I originally wrote the post below for G Day for Girls, a rite of passage celebration that I am chairing on April 26 in Toronto. We are collecting G Day Stories from women of all ages – if you’d like to submit yours, we’d love to hear it!
And if you’re interested in being a part of this amazing movement, G Day Toronto registration is now open for girls aged 10-12 as well as Champions (parents, aunts, sisters, supporters). Buy tickets online & I’ll see you at #GDayTO!
The summer I turned twelve, I asked my mom for three things that I had been made to feel were essential for summer camp: an Elita brand training bra, deodorant and a razor. I was flat chested, odorless, and the blonde fuzz on my legs was invisible. But I knew every other girl in my cabin would have these three talismans of maturity, and I was dead set on fitting in.
The odds were already stacked against me. I was a lanky redhead who slept with headgear to straighten out my teeth and a purple fiberglass back-brace to straighten out my spine. I was secure in my friendships at home, but camp was an alternate universe where the girls seemed more mature, more experienced, and somehow simply cooler. At camp I stopped being the funny, smart, quirky and creative kid I was at school. I became full of self doubt, all too aware of my precarious place on the outskirts of coolness. I was equally as afraid of being ignored as I was of being noticed.
My mom nixed all three requests. She told me that shaving would make my leg hair grow back thick and dark. She bought me a no-name training bra, because who needs brand name underwear? And after lecturing me about the connection between deodorant and Alzheimer’s, she sent me to camp with a natural deodorant crystal that spent the summer hidden in my duffel bag while I compulsively sniffed my underarms. I’d rather have Alzheimer’s than have my friends witness me rubbing a crystal on my pits. I was doomed.
That summer, my mom also packed me a box of pads…just in case. The pads came home as neglected as the deodorant crystal. This happened for two more summers. While the girls in my cabin grew hairier and bustier and started sneaking out at night to visit their boyfriends, I lay strapped into my purple fiberglass prison and wondered when I would ‘become a woman.’
Finally, in the fall of grade ten, I noticed a rusty brownish stain in my underwear. When I told my mom she slapped me across the face. She explained that when she informed her mother that she got her period, in the bleachers of Expo ‘67 in Montreal, my grandmother slapped her and replied, “Mazel tov, so do I.” And with this family tradition burning on my cheek, I finally entered my womanhood.
Whatever that meant.
I wasn’t sure how this made me any different than I had been the day before. I had already had a Bat Mitzvah to celebrate my womanhood in front of my community, but it was mostly just a big dance party. I was already taller than most adult women, and I had graduated to a real bra. I had no new status, no new privileges or responsibilities; just a new dull pain that spread from my belly around to my lower back and down my legs – was this what it was all about?
I remained disconnected from my cycle throughout my teenage years and all the way into my thirties. Only recently have I started to connect with my feminine energy and my female body. I understand and embrace the creative power of this cycle that unites me with my sisters all around the world. I accept the way my mood echoes the moon. I have wonderfully close friendships with other women that are based not on dressing or acting alike, but on how vulnerable we are allowed to be in each other’s presence. And I use a deodorant crystal.