I took my first period as a complete betrayal by the one ally I’d thought I could always count on in life, my body.
I had two older sisters and a goose gaggle of aunts and cousins and what all, so it wasn’t like I’ve never heard of monthlies or Aunt Ruby or whatever nonsense people use to talk about the rather nasty fact of dripping goo out of your most private parts. I guess I just didn’t think it would happen to me, or would happen “later”. I had gotten the idea by then that a lot of things that affected others didn’t apply to me because I was special.
But mostly, I just didn’t realize how messed-up and awful it was going to be. Sorry, liberated sisters, but I didn’t interpret bloodstains on my panties as some badge and initiation of womanhood. I dealt with it by hitting the ceiling, followed by a roller coaster of unfamiliar and totally unwanted feelings and thoughts. Sometimes I think I never expected to grow up to be a woman, anyway. One of my cousins over in Alabama had these two little dogs that were just amazing. They’d sit at the table with people and snuggle up beside you on the couch and look over your shoulder at what you were reading. She told me they didn’t really know they were dogs, just assumed that if they did it right they’d grow up to be people like us. And I believed her.
And I think that back in the underside of my mind, where you really figure out what to do in spite of what you think you think, I figured I’d go to school and get bigger and maybe someday have a Ferrari and catch for the Braves and marry a supermodel. Or something. Well, one pair of blood-stained undies put that whole scenario out to pasture in terms that even the subconscious can understand. Blood is blood and it speaks right out loud. You can whup up on somebody all you want, but you tag them for a nosebleed and suddenly it’s the real thing. My feeling about the subconscious is that it’s like a big alligator lurking around in a bottomless pond of blood.
But there I was, holding a pair of little dingy cotton briefs that were bloody, but worse; they were dirty. And I was dirty. And not just out where I could scrub it off, either.
Now I realize this is very politically incorrect. We womenfolk are supposed to take this wonderful gift of life and maturity not as a curse, but as some wonderful celebration of wymynhood. Rather than as a wound and disease.
Well, sorry, but I saw it as both, and still kind of do. Just because you get used to something doesn’t mean you want to kiss it or have it bronzed for your knickknack shelf. I felt sick, I was having muscle weirdness, I was losing it. I was bleeding, for God’s sake! You can’t go around saying you’re all fine and healthy if you’re bleeding: it’s like nature’s biggest sign to us that something’s wrong and we’ve been violated and opened up to the world’s ways, and we should be alarmed. Well I was alarmed. And pissed off.
See, by then I had outgrown my babyfat and was a fairly lean, wiry individual. Smooth and lithe like a pink snake or naked otter. I liked my body. It proved itself almost daily, got me out of trouble, got me respect, never caused me anything but pleasure and self-assurance. I wasn’t plump or pudgy anymore, but my face was still angelic enough to keep getting adored at the those minor-league, under-aged beauty do-ups. I liked looking at myself in the mirror. I liked sitting in the bathtub rubbing my slick, soapy hide. I liked the exertion and grace and power of it all. I was really kind of in love with myself. Or whoever it is that sits behind our eyes was in love with whatever it saw in the rest of me. And being sleek, smooth, and taut was part of the whole picture.
The first time I saw a boy’s genitalia I was grossed out. Not for the usual reasons, maybe, but because it was just so untidy, so unsleek. How could a body think of bopping around with this stuff dangling around? I felt the same way about a lot of the boobs I had seen at that point. We tend to be a pretty titsy family, and some of us enough so that there was just a lot of meat hanging off. I didn’t want tits. Certainly not anything that caused more of a bump in my profile than the fender hump of a Corvette or cockpit canopy of a fighter plane.
