i do not know where these new breasts came from, but for sure they have not gone unnoticed by friends, family and the general public. the changes my body has gone through since birth have rarely not been noticed and publicly discussed. i know i am not alone. public discussion of a girl’s/woman’s body seems to be a natural occurrence. it goes with being female. almost everything regarding female development is outwardly visual hence deemed up for public consumption, poking, prodding, and discussion.
over the past twenty years women have done a much better job of preparing girls for the physical and hormonal changes that will begin between the ages of 9 and 13. girls are often bombarded with information from every older woman they know because these women have freedoms and more information women in previous generations did not.
i am thankful to have a mother and community of women who provided me lots of information about becoming a woman. my only wish is that they would have told me about my female body after the period. there is a whole lot they left out that would have been useful. this is part one of the story.
Body Hair – it starts with pubic hair and under arm hair. at this point you learn you will need to use deodorant (Tussy cream deodorant was the hot stuff in my era.) you also learn that you will need to be more attentive to washing your vagina due to hormonal changes and a light dusting of powder with cornstarch will keep potential odor at bay. i cannot tell you the amount of time i spent sniffing my underarms and discreetly checking to make sure that my va-jay-jay had not made a left turn. i was not going to be that girl people talked about smelling and or talking about my mother for failing me. (you know it always the mother’s fault.)
that other hair that was now prevalent on my legs did not give reason for discussion. thankfully, during my youth hairy legs were considered appealing. more importantly, legs do not have hormones so to speak; therefore, no need to worry about potential odor. i had hairy legs which drew lots of public attention.(something about black men loving hairy legs.) as early as middle school boys and men hooted at my legs. unfortunately, my hairy legs made boys and men say out loud, directly or indirectly, something like, “If your legs are this hairy, i bet you are hairy all over.” what the hell was i suppose to say back to such a foul inquiry? dare i ask, how was i suppose to receive such an inquiry? was it a compliment?
Hips and Butt – i am unable to provide significant commentary on this part of becoming a woman. i had neither. my shape is more like a “T.” i have broad shoulders and semi-wide upper back. the only challenging part about purchasing pants were my thighs. having to find pants that would accommodate the triple threat – hip, thighs and butt was never my challenge.
in my early 30’s i dabbled in bodybuilding. i will never forget meeting the guy who would be my trainer. he said to me, “You have the perfect build for bodybuilding. Unlike most black women you do not have hips and a butt.” finally, my body type had a home. i was thrilled. ironically, from weight lifting i developed a butt a “muscle booty.” when people began noting this new development i was so uncomfortable. i called girlfriends who were familiar with the attention that comes with having a butt and girlfriends who were familiar with public attention because they had attractive bodies.
Breasts – breasts are everybody’s domain. everybody is allowed to point them out and to discuss them. when they first start to surface friends, family and the general public identifies them as buds, bumps, and mosquito bites. from there they become melons, mounds, lumps, and imagine breasts. around female members of the family you may be required and or asked to show them. the perks of being a girl child. (can you imagine a boy being asked to show his penis to other men? nope. i know you are feeling traumatized. i will move on.)
let’s briefly talk about the matter of training bras. what exactly is being trained? are we training our bodies for human consumption, poking, prodding and discussion? are we training our body to get use to wearing the uncomfortable object known as a bra? are we training them to stay in place to remain perky? how do you know when they are trained properly? i do not recall having a training bra. i wore an undershirt until i “officially” needed the support of a bra.
in my 20’s and most of my 30’s i could get away with not wearing a bra, especially in the summer months. those days are gone. as not to draw unwanted comments and looks – the kind i am guilty of making – i strap my breasts down before leaving the house. i do not like bras. they are uncomfortable. after work, when i was working, as soon as i got in the car i set the girls/breasts free. for the record even sports bras are uncomfortable after about two or three hours. maybe if i had worn a training bra, i would not find wearing a bra to be a challenge.
my breasts did not draw public attention until about three years ago. even i am amazed by the size and fullness of my breasts. i have asked God, “Where did these puppies come from and why now?” initially, i thought it was a sign i was becoming fat. i let that thought go. once again, i reached out to my girlfriends. i asked those who would know how they handled public attention. in addition, i felt it necessary to apologize for not knowing how much responsibility came with having sizeable breasts. in that first year or so of my new breasts i was stunned by the looks and comments.
side note: i thank God that my breasts are healthy. the health of my breasts supersedes the size.
Menstruation/Period – getting your period/beginning your menses is consider a prize and a problem. there are lots and lots of conversation about the coming of the main event called your period/menstrual cycle. girls are told it will come once a month. we are told now we are a woman…get excited! we are informed about the artillery of products available for the main event:
• sanitary napkins (thick, thin, super, overnight, extra heavy, maxi, regular, long, scented, unscented, with wings, without wings)
• tampons (with string, without string, super, regular, light days, slender, ultra super)
• panties (regular everyday panties, period panties for the daytime, period panties for nighttime aka big girl panties)
• towels (use only dark colored towels during this time)
• drugs(Midol, Tylenol, Motrin, Naproxen, Advil) nondrug (heating pad, hot bath)
we are also told about PMS to include cramps, fatigue, sleepiness, cravings, increased appetite, moodiness, irritability and bloating. if your mother is telling you this she will include that your PMS should not become a problem for her or anyone else. she expects that you will remove yourself from circulation and show some control. PMS is not her fault. handle it!
now that you are menstruating you are informed that what makes you a card-carrying member of the woman club is you can become pregnant. ( but you will not become pregnant because you are not having sex and you will not have sex until you are married…right?) the part i so wish was included in this part of the talk are details about having control over conceiving. a girl should be informed and empowered with knowledge about ovulation, days that you are most likely to become pregnant. (there is an app for that now.) be sure to tell her more than she can become pregnant (as if that is the worse that could happen). empower her with knowledge about specific days she may based on her menstrual start day aka known as natural family planning. let her know she has control over the matter of conceiving. now this will not be the case in those early years as her period will be irregular therefore carrying the lone sanitary napkin in her bookbag or purse hoping some boy does not snatch her purse or bookbag to show all (having flashbacks). while you are arming her with survival strategies of having a period, assuming you have parental consent, let her know that in your humble opinion or auntie mar’s humble opinion there are in fact worse things that can happen from having unprotected sex like getting an STD better yet an incurable STD. i am just saying.
so what’s the point?
the point is that the female body is always growing and changing. and damn it so much of it is public. the up side is we girls and women have formed awesome communities and networks to have safe, loving, nurturing conversations that empower us individually and collectively. let her know there will be many, many, many, many changes to come. keep talking to her about the changes that will happen at various points in her life. this will help her. it will prevent her from thinking she did something wrong or that she can change the course of events. instead, she will have the freedom to make choices and to embrace her body fully with love.
to be continued…