Remember that one time when my period first started?
I was ten years old and totally prepared for the situation, is not how this story begins. But I really thought I was ready because Judy Blume had already told me everything I needed to know about the excitement of getting your first period. Turns out I missed a few things.
In my very Christian elementary school, we did learn about the human body. I was handed a drawing of a reproductive system where I was expected to point to the fallopian tubes, uterus and vagivag. I did so with flying colors. The drawing made sense enough, but I didn’t quite connect the dots for what all of this would mean for me on a monthly basis- you know? I was not yet aware of how this little drawing would have consequences and repercussions for my personal life.
So, there I was sitting in my classroom at ten years old when I felt the overwhelming urge to head to the bathroom. I could tell something strange was happening with my body, but I wasn’t entirely sure what. I didn't need to pee, but I knew my body was trying to talk to me and it wanted to do so in private.
I raised my hand and was excused to the bathroom with our generic hall pass- the chalkboard eraser. I was tempted to turn right out of the classroom to use the “Women's Staff Only” bathroom. It was large. It had a little lobby lined with mirrors. It smelled good. But this was no time for sneaking around. I couldn’t be on full alert until I knew what was happening with my body.
So I made a left and off to the “kid” bathrooms I went. I was alone with my choice of the four neon orange stalls. I slid into one in the middle and stood there. Hmm. Now what? I didn’t really need to go, but it seemed an appropriate place to start. So I pulled off my clothes and what did I see? A red spot in the middle of my underwear.
My period had arrived! It was wondrous. I woke up that morning ready to diagram some sentences but I would leave school that day a woman.
Cue “Im Every Woman”.
But then I had another thought. My vagivag was doing this on its own. Like, my body didn’t wait for me to get to a restroom so that my period could begin. I had misunderstood Judy Blume. I thought my period would be convenient, understanding, patient, on schedule. I thought she would wait until I needed to use the restroom before appearing. Isn’t that why girls in her books always discovered their period in a bathroom? Big Nope. Like me all those girls just happened to be in a bathroom when discovering her period. It waits for no one.
Well, I quickly realized that if my period was just gonna do its own thing, and not wait for me to have to pee, I would need something to protect my undies for the rest of the day!
All I had in my little Claire’s purse was the following: A few pens. An old sticker. A tiny comb that was no match against my new growth but might straighten out my pink roller bangs. A few pennies, nickels and dimes in the corners. Two jolly ranchers.
I was not Macgyver. None of these things were gonna help me today.
I looked around at the suddenly childish neon orange walls. “Welp. Should have gone to the staff bathroom after all,” I thought. But then again, I wasn’t sure my little nickels and dimes would get me a pad even from the adult bathroom vending machine. Did it take only quarters? Did all women carry quarters? I had no idea.
While I semi-wondered how these bathroom vending machines work, I stared at the toilet paper roll and sighed. This was not going to be comfortable. This one-ply wonder that felt more like tracing paper than cotton, was not going to feel great. But what choice did I have? I got to work folding.
Then I grabbed some more and kept folding.
And some more and kept folding.
Turns out it takes a lot of toilet paper to approximate the thickness of a pad that you only remember from a tv commercial.
When I placed my little creation down, I had a second thought. Nothing is going to keep this in place. The last thing I needed was to announce my new found womanhood to an entire classroom of my friends by having a wad of carefully folded toilet paper fall out of my pants leg. No thank you.
Better wrap this little contraption into place. More toilet paper.
“I wonder how long Ive been in here,” I thought. It felt like hours had passed. Revelations had occurred. The whole world had shifted. Ingenuity was required. I was thinking on my feet. Had all this really happened in just fifteen minutes… or less?
Okay. Time to see if any of this worked. Also, guess I should go to the bathroom while I'm here.
After pulling all my clothes into place around my contraption, I suddenly felt strange… really strange. Strange like, my underwear is stuffed with scratchy toilet paper that Im only half certain wont come tumbling out. But I had to use a lot because I didn’t know how heavy my period might get. As I walked to the sink, I almost laughed at how ridiculous I felt. Looking in the mirror, I twisted and turned, walked back and forth, jumped up and down- anything within reason to see if I was safe to leave.
I washed my hands, threw away the paper towel (which felt remarkably similar to the toilet paper in my pants), grabbed the chalkboard eraser and opened the door to the hallway. It was time to face the public. And wouldn’t you know. Following me down the hall was a line of kindergarteners, holding a green rope with yellow stripes.
I turned to wave at them and their teachers. This was it. These little kids would not spare my feelings if they thought something was off. They would point. or laugh. or ask 50-11 questions about my bulging booty. Deep breath. Act natural. Walk slowly. After a few moments, I moved over to allow them to pass. They only waved and smiled. Good. Apparently it wasn’t as obvious as I felt.
I walked back into my classroom and sat down uncomfortably, but proudly. It wasn’t the perfect way to discover my period, but I successfully figured out what to do on my own. I was a woman… periodt.
Outro: “Im Every Woman.”
*This story is truuuuue. Please tell me about the first time you felt like you were trying on womanhood. Maybe that included your period, maybe it didn't. Tell me everything.