December 8, 2009
A Delicate Subject
I'm going to post about menstruation today. And I'm going to speak in generalizations....not about any specific individual...
It is an exciting time when a young woman begins her cycle! I remember the first time I had to bring a purse to school to carry "supplies". My girlfriends who walked to school with me noticed that I had a purse. One asked why I brought it. I proudly opened it up so they could see my menstrual pads. Everyone gasped, since I was the first among my friends to start my cycle. It was my shining moment, and I didn't have to say one word to impress anyone.
When I was in college, I took a Developmental Psych class. The professor was a fabulous teacher. We had already discussed how many cultures have "coming of age" ceremonies, from Bat Mitzvahs and Quinceaneros to ancient Native American ceremonies. Most Americans don't use ceremony much beyond religious confines.
My professor pointed out how meaningful ceremonies and celebrations are. When she was growing up she had a friend who was the youngest child in a family with 4 sons. Her mother died when the daughter was young. The father was a wonderful nurturing parent, but of course, he didn't have first hand knowledge about the changes a girl experiences as she grows into a woman. When she was 11 the daughter went through the uncomfortable task of telling her father when she needed her first bra. She also had the foresight to tell him that she was going to need menstrual supplies at some point in the near future.
The morning finally came when the daughter shyly told her father that she had her first period. Her father didn't say much, other than, "Okay". The daughter went off to school and father to work. Later, when she arrived home from school, the girl went to her room. She was amazed. Her room was overflowing with bouquets of yellow roses. There were flowers on every flat surface! There was a note from her father telling her how much he loved her and how proud he was to be the father of such a lovely young woman.
When the professor was done telling the story, all of us had tears in our eyes. We all knew that it was something we wished we had experienced ourselves--a loving welcome into adulthood.
In our culture most women do not view menstruation as a positive thing. It's a hidden and "shameful" thing. Girls learn from mothers and sisters. They look forward to their menarche, but it is rarely greeted with anything other than a tossed box of Tampax, and maybe, a hug.
Parents of girls, I'd like to suggest that you spend some time thinking about how you can mark your daughter's coming of age in a meaningful and memorable way. Whether that means a special meal with parents or strong minded women, sisters sharing a brunch together, or just a bouquet of flowers. It can be a wonderful way to show your daughter how much you love her and how proud you are of her growing maturity.