Bloody Mary

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By Mary McConville

In a small room in Prahran’s Greville St. I found myself contemplating a drawing depicting popular drink, the Bloody Mary. The painting showed a simple red drink with a garnishing of a stick of celery and a tomato. Let’s get meta here, it represented more than it showed. It symbolised the monthly process of menstruation, as did all the other pictures covering the walls.

It was a one-room exhibition in “Enough Space”, a new gallery in Prahran, that ran from the 15th to the 31st of January. It was organised by furniture designer Roz Campbell and exhibited the works of 33 artists. The pictures were for sale and some of the profits went to the International Women’s Development Agency. The name of the exhibition was “Shark Week”, an expression I had never heard before but instantly understood. Hey, been there, done that.

The style of the compositions used a simple, pleasant style with an overlay of symbolism. A few of the pictures were explicit, but not erotic.

Menstruation is a part of half the world’s population’s lives. Unfortunately it is surrounded by mystery, superstition, squeamishness and mealy-mouthed euphemisms that have caused problems for some girls who just needed a clear and sensible explanation that told them what to expect and advised them on useful remedies for the discomfort. Among these remedies you might find raspberry leaf tea, ginger syrup or the classic Australian remedy of “A cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.” And Tim Tams. Theoretically they don’t make a difference but they do give comfort.

Let me try to remember some of the menstrual euphemisms I’ve heard over the years – Fred (to rhyme with red), come unwell, fell off the roof, on ya rags (I hate this one, it was more likely to be used by contemptuous men), the curse (“the curse has come upon me, cried the Lady of Shallot”), the headache, a visitor.

There are also the expressions I’ve learnt while researching this article – riding the cotton pony or Aunty Flo(w).

Some of the expressions used are subtle and polite, some almost insulting. Most are a kind of obscure sheilaspeak, code words to communicate with other women.


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