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When a girl starts menstruating, the universe has given her the biological ability to procreate. I cannot imagine anything more profound or sacred. Baby teeth that are going to be replaced gets you money from the Tooth Fairy. But the biggest milestone in your adolescence gets you nothing? I set out to change that for my family.
I wish that I could have taken the girls to Africa for a cultural empowerment tour. But I don’t have an extra $15,000 lying around. So I tried to think of ways to make the event special without being too out there. I considered a drumming circle on the beach. Then I remembered that I don’t own a beach chair or a drum. I decided to keep it simple: I would invite a few female family members and Audrey’s best friend and her best friend’s mom over for a quick discussion and dessert.
I pitched the idea to my partner and he agreed. I asked Audrey if she was OK with me having women over to acknowledge this rite of passage. She shrugged, “Sure, as long as it doesn’t get weird. I have to watch so many puberty videos in school.” I promised no sex talk and plenty of ice cream.
I nervously sent an invite text to the best friend’s mom, “This is going to sound weird, but we are celebrating the arrival of Audrey’s period.” She responded, “Yeah, pretty weird, but I’m in.”
On the evening of the party, the men left for dinner at a restaurant. I came home to discover a block-long blackout.
Audrey squirmed when grandma got a little graphic talking about sex and having babies.
I tried to reach our relatives to reschedule, but they did not answer. I decided to move forward with the new ritual. I lit a half dozen candles and greeted the guests in the soft light. It almost felt like were outside on the beach with the moonlight.
We sat in a circle and I asked three generations of women two questions:
When did you get your period?
What does womanhood mean to you?
Each lady shared a story about their childhood. Most said that their mothers had been nonchalant or had completely ignored the arrival of the menstrual cycles. The common theme was a sense of repression among the guests when it came to their ascension into womanhood.
Audrey squirmed when grandma got a little graphic talking about sex and having babies. I clipped that topic by politely cutting off grandma and asking, “Who wants ice cream?”
After everyone left, I asked Audrey if it was OK, or too much. She said that she could have lived without her grandma's talk, but overall, it was all right.
The older generation had a more enthusiastic reaction. My phone was littered with texts from the guests. They said they are going to do this with their relatives; that it felt good to be open, and that I was a pretty courageous mom.