My Little Red Book

This is a great idea–we need to share these experiences in more open and honest ways.

MY LITTLE RED BOOK is an anthology of stories about first periods, collected from women of all ages from around the world. The accounts range from light-hearted (the editor got hers while water skiing in a yellow bathing suit) to heart-stopping (a first period discovered just as one girl was about to be strip-searched by the Nazis). The contributors include well-known women writers (Meg Cabot, Erica Jong, Gloria Steinem, Cecily von Ziegesar), alongside today’s teens. And while the authors differ in race, faith, or cultural background, their stories share a common bond: they are all accessible, deeply honest, and highly informative. Whatever a girl experiences or expects, she’ll find stories that speak to her thoughts and feelings.

What’s your first period story?

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81 Comments

  1. Tara K.
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I got my first period in seventh grade in English class. I was talking to a boy I liked and I kept feeling something strange. I thought I was peeing on myself, but I knew I wasn’t. After the bell rang I went to the bathroom to pee and was flabbergasted. Even though I knew about periods, I thought a) I was ill and b) I was humiliated. I didn’t tell my mom until she figured it out herself and asked why I hadn’t said anything; I was so embarrassed.

  2. Argent
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I have absolutely no memory of my first one. I know you are supposed to remember them, but I can’t. I think it’s because I was a lot more disturbed by how damn agonizing they were before visible signs appeared than any ‘mess’. Everyone taught you that they might be ‘mildly uncomfortable’ and yet mine had me throwing up from pain and unable to walk. I can remember occasionally checking during health class or whatever and being told that ‘some girls’ made an attention thing out of the pain because they were weak.

  3. Jeannie
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Oooo, I love telling period stories! I have tons of them, but you just want to know about my first period, so I’ll just stick to that. ;)
    I was 11 and in the 6th grade when I first got my period. It was the opening night of the first Harry Potter movie and I was going to see it with my dad and my grandmother, who had basically raised me along with her husband. I was a HUGE Harry Potter freak since before anyone even knew about the books. Since then, however, I’ve sorta fallen out of love with them…Sorry, HP fans. ^^;
    Anyway, the movie was about three hours long, of course, so I’m not really sure WHEN I actually got my period. But after the movie ended I had to go the restroom with my grandmother. I went to into the stall and was worried that I had wet myself or something (I did have some troubles with wetting myself up until then, I am embarrassed to admit!), but when I pulled down my panties, lo and behold! Blood!
    I, thankfully, knew it was my period and I got a little excited and a little scared. I got out of the stall and told my grandma. She told me to put some toilet paper in my panties for now and that when I got home, my mom might have a pad for me. So I did that and on the car ride home, I was so giddy. Of course, it was so funny to me that my grandma and I knew what had happened, but that my dad was totally out of the loop!
    Once I got home, I told my mom and she gave me one of her pads to wear for the night. I’m a very small girl and my mom’s pads were huge to me. I remember thinking that it felt like I was wearing a diaper!
    When I recall my period, I think of it as a happy, humorous occasion. But lately, I look back on it with some sentimental value too. My grandmother, bless her soul, passed away on February 7, 2007. She was like a mother to me and I miss her very, very much.
    I’m just so grateful that I got to share such a wonderful, intimate experience with her before she went to heaven.

  4. bonjourbonjour
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I got mine a little later- 10 grade (not that I was complaining!) and I didn’t even know until my mom, who was doing laundry, had to ask me if I had- I thought, because it wasn’t bright, gushing red blood, I was just doing a really, really bad job wiping. I felt like a complete idiot, and frankly still find it a terrible story I’d never tell outside here.
    on another note, I was so not eager to get mine, and felt happy it took so long, because I thought it was so embarrassing and awful to experience. I did keep thinking that, too, for a while- until I discovered reusable fabric cloth pads (my period’s not strong enough for me to use tampons or the diva cup comfortably), which made me feel less like I was wearing a diaper and more like a woman going through an amazing life cycle! I think that if I had known about that before, it would have made it a completely different experience for me.

  5. anonymous
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    My was pretty traumatic… I was 9 and had just started 5th grade. I think I had gotten my period already once, lightly, but was worried that I had “soiled” myself somehow, so I hid my underwear at the bottom of my laundry.
    My mother noticed when she went to wash my clothes one night. I cried a lot and she let me stay home from school that day…
    I knew about the birds and bees, but did not expect it to happen in, yknow, 5th grade?

