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The female curse
Diana Athill Writer
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Well, my mother told me about The Curse, as we very sensibly called it, which I think is a very good name for it, when I was 11. She did tell me that. And she said, 'It's a very boring thing that happens to women'. And I said, 'Does it hurt'? And she said, 'Oh no, it doesn't hurt, it's just a bore'.

Which seemed to me, now, looking back, a very sensible way of… no sort of sacred thing about… you see, one of my friends was told by her mother that it was a most sacred and splendid thing. It was called Your Little Friend. She… it made her nearly sick when she confessed what she'd been told. That we were told, because that was obviously something you were going to experience. And so… but of course, with my mother having told me in such a, sort of, sensible way like that, I just thought it was a bore and nothing else. I didn't actually know, to begin with, that it was connected with… with… I don't think I knew, that it was connected with having babies. But I got that sooner or later, quite clearly. From books.

Born in 1917, Diana Athill is a British literary editor whose publishing career began when she helped André Deutsch establish his company. She has worked with many notable writers, namely Philip Roth, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Rhys and VS Naipaul. Following the publication of her memoirs, she is now hailed as an author in her own right.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: mother, curse, period, menstruation

Duration: 1 minute, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008