In July, I ran with the bulls. Every summer, throngs of thrill-seekers and daring tourists travel to Pamplona, Spain to participate in the celebrated “running of the bulls,” or Encierro. The runners know the event’s bloody history – 15 dead and countless more injured – and are keenly aware of the heavy hooves and sharp horns that have written it. Still, they crowd inside the walled off section of the city’s cobblestone streets and await the signal, a rocket, to announce the bulls’ release, and the beginning of the deadly game of tag.

Big deal. Trotting alongside a few discombobulated male cows is just a trumped up test of one’s mettle, and nothing for anybody with any self-respect to brag about. In July, I raced against a genuinely fierce pack of bulls, burdened with a much bloodier legacy than the ungulate kind, and an incident worthy of retelling – I raced against my girlfriend’s period.

When Tara and I started dating, genital pet-names were old hat, and menstrual ones were in vogue – they look great with Uggs. We named her period carefully, like parents choosing one for their unborn child. At first, I strongly endorsed what I thought was an endearing title, “The River Styx,” but Tara was against it. Eventually, we hit upon something that we both felt elegantly and accurately captured the expulsion of her unused endometrial lining – “The Running of the Bulls.”

My memory of my first encounter with the bulls is still quite vivid. I was performing cunnilingus on Tara. Not because I liked it, and definitely not because she liked it, but because it helped my lisp.

As I raised myself from the task, and tried out a few “ch” sounds to gauge my improvement, Tara whispered in a worried tone, “the bulls are running.”

No words have ever galvanized me more quickly to action. I launched myself at the sink, and forced my mouth under the heaviest, hottest stream it could spout. Tara pulled me away, and told me that the blitzkrieg was unnecessary. I had outrun the bulls by a hare.

I was elated, to be sure, that no foreign blood vessels or busted eggs were floating around inside my mouth, but I was bothered by my earlier episode. Why had my reaction been so rash and intense? Obviously ex-uterus wasn’t on my top 10 list of favorite foods, but I somehow knew that my disgust wasn’t purely gustatory, and that it came from a much deeper place in my psyche. Menstruation, I thought, had always been taboo for me. Its only aspect that I had ever talked about or was comfortable talking about was PMS, and it was generally degrading talk.

Questions began to obtrude themselves with greater and greater force on my menstrual preconceptions. Why am I so disgusted by a woman’s period? How did my response make Tara feel? Slowly, my views began to change.

Most people, men and women, are embarrassed by the mere mention of menstruation. If it’s brought up in conversation, someone is likely to steer away from it quickly with a subject less frowned upon, like pedophilia or bestiality. But menstruation should be talked about and better understood, not ignored and stigmatized. Anything bound so tightly to birth and part and parcel to the reproductive cycle deserves our respect, as do the women who regard their own with pride.

Today, I am a reformed Menstruaphobe. If there were a repeat of unfortunate timing with Tara, I would still rush to the sink, but I wouldn’t be so repulsed. The Bulls no longer frighten me, and I now include them as one of the many things I love about my girlfriend. Thus, for Valentine’s Day, I’ve written an ode to her period. What, you are certainly wondering, could be more romantic? Only one thing: Getting it published.

AN ODE TO TARA’S PERIOD – To be read with an egregious imitation of an English accent.

Oh Tender Endometrium
Rejected by the womb
How I hate to see you disappear
Inside your tampon tomb

So Precious was your visit
To this I must attest
Your vessel sated me with blow jobs
And my tongue got to get some rest

Now she’s tossed you in the toilet
Like a common piece of crap
But in my heart you’ll stay forever
As a bloody decent chap