  6. Jenn Astle
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Three words; white shorts and parade. ‘Nuff said.

  7. RockItRachelMae
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    It was a Sunday. I was getting ready for church, and was wearing white shorts. I went to the bathroom and after using it, I thought I saw brownish blood on the toilet paper. But a voice inside me was incredulous, so I went off to church, not telling anyone.
    Later, in Sunday School (it also happened to be Father’s Day), My friend asked me what I spilled on my shorts… I was leaking onto my white shorts! Fortunately, it wasn’t very heavy.
    But then, since it was Father’s Day, my Dad wanted to take my brother and I to the swimming pool. I was so worried because I had no idea about what to do, or tampons or anything… so I swam in the pool when I was on my period!!
    Later, I brought my swimsuit home to my Mom and asked her to validate my first period… “Yep, I think you got it!”
    We then celebrated and got ice cream together.

  8. Toni
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    My first period story actually begins the day before it started. I completely flipped out on the bus ride home. I don’t really remember the details but I was screaming and I hit a boy who insulted me. The next day I was in the principal’s office because of that behavior. I had to use the bathroom and I noticed I was bleeding. I went to the nurse’s office for a pad. I was suspended because of the bus incident so my parents had to pick me up to go home. I told them I got my first period. I believe PMS was a big factor in my behavior the day before.
    My first period was very light the whole way through. My second was a regular flow. But after my third, I had extremely heavy flows. My mom was worried because she didn’t think it should be that heavy at my age. I also had horrible mood swings. I had a teacher who always knew when I was menstrating just by my behavior. When I was 15 (I was 13 when I got my first period btw), I was put on birth control to lighten my flow and help with mood swings and it worked. I’ve been on it ever since.

  9. La Fabuliste
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    It was 1999, so I think I was 12 or 13 at the time. I don’t remember much of actually getting it, or my own reaction.
    But I do remember my mother’s! She took me and my little brother (who was probably about 8 or so, and who had no idea what was going on) out to eat. To the bar and grille right down the street, and I probably had some sort of linguini alfredo. Though I definitely remember the chocolate sundae.
    It would have been much more charming if she hadn’t told the waiter we were celebrating “something special” (MOM! He’s going to figure it OUT!) and if I hadn’t been so freaking uncomfortable.

  10. Cecilia
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I was 11, still living in Costa Rica. I had been sick for a week, cramped up, weak, no appetite and a headache that wouldn’t go away. My mom was really worried that I might have dengue fever, since there was kind of an epidemic at the time. When I came out of the bathroom that fateful afternoon, and showed her my brown-stained panties, the first thing she said was, “Gracias a Dios! No es dengue!!” Then she congratulated me on becoming a woman (which I thought was sort of odd) and got me a pad. The headache turned out to be my very first menstrual migraine… But thankfully, no PMS since has ever been as bad as that first one!

  11. T-Monster
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait to read this book.
    That said, this is the first time I will tell this story. And probably the last.
    I lied to my friends about having my period for almost two years. My best friend at the time was very good at outcasting people for things: insert deficiency du jour. When periods came up around age 12, I was the only one who hadn’t got it yet. A year passed and I started to think I’d never get it, and that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t have my mom around so I read books about periods. It frankly horrified me to find out some girls didn’t get it until they were 16- and in rare cases-they never got it. WHAT??!!
    My dad took me to see my first Broadway Play (Jeckyl and Hyde) just before my 14th birthday, and I had cramps on the train. I felt really tired. I crossed my fingers, and within a couple of days… I was glad I didn’t have to suffer through that crap earlier! I was sneaking my stepmom’s gigundo pads, since she wasn’t exactly a confidant, and it was way uncomfortable.
    But I never told my friends. I’m still great friends with them, and they don’t know… Frankly, she was a nasty little bully when we were kids, and doesn’t like to be reminded of it- we all grew up, things change, you get the picture. But we all have our hangups. For example, I doubt I’ll admit to her just how much sway she had over me then, and er- my period.

  12. LindySlav
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Mine happened in 7th grade when I was getting ready to present at the school science fair. I thought it was oddly appropriate because I had chosen a social science project in which I attempted to test for the existence of gender bias at local retailers.
    For the record, my preliminary findings showed that the hardware and auto supply stores showed indications of gender bias from employees towards customers, but the fabric, department and grocery stores did not. I was 12 and the project was very important to me. It still is, really.

