Things My Mother Never Told Me

I was born in the ‘50’s, in the time of Leave It to Beaver and June Cleaver. If you aren’t familiar with that era, it was a time of men working and women being the perfect little housewives. My mom always woke up before Dad and had her makeup artfully applied before he could see her without it. She went to bed after he did so she could take off her makeup and enter the bedroom in the dark. I don’t think he ever saw her sans makeup.

Breakfast was always hearty and on the table when my sister and I came into the kitchen. Dad wore a suit and tie to work, and since he was a traveling salesman, he would leave on Monday morning and come home on Friday night.

Embarrassing personal issues were never discussed. In fact, the motto in my family seemed to be, if you don’t talk about it, it never happened. Denial ran deep in my family.

As I started to mature, Mom made a small mention of menstruation. That someday soon I would start to bleed and I should let her know when that happened. She explained nothing about why, what to expect, that  I should take pads to school just in case, how to put on a pad, not a word. She did, however, pick up a booklet from the doctors office that had a description of what was going to happen to my body along with line drawings of the male and female anatomy. Suffice it to say, I read this book in my closet, paying close attention to the anatomy.

When the fateful day finally arrived, I was at school and didn’t have a clue what to do. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for help. I felt crampy and asked to be excused from class to go to the bathroom. Yes, there was blood in my underwear and on the back of my skirt. I tied my sweater around my waist to cover the back of my skirt and wadded some paper towels into my underwear. When I got home, mom handed me a “garter” and a pad with tails. She did give me a brief tutorial on how to put the tails into the hooks on the garter and pull the tails down to lock them into place before sending me into the bathroom. I was grateful pads had evolved beyond pinning rags in your underwear before I had my period.

As my menstrual life matured, so did the sanitary products, thank god! We went from big thick pads that stuck on the crotch of your underwear to thin pads with wings in every size imaginable. Mom never offered me tampons, and when I finally realized they existed and tried them, I found them to be uncomfortable.

I learned the most about what was happening to my body from my peers. I’m sure not all the information they imparted was correct, but it was adequate and they were more than happy to share.

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