Monday, December 27, 2010


Ah, Christmas. Oh wait -- then, ah, the New Year.

There's nothing like the nation grinding to a halt to return one to memories. Some of which are, well, complex.

When the Matron was a Young Miss -- 16 -- (and you're in for a gasp here), she had yet to embark upon the monthly cycle signaling fertility and new life, or the potential thereof. This slow start at the gate didn't bother the Young Miss much until she turned 15 and all of her friends were "WHAT?" and tampon stories seemed like a secret, forbidden, sect. Like being the "it girl" of all time.

She turned 16 at the end of one November. One month later on Christmas morning, she woke to a slate of gifts that included footie pajamas and--her first period.

The Matron considers this now as Scarlett's friends have largely embarked upon this journey. The Diva is a young 7th grader, entering school just four days ahead of the cut-off line; and she's tiny. Plus, she's friends with many theater girls much older than her, girls who are dating, shaving their legs and hopefully rejecting various substances. Because Scarlett is a bit of a local 'starlet' (sorry, it's late and she couldn't help it), Scarlett has substantial cache with these older theater-loving teen girls. Plus -- according to pretty much everyone on the planet, including complete strangers in Indonesia and North Ireland -- the second Scarlett disembarks from her family's ship and enters a theater? She's like Meryl Streep. Focused, adult, professional, observant.

So the 12 year old with 17 year old 'friends' is also acknowledged in her own right and well respected as a professional and treated as a peer; yet Scarlett can't quite image the dramas and daily complexities of being seventeen, on the cusp of adulthood. It's a complex bit of reality. Tonight, she's spending the night at a friend's house -- a theater friend who is a good two years older, which places her at the same age as HWCBN. The differences seem vast to the Matron.

All this ruminating returned the Matron to that Christmas morning when she went into her bedroom to put on her 'footie' pajamas and discovered that the deal was finally done -- her first period. Even then, the irony of the pajamas, stuffed animals and ability to procreate was not lost on her (but consider this geared toward women). Why don't sixty year old men wear footie pajamas? The Matron definitely thinks footies would lose their appeal of old men in footies started popping up in ads.

When the Young Miss told her mother the news that Christmas day, this is what she heard:

"Don't tell anyone. There's plenty of stuff in the hall closet. Just use it."

She didn't tell anyone or ask for assistance ever again.

That call to silence about women's bodies--the daily ins and outs, the pressures for conformity, the genuine physical challenges of blood, babies and birth -- has always haunted the Matron.

She's entering a different phase now. Fertility? Those days are done. But the body still holds challenges and triumphs, offers its daily lessons and reminders about choices, inheritance and inevitability.

But as she sees the books about bodies, life, changes, and puberty sitting prominently in Scarlett's room where yours truly softly left them -- with a conversation and invitation --and notices that the books aren't burned or thrown away, there's hope.

A new year ahead. And there's always another girl entering the world, picking up the legacy and reshaping it into something new.


Suburban Correspondent said...

I don't get the footies concept for grown women. Doesn't everyone my age need to pee at least once during the night? It's COLD to have to disrobe entirely just to use the toilet.

Anonymous said...

SC just said it!

~annie said...

Ditto! But maybe some women like footies because it's one of a very few acceptable ways to be playful. Men get to do child-like "boy" stuff like run around and toss a ball even in the company of other grown people and nobody blinks an eye. When is the last time you saw a group of women enjoy something as childish as that in public? Hopscotch or jump rope anyone? No, women have to indulge the "inner child" in the privacy of home and after dark at that.
(But maybe Merrick will change all that?)

Anonymous said...

Footie jammies for grown ups? For real?
I have heard of families where the first period is celebrated with cupcakes. I did not live with one of those, however, and with 3 sons, my monthly cycles remain pretty silent and unremarkable.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Cupcakes? Really? Why? Should be chocolate - and lots of it...

Anonymous said...

Dear Mary,

You might find this