  13. commonrosie
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I got mine when I was 11, and it happened to be New Year’s Eve 1999. I’d been waiting eagerly to get it ever since hearing about it in school when I was 9, so I felt very grown up and special to finally have it, and to have ‘beaten’ most of my friends in getting it. Our school was really good with ‘the period lesson’; our PSE (Physical and Social Education) lessons were taught by the head teacher and one day she came in with all these samples of towels and tampons, and the whole thing left us all (we were an all-girls school) feeling like we had been let in on a huge, hilarious secret. The fact that it was the headmistress who had told us about it made it seem even more grown up and important. I remember it was a lot messier than I had expected, and the amount I actually bled kind of surprised me, but overall I was very happy and proud of myself. If anything, the unexpected grossness just made me feel prouder. The whole new millenium thing gave a nice romantic spin to it as well :)

  14. LindySlav
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Mine happened in 7th grade when I was getting ready to present at the school science fair. I thought it was oddly appropriate because I had chosen a social science project in which I attempted to test for the existence of gender bias at local retailers.
    For the record, my preliminary findings showed that the hardware and auto supply stores showed indications of gender bias from employees towards customers, but the fabric, department and grocery stores did not. I was 12 and the project was very important to me. It still is, really.

  15. LindySlav
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Mine happened in 7th grade when I was getting ready to present at the school science fair. I thought it was oddly appropriate because I had chosen a social science project in which I attempted to test for the existence of gender bias at local retailers.
    For the record, my preliminary findings showed that the hardware and auto supply stores showed indications of gender bias from employees towards customers, but the fabric, department and grocery stores did not. I was 12 and the project was very important to me. It still is, really.

  16. sammylif
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m in the Vagina Monologues TOMORROW
    and I’m doing “12 Slap” or “I was 12. My Mother Slapped Me” – the one about periods! My personal fave is “I like the drop that go into the toilet. Like Paint”
    Anyone in the Syracuse area should come out and see it tomorrow at 8! in Hendricks Chapel!
    My first time, I was home and my mom wasn’t home yet, my grandma was babysitting. and I sat at the top of the stairs until my mom got home. and then we had to go to Payless and I was going to tell her in the car there – but my stepdad came too! So i was panicking and my mom knew something was wrong so I told her. Right in Payless.

  17. Okra
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I also lied for about a year and told my CLEARLY post-pubescent friends that I had gotten my period. I was able to get away with it because I already had breasts and a moustache.
    My first was in a hotel on a family vacation.
    I had a very unusual malaise/general pain I had never felt before and that lasted all day. When I looked at my underwear that night, there were muddy brownish-rust streaks.
    Little did I know that the pain would only get worse as the years went on!

  18. gwyllion
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    just my 2 cents – we have a great show up at the gallery at the moment called Red Rain Falling from a line from an Erica Jong poem called Gardner – “each month the blood sheets down like good red rain…” the show was juried by Sue Taylor from PSU university and the theme is women’s menstrual cycles. Check it out at our website http://www.northbankartistsgallery.com or if you live in vancouver WA or Portland OR come on by and see it in person – some GREAT work!

  19. Alethea
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I was in 8th grade, just over two months from my 14th birthday. I think it was a weekend, because I don’t remember going to school that day. What I do remember is that I started bleeding heavily right from the beginning. I knew exactly what was going on, and had just stolen one of my sister’s pads. I was out shopping with my mom, and in the car ride, I basically said something along the lines of, “I guess I have to tell you, because you’ll find out eventually anyway. I got my period today. I can’t just keep stealing [my sister]‘s pads, so I guess I need you to get some for me.” At the time, my mother was pretty against the use of tampons. She’s pretty insane, and was convinced we’d die if we used them because of TSS (she also refused to get a cell phone up until about 4 months ago because she was convinced they cause brain cancer, and still thinks they do). She kept asking stuff like if I had any questions, if I wanted any advice, stuff like that. Which I didn’t. I just needed her to get me pads, and she seemed pretty disappointed I was so distant and unexcited about it. I think I even started arguing with her when she pulled that “now you’re a woman” crap.
    I never wanted to get my period because it made no sense. There was no reason to have to bleed for a few days every month (which of course, it couldn’t only be just a few for me…), and my overall feeling was basically “oh well” because it was part of being the sex I am with the organs I have, and as far as I knew, there was nothing I could do about it.
    That first period lasted about 6 days, then it seemed to stop, so I stopped wearing a pad, and a day later started gushing blood again, which I found out about when I was changing for gym and my underwear was completely red and my jeans had a stain about 4″ long and 2″ wide in the crotch. Of course, a girl behind me sees this, and decides the best thing to do is laugh at and tease me for it. And I’m sure tell other people later on, too. The bleeding continued for another 2 or 3 days.
    It was around three months before I got another period, and they only got somewhat regular (but always heavy, and after about the first year, ridiculously painful) until I got on the patch. Now I’m on continuous cycle NuvaRing (not approved usage, blah blah, whatever) and don’t have to ever worry about it.
    (Side note – if you do still get periods, Instead cups, and I’m sure other menstrual cups, are absolutely better than pads AND tampons, and I wish I knew of them sooner than about 6 years into having periods)

