The Crimson Tide Diaries (Revival!): Menarche Parties

[E]Coco PapyLadyguides16 Comments

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Do you remember your first period?

Image copyright Sarah Wilson

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.

Look broheim, Jesus loves sluts. Who apparently are women. On their period. Plotting to get men trapped by pregnancy. Something like that. Image copyright TicoTimes.net.

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.

Image courtesy of Cultist Zine.

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:

Dinner plates, dessert plates, cups, loot bags, invitations, napkins, private days feminine disposal bags, pin the ovaries game, puberty marshmallow game, menstruation trivia game, positively puberty game, and a handy set of instructions for it all. Image copyright and courtesy of Menarche Parties R'US.

 

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.

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[E]Coco Papy

Coco is a writer and burlesque performer. Born in the Deep South and based out of Brooklyn, New York, she performs and pens regularly, with gusto. You can catch more of her work at http://cocoepapy.tumblr.com/
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[E]Coco PapyThe Crimson Tide Diaries (Revival!): Menarche Parties

16 Comments on “The Crimson Tide Diaries (Revival!): Menarche Parties”

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  1. Avatar of
    Kortney Thoma

    [TRIGGER WARNING - ABUSIVE MOM TALK]

    I was in 6th grade and on crutches when I discovered brown stuff in my underwear. I think I wore a pad for the day just in case but I was a little scared (no one had really ever talked with me about it). When I got home, I think the conversation I had with my mom went something like this:

    Me: Mom, I think I got my period today. My underwear turned brown?

    Mom: Well what the hell do you want me to do about it? You want a f*ing party or something?

    Me: ……. I, um, just need to know what to do…….

    Mom: Don’t get pregnant. That’s what you need to do.

    So I figured it out on my own. To say the least, her response was not ideal and I’ll be doing it much differently for my girls someday. I actually would have liked a party. To me, I felt like I was entering the secret world of Womanhood and there should have been some kind of welcoming party! This would have been a little embarrassing if it had actually involved talking about periods in front of people (ha, teenagers make no sense at all!) but going shopping with my friends, buying some make up, watching a PG-13 movie, culminated with a sleep-over would have been enough to make me feel special. Because hey, getting your first period is special! I like that someone came up with menarche parties because there needs to be more positivity about being a woman. for the rest of our lives periods are going to ruin at least one day every month and we will be forced to speak of them in hushed whispered tones of coded language. It would be nice to look back and say, “On this day, I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed but open and proud of my body.” Party or no party, I want my girls to start their periods encouraged that being a woman is amazing.

    1. Avatar of Silverwane
      Silverwane

      Yes yes yes! I ended up so disgusted with my body when my period came that I didn’t tell -anyone-. No lie, I was so embarrassed about it that I didn’t tell anyone until I left for college. Of course my parents knew, but they wouldn’t talk about it with me, either, so I ended up using toilet paper for pads ALL THE TIME. For four years straight.

      On the plus side, it was a useful skill to develop for those times when I am caught bleeding without tampons or such, but goddamn do I wish I had been made to feel comfortable about myself then.

      1. Avatar of
        Kortney Thoma

        Oh my god–Toilet paper pads for four years! I can’t believe your family never noticed the copious amounts of toilet paper missing at certain times of the month and just talk about it! I hate that women are made to feel ashamed about their periods and that we have to speak of them in secrecy or not at all. I vow to be part of the change!

        On a side note, you must have mad impromptu pad skills!!

        1. Avatar of Silverwane
          Silverwane

          What is really bad about it is, I’m absolutely 100% positive they knew…but they just kept…letting me do it that way. So that we didn’t have to talk about it. WTF really?

          Hear hear on shooting down that BS!

  2. Avatar of Dr. Song
    Dr. Song

    I was fourteen, and at boarding school with no one to help me. I was in total denial about it and refused to acknowledge I was menstruating until it was almost over. The first night I had to sleep on the floor of my tiny room because I had bled all over my sheets.

    I can’t believe I haven’t repressed this memory yet.

  3. Avatar of [M] freckle
    [M] freckle

    I don’t need a party, but (more) information is always necessary. With my first period, my mom told me what was happening and that from now on, when ‘blood happened’ I would have to use a pad. No fuss, no tears or disgust, just a small ‘This is going on’.

  4. Avatar of [M] QoB
    [M] QoB

    My first period was nice to me and didn’t show up until I’d got home from the last day of school that year. And I was delighted, because I was the last of my friends to get it. I didn’t tell my mother, though, she just saw the bin and figured it out. I did go shopping with her a few days later and demanded she buy me more tampons, cue an awkward conversation with her checking if I knew how to use them…

    I don’t think I would have liked a party, but something – a dinner out, maybe, would have been nice. But my family weren’t very open about these things at all so it probably would have been more awkward than anything.

