فصل 15

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15

I went to Christmas Eve services with the Wheelers, at the United Methodist Church of Farbrook. I asked Nancy if I had to meet the minister.

“Are you kidding!” she said. “The place will be mobbed. He doesn’t even know my name.”

I relaxed after that and enjoyed most of the service, especially since there wasn’t any sermon. The choir sang for forty-five minutes instead.

I got home close to midnight. I was so tired my parents didn’t question me. I fell into bed without brushing my teeth.

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I just came home from church. I loved the choir-the songs were so beautiful. Still, I didn’t really feel you God. I’m more confused than ever. I’m trying hard to understand but I wish you’d help me a little. If only you could give me a hint God. Which religion should I be? Sometimes I wish I’d been born one way or the other.

Grandma came back from her cruise in time to pack up and head for Florida. She said New York had nothing to offer since I was gone. She sent me two postcards a week, called every Friday night and promised to be home before Easter.

Our phone conversations were always the same. I talked first: “Hello, Grandma… Yes, I’m fine… They’re fine… School’s fine… I miss you too.”

Then my father talked: “Hello, Mother… Yes, we’re fine… How’s the weather down there?… Well, it’s bound to come out sooner or later. That’s why they call it the Sunshine State.”

Then my mother talked: “Hello, Sylvia… Yes, Margaret’s really fine… Of course I’m sure… Okay-and you take care too.”

Then I talked a second time: “Bye, Grandma. See you soon.”

During the second week in January Mr. Benedict announced that the sixth-grade girls were going to see a movie on Friday afternoon. The sixth-grade boys were not going to see the movie. At that time they would have a discussion with the boy’s gym teacher from the junior high.

Nancy passed me a note. It said, Here we go-the big deal sex movie.

When I asked her about it she told me the PTA sponsors it and it’s called What Every Girl Should Know.

When I went home I told my mother. “We’re going to see a movie in school on Friday.”

“I know,” my mother said. “I got a letter in the mail. It’s about menstruation.”

“I already know all about that.”

“I know you know,” my mother said. “But it’s important for all the girls to see it in case their mothers haven’t told them the facts.”

“Oh.”

On Friday morning there was a lot of giggling. Finally, at two o’clock, the girls lined up and went to the auditorium. We took up the first three rows of seats. There was a lady on the stage, dressed in a gray suit. She had a big behind. Also, she wore a hat.

“Hello, girls,” she said. She clutched a hanky which she waved at us sometimes. “I’m here today to tell you about What Every Girl Should Know, brought to you as a courtesy of the Private Lady Company. We’ll talk some more after the film.” Her voice was smooth, like a radio announcer’s.

Then the lights went out and we saw the movie. The narrator of the film pronounced it menstroo-ation. “Remember,” the voice said, “it’s menstroo-ation.” Gretchen, who was next to me, gave me a kick and I kicked Nancy on the other side. We held our hands over our mouths so we wouldn’t laugh.

The film told us about the ovaries and explained why girls menstroo-ate. But it didn’t tell us how it feels, except to say that it is not painful, which we knew anyway. Also, it didn’t really show a girl getting it. It just said how wonderful nature was and how we would soon become women and all that. After the film the lady in the gray suit asked if there were any questions.

Nancy raised her hand and when Gray Suit called on her Nancy said, “How about Tampax?”

Gray Suit coughed into her hanky and said, “We don’t advise internal protection until you are considerably older.”

Then Gray Suit came down from the stage and passed out booklets called What Every Girl Should Know. The booklet recommended that we use Private Lady sanitary supplies. It was like one big commercial. I made a mental note never to buy Private Lady things when and if I ever needed them.

For days after that whenever I looked at Gretchen, Janie or Nancy we’d pretend to be saying menstroo-ation. We laughed a lot. Mr. Benedict told us we’d have to settle down since we had a lot to learn before we’d be ready for seventh grade.

One week later Gretchen got it. We had a special PTS meeting that afternoon.