  20. msmolly
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I was 11 and was at a swim meet. We weren’t allowed to talk to our parents while the meet was going on so I told my best friend but had no idea what to do about it, I was way too scared to just grab a tampon and attempt to figure it out myself. So I decided to just let it go until I got home. I was bleeding very little so it wasn’t a big deal but I remember being really afraid that there would be a trail of blood behind me as I was swimming…

  21. edengirl
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    It was New Years Day 1986 and I was 12 and in the 7th grade. I knew all about periods before that, and really wanted it to arrive because it would mean that I was a growing up.
    So earlier that morning, I don’t know why I thought this, but I looked down at my thighs and thought they were fat. I never thought that about myself. A little while later, I was getting out of the shower and there it was on the towel!
    I can’t believe how much I wanted my period. Now, I have endometriosis and experience incredible pain!

  22. cand86
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Well, I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), so I still hadn’t had a period by the time that I was 18 (except for the occasional spotting that had my mom absolutely ecstatic), so we went to the OBGYN and had my blood tested. The PCOS means I have higher levels of testosterone and sex hormone binding globulins and all other sorts of medical terminology, but it causes no or irregular menstruation (among other things). I was put on birth control to give me the hormones that would cause me to have a period. I remember being really shocked by it, mostly because, never having had the experience before, I thought it was weird how much my lower back ached . . . and then -boom!- period. I know it’s an ordeal for all girls, but I definitely think all my period-free years of growing up made me a little spoiled, and I really resented having to buy pads and deal with the mess and all that jazz. I’d never had to break up the years of my life into 12 events . . . I disliked it (and the tiresome having to take a pill every day) that I stopped and used them only intermittently for about four years.
    And that brings me up to speed now, as I’ve started up again (this time with the much cooler Nuva ring), and it kind of feels like a first period all over again. I still feel very awkward about it, like I haven’t experienced the “norming” of the period the way other girls have. It always seems to sneak up on me. Sigh.
    I really wish it was okay for my health to simply let nature take its course and not have them. As I was growing up, I think it sort of subconsciously gave me a feeling of specialness to not be having them, a sort of confirmation of my difference (since I always kind of thought I was a weirdo, in a good way). Now I’m just another girl on the rag . . .

  23. Tiana
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I got my first period when I was twelve; it was entirely uneventful. My mother had prepared me well, and she was right there when, one day, I woke up and saw blood when I went to the bathroom. I didn’t think it was exciting, really, but I didn’t think it was awful.
    Little did I know that two years later I’d be passing out and throwing up from the pain! Finally when I was sixteen I got on birth control. It has made the pain all but disappear and my periods are lighter and shorter. Recently I was off of it for one month due to a prescription screw-up and I had to experience the horrible pain all over again. >_

  24. ladybeethoven
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    My family was heading off to D.C. because my mom was doing a month-long internship at Georgetown about the Constitution and American history. Anyways, I discovered right before we left that I got mine. It was really amusing because my stepdad had to take my sister and I around to all the sights while my mom took classes and studied, and he of course had no idea how to deal with girls’ period problems, and for me of course it ruined my experience at all the museums because I was so uncomfortable! There was this woman at the Air and Space Museum who worked there who was really helpful in getting me tampons and pads and stuff which was the best part. But it’s funny, now that I’m a college student in Baltimore, us students go to D.C. a lot for long weekends and it’s funny to go to those museums which I still associate with that experience!

  25. beth
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    I remember getting mine when I was about 13. I had some weird clear discharge the day before, and I thought nothing of it until the next day when I felt like my panties were wet for the last part of the day in school, and saw that it was blood when I came home. I told my mom right away, and I, too, felt like I was in a diaper when I began to use her maxi-pads.
    I remember feeling like I hated it and it was a hassle–my periods were always so painful. Cramps in my back, abdomen, legs, not to mention headaches and fatigue! Luckily, as soon as I could get on birth control at age 17, I chose to skip my periods and haven’t had more than some faint spotting for at least 2 years, maybe it’s 2 1/2 already now…
    Anyways, I always felt dirty and uncomfortable because I think it’s gross and it IS very, very painful, not because anyone told me it was gross. For all you who think a period’s a good thing, or an acceptable cycle, more power to you! I wish I could be as accepting of mother nature’s little “gift.”

