My mother did not ever sit down with me and warn me about the way little girls developed into women.

She did, however, one day hand my brother a book called, “What’s Happening to Me”.  In a wildly inappropriate move, she told him to share it with me so I could be educated with it as well.  I suppose in her eyes this made sense, because the book did equal time between girl stuff and boy stuff.

The book didn’t talk about S-E-X.  It was simply a more detailed (and illustrated!) version of what we got in the fifth grade health lecture that my mother signed off on.  What happens to our bodies and when.  When my brother realized there wasn’t any juicy stuff in it except for one graphic with naked girls from ages 9-18, he left me with it.

The book went through, as though talking to a child (though I thought fiercely, a much younger one than I was currently), exactly what would happen to me and when.  How hair was supposed to grow.  And my chest.  And my hips.  And that at some point between age 10 and age 16, I would start MENSTRUATING.

The book of course did not provide any details as to one would deal with any of these scenarios, ie shaving and tampons.  All I knew about shaving was that my girlfriend Dawn did it once when I slept over, and her entire calf was bloody by the time she was done.  Was I really going to have to mutilate myself every day?  And tampons were practically a four letter word in our house, as I could vividly remember the night my sister got one stuck in her who-ha, and called frantically to my mother to help her “GET IT OUT” (I was, of course, about six at the time and had no idea as to what she had been referring to at the time.  As with everything of a sensitive nature in our family, these things were simply not discussed).

I was curious about the period thing.   My own mother had her uterus removed when I was seven due to a medical condition, so she never had her period from the time I became aware that they happened.  My sister refused to talk to me about it, but clearly she’d never recovered from her trauma, because there were no tampons kept in our house.

It was just so odd to me that no one ever talked about these things.  I read Judy Blume for tips on breast enlargement.  I read my sister’s castoff Seventeen magazines for advice on feminine protection (I was totally going to try tampons; I liked to swim for heaven’s sake, and wouldn’t people notice if you stopped swimming for four days during the heat wave?).   I snuck my mother’s copy of the Ms. Guide to A Woman’s Health and discovered deodorant and when to use it.  There was a whole section in there about hygiene for teenage girls and how often to shower, etc.

I was starting to be interested in what came next, after those changes, that that would require a lot more reading before I understood much about that concept.  With my mother and father’s angry relationship front and center for most of my life, I definitely approached the whole idea of commitment with trepidation.  Still, the little girl who cried out for attention longed for the self esteem boost that would come from male attention.  I would have no knowledge as to how to handle it when it came, but like any good student, I was studying ahead, just in case.


One Response

  1. It’s crazy that a lot of the times, parents aren’t willing to even convey the realities of puberty and human sexuality with their own children, especially children of the same gender. Things are so much smoother when kids know what to expect, they don’t feel lost, confused or scared as a result of it (or at least AS much). Hopefully this type of “avoidance education” is slowly dissipating in our modernized society, however, there are still many cases of growing boys and girls who don’t seem to know facts about their own body. They pick up hearsay and other misinformation along the one and take it as being factual and it really messes with their heads.

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