Disclaimer: This blog is gross. I am reprinting this email, written by my sister Taylor, with her permission.
I will interpret your silence regarding my period story offer as the amalgam of barely contained jubilation and enthusiastic affirmation.
I was in the seventh grade. I’m sure of this because I remember leaving an Algebra I class taught by Mrs. Bitterandfat to go to the ladies room. Seriously, this woman was as wide as she was tall. Put another way, in the world of quadratic functions, there is no value of the constant a small enough to yield a parabola that can compare to the size of her ass. And she was as dull as, well, obscure algebra references in an otherwise comical menstruation story. I don’t recall, but if I had to guess I’d say I didn’t need to use the bathroom at all, but rather left the classroom under the pretense of an emergent bladder situation to spare myself the impending suicide attempt that I sensed was a BIC Clic-Master mechanical pencil to the aorta away.
With the stall door securely shut, I went about the ages-old ritual of unbuttoning, unzipping, lowering, sitting, and peering down to see what unappetizing, glutinous mess my pubescent vagina had decided to cough up that day. (Ladies, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know why we do it, but we all conduct a little panty investigation when we sit down to do our business. There’s no shame in it.) To my chagrin, a quick examination revealed that my privates had coughed up – could it be? – poo. Excrement. Doodoo. I was devastated. How had I, a seemingly normal 12-year-old girl with theretofore uninterrupted bowel control, managed to unknowingly soil myself during class? And, wait a minute, why didn’t my vagina doody smell like doody? Smelled funky, but it didn’t smell like doody. No way, was it possible? Had that mysterious phenomenon about which I’d read and been forced to watch a humiliating educational video in health class really happened…to me? Nah, I definitely pooped myself. That stuff’s not even red like blood. It’s brown…like poo. Just face it, Taylor. You pooped yourself. Nothing to be ashamed of – you spontaneously and for no readily identifiable reason lost control of your anal sphincter. Could happen to anyone.
Once I realized I’d been sitting on the toilet in a state of profound and paralyzing emotional distress long enough that Mrs. Cowcankles was bound to have grown suspicious, I gathered myself and waddled back to class, attempting with each foot-and-a-half-from-center step to maintain even a near-negligible distance between my girl bits and my now poo-soaked panties.
Later that day Mom picked Devin and me up from school, at which point we were carted over to church where we waited for Mom to finish up some work she’d been doing for the next Sunday’s services. Once at the church I summoned the courage to ask my Mom to weigh in on the period vs. spontaneous defecation debate and, after listening to a detailed description of the grievous stain delivered with cheeks flush and head bowed in shame by her third child, my mother concluded that I had gotten my first period. I’m sure she uttered some comforting words, which I’m sad to say I don’t recall, and she handed me a supply of tampons and, just in case, pads.
A trip to the bathroom to test drive the latest additions to my personal hygiene arsenal led to a disconcerting revelation: after erroneously attempting to insert four tampons into regions including but not limited to my pee hole, my inner thigh, and my left butt cheek, I realized I had no idea where my vagina was. My disillusionment and utter mortification grew magnificently with this realization, and I struggled not to cry. Seeing no alternative – after all, asking my mother to help me locate my vagina was NOT an option – I unwrapped a pad about an inch and a half thick and sixteen inches long and grudgingly tucked it into my panties. Feeling like I was sporting a mawashi (the belt traditionally worn by sumo competitors), I shuffled back down the hall to rejoin my mother and sister, all the while attempting unsuccessfully to disguise my physical and mental unease.
I plopped down in the church office and tried to focus my attention away from what felt like a memory foam mattress topper folded over three times and squeezed into my underpants and onto one of that day’s homework assignments. As always, though, that afternoon Devin managed to realize what I—and I believe even she—considered the sole purpose of her existence, which was to embarrass me and generally make my life hell. She taunted me for the remainder of our shared afternoon at the church, observing that I “smelled like fish” and launching a full investigation into what could possibly cause such a fetid cloud of odor to follow me wherever I went. I sensed that, while she didn’t know precisely what I was experiencing that day, she knew it was sensitive enough that to remark repeatedly that I smelled of decaying marine life would mean grave humiliation for her big sis and, consequently, an afternoon of free entertainment for her.
That evening I bookended my day of pubescent misadventures with a rehearsal I had for a production of Fame the Musical in which I was starring as a member of the chorus. Of course, given that I had started my first period that day, this could not have been a vocal rehearsal. No, it was a dance rehearsal. We acquired a good deal of new choreography that night and, to my dismay and further mortification, I couldn’t help but notice that with each jump, each leap across the stage, a sound eerily reminiscent of that made by a 300-lb speed walker in windbreaker pants escaped from my knickers. The swoosh swoosh that resulted from the repeated shifting of the plastic-lined marshmallow puff between my legs seemed to echo throughout even that small local theater. Anyone within a 50-foot radius is sure to have concluded that that morning, on discovering that all of my presentable panties were in the dirty clothes and that even my back-up granny panties and my back-up-to-my-back-up granny panties, the ones with holes and no elastic, were dirty, I had resigned myself to fashioning an undergarment out of a plastic grocery bag and packing tape.
It wasn’t the most graceful day of my adolescent life, but it was one of the more memorable. Thankfully subsequent periods have been accompanied by less emotional damage and far less swoosh swooshing. I’m proud to announce that I managed to locate my vagina before my 20th birthday.