No, this isn’t going to be about punctuation.
Nor does it have anything to do with history.
It’s about that other kind of period. The one that I was so excited about before it started. The one I couldn’t wait to get. I was practically hopping up and down, waiting for this undeniable sign of womanhood. I was a younger sister who wanted to catch up, to have access to the big blue Kotex box in the closet. What did I know? I was only nine years old. Still in elementary school. First of my friends. Struggling to act normal when I was sure everyone could “tell.”
And this was back in the days when the only way to deal with that time of the month was to wear those bulky pads that had to be attached to a skinny elastic belt. The horrors of dealing with this during recess when everyone else was running around or slugging a tether ball: Stuck in the girls’ room trying to untangle the ends of what my friend’s mother said she used to call a “mouse mattress”– and get a new one attached to the metal clasp before the bell rang or someone else came in and wondered what was taking so long. And you either felt like you were trailing a large caboose or wearing a cottony codpiece.
The whole thing was a bit of a letdown once it happened– and kept on happening (in my case, anyway) with plodding regularity for the next 45 years with nine months time-off for bad behavior with each pregnancy.
Somewhere around fifth grade, after the horse was out of the barn for me, the girls and boys were sent to separate rooms and filled in about the pending perils of puberty. When I first learned about the whole deal, I asked my dad what boys got when they started to grow up. Boys must have something like this too, right? Right? I was incredulous when he told me that there wasn’t anything similar in boy world. Boys didn’t get periods. Girls were suddenly besieged with the word “dainty,” while boys were still little kids, able to swim any time they wanted to– in white trunks. But it turns out my dad wasn’t completely right. At least girls didn’t have any reason to leave their shirttails out for the next six or seven years.