And I was a bug on being clean. My hair squeaked, my skin was creamy and blemishless, by pussy lips were sealed and hugged up tight under my belly, my shit was chromed and odorless. I glided through the ozone of life, streamlined, fast and holy. I struck like a rapier, slashed like a fillet knife. This was all very important to me, though I wasn’t verbally aware of it. And now I was dribbling gook out of my hole and smearing things up. I’d become an open wound. Worse, the only ways to deal with this treason of my privates was to make them a whole lot less private. I had to talk to Flora Lee about what sort of “sanitary products” to choose and use. Selah laughed at me. Bethany was disgusted, as usual. From now on, I realized, you had to make other people aware of this condition. Go into stores and buy tampons or napkins. It was like the bloodflow invited the whole damned world and industrial complex right into my innards. Had to tell coaches you were having cramps. I even had to go to a doctor and get felt up. It changed my life, my self image, my whole reality. It was just so unfair.
Which brings me to something that ties my kiddy undies in to the industrial-strength sexual advertisements I modeled in later years. I’ve tried to put this into words before; maybe I’ll get it right this time. And it’s probably politically incorrect, too. I’ll call it The Myth Of Feminine Daintiness.
Women get seen as these dainty, delicate, spotless things, right? As opposed to dirty, grubby men. Women are pastels, lace, sheer fabrics, scalloped edges, sweetness, lightness. Everything as perfumed and kissable as a fresh-bathed baby. And that gets emphasized most the closer you get to the truly woman-defining regions. There’s hair, but mostly the pristine loveliness is focused in at the breasts and crotch. Frills and peek a boo have adorned these regions from ancient times. You can get the subtle, sultry, faux-innocent class of Victoria’s Secret, all packaged in the same antiseptic, white/pastel, floweriness that we see in commercials for douches and maxi-pads and special niche deodorants. Or maybe you prefer the harder-core, in your face strumpeting of Fredericks of Hollywood. But the message is the same–this is an area to delight the eye, nose, and taste buds, as wreathed in froth and sanctity as a wedding gown.
But the reality is Victoria’s real secret, which is that women, in the very distinctions that make us women, are nasty and stinky.
And once you start looking at Womanhood as something functional, rather than decorative, the dainty stuff goes right out the window. Tits aren’t really décor, functionally, are they? They make milk so babies can suck it out of you. And sometimes the milk seeps out and stains your undergarments and gets sour and smells funky. This is not glamorous, sorry. What are the real functions of a pussy, why we have them in the first place? Two words: ick and ewwww. They’re like busy terminals for all sorts of disgusting fluids, fields to be seed-drilled, delivery docks for screaming bloody babies and all manner of totally, absolutely revolting by-products. And speaking of products, if women are daintier than men, why don’t guys have to douche?
Of course we can’t keep Vic’s secret from husbands and other intimates. But by then, the whole fragile, fragrant flower thing has worked, hasn’t it? Aside from that, we have to keep the Secret. And the main way we’re supposed to do that is by spending money. Those commercials I mentioned are a mammoth industry, a major element of the economy. I don’t think anybody has actually built a better mousetrap in centuries, but if you can design some better way for a woman to hide and deny the blood and grunge, replace the tunaboats with alpine meadows, and fringe that squidgy, hairy little aperture with exciting frills and frolic, you’re going to be into the money.
By the way, getting pubic hair also pissed me off, at the same level of seeing something sleek and aerodymanically shaped and intriguing turned into an undefined briarpatch. If I hadn’t been blond it would have sent me ballistic. Of course I can regain that unadorned, beautiful configuration if I want. All it takes is shaving and waxing and obsessing. More money, more industry, more messy effort.
It turns out that women are, in general, messier than men. Talk to any janitor about which sex leaves the piggiest restrooms. Walk through a girls’ dorm, then a boys’ dorm. Get in their cars. I can’t believe the way chicks trash out their car interiors and neglect under the hood. I keep my ride clean and maintained like the guys who taught me cars in the first place. But that’s all in private, you see.
I’m thinking of writing to those guys on Mythbusters, see if those geeks can debunk the Myth Of Daintiness.
On the other hand, I’ve been making a living off it.