Lily and Charlotte are on their own personal journeys with menstruation in the ninth episode of And Just Like That – and the casual on-screen representation makes a big statement about the reality of getting your period.
Whenever I talk to my friends about periods, all of them say the same thing. They hurt like hell, they mess with your emotions, they’re costly, and above all, they’re a hassle. It doesn’t matter how old you get, or how many years you’ve been menstruating, periods always have the potential to catch you out; whether that’s in the form of asking a stranger for a tampon in the nightclub toilet, or discovering that you’ve leaked all over your favourite pyjamas in the night.
Yes, one of the only certainties about periods is that they’re a nuisance. But it’s not often that menstruation is portrayed accurately in the media. Their portrayal runs the spectrum from shameful, dirty and secretive to the occasional horrifying gorefest, with a side helping of crazy female behaviour thrown in for good measure. Cast your mind back to 2015, and you might even remember the furore over Instagram censoring Rupi Kaur’s image of a period stained bed. 2015, folks.
Occasionally, though, a show comes along that breaks through the taboo and depicts menstruation in its bloody, messy, painful reality. Take I Love Dick, where Chris gets her period just as she’s about to have sex with Dick, which ends up dripping down her leg as she leaves. Or the scene in Orange Is The New Black where Gina defiantly smears period blood on her face to get the attention of a prison guard. Then there’s I May Destroy You, in which Arabella has period sex with Biagio, who casually removes her tampon and picks up a blood clot.
In the ninth episode of HBO’s Sex And The City revival, And Just Like That, however, there’s not just a standalone moment addressing periods, but a whole narrative. It begins at brunch with Carrie and Miranda, where Charlotte announces that she hasn’t had her period in four months, and so must be in the menopause. In classic Smug Charlotte fashion, she also tells her friends that she hasn’t experienced any of the “awful” symptoms: breast tenderness, sweating – in fact, she hasn’t noticed any difference at all.
In the world of SATC, however, announcing something like this out loud is a surefire way to invite chaos into your life. No sooner than Charlotte makes this declaration, her teenage daughter Lily needs help with learning how to insert a tampon. Over Shabbat dinner, no less. Cue a hilarious, heartwarming coming-of-age montage in which Charlotte tries every possible way to teach Lily how to master those pesky cotton plugs. She starts by giving warm, soothing words of encouragement; progresses onto show-and-tell like actions, moves onto a zen-like trance in the bath, and graduates to screaming commands like a soccer mum on the sidelines. I defy anyone not to laugh at Charlotte hoiking the skirts of her dress and putting one leg up on the toilet, because inserting a tampon is a vaguely ridiculous act.
Even after Lily’s moment of victory over the tampon, their journey with periods has only just begun. At a volunteer day at a women’s shelter in Brooklyn, where Charlotte and Co have joined Miranda to help paint the building, Charlotte hits another road bump. Lily declares that she’s lost the string to her tampon and promptly barricades herself in a port-a-potty. Oh, the joys of being a teenager! Naturally, she wants her mum to help out, so Charlotte has to down tools to counsel her outside, as Lily grows evermore panicked about the missing tampon.
It’s only after Charlotte is on the verge of losing it completely, of course, that Lily unearths the tampon string. But Lily, it turns out, isn’t the only one dealing with the hassle of periods. As Charlotte walks away from the port-a-potty, we find out that Charlotte hasn’t in fact waved goodbye to her periods, because she has a bloodstain on the back of her pristine white overalls. Not a few dainty droplets, but a significant patch of red seeping across the fabric.
Luckily, Carrie and Miranda notice straight away, and huddle around Charlotte to cover her overalls with a shirt. Miranda informs Charlotte that she believes she’s had a ‘flash period’ – an irregular period, in other words, which visits you when you’re least expecting it.
“I think you got a flash period,” Miranda declares. “It happened to me once, months after I thought I was done. I was arguing a case in court and the opposing counsel literally signalled me to look at my ass.”
It’s a worst-case period scenario that makes you laugh and wince simultaneously – and not because any disgust is shown at the sight of the blood. In characteristic SATC fashion, the casual on-screen representation tells it like it is: that the body’s functions are perfectly normal and natural, even if they are bloody frustrating. With its bluntness, humour and positivity, moments like this give a whole new meaning to what it means to get your period, and will undoubtedly go a long way in breaking down centuries of taboo.
Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.