Waiting to Start
I had an older sister. She started when she was eleven or twelve andshe started growing breasts too! I anticipated my period quite intensivelyby the time I was twelve, especially that year. I kept thinking that itwas going to start but it didn't. I began thinking by the age of 14 thatit would never happen and that not only would I never have a period (whichwould of course mark my entry into womanhood and all the pleasures thatentails) but I was doomed to never outgrow my training bra!
My friends and I didn't talk about it much. I remember knowing and markingthe event that THEY had started theirs but there wasn't a lot of talk.. . it was a passage and it was somewhat private. Maybe I asked a lot ofquestions about what it felt like to have a period but I remember talkingabout this more with my sister than my friends.
I looked forward to my period with dread. I didn't really talk to myfriends about it - one of them had gotten it. A year prior to my firstreal period I spot bled (bled slightly) for two days when the first spaceshuttle went up, so I anticipated that my period would be light. This didnot end up to be true.
I knew it was coming and I was sort of looking forward to the eventof having "gotten it" but apart from that I didn't give it muchthought. Most of my friends were boys and I didn't really talk to themabout menstruation. I remember in 6th grade the girls with tits would allgather in one stall in the bathroom every so often. There would be a lotof embarrassed giggles, etc., I guess there was a sort of air of mysteryabout the whole thing but I really wasn't very impressed. My mother toldme all the facts but I didn't really pay much attention, I got it all sortof muddled up. It wasn't until I read Our Bodies, Ourselves thatit all made sense.
Before I started my period I thought it would be embarrassing to haveand I dreaded getting it. No one told me about it, I learned about it frombooks, like Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Judy Blume'sother book, I forget the title, about the girl who loses her virginityto a guy who calls his penis "Ralph."
My mother told me nothing except to let her know when it happened. Ilearned more about it from my friends, and I anticipated "the event"only in that I didn't want to get it later than everyone else. What wasmost incomprehensible to me was that this thing would be happening to mefor the rest of my life (not that I expected an early demise, but I don'tthink I knew about menopause).
My anticipation of my period was equal to horror. My mother didn't haveto tell me anything - I saw her fighting migraines, vomiting, bleedingthrough clothes and on sheets. I did not talk to my friends about it. Inever wanted it to happen to me.
Before I got my period, my best friend Kris got hers. We were abouteleven. I felt sorry for her getting it so early, and also a bit impressedthat she had access to this mysterious adult thing. But I was very awarethat she was leaving childhood, never to return, while I was granted ashort reprieve. I was struck by the feeling that getting your period wasa point of no return. It didn't go away EVER. (I didn't know about menopauseyet.) It definitely signaled leaving childhood to me, and it was somethingI didn't feel ready for. Kris didn't tell me much about the experience,and I didn't feel comfortable asking.
Things changed when my family moved and I entered middle school, wheremy new best friend was Lesil. She hadn't gotten hers either, but most ofthe girls around us seemed to have. There was much more emphasis on make-upand clothes in this new environment, and within a few months I had askedmy mother to let me shave my legs, wear make-up and take me on the dreadedbra shopping expedition. I wanted to be more like everybody else. Anotheryear or so went by and Lesil got her period but I still didn't have mine.I was starting to really want to get it. Periods and mishaps concerningblood stains had become the subject of conversation at slumber parties,and I didn't want to admit that I hadn't got mine yet.
My mom gave me a book on puberty when I was about eleven or twelve anda pair of old-fashioned underwear designed with clips to fasten in a pad,instead of adhesive. I don't know if adhesive strips had just come aboutwhen my mom gave me those underwear or if she was just being nostalgicfor when she first got her period. Looking back, it was a strange time,because my mother was beginning to go though menopause as I entered puberty.She experienced depression and confusion at that time, and didn't realizeuntil later that it was related to changes in her hormones.
In 6th grade the teacher took the girls aside and told us we could writedown any questions we had about our periods on these little scraps of paperand put them in a hat, and then she would answer them. This one girl wrotedown her question and then folded up her paper like a million times intoa tiny square, so when the teacher pulled out this question which she hadto unfold and unfold we all knew it was Jenny's, and her question was "Willit hurt?"
I looked forward to getting my period because it had been years sincethe health teacher had said that we girls would start getting our periods.Most of my friends began theirs before me, and often years before me. Ididn't talk to my friends too much about not having my period yet. SometimesI thought that my friends, at least my acquaintances, would simply assumethat, of course, I had my period. I thought that if I was quiet about it,it was a sign that I menstruated. Instead, I think it was obvious to allmy friends that I did not bleed monthly like them. Although, its true,I was not the only 'late starter". Also, I was "late" todevelop bodily, which probably indicated to people that I didn't menstruate.Some of my friends teased me because I was so "kid-like". I wasanxious about the start of my period and the physical changes that accompanyit because it was so long in coming and I thought that something was wrongwith me!