  26. beth
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    It’s really good to see someone else who doesn’t put up with this painful, bleeding, “now you’re a woman” nonsense! It is so refreshing to know I’m not the only one who uses the Nuvaring continuously so I don’t ever have to bleed again if I don’t want. Go us!

  27. faithdarwin
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    I was thirteen when I got mine, and all the other girls I knew had already gotten theirs and had huge breasts and boyfriends and everything (or so I felt at the time). I kept this pad in my backpack for like two years, and finally threw it out because I felt like I would never need it. When I finally got it, it was nothing like I expected. I’d always heard stories about the blood going everywhere and mad rushes to “plug it up” and so forth, but when I got mine it was very light and brownish colored. I wasn’t sure what it was for several days; I snuck into my mom’s closet to get some pads because I was afraid I had some disease or (without ever having had anything close to sex) an STD. I realized it actually was my period when I consulted the book my mom gave me about puberty when I was like nine years and old. Once I admitted I had it, I was incredibly proud and would always exaggerate the symptoms and claim that I had cramps just so I could let people know I had finally gotten my period. In a way I was lucky that I had to wait impatiently for it to happen because I never had any feelings of embarrassment or pain; I was very proud and vocal about it.

  28. danielle
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    The reason I remember the month and year (and the night) is because it was the night of/near that 2003 VMA performance with Christina, Britney, and Madonna. If it wasn’t for that (seeing the pic in the nespaper the next day) I would never be able to answer a doctor when they ask me when i first started menstruating. I was 12, don’t remember my reaction to it. Nothing big, but I was with my mom and sister on vacation.

  29. AnUnfunnyFeminist
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I was 12 years old, in 7th grade. I woke up one morning with horrible cramps. Searing, sharp pains in my side. I thought it was my appendix or something. I told my mom, and she said it was probably my period. Nothing came out for most of the day, but I stayed home from school so I wouldn’t get embarrassed just in case it did come. It eventually did that day. It wasn’t very much though. Soon after that, I learned in school that this would be happening every month. I got really pissed off. I seriously thought this was going to be a one-time thing, since I didn’t get my next period for like 2 months. Then all throughout high school, I’d get my period in the middle of the night. Seriously, it never failed. At 2 or 3 in the morning, I’d get my period. It was very annoying.
    I pretty much hated my period until I got to college, because I still felt like not every girl had their period. I felt like I had to hide it when I had my period in high school, because I figured I wasn’t in an environment where everyone would understand what I was going through. But by the time I got to college, I figured either all the other women did get their period already or would be secure with their cycles if they were nonexistent or irregular. So it wasn’t embarrassing for me to talk about it with my roommates and friends. The only bad thing about my period now are the occasional hot flashes on the second day. And every few months, mainly in the warmer months, I get terrible cramps that last 4 or 5 hours no matter how much Aleve I take.

  30. Naomi
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I mean this with all due respect for everyone who’s shared their experiences. I mean no harm or insult:
    I don’t understand why it’s so important to talk about periods.
    Sure–we *could* talk about them. And I’ll readily concede that there should be no stigma related to very simple, natural matters of women’s lives and health. But “my first period” stories? I just don’t get it.

  31. BakaKashi
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    I was in the fifth grade when I had my first period. For the past few days I’d had an upset stomach and brown spots on my underwear, so I thought I was sick. Then one day I went to the restroom at school and noticed the blood on my underwear.
    This was the same year I was diagnosed with depression, and so my thoughts were along the lines of ‘Oh crap. Now I have to deal with this’.

