It was the summer of 1982, and I was on “vacation” with my brother and my Mom to her asshole boyfriends home in Connecticut.
This was not at all what I had in mind for even part of my summer vacation. My Mom and Ron on a Scotchcapade, while I had only his younger daughter and my little brother to hang out with. It was going to suck and I knew it. We endured the horrible 9 hour car ride in the Buick Riviera, where we were emotionally damaged, being forced to listen to such mainstream nightmares like Christopher Cross’ “Sailing” about a dozen times.
It was the longest car ride of my life.
Once we arrived, I was really pissed. The house was not in a neighborhood so there were no other kids around to play with. All there was were woods and woods and maybe a little more woods. But if you walked a while through the woods, you could reach more woods.
I put on my headphones and my salty attitude and sat in my room listening to Styx and Foreigner and drawing rows of Ziggy’s peeking over the flowered border of my stationary that I had no use for. I wouldn’t need it, who was I going to write to? About what?
There are a lot of woods here, Mom and Ron are having a Scotch Fiesta, and the batteries are almost dead on my Super Simon.
SYS, LYLAS, SSS
No, I was not going to be writing anybody. I was sour and annoyed and filled with the eye-rolling attitude only a 11-year-old girl can possess.
After 3 days of sulking and complaining, I guess my Mom got sick of listening to me so she decided to take me for a visit to civilization. The Mall!!! I was the happiest girl in all the land. I put on my best Jordache (the ones with the horse running under the sunset) and gigantic neon pink triangular earrings and got into the car faster than you could say DWI.
It was just she and I and it was so nice to be away from The Boyfriend Who Was A Complete Dick. As we strolled through the mall, I felt something strange and sticky in my underwear. My Mom sat on the bench and waited while I went to the bathroom. I remember sitting down to pee, and in my green and purple striped underwear there was a dark reddish-brown stain. I thought maybe I didn’t wipe enough or something, maybe I had some strange and horrifying disease and was dying.
(Guys, sorry…but this shit happens)
I met my Mom outside at the bench and decided not to say anything. It was probably nothing.
We continued along, window shopping and I really was not feeling so great. My stomach hurt but I was certainly in no hurry to go back to The House Of Scotch And Trees. Anchored at the end of the mall was a Hecht’s department store, and in we went. We picked out a bunch of clothes for me to try on and headed over to the dressing room. I took off my Jordache to try on a pair of shorts, and there it was again. The stain had spread and it looked like real blood! I thought I was dying, I was terrified and ashamed because it was Down There.
Let me preface this with the fact that I was 11. ELEVEN. I had no idea what a period was, had never heard of it, and as an eleven-year old girl seeing blood in her underpants…the mixed bag of emotions that comes with that is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. OK, maybe my worst enemy.
My Mom knocked on the door and asked what was taking me so long, and I told her to come in. I think I got out, “something is really bad there is blood in my under…” and before I could even finish, her jaw hit the floor and she told me to stay right there, not to go anywhere and that she would be right back. That was it, no explanation…just “wait right here.” Approximately 30 seconds after she left, 2 sales girls came in. One of them put her arm around me and said, “don’t worry honey, it happens to all of us.”
I was utterly mortified. What happens to all of us? And most importantly why had my Mother told these two complete strangers that there was blood in my underwear. I wanted to disappear into thin air. The sales girls patted my back and told me that it was all going to be ok, and just to wait there for my Mom, if I needed anything they would be right outside. It felt like an eternity I had waited, so I walked out of the dressing room down the hallway where I was to witness a sight that was to be forever burned into my consciousness.
Picture a Running Back, carrying the football under his arm, with a face wrought with determination as he rushes for the touchdown.
Now, replace Running Back with Mother, and replace football with the worlds largest box of Stayfree Maxi Pads. It was so industrial sized that the bag didn’t even half way cover it.
She was running towards me with a face full of urgency. She grabbed me by the arm and took me back into the dressing room. She took a deep breath and sat down with me and explained, briefly that what was happening was something called a period, and that it happened to all women, and it happened once every month for about a week. This was called Puberty. She told me it usually didn’t happen until much later which was why she was so shocked.
She showed me how to peel of the backing and stick the raft-like pad into my underwear. It felt like I had a diaper on, and I felt like everyone on the planet could see the humiliating bulge in my Jordache.
On the ride home, we drove through McDonalds. As I sat munching french fries, she continued to embarrass me with the All About Your Period Talk. She told me that this meant that I was a woman, and that I would start wearing deodorant and needing to shave and growing breasts. All I knew at that point was that it felt a lot more like an exclamation point than a period. She said this was also normal, and that it was called “cramps” and that a hot bath would help.
When we got back to the house, I drew myself a hot bubble bath. I remember laying in there thinking, I’m a Woman now! I felt so grown up and mature, and with that I proceeded to take my Moms razor and shave.
All of the hair, off of my arms.
PS: The next time Aunt Flo came to town, I was disgusted by pads and got my hands on a box of tampons. I remember they were so dry and cottony and did not want to go in. I thought if I wet the end it would work better. Poof! It immediately tripled in size. I blew through about 12 before finally getting the hang of it.