"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Thursday, September 23, 2010

TRUE BLOOD: Part 1 (of 4)

I had only pretty recently found out that there was a reason for all this, and that it had to do with procreation.  In fifth grade we girls had seen the obligatory cartoon character film about menstruation; at around the same time we saw a sex education movie in Sunday School, no less, and adding to that was the paperback my mother left on an end table one day, entitled "Facts Of Life And Love For Teenagers."  She knew I'd grab that.   

I never expected to read that all the dirty stuff we giggled about on the school bus, the rumors and the jokes, was actually TRUE, though...if I remember correctly I became a little light-headed, thinking that while I might admit to a crush or two on a boy in school or a TV actor, I would never, ever, in a million years do THIS.  I didn't even want to think about it.  Much less think of my PARENTS doing it!!  They must have wanted kids really, REALLY badly to stoop to such atrocities!!! Who were these strangers!!???!  It was all so awful.  Sex.  Menstruation.  Pregnancy.  Birth control.  Yikes.  (I had seen a condom once -- the kid next door had found an unused one that we blew up, filled up with water and threw at each other, laughing hysterically.)
And I never liked the word "menstruate." It had nothing to do with the fact that it began with "men" -- it just didn't exactly flow (pun intended) trippingly off the tongue, and had a hard, germanic sound to it. My friend Gregg and I will often say words or phrases out loud just for the pleasing sounds of them -- "Eastern Seaboard" is one, and so is "Northeast Corridor." The sound of a word means much -- Henry James, who wrote "Turn of the Screw" (among other things) said that the two most beautiful words in the English language are "summer afternoon."  I won't argue that.  But "menstruation" if you say it out loud gets more unpleasant each time you repeat it.  It sounds like you could march in time to it.  I pretty much did.

A little internet research reveals, however that the word menstruation comes from the Greek menus meaning both moon and power, and men meaning month.  There is a mystery attached to this female-only function; in some societies a woman was considered "unclean" and might be banished or hidden away while having her period, though in other societies "a woman's bleeding was considered a cosmic event, relating and connecting one to the moon, the lunar cycles and the tides. She was thought to be at the height of her power at this time, and for this reason was encouraged to spend time listening to her inner voice which would often offer suggestions and wisdom which would benefit the whole tribe," according to menstruation.au.com.

So who knew all this? All I knew is that it was time to saddle up and ride the cotton pony, which for the first few months was kind of interesting and novel and then was absolutely annoying, at the least, for every month thereafter. It's not like the whole thing came out of the blue; when I was 8 or 9 my mother had sent for a kit, sat with me on my bed (louver doors closed so my brother wouldn't nose in on us) and given me a pamphlet to read and a clean sanitary napkin to examine. Now I knew what that little garter-belt looking thing was that she used to wash in the sink and hang on the faucet over the tub to dry. 
I probably asked some questions and if I did, she probably answered them truthfully, briefly and accurately. (Can you imagine, back in "her day," they didn't even have these and she had to use RAGS?  That she had to wash and dry and re-use?  Incredible.)  She suggested I put the napkin on and wear it around for a little bit so I'd know what it felt like. So I did. I was just a skinny little kid, and the damn thing rendered me almost unable to walk. I was not in any hurry for menstruation to arrive.

But of course it did. There was one immediately welcome benefit: after gym class (which I hated with a passion) we were directed to take a shower (which I also hated with a passion) unless we had our period, which we'd indicate to the gym teacher who was passing out towels by simply saying "P." I knew that for the first year or so your period can be wildly erratic, so I used to brave it and say "P" every time I thought I could get away with it. "You just had your period, didn't you, Blair?" the coach would ask. "Yeah, but it's not regular yet," I would answer, and she really couldn't argue. 

TO BE CONTINUED...Scroll UP For Parts 2, 3 & 4!

No comments:

Post a Comment