  32. Cassandra
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    I remember my first experience pretty distinctly. It was my 8th birthday, and I had just come home from taking my 2-year-old puppy to the vet. I made a beeline for the washroom as soon as I got in the door because I hadn’t mustered up the courage to ask about lavatories in the vet’s office, and quickly discovered that my purple underwear was drenched in blood. I was horrified. I hadn’t a clue about menstruation or anything encompassed – I was just starting third grade! I called for my dad immediately, and he too was fairly horrified – he hadn’t made the connection until my mom was called in and confirmed that it was, in fact, a period. I was under the impression that I was bleeding from my rear, and thus I was very relieved to learn that it was a normal biological function. Great abdominal and otherwise pain ensued in the days following, but my mom eased the pain by distracting me with educational books about menstruation, intercourse, and anatomy. I was a well-informed 8-year-old.
    I was incredibly young when I began menstruating, but I had already reached puberty, so it wasn’t inconceivable. By the time I reached the 4th or 5th grade, I had 36D breasts and was 5’9″ tall (I grew to 5’10″ not long after) – I was a very, very early bloomer. I had acne at the age of 8, which fortunately subsided when I reached the age of 12. I was spared from the trials and tribulations of being a hormonal teenager.
    To this day, I still experience pain of astronomical proportions from time to time (though nothing a few Advil can’t dull), but it has lessened significantly in recent years. I have never opted to take birth control, though I likely should have, as I missed months of classes in high school. My mother insisted that I take something to regulate my periods, but I refused, due in part to my heavy duty Roman Catholic schooling. Mother knew best.

  33. wax_ghost
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    I’m amazed that I’m not the only one who didn’t know what was going on because it was brown instead of red.
    I was 14, visiting my grandma for a week in the summer, and had brown stuff in my underwear for a couple of days. Even though I’d been wanting my period ever since all my friends got their’s when we were 12, I expected gushes of bright red blood, not smears of brown. I thought I wasn’t wiping well enough. It slowly dawned on me that it was my period. I searched under the sink but, duh, my grandma didn’t have anything. At first, I just stuck rolled-up toilet paper in my underwear, but then more came… So I called my stepmom (which was REALLY hard to do, since I did not like her and she was big on the “shameful female bodies” thing) and hid in a corner and told her that I thought I had my period. She told me to hand the phone to my grandma. I will never forget what my grandma did – she was always very matter-of-fact and this time was no different. While she was putting on her coat and getting her keys, she simply said, “I haven’t had any of those things in my house for awhile so I’ll go buy you some.” And that was that.

  34. Okra
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    The fact remains that there *is* a powerful stigma attached to periods in several societies. The U.S. falls in the middle of the continuum; menstruating women are not segregated from the larger society and menstrual products are freely advertised, but at the same time, there is a high context coding of menstruation as something dirty or “crazy-making” (via “hormones” or “PMS”) or otherwise unfortunate.
    Also, there are important identity issues that many people need to parse out.
    Some women never bled because of conditions they were born with; talking about their experiences with other women or even to a friendly board of non-like women helps them sort through the “you’re not a real woman” messages pounded into them.
    Some transmen (cisgendered as women but identifying as men) may have their own special identity issues with their monthly periods that they want to talk about.
    Some women had traumatic experiences being told they were nasty or crazy-PMS or less-adept at physical activities (a common argument against women in combat)because of the presumed debilitation of periods.
    Open discourse helps wear down centuries of stigma.
    Are you perhaps either from a society in which menstruation is treated with par-for-the-course indifference, OR, you have personally never experienced any of of the fraught issues mentioned above? If so, that might explain why you feel more removed from the issue.
    But from an objective assessment of this society, the question should really be “Why has there *not* been more open discourse about periods?” not, as you suggest, why is there any at all.

  35. T-Monster
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    Okra broke it down, but I’m not sure why it needs to be broken down, no disrespect. Sometimes, don’t we just *need* to converse about stigmatized issues? Everyone’s experiences are so different, and it opens our eyes and allows our often silenced voices to be heard. That’s enough for me, anyway.

  36. AndyLC
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    I got mine when I was 11. I didn’t tell my mother for quite awhile – over a year. I mean, she must have known because her tampons went missing (I used tampons from day 1) but then again, she may have been too drunk to figure it out. We have a great relationship. Really.
    I have had horrible, heavy, awful periods from day 1, but I don’t want to take birth control. I went through a few years were I was a little menstruation activist – periods are good! Don’t hate your body!
    But I’ve never really been able to reconcile my gender identity with having periods. I can’t wait to start testosterone therapy and be done with them.

  37. mayfly
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    I got mine on my 13th birthday and it was excruciatingly painful. Of course, compared to the pain I experience now, it was NOTHING. But it was pretty bad already, even back then. I had of course heard of periods before (we had “maturation” classes in elementary school) but I was still terrified and humiliated. I just KNEW there must be something terribly wrong with me. I searched for my mother’s pads, but I couldn’t find any, so I made a couple of makeshift ones out of old rags quickly stitched together with a little slot to put paper towel in the middle. It actually worked really well, but my mom found out when she found the bloody paper towels in the garbage, and she bought me some real pads and told me how to use them.

