The shame that I felt when I found that telltale pink in the seat of my underwear for the first time was overwhelming. I was the first of my friends and didn’t have an ounce of the confidence that was required to traverse that milestone solo. I had spent the previous six months trying fruitlessly to suppress this womanhood that inflicted my body like a disease, shaving the little brown hairs in the bath that sprung up while I slept and trying to flatten the soft pink puffs of breast that rose away from my smooth skin in obstinance. I was twelve and this body didn’t feel like mine anymore, the firm, effortless muscle of childhood that had let me not only keep up with, but overtake, the boys, was softening into curves that required me to undo my jeans before pulling them up.
I remember my last moment of unselfconsciousness, walking the sunlit hall from my bedroom to the bathroom topless only to have my younger sister come to her door and laugh, ‘why are your nipples sticking out like that?’ I’d immediately crossed my arms over my chest, the first, but not the last time I thought to hide my body.
The blood was unmistakeable. I wasn’t ignorant of biology. To my great embarrassment I had scored 100% on the sex education quiz the week before. I snuck into my mother’s bathroom while she cooked dinner and sifted through her drawers until I found the plastic package I required, clenching my short, dirt-filled nails into my palm to hold back tears. I didn’t tell a soul that night, scrubbing my blue underwear in the sink while my family slept, hoping that if I erased all traces, I too could forget.
By the morning I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer and I went crying to my mother, my voice all but disappearing as I whispered the dreaded words ‘my period’.
I wish I could have celebrated these changes like I watched some of my friends do. One in particular who excitedly mentioned ‘discharge’ and wore pads under her blue denim mini-skirt simply in anticipation and hope that she would get her period soon. Somehow in adolescence more comfortable with her body, with her sexuality, than I would be for the next ten years. Looking in the mirror all I saw was angry skin and chubby little-girl cheeks that no longer fit on this awkward half-woman, half-child body. I felt like Frankenstein, stitched together, ugliness embodied.