In Stephen Chbosky’s book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, there is a quote about how some people forget what it’s like to be 16 once they’ve turned 17. That line always struck me and I vowed to never be that person. But now I’m running the final stretch toward 25 and bridging the age gap between my nieces and I is only getting harder.
It happened. I forgot what it was like to be younger.
But for a long time, that’s who I was. I was, at one point, on the precipice of puberty, just months shy of starting middle school and learning how to navigate the terror that is switching classes and having different teachers for separate subjects for the first time.
Think back to those middle school days. Can you remember the sleepovers? We’d pour over puberty pamphlets handed out in class, trying to understand the weird things that would happen to us. We would walk around in bras, laugh as we stuffed them with socks. We knew virtually nothing about sex but we knew about boobs and hair, and that pretty soon, were going to bleed.
Only, everyone around me seemed to grow boobs. Everyone around me gradually started to carry purses in the side pockets of which they harbored pads. But it didn’t happen to me.
One day in school, a girl that used to bully me said I “needed to grow up and get my period already.”
I was devastated that someone could visibly look at me and ascertain something so personal. I also wanted to tell her, “Well, that’s kind of out of my hands.”
It was the first time I was period shamed and I hadn’t even gotten it yet.
I was a certain age and my peers already hit a milestone I hadn’t, so my body was shamed for not keeping up with everyone else’s. The kicker was that I had no control over it. It’s not like your body sends out a survey that’s like, “Hey, girl. Check ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Do you want to have your period yet? Please send this back, ASAP.”
I had absolutely no say in the rate at which my body was moving. If it wanted to go slowly—which clearly it did—then it was going to go ahead and do just that. In the meantime, I didn’t feel like being shamed for decisions I didn’t have the authority to make.
Criticize me all you want for the choices I’ve made, but it takes a pretty weak person to judge others on things over which they have no control.
Like acne. Do any of us choose to have acne? There is neither a survey at the onset of puberty that asks, “Acne, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and if ‘yes,’ how severely would you like it? How do you feel about blemish issues, like rosacea?”
Yet our society is built on tearing people down: for acne, for anything to do with appearance, for a high school girl who got her period late in life because she was a gymnast. Or maybe just because that’s the speed at which her body and hormones worked.
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