I remember feeling completely embarrassed, terrified and disgusted when I got my period in 7th grade. I will never forget the jeans I was wearing...bell bottoms with suede ties at the bottom, probably with some sparkly tank top and my pink windbreaker. I asked to go to the nurse when I realized what was happening in the middle of math class...and if you know me you know that math was already my worst nightmare. I was so unprepared in so many ways. I remember being on the phone in the bathroom with my best friend that night as she coached me through how to put a tampon in. I was lucky to have her. It still took me over a year to finally start using them instead of pads because I was so afraid of what was going on down there.
It all just felt so wrong to me. This is no surprise to my adult self of course, as I’ve spent many years coming to understand how anxiety-ridden and shameful I felt about my body and sexuality long before that dreadful day puberty decided to pay me a visit.
I don’t think that my actual period was the worst part for me though. I think it was the accompanying changes in my physical body that were most difficult. My breasts also decided to sprout that summer, long before many of my friends, which spurred lots of talk (including gossip that I stuffed my bra to get attention), unwanted comments from boys, and lectures from my parents about needing to dress and act modestly. This was the start of a very complicated relationship with my body.
I know that my experience is not totally unique. Looking back at the day we got our periods with less than fond memories is normal. Some girls are more prepared than others, some may feel excitement or embarrassment. Some can talk openly with a trusted adult about it and some go it alone. There are cultural differences here too. Everybody and every body has different timing. But we all must go through it, get through it, and from it we will (consciously and subconsciously) gather information from our parents, peers and society about our bodies, our femininity, and our development.
My hope is that if you are a girl reading this and you haven’t gotten your period yet, you have a parent, mentor, or friend who can help you prepare, know what to expect, and mostly let you know just how normal and okay whatever is going on with your body is. For parents, moms, dads, aunts, big sisters, or anyone else mentoring or raising a teenage girl, be curious and talk openly with her about her development. Even if she doesn’t want to “go there”, make it known that you are there and ready when she is with any questions. Make it normal and safe. Share your own story if you are comfortable doing so. Let her know that she is human and that puberty and her changing body is a beautiful thing to be celebrated, nurtured and proud of. And for anyone reading this, any age, I hope you think carefully before commenting on anybody’s body, especially a pre-teen or teenage girl, even if you think it’s a compliment.
Hey FIT Talks Contributors! Let’s hear from you girls about your experiences, what was helpful for you and any advice you’d have for other girls going through their first visits from “Aunt Flo”.
Written by, FIT expert contributor, Rachel Daggett, LMFT