My eleven-year-old daughter, my youngest child, is losing her little girl look. In the last six months she’s sprouted out of her jeans and shirts, her legs suddenly long, her angles and straight lines softening into curves. She closes the door when she showers, asks me when she can start shaving her legs, and wears a training bra. She’s on the cusp of young womanhood, that moon sliver of time between childhood and adolescence. And I know it won’t be long until her cycle begins and she joins the age-old club.
I was fourteen when I started my period, the last of my group. At slumber parties, in whispers late at night, my friends lamented the discomfort of cramps, laughed over using tampons for the first time, and shared horror stories—a tell-tale red stain on the back of a skirt, an empty pad dispenser in a public bathroom—while I listened in silence and embarrassment, still an outsider. When my period finally started one night at mutual, I couldn’t wait to tell my mother when I got home, feeling shy and proud and relieved and thrilled. She retrieved the supplies she’d been saving for me in her bathroom cupboard—bulky Kotex pads and a sanitary belt (in those days before adhesive pads)—which I excitedly put on.