This is the companion piece to "Sex MISeducation".
The fall after my tenth birthday I had officially started sixth grade. New school, new teachers, and new kids. As I would soon find out, brand new, awkward bodies as well.
That first day of school, my mom came into my room and handed me this thin tank top thing and told me to put it on. Now, I believe I would call such a garment a "cami", but at the time, it looked more like a t-shirt you'd put on a Cabbage Patch Doll.
"What's this for?" I asked her as I pulled on my favorite No Fear t-shirt and buttoned my cutoff jean shorts. Hey, even tomboys have some style.
"It's an undershirt," Mom replied.
"Undershirt...like what Dad wears when he mows the lawn? I ain't wearing that," I said like a stubborn hillbilly.
"Yea, but it's for girls your age," she replied rolling her eyes.
"I don't want to wear it."
"You will wear it!"
"Because you're getting to that age KC," she said, clearly running out of patience.
"What age? I'm just a kid! Why do I need to wear an undershirt? THERE'S NOTHING UNDER HERE!!!" I yelled, pointing at my flat chest.
"Because you are a young lady and young ladies wear these under their clothes!"
"No they don't. They wear bras." No way was I going to wear an undershirt/cami that was beige in color and wouldn't even fit my four-year old cousin.
"You will take off your brother's t-shirt, put this undershirt on, and find something more ladylike to wear on the first day of school," she said, her teeth clenched.
Wham bam thank you Mom. Three digs in one sentence!
"BUT WHY DO I HAVE TO WEAR IT????????" What didn't she understand? She still wasn't answering my question!
"Because. I. Said. So!" Mom exclaimed. To this day, there is no phrase I hate more than this one. I heard it about 1,985,338,209 times in my adolescence and I never want to hear it again. Although when I have children, Because I Said So will be the name of my first kid. My other children will be named You Break It, You Buy It and Knock It Off.
I knew there was no arguing with Mom. If I didn't agree to wear an undershirt, then she would put me in a dress and my life would officially be over. So I put it on, showed her I was wearing it when I left the house for school, but no sooner was I around the corner did I hide in the bushes like a hobo and strip down. I stuffed the undershirt in my bag and headed to school.
I was not prepared for that first day of school though. Sure, my bag was packed with pencils and notebooks (and now an undershirt), but I was not ready to see what the summer had done to everyone. Everyone was different! I honestly hadn't expected anything to change that summer, save a few haircuts and meeting new students from other schools, but what I saw that first day was more surprising than getting a dick in a box as a Christmas gift.
The boys I had just seen a few months ago had squeaky voices and were at least a foot taller than they had been. Several boys from other schools even had moustaches that could rival the facial hair on Tom Selleck and Bea Arthur! The girls had all sprouted breastlings and somehow looked much older than me.
I was the only person who hadn't changed. Or, had the "change", so to speak. I was the only tomboy left in my grade. I still sported short hair, a foul mouth, and dirty fingernails. The last thing I wanted to do was to go through puberty and turn into a mutant hormone raging pre-teen like the rest of the kids. I wasn't ready to give up being a tomboy yet! I was the last tomboy standing who would kill a spider and not scream like a rape victim, jump out of a tree on a dare and land on her feet like a cat, and throw rocks at cars parked in the teacher's lot just for fun.
Although I had always preferred hanging out with boys rather than the girls, I was good friends with two girls who incidentally were beautiful blondes. Polar opposite from me. I'll call them Jill and Amber because to this day, I have a difficult time saying their real names without baring my teeth and snarling like a rabid dog. They always had the best clothes, shoes, and stylish hair accessories. They made tight rolling jeans cool, black headbands a huge hit, and officially made making out with boys an Olympic sport. These girls could even make the act of taking a dump seem exotic and intriguing.
I couldn't have been more different than these bimbos. I also had blonde hair, just about six inches shorter than theirs. I wore jelly shoes, hand-me-down clothes, and just could not master the art of tight rolling my jeans. Although Jill and Amber were relatively decent kids, they had their evil moments. Making fun of other kids for being different, being snitches and sharing secrets that they were meant to take to the grave, and just being "those girls". Looking back, I now realize that Jill and Amber were hardcore bullies. I'm convinced the movie Mean Girls is based on them.
