The Blue Notebook
My stockings are slightly splashed; I must remember to change them tonight; Michael notices this sort of detail. Now, sitting on the bus, I feel the dull drag at my lower belly. Not bad at all. Good, if this first pang is slight, then it will all be over in a couple of days. Why am I so ungrateful when I suffer so little compared to other women? — Molly, for instance, groaning and complaining in enjoyable suffering for five or six days. I find my mind is on the practical treadmill again, the things I have to do today, this time in connection with the office. Simultaneously I am worrying about this business of being conscious of everything so as to write it down, particularly in connection with my having a period. Because, whereas to me, the fact I am having a period is no more than an entrance into an emotional state, recurring regularly, that is of no particular importance; I know that as soon as I write the word ‘blood’, it will be giving a wrong emphasis, and even to me when I come to read what I’ve written. And so I begin to doubt the value of a day’s recording before I’ve started to record it. I am thinking, I realize, about a major problem of literary style, of tact. For instance, when James Joyce described his man in the act of defecating, it was a shock, shocking. Though it was his intention to rob words of their power to shock. And I read recently in some review, a man said he would be revolted by the description of a woman defecating. I resented this; because of course, what he meant was, he would not like to have that romantic image, a woman, made less romantic. But he was right, for all that. I realize it’s not basically a literary problem at all. For instance, when Molly says to me, with her loud jolly laugh: I’ve got the curse; I have instantly to suppress distaste, even though we are both women; and I begin to be conscious of the possibility of bad smells. Thinking of my reaction to Molly, I forget about my problems of being truthful in writing (which is being truthful about oneself) and I begin to worry: Am I smelling? It is the only smell I know of that I dislike. I don’t mind my own immediate lavatory smells; I like the smell of sex, of sweat, of skin, or hair. But the faintly dubious, essentially stale smell of menstrual blood, I hate. And resent. It is a smell that I feel as strange even to me, an imposition from outside. Not from me. Yet for two days I have to deal with this thing from outside — a bad smell, emanating from me. I realize that all these thoughts would not have been in my head at all had I not set myself to be conscious. A period is something I deal with, without thinking about it particularly, or rather I think of it with a part of my mind that deals with routine problems. It is the same part of my mind that deals with the problem of routine cleanliness. But the idea that I will have to write it down is changing the balance, destroying the truth; so I shut the thoughts of my period out of my mind; making, however, a mental note that as soon as I get to the office I must go to the washroom to make sure there is no smell.