  38. Rachel_Setzer
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    It was the day before my 12th birthday, a Wednesday night, I think. I went to the toilet and saw a couple of dark red spots and ran for my mom. I don’t really remember her reaction that well. I wish I had gotten ice cream though.
    My cycles were never really that regular, and always so painful I would stay home from school. (I too remember being told that some girls made a big deal about being in pain cause they want attention.) I got on birth control at 14 because my cycle became really irregular after my first boyfriend broke up with me — this followed my first ever pelvic exam which seriously traumatized me (but also kinda turned me on…) — but even when I was on BC my periods were still horrendously painful.
    Until I got on Seasonale and stopped having them every month. This was after two years on the generic version, and I don’t care WHAT the insurance companies say, GENERIC BIRTH CONTROL ISN’T THE SAME. But I digress.

  39. Klarrisse666
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    I got mine 2 weeks after my 13th birthday. Our house was in the throes of some serious renovations, spreading from my room out into the laundry, so the morning i woke up with giant blood stains across my ass was certainly an awkward one. With there being builders strutting around the house, I decided to hold off telling my mum till i was absolutely sure. So I snuck off to the bathroom, ass to the wall to have a shower etc. When It hit me I cried. I cried because I was now certain that there wasn’t something wrong with me, that flat chested ole me HAD hit puberty and I cried because of the fear of trying to tell my mum before school. It all turned out fine by 8.30am though and I was off to school to tell my best friend, who when i told her said, “stop being a dick, I know you’re lying” but the new stash of pads in my bag were proof enough. :D

  40. emmakitty
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    It was two weeks after I’d turned 10 and my entire extended family was at my grandma’s house for a family reunion. My mom and I had talked about before (and my favorite book at the time was “Are You There God, It’s me Margaret) so I knew what was going on, but my mom and I had to go through every drawer in my grandma’s bathroom in order to find a pad. A few days later, my dad bought me this huge chocolate bar (because I don’t know about the rest of you, but I always want chocolate when I’m on my period).

  41. DevenL
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    I feel so boring. I got mine when I was about 15 and I was just like “meh”.
    The only thing my mom told me about maxi pads was “Now, you know you have to change these, right?”
    She told my Dad and he was like “Oh”….I have a very enthusiastic family.

  42. iHeartSanrio
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    1999. I was 10 years old (going on 11), in 5th grade, and at the pool with my Dad and sister. I got out of the pool to go to the bathroom. After I’d finished peeing I wiped and found blood on the toilet paper. I remember looking down then saying, “Oh no…” to myself in a really annoyed tone. I went back to the pool to tell my dad what had happened. My dad was flirting with this neighbor of ours he thought was really cute. It was obviously an awkward moment for him and the first thing that came out of his mouth after I told him was, “Well, I guess this is a big, red letter day, isn’t it?”
    I was mortified.
    My mom came and rescued me after that. She called me out of school the next day and took me to class with her at Sac State. I remember her buying me a caramel frappuchinos and candy bars all day to “celebrate my womanhood.”

  43. Louise
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Mine’s not too exciting.
    I was 12 or 13, I felt ‘squelchy’ down there one morning, and I immediately suspected. I checked, then walked into my mother’s room, said “I need tampons” and walked out. We had a mini-sex ed talk in 5th grade where they really pushed Always pads for some reason (I guess they produced the video or something?) so I insisted on my mother getting those as well, despite her protests that pads are of the devil. Didn’t keep them on for more than a split second, I immediately hated them. (I still have those pads, actually. Do pads expire?) Then I tried the tampons, and they were better, only I could feel them too much. My mother told me that it probably wasn’t pushed in far enough and she was right.
    Anyway, it was never all that traumatic. Well, until a year or so later when I started getting all the lovely side effects. Without ibuprofen–and occasionally Vicodin–I would have curled up in a ball and died years ago.
    Note: I realize this comment isn’t exactly eloquent–”feel them too much”?–but it’s 2:30 AM and I’ve had maybe 7 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours. Forgive my poor sentence structure.

  44. elbu
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    I’m glad that works for you two. Just goes to show how differently people’s bodies work. I had real problems with NuvaRing – for the first two cycles I was bleeding permanently and although that stopped, I felt bloated and depressed. In fact, I only got over my depression (which I’m convinced was *not* caused by the hormonal birth control) after I stopped using it. Having said that, it worked much better for me than the pill.

