Oh the Horror, the Horror.
so there was always a wall between my parents and us kids (i have a younger brother), and a lower but still present one between my brother and i, as well. we never talked about anything of any kind of importance. my parents' efforts to begin doing so were too little too late, quite frankly, and just made things worse.
the wall was very much present in the area of "the birds and the bees". what i knew about them i had learned from cryptic statements in books that i read. i had somehow acquired some judy blumes at some point, and the girl characters in them were always desperately longing for their first periods. i had no idea what they were even talking about for a long time, but then i came to understand that it involved blood coming from your, um, hoo-ha. it didn't sound like anything to be longed for to me, adding to my already present conviction that those books were ridiculous.
i didn't get any sex ed at school either. as i've mentioned before i attended a very free-thinking montessori school through 5th grade, then was whisked to super strict hardcore Christian school in 6th grade. montessori school didn't get a chance to go over sex ed (if they were planning on it, i'm not sure) and the Christian school had no intention whatsoever of doing so. so, in summary, i had no real concept of anything that was to come.
when i was 11 i attended a Christian summer camp (that my parents had forced me to attend for many years) for a week of "fun". i hated camp so much, Christian or Girl Scout. but Christian camp was worse because the rules were stricter and no one i knew went to them except me, so i was very shy and isolated. it was more of a week to be silently endured than to enjoy.
right in the middle of the week i started having pain in my, um, hoo-ha region. i didn't really know why, and there wasn't anything i could do about it, so i just ignored it. that was during arts & crafts time. on the way back to our cabins, this girl that i had become slightly acquainted with started babbling about periods. "my sister got hers when she was 11," she told me, "and so that's when i'll probably get mine too. how old are you?" i shyly told her that i was 11. "you should be getting yours soon, then!" she said. how humiliating to be having this conversation with someone i barely knew, about such an intimate subject. and she was sounding suspiciously like those judy blume people. i tried to think of a way to excuse myself. "i have to go to the bathroom," i said. "i'll see you later." i didn't have to go to the bathroom, but i went to the bathroom building anyway just to get away from the awkwardness. i wasn't even going to pee or anything, i just wanted to be alone for a second. however, as soon as i got to the bathroom i decided i did have to go after all. in fact, desperately. so i pulled down my pants, sat on the toilet, and saw red stains on my underwear.
the room literally spun. i sat there for awhile trying to think of what the heck i was supposed to do. i frantically checked my pants to see if it had bled through, and it had not, thank God. i still to this day wonder if that other girl knew somehow or if that whole conversation was just a bizarre coincidence. i, of course, hadn't brought any kind of supplies with me. i didn't know what to do. i wrestled with the thought of telling one of the counselors, who could take me to a drugstore, but i was too shy. i thought about asking one of the other girls, but outing myself as bleeding from the hoo-ha for the first time sounded like it might have judy blume-esque consequences. i couldn't bear the thought. so i decided that i'd have to do the best i could for myself. i tried to sponge off what was already on my underwear, and wrapped about half a roll of toilet paper around the crotch portion of my underwear, to absorb any future...excretions. it was a poor solution, but it was the best i could think of.
i still had 3 full days of camp left, and 2 nights. i don't remember the rest of the details clearly, just the constant fear that my horrible secret would be exposed, people would see the blood and point and laugh, and then the counselors would know and i would absolutely die of shame.
swimming was a difficult hurdle. i tried sitting out of swimming, but counselors told me it was mandatory and that i had to get in the pool. they were already frustrated with me, i couldn't tell them then. so i changed into my swimsuit, ran to the water, got in and held my legs as tight together as possible. i envisioned a red cloud of water swirling around me, but it was alright. i was still. i was fine.
the nights were awful. i could barely sleep, i was so afraid that i would bleed through onto the mattress and my secret would be exposed. i slept lightly, muscles clenched. in the mornings i would run to the bathroom to shower and change my toilet paper reinforced underwear.
finally it was the last day of camp. i told myself that i would tell my parents as soon as i got to see them after the final church service thing. it would be humiliating, but i could take it. they would stop at a drugstore and everything would be ok and this misery could end. but it turned out it wasn't my parents that came to pick me up, but my dad and one of his friends, a deacon in the church. there was to be no honesty, then. i had to endure the long ride home (an hour and a half, i think) praying i wasn't bleeding on the seat.
as soon as i got home, i ran to my mother's bathroom closet and found various types of products. i grabbed a bag of huge, 1 inch thick, bulky pads, and carefully followed the instructions. place in underwear like the cartoon showed. fold wings around underwear like the cartoon showed. it certainly seemed much better than the toilet paper method.
that night i still couldn't work up the nerve to tell my parents, and was now feeling guilty about having stolen a sanitary product from my mom's supply without telling why. so i wrote a note. it said something along the lines of "i got my period. i took a pad from your closet. you should buy more. don't talk to me about this." i left it on my mom's pillow and went to bed. after she found it, she came to my room and tried to talk to me, but i refused. she sat on the bed and tried to persuade me, but i turned my face to the wall and pretended to be asleep. she gave up.
later, instead of having a belated birds and the bees talk, she bought me a book and left it on my bed with a note that i should read it. it was "preparing for adolescence" by dr. james dobson. what a condescending, simplistic, piece of **** that was. to this day i hate that man.
the superhardcore Christian school reinforced the idea that periods were shameful. they refused to put sanitary napkins or tampons in the girls' bathrooms. tampons because it considered them to be evil, as they were put up into the hoo-ha much like (gasp!) a pee-pee might be. (it wasn't until college, incidentally, that i finally used a tampon for the first time. i'm still not very comfortable with them.) their excuse for no sanitary napkins was that they didn't want to corrupt the minds of the younger children (???). so if you were at school and needed sanitary supplies, you either had to beg your friends or go up to the front office and ask the principal's secretary for one. that was a humiliating process, since it wasn't possible to ask subtly. you had to stand at the window of the office, announce what you needed in front of multiple staff members (and usually other students) and then they would pass a huge pink-wrapped pad to you through the window. subtle. and if, heaven forbid, you bled through your pants, don't think you could just get away with tying a sweater around your waist. that was against the dress code. so you'd tie the sweater around your waist, attempting to hide your giveaway stain, then a teacher would approach you and ask you to remove it, then you'd have to refuse and explain why. so if anyone was wearing a sweater around their waist and wasn't forced to remove it, it was equivalent to wearing a neon sign that said "i bled right through my pants!" sigh.
and i think that concludes my story.
btw, the avatar is from the movie "the shining" and is also a tribute to south park.