What I wish I knew when all my friends were getting their period (and I wasn't)
A couple weeks ago, when I was doubled over with cramp pain, holding a heating pad to my uterus and sobbing nonsensically over the cute faces my dog was making (not kidding), I thought to myself, “I can’t believe there was ever a moment when I actually WISHED I had my period.”
But there was a moment. In fact, there were years and years that spent longing for the day when I would finally get it.
For me, the mysterious aura surrounding the ever-elusive period started in fourth grade, when my elementary school BFF told me she got it. I remember not even really knowing what that meant, because we only really got a legit sex-ed talk in school during fifth grade. So when she bled on the sheets during a sleepover at her house, I remember staring at the stain, mildly confused, not totally comprehending that this will one day happen to me, too.
Since she got it pretty early, I didn’t hear much about periods for a bit…until fifth grade, at lunch, when another friend announced to the table that she got hers the night before. “I was SO scared,” she said to the group. “I knew what periods were, but I screamed when I saw the blood. And then my mom came in the bathroom and told me that I’m a woman now.”
I remember being in total awe of her. I looked around at the table only to realize that all of the girls had put down their forks as if they had forgotten to eat, staring at her in the same way, as if she had transformed into a beautiful, magical creature before our very eyes.
By the time I was in junior high, more and more of my friends started to get theirs. They would ask each other for pads during class. “I totally forgot to bring one,” they’d say, blushing a bit. In fact, I was even asked several times if I had any pads in my purse, and I’d just shake my head, feeling totally left out of this special club that I hadn’t been granted access to yet.
By seventh grade, I had started to make a mental checklist of all of my friends who hadn’t got their period. OK, Jess, Lisa, Mara, and Beth* haven’t, so I’m not alone, I’d think to myself.
Lisa walked into homeroom one day and whispered in my ear that she finally got hers last night. OK, still Jess, Mara, and Beth.
Mara passed me a note during chorus practice. I’ve still got Jess and Beth.
But eventually, my list dwindled to nothing, and I was alone in my plight. I was in ninth grade, and I still hadn’t got mine. I was the only person I knew of in my high school who hadn’t “become a woman,” and I was starting to think that I was a freak.
“Oh trust me,” my friends would tell me, “you don’t want to get your period. You can have mine.”
But that didn’t help. I still looked like a little kid, because my boobs hadn’t grown in yet; puberty seemed like this prize being dangled in front of my face. I was sure that getting your period was the key to transforming into a confident, magical, beautiful, curvy woman. I hadn’t yet obtained my key, and I was an awkward, flat-chested child who could barely talk to a boy without going beet red.
Of course, I ended up getting my period on the day before Thanksgiving in ninth grade, a few months before I turned 16. My relief and joy was palpable—at least, for a few months, before the cramps got real old. But even the worst of cramps gave me a tiny burst of happiness, because I had spent so many years fearing that I wasn’t a woman, that I wasn’t worth attention until I was like all the rest—that there was something wrong with me.
I truly wish I could go back in time and send Before Period Me a message. Not only the obvious (“Girl, RELISH the calm before the storm”), but something that it took me years and years to truly learn.
Of course, periods are something special. They’re a major part of a girl’s life and continue to be on throughout adulthood. But there is nothing physical that makes gives me the title of “a woman.” There are women with small breasts. There are women with large breasts. There are women who have periods. There are women who don’t. And all of them are magical.
We come in all shapes and sizes, and a period is not what makes me a woman. I wish I could tell Before Period Me that there’s no need to worry about it—that it will come in time. But most importantly, I wish I could tell her to never, ever let something as silly as a period affect her view of her own self-worth.
Because after all, self-love is the most important kind of love there is. . . period.
Do you ever wish that you could go back in time to give advice to your younger self? Was there ever a moment you could have used some wisdom from the future, whether it was after you had your first break up or on your first day of college? We want to hear about it: Pitch us lists of advice you have for our new section, What I Wish I Knew When, with the subject line WIWIKW at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to hear from you!
*all names have been changed
[Image via iStock]