A few days ago I reposted my (slightly updated) review of My Little Red Book edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff to mark the release of the second edition of this book. In my review, I mentioned that reading My Little Red Book had inspired me to write about and reflect on my own experiences of menstruation. So here’s some of my story:
I remember the exact date of my first period—and I usually have a terrible memory for dates—because it was three days before my thirteenth birthday and it was a much-anticipated event: It happened at school in the seventh grade on January 29, 1983—and I was the first of our threesome of friends to get it. I remember going to the washroom, seeing the blood and telling my friends, who were happy for me (and maybe a bit envious?)—it was exciting, a rite of passage, something we were looking forward to (albeit with some ambivalence). I don’t remember what happened next though: Did I have pads with me? Did one of my friends buy me one from a dispenser? I do know I was too embarrassed to tell my mother, but she figured it out and took me into the bathroom to show me where the “supplies” were (as we always called them), in the cupboard behind the bathroom door.
Flash forward to summer 1983. I was in Switzerland for a month, visiting a friend by myself and we went to Austria for a week to stay with her grandparents, who had a cottage on a lake. I guess I was still not used to the whole bleeding-every-month concept because I hadn’t brought any pads with me. One day, as Isabelle and I were lying in the sun on the dock, I could suddenly feel that I was bleeding through my bathing suit onto my towel. I was too embarrassed to say anything, but Isabelle noticed and asked if it was my first time. I recall nodding in agreement, and to my dismay she offered me tampons and pantyliners. Again, I was too embarrassed to admit I’d never used tampons and didn’t really want to. Instead I took one and went off to the bathroom and did my best to insert it. Clearly I didn’t do it right because by the time I got back to the living room, I felt strange and dizzy (and a bit freaked out). I hastily retreated back to the bathroom to remove it. I must have somehow managed with pantyliners for the rest of my period—I don’t remember. I didn’t use tampons again for years (and in fact have never used them regularly—I’m a reusable pad girl now).
What surprises me now, thinking back on this experience, is that I have no recollection of any other conversation taking place between me and Isabelle. I only remember being mute with embarrassment, while she was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing. (She was barely a year older than me.)
Would you like to win a copy of My Little Red Book? To mark the release of the second edition of this book, Hachette has generously offered to send 10 copies of the book to my readers. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only (no P.O. boxes). I will accept entries until 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Monday, May 17.
For one entry, post a comment here. Please be sure to provide me with a way of getting in touch with you. Entries without a blog link or email address will be disqualified.
Other ways to earn entries:
+1 if you share a period story or answer this question: Do you use euphemisms when talking about your period? (I still call my period “my aunt,” but I don’t use the term “supplies” anymore!)
+1 if you make a relevant comment on my review of My Little Red Book (if you’ve already done so, that counts too)
+1 if you are a follower or subscriber (please let me know)
You can also visit these blogs and read their reviews:
Daisy’s Book Journal • Viva la Feminista