When the editor called me, I was up in my office underneath my blanket of seclusion with a bottle of cheap bourbon and my trusty rod.
She was hysterical when she called. Dames always are that way, especially when they get on the other end of a phone. She called the house line and spoke with my secretary (mother). Apparently I was writing a story. My first reaction was a classic political defense: deny everything.
“I think you have the wrong number. I’ve never written anything in my life.” I was trying to sound as gruff as possible, like I was putting the squeeze on some mobster.
“Ray,” she said. “The people are demanding more. That masturbation article was really… good.”
“Bullshit,” I retorted. “We don’t have enough of a readership for people demand anything. Can’t you get Charlie to write this? People like his writing. Or maybe Lucas? I hear that he has all sorts of opinions on things.”
“No Ray, we need you for this piece. You’re the only one who can deal with all the blood.”
I could see her face on the other end of the line. She was using her begging face. Broads will always do that to you.
“Fine. I’ll do it, but I want two things: an expense account and protection from the editors.”
She told me she couldn’t give me either of those things, and that it was totally ridiculous for me to demand it. She did, however, promise me most of a pizza and whatever beer she could find.
“Just pretend you’re a film noir detective,” she said. “You’re writing about red tents.”
Christ. I didn’t even know what a red tent was, or where I could buy one. I was going in blind. That meant I would have to conduct research, interviews, hit the streets. It meant that I might have to leave my room. But I knew this story was big. After awhile, all writers develop a set of investigatory testes. My testes were twitching for this story.
My first instinct was to go to my informant, a lovable ethnic minority who occupies a position of moderate social standing in the criminal underworld. A detective is only as good as their informant, and knowing people is half of the battle. I needed to talk with my “Huggy Bear.” Realizing that I did not know anybody who came anywhere close to this cliché, I decided do the next best thing. I went to the most streetwise websites I knew of: Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia.
A Red Tent, also called a moon lodge, is a modern callback to those olden day menstrual rituals. Women gather to celebrate a girl’s transition into womanhood, id est, her first period. There is also a growing community dedicated to making a woman-only safe space, where older women can mentor younger women, in an attempt to create a better sense of community. A space to call their own, not to be confused with “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 dramedy starring Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell.
I read about this for at least ten minutes. I was tired of it. The problem I have with reading is that Real Men don’t read words on paper; they take action! I needed to learn in the gruffest way possible. I also wanted to have this whole thing explained to me by a man, because men just understand things better. It’s simple science. So where could I find a man acting like an expert without having to prove any credentials?
I went to YouTube.
After typing several phrases into the search bar, I couldn’t find anything about “young girls,” “men,” or “bleeding.” I am pretty sure that I am on a few watchlists now, but as a moderately famous guest writer for Insight, I’m sure that the Internet Police will understand.
In my investigation, I also searched tangential subjects like feminism and FemSex. Most of these videos were actually surprisingly negative. I’ve been on the beat long enough to know that people like to accentuate the negative, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. There were the standard bathroom wall scratchings. “Down with feminism” and “Feminism = play the victim card until people are tired of it.” There were videos of men and women making farcical fallacy laden arguments like: feminism is trying to raise women above men, or that women are only feminist when it is convenient. Other than a new burning rage for YouTube, my search was a bust. Things weren’t turning up the way I needed. Unless someone placed all the evidence in my lap, the truth was going to slip away and I’d be left holding the bag when it all went down.
Things were starting to slow down. I’d been working off of caffeine and my journalistic vigour since I started this project, twenty minutes ago. I needed to stretch out, get the city beneath me so I could really write. It was a small coffee shop near the university. The lights were kept low enough to make a nice chiaroscuro and the coffee was strong. I set up in the back near the managers’ office: the perfect place to mull over the information that I had drummed up. I made a quick call to my editor, hoping she might know someone I could talk with about all of this. I barked my question right as she picked up.
“I know a person. I’ll send her your way.”
Typical of dames. I swear, the nicer their gams, the smaller their brain. “If you knew someone all along, why didn’t you tell me?”
“You didn’t ask.”
Of all the goddamn tropes, it had to be that one. I was beginning to feel like the protagonist in a bad pulp novel. An hour’s work and all I had was a lot of blog posts, a handful of YouTube videos and a stomach full of coffee. That was it. At least I had an inside source now.
She came to the shop after I had been there long enough to drink three more cups of coffee. Trouble walked in on four-inch heels. She was the kind of dame who strut more than she walked, with the undeniable swagger of a woman who doesn’t hate her body. I thought that she was the type of girl who would throw around the word patriarchy like it was going out of style. I started out with a strong arm tactic.
“Whats all this hullabaloo with the red tents? What do you know?”
The coffee was making me feel full of vim and charisma. She spilled the beans like a child at a Denny’s.
“It is a safe place for women where we can be together and embrace our femininity. We hang out in a tent and bleed out on the earth.” She had dark eyes, the kind that you can’t trust. Still, I couldn’t help but think that she wasn’t bullshitting me.
Other than the bleeding stuff, I felt that it was all well and good. Western society is a man’s world, and it is only fair that we should toss broads a bone. The dame told me they even have their own little goddess worship culture. That new age religion stuff is cute.
I went back to my office and put on my blanket. I did what I was trained to do. I pulled back, and let my testes do the thinking. Go back to the first reaction that I had concerning red tents. What was it?
“Leave it to women to take something as manly as camping and bleed all over it.”
No. I gotta go deeper than just that. Past the sarcasm and the faux manliness. Past the hokey new age goddess movement. Past the symbolism of the blood and the societal trappings. Forget all of that. What was my first feeling?
That was it. Who cares?
Almost every woman has a period, and it isn’t that big of a deal. Mystifying the process only serves to create some sort of imaginary split between men and women. Rather than trying to raise women up, red tents seem to set women apart. Some women go out into the woods, bleed all over the place, and then they act like something magical has happened.
That was it. This entire time it had been sitting in the back of my head, inert. There isn’t anything wrong with body positivity or wanting to improve relationships between women. That whole goddess stuff is a bit sophomoric, but I worship the sun and pray to Joe Pesci, so maybe I’m not too different.