Old Wives Tales and Periods

imageI knew there was some kind of big, stupid mystery even before my “sometimes” friend Margaret Green broke the news to me in the fourth grade.  My grandma had started badgering me not to go barefoot and had taken to sneaking peeks at my underwear when she was sorting laundry.

This is some interesting information and dire warnings I was given regarding health care of young ladies after the onset of puberty. My maternal grandmother hissed these warnings at me, though she was hazy on rationale  Girls should never go barefoot or get their feet wet after they go into puberty. (She made no mention of how I was to wash my feet or bathe.). I must never bathe or get my head wet or ride a horse during my period.  She offered as proof the fact that when my grandpa’s sister was only sixteen, she was riding a horse just before she got ready to take a job as a teacher in her first school.  She got caught in a rainstorm while she was having her period and was soaked to the skin.  She got galloping pneumonia and died before daybreak.  I was never sure if all these variables had to be included for the situation to be deadly.  Perhaps if she had been fifteen, walking to her job as a clerk in a store while she was having her period and broke out in chicken pox, she might have escaped with only a few scars on her face.

Also, Grandma warned me young girls shouldn’t ever go swimming.  “Never?”  I was appalled.

For some reason, going barefoot was deadly, especially if there was dew on the ground.  There was something called “dew poisoning.”  Dew poisoning “stopped” periods.  How could that be a bad thing?  I didn’t want periods anyway.  Not only that, dew poisoning caused rampant infections should it enter a tiny wound on the foot, but I don’t remember her ever harassing my brother about going barefoot.  Maybe she wasn’t looking out for him.

Then she told me of a stubborn cousin of hers who went swimming all the time.  “Even when she was expecting!  Everyone of her kids had epileptic fits!”  That didn’t concern me at all since I had no intention of doing anything to cause children, in view of my recent sex education.

Mother had her own ridiculous rules about hygiene.  Hair could only be washed once a week, and never during you period.  That was a disaster for us with our oily hair.  I’d try to slip around and wash it more often, but she watched us.  She insisted on giving us hideous home perms.  They were awful!  I was so glad when Mother had to much on her mind to to to keep up with trying to enforce all her mindless rules.

36 thoughts on “Old Wives Tales and Periods

  1. I was told never to touch any flower, plant, or any vegetation for that matter when I had my period because it would kill them. I never had a green thumb anyway so I didn’t care. I used to pick a ripe tomato from the garden and eat it right there on the spot. Fortunately, the rest of the tomatoes lived. ☺☺☺


  2. I’m glad to have lived in a time of rampant information and education about my reproductive system. Swimming’s good for cramps, morning dew always feels nice on my footsies… Poor gal with galloping pneumonia though. Oof.
    I stayed lived with my father’s sister briefly in puberty. She also thought no bathing at all on my period and only once a week for shampooing hair. I admit, this infrequent hair-washing works nicely for me now in my 40’s, but when I was a teen — oh the greasy head. She never won on showers. I’d defy her, she’d yell, I’d defy her, she’d yell. It was a brief time 😉

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    • My hair would have been so greasy washing once a week. I had to sneak to wash more often. Mother stubbornly clung to what she’d been taught. I never told when I had my period to keep her out of my business. She was a tyrant on rules. No arguing!

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  3. I’ve heard all of them except the ‘dew poisoning’. My mother said to discuss periods was verboten during her own initiation and her elder sister had to tell her when it happened. Lots of stigma and embarrassing situations (never wear WHITE) etc.. I’m very glad to have been born in a time when not only is that stuff discussed openly by everyone and their dog and the dog’s sister’s uncle’s brother, but companies actually vie for advertisement time to sell their products. My own mother told me it was a bad idea to go swimming when my monthly ‘friend’ was in town, which I always found so very strange. But then tampons weren’t my mother’s idea of protection either..

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  4. Wow, I’m glad I didn’t have to grow up with these rules! That said, I couldn’t physically use tampons until I lost my virginity, and it used to drive me mad because I’ve always loved swimming. When I was a young teen, periods always seemed to coincide with beach holidays. Incidentally, swimming is really good for relieving period pains.

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  5. Going back to the 1950’s my teenage years there wasn’t tampons, maybe that was the reason you never should go swimming just what was called “glad rags”, couldn’t help adding that point, I know I wouldn’t go swimming I had heavy periods, which I found out in later life I had Vonwilliebrands disease, factor 8 missing in my body. Thanks for sharing your post, found it very interesting.

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  6. I heard the swimming one, but who would want to during a period.

    I guess wet feet could result in a cold at period time when the immunity is weakened.

    It is funny though, the thinking back then about periods .


  7. Well I never! As in I have never, ever heard any of these. Does that mean my sex education was lacking? Hang on – I never got any. Education that is 🙂 Maybe that is why I didn’t suffer any of these dreadful maladies!


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