The summer going into fourth grade was full of momentous occasions. Namely, my grandparents had their 50th wedding anniversary and to celebrate, they took our family on a tropical cruise to Mexico. It was our family’s first time out of the country, and it was truly a vacation to remember. After the flight back home, my stomach was in knots. I had planned on going to a local festival, but I felt like someone had just kicked me in the gut. I figured it could be blamed on the jet lag. I decided to take a trip to the 'little girls’ room where a small, brownish gift in my panties was revealed.
I was shocked and I threw the soiled underwear away immediately, thinking I must have pooped my pants. I felt gross and went promptly to bed.
It wasn’t until the next morning, when I found a similar, more red shade in my new panties, that the puzzle pieces came together. I confidently presented the situation to my mother. She gave me a brief tutorial on tampons and pads, and I was on my way to womanhood. Things didn’t go as smoothly as I had imagined they would, however. Tampons were incredibly uncomfortable and, because I was so young, I didn’t have any friends to talk to about my internal struggle.
Because of this, I avoided pools for two years, unaware of when my red friend may return and make me vulnerable to sharks.
A maxi pad-sized weight was lifted off my shoulders in middle school when I heard my friends talking about their mischievous periods. Hearing all of them talk about their experiences, from using tampons for their first times to staining their favorite pair of underwear, gave me the confidence to try my shot at tampons again. It took a few tries, but eventually I managed to put a tampon in and barely even feel it. When I realized that I had succeeded I did a few impromptu cartwheels to test its range of motion. I felt mature and fiercer than ever. I knew then, that there is no reason periods should be considered taboo.
I wished that I would have felt brave enough to ask my mom more questions about tampons, and for that matter, I wish I would have asked her to give me a more in depth discussion on what periods even are.
Once I got over my tampon insecurity, I found myself feeling more comfortable with a lot of aspects of puberty. I was less self-conscious of my training bra, and I even stopped being embarrassed of changing my tampon in public bathrooms. With time I understood that periods aren’t only a natural bodily function, but they are also a truly beautiful part of life. Now I have my period with a sense of pride, and I hope you do too because you are worth it. So go ahead, buy yourself some chocolate and take a bubble bath; menstruate like royalty because that is what your teenage self would have wanted.
Anne Gerhart is an 18 year old currently enrolled in The Ohio State University. She loves her dog, nature, and gender equality. If you are ever caught without a tampon, she will surely give you one.