Fair warning for those plucky male readers who occasionally stop by: the following post contains classified information of the feminine kind. Proceed at your own risk!
I got my period when I was thirteen. Every other girl I knew had started their period when they were twelve. I was on a swim team with girls from eight years old up to eighteen, so there was very little I didn’t know about the female body. I “knew” that you got your period in the sixth grade – that’s why they showed you the movie about it at the beginning of the school year.
My friend and I giggled through that movie. We were tomboys of the first order, and the idea that our bodies would someday betray us by breaking into spontaneous womanhood was laughable. I’d seen the older girls in the locker room – I already knew I didn’t want boobs, and now that I’d seen the movie I was sure I didn’t want my period either.
Then one by one, my friends all fell to dagger of womanhood…until there was – me. It never occurred to me to pretend that I’d gotten it, so my lack became a topic of conversation. Mothers of girls I swam with would corner me as I came out of the locker room, tired, wet, and smelling strongly of chlorine, to reassure me that I was “normal.” All the reassurances wore me down…I started worrying that there was something wrong with me.
When the big day arrived I was unprepared. It was very early on a Saturday morning – so early the light was just barely turning everything blue and the air was chilly. My mom, who was tethered to our home every other day of my life, was away at a conference for community swim teams, so my dad dropped me off at the pool.
In a routine set after eight years, I breathed in the scent of chlorine and felt the familiar rush of adrenaline it always gave me. I turned right, weaving around the cinder block wall that blocked the girl’s locker room from the lobby. I was wide-awake, unlike the majority of the other girls struggling into suits that were still damp and cold from practice the night before.
I dropped my duffel bag in front of my locker and sat down to untie my shoes and slide them off with my toes. Standing, I slid my warm-up pants down along with my panties…and then sat down hard on the smooth wooden bench.
Blood, like an unwanted beacon of maturity, stained my plain white panties.
A few years earlier, I’d accidentally shoved my arm through a glass door. I’d bled profusely enough to have my mom calling the doctor, who recommended butterfly bandages and a trip to the neighboring town’s ER if the bleeding didn’t stop. A few years before that, I’d cracked my head open at a drive-in movie when a family friend tripped and dropped me. All of that blood never bothered me, but that small red smear dropped my heart into my stomach like a rock.
One of the older girls noticed and called my coach, who called my dad. When he arrived, silent as always, my coach told him, “Your little girl has become a woman.”
He was confused.
She tried again, using a variety of euphemisms – some of which I knew, none of which my dad understood. Finally, she gave up on discretion and blurted, “She got her period. She can’t swim today.” I heard the girls start giggling.
All the blood in my dad’s face drained as my face flushed in embarrassment. He nodded and took me out to the truck.
We drove back home in silence, both wishing for my mom.
This post was written in response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club . Our prompt was to write about an embarrassing moment from our past. I truly drew a blank until I was reminded of that moment when I was no longer a young girl, but I found myself still wishing for my mommy.