  5. Avatar of Dormouse
    Dormouse

    I had my first period when my mom was in a different country. I had an inkling when that brownish stain showed up in my undies that it was my period, but it wasn’t until it grew larger that I called my older sister into the bathroom to confirm the matter. She told me the ins and outs of using pads–I didn’t use tampons until college–and that was that. It wasn’t a big deal, but my mom was really upset when she found out she “wasn’t there” for her baby when she started her period. Ha ha :)

    Also, I think menarche parties are a brilliant idea! We SHOULD be celebrating this amazing thing that our bodies can do! I want my future daughters to be comfortable with their bodies and to be unashamed of menstruation.

  6. Avatar of sonk
    sonk

    I got mine when I was around twelve. I woke up with cramps (although I didn’t know what they were) and saw blood all over my PJs. I told my mom (crying) and she gave me a big hug and said “Congratulations, you’re a woman now,” and she cried a bit too. She’d always been super open about periods, and so she kind of presented it as an exciting event. Also, the rule in my family (applying to my female cousins, too) was always that we couldn’t get our ears pierced until we got our periods. Not sure why, but that’s what we did to celebrate. That rule actually only ever applied to me and one of my cousins, who got her period a few months after I did. Our sisters were both really late bloomers and got our moms to waive the rule. Sort of silly, but it was a nice way to visually represent my womanhood, I suppose.

     

  7. Avatar of Ren
    Ren

    My case wasn’t so bad, I guess. I was somewhat informed on what to expect and lucky enough for it to happen at the comfort of my own home. And I think my mom handled the situation pretty well. I would have been mortified though if there had been a bigger fuss made out of me bleeding out of parts of my body I didn’t really have figured out at all yet. I don’t think shame is the right word for it, it was just an intensely private experience for me. I told mom because I clearly needed some help with this, but even mom telling dad seemed a bit much. I remember feeling incredibly uncomfortable physically, and mighty pissed that this would now keep happening to me for 40+ years, and at 12 and a half, in no fucking sense or way ready for any “passage-into-adulthood” or “reaching-sexual-maturity” crap. It felt more like my body had betrayed me and robbed me of my childhood. If someone had had the nerve to try celebrating, I would have most likely just cried in my room.

  8. Avatar of Monica
    Monica

    I got my first period on April 1st. April Fools’ Day.

    It was pretty anticlimatic; I knew where the pads were and how to use them. I told my mom, and that was that.

    I’m not sure I consider it something that would merit a party – though it was the same year I had my Bat Mitzvah, and that was only 4 days later. Close enough?

  9. Avatar of upinalather
    upinalather

    I have nothing good to say about the name “Menarch Parties R’Us”.

    I would have died a slow, agonizing death if my mother had thrown a party when I started my period in fifth grade.

  10. Avatar of Lauren
    Lauren

    Ugh, I was 10, didn’t realize what was happening each time I went to the bathroom, and didn’t tell my mom for over 24 hours.  I technically knew what a period was, but didn’t realize that that was what was happening.  It didn’t look like blood.  When I finally showed my mom and she told me it was my period, I pretty much felt relief.  Oooooooohhhh, good, I’m not dying.  Yay.

    Somewhat related, I’ve heard a number of people insist that 4th graders are too young to start sex ed cirriculum about stuff like periods.  What. The. Fuck.  I sure as shit wasn’t too young for my period to start in 4th grade, but I was too young to know what a period is?  Ugh.  Knowing what bodies actually do will not scar or ruin a child.  If I hadn’t had the 4th grade sex ed lesson, an already somewhat traumatic experience would have been even worse, since my mom would’ve had to explain what a period was to me.  I already thought I was dying.  Having some previous knowledge was, ya know, helpful.

  11. Avatar of [E] Sally J. Freedman
    [E] Sally J. Freedman

    I think my mom was kind of pleased/excited, I was very non chalant about it- but I don’t think either one of us would have been ready for party favors about it. In hindsight, maybe lunch out and some jewelry would have been nice. But then again, I DID NOT WANT ATTENTION FOR THIS. Such a tricky thing. Really, I’m surprised evolution hasn’t pushed menarche back to about, oh, 30.

    1. Avatar of [E]SaraB
      [E]SaraB

      I’m with you, when it is MiniB’s time I may do something to commemorate the occasion, but I don’t think a party would be quite the thing.

  12. Avatar of veruna
    veruna

    Hahah this is awesome and kind of ridiculous. I love it! If I remember correctly, my first period started on Easter weekend, and the conversation went something like:

    Me: Mom, I think I got my period.

    Mom: You know where the pads are?

    Me: Yes, Mom. I’m covered.

    Mom: Good, grab a trowel. I need help with the garden.

    But that’s how most landmark moments are handled in my house, with a large dose of practicality followed by a chore that needs to be done. Well, all non-birthday landmarks. We party like it’s 1999 for those. Prince would be proud; well, minus all the sexin where inappropriate.

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