When I was 10 I found a spot of blood in my underwear. I worried and fretted all day. At the end of the day I was ready to confess to mom that I got my period. As I undressed, I checked my pockets and discovered that the cause of my first menstrual cycle was actually an uncapped red flair pen.
When I was 11 it happened for real and I wasn't too happy about it. About 6 months after it happened the girls got marched into the auditorium for a 'talk.' They showed us a film, well, not a film, a film strip that was advanced according to the beeps on the play-along record by a representative of the Tampax company. The film strip had soft water color illustrations of girls riding horses and generally doing things that I'd never be doing, whether I was a girl or a "woman", which was a code word for a girl who had her period. I felt embarrassed because most of the girls there hadn't gotten their periods yet and so they easily bought into the beauty and mystery of the blessed monthly event. For me and a few other girls all it meant was pimples and bloating and pain and arguments with our mothers over why we couldn't use tampons.
Later I was in the bathroom with Joanna Cusack, who the boys called 'cute sacks.' All us mid-level girls had annoying nicknames, which I guess was better than being ignored.
"When I got my period, my mom let me take the day off from school."
I was incredulous.
"And on my absent note she wrote, 'Please excuse Joanna for being absent. Yesterday she became a woman...'" Joanna sounded misty-eyed when she said this, so I had to hold in my groan. The teacher we had that year was Mr. Holmes. He was under the mistaken impression that we wanted to learn things. He used to make us write essays without utilizing the verbs of being. To stop from laughing, I distracted myself by mentally re-writing the note.
"Your mom wrote that and you gave it to Mr. Holmes?"
"Yeah! He was very nice about it. I didn't have to make up the homework or anything!"
"And I get out of gym every time!"
No homework and being excused from gym? Suddenly I thought that menstruation might not be so bad.