“I got it last night. Can you tell?” she asked us.

“Oh, Gretchen! You lucky!” Nancy shrieked. “I was sure I’d be first. I’ve got more than you!”

“Well, that doesn’t mean much,” Gretchen said, knowingly.

“How did it happen?” I asked. “Well, I was sitting there eating my supper when I felt like something was dripping from me.”

“Go on-go on,” Nancy said.

“Well, I ran to the bathroom, and when I saw what it was I called my mother.”

“And?” I asked.

“She yelled that she was eating.”

“And?” Janie said.

“Well, I yelled back that it was important.”

“So-so-“ Nancy prompted.

“So… uh… she came and I showed her,” Gretchen said.

“Then what?” Janie asked.

“Well, she didn’t have any stuff in the house. She uses Tampax herself-so she had to call the drugstore and order some pads.”

“What’d you do in the meantime?” Janie asked.

“Kept a wash cloth in my pants,” Gretchen said.

“Oh-you didn’t!” Nancy said, laughing.

“Well, I had to,” Gretchen said.

“Okay-so then what?” I asked.

“Well… in about an hour the stuff came from the drugstore.”

“Then what?” Nancy asked.

“My mother showed me how to attach the pad to the belt. Oh… you know… “

Nancy was mad. “Look Gretchen, did we or did we not make a deal to tell each other absolutely everything about getting it?”

“I’m telling you, aren’t I?” Gretchen asked.

“Not enough,” Nancy said. “What’s it feel like?”

“Mostly I don’t feel anything. Sometimes it feels like it’s dripping. It doesn’t hurt coming out-but I had some cramps last night.”

“Bad ones?” Janie asked.

“Not bad. Just different,” Gretchen said. “Lower down, and across my back.”

“Does it make you feel older?” I asked.

“Naturally,” Gretchen answered. “My mother said now I’ll really have to watch what I eat because I’ve gained too much weight this year. And she said to wash my face well from now on-with soap.”

“And that’s it?” Nancy said. “The whole story?”

“I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you, Nancy. But really, that’s all there is to tell. Oh, one thing I forgot. My mother said I may not get it every month yet. Sometimes it takes a while to get regular.”

“Are you using that Private Lady stuff?” I asked.

“No, the drugstore sent Teenage Softies.”

“Well, I guess I’ll be next,” Nancy said.

Janie and I looked at each other. We guessed so too.

When I went home I told my mother. “Gretchen Potter got her period.”

“Did she really?” my mother asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“I guess you’ll begin soon too.”

“How old were you Mom-when you got it?”

“Uh… I think I was fourteen.”

“Fourteen! That’s crazy. I’m not waiting until I’m fourteen.”

“I’m afraid there’s not much you can do about it, Margaret. Some girls menstruate earlier than others. I had a cousin who was sixteen before she started.”

“Do you suppose that could happen to me? I’ll die if it does!”

“If you don’t start by the time you’re fourteen I’ll take you to the doctor. Now stop worrying!”

“How can I stop worrying when I don’t know if I’m going to turn out normal?”

“I promise, you’ll turn out normal.”

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. Gretchen, my friend, got her period. I’m so jealous God. I hate myself for being so jealous, but I am. I wish you’d help me just a little. Nancy ‘s sure she’s going to get it soon, too. And if I’m last I don’t know what I’ll do. Oh please God. I just want to be normal.

Nancy and her family went to Washington over Lincoln ‘s birthday weekend. I got a postcard from her before she got back which means she must have mailed it the second she got there. It only had three words on it.

I GOT IT!

I ripped the card into tiny shreds and ran to my room. There was something wrong with me. I just knew it. And there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I flopped onto my bed and cried. Next week Nancy would want to tell me all about her period and about how grown up she was. Well, I didn’t want to hear her good news!

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. Life is getting worse every day. I’m going to be the only one who doesn’t get it. I know it God. Just like I’m the only one without a religion. Why can’t you help me? Haven’t I always done what you wanted? Please… let me be like everybody else.

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