So about once a semester, I have one female student who asks to be excused from a class… it’s usually a very conscientious student, and she comes to me and says that she’s not feeling very well and would like to go home, if that’s okay.
As a friendly sort of professor, I usually inquire as to the student’s illness, thinking I’m being nice, and finally, after a few moments of hemming and hawing, I realize that it’s that time of the month and she is dreadfully embarrassed and not willing to tell me. This time, she and her very good-natured friend were talking to me and one said, “She doesn’t want to say that it’s… a female problem? Is that correct?” I agreed that this was a euphemism I’d heard before, but that “feminine problem” is also sometimes used. That a more vulgar way of saying it — though not uncouth, just less euphemistic — is to say that it’s “that time of the month.”
The student’s friend observed that in Korean, it’s an extremely embarrassing word, and nobody likes saying it. I said it was a little bit like that in English — that women tend not to speak directly about it outside of close circles, at least not with their male professors anyway.
“It’s really weird, isn’t it, how a word like that can be embarrassing? I mean, every woman in the world experiences is, and yet it’s a word nobody wants to say. You know, if men had that experience, it’d be a word we could use in public conversation, wouldn’t it be?” They were amused and agreed, though on second though, I’m not sure. Maybe, maybe not. I wonder…
(And no, I don’t wonder enough to write a novel about it, though if anyone else wants to, go ahead.)