I started my period when I was thirteen years old. I lied about it and hid it for months.
I knew exactly how to manage my period, but I didn't learn it from any of the women in my family, not even my big sister. My television taught me. I was a pretty resourceful kid so after enough Tampax commercials I got the gist. It was a simple concept to me "blood comes out, plug it up." "Boom" I thought, "I've got this."
My mother is an amazing woman, but we just didn't discuss anything related to my body. I grew up in a really religious family, and at the time, we didn't talk about anything. Although we spent a good amount of family time together, we were very disconnected. Our discussions were all pretty surface, and I only spoke if I had something "good" to say. We laughed. We watched family movies. We got all of our musical instruments together and had jam sessions, but we didn't discuss anything related to my maturing. We didn't talk about boys, that was a hard limit for my parents. I felt like they needed me to stay a simple kid with simple needs. Their emotions couldn't handle it.
It was okay though because I was a resourceful kid. I picked up on things quickly. I made inferences. I learned early how to be independent and solve my own problems. So, when "P-day" arrived I knew exactly what was going on and that I needed to handle it myself. I'll never forget it.
I was at my aunt's house playing with my cousin who is a couple of years younger than me. There was a playground in their apartment complex and my cousin and I were all over it. We did daring tricks on the swings, jumped off mid-air, landed and then headed straight for the slide.During that moment, life was all about momentum and velocity. I wasn't afraid of shit. Or, so I thought. Once we got tired enough, we decided to take a break and go inside for more fuel. I was wearing Khaki knee-length shorts, but after all the playing they were wrinkled from seam to seam. My aunt welcomed us back into the house, and as I walked past her she abruptly asked: "Tarisha, what's on your pants?" I craned my neck back and saw the huge red stain covering my butt. I knew within a millisecond what it was.
It took another millisecond for me to think of my lie. It was such a good lie; it was so smooth. I responded with "oh, there was red juice on the slide." My delivery was flawless. That was it; that was enough of an explanation for her.
I quietly protected my panties with toilet paper until it came time for our next grocery trip. We entered the store, and my mother veered left to the produce section, and I took off to the right for the pharmacy. Sneakily, I bought my first pack of pads with some allowance money, and I hated them. They felt like big ass hot diapers, and I needed my vagina to breath. So, the next month I switched to tampons. It wasn't until I opened the box that I realized I didn't know what a tampon looked like or how to use one. I don't recall what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't the cardboard contraption I was holding in my hand. I was fine though; I had it covered. I just needed to read the instructions. "Okay, I thought" you just push it in, then push again, and then pull it out. Easy peasy! The rest is history.
Looking back, an incredible amount of "firsts" occurred without my parents knowing. I now wonder when my mother realized that I was clearly menstruating. Did she know all along? Did she figure that I had it handled? Was it as easy for her as it was for me to keep some distance on the topic? I'm 31 years old now, and I'm not going to ask her.
I'm curious, but it would be too weird.