My captor handed me a blue cardboard box and told me to read the directions. I wanted to vomit, not read. I sat on the cold toilet lid. I read the fold out directions by the glow of the cheap flourescent light. I held them upside down. What was this a drawing of? It was like a Rorschach ink blot test. I see an elephant, with an inside-out trunk. Wait. This is supposed to be my body? Is this supposed to go in your butt? In your pee hole? Oh. Wait just a minute. I have how many holes down there? That can’t be right. It was like an entire sex-ed class, completed in 20 minutes, by myself, in my bathroom. There I sat. Sweating. Locked in.
Maybe more information would have helped? Like a chat with my mom?
I’m not sure what happened to my parents. In the seventies they were crunchy, growing their own veggies in Oregon, probably growing other things, too. They talked to us about our parts. They showed us pictures even. And then, I guess they figured we had it because I don’t recall any refresher courses between the ages of 5 and 13. And, damn, if I couldn’t remember what I’d learned. Guess I should have listened, instead of playing with my stupid Barbie, the one whose hair we had cut off to make our own Ken doll. Gender modification at it’s finest. Anyway. They were plastic and didn’t have to worry about this stuff.
So there I sat. I drummed up the nerve to give it a go. It took at least 5 tries. And then, I think it was only about 1/4 of the way in. I hobbled around for the rest of the day, doing all I could to avoid eye contact with my dad (I had overheard my mom telling him, “She got her period!” – giggle giggle giggle). It shouldn’t have alarmed me after the bra purchasing experience I had survived the summer before. It was like some big practical joke, and I didn’t think it was very funny at all. My sister wasn’t even around to help, she had abandoned me for Catholic boarding school. Besides, she was cool and probably only had her period at night or something. That’s how cool she was.
I’d never felt so alone and uncomfortable (mainly because I didn’t have it in right).
I had heard about this evil period thing before. Girls in junior high told stories of some nameless pathetic creature who had come before us, wearing white pants, and discovering that “Aunt Flow” doesn’t give a crap if you have to stand up in front of the class… she’s coming to town anyway! I heard about methods, like if you sat up really really straight, it wouldn’t come out. I had the greatest posture ever in 6th and 7th grade. I heard that you could get out of gym, weekly, if you made the poor middle-aged gym teacher aware of your “condition.” I couldn’t imagine telling a soul. I was going to pretend that I was the first girl on earth never to get her period – not because there was something wrong with me, but because I was amazing. I could control such weakness with my mind.
FYI: I went into childbirth with much the same ignorance. But, at least by then I had learned about that other hole.
I had a great friend who I would visit with in the states, every summer. We would watch MTV and talk about boys, tell ghost stories, and snuggle with her dog. And then one summer all of that changed. She brought this book in for us to read. I was so excited, we had flashlights and comforters and I was expecting a great Edgar Allen Poe type of scare fest. Bring it! And then she started talking about “Menstruating” and “Puberty.”
A big piece of my heart died right there, on her living room floor, twitching and gasping in the glow of our flashlights.
“I can’t wait! I am so excited to get my period,” said my friend, who I was starting to think was actually one of those aliens from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
What. the. hell?
“Really? It sounds gross and awful,” said ME, in my infinite wisdom.
“No, no. It’s so cool. Once we get it we will be WOMEN! We will have boobs and boyfriends (I guess those two – or three – things were connected somehow) and it will be amazing. We’ll fall in love and get married…. SIGH!”
“Um. Do you have any other books?”
“C’mon! Let’s look up questions we have. It will be fun!”
Suddenly, that summer, I realized that we were really different people. We were both blonde. That was where the similarities stopped. In their tracks. She was boy crazy, for REAL boys! I was only crazy for the ones in movies. She was starting to look more like Julia Roberts, and I was starting to look more like a dork. She was looking forward to this woman thing, and I was totally denying that it would ever happen. Some people always want to grow up, and sure I had my moments where I fantasized about being Simon LeBon’s wife (or even mistress), but I really had no desire to go through puberty. I was terrified. I thought I’d just pass on the boob option, too. Those seemed like a lot of work. I was my father’s daughter. I was going to be tom-boy forever!
Well, guess what. No one asked me! I begrudgingly became a “woman,” that day, sweating in my air conditioned bathroom, working harder than I needed to – and I wasn’t happy about it. I wanted to stay a kid for a while longer. I think that’s where I could have used more than a pamphlet. I would have loved for someone to tell me that even though I was growing up, I could still be a kid. Just because there was a hole that I hadn’t been aware of before, didn’t mean that I had to suddenly act all grown up and stop reading Trixie Belden, suddenly switching to Glamour questionnaires and worrying about getting married.
I could still be a kid, even now that I knew where the tampon was supposed to go.