  45. Kurumi & Cheese
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    It was about a week or so after my 12th birthday. I woke up and discovered a bit of blood and knew immediately that it was my period.
    It all would have been no big deal, except it was the morning I was set to go to a 2 week summer camp. It was an educational camp, not an outdoorsy camp, but still … first period + getting used to period and pads + heavy schedule = not a good time.

  46. Chocolate Beanie
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I was about 11 and was sitting at home painting a pretty picture. I actually spilt a load of red painty water on me so didn’t even realise that I had started…
    Ridiculous, non?

  47. NatalieUGA
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I think this is a fantastic idea. Using first person stories to demystify and degrossify periods. They’re a natural part of bodily function and nothing to be ashamed of. Keep doing what you’re doing.
    I do want to register for a hot second that not all women have periods. Some women are infertile to the point of not having periods, some women are post-menopausal and no longer have their periods, and some women (like me) will never have one because were were born male-bodied.

  48. marj
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I was 11 and I knew what was happening because we had just started to have sex ed classes at my school. But even before that, I saw it happening to my mom and my older sister and they never hid it from me. No that they actually celebrated or discussed anything, but they didn’t hide it either.
    I remember we had to do some cleaning that day, but, since I just got my period, my mom said I didn’t have to. My sister got SO PISSED OFF. Like “since when she’s not capable of helping us out here, just because she’s getting her period?”.
    I didn’t have cramps (never had them until Istarted taking BC pills) or anything, so I didn’t know why my mom was acting like I was sick or something. I kinda agreed with my sister. But, since we always picked on each other back then, I pretended I didn’t feel well just so she’d get screwed up with all the cleaning.
    (Ha! I know, I’m horrible).
    But this is not the story that most got me. My first periods were very light (and brown). So, a few months after my first period, I woke up and saw that it came. I had to go to school and I didn’t find any pad in my drawer or my sister’s drawer or my mom’s. Anywhere. Just tampons (and I back then my mom scared me to death with stories about how I was not supposed to use tampons because I would “lose my virginity”). The only “pads” I found were those small “Carefree” ones. So I wore them. And the very first class that day was gym class. Needless to say that was my very first heavy, red, period and I got stains all over my pants.
    The boys of my class harassed me big time. They yelled and made fun of me all day, it was horrible. And the teachers didn’t do anything. Neither did my girlfriends — I guess I was the first one among them to have it. Since then, I got paranoid about my clothes during my periods and did everything I possibly could to hide from my dad that I had them — although he probabyl already knew, cuz I had age for that.
    That’s when I started thinking that blood was gross and that periods were a hassle I hated. But, hey, I never had any pain. My period never bothered me until I started getting those messages from other people. So, yeah, I totally relate when I hear feminists say we learn to be ashamed of our bodies.
    I have no problems with my periods now. Not that I like them. It’s just ok. It doesn’t bother me at all. And I’m actually considering getting the diva cup.

  49. Tara K.
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I use the Nuvaring continuously, too! It’s AWESOME!
    I’ve always been happy for women who could celebrate their periods, but I’ve never been one. Especially since I’ve always known I never want children, it just feels so pointless. I was on Depo (the Demon b.c.) for five years and loved not having periods. When I got my first one afterwards, it was HORRIBLE. Before Depo, I’d never had any PMS or cramps; after Depo, I thought I was gonna die. Maybe because my uterus hadn’t contracted and cramped for so long, but it was excruciating. I went on Nuva, which I’d planned to do anyway, and have used the continuous cycle ever since.
    Even though it’s not “approved,” my doc is a big advocate of the continuous use. Just so you know. It’s just not FDA passed yet.

  50. InfamousQBert
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    mine was october 18, 1992, eighth grade. luckily, i was at home when it first started, but i had to go to school for PICTURE DAY the next day. i wore my favority olive green jeans and a cute yellow top (i thought i was HOTT in that color combo). i was afraid to tell my mom about it (we just never talked about that kind of thing), so i didn’t know that i would need, like, a LOT of pads that day. i bled through and felt so self-conscious and humiliated that whole day. i was so relieved when it was time to leave school, but then she decided it was a good day to go to Sam’s (the giant club-saver’s store). i could not beLIEVE she was doing this to me. i told her i didn’t feel good and she let me stay in the car, with my jacket tied around my waist, praying that i wasn’t bleeding onto the car seat.
    it took me a few years before i finally got the whole routine down and never bled through because they were heavy for 7 solid days until i got onto birth control in my 20s.
    i don’t know if i’ll ever be one of those women who just LOVES the heck out of themselves and can, like, make art with their blood, but at least i don’t feel completely humiliated for a week every month now.

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