CW: In-depth descriptions of experiences of the menstrual cycle.
Writer’s note: For further reading I highly recommend this article by Allison Crutchfield of ‘Waxahatchee’ and ‘PS Eliot’ fame – reading it helped dispel my fears that being a woman in a band and having different needs are totally legit.
How To Pack For Tour:
Bring knickers for at least every day, have spares just in case of period mishaps. Outfits need to be nice but functional for sweating through on stage. Nothing too girly, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Socks – same rule as the knickers, no spares. Have pyjama bottoms, you cannot sleep in pants, it’s too weird for girls to do. De-pot all your toiletries so as to not take up too much space in your bag. Do not take up too much space. Face wash, toner, moisturiser, deodorant bar, tiny shower gel, toothpaste, dry shampoo. Do not be high maintenance. A flannel is needed for the face wash – it cannot be taken off with anything else and face wipes break you out. Flannels will get wet so hang these on a DIY clothes line erected in the van. Bring the pill.
Glaring, the scrolling screen relays a busy newsfeed. Public monologues drone as I swipe the bleary cobwebs from my eyes.
No one else is getting up. Deny the alarm and reset to ‘6.10am’.
A sleeping bag shuffles. A groan is emitted and the scrabble for the bathroom begins. Thudding to the floor as a turn on the air mattress deflates even further. A tentative phone is checked, the blue glare lighting bleary faces not yet ready to welcome the day. Wanting to wash away the tour grime and feel like a functioning human I start towards the bathroom. Usually I try to get in before the rush, not wanting to be the girl who takes too long in the shower.
The bass player is the clear victor. Defeated, I brush my teeth in the kitchen sink and wait for his return 45 minutes later, travel towel in tow.
Blasé, bandmates look away as I peel the sodden stage shirt from my tired torso. With nowhere else to go we’re all in various states of undress in the vain attempt to recoup some form of hygiene. They do it, so I follow suit. Changing in the toilets is unwieldy, full of mystery-fluid floors and straggling strangers so we make do with makeshift backrooms. Boys borrow the deodorant they did not pack, alchemising the noxious hot fog of tour-tainted sweat with the synthetic ‘shower fresh saccharine of perfume. Strangers mill to grab their gear as they set up to play after us whilst I generously talc my torso dry. This is normal and no one cares. Yet, I tackle my discomfort by brashly brandishing my hair brush in the attempt to groom myself post-set.
Do what you need to do to feel human, because most do not care and your anxieties are petty and out to get you.
A toilet break in the layby. It’s dark on the motorway and the cool breeze embitters the dead van air as the door is thrown open. Desperately my bladder yearns to release its swollen self all over that sweet public pathway. Soft grass goads me as I snub its relieving advances whilst the others think no more of it. A pesky period has shed itself all over my knickers and a facility-less verge offers no (moral) support. Secreting tampons into my bag at the next services we eventually stop at, I once again clean myself in a public restroom and try to walk normal as the blood encrusts on to my only clothes for the next two weeks.
Chaos reigns in the land of strewn sleeping bags and phone chargers trailing from various overloaded power points. Crumpled clothes fetter the piles of makeshift human habitation. Empty, save for me and another woman, we desperately compile cosmetic components about our person to make ourselves feel ready. The others are sniffing around a generous breakfast our hosts kindly made us – pants partially buckled and hair tempered by sleep. Ready to go, some are brushing their teeth and the bass player is scoping the plausibility of a shower. Today’s venue is a solid six hour drive and time is a commodity we can never afford. Buffing blush slapdash on our cheeks we cultivate our clandestine female selves. No one is to witness this daily ritual. A time tested secret, hidden so as to not illustrate the shits we give about our own appearance. Time is short and your pants can be worn twice. We cannot wait for women.
How To Pack For Tour – revised:
Baby wipe your body in the squat toilets. Travel in twos to the sketchy restroom on the fifth floor of an abandoned office block in Eastern Germany. Apply your makeup, or not apply (whatever you feel like doing) in the van. Brandish that eyebrow pencil proudly as your weapon against your own self doubts. Do not hide your instruments of menstruation. It’s a fact of life and these are your brothers who sweat with you nightly, kid their bodies into cramped sleeping positions in the van, pick you up from the floor and pretend that punk rock still pays. Hang your sodden stage shirt somewhere in the van, preferably near a window. Dry your gross self under the venue toilet hand dryer. Brush your teeth wherever you can – dental hygiene is important. Do what you need to do to feel human, because most do not care and your anxieties are petty and out to get you. Demand to take up space, because we’re all in this rusty van together. Tell those that comment or deny your needs to ‘fuck off’. ‘High maintenance’ is a term to invalidate women who give a shit about themselves and their own well being.
Bring pants for every day, bring spares in case of period mishaps.
Featured image by Sara Harrington
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