Years later, they are still petty, snobby, and bitchy. Last I heard, Jill is some sort of coke snorting porn star with fake tits and a bedazzled vagina, and Amber is a married and pregnant guidance counselor. And I'm not only still a tomboy, I'm a lesbian. The irony kills me every time.
It shouldn't have surprised me that Jill and Amber not only hit puberty in the last week since I had seen them both (and just in time for middle school), but they had made it a competition. Who could make their tits perkier? Who had to shave more often? Which boys were paying them attention now? Watching them stick their chests out, talk about Bic razors and boys was more nauseating than picturing my parents having sex.
“My mom took us to Wausau last weekend and we went to Victoria's Secret and got new bras and panties. I’m a size B, just in time for junior high!” Jill told me smugly during lunch. Since it was the first day of school, we all clung to the people we knew like dingle berries on a donkey's ass. None of us were brave enough to make new friends, although if this conversation about bras was going to continue much longer, that's exactly what I would be forced to do. I'd rather take a bubble bath with my brother than participate in this conversation.
"Neat," I mumbled sarcastically under my breath.
“What size bra do you wear?” she asked, clearly annoyed that I really didn't give a rat's ass about her bra. Or the cup size. All I cared about was the fact that I wasn't turning into a bimbo like she was right before my eyes.
“Um…I don’t,” I said proudly. Nor do I wear a goddamn undershirt! I was still a tomboy and I refused to grow into a woman. I would fight it with every ounce of testosterone in me!
“Oh. My. God. You still aren’t wearing a bra?” Amber said, as if she had been wearing one for years and was so experienced in the ways of the over the shoulder boulder holder.
"Yea KC, you haven't changed at all. You look like a boy!" Only the 9,387th time I'll hear that in my life.
"Bras are stupid," I said, still displaying my flat chest proudly.
“Well, our bras are from Vicki’s, so they're not stupid,” Jill reminded us.
“Yes, you said that. So what? What's so special about Victoria's Secret?”
The bimbos looked at me like I had just spoken fluent Mandarin.
“Victoria’s Secret. It’s like, the only place to buy bras,” Jill explained.
I knew that was a straight up lie. I had gone to JC Penney with my mom plenty of times to know that’s where she bought her bras. Maybe that's where she had purchased that ugly undershirt as well?
“So, tell me. What is Victoria's secret?” I asked honestly curious.
"It's a bra and panty store!" Jill reiterated.
"I know that. But what is Victoria's secret?"
Again, blank stares. Did I start speaking Passamaquoddy all of a sudden? Why did I have to keep repeating myself?
“It’s the brand name, duh!” Jill and Amber said simultaneously. Of course. These girls would need brand name under garments. They strictly wore Eastland shoes, Guess jeans, and now Victoria's Secret bras. Wearing expensive training bras as a pre-teen makes about as much sense as a baby wearing Gucci or an adult having braces!
When the lunch bell rang, I walked down the hallway back to the classroom, following behind my classmates who reeked of adrenaline, body odor, and pheromones. Everyone looked, smelled, and acted differently, so why was I still the same?
Suddenly, it dawned on me.
Mom wanted me to wear an undershirt because I was at the age of puberty. She wanted me to wear that undershirt so I would have something between my chest and my shirt like everyone else. Unfortunately, I had nothing to hold up. Just areolas and nipples that were starting to stick out like tootsie rolls under my shirt, threatening to poke some eyeballs. If Mom was so worried about something sticking out, she have just given me a box of Bandaids to tape the suckers down!
After that day, I was determined to prepare myself to fight puberty because like it or not, it was coming. I just didn't know when, so I had to prepare. I would apply packing tape across my chest like Christina Ricci did in the movie Now and Then. I would let my leg hair grow long and kept my head hair short. I would wear my father's Old Spice deodorant and eventually, I would start to resemble a New Kid on the Block.
But I never had enough time for any of that. Just a few short weeks later, I woke up one morning and noticed I had sprouted breastlings the size of walnuts. I took a shower before school and noticed my toddler crotch had been transformed and was now covered in curly black hairs. I made a mental note to invest in a machete and get rid of the Black Forest ASAP.
