Saturday, April 21, 2012

Aunty Flow's First Visit--by Dana Fleming

How might it have been different for you if on your first menstrual day, your mother had given you a bouquet of flowers and taken you to lunch, and then the two of you had gone to meet your father at the jeweler, where your ears were pierced, and your father bought you your first pair of earrings, and then you went with a few of your friends and your mother’s friends to get your first lip coloring; then you went,
     for the very first time,
          to the Women’s lodge,
               to learn
                    the wisdom of women?
     How might your life be different?
                                                                        -Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones

The first adjective I used to describe the female menstrual cycle was undoubtedly gross.  Or maybe I just died a little inside?  So what you’re telling me, the girl who can’t keep it together when she sees an ant squished or feels the blood trickling down her index finger when she cuts it on a tuna can, is that at some point in her life she will begin bleeding, from her girl parts (which is another story in and of itself) on a monthly basis for decades?  So long, cruel world.  I…really can’t do this.   

And I couldn’t.  At least, not the first time.  It was December 23rd and I was 13.  I was a different girl from 6 years beforehand when the concept was first introduced to me, and I wanted my period.  Why?  Because at Jenkins Middle School, having your menarche meant a right of passage.  You were a woman.  A woman could have sex and create children.  I had no intention of doing either at this point in my life, but the possibilities were thrilling.  I pined for the day when a tampon would roll out of my backpack’s front pocket in front of some guys and I would blush.  “Oops” I’d say as I hurriedly and bashfully picked it up.  Embarrassing?  Meh.  I’ve done worse.  Still, they would know, and I would know that they knew that I was undoubtedly a woman—with the promise of breasts and hips to follow shortly thereafter. 

I waited and waited and even prayed for it.  It felt strange telling God I wanted to start my period, but only when I considered the possibility of anyone ever finding out.  Barring that it felt like the most natural thing in the world.  Aside from my dad to quit cigarettes and wanting to be thin and beautiful I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted more in the world than my right of passage.

I was funny and gregarious.  People liked me.  But to be liked alone?  The world would soon know that I was born to be loved.  The world was just waiting for me to lose weight and become a woman.

December 23rd was more than I bargained for.  My partner in crime Mollie and I were making crank calls to guys our age.  Hawk, Caleb, Gabe, Adam, and Jordan.  All made my stomach turn, but the worst was Adam.  His shaggy bowl cut dark hair, freckles, blue eyes, and the emotional vomit he called poetry that he’d write for his flippant girlfriend Kumiko.  What a romantic.  I vomited my fair share of emotion about him.  All of the poems were addressed to “you”, and “you” didn’t change for three years. 

The calls were dumb.  They were innocent.  (After dialing *67, “Hello!  My name is Gertrude and I represent McDonalds the fast-food chain.  We are conducting a survey on french fry satisfaction.” )But just to be sure we decided to make certain that Mrs. Black wasn’t home.  I knew how.

“Mrs. Black?  Are you home?  I started my period and I need your help!”  We snickered.  I told Mollie I’d be right back as I had to use the restroom. 

Blood.  Blood?  BLOOD!  YES!  Oh…NO.  I immediately felt dizzy and placed my head between my knees. 

“No, no, no, no, no” I whispered between my tears.

“This is what you wanted” I told myself.  A little girl just died.  Murdered in a stripe of blood on some wad of toilet paper.  In some inexplicable way, the realization of adolescence set in.  I wasn’t a kid anymore, but I certainly was no woman.  So I bled?  So what?  There was no magical change within me.  I was still insecure, still funny, still 13, still…Dana.  I was, however, no longer chubby.  That, however, had nothing to do with my period.  Quite the contrary--it was a wonder I started.    

After taking a few minutes to pick up the pieces (and after circulation returned to a functional level) I went downstairs to tell Mollie.

“I started my period.”

She laughed.  I felt like it was a joke as I said it.

“Dana, we’re done playing around.”

“No Mollie…I’m serious.” 


She was incredulous the entire afternoon.  She didn’t believe me until later that evening when I attended Saturday night Mass with her and her family.  Sit, Stand, Kneel, repeat.  Standing.  My thoughts went to what was happening in my underpants. 

“I am bleeding.  Blood is leaking from me.  I am bleeding from my vagina…oh dear…vagina…oooooh dear…”

I fainted.  I was escorted by Mollie’s mom out of the church to lay down in the car once I came to.  Mollie believed me after that.  

1 comment:

  1. This is a great story. While I obviously can't relate to this specific experience, your line "There was no magical change within me" is universally applicable and definitely resonated with me.