Keeping it Real

by Rachel on March 30, 2011

What has big white teeth and gives really good advice?

That would be me! And I’m now a panelist for Real Answers from U by Kotex, a campaign that does something I truly believe in: owns it. Kotex owns that we have bodies that do things that might seem strange but things that never need to be portrayed as shameful, talked about with euphemisms, or wrapped in stupid pink wrappers that have flowers on them. And it spreads that message using social media.

As a peer panelist, I give the frank, big-sister answer to girls’ puberty/period/body questions and I’m really proud and excited!

Because seriously, I would love to see more teen girls owning it like so:

sorry I'm not sorry speech bubble

Did you guys get good period advice growing up or were you stuck with the euphemisms? Any cringe-worthy stories of middle school sex ed to share? I’d love to hear them!

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 marie March 30, 2011 at 8:33 am

wow congrats, Rachel! that’s a fantastic opportunity!

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2 Ashley @ Nourishing The Soul March 30, 2011 at 8:35 am

I love the initiative and you’ll be a wonderful asset! Congrats!

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3 Kelsey May March 30, 2011 at 8:43 am

I am pretty sure the national girls sex ed video when I was in elementary school was called, “I Got It.” the girls were all camping in the backyard when one of them got their period. Miraculously, the mom was waiting up with hot chocolate to ease the pain of becoming a woman. In the morning, she made a batch of anatomically correct ovary and uterus shaped pancakes. I still remember it in sharp detail, 14 years later :)

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4 Kat March 30, 2011 at 9:08 am

I always remember pancakes!

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5 CA March 30, 2011 at 11:15 am

Yes, yes, yes. That is definitely the video I saw!

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6 Katy H. March 30, 2011 at 11:28 am

I watched that same video! When we got back to class (because this video was shown ONLY to 4th grade girls, while the boys had extra recess), the boys all wanted to know what were doing in our girls only meeting. We all go, “We learned how to make pancakes! HAHAHAHAHA!”

Poor boys. No wonder there’s so much you just don’t get even now…

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7 Dori March 30, 2011 at 8:45 am

I could not think of anyone better to do this. Congrats!

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8 Stina March 30, 2011 at 8:53 am

I’m pertty sure sex ed at a Catholic school is the ultimate in cringe worthy. It was so euphamism laden that even the name of the class was a euphamism. It was called “Family Life” or something ridicudlous like that. I’ve pretty much blocked out all major details of grades K-8, but it was so lacking in actual information that I’m pretty sure I only have karma to thank for making sure I didn’t wind up pergnant in high school.

Congrats on the opportunity!!!!

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9 vanessa March 30, 2011 at 8:54 am

I remember getting my first period. My mother made such a big deal about how no one would know I was using feminine products, and this made me feel really shameful about needing to use them (despite her insistence otherwise). Her stress on the secret qualities of feminine products made me feel like it was something that would cause me great shame should anyone else know what I was going through. This was further exaggerated by her insistence we go out and buy me a purse to hide them in during school. I remember the purse, it was brown with these horrible flowers on it, I think my grandma really dug it.
Of course my mother had promptly informed everyone in the family, “Vanessa got her first period.” So my relatives would come to me with these pitying eyes, put their hands on my shoulder and tell me “I heard you got your first period.” It felt like they were telling me they were sorry I had cancer. The level of pity I received from my family just played into this feeling that my period was something psychically wrong with my body that somehow made me inferior. It was like before I started bleeding once a month I was a better person, and after I was just a dirty pseudo-woman.
With time I came to realize that the monthly need to bleed wasn’t as big of a deal as everyone made it out to be. After all, you reach a point in your life where all the girls around you are on the rag too, and you start bonding over the necessity of it. A woman is your comrade for the few seconds she fishes through her purse and pulls out a tampon to give you. I can’t help but think that’s how we should greet young women becoming fertile, “Welcome to the fold sister, you’re one of us now.”

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10 Meredith @ An Epic Change March 30, 2011 at 8:57 am

My mother is an OB/GYN nurse. Needless to say, we got THE talk. Like, the ultimate talk. She used to bring home text books from the hospital or office where she worked and point to horrific pictures of diseases and say “See this? You can get this. Don’t have sex.” And she’d also come home after helping with the delivery of a teenager’s baby and say the same thing. She was realistic about things and knew we probably would have sex, but she went for the scare tactics to protect her babies. I have a good story about when she found out I was no longer a virgin… but we’ll save that for another day.

But I was super weird about getting my period (and still am with her!) and I 100% honestly remember waking up for school, realizing I had my first period, and whispering it to my mom. I said “Mama, I started my period. Don’t tell Dad.” Honest to God. She gave me one of those embarrassing you’re-a-woman-now hugs and then told me I needed to spend some time learning how to use a tampon before swim practice that afternoon. Mortifying for a 12 year old. When I left the bathroom a few minutes later, she was concerned that I had done it wrong because I had done it so quickly. I told her that it was fine and it was easy and to stop worrying. Mortifying. Then she told all the other mothers at swim practice who all proceeded to swap stories about how their daughters failed at using their first tampon and how their mothers had to help them.

I still get embarrassed about tampons with my mom. Lord help me when she tries to help deliver my babies.

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11 Missy Maintains March 30, 2011 at 9:02 am

Wow, so cool! Congrats!! I didn’t get much period advice growing up. It was actually a very sensitive subject and I didn’t tell my mom that I got mine for about 2 years!! It was so stressful and I always used tissues or borrowed pads from friends. I even took scissors and cut holes in my sheets if I happened to um…ya know..on my sheets. Crazy!!

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12 Melissa March 30, 2011 at 9:07 am

Nice work! I love that someone is doing this. I’m an 8th grade teacher, and it seems like more girls are just owning it. Rather than getting embarrassed, they just say, “Hey, I’ve got my period and I need to go take care of things.” I would have been totally freaked out to say that to a teacher!

