Friday, June 12, 2015

Girl Talk

When I was a kid, "the talk" came in 5th grade.  The girls were gathered on the industrially-carpeted floor in the communal space between the four classrooms to watch a filmstrip while all the boys got extra outdoor recess; moms weren't invited, but they did have to give permission to participate.  The whole talk was very abstract, as I recall it, with flowers and how it feels to be a girl, and we got a booklet and a coupon for a product starter kit.  I don't remember much else, probably because I knew about menstruation before the talk (I started after my fifth-grade year, when I was 11.)  I did like the booklet, with its pastel colors, and its chatty informational style.  Amazingly, you can see the whole thing here.  I was very excited, though, about the starter kit that came in the mail after I sent in my coupon, filled with different kinds of pads in a big pastel box.  I kept it under the bed for a long time.

Things are different now.

First, the talk comes in 4th grade and it's after school, very optional.  In fact, our neighbor girl told me that she and her mother are totally against the school providing such information, that parents should teach this when the time comes.  Sigh.  I told her families have different beliefs and that we believe in science and education and this was about biology.  But then, as you know, my kids have had the UU OWL class, about sexuality health already and know a lot about biology and its spiritual dimensions.

The talk was given by a school nurse, very direct, entertaining, informational, and practical.  She put the girls AND moms at ease as she discussed:

  • the biology of puberty (the physical changes), from widening hips, growing breasts, appearance of sweat glands, increase in hormones, growth of pubic hair, and then advent of MEN-STROO-ATION! (I can still hear it as talked about in Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret?) and the actual process of ovulation, etc etc etc.  She kept saying that their bodies were practicing for being pregnant . . .and then she said they should wait a long time, after college, to have babies;
  • and the emotions of adolescence (the experience of puberty), like moodiness and lack of concentration and tiredness;
  • practical hygiene issues--changing pads and underwear, keeping clean with morning showers, and the one that surprised all the moms--changing pillowcases every night to reduce blemishes from the bacteria and oil gathered on the pillow.  Who knew?
  • and practical issues for handling it at school--how to have a little pouch with pads, extra underwear, maybe some wipes; how to get to the nurse if you have an accident or cramps--just say, "I'm going to throw up!" the nurse said; also that it's a private issue and no one will know that you are having your period unless you tell them.
  • Cramps--exercise to move the muscles and release the endorphins, heating pads, tylenol and ibuprofen if needed;
  • she even passed out pads that they opened and unwrapped--of course, one girl stuck it on her forehead (not MY girl.)  The pad was so small that I said it must belong to an American Girl Doll!  When did they start coming in small sizes?  It is so much more appropriate for young girls.
  • Sleep, eat right, keep clean, listen to your body for rest, and exercise--girls are strong, the nurse said, and we're the only ones who can make babies and we can handle periods.  
It was all very straightforward and even empowering.  And a huge milestone in a young girl's life (the talk, I mean, not even the period.) The first of many coming up.  

I hope I can meet them all with such calm directness.

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