Getting your period for the first time can be pretty terrifying if you have no idea what to expect.
I should know: I got mine when I was 12 and was completely horrified by the whole event. I can still vividly remember making the discovery one night in the bathroom, and thinking that surely some mistake must have been made.
When I finally mustered up the courage to poke my head out the door and call to my mother, my little sister overheard and promptly ran around the house yelling, “KAITLIN GOT HER PERIOD!” … over and over again. Before I knew it, my entire family was crowded around the bathroom door.
See? When you’re 12, periods can be embarrassing.
But they shouldn’t have to be.
Case in point: Last week, Florida mom Shelly Lee welcomed her 12-year-old daughter Brooke into womanhood by throwing her a full-on “period party” — complete with gifts (aka a stockpile of tampons, pads, and other accoutrements) and a cake (decorated in red icing, of course). And it wasn’t mortifying at all.
Shelly told Buzzfeed that she got the idea after seeing that Brooke was anxious about having her period. “I wanted to make this event a little more fun!” she shared.
And that she did.
Shelly even went the extra mile to bake a chocolate cake since she knew it had “serotonin in it to help her with Brooke’s first period.”
(Talk about forethought.)
Brooke’s little period party might have just stayed a funny family story had it not been for her friend and cousin, 17-year-old Autumn Jenkins, who found the whole thing pretty hilarious.
Turns out, she wasn’t the only one — on January 9, Autumn tweeted photos of the party along with the caption, “Brooke started her period today & my family is super extra.” To date, it has over 7.2K retweets and 15K likes.
The positive response to Lee’s “period party” was overwhelming, with many commenters sharing that girls don’t often get the proper information or support about their periods from the get-go. Others called out the ongoing taboo that’s surrounded periods since … well, basically the dawn of time.
And it’s true: In the last few years, we’ve heard a lot about period shaming — in fact, it’s part of why NPR called 2015 “The Year of the Period.” But finally, the conversation is shifting towards why we need to end it.
Kicking things off was Kiran Ghandi, the Harvard MBA student and drummer for M.I.A. who made headlines in April 2015 when she ran the London Marathon while “free-bleeding.” Plenty of online commenters called her “disgusting” for the decision, but as Ghandi later told PEOPLE, she did it to raise awareness about the many women throughout the world who are not only shamed for having their periods, but also forced to live without basic access to feminine care products.
And it worked — if for no other reason than sparking a conversation on a larger scale.
“The fact that we’ve been able to talk about periods openly is the biggest step in the revolution,” Gandhi told NPR. “So many people are weighing in about the problems they currently face with their periods. It makes people empowered to speak about their own bodies.”
We still have a ways to go — both abroad and at home — when it comes to period shaming, but it’s nice to see small signs that things are getting better for the next generation of girls.
Now only if we could all get chocolate cakes made for us every month …More On