Thursday, March 6, 2008

I Became a Woman in a Chico's.

There are three turning points in a woman’s life that are strictly for us chicks. getting our periods, getting married, and getting preggers. Now, let’s be honest, our wedding day has nothing to do with our man. We get to dress up like a sparkly marshmallow and talk about our feelings all day to anyone who will listen, and then pig out on cake and get drunk without being judged by our peers. When it comes to popping out an eight-pound infant, the last thing on our minds is the miracle of conception. As a matter of fact, we’re more than likely screaming at our sweaty, nervous, sissy husbands, blaming them for our pain and the loss of our perfect bodies. But the one thing we women own above all else is menstruation. That one is ours. Men have no place in the cycle of menstruation. Yes, it is a painful event that causes us to go bat-shit crazy, bloat to twice our natural size, eat a diabetic-coma-sized amount of chocolate and watch lifetime movies with reckless abandon for one agonizing week a month, but it’s our agonizing week.
A girl’s first visit from “Aunt Flo” can be confusing, scary, exciting, and a bit embarrassing. It’s one of those “please don’t tell Dad” moments that you think you’re sharing with your mother in confidence; that is until Bunko night when the entire neighborhood learns that you’ve become a woman.
Mine didn’t happen quite like that.
Don’t get me wrong, it certainly wasn’t the classic “why the HELL did I wear khakis that day” menstrual nightmare that everyone expects. Quite frankly, I knew it was coming. I was thirteen and my gal-pals were all menstruating like wild dogs all around me, so I got a far too graphic description of what to look forward to. Sure enough, my pre-menstrual week of bloating and cramps had arrived…and so had my aunt Pam, cousin Jessica, and grandma Ilene. I felt like a fucking freak show.
Now, my grandmother is not the classic picture of a dainty, knitting, slipper-wearing, bunt cake-baking, doting and gift-giving grandma. Oh no. Mine is more like a vodka-drinking, ambien-using, silk-robe-no-panty-wearing grandma. She loves to tell you the same story eighteen times and upon my graduation from high school she grabbed my breasts and wisely advised: “Don’ evuh let those go down. Boobs’ll getchyuh anywhe-uh.”
In retrospect, I’m sure my mother was aware of my delicate feminine state. This must have been why she gathered up the woman-folk and took us out shopping. Everything was normal until we hit Chico’s. While my grandmother tried on yet another pair of wool pants sans underwear, complaining about how “they give her the itch,” I slink off to the ladies room to discover that the time had finally come. Thickest damn pad in tow, I feel oh so mature and strut out of the bathroom wearing my cramps and diaper-esque pad like a badge of honor.
When we get home that evening I pull my mom aside to share the news with her. Like any thirteen-year-old girl, I begged her not to tell my dad or the rest of the visiting family, and she assures me she won’t. I am lulled to sleep that night by the comfort of a well-kept secret. I still remember the crinkle of that god-forsaken pad every time I rolled over.
I awoke the next morning confident that everyone would notice how mature and womanly I was. When I landed on the bottom stair leading to the kitchen, the room fell silent. They…Effing…Knew. Glaring daggers at my mother I approached the table. Maybe no one will mention it. I am reaching for a cup of juice when, with a smirk and a quick scratch of her bra-less sagging boob, my grandmother croaks in her Boston dialect: “Amander. How’s ya period?” The table watched me intently, expecting me to explode in a menstrual rage.
“It’s great, Grandma,” I said.

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