Essay: Remember Your First Mofo'n Period?

Sunday, July 10, 2022


Hey Mofos!

After having my hysterectomy  over 4 months ago, I've been thinking a lot about an essay I wrote in 2020 that never saw the light of day because the outlet I submitted it to never published it. The essay is about when I got my period and how scary that moment was--but here I am 50'levum years later and no longer having to worry about having a period, ruining clothes, sleeping on a towel so my sheets don't get ruined, and making sure I have enough pads and tampons to get me thru one miserable bloody cycle. So I thought I'd share the essay with you. I wrote it after watching The Baby-Sitters Club (BSC) on Netflix. I'm also mad they didn't renew this nostalgia filled series. *forgive me with the formatting-- it did not want to transfer over correctly and I'm not technical so I quit trying after the 50'levumth time.. you can still read it tho hell).

“It was almost as if nothing was different, but then, everything changed in the blink of an eye.”
These are the words 13-year-old Kristy Thomas says as she gets her first period (on her mother’s wedding day, no less) in the eighth episode of Netflix’s newest series, The Baby-Sitters Club (BSC).
 Watching BSC on is a walk down nostalgia lane, but in episode 8, “Kristy’s Big Day,” not only did her mother get married, but it was the day Kristy got her first period. In lieu of her mother to help her through that pivotal moment, she had her BSC crew by her side. As Kristy realized something was happening, she ran from the wedding reception to the bathroom, and her friends followed. As they huddled outside the door, Kristy assured them she was fine, but Mary Anne knew immediately what was wrong, and pulled out a pad, handed it to her through the door and instructed her on the placement. Claudia and Dawn were there to cheerfully embrace their leader into their growing adolescence circle. In watching this episode, I realized I’m a little envious of Madame President. Not because of her status in the BSC, but because when I got my first period, I felt shame rather than excitement; I also saw it as a part of life to hide, along with the bra I wasn’t ready for, rather than one that transitioned me into womanhood. 

Who can forget the CIA-level mission of quietly easing that little white or yellow square packet or pink wrapped applicator from your book bag to clutch tightly in one hand, while raising your other hand to ask your middle or high school teacher if you can use the bathroom hall pass? We’ve all been there suffering the embarrassment of having to take the long walk down the aisle of desks past our crushes just to go to the restroom to change your pad or tampon because of your period. Somehow, it always felt like everyone knew just what was happening.  

I was 11 years old when I first got my period. My mom and little sister were running errands, leaving me home with my dad, who was grilling with his friends on the deck. I was wearing my favorite pair of white shorts and watching my reflection in the screen door as I practiced the chants and moves needed to nail the upcoming cheerleading tryouts. I had just hit my last high-V, and heard my dad yell loudly, “What the hell is all over the back of your shorts?” 

I hadn’t sat on the ground, so I thought something might have splattered from the grill. But my dad kept shouting that there was something red on my shorts and I needed to go change. I went to the bathroom and, sure enough, there was a bright red spot in the seam of my shorts. At first, I couldn’t figure out where I could possibly be bleeding from? Does this mean I can get pregnant, because there was a girl in my 5th grade class that had just excitedly told everyone she was expecting a baby. Then it hit me: this was probably my period; the thing the other girls in my neighborhood had been talking about in hushed whispers that always made me feel left out and confused?

I needed answers. I didn’t want to ask my dad, because I couldn’t handle any more embarrassment for the day. Honestly, he probably wouldn't have been able to answer me and would have just gotten more agitated that I was keeping him from drinking.  I couldn’t call my mom, because cell phones didn’t exist yet. So, just like Kristy, I had to turn to my friends to talk me through the process. Like Mary Anne did for Kristy, my friend instructed me on proper pad application, instructing me to “peel the back off and stick the wing things on the sides of your underpants.” Funny enough, when I decided to switch to tampons in high school, this same friend talked me through that process too. "JUST PUSH IT IN," she yelled over the phone as I kept yelling back "PUSH IT WHERE?!"
When my mother finally got home, I had so many questions that my friends couldn’t answer, like where the blood was coming from? How often does this happen? When will it stop?  Aren’t I too young for this? Why is this happening now? I’m not ready to be a grown woman yet! But when she got home, all I got was a promise to go buy more pads and some books about women and health. 
At least Kristy’s mom Elizabeth provided some enthusiasm about the monumental event. During a heartfelt conversation, Kristy blurts out that she started her period. Her mom Elizabeth is excited and hugs her tightly before asking if she’s OK and if she knows what to do. And she did — because of her friends. 

