The naivety of childhood shields us from so much of life's unpleasant realities. From the minute my mother told me what a period was and that I would be visited by mine sometime in the near future, I could.not.wait.
As a child, I was on a perpetual quest to be "grown." I wanted to dress "grown." I wanted to wear dark colored nail polish like grown women did. I hated when my mother bumped my ends too high when the style was bone straight. And my absolute favorite pastime was sitting in on, and even daring to contribute to, grown folks' conversation.
Starting my period would make me grown, a woman. I would have arrived.
My mother was right. At 8-years-old, during the summer between my second and third grade year, I came inside from riding my bike and was delighted to learn that the sticky brown liquid inside my light blue panties was my menarche.
I remember feeling so special walking around the house in my new "diaper." I kept asking my younger sister if she could see it through my jean shorts.
That summer I attended a beauty camp for young [Black] girls meant to teach us about etiquette and how to behave like a young lady. I felt privileged to be passing blood clots during the orientation. After all, they were teaching the class about womanhood and I, at just eight years old, had already achieved it.
While I was internally proud to have reached this milestone and to be living something my friends had only heard about during those state mandated sex ed talks, I realized that having your period wasn’t exactly something you wanted to share with the class. Because in elementary school, there aren’t too many people, boys and girls alike, who are mature enough to handle it. They thought what most grown people still believe today, periods are gross and disgusting rather than just a natural and necessary bodily function.
So until middle school, when I wasn’t the only girl bleeding, I only told a few of my closest and most trustworthy friends the real reason I carried a purse.
At home though, I assumed that everyone knew and accepted my status as a woman. It wasn’t until my grandmother visited one summer that it was called into question.
My Caribbean people out there know that when it comes to West Indian households, there are very few boundaries when it comes to nudity and privacy. So as I was sitting on the toilet, my slightly spread legs holding my blood-stained pad off the floor, my grandmother walked into the restroom.
She was standing at the sink doing something, when she leaned over to inspect what was going on in my underwear.
“Oh yuh nah bleeding for real yet. Yuh blood not even dark.”
I frowned, confused and slightly insulted. But I was ready with an explanation.
“Grandma, this pad has layers. So, the blood has soaked through a few layers that’s why it’s not bright red.”
I could tell she didn’t believe me.
Thinking quickly, I wiped in between my legs and presented a piece of toilet paper that had been turned crimson. Adding weight to my argument, it even included a decent sized clot for good measure.
“Ugh.” My grandmother shuddered, her eyes widening behind her glasses. She didn’t say anything else before nearly running from the bathroom.
I sat on the toilet, smirking to myself.