Most girls begin menstruation between the ages of 10-15; mine began when I was 11 and in the middle of History class. While seated on a cold, metal toilet wedged between two cheap pieces of wood that created a stall I discovered a freaky, brown substance leaking from myself. Having little to no previous experience or knowledge on this topic I genuinely thought I’d had an accident due to the tacos I’d feasted on the night before. I flushed my underwear (which probably completely screwed the sewer system) and rushed to the nurse’s office where she introduced the word“period” while handing me a couple cheap, boat-sized pads and directed me to the office bathroom. With little to no direction I opened the package and realized I’d just received a giant cotton ball with tape on the bottom… School pads suck to say the least. I stuck the pad onto my pants and tried my best to wobble my way back to class while keeping the pad in place.
Upon my return, my teacher publicly questioned my long absence and I could feel the anxiety rising inside as I tried to concentrate on what was being presented. I was ashamed of my body as not many other girls had began menstruation, or at least announced they had. My mom was really supportive later that day and helped me pick out the right options for my body. In an effort to avoid any leakage, we purchased the longest, most absorbent pads possible which I wore to school the next day. I arrived on time and made my way to first class. I feel the need to mention it was Friday, and particularly “Slap Ass Friday”. (This was a term introduced by some of the boys in our grade defined by them coming up behind whomever they wanted, slapping their butts and justifying it by yelling “Slap Ass Friday!) This of course leads to a completely different article about issues within the school system, but right now I just want to touch on the fact that although it is completely violating, gross and wrong, it was a thing. I’d made it through half the day without much notice. I tried my best to avoid any interaction and was pretty successful at it until a few other girls and I entered the cafeteria and immediately were approached by the “Ass Slappers”. Each of us screamed and many curse words were exchanged when one of the boys returned fire by calling me “Diaper butt.” I was completely mortified: they knew! Everyone knew!
The transition from Middle to High School was very tough for me–it was a huge change–in an effort to cope I developed a pretty severe eating disorder and ended up losing my period in the process. At this point, I still dreaded my period every month so when it depleted I was honestly really excited and didn’t realize it was because my body was too malnourished to produce any reproductive functions. After going through treatment not only did my body become healthy again, but also my mind. My period returned and for the first time ever, I was actually really excited to get it. After learning the science behind menstruation, the release of an unfertilized egg, I became a lot more comfortable and confident with the knowledge that my body was healthy and capable of letting me know so. Once I realized this, it was amazing that something so natural made me feel so alienated. I believe it is important to teach not only young biologically female girls about their reproductive systems, but everyone without sexualizing or shaming them. If this was implemented into my education at a younger age, I believe I would’ve been much more confident and empowered throughout my youth.