But helping a young woman navigate her menstrual cycle shouldn’t be left to friends, who may not have all the accurate information. Furthermore, girls aren’t the only ones who should be educated about menstruation. It’s a time that should be celebrated and in recent years, people are shedding the stigma that it’s something to be embarrassed about. According to, parents should talk to daughters and sons about reliable information regarding periods. The site says that children, regardless of gender will see their moms’ buying pads and tampons and may have questions, or they may want to know where babies come from.  Although the site does not specify an age to have this talk, it does suggest starting the conversation early and building upon your child’s understanding as they age. 
In fact, according to a menstrual study on hygiene in low-income countries, even as recently as 15 years ago there was little public discussion about the period management related challenges girls and women face. Girls in low-income countries received limited puberty guidance, couldn’t afford sanitary materials, or even clean water. The study also mentions that the topic of menstruation has often been pushed to the background, even here in the United States because, “menstrual blood itself (and its management) has frequently been perceived as polluting and taboo.” Maintaining a sense of secrecy regardless of income status is the period etiquette girls and women were taught to adhere to and that includes discreet management of discomfort and blood flow, being vocal about that time of the month, and as a woman, to keep it hidden from boys and men. The study adds that even countries, like the U.S. that have available guidance on puberty and sanitary measures, there’s still this stigma that continues, “throughout their reproductive years, girls and women in most societies strictly follow this [menstruation] etiquette.” In addition to providing more information and having public discussions, celebrating periods is important to removing the shame and stigma surrounding them. 
Perhaps parents of the past were coping with their own internal shame of periods or doing their best with the (mis)information they were given, and parents of the present are coping and relearning with easier access to information thanks to the internet. The Kids Health site even suggests that if parents are uncomfortable talking about periods, then ensuring there’s another way they get the correct information is important whether it’s watching a video or getting a doctor or trusted family member to handle the talk.  But parents of today seem to be stepping up. They are talking to their children, shedding the stigma, and celebrating periods. Some quite literally. Social media has normalized talking about cramps and getting advice from others on how to handle it. It’s no longer a subject that makes you scared to pull a pad or a tampon out of your purse or walk proudly down the hallway at school or even at work with it in your hand.  There are even coloring books like Adventures with Toni the Tampon, with period themes to help with the conversation and destigmatize menstruation.  

 Period parties have also become a popular way to mark the transition into adolescence. 
These celebrations range from dinner parties with red foods, to festivities, uterus decor and even menstrual product party favors. Even Supermodel and CEO Tyra Banks wrote in her book, Perfect is Boring, that her mother threw her a period party when she was 15. She wrote, I appreciate that my mother never wanted me to be ashamed of anything, or to think that there was something bad or dirty about my body. ... Most of [the girls there] had never talked about their periods so openly before, and in between the ‘yucks’ and giggles, they asked questions about everything from whether using tampons takes away your virginity to wanting to know if other people can tell if you’re on your period.”
I wish this had been the approach to periods when I was a confused 11-year-old girl wondering what was happening to my body. I wish I’d been armed with information instead of shame. I wish I’d be able to have an open conversation with my mom — or really, anyone — about my period, instead of having books shoved in my arm. But I’m glad things are starting to change and it’s becoming more popular to not only talk about periods, but celebrate their arrival.  By honoring the occasion, it shows other young girls that there is no reason to feel shame about becoming — and being — a woman. 
So with all that said-- when did you get your first period and how did you learn about what to do, what it meant, all the things?
I don't miss my period AT ALL but I still have the PMS symptoms so it's almost like she never left, especially since I do have phantom periods.. but that's a story for another day. 
 Make sure you check out my new podcast with my co-host Chelley Cheyenne called "Ladies Edition" where we talk about the ADVERSITY and ABSOLUTE foolishness that comes with women's health.  


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