One time when she was a grown woman, JoAnn Schinderle was spending time alone with a man she was into.
He began to finger her.
This was going well, until the moment he stroked against a tampon. One Schinderle had forgotten was still there. They got through this awkward moment -- Schinderle has few qualms about body stuff -- but the story, like the object at its center, lingered.
She told it to a fellow comedian in Portland not long ago, while the two of them were waiting in a green room, with her name up next. The friend insisted she go onstage and tell the audience that story right away. So she did.
"It was so freeing," Schinderle says, "to tell them that, literally, this is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. As a comic, once you start saying something into a microphone, you kind of have to finish it. I had a few people come up after the show and say, quietly, they had had similar experiences but would never tell anyone. And I was like, 'Don't worry, I will be that voice for you.'"
This weekend, she is taking that self-assignment literally, with two standup gigs at Comedy Corner Underground. (Click here for tickets; 8 p.m. both nights, $10 tickets, with Rana May, Khadijah Cooper, and Jake Silberman also performing.) The Wisconsin native and University of Minnesota alum is going to talk about periods almost exclusively, and audience members are encouraged to bring period-related products, which will be donated to St. Anne's Place and the Backpack Project.
Schinderle's hoping to come out of the night having collected a big stack of blood-catching items for people in need. Don't expect a lecture, though. She's here to make people laugh, even if they're uncomfortable. Maybe especially.
City Pages: Let's do a Schoolhouse Rock question. What is a period? And how many times have you had to explain this to someone?
JoAnn Schinderle: A period is a gift from God. And how many times have I had to explain it? Loads.
CP: How's that go?
Schinderle: Well, here's why I thought doing this would be a fun endeavor. My friend Jake, he has a joke where he says he didn't know women use multiple tampons. Like, that he had thought they just use one and leave it in all week. And I was like "Oh, that's funny." And then I realized it was not a joke. Like, he actually did think that, and had to learn that wasn't true. And he's 31.
CP: Do you think couples should be better at talking about this? Or even people just out on a date with each other?
Schinderle: I've always talked about it, but I'm an anomaly. My mom is like, "Even when we went on walks when you were a little kid, you'd be like 'That tree looks like a vagina.'" Personally it just doesn't cross my mind, of being a taboo thing to talk about. Actually, every job I've ever had, I've bonded with another person in the office over one of us having our cycle, and "Do you have a tampon?" or something. And then it's, literally, our dirty little secret.
CP: At what point when you're out with someone does it come up? Has a period ever cockblocked you?
Schinderle: Oh, no. Personally, I love period sex, and I've never had someone say no to it. I've been on dates and, if the topic comes up, and they kind of cower about it, it's like, "Don't worry, we're not going on a second date." Some of my best relationships, the first time having sex I was on my period.
CP: I guess you get sort of instant familiarity with someone that way.
Schinderle: Yeah, it's pretty raw.
CP: Why's America still scared of periods? Religion? Or just immaturity?
Schinderle: Because men run the country. Honestly. I firmly believe that. We could talk about boners all day, right? And anybody could, male or female. Or semen. Like, you hear that word, "cumming," and you think of a man and his penis, right? Not a woman. Menstruation is so specific, it turns the stomach of weak men, who normally are the ones who run the country. If we had a woman as president I can at least guarantee we wouldn't have a tampon tax.
CP: So, dumb question, but some people just really don't like the sight of blood. Like, they will faint. Do you know any woman who, when they get their period, they're like, "Oh, no, I hate blood, I can't look"?
Schinderle: Oh, no, that does exist. I have a friend who has that. [Pause.] Sorry, I'm eating right now. I'm actually eating a pizza with barbecue sauce on it, while talking about my period, so obviously I don't have that problem. Personally, blood weirds me out when it's in a tube. I've given blood, and when I see it I might faint. But your own period... it's like changing your kid's diaper, I guess. Like, yeah this is gross, but your instinct takes over.
CP: What did you know about periods before you had one?
Schinderle: I grew up in Wisconsin, so, there was no sex ed. I didn't know anything. If I could tell my younger self something now, it would be: "It's going to get... thicker." Like, when you first get your period, it's, like, for children, like something that a child could handle. As an adult? Things progress.
CP: Are you still learning about it now? Do you think you've got it down?
Schinderle: No, I have no idea what I'm doing. I've become a fan of free bleeding, because I've spent too much money replacing my jeans I ruined. I kind of just gave in. There are a few days a month I'm going to be bleeding, and doing some self-care, "Netflix and chill" with my own damn self.
CP: Do you ever look forward to the day you're not having them? Like, menopause-wise?
Schinderle: Well, it interferes with everything. Literally everything. My job is to do standup comedy, so I spend a lot of time in dive bars, and there are not a lot of, like, clean facilities. Like, you're better off changing a tampon outside than in that bathroom, because I know I'm cleaner than that bathroom is. And then you just have to use hand sanitizer and never ever tell anyone you did that.
CP: You just told me about it!
Schinderle: Yeah. I guess I did.
CP: Is there something about them you wish people who don't have them knew?
Schinderle: I'll give you two. One is, the period sex thing? It really does help in easing cramps, so, if you're with someone you love -- or even someone you're just interested in -- this is a way you can help, and make them feel better. So, buck up about that. And then, on the medical side -- this is a little more political -- but I'm poor, so I signed up for a study where they're studying periods, and measuring the amount you bleed. So for this study, I go to an office and just bleed into a bucket, and then they tell me how much I bleed.
CP: Oh my.
Schinderle: But it's fine! I don't care. The point of the study is to figure out if they can gauge by how much you're bleeding if you have a fibroid problem, which I don't think I do, and I need the money. But this kind of research is important, because I have a friend who, in the last couple years, had to be hospitalized, and get blood transfusions, because of her periods. So, you can laugh about periods -- and clearly, I'm about that life -- but also some people are like, "Oh, uteruses? Gross." Like, this is literally the thing that gave you life. It's the way life is organically made. And it's still taboo, because we don't realize that, and don't care enough about it.