"When older girls said the word, I just thought they were talking about sentence structure." - "Burning Secret, 1966"; My Little Red Book edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
Yes, My Little Red Book is a book about first periods, Aunt Flow, the monthly visitor...whatever you like to call that time of the month. I admit at first I wasn't exactly excited about reading about menstruation. But, I quickly found that the book contained a mesmerizing, powerful compilation of stories gathered from women of all generations and corners of the world. Famous writers, from Meg Cabot to Gloria Steinem included their stories alongside stories written by ordinary women and teenagers.
Several of stories made me laugh out loud, like Yulia's account in "Mattress Pad, 1990" about her creative use of a pad for her doll's mattress (she was only six and didn't have the slightest clue about sanitary pads). In another story, "Proper Disposal," one young girl not versed in proper disposal, tried to flush her pad down her friend's parent's toilet and eventually her friend's flustered dad discovered it all bloated up the size of a phone book. And, in my favorite account, one woman told her story of using tampons for earplugs during a loud concert! Some of the more somber stories relayed experiences of confusion about rust-colored spotting (why no red blood?) and worry about death. Editor Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, only 18 years old, did a remarkable job in assembling a broad range of stories that all tweens, teens and women should appreciate.
My own first period pretty much passed by without fanfare. I actually remember very little so it must have been a rather "painless" transition. I was 13 and at home on summer break. My period happened; I dealt with it. Yes, that is the end of my story. I was prepared. In fifth grade, the teachers separated the boys from the girls in my class and each group watched a filmstrip (or maybe slideshow, can't remember which) that discussed body changes. I think I remember receiving a little packet of information and samples at this time. Guess this successfully prepared me for what was to come. I do remember some drama involved in trying to figure out how to use a tampon, while my mom calmly explained the steps involved. Most of all, I'm quite thankful that nothing embarrassing or out-of-the ordinary happened that first time.
However, I do clearly remember an incident that happened during 8th grade. In our school, you could buy tampons and pads from the vending machine in the girls' bathroom. But, that wasn't the only spot the feminine products were located. My friends discovered the empty end stall in the bathroom held the boxes of supplies to stock the machine. They quickly determined they could access these boxes by crawling under the door and obtain free products. One time, one of my friends decided she needed a pad so another friend crawled to get one and slid it across the floor. A seventh grade teacher happened to walk into the bathroom at the same time and witnessed the whole stealing of the pad. She led us all to her empty classroom and sternly lectured us on appropriate conduct for ladies.
Like Jacquelyn Mitchard says, "Much has changed, and much of it for the better." I'm grateful that my own experience was not wrought with the confusion and worry my own grandmother surely felt. I'm also hopeful that my own daughter's experience will be similar to mine and that she will feel comfortable asking me questions when the time comes. Unfortunately, even with the gains made in past years, for many the subject is still awkward to discuss. My Little Red Book provides useful, empowering stories that unite all women and sets precedence in opening up communication about a once taboo subject. I'll certainly share the book with my own daughter someday.
My Little Red Book edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff. Twelve; Hachette Book Group (February 2009); 240 pages; ISBN 9780446546362
Win a copy! Hachette Publishing Group has kindly offered to give away one (1) copy of My Little Red Book to a Brimful Curiosities reader.
To enter, visit Do More - My Little Red Book and leave a comment naming one charity mentioned on the website dedicated to women's health (or for an easier entry leave a comment with your own period story.)
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