The average age that a girl starts her first period is 12.
Growing up, this age stuck in my mind. I expected that as soon as I turned 12, I would shed my awkward preteen body and be welcomed into the world of womanhood. What I didn’t take the time to realize was that an average is just that— an average. It means there are plenty of girls who fall above it and plenty of girls who fall below it. I thought instead that the word “average” was just another word for “normal,” and when it came to puberty, I wanted everything to be completely normal.
It will come as no surprise that I did not wake up at the stroke of midnight on my 12th birthday to the realization that I had gotten my period and suddenly had the body of a fully matured woman. I spent the next two years obsessing over my period, wondering why I hadn’t gotten it yet and worrying that I might never get it. I was older than most girls in my grade, but I watched as one by one, each of my friends got her first period. My friend group seemed to divide itself between those who had their period and those who didn’t.
I was so jealous of my friends who had already gotten their period. I felt like they were in some special club, that they knew some secret about life and womanhood that I didn’t. I would constantly annoy them with questions like, “How did you know you were getting your period?” and “What did it feel like?” Of course I knew the answers to these questions from talking to my mom and reading books (shout out to The Care and Keeping of You!), but I just wanted something to talk about with them, something that would make me feel as if we weren’t so different. Instead, my friends would get embarrassed and mad at my obsession with my period. They assured me that it wasn’t this great thing that I was missing out on and that, in fact, I should be happy I hadn’t gotten it yet.
This didn’t appease me. I was angry that everyone else was maturing at a faster rate than I was. I was frustrated because I couldn’t connect with my friends about this topic. I was terrified that I might never get my period and would be trapped in this awkward body for the rest of my life and never able to have children.
Of course my fears were for nothing. One morning when I was 14, I finally woke up to my period. Shockingly, I did not suddenly develop curves, my acne did not magically disappear, and I did not find myself six inches taller than the night before. In fact, the whole situation was pretty annoying because I was running late for a soccer game and didn’t have time to worry about figuring everything out. My annoyance only increased when I told my mom, and she immediately started crying. My annoyance grew even more the next day when my mom announced at brunch that I was now a woman, and then she and my grandma started crying.
The important take away from my experience is that everyone truly does develop at her own rate. Just because I was older than most of my friends didn’t mean I was going to get my period before them. Just because the average age of getting your first period is 12 doesn’t mean that there is something horribly wrong with you if you get it before or after that. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time obsessing over my period and instead enjoying being cramp-free, not worrying about when I can go swimming, and not having to conceal tampons on my way to the bathroom.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being anxious about something that is unknown. My curiosity over my period was normal. It was something I hadn’t experienced yet while most of my peers had. The issue is when you start thinking badly about yourself and your body simply because you’re developing at a different rate than your peers. There is no “normal” when it comes to puberty, so you should not try to hold yourself to some made up standard. Instead, enjoy the body that you have now because it is beautiful in its uniqueness.
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