guys like to hear about our menstrual cycles?
Deborah K., 16, Richmond, Va.
I guess it is the same reason we don't want to hear about any of your other
bodily functions. Men tend to idealize women, and we don't want to think of the
less pleasant aspects of your physiology.
Cal, 43, Lakewood, Calif.
I have never experienced this shyness. I have never had a problem purchasing
feminine products for girlfriends. This amazed my wife when we met. She had
never encountered a guy who didn't mind going to the store for tampons and
Roger D., 33, Roanoke, Va.
Each sex has its own little foibles to deal with; those of the other sex seem
gross and alien in comparison because we didn't grow up with those problems.
That said, openly discussing bodily functions with someone not in the medical
field is considered rude and disgusting.
Katie, Lexington, Ky.
It took us many minutes to find a guy willing to talk about this. He's
curator of the Museum of Menstruation (www.mum.org), currently at his home
Harry Finley has lots to say about "Lady Business." His Web site, which The
New York Times says treats the topic in "an odd, funny and well-researched"
manner, discusses how a woman's cycle has throughout history been perhaps the
mother of all taboos, simply because so many see it as "unclean" or "unhealthy."
Finley finds the topic fascinating because it touches upon "medicine,
anthropology, sociology, history and even art" - and because it's been handled
so oddly: Some cultures segregated women in huts during their menstruation;
women were accused of ruining crops or spoiling wine because they were in their
cycle; ads dating back to 1928 heralded products to eliminate "offense to
others;" and patent medicines in the late 19th century, such as Lydia Pinkham's
Vegetable Compound, promised to cure "all those painful Complaints and
Weaknesses so common to our best female population."
Even as late as 1992, Kotex ran a comic-strip style magazine ad that implied
a girl might "change schools" if a boy she liked found out she was having her
As for men, Finley says the topic conflicts with their idealized view of the
woman's body. As well, he said, it deals with female bodily functions, intimacy
and emotions - a troika of topics many men don't care to discuss.
Also, when the subject does come up, women are usually complaining about it,
Finley said. Nonetheless, we should listen and discuss it, he contends.
"It would be good if we did talk about it more, especially for women. It
makes it more of a public, acceptable thing. You feel relieved when you know
you're not alone.
"Now, I don't know if men will ever buy into that, but . . ."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information. For Dare to Ask podcasts, go to
Jacksonville.com keyword: milano.