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How to Deal with a "White Pants Moment"

By Kayla Mueller

I’ve gotten a little cocky when it comes to my period.

Once upon a time, I would have dressed in head-to-toe ninja black during those 3-5 days. Recently though, I have been carelessly wearing everything from white clothing to summery dresses while on my period and well, I’ve paid for it a few times.

I’d like to say that the “white pants moment” is a one-time rite of passage thing that you only have to go through once in your life but, alas, nope. It’s bound to happen again and again during your menstruating years.

I know that sounds kinda like bad news, but I actually see it as good news. Why? No, I’m not a masochist with a weird fetish for public humiliation or anything. It’s actually because those moments keep reminding me how okay and normal it is to have a period. If you’re confused about how I came to that conclusion, just read on.

While at work one day not too long ago, one of my coworkers came up to me and whispered that I had bled through my khaki pants. Oh joy. She also said that someone else had noticed it and asked her to tell me. I work in a law firm, so that basically translates to one of the male attorneys I work for saw it first, had no clue what to do, and told the nearest female he could to pass the information along. The joy continues.

So, I thanked her and then went to the bathroom. Now, once upon a time I would have cried myself silly as I thought about how incredibly embarrassed I was. And, honestly, I would have had a good reason. Seriously, who wants their boss noticing the bloody stain on their butt? No one, I think I can safely assume.

Still, I have finally reached a place of peace with my period and the occasional embarrassment that comes along with it. So, all I did in the bathroom was clean myself up, do some strategic toilet paper stuffing, and wrap my sweater around my waist as a cover until I could run home to change.

Once I came back out, my coworker asked me if I was okay. I looked at her, smiled, and said that I was fine. And therein lies the key. No shame, no apologies, and no guilt.

Look, I know it sucks when this kind of thing happens, and we all wish it wouldn’t. But when it does, here are a few tips on how to respond with grace.

Don’t apologize

I’ve actually been on the other side of the white pants moment once. A different coworker of mine was having a very similar issue, and I was the female dispatched to help her out. The whole time, she kept repeating a slew of apologies to me.

Ladies, don’t do this. There’s nothing to apologize for. I mean, really, what are all those sorrys actually supposed to be for? Sorry, I have a period? Sorry, I have a uterus? Sorry, commercial pads suck?

None of those things are our fault. I know this situation can be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved, but you know what? That’s life, and parts of life are awkward and uncomfortable sometimes. I will apologize if I’ve said the wrong thing or hurt someone, but I won’t apologize for my period.

Don’t Put Yourself Down

This is usually the step that follows after all of the apologies. Society has trained many of us to believe that our period is gross and contaminated. As such, when something like this happens, we can only think of how many appetites we’ve ruined on the way. And because our periods are considered an inherent part of who we are as people, we are basically completely grossed out by ourselves.

So, promise me that we’ll all work together to correct this mindset now. It’s not true, and it does terrible things to our self-esteem. Period blood is not gross nor something you have to approach in a Hazmat suit. It is nothing more than the result of a completely normal biological function of a woman’s body that happens once a month. That has nothing to do with your self-esteem or self-worth and, if someone tries to make you feel ashamed, that is completely their problem.

Take the Lead

Most of the time in this situation, I find that most people will follow your lead when it comes to how to react. So, if you get upset and start apologizing, the people around you who mean well but aren’t sure what to do will start treating you a little bit like a lost child who needs some coddling.

On the other hand, if you take it in stride and remain confident in spite of the little red mishap, others will respond in a similar way to that as well. The idea is to send the message that you are okay, because periods are okay. True, we don’t typically make a habit of putting them on display, but they’re there and they aren’t leaving and that’s that.

Here is what this all boils down to: Do not ever feel ashamed of your period. During your next inevitable “white pants moment,” it’s okay to feel embarrassed. It’s a perfectly normal emotion. But don’t make it worse for yourself.

You see, when you recoil into apologetic shame when this happens, you inadvertently send the message that periods are disgusting and something that women should be apologizing for, and that’s the exact opposite of the message we’re really trying to send.

I know the “white pants moments” suck. I know we’d rather they didn’t happen at all. You know what else sucks? When you trip and fall in public, or when you splash some drink on yourself. Sure, we’d rather those things didn’t happen but...they do. So, the best response is a shrug and a “shit happens” smile.

Period stains are no different in that way. Just like any other mishap in life, I think we can also file them safely under “shit happens.” Simply thank the person for letting you know, do whatever you need to do to clean up, and go about your day.

Have you ever had a “white pants moment” and if so, how did you get through it?

Kayla Mueller is a writer with an unapologetic uterus. When she's not writing, she's your average nerdy fangirl, and loves sci-fi & fantasy. She resides in Alabama with one husband, one dog, and two cats. Her patronus is a magpie. 

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