There's nothing more horrifying for a tomboy to experience than puberty, especially when she's trying to fight it. It's the moment that she will realize her days as a boy are officially over. When I first realized I was in the beginning stages of puberty, I felt similar to how Hiroshima must have felt during WWII. The word "puberty" for me was synonymous with "atomic bomb", "end of days", and "FML".
Puberty was something I wanted to avoid but that bitch Mother Nature had other ideas for me. I was destined to menstruate every 28 days, shave my legs, and carry two sacs of fat with milk ducts and nipples on my chest for the rest of my life. I carried a backpack to school and that extra weight was annoying enough! On the upside, I suddenly had the urge to masturbate and I was really looking forward to having my first wet dream!
The first morning I put on a training bra (purchased from JC Penney, not Victoria's Secret), I realized I had just opened the door to the land of womanhood. Beyond the door I saw pantiliners, shaved legs, plucked eyebrows, and skirts and dresses (cringe...). It was official. I was now expected to act like a lady. I was supposed to cross my legs while wearing a dress (something I have yet to master), wear mascara and feminine deodorant and start swooning over pimply faced boys who got boners simply by smelling CK One perfume.
Who the hell was I becoming? This wasn't me! I had lost myself in all the estrogen that was taking over my body! It took me a while to realize that just because I had finally gotten boobs didn't mean my life was over. After all, I hadn't gotten my first period yet so I hadn't completely lost my will to live.
Since I had gotten kicked out of sex education in fifth grade, I was seriously miseducated and was forced to piece together tidbits of information from my friends. But I wanted to know everything so there would be no surprises! I wanted to know what to expect when I got my period. How much blood would I lose? Would I become anemic? Would I need a transfusion? When could I start having sex? Was dry humping considered sex? And most importantly, was it normal to flick my bean on a daily basis?
My seventh grade health class provided me with a plethora of information. Technical information that is. I knew what a penis and vagina were, and what sex was. But vas deferens? Scrotum? Uterus? I only knew dirty slang terms for everything sexual so I was determined to become technically informed.
I’m still proud to this day that I aced the anatomy quiz in health class. I could tell the difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis, pinpoint exactly where the vas deferens were, and I no longer confused the fallopian tubes for labia. I also learned that “nocturnal emission” is a technical term for “wet dreams”. That explained a lot. Who cares males primarily have wet dreams? That didn't stop me from having a few of my own.
As a late bloomer, I got my period months after every other girl in my class. Even worse, I got it at the most inconvenient time—while watching The Lion King at the movie theater with my younger sister who, coincidentally had bigger tits than I did.
I was watching Simba running for his life during the stampede when suddenly I felt an uncomfortable ache in my belly. I left the theater quietly thinking I had to poop out all the popcorn and candy I had just ingested but when I sat down on the toilet, I was shocked to see my underwear looked like a damn crime scene. I thought about calling the police so they could put crime scene tape around the stall I was using. I thought briefly about looking for a murder weapon because anyone who has lost this much blood surely must be close to death. I’ve seen shark attacks on “Shark Week” with far less blood than this!
Even after learning all about menstruation in my health class, nothing had prepared me for this.
Freaking out and starting to hyperventilate, I did the most sensible thing. I flushed my underwear down the toilet. Then I unrolled the toilet paper and made a modest catcher's mitt out of it, stuffed it in my pants, and walked like a toddler with a soggy diaper back into the theater to finish the movie.
After the movie, I felt like crap. Not only did Scar kill Mufasa but I was NOW officially a woman. I had cramps that felt like someone was tenderizing my uterus as if it were a piece of raw meat, and I was so overemotional that I had to stifle tears and sobs from seeing the death of Mufasa. To this day, I have not come to terms with his death, circle of life or not.
