Quarantining during the coronavirus outbreak with my roommates was going well. I live with two friends from college, Madde and Nicole, and we planned out activities and shows to watch together.
Things in the outside world may have been very bad, but we did actually manage to make the best of the situation — until we all got our periods at the same time, and the energy in our apartment changed.
Menstrual syncing is the idea that pheromones cause people who spend a lot of time together to get their periods at the same time. It’s a much-debated phenomenon, but there is no conclusive evidence to support it. Whatever the reason, my roommates and I have managed to get our cycles matched up, give or take a couple days.
We live in Brooklyn, and this was toward the end of March, so we were under orders to stay inside and had already been social distancing at home together for a week and a half. The pandemic was growing increasingly bad, and certainly we were lucky to be safe and healthy and together.
But while it may have been trivial in comparison to what was going on in the larger world, being stuck inside a small apartment with two other women who also had their period was a less than ideal wrench to throw in the works — and we had very little else to focus on so we got annoyed fast.
The logistics of group periods
For starters, we only have one bathroom. Being in an office while dealing with period pains and potential bleed-throughs is not great, but at least there are multiple stalls and/or bathrooms where you can take care of everything.
bro is everyone in quarantine synced or something? why do we all have our period rn? and why is it a bitch?
— MelBelle🎶 (@lemon_aiid) March 26, 2020
My roommates and I had to time it out and slip into the bathroom when no one else was using it. Period poops are real, my friends, and don’t exactly care about whether the toilet is free. There’s also not a ton of privacy in our space. Luckily, the bathroom fan is broken and is incredibly loud, sparing us from hearing one another do the deed.
I wanted nothing more than to take a long, hot bath, but I didn’t want to be that asshole who was hogging the bathroom for an hour if the other two needed to get in.
Another dilemma we faced was the . We’d been rationing our shitty stock of single-ply TP because it’s all we could find when we were prepping for social distancing. Fortunately, when I went to the drugstore to pick up my birth control prescription and tampons, I was also able to snag a pack of better quality toilet paper, so the end of our cycles saw some softer days.
Day 2 of quarantine. Periods have synced. Toilet paper is low. Morale still high.
— bubbleboi (@hans___snah) March 18, 2020
Too many moods in a small space
Let’s talk about the emotional side of menstruation. Now, I like my roommates a lot — we’ve been friends for almost five years. But, wow, the energy in our little apartment became tense.
I will take most of the blame for this, tbh. I’m an introvert, and I get hella moody when my body is shedding itself from the inside. Contrary to its name, this time of isolation did not allow me to be alone much.
For the first two days of my social distancing cycle, I shut myself in my room instead of hanging out on the couch and watching The Handmaid’s Tale with my roomies. (I know, we’re late to the game.) By the third day, Madde texted our group chat and asked if we could eat dinner, play a game, or do some sort of activity together because she could tell something was off.
The three of us ended up baking cookies and sharing gripes about how we were dealing with our periods. I avoided contact to keep myself from being shitty to my friends, Madde got annoyed at little things but worked to keep the peace, and Nicole found herself down an accidental rabbit hole of old photos from when she and her boyfriend were broken up and had a little cry sesh in her room. You know, normal period stuff.
“We’re going to hold a little extra anxiety and sorrow right now. We don’t need to judge ourselves for being anxious, sad, or angry.”
The thing that was hardest is that we couldn’t take a break from each other or go out and do things to distract ourselves. Madde and Nicole both have boyfriends, so they usually spend some nights over at their apartment, and I get our apartment to myself to order Thai food and wallow in self-pity and cramps while watching a romcom on the couch.
This time around, we were all confined to our rooms with heating pads on our stomachs trying not to be too bitchy or burst into tears.
A better way to cope
Luckily, my roommates and I did not end up hating each other. But I do want to be more prepared for next time, so I spoke with Dr. Angela Lawson, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and psychiatry at Northwestern University, to see what sort of tips she had for people sheltering in place with others.
Communication, she says, is the biggest thing. Communicate your needs to your roommates, partner, family, or whomever you’re isolating with. If you need a hug, tell someone. If you need to be left alone, tell someone. If you need to scream into the void, tell! someone!
“We assume people will guess our needs, but unfortunately people are bad guessers,” Lawson says.
As for the logistics of sharing a bathroom, Lawson suggests figuring out a schedule for what you can control, like showers and baths. Communicate and respect one another’s time.
When I was being antisocial in my room, Madde did exactly what Lawson would recommend — suggesting an activity that brought us together. If you’re struggling socially during your cycle, try getting together and baking, going for a walk, doing a puzzle, or playing a game.
Finally, Lawson advises acknowledging how you’re feeling and that we’re all going through a weird time. “We’re going to unfortunately hold a little extra anxiety and sorrow right now,” Lawson says. “We don’t need to judge ourselves for being anxious, sad, or angry.”
Try to control your reaction to your situation and focus on things you know will help. If you don’t know what exactly that is, talk to other people or experiment with new things. And don’t forget there are online tools to help with emotional support and mental health.
So, if you and your quarantine mates are all going through the beautiful hell of menstruation together while sheltering in place, be gentle with yourselves, communicate, and bake some cookies.