Growing up in this culture, I don't think I quite understood what it meant to be a girl. I came late to clothing and makeup, getting my period didn't mean anything to me, and I only get a C- in bitchery. That's why I had Judy Blume, to teach me what it meant to be a girl/woman in American culture. So, let's do a few selected (retold) readings of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, the book that is essentially a love letter to menstruation. Let's see what we can learn about being a preteen girl.
Be proud of your body!
"Oh, you're still flat," Nancy said when she saw me changing into my bathing suit. "You haven't got your period yet, have you? I bet you haven't even had a yeast infection."
I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. "I'm growing already," Nancy continued. "I haven't gotten my period but I'm already getting a viscous vaginal discharge associated with ovulation. And I almost had a UTI once, too."
At school, Nancy and I were in the same class. The first day I saw a tall girl who I thought was the teacher. She was really pretty and she was wearing a bra--a big one. I stared at her bra through the shirt but I couldn't figure out the exact size. (Later, Nancy told me it was a 36B--she was sitting closer and had managed to get close enough to read the tag that was just sticking out.) The girl's name was Laura Danker. For some reason, she seemed shy and didn't talk to anyone.
You don't have anything unless you have your friends!
Nancy, and her friends, Gretchen, Janie, and I all met at Nancy's house after school to form a club.
"Did you see Laura Danker?" giggled Nancy. "You stay away from her--she has a bad reputation. Men can't help looking at her."
"But do you think she looks that way on purpose?" I asked.
The others laughed. "Oh, Margaret," said Nancy. "She's not like an actual person--she's a dumping ground for our insecurities."
I stayed quiet then.
"Let's come up with rules," said Nancy. We'll call ourselves the Pre-Teen Sensations. Or PTS's. That's a great name because it rhymes with PMS--the most glorious time in a woman's life. Now, the first rule: we have to wear bras every day."
Gretchen added, "We never wear a tank top more than twice in a row."
Nancy interrupted, "We also make a pact to recite our mantra--We must we must increase our bust every day. But we also resolve not to get a cup size bigger than any of the other PTS's. Or risk being called a slut."
Menstruation is marvelous!
I found out that Nancy and Gretchen had already gotten their periods. It wasn't fair, I thought. I couldn't be the last one, God, I just couldn't! Later, Nancy's family took me on a trip into the city. We had dinner and then Nancy and I went to the bathroom together.
Nancy suddenly locked herself in the bathroom stall, crying. "Get my mother!" she yelled.
"She's getting her period," Nancy's mother told me after she'd spoken to Nancy. I must have looked strange because she explained, "It's her first time."
"Where are the unicorns and glitter?!" I heard Nancy cry.
I couldn't believe it. Nancy had lied about getting her period! And if I hadn't been here, I would never have known.
Another screech came from the bathroom stall. "And why aren't the bloodclots accompanied by a capella bursts of Girl you'll be a woman soon!"
Sometimes all is not what we think it is!
Laura Danker and I were in the same group for our final class project. I couldn't believe it. Nancy had told me all about how Laura, Nancy's brother, and his friend Moose went behind the A&P. It was disgusting. One day when Laura and I were taking notes in the library, Laura told me not to copy word for word. "We'll get in trouble if our report is plagiarized."
"Laura, you ignorant slut!" I said to her.
"You go behind the A&P with Moose and Evan. And you're practically a 36C! You're almost a D! Couldn't you show a little shame and stick to a B cup while we're in sixth grade? And do you have to have the perfect body and face? Couldn't you be a butterface or something? It's not fair how all the guys want to dance with you and not with the rest of us during square dancing!"
"You liar! You...pig!" Laura stared at me, in shock. "You think it's fun being stared at and called a slut for having huge breasts?"
"Well. Yeah. Isn't that the point of being a girl?"
"I'd gladly trade places with you," Laura told me. Then she stormed off while I tried to apologize. Later I found out from Moose that it was all lies, about Laura and the A&P. I felt bad for making fun of Laura. I'd learned an important lesson that day. Only gossip about girls behind they're back if you're sure--and I mean absolutely sure--they do bad things with boys.
Good things come to those who wait!
It was right after I found out about Laura that I got my period! I was so relieved. I wasn't the last one in my group! There was still Janie. Poor flat, uterus-lining challenged Janie, I thought to myself. It was so wonderful to have a friend less developed than me, whom I could brag to about having the right brand of pad--Teenage Softies, of course.
I was so glad to have gotten my period before I left for camp. Now there would be shorts to worry about ruining, cramps to agonize over, and there would be an increased chance of being attacked and eaten by bears on nature hikes. Thank you, God, thank you.