Every woman remembers the moment she has her first period. History celebrates the moment as an initiation to womanhood. In the old times, it meant a girl was now eligible to marry. Today, it means forty years of menstruation and clever colloquialisms.
Let’s revisit my magical moment.
I was 11 and in the sixth grade when I received the call to womanhood. It was an average Thursday. I, not worried about such things as my body ejecting blood spontaneously, made the fatal choice to wear pastel pink jeans and a white sweater. The first few hours of class went uneventfully in Ms. O’Brien’s sixth-grade classroom. Then, suddenly, I felt crippling stomach pains and I thought I might pee my pants. Horrified and scared to stand up, I waited until the bell rang to announce recess.
I dove into the wildebeest-like stampede that sprung from the classroom toward the bathroom. I grabbed the first stall, and I reaffirmed my strategic brilliance when I saw a blood spot the size of Asia in my jeans. I peeked out of the stall into the gaggle of girls checking their lip gloss and quietly asked for a pad. My best friend reached me first (because you never go anywhere without your best friend in the sixth grade) and handed me a pad. I took care of the first issue; now I had to take care of the second.
I knew from the Oakhill Elementary gossip mill that the school nurse did not call your parents to take you home for the day when you had your period (a medieval punishment in my eyes). You were expected to thug it out and finish the day. I had three or so hours of school left and only a jacket to save me. So, I wore the national outfit of “the girl who got her first period at school” and tied my jacket around my waist. During recess, I saw my friend Eva was also sporting this same look. Somehow it was easier knowing she was right there with me. We made it through the day together.
After getting off the bus and letting myself in my house, I ran to the bathroom to shower and find feminine reserves. I frantically searched every cabinet for pads. All I found were tampons in several sizes and some Summer’s Eve. After looking at the tampon instructions, I decided just to continue my search instead of figuring out the insertion diagram which looked terrifying.
Finally, I found an errant pantyliner (I thought it was a skinny pad back then) and thought it would be okay until my mom came home. I was wrong. So wrong. However, a natural born DIY girl, I made a makeshift pad out of toilet paper and sat still on a towel on the couch (while the cramps intensified) until my mom came home. I am not sure why I was anxiously awaiting this moment; it was miserable.
That night I told my mom about Aunt Flo’s arrival to much less fanfare than I was expecting (though I swear I saw panic in my father’s eyes). I thought we would have a cheesy, made-for-TV moment where my mom cried and hugged me and declared me a woman. Instead, my dreams of period presents and an intimate mother-daughter talk turned into a very short and straightforward lecture about hygiene and pregnancy. All in all, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
If I ever have a daughter, I think I will make it a cheesy, made-for-TV movie moment. We’ll drink cherry Kool-Aid and eat Bonbons. I’ll make her the technologically appropriate equivalent of a period mixtape. Most likely she’ll roll her eyes and say, “It’s so not a big deal, Mom.”