Maddy was having more confusing thoughts about boys than she could handle. Not only was there a mystery about their bodies, but there was an even bigger mystery about their behaviors. Boys were always different in the way they acted and the way they saw things. She had been around enough of them to know that. But suddenly they were even stupider than ever, and Maddy wasn’t sure why.
But what really confused Maddy was the girls. They weren’t the same as they had been just a year before. Her friends, once interested in everything Maddy was interested in, were suddenly finding other interests, other things to talk about, and other ways to spend their time. Maddy felt a little put out and ignored, but she wasn’t one to ever judge and she tried to be happy for her friends, especially LaTricia, when they wanted to talk about their new favorite subject; boys.
Maddy still didn’t know what the fuss was, but she had managed to spy a few boners by this time. The boys seemed to get them at the dumbest times. Usually when there was a woman around, and if the woman had a skirt or a dress, there seemed to be an awful lot of neck craning, lap adjusting, and wiggling among the boys. Maddy decided that middle school must be the worst time of anyone’s life.
So Maddy did what many late blooming (that was the way her mother put it when Maddy asked why she didn’t have her period yet. Mom said that getting a period was like waiting for a flower to bloom. It was just a bud, then suddenly it was in full bloom. Mom smiled at Maddy in a funny, half concerned way when she explained this. Maddy thought she was stupid) girls did; she got really good grades because she had little else to occupy her time. Her father appeared more intimidated by his pre-teen daughter every day and tried to avoid her without avoiding her, which really only managed to hurt Maddy’s feelings.
“He’s a man.” Her mother explained once when Maddy complained. “Men are all afraid of women. You are a young woman now, and he doesn’t know what to do with you.” Mom looked at her husband who was pretending to be invisible in the other room. “I knew I should have had a brother for you, maybe that would have helped him.”
Mom didn’t bother to explain the complex and often frustrating job of all wives; juggling her vulnerable husband’s ego with his emotional needs. That might have helped Maddy later on in life, but Mom knew that Maddy wouldn’t understand, and even if she could she would have to make the same mistakes every other woman made with her husband. The one thing Mom did answer when Maddy asked her about marriage was, “Having a mate is a trial-and-error process. Mostly error, and everything feels like you’re on trial.”
It was, thankfully, a Saturday morning and Maddy was sleeping a bit later when it happened. The sheets felt damp, and there was something on her hand when she reached between her legs. The eyes that had refused to focus suddenly snapped wide open. Maddy sat up, stared straight ahead for a long moment, holding her breath. Then, she looked between her legs.
And there it was, the initiation into womanhood that she had been anticipating. The admission price to the most exclusive club in the world; she was joining the sorority of women.
Maddy felt some discomfort but it was nothing compared to the feeling that now, at long last, she would understand her friends, understand her mother, understand other females. And, with a bit of luck, understand boys! Maddy bounded out of her room and into the kitchen, excitement all over her face and a wide smile, joyous with the knowledge that she was finally grown enough to be like the other girls. Maddy jumped into the kitchen, her hips thrusting out her bloody pajama bottoms, and she cried to her parents, “Look!”
Her mother gave a weak smile, followed by an indulgent frown. Her father choked on coffee, looked away quickly, and pleaded with his wife do something, quickly. Which Mom did. She grabbed a kitchen towel and wrapped it as well as she could around Maddy’s middle and hustled her out of the kitchen and into the bathroom. Maddy saw her father try to hide his face, mom was smiling the same way she would when Maddy would fart too loud in public, and Maddy was confused and suddenly embarrassed. In the bathroom, with her mom giving her orders to take off her pants while Mom looked for something in the cabinet, Maddy stared to cry.
Maddy didn’t know why she was crying. She didn’t cry often. And, where was this sudden burst of emotion coming from? This was even more confusing, because now Mom was trying to comfort her over something that they should have been happy about…shouldn’t they? Maddy suddenly got the dreadful feeling that this wasn’t right after all. Something must be terribly wrong. Maybe this wasn’t what was supposed to happen. Maybe her mother did it all different. Maddy had never even seen her mother change a tampon. Why would she? Why would anyone look between their mother’s legs to see what was happening down there? Why would anyone want to look at a vagina anyway? And who knew what one really looked like? And what if Maddy was dying? And what if she would lose so much blood she would turn white and fall over? And what if…
Every one of these thoughts and more crashed through Maddy’s brain in the space of two seconds while a mad surge of new hormones, unrelated neuro-chemicals, and attendant anxiety crashed through the body of a thirteen-year-old who, up until that moment, was a completely well-adjusted and happy young lady. Now, suddenly, she was a mess of feelings.
Gratefully, she had a mother who understood. First of all, Mom didn’t try to explain anything right away. She put Maddy on the toilet and knelt down to hug her until the tears stopped. Then she showed Maddy how to use both a pad and a tampon. Mom rightly figured that after today Maddy would not let her mother even look between Maddy’s legs, let alone do any practical instruction. Then Mom did the greatest kindness; she got Maddy clean clothes and let Maddy get dressed and cleaned up before she went out of the bathroom and around her father.
Father was stoic. He was still at the breakfast table, looking like a condemned man waiting for an executioner. When he asked his wife how Maddy was, Mom just smiled and teased, “Ask her yourself.” To which Father swallowed hard, looked at the closed bathroom door, and decided to wait until later to talk to his daughter. He made up an excuse to go to the garage. Mom gave him a knowing smirk as he left. Mom poured herself a new cup of coffee while she waited for Maddy. I don’t know which would have been easier, she thought as she blew on her hot cup, dealing with a young boy’s morning wood and constant humping or dealing with Maddy and her period. Mom decided they both had advantages and drawbacks. But when Maddy came out of the bathroom, looking very sheepish and a little scared, Mom realized she wouldn’t trade her daughter for anything in the world.
Maddy at least had the weekend to get used to this new development. But when she had to go to school she realized that having something between her legs all day was something new, and not nearly as exciting as she thought it might have been. That, and her experimentation with her nipples hadn’t gone the way LaTricia described, either. Maddy was feeling a bit let down.
When she got to school, she suddenly regretted not calling LaTricia to tell her the news. Now, she would risk someone overhearing. That would be embarrassing, Maddy thought, way more embarrassing than having her dad run out to the garage so he didn’t have to look at her bloody pajamas. Maddy decided not to take a chance on any boys overhearing, so the first thing she did was pull LaTricia into the girl’s bathroom.
But there were other girls in there, and this suddenly didn’t look ideal to Maddy either. So Maddy drug LaTricia into one of the stalls, shutting the door and putting the latch in place. From the gap under the door, one could see two pairs of girl’s shoes and legs facing each other. LaTricia protested, “This isn’t going to do anything to make that ‘lesbo’ stuff go away. Why did you drag me in here?” Maddy told LaTricia in a shushed whisper the Big Secret. Suddenly, it was no longer a secret. “That’s great!” LaTricia squealed while Maddy wished for a shallow grave and soft dirt she could cover up with. “You finally got your period!”
There is a communication standard among young people that is unequaled by NASA. Mention something in a hushed whisper to your best friend, beg them not to tell, and before the stall door on the toilet closed most of the seventh grade knew about Maddy’s period. Both boys and girls.
Maddy was embarrassed at first, surprised at the level of acceptance by older girls later in the day, and triumphant by the time she got home. The strange mix of admiration from some and the complete disregard from others was much better than the disdain Maddy thought she would receive from everyone. It seemed, as semi-traumatic as starting her period had been, that no one really cared all that much about it.
By the end of the following day, Maddy noticed that her hips were swinging when she walked.