When I got home, I did what any smart girl would do. I told absolutely no one I had just gotten my period. I don't know why I kept it a secret. Maybe because I was afraid of having to wear a huge pad like my mom and older sister because of course there were no tampons in the house. I knew from my sex education class in fifth grade (the few minutes I was allowed to be in the room) I would never want to wear pads. Or, as my friend Jes likes to call them—floating mattress pads. Not only are they uncomfortable and are actually quite unsanitary, but when you remove the pads from the panties, the sticky side makes more noise than the new recyclable Sun Chips bags! No fucking way I'm going to subject myself to that for years to come!
Or maybe I hid the fact that I had my period because my mother had never sat us kids down to have the “talk”. She must have figured we would learn about the "change" in school, so why bother? Little did she know I got kicked out of sex education because I laughed so hard I swear my testicles descended. So how did I know I could say “hey Ma, I got the rusty beaver for the first time. Got a tampon I can use to as a dam to stop this red river?”
Twenty-eight days later, my mom figured out my secret because her pad supply had dwindled seriously. Since I was forced to wear pads, any time I saw more than a speck of blood, I would rip off the gently used pad and replace it with a new one. Three pairs of underwear had suffered pad erosion and another two had suffered rust stains. All in one week!
After one week of wearing a crotch diaper I was fed up. I was glad I got caught because then I could address the serious issue of the lack of tampons in the house.
"You're too young to wear tampons," my mom said after listening to my soliloquy about the advantages to tampons over pads.
"Oh, I'm too young for a tampon but not too young for a bra? Or to shave my legs? Or to trim my pubes?" I retorted. I wanted to keep going and use words like dry humping and masturbating, but I'm not sure I wanted Mom to know I was sexually active with myself just yet.
"KC, that's enough," Mom said sternly. Even at an early age, Mom never appreciated my crude sense of humor. She barely tolerates it now.
“I’m never wearing a pad again. I either get some tampons in this house or I'm going to walk around like a dog in heat and drip everywhere!" I yelled. I was angry! My labia were chafed, I had a minor case of diaper rash, and I just wanted a damn plug! How could my mom deny me a simple civil liberty of wearing tampons? What was this, 1958? Rosa Parks herself not only refused to go to the back of the bus, but she probably refused the menstrual pad belt and chose tampons; that's how badass she was!
“Well, your sister wears pads,” she told me. Instantly, I clench my fists in anger and start to sweat. My mom is famous for saying, “I didn’t let your sister do it, so I won’t let you” and “If you were more like your sister, maybe you would (insert anything here)”. Two more phrases I will come to absolutely loathe in my adolescence.
“Please stop comparing me to Jen! I’m not her. She wears pads because she's literally scared of tampons. I’m not scared of cotton plugs. They're just like extra large Q-tips! I’m not wearing pads. Ever. Again.,” I said matter-of-factly.
She pursed her lips and glared at me, but I was stubborn. I wasn’t going to give in. I was ready for a bloody showdown. If I were going to have my period once a month for the next 50 years (600 more times; I just counted), I would certainly not do it by wearing a pad. Assuming of course I'd live that long. Being a daredevil while riding an orange banana seat bike, having a habit of eating mysterious berries on a dare, and not looking both ways before crossing a street were surefire ways to get myself killed. But on the off chance that I did make it that long, I would not be wearing a crotch diaper!
Mom finally gave in. That day, my father drove me to the newly opened Wal-Mart, parked his car, handed me a $5 bill, and told me to bring him change. That was code for “I may buy your mother’s pads, but there’s no way in fucking hell I’m buying my daughter’s tampons”.
I understood completely.
As a child tomboy, puberty was scary and if I could have avoided it, I would have. It took me years to realize puberty wasn't the worst thing that could happen to a tomboy. As an adult tomboy now, I have to admit I like my boobs (A. because they're cute and perky and B. because my nipples are pierced, so they can be quite entertaining), I like the idea that I can bear children, and I definitely revel in the fact that I know my way around the land of cocks and clams.
Going through puberty has allowed me to have wet dreams for nights after sex, to wear a modest 36 C bra, and let me be proud to use terms such as "Rusty Beaver" or "Shark Week" to describe menstruation. It's allowed me to experiment with both sexes, discover the joys of dry humping in jeans, and to be proud when I get a sheboner.
But most of all, puberty has allowed me to become a woman, and nothing is more beautiful or sublime than that.