I’ve had the privilege to present talks or sermons to a variety of groups over the past couple of years. So far in this calendar year: Altrusa International District Two Conference, Clinton Presbyterian Church, Montour High School, Pittsburgh University Be A Good Neighbor Day, and Valley Presbyterian Church. I have one more sermon and one more talk scheduled for this summer. What I have noticed while talking to these different groups is that no matter how young or old the group is, there are a lot of similar questions and reactions….and of course, lots of laughter.
I usually open up the talk to questions and we start with “safe” ones. These are typically follow-up questions about the kit, how Days for Girls distributes them, etc. Someone asks if people in the U.S. use reusable. And you know I’m going to talk about my menstrual cup given the opportunity. Once I have made this personal connection, the questions get more personal too. Does the cup feel different than a tampon? How does the cup fit in? (Most people don’t realize it folds.) After that a lady from a certain generation will say, “that’s how a diaphragm works”. Laughter. While that generation makes jokes about menopause, someone has to explain to a lady from a different generation what a diaphragm is used for. Some younger women will ask about the cup’s size compared to body size, usually with giggles. What a wonderful opportunity to tell someone about how wonderfully and beautifully she was made. Usually, someone starts to look embarrassed and hesitates mid-questions. To which I respond, I don’t embarrass easily anymore so go ahead and try to embarrass me… then, “can you wear a cup while you’re having sex?” Of course, there some that you can, but not all cups are created equally. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the room relaxes, and the conversation becomes open and safe for any question. The next thing you know we are talking about period parties, what our mothers and grandmothers have shared with us, and what kind of reusable pad should I get my niece? I love that the conversation we have together is not the end; that for many women this is the first of many great conversations about periods they will have with their friends and families.
High school and college groups surprise me with their openness and willingness to engage in conversations. Often, I learn from them about reusable products. They seem so much more willing to try them than I would have been at their age. I love the questions they ask. In my experience, they ask questions out loud that adults are afraid to ask. Students own that they are students and don’t have all of the answers. I think it gets harder as we age to admit there are things we don’t know (especially about our own bodies). Sometimes, if I’m with a group of adults, I mention questions that I have received from students and that helps the adults to loosen up a little and ask their own questions.
The period Sermon has a slightly different tone but are still joy-filled experiences. Most churches have a place where the preacher stands to shake hands with everyone at the end of the service. I love this tradition! At every church there is at least one woman who shakes my hand with tears in her eyes and says she has struggled with women’s issues and is so thankful that God cares about those issues too. I hug her, every time at every church. I will never know the exact struggle she has faced, but I am thankful that she has been seen and loved. There is someone in every place, who has struggled and needs to be seen and loved.
In the line of parishioners shaking hands at the door I’ve met some amazing men too. At Clinton Presbyterian Church, several men shook my hand and made sure I knew that they were allies and that they were proud their church was taking on this sort of project. They need to be seen and loved too. Not all men are made uncomfortable by period talks and some of them want to be included because they truly want to help. I am thankful for those strong handshakes and warm smiles. They remind me not to judge who can be an ally.