asking for what you need

“There’s really no honor in proving that you can carry the entire load on your own shoulders. And...it’s lonely”
— amanda palmer, the art of asking

I had an Amanda Palmer moment on Friday. 

As a woman of a certain age, things have become unpredictable because things show up after months of not showing up. By things, I mean my period. We had just walked into the performance center to see Newsies. During the pre-show bathroom visit, I discovered that after three months of nothing, I Had started my period and I was unprepared. I knew that a wadded up bit of toilet paper wasn't going to hold me for the three hours I would sit there during the performance. What to do?

Two days before, I had read the intro to Amanda Palmer's book, The Art of Asking, at the library, (ultimately not putting it on my to-read pile because it was a fourteen day book and I already had far too much to read). 

"Who's got a tampon? I just got my period." I will announce to nobody in particular in a women's bathroom in a San Francisco restaurant, or to a co-ed dressing room of a music festival in Prague, or to the unsuspecting gatherers in a kitchen at a party in Syndey, Munich, or Cincinnati. 

Invariably, across the world, I have seen and heart the rustling of female hands through backpacks and purses, until the triumphant moment when a stranger fishes one out with a kind smile. No money is ever exchanged. The unspoken universal understanding is:

Today, it is my turn to take the tampon. 
Tomorrow, it shall be yours. 

There is a constant, karmic, tampon circle. It also exists, I've found, with Kleenex, cigarettes, and ball point pens. 

I've often wondered: Are there women who are just TOO embarrassed to ask? Women who would rather just roll up a huge wad of toilet paper into their underwear rather than dare to ask a room full of strangers for a favor? There must be. But not me. Hell no. I am totally NOT afraid to ask for anything. I am shameless. 

I think. 

So, as I sat there in the stall, I decided to be brave, to ask for what I needed. I pulled up my tights,  came out of the stall, looked around and said, "OK, I have to ask this. Does anyone have a tampon or pad?! I started my period and have nothing with me" One woman did come to my rescue ( and I have sent out so many universal blessings to her) but I was slightly stunned by the blank looks that most of the women gave me as if they had no idea what I was talking about. Is it that they didn't comprehend that I had gotten my period or that I would dare to be unprepared? 

I think it's the latter. I think that even as we as women lament the unbelievable expectations that are placed upon us, we burden each other with even higher expectations. We judge, we point our fingers, we blame. I think the embarrassment of asking is wrapped up in admitting that we need help, that we forgot to pack the damn tampons, that we didn't know what we might need in that particular moment. 

I am here to say proudly that I don't know how to do everything, that I need help, that I seek support. I have so many things that I want to do and I can't do all of this by myself. Things are going to be changing for me this year and I am going to be asking for what I need and for what I want. My success in the things that I want to do allows me to turn around and offer help to someone else. Today, I take the tampon and tomorrow, I give the tampon. It's that simple. 

Simple but not easy. 

It's not easy to ask for help, to admit that one is less than one hundred percent capable or prepared. What if no one shows up? What if the answer is no? Keep asking, I say, tremulously. I admit that this scares me more than a little bit. Right now, I don't even know what to ask for. I don't even know clearly what it is that I will need help with. I know that there are big things waiting for me this year and I want to share this journey with others. I don't want to arrive by myself. I want to get there with all the help I can get. 

If you don't know and are interested in hearing more from Amanda Palmer about The Art of Asking, here are a few videos for you: