I wonder. What if? What if I begin the conversation with that story about how I used to stuff my mom’s pantyliners into her high-heels and walked around the house in them, thinking that I was all grown-up? She might laugh and then it would make the rest of the conversation easier? She might be more receptive?
My mom was a waitress who stuffed Dr. Scholl’s into her work shoes for comfort. And for foot odor-eating. Her feet got sweaty in those shoes. And her toes hurt. Her back did, too.
I watched her do this many, many times over the course of many, many years. So, naturally, I thought that the thin pads under the bathroom sink were those shoe pad things and I stuffed them in there, clomping around in the kitchen, playing dress-up in my mom’s “good” heels, showing off my walk. And now I know why my mom laughed when I did that: I had maxi pads in my feet. In her shoes. She never once scolded me for any of that. She just laughed and, later, when I’d gotten a little more lady-like, she reminded me. We laughed at this together.
I wonder. What if? What if I told her about that film I saw way back in 5th grade, in the mid-80s, with the cartoon ladies in it? And about that one part where the animated teenager was warned not to take showers that were too cold (ice cubes coming out of the shower head) or too hot (fire shooting out of that same nozzle and the animated lady screaming) because it would mess up her ‘flow’ and ruin her forever? How about if I traumatized her with that?
It was good that my mom took me to see that film at school, though. I could have gotten nothing. Many of us got nothing. I got that film and a book. A Judy Bloom book about periods and about becoming a lady. Fortunately, I was a voracious reader, always.
(“I’m a terrible mother,” she said. “You really are. You are just the worst kind of mother,” I said. “But was that book helpful, though? Did you learn what you needed to know? Did it help?” she asked me tonight. “Yes, Mom. That was a great book. And Sister said that she found it and read it, too. It was a great book,” I said. “Okay. Well, at least I gave you that,” she said. And we laughed together.)
I passed a note under the bathroom door to my mom, who was on the other side. “I got my period,” it said. She asked me to open the door. I did. She gave me a pad.
“So, I need to have the conversation with The Little Girl and I don’t really know how to have it and I have her mom’s permission: she wants me to take this role and I’ll do it but I’m not really sure how to do it and I talked to Sister and I’ve spoken with all of my friends and I am so on-board with all of this but I’m just not sure how to do this and I guess that I yelled at Sister–she was 11 and I was 18–about wether she’d had her period or not…I don’t really remember it but that’s what she tells me…and I just don’t want to screw this up. Is this too much information? I’m sorry.”
“No,” he says, biting into his sandwich. “People should talk to their kids,” in between chews. People should talk to their kids, my dad said. “People should talk to their kids,” he said, picking up his brand new Seahawks glass full of Bud Light off of the bar in Bellingham, wiping the Club sandwich off of the corners of his mouth, taking a drink. I’m 39 and he’s 64. I’m still just a kid, though. I forget that sometimes. Most times.
I’m in Target and I buy pads for The Little girl and they’re for ‘tweens and they have flowers printed on them and they come all wrapped up, individually, and they can’t be environmentally-friendly with all of that plastic and dye but they sure do make being a girl super fun …
“She’s not my baby, Mom,” I say.
“Does that matter?” she asks.
“Okay, so, what?” she asks.
“I don’t want to screw this up, Mom.”
She laughs a little bit.
“You won’t,” she laughs more. “You won’t screw this up.”
I wonder. What if? What if I Google the shit out of all of this: ‘How to Talk to Your [Daughter] about her first period’. What if I do that?
And so I do and I get a whole bunch of shit about fallopian tubes. Which is not what I’m going for.
I chose not to have any babies. And then I fell in love with a man who had already had a pretty perfect girl. Loving him, I loved her, too. It’s entirely possible that I loved her first. She was nine years old then. But then she continued to grow, because that’s what they do: those young ones. They just don’t stop. Growing. So selfish. And I held her hand. Hold her hand. She holds mine back.