This is a loaded question and depending on your experience, one that can barely be rattled since it often exists in the deep, dark cage of your mind, the place where you sent most of your pubescent memories to rot. This alone, the “one does not simple un-repress experiences of first periods” usually indicates what most have experienced when getting the first period, which is, not the best.
As the quintessential late bloomer, my first period came to me a bit later; yet make no mistake, it came in a crowning fashion. I was covered in a brand spanking new pair of GAP khakis, a luxury for our family in those days as high-end store prices were usually out of our grasp. (How the mighty have fallen…) Of course, nature knew way before me that beige was just not a color I should ever wear, and promptly regaled me into a lifetime of dark jeans and black bottoms as it decided to release the proverbial hounds; and when I say proverbial hounds, I mean my period.
So I bled. I bled in ways I was not aware one could bleed, so unaware in fact, that I walked around with giant bloodstains on my pants and became the talk of the town. Despite my embarrassment at the situation, I could have easily got over the staining of the pants — “It gave folks something to talk about that had to do with me,” reasoned my attention-craving mind. But really, what sticks in my memory forever is the way that I was treated once I got said period. The teacher who made me aware of what small war had erupted on my backside, grumbled a bible verse and had made some statement about how I may have ruined myself that day. The principal, a man who we could probably not determine as being “sympathetic” told me not to sit on anything and mentioned that while these things weren’t really “his problem,” that he would recommend keeping my legs closed because I was able to get pregnant now and mess up some young man’s life. Charming, yes, but surely not the first (and certainly not the last) time I’d been referred to as a slut.
The point of all this, besides that display of blatant misogyny, is that first periods are not treated well. They do not get the respect they deserve: I mean think about it. Your body has officially decided that now is the time to leap into a physical state that in many ways, defines adulthood. Sure, at thirteen or fourteen, you may not be emotionally, financially, mentally (the list goes on…) ready to have a child, but the inner evolutionary strategist says fuck that, we need to procreate, you’re a big girl now. I disagree with the inner evolutionary logic, but either way, the first period marks a serious cultural transition in many ways.
So why the hell aren’t there parades and holidays for this?
I’ll hip you to something you may not know — wait, come closer, closer, yes, a bit closer. We live in a male-dominated society that underplays women’s feats and abilities unless it matches up with a similar agenda, in which case, icky, gross, mysterious periods have little to no bearing on male society as a whole and are treated as such.
Again, I disagree.
If there is anything I could have used as an awkwardly, sad, and desperate teenager living in the south and somehow placed in a very religious school for purposes of a better education opportunity (that joke tells itself), it was a party. A party that instead of treating a period as a gateway drug to the fanciful hell that apparently being a bleeding being brought, was about the fact that damn, kid, you made it to this point in your life and it’s important. A party that celebrated the stressful time and allowed open conversation and party hats. I needed something like… a menarche party.
Aren’t you glad that there is Menarche Parties R’US?
Menarche Parties R’US is a group of moms that have created a party package to celebrate the transition into bleeding for the next thirty-eight-odd years (seriously, that’s a marriage). “Our goal is to take the pressure off mothers and daughters when it comes to talking about menstruation,” says the site’s “About Us.” “Mothers and daughters benefit by being educated, having fun, strengthening the line of communication and creating a lifetime of memories.” They aren’t playing around either — look at what the party pack comes with:
How fantastic that a group of your elders actually celebrates the thing that happens to just about half of everyone, instead of quietly whispering (as to not offend any broheims that may be near and present over, shock, a body function) about how now life will just be “different,” while shamefully handing over a box of bulky pads like contraband that dare not grace the eyes of anyone for fear of being witness to well, a period. But why such a shame around periods here? Sure, save the lucky ones who perhaps had savvy parents who recognized what getting your period meant and actually provided support, periods are like the thing that shan’t be mentioned, and surely not celebrated. But celebrating the first period isn’t an anomaly: the Asante celebrate first menstruation with a huge party, singing, dancing, and gift-giving as part of the celebration. In certain Jewish communities, girls received a slap as a reminder that she was no longer a child. The Oglala Sioux had their young women undergo a purification ritual with instruction from a holy woman, where she was able to then know that she had the power of the earth, and the !Gwi of southern Africa celebrate by decorating the body of the young woman. Sure, periods can get you banned to huts and from churches, but honey, can we be honest for a second? Periods are for celebrating, because it’s a physical symbol that shit is about to get real.
So the next time a wee one in your family breaks the seal into the next forty years of bleeding, do them the justice of giving them a party. Shoot, we should all have parties, every month (I celebrate my period by eating cookie dough out of the tube, drinking red wine until I think I’m actually Raquel Welch, and analyzing all the different ways my life has turned into a bad Kathy comic). I say three cheers for the period party, especially as we bring in a anew generation of folks who can feel a different sort of pride in their bodies, blood, blood clots, and all.