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
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"
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.
No Period Talk
I am 12 almost 13 and I have had my peroid for just over a year. My mother never gave me a peroid talk-she only told me wear the pads are and how to use them. Idk is she is ever giving me the talk. I am wondering if she will give me the sex talk ever.
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.
We did the period talk and are still talking about it
My daughter is about to turn 14 and is currently on her period. I've always been open and honest with my kids and I think it's paying off now. She's typical for her age, but isn't rebelious. :)
We had our first period talk at about 10. Since then, we have rehashed as necessary and are still throwing things back and forth. :) She only started a few months ago, and we are still settling into the cycles etc.
I needed to comment here, because I needed to show that there are parents out there that want their teen girls to feel comfortable with themselves and their bodies..
So far so good. :) She's a good kid and is (so far) making the right decisions.
Not as good as should have been.
My mother didn't talk to me about periods, I don't think she knew enough to tell me anything past odd little comments when something on TV mentioned periods, I think by the time I got my first period I knew more about it than my mother did - in first school when everyone else was whispering and looking scared at the books on puberty, I had no problem just picking them up and getting on with reading them! I remember the 'girl talk' in middle school, it was a lady from Tampax who told us that pads were like nappies so if we wanted to be big girls we'd use tampons (ugh) and we got free samples, I loved free samples as I liked experimenting with them and ripping them to bits to see how they worked. It really saddens me that no one explained more about what actually happened, no one taught me about options other than tampons and pads (my flow was too heavy for tampons and pads, I'd have killed for a menstrual cup as a kid!), and that I didn't celebrate my first period.
I tell girls more important than ever that periods are as good or as bad as they make them - if you suffer cramps or PMS there are things you can do about them, if you find pads uncomfortable try different pads or different options, know all you can about your periods before you start so you can not only know how to deal with them and how your body works, but make your periods enjoyable - and ignore what companies like Tampax tell you! My own daughters will be taught about periods throughout their childhood, whenever there is a chance they will be taught about their bodies so they have a good basis for more in depth conversations as they get older.
Open and honest family
The first time i had my period i went to my mom and asked her what i should use tampon or pad. She told me it was up to me and whatever i feel more comfortable with. I dont really like pads because i dont like the feeling of it. So i only wear them at night, and panty liners during the day. I have no problem with talking about it to my dad or even my older brother, he's 24. Just the other night me him my mom and my older sister were talking about my period. Because now im bleeding heavier and i bled through on my favorite pair of pajama pants. My brother even went and got me pads for the night.
When I got my period, it was right before a swim meet, and I freaked out so much. I freaked out so much that everyone in my family knew and I was so embarassed.
I should have calmed down, but I didn't and I got in trouble by being late to warmup by 30 minutes. I couldn't tell my coach though, that would have been
Swallowing a Gel Pen cap complicated it. More comfortable w/ dad
I think I first learned about menstruation through a sex-ed/puberty class in 5th grade but my mom did provide me with that "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret" Judy Blume book that I probably enjoyed more for the religious questions the title character was having than some of the puberty ones haha... :P And I think she did get me pads in preparation for the day my period might come. But there was no real "talk". And there didn't really need to be. My class in school covered all the basics as did the Judy Blume book.
When the fateful evening came, it was a Friday evening, only 5 days before my 13th birthday, and my brother (who's 2 years younger than me) and I were at my grandmother's house, as we often were after school and well into the evenings. We had more friends in that neighborhood than our own. Slight tangent: I remember being there at my grandmother's house when I was only 5 years old getting my first loose tooth and having been 100% terrified the way first-period-with-no-information-ahead-of-time stories often are. I didn't know to expect my baby teeth to get loose and then fall out but to not worry, that's normal and adult teeth grow in their place. No, I took a bite from a relatively hard animal cracker and then thought "oh my gosh, what did I do to my tooth?" and it was mildly traumatizing. That memory is too long ago/when I was too young for me to remember what I did for sure, but I vaguely remember running to my grandmother about it. She was my caretaker.
Still, when it came to my first period over 7 years later, when I was 12 going on 13, I did not feel at all comfortable going to my grandmother about it. I wasn't even 100% sure what was on my underwear was my period, and I was afraid to ask.
It was Friday night, and I knew I'd be going to my dad's (I visited him on the weekends) the next day. So I continued to just let the fairly light flow stain 2? or 3? pairs of underwear and avoid talking to my mom or getting pads or anything... until finally Saturday night I was safe and at my dad's and I went into the bathroom, and then called him over and sheepishly asked him what he thought of what was on my underwear. He proceeded to tell me it was my period and had me call my mom (his apartment was over an hour away from my mom) and he went out and bought some pads for me. It worked out fine and wasn't that big of a deal. I was relieved to find out it was indeed just my period and not the other thing I was half-worried it might be (basically I had excreted a hot pink gel pen cap - still in tact in my poop - that I'd accidentally swallowed earlier in the week. This pink pen cap had appeared in the toilet at the same exact time as noticing the first traces of reddishness on my underwear and so I was terrified I'd caused this ridiculous underwear staining stuff by swallowing this brightly colored item or something, idk. The more time passed, the more likely I realized it was probably just my period, and by the time I talked to my dad I was pretty sure.)
But yeah, the most memorable thing for me about this experience is how much of a confirmation for me it is that both my grandmother and my mother should have been much more approachable on this subject, and I shouldn't have felt so uncomfortable with 2 different adults taking care of me that I had to wait so long to even ask the question. Also that I'm lucky to have a dad that's okay with periods and everything else and lucky my first period happened so close to the right day of the week for me to see him. And that I'm fairly unique in that I talked to a male figure about it rather than a female, that I talked to my dad instead of my mom.
By the way, in the long term I realized my mom has mental disorders including Borderline Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and was being emotionally/verbally abusive to me and my brother pretty much my whole life. So it's no wonder I didn't feel comfortable admitting I'd accidentally swallowed a gel pen cap to her. If it had just been my period and I had been 100% sure of that fact, I always was/am more comfortable with my dad, but I wouldn't have been afraid in that case to talk to my mom about it. But as it was... I was afraid I'd done something wrong and she'd be abusive toward me for that wrongdoing, as she did with every little thing I did where I should have known better.
Lacking and in Denial
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. --'
My first period talk
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.