The day I started my period at 13 years old my sister said “No wonder you were so grouchy this weekend!” and my mom handed me a five-dollar bill and told me to go to the grocery store around the corner and “get something for it.”
Thirteen seems to be the peak of awkwardness for a lot of girls and I was no exception, I can clearly remember the walk to the store — absolutely sure every single person knew I had started my period and I was going to the store to make my first feminine hygiene purchase. After making my selection (I picked something that looked like what my sister maybe used? Perhaps?) I shoved them into the bottom of the reusable canvas bag my mom had sent with me (thank heavens my mom was into reusable bags way before the rest of the world because otherwise I would have had to CARRY THEM WITH MY HANDS to the cashier.) I picked out the nicest looking lady and put the entire bag on the belt. She thankfully took a tiny peek in, gave me a knowing nod and was as discreet as possible. Bless her.
I wish I could say that was the end of my menstrual terror, but unfortunately things got worse in 9th grade honors history. Without going into too many details, there was a puddle. Of all the small miracles, my teacher saw my horror before I had to say anything. Even more miracles, I was also wearing black pants and it was still cool to tie a sweater around your waist back in 1996.
Then there was the time I started my period whilst sitting on my boyfriend’s lap. He never called me again after that. I’m lucky teenage me survived that one.
I’d also like to sit down with all of you and talk about the first time you used tampons, because my experience was somewhat traumatic and not at all helped by that “special meeting” in fifth grade that featured a middle aged woman telling me to point the tampon towards my spine as she used her hand as a makeshift vagina.
I wonder how much less awkward having my period would have been if someone close to me had just talked about it, especially the embarrassing parts — that way I would have had something to gauge my mortification against and if I did so happen to surpass whatever previous mortification my friends had gone through? Did I have a story to tell!
When I finally moved in with roommates, our cycles synced up almost immediately leaving us weeping and wailing with ice cream and spoons on our kitchen floor one evening a month. One day in my early twenties while buying feminine hygiene products the checker chuckled and said “I wonder if it’s a lunar phase, because every woman today has had these in her cart.” That was the moment that periods became the great equalizer between women, that we had these parts of our bodies that betrayed us with blood and pain most every month no matter what we did about it, someone just had to bring it up first.
Periods are funny, they can either be the best news a girl can receive (NOT PREGNANT! HUZZAH!) or the absolute worst reminder a girl can receive (Not pregnant, again. Damn.) I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum and I can tell you the anxiety that comes from your period even being an hour late when you’re hoping you’re not pregnant or praying that you are is all-encompassing. And your period isn’t something you can just convince to start or something you can check in on (I’ve tried.)
Mine is regular now, thanks to birth control and getting my hormones under control. But I have had surgeries, procedures and enough doctor’s hands up my business that I’m just grateful it comes and goes each month without much complication. I’m glad that after 20 years of this it’s no longer a surprise. I’ve figured out what works, I’ve never found myself in a puddle since 1996 and it’s just sort of become this thing I deal with and someday in the next 20 years it will be this thing I used to deal with. As my girls get older I know their time is coming, oh man. I also know I won’t be shoving $5 in their hands and telling them to walk to the store to pick out their first box of pads all by themselves.
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.More On