But the most popular phrase used by the media and all the glossy mags I used to read was: 'the curse'.
Having a period every month was a 'curse', a problem an issue. It was something to try to manage, to try to ameliorate, to try to get around and to cope with. It was definitely NOT something to celebrate.
As with so many of the things I took on board in my secular youth, all the talk about periods being 'the curse' just kind of sunk into my psyche, unchallenged. It fell on pretty fertile soil, because until my early twenties, I had excruciating stomach cramps for a couple of days around 'the time of the month', and I used to dread its approach.
Fast forward 25 years, and all of a sudden I had a child that was old enough for 'the talk'. I didn't really know what to tell her. I didn't want to pass on all the 'curse' stuff that I'd got from my non-Jewish upbringing, nor all the seriously bonkers British squeamishness about that topic. At the same time, I had no idea what a religious Jewish mother was meant to tell her children. How much information to give? How to do it, in a tznius, kosher way? What to say?
Thankfully, my daughter's school brought someone in to talk to the mothers and the girls about growing up - and it was a complete revelation to me.
For a start, there was no talk about 'curses' and euphemisms about 'times of the month'. The woman spoke very plainly, but in such a graceful, tznius-dik way. She explained the mechanics of what was going on so beautifully, and then put it all into the most amazing context: having a period was a blessing! It was a sign that your body had matured enough to have a baby, and that your reproductive system was working OK!
Far from being a fraught, depressing and upsetting time, the woman told us we should take our girls out for a celebration meal and a new piece of jewellery, the first time they joined the ranks of their mothers as fully-fledged women.
I can't speak for the other mothers who were there, but this anglo baal teshuva mum was completely blown away by what she said.
A lot of things slotted into place, and I started to realize why so many women in the Western world suffer so terribly from PMS and cramps, and a bunch of other period-related things like infertility and hormone issues.
In the West, we're taught to hate and despise and resent this most basic and beautiful function of our bodies, because the link between bearing children and having your period is all but ruptured (at least until you've properly sorted out your career and got a mortgage…)
Energy follows our emotions. Reality follows our thoughts. We spend so much time agonising over the 'curse', and all the apparently negative things it means for us, that we create that reality.
But that's not Judaism. Real Judaism teaches our daughters to celebrate their femininity, and to revel in the fact that they are growing up, and becoming young, fertile women.
I haven't done a formal survey, but I can tell you that of the 26+ plus girls in my daughters' class, hardly anyone suffers from cramps, PMS or period pains. Time will really tell, but it seems to me that the Jewish approach of treating periods as a blessing, instead of 'the curse' is already bearing fruit, and I hope and pray that more of our daughters will grow up knowing that being fertile is a present, and not a problem.
PS: G-d willing, I'm planning to put together a series of posts about what you can do to turn your 'curse' into a blessing, if you already got stuck with that paradigm, including what essential oils to use, what energy exercises to try, and most importantly of all, how to get G-d involved in the whole process of taming PMS. Watch out for it soon.