When I was a young lad, I really didn’t seem to care about things concerning life. I mean, I was raised in a strong Christian household, so I knew why we were made, what God’s purpose for us, and things like that. But the “simple” things weren’t really important to me. Like why the sky is blue, where babies come from, or, let’s say.... Why women have to bleed a week out of every month for an eternity.
Due to my lack of concern, I never talked to my mother about what exactly a period, or menstruation, was. Heard of it, had an idea of what was going to happen, didn’t really care. So, when I was twelve, and I woke up one morning to get ready for school, it caught me off guard, to say the least, to see that I was bleeding. I felt my pulse. It was normal. I didn’t have a fever, none of my body parts were detached, so I figured something went horribly wrong, but I had to catch the bus. So, I took a shower and hand-washed my underwear.
At school, after gym class, I had to use the powder room. Blood, again. What in the world was going on? You would think that I would panic or react, but, I just got some toilet paper and neatly slapped it (yes, I slapped it) on my underwear and went on to my next class. It would work itself out sooner or later.
This steady bleeding pattern went on for about a week. Did I tell my mother? Nope. Did I confide in my older sister who was 20 years old? Nope. Did I even tell one of my close girlfriends at school? Nope. I don’t like to worry or draw attention to myself, so I thought I’d keep this weird phenomenon to myself. After all, it did stop.
About 28 days later, I’m in the bathroom, getting ready for school, and to my surprise, this situation had reared its ugly head again. (You got to be kidding me!?) I look back and think of how many underwear I washed by hand during that time. I mean, I would wash more than one a day sometimes. I could not, for the life of me, understand what was going on, but I stayed strong and thought a little. I started recalling something about the “turning into a woman” jazz, and put two and two together, and figured that I had reached that point in my life. Yipee! After cleaning some underwear and putting some tissue on my new ones, I went to my mother and told her in a matter-of-fact-type way that I had “a menstruation.” I didn’t even know the right jargon for it. I’m pretty sure, I rolled my eyes, too, since that is my trademark expression.
Her eyeballs dropped to the floor and she got all excited. Then she had to call my older sister to the room and announce that ALI HAS HER MENSTRUATION! Why this was some sort of celebration, I did not know. I was not pleased.
I did know that I was annoyed of losing blood on some sort of “schedule” and, furthermore I was tired of washing underwear. So my mother introduced me to the sanitary napkin and gave me instructions. Now, that was the good news. I found toilet paper to be rather flimsy and not necessarily the best thing for these occasions. So, there was some good news, if there is a need for a bright side.
* * *
I am reflecting on this story because a few months ago, my younger sister asked me if I remembered how old she was when she got her menstruation. I was thinking why would I know? We don’t communicate about mess like that. Then she told me her story.
She had a digestive tract problem and when she was around 11 or 12, it was really bad. She was bleeding all the time and had to have surgery. Well, dealing with all this blood was a common place for her, but then she discovered additional blood from a different source. (Neighbors though.)
She didn’t feel the need to burden my mother with any more bad news, because my mother was on the verge of a nervous breakdown also referred to as an “Academy Award for Best Dramatic Performance.” If she were a paid actress, she’d be up there with Meryl Streep with the most nominations. (Things like “My baby gonna die! I’m gonna lose my baby!” were common sayings in the household, even when the baby was up and about and within an ear shot of the grim declarations.)
So, my sister decided to tell me her "initiation into womanhood" story. (Mind you, I didn’t remember any of this.) As a pre-teen, she came into my room and said she had something to show me. I didn’t like being interrupted when my door was closed, but I reluctantly followed her to the bathroom. As she reflected on this story, she hadn’t told me what she showed me in the bathroom. But whatever it was, I knew. I knew she had stepped on the womanhood platform. So, I went to the linen closet, threw a bag of sanitary napkins at her and told her to read the directions then went back to my room to do whatever it was she interrupted.
This has got me thinking: What is wrong with my family and communication? It’s like no one wants to talk about the subjects that involve bodily functions and things sticking out of things they weren’t meant to. This is how I lived my childhood. Don’t get me wrong, we were a very close family, and still are, but some things were best kept inside our own heads.
Now, today, I am a mother of a daughter. I already told the five year old when she starts this process in the late future, she can have the talk with Daddy, because, I still don’t know why it happens. And for some reason, my husband does. All I know is my husband and I used to celebrate Period Parties, because it meant no babies. Other than that, I was never told, never cared and maybe should consider sitting in on my daughter’s health classes when she gets to that point in school. I suppose I need to understand for once and for all.
Hey, there is a reason that “they” say “better late than never”.