That First Period Talk

Yesterday, after working my second job at the clinic, I was effectively kidnapped by my co-worker Gigi and her ten-year-old daughter Sophia, whom I adore. She calls herself Big Sophia around me, my pug (scroll down this page for a visual) being Little Sofia. We wound up driving from their place to my neighborhood for dinner, which is a pretty long haul. On the drive up, I sat in back with Sophia as she showed me how she plays cards on her Zune, shared her teen magazine with me, and put her headset on my ears to share her favorite music.

As I agreed that Paramore are, as she said, so super awesome and cool, I was reminded of my sense that when girls that age think you're the bomb, you really must be the bomb, and you very much feel as cool as the bands they like when they let you in. It's quite a gift.

At dinner, we sat together as she flipped through the magazine some more -- she still liked me even after insisting she hold my hand as we crossed a busy street, though she may well be too big for that. (She seems to simply accept that her Auntie Heather is a worry wart.) She pointed out a two-page section in it to me about embarrassing moments. The more embarrassing something was considered, the higher it was rated, and they key for the ratings listed the highest as so, so mortifying that one should leave town. Some guy farting loudly in his car with a girl hardly ranked, but, surprise, surprise, the one which involved menstrual blood was top-rated as the worst of the worst.

The scenario was that you were at your older sister's dorm in college and you wound up leaking on her roommate's bed. The image showed a horrified girl, a very psychotic-looking screaming roomie, and a pool of blood so large, I suspect there may have been a dead body under the blankets. Maybe even two.

I casually commented that I didn't understand why you had to get out of town because of something that inevitably happens to women with some frequency, just like people get nosebleeds on things or track mud into the house. I mentioned that this kind of stuff really does happen pretty often, and I'd be pretty surprised to see another girl -- since it's probably happened to her, too -- make such a big honking deal out of it. I also mentioned I've never had a move where once I totally stripped a bed or futon, I wasn't reminded of how often it happens with the many Rorschach splotches all over mine. I also commented that a puddle of blood that size was an illustrator taking some serious artistic license.

This brought up questions for her about getting periods, and if that's always horrifying. I told her my comic tale of the cruelty of the fad of white painter's pants in the early 80's, especially when your parent had let you know how to identify malaria, but had not filled you in on why you'd suddenly find a red stain inching down your leg while talking to someone you had a mad crush on. (Thank goodness for Judy Blume, mother of us all.) Her Mom also chimed in with her story and talked about how not having that basic information made what would probably otherwise just be a mere bother a lot worse. We both talked about the wads of toilet paper in the underpants technique one often finds oneself using when a pad isn't available or you don't even know what one is yet. We also both mentioned that even if moments like that felt like a nightmare at the time, it doesn't take long for them to become the very funny stories you laugh about like we all just had been laughing over.

Sophia asked both of us how old we were when we got our periods (I was 11, Gigi was 12 or 13), and exhaled a "Phew!" that she still had some time. Then we both said some words about how she probably does, but it really is only as big a deal as you make it. So, when it happens to her, it'll be just fine, and once she starts having her period, it'll get pretty normal after just a little while and not be anything to worry about. And certainly nothing to consider leaving town over if you bleed on something now and then.

I was even able to end the evening sending them home with one of the kickass booklets on getting your period I was part of doing with Lunapads.

Only once they all left and I was home alone did I even realize that we'd had "The Period Talk" with Sophia. I had a brief moment of worry that not having thought about it while we were having it, we didn't do it right, or messed something up. But in reflecting back, I realized how mellow and casual -- and unabashedly public! -- it was, how it was even in front of her Dad, who was also being totally unsqueamish about it, how comfortable and conversational Sophia was throughout, and how normal it was all made to be, and I felt great about it, convinced this kid I like so much may have had one of the best period talks ever.

One almost as super awesome and cool as Paramore, even. Rawk!

What are your stories about "period talks?" Who talked to you? How did you feel about it? If you were talking about it with a younger girl, what would you say?


i had not even to;d my mother that i had gotten my period but needless to say i have not had the period talk with anyone yet

I never had a "period talk" with anyone. I read a lot about period in books and booklets we got in school, but I didn't hear a word about it from my family (I even have an older sister). I kept hoping that mother would tell me something at least when I got it, but I it didn't happen. She only showed me where she kept the pads in the bathroom.

I was not disappointed because I would need more information about period. I was 14 and knew enough. I was disappointed and hurt because my mother had the perfect opportunity to get close to me, talk to me about something personally important and convince me that I could trust her and ask her about such things and she did not use it. She just pretended that nothing had happened,even though it was quite a big deal for me.

I never had a "sex talk" either. I no longer expect to have it. But it makes me feel sad that I have to get information about such normal things from books and Intenet instead fo my family. I'm lucky to have found this web-page.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Emiliek, Tamara (and Anonymous!) :-) I'm sorry to hear that you didn't have a chance to do an in-person period talk, but you're always more than welcome to post any questions you may have right here or on the Scarleteen message boards.

When I got my first period, my mom merely told me 'It's normal, here, have a pad, put this on, change them as needed.' When I got my fourth period and was throwing clots (quarter-sized) and bleeding through everything, she said 'That's normal, it happened to me too, take some Midol, it'll help.' It didn't help, it made the bleeding worse, so I don't take Midol or Ibuprofen anymore for that purpose. I was told it was normal to bleed so much when it really wasn't, and I later realized it was because my mom was afraid that if she took me to a doctor to discuss my sexual health, it would be an excuse for me to have sex. --'

Thankfully I did have some education and information from school around it already by the time that it had happened (I had just turned 11), but still, it caught me really quite off-guard. I had always hung out with boys and it just so happened that I had two over at my house playing video games with me. I went to the bathroom, found blood and ran to my mom freaking out, who just calmly got up, told me it would be okay and walked me to the bathroom where she pulled out some pads and explained them to me, and then left me to figure that out. A little while later I came out of the bathroom, we talked briefly about some ways we could "celebrate" and have a girls day together and I went back to play with my friends... sadly I didn't notice my dad had left.

My dad came back with three things of different pads for me, called me and I waited at the bottom of the stairs, I figured he was just asking if we were hungry, but instead he threw those three bags at me while I could hear my friends getting up to come near, thanks, dad for that. All in all it worked out fine, I hid them before my friends came, and my mom has always been really great about talking to me about this sort of thing. She waited until my friends went home and we had a bit more of a conversation, especially as time went on an I started having more questions. This is also when she brought up things like sex and birth control and has always said "just let me know if you're thinking about it, and I'll help you sort that out." For me, I have always had rather painful periods, it's common in my family on both sides and so she was there to comfort me when there were times I was in so uch pain that I couldn't eat for a few days because I'd throw up (that much pain, and of course, we were camping and in the middle of nowhere), she's always explained things thoroughly and never made it seem strange.

Looking back, I love how that went and my experiences gave me some funny stories to tell, I think if I had to talk to a younger kid about this, I'd try to make it funny, because for me, I was quite scared. I would approach it much the way my mom did for me and just let the kid know that it's normal and nothing to be ashamed of. I loved that my mom brought up having a girls day and celebrating, because the way it was framed was to let me know that it was okay, normal and nothing I should ever be ashamed of in the slightest, and instead have some really funny stories about.

So yeah, that's my experience.