Kate Messinger, a writer living in Brooklyn, remembers the many years she spent wishing for a period, thinking that at 16 and still not a woman, she must be a freak of nature.
WORDS BY: Kate Messinger
"When I was 12 a popular girl with crimped hair, a real bra, and lips so glossed they could catch a fly came up to me in the bathroom and asked for a tampon. "Sorry I'm out!" I said loudly, looking very concerned for her but very proud of myself. She nodded in brief sisterly understanding, flipped her sun-in streaked locks and went on ignoring me forever. I high-fived myself the way people do when no one is around, relieved I had pulled off the biggest lie in the history of White Hill Middle School. Of course I had no tampons - I had no period.
Kate at 12 years old
"Having no period wasn't a problem then, but as the months, then years, passed, it became harder and harder to find reasons why I was not a girl, not yet a woman. At 14 I faked tears during a theater camp exercise discussing womanhood in the wake of opening night of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., where I played a man and was convinced I probably would forever. At 15 I sunbathed next to the pool during gym class with the mature girls, rubbing my abdomen from time to time and popping Midols. At 16 I had resigned myself to the sad fact that my flower would never bloom, that aunt flow had disowned me and would not be coming to visit, and that I was either a) barren, b) a man, or c) had somehow already gone through menopause when I wasn't paying attention. Britney Spears was the only one who understood me, but by then Britney was on the fast track to a shaved-head celebrity meltdown and I was a high school Sophomore trying to get a boyfriend with a stuffed bra.
"But suddenly, on a not so special day when I wasn't even thinking about my nonexistent reproductive ability, my period started. And whatever floodgate had been holding back that crimson tide for my prolonged prepubescence, burst, and not quietly. My "womanhood" came crashing through town destroying all flowers, aunties, and cutesy euphemisms in its path. It made me wonder why I had spent so many years trying to get into a club that was, in reality, just a lonely bathroom with not enough toilet paper and an unfathomable urge to blast Elliot Smith, eat microwave pizza and yell at my mother.
"I was happy to have made it into this new stage of almost adulthood but it almost felt too late. I was too old to get taken out for ice cream by a proud parent, far past the curriculum that would show me how to insert a tampon the right way, and had lied to my friends too long to ask them if I would be crying over ASPCA commercials for the rest of my life or if this was just temporary. The next day I went to school in baggy pants with an entire roll of toilet paper stuffed in my underwear. I was hoping someone would notice how I had changed. I spent most of homeroom making eye contact with girls, giving them that slow sisterly nod I thought was the universal handshake to the underground society of bleeding females, but I think they just thought I was stoned or falling asleep.
By lunch I couldn't take it any more. DOES ANY ONE HAVE A TAMPON? I said too loudly. My friends looked at me: "You're one of us now?" they asked, giving me that knowing nod. "About time.""