We've all been there. Happily going about our business when we suddenly feel it. A leak. Ask any woman and they'll have a story about when their period became a bit more public than they'd have liked. But, as the old adage goes, if you don't laugh you'll cry. So we asked Refinery29 readers to share with us their most hilarious and cringeworthy memories of being caught off guard while surfing the crimson wave.
"I was in a school play when I was 13, playing an Egyptian, wearing a bright white dress. Perched on a step, acting my little heart out, I heard the audience (of mainly parents) gasp as I exited stage left – period blood had seeped through, covering my entire bum in a bright red stain. I told my fellow child cast members backstage I must have sat in paint…" Lindsay
"I once got my period while on a boat in the Caribbean, miles away from any tampons. As if getting your period on an all-white boat in front of 30 of your school peers wasn’t traumatising enough, we were on our way to go swimming with sharks. #sharkbait" Melanie
"I was 17 and went to stay with my older boyfriend and all his mates at a country house. We had sex while his friend was asleep in the room (I was 17...) and then fell asleep, and in the morning his friend woke ME up to say "I think there's been an accident" and I realised there were enormous period stains all over the white sheets. Everyone was downstairs in the kitchen having breakfast and I was so awkward that I just bundled all the sheets up, went into the kitchen with obviously red sheets and put them in the washing machine in front of everyone and just sat down and said "Sorry I perioded on your sheets". No one laughed or made me feel better, it was AWFUL. I was so worried about making a good impression that weekend." Janet
"My favourite yoga class just so happens to be taught by one of the hottest men on earth, so naturally, I do my best to show off how nimble I am each week. During a class last year, I was wearing my tightest baby pink shorts when Auntie Flo decided to show up unannounced. I was doing my widest wide-legged forward bend when I felt the blood trickling down my leg, panicked, wiped it with my hand and ended up staining the mat. Horrific. He saw the whole thing, made an awkward laugh and hasn't looked me in the eye since – which has at least completely dampened my infatuation." Diane
"I was working in San Francisco for a year (I’m Irish) and managed to get myself a job with a pretty cool tech company. A few weeks in, they flew me to NY to meet my manager and the rest of the team. The week went well and I had my best face on. To reward myself, I decided to meet a friend who was living in the city on the Thursday night. Next morning I was feeling rough, and rushed to get ready as I’d slept in. I made it to the office in my nice summer dress and was waiting to go to the next floor with my manager and team mate when I felt something on my leg, at which point my manager shouted “oh god” in front of the entire floor. In my haste, I had forgotten to put in a tampon and literally had blood dripping down the inside of my thigh. I ran to the bathroom and we never spoke of it again." Beatrice
"I got out of a taxi in the middle of Soho with a massive red stain down the back of my dress ahead of my friend’s birthday. Shops were shut and no time to go home, so had to tie the dress and make it look like a fashion decision. Knickers were ruined so had to find a sex shop that was still open, and buy the only pair they had that had a crotch. Pretty low point…" Susan
"When I was in Year Nine I was very self-conscious about my period. I had never really talked to anyone about how to use the products and would secretly buy pads myself. I always had trouble with leaking because my periods would be too heavy to sit through a whole class without going to the bathroom. One day I was taking a test and ended up being the last one to finish, about five minutes after the lunch bell rang. When I stood up to turn the test in, it was like a waterfall.
I ran through the empty hall to the bathroom and started freaking out. I had to speak at a pep rally in an hour and there was blood EVERYWHERE. I took my pants off and tried to wash them out but it wasn’t working good enough. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so I walked around avoiding having anyone behind me. I even walked onto the basketball court kind of sideways so no one would see. After, I found out that my secret wasn’t so hidden. I was mortified.
I don’t know why I didn’t just call home and ask for new clothes. I wish I was taught that it was okay to talk about my period when I was younger.
As an adult, I’ve also accidentally dropped my full menstrual cup on the floor in a Target restroom. By this point in my life, I was not self-conscious and actually went to get someone to help clean it up. It was a little embarrassing that I was so clumsy, but we laughed about how terrible the situation was together. She admitted she was glad it was me and not her." Jessica
"I had a very public period flying back from Malta with my mum when I was 17. I was in the window seat, my mum in the middle and a stranger in the aisle seat. We were all settled in, we’d just been served our in-flight meal and Mum had just settled down with a nice glass of red wine. I started my period while we were on holiday and thankfully I’d gone prepared. Little did I know, however, that you bleed a lot more when you’re up in the air. Cue mid-meal when I felt the blood seeping through my jeans! I was horrified. I had to go to the toilet so I could change my pad. But I needed to wrap a cardigan round my waist so the whole plane wouldn’t see the blood. Only problem – we were flying economy so I had no room to do this in my seat, and would need to get to the aisle first. Also my sanitary towels were in the overhead storage! I whispered to my mum the problem. She then started to ask the gentleman to kindly move, however, in my 17-year-old dramatic head I instantly thought she was going to explain why and if she did then of course the world would end! So I quickly got up and barged out of my seat, rushing to the aisle, while in the process knocking my mum's wine and spilling it all over her!! I eventually managed to sort myself out, but due to my dramatic reaction it was quite obvious what was going on." Laura
"Shameful story – makes me cringe to share it! My friend is a perfectionist and her minimalist apartment is testament to her excellent sense of style. She invited a few of us round for drinks and being the first to arrive I had the opportunity to hear the story behind her new purchase – a white sofa. I sat on said sofa and began to drink copious amounts of prosecco. I’d thought my period was about to start so was in protection mode and wasn’t alarmed when I became aware that it had.
However, when I went to the loo I realised that my period hadn’t only started, it had staked out my lingerie, right through to my dark denim jeans. I repaired the damage as much as I could and returned to the gathering (my heart is racing as I relive this). When I went to return to my seat, there was a large dark crimson area where I’d sat a few minutes before. No one mentioned it, no one covered it up. A few people looked at me while they continued in their own conversations. I felt sick, I panicked, I was also the worse for much prosecco. I confessed my mistake to my friend and bolted! Insurance eventually covered the damage but her partner has never looked me in the face since and the group of people gathered that evening have still not discussed the event with me…This message is as good as a confessional booth!" Karen
"Worst public period experience: I once went on a bike ride in the countryside with my friends and I was around 13 years old, wearing white leggings, when this guy who liked me was with us and he stopped us all and told me I had bled through my leggings, they were no longer white. I had to ride all the way back home." Jenny