One of my big regrets was that I let the dismissiveness and the uselessness of that gynecologist (see previous post) prevent me from getting what I wanted: data. My personal data. I wanted to see my hormone levels in actual numbers tied to a point in time. To affirm or refute my hunches, to spark further investigation of my own personal experience with this thing called pre-menopause.
I like data. I am not alone. Take a look at the Android Play Store. It’s a thing. A pretty big thing. I counted over 100 apps when I searched for “period tracker”. So many women are looking for ways to capture this essential data.
This makes me think about Sex Ed. Most of us, educated in America, learn about our periods in Sex Ed. Do you remember being told that we should mark the start and end of our periods on a calendar? I do. And, I remember being bewildered and intrigued by the need for it. And, I distinctly remember feeling immediately burdened by the thought of it. I was 10.
That seemingly innocuous instruction held a critical marker of our womanhood – the comings and goings of our menstrual cycle. We were in 5th grade. We barely looked at calendars. We were only interested in the calendar to see how close it was to Christmas or our birthdays. It was the 70’s. There were no iPhones with family scheduling apps.
And now, with the knowledge and impending arrival of our periods, we were presented with this instruction, this obligation, to track our periods. It was explained that it would help us “know” and help us plan.
This little instruction was not so little. It tied us to duty but also hinted at a promise. A duty to take our womanhood seriously enough to pay close attention to it. The promise that knowing about ourselves as women would make us better. Better to know than to not know. From the knowing, we would derive wisdom. Wisdom about us becoming (and being) women. And wisdom comes from even the most basic data: when our periods started and when they ended. Wow. That’s a lot for a 10-year old girl.
It all started with "mark your calendars, girls!".
As I grew into a mature, menstruating woman, sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t. If my own history can humbly stand as a proxy for all women, we mostly fumbled through our female health issues - armed with some minimal data, definitely not a lot of data or even the right data. And when faced with a crisis, I always wish I had more. More data.
And, let me be clear. I don’t want data simply to just to have data. I want data so that I can cull knowledge and wisdom from that data. So I can make the right choices about my health, wellbeing, my life.
It is from the data where we derive our understanding. What does it mean? How have I changed? What does it tell me about myself? What can I do about it?
I want to know. I want data. Data is knowledge. Knowledge is power.
Don’t you want that, too?