You have all heard the classic female tale. Whether bleeding through your khaki uniform pants and your mom telling you, “You’re a woman now,” losing your virginity in the back of an old pick-up truck at summer camp, or becoming a mother after a seamless pregnancy and having your perfectly round-headed and healthy baby placed on your ready-to-breastfeed chest, you know these movie quality stories to be wildly uncommon. You instead, as resilient you are, guide yourself through the untold truth of femininity.
You throw away 100 tampons before knowing how to use one. You lose your virginity on a messy, confusing, and imperfect night and you experience birth in a deeply personal and courageous way that likely completely deviated from your best-laid birth plan. Yet, you, as a powerful and resourceful force of nature, figure it out. You talk to your friends, converse with the Google Search Bar, and overcome the unknown. Welcome to Self-Taught, where we discuss how women teach themselves about their bodies—because we’ve all been failed by school courses, perplexed by movie scenes, and embarrassed by conversations with parents and peers.
For far too long, flawed systems and unrealistic media have depicted the female body—the female experience—as too skinny, too fat, too messy or neat, disgusting or pristine, but rarely the truth that lies between every extreme. In Self-Taught, we’ll share stories of how women uncovered flaws in systems, products, and lore, and taught themselves that there is a better way—and they deserve better.
Lia Posatiere is not one to be shy or embarrassed about her period. Her positivity and devotion to sustainability have allowed Lia to make changes in her life that best align with her values. After going vegan two years ago, Lia has gotten the chance to watch her cycle adjust to the changes she feels are best for her body.
You were 11 when you got your period. Can you tell me about your early teenage years and what your relationship with your period was like?
I remember when I first got my period, I felt super embarrassed because I was one of the first people in my friend group to get it. I was at a sixth grade overnight camp on the North Shore. We were spending the weekend on the beach and in the pool and I was horrified. I stuffed toilet paper in my underwear because I didn’t have pads or anything and I was too afraid to talk to anyone about it.
I remember being so anxious during my period when I was younger, especially about bleeding through my pants. Once, in middle school, I bled through my pants so much that I had to wear a jacket around my waist all day─gosh this is all so funny to think about. I used to be so scared to get a period.
Every time I got my period I was definitely anxious about my pants. I only bled through [my clothes] a few times but I remember feeling so embarrassed. Oh my gosh─going to the beach was such a fiasco. I was a freshman in high school the first time I tried wearing a tampon and it was so difficult but all I wanted to do was go to the beach.
Image courtesy of Lia Posatiere
Were you ever given the “period talk?” If so, by whom? How did it go? How did it make you feel? Given your circumstances, was it helpful?
I don’t think I really received a talk about my period and how to manage it. I had a book from the American Girl series by Valorie Lee Schaefer, The Care and Keeping of You. Everything I knew about my period when I was younger I learned from that book. I didn’t really tell my mom I got my period, so I don’t think she even knew to give me the talk. I was so casual about it. I remember asking her to get pads at the store, and at the time, she was going through menopause─I think that is the only reason she actually knew I got it. When she was going through menopause, we had nothing in the house. I feel like I intuitively just knew what to do when I got my period, though.
You became a vegan about two years ago. Have you noticed any changes in your cycle since this change in your diet?
I don’t bleed nearly as much, but I also think that is because of my birth control. I get bloated, crampy, and grumpy─I feel the symptoms I’ve always felt but the bleeding has really calmed down. I feel like I just spot more than anything. I definitely feel a lot more tired. I have to take extra care of myself during my periods because I lose so much iron now that I don’t eat meat anymore.
You’re from Kailua, Hawaii and grew up surfing, going to the beach, and spending a lot of time in swimsuits. Do you feel there were extra challenges in learning to navigate your period because you grew up on the beach?
I became a lot more comfortable with tampons way sooner than I think I otherwise would have. Growing up on the beach forced me to become a lot more comfortable and confident with my period because I didn’t want to miss out on being in the water with my friends. My friends and I have always helped each other with tampon strings and bikinis because we all still have our tampon strings hanging out sometimes. Most people are going through it though, so instead of getting upset about it, I think we all just try and help each other out.
What did you first use to manage your period blood and do you still use that? If not, what led you to switch?
I started with pads just because I was so young. It was the easiest thing to use at the time and made the most sense to me, but I quickly switched to tampons because of the beach. I never wanted to miss out on swimming, surfing, or seeing my friends. Now that my period is so much lighter though, I often just won’t use tampons at all which feels amazing.
Image courtesy of Lia Posatiere
What makes you feel most empowered when you are on your period?
Working out. It makes me feel like I am functioning and strong. I feel so proud when I can workout even when I am uncomfortable. Getting a good sweat just feels so good when you’re bloated and tired because of all of the endorphins. I love walking on the treadmill in my sweatpants and a big sweatshirt. I won’t do abs on my period─that hurts. Cardio and lifting make me feel the most empowered on days when I am not feeling my best.
You have the Mirena IUD, but before you got that you were on the pill. Can you talk to me about how your period has evolved since switching birth control? What unexpected changes did your body go through?
I was on the pill for almost four years and my period was pretty consistent. When I switched though, my period started consisting more of light spotting. I still feel the symptoms of my period but there is just so much less blood. When I was on the pill I would also get nauseous sometimes that that has stopped since switching to Mirena.
What is one thing you wish your younger self knew about your period?
To do what makes you feel the most comfortable. As I have gotten older, I’ve realized that tampons make me nauseous. I don’t like having something sit in my body like that, but that’s so personal!
I think it’s so important to do what makes you feel comfortable, not what you’re told to do. When I wear tampons, I notice my head hurting and my body feeling fatigued. I used to just power through those feelings, but once I started paying attention to what my body needed, that all went away. I was also scared of missing out on beach time when I was on my period. I always wanted to go to the beach and wear bathing suits but I didn’t really know how to step back when I wasn’t feeling up for things. It’s totally OK to say no when you’re not feeling your best and just need to take time for yourself.