In my middle school days, Tampax had a help line 1-800-TAMPONS or something like that. When we had slumber parties, we would call and prank them, creating fake accents and tampon scenarios that provided hours of enjoyment for us, but I’m sure drove the nice tampon operators crazy. “Your tampon is stuck WHERE???” Ah, good times.

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13 Kelly March 30, 2011 at 9:20 am

Haha…that is hilarious!

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14 Diane March 30, 2011 at 9:20 am

I LOVE IT. Are girls still doing the “tie a sweatshirt around your waist and no one will know” thing? That was the worst. I hope your advice will discourage that practice in middle schools everywhere.

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15 [SMASH] March 30, 2011 at 9:57 am

LOL I remember this!

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16 Kelly March 30, 2011 at 9:20 am

Congrats! What a cool opportunity!! :)

I actually started my period at a track meet and my best friend only had tampons. I didn’t know what to do with it…seriously. I was also quite the later bloomer…I was 16 when I started. And my best friend, bless her, took me into the bathroom at the track meet and showed me what to do with it. Fast forward 10 years and she was my maid of honor in my wedding. :)

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17 [SMASH] March 30, 2011 at 9:57 am

Nothing embarrassing here. It was sort of like… “This is what it is and this is what it does. If you track it on the calendar, you won’t be surprised when it hits each month.”

I still cringe at the term “Aunt Flo”.

Boyfriend refers to my period as “Oh, you’re vagina’s broken…”

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18 Christie March 30, 2011 at 1:30 pm

LOL that is too funny. Hubby calls mine ‘angry’ ;) I always said that you would be angry too if you bled from your privates for 7 days and didn’t die haha

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19 Taryn March 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

That is super plus! Pun intended!

And for the record, Kotex tampons are the. best. I mean, no others can even hold a candle.

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20 Rachel March 30, 2011 at 10:30 am

NICE.

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21 Sarah March 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm

That pun just flowed out of you…nah, yours is better.

And Rachel, what a fabulous opportunity! I teach girls-only classes for sixth graders focusing on relationships, body image, and self-esteem and get MANY sex- and period-related questions. The latest “winner” was this: “Mrs. __, if I have sex and use a plastic bag as a condom, will I get pregnant?”

A close second from last year–my students asked, “do you want a baby soon?” When I answered no, they asked, “well, do you still have sex then? Because it seems kind of pointless.”

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22 Rachel March 30, 2011 at 5:37 pm

1. What kind of plastic bag? Like a Target bag? Or a sandwich baggie? Fun fact: Saran wrap does, in fact, work, but it has to be Saran brand.

2. Love that second one!

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23 Sarah March 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm

I didn’t ask questions. I just quickly introduced the concept of condoms. 6th graders have short attention spans.

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24 Erin March 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

I don’t remember much about it growing up, but I love this. I definitely started owning it in college. I actually did a ton of stuff around this group called “Tampaction.” Haha, the name still amuses me. It was all about talking about your period and not being ashamed of it, though. I loved it! And now I’m obsessed with telling people about my Diva Cup. It’s strangely one of my favorite things to talk about.

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25 Rachel March 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm

…so tell us about it!!

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26 Rachel March 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

In fifth grade during our “RSB” class (Responsible Social Behavior…wtf?), our counselor came in to tell us about periods. And then when one girl asked what we should say if a boy asked us about it, no joke, the counselor literally said, “Just say ‘I don’t want to talk about it. Period.'”

Worst.advice.ever.

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27 Eunice March 30, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Congrats Rachel! It’s so important to be clear and honest when it comes to period talk. There were so many things that I was confused about related to sex, periods, etc. when I was younger because nobody would just come out and tell it to me straight. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

I got my period when I was in 5th grade. None of the other girls in my class had it, and I truly felt like I was the only person in the world with my period. My mother actually used Kotex pads, so that’s what she would buy for me. I haven’t seen a pad in about 10 years, but the ones my mother had were fucking boats. HUGE. I was so embarrassed to carry them around in my backpack, and one day they fell out. Ugh. It was a bad day in the 5th grade. LOL. I eventually taught myself how to use a tampon because I just knew that life couldn’t be about gigantic boat pads.

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28 Ashley Breton @fromashleywithlove.com March 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm

My mom was obsessed on knowing when the first time I was going to get it was. I was in middle school math class, 3 days after my 13th birthday and I just KNEW. I asked my teacher to go to the bathroom, who was strict on leaving class, and he asked me if it was a lady problem.. and i was MORTIFIED. I went to the nurse, called my mom, and since there was every single hot guy in the nurse’s office at the time, I just kept saying “Mom, I got it… i got it.. ” and after her being frustrated/not knowing what that meant, I somehow got the word “period” out in the midst of our convo. She came with a pack of pads and tampons and sat in the bathroom with me showing me how to do everything.

Years down the road, I was still TERRIFIED of using tampons. So here’s a funny story. My best friend, my boyfriend and myself wanted to go to a water park one day. Only problem… I had my period. I was determined to suck it up and use a tampon for the first time (I was around 19). So here I am in my bathroom with both parties waiting outside the door along with my mom yelling “Honey, I have KY Jelly upstairs!! That might help! I’ll do it for you and you won’t even feel it!” OH. MY. WORD. Anyways, I just sucked it up sans KY and was proud of myself, and afterwards, didn’t know why I waited 6+ years to use tampons. They’re the best things ever. TMI? Sorry I’m not sorry!

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29 Christie March 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I was in 5th grade when we started sex ed and we learned that girls will get periods and pubic hair. They gave us a pamphlet with a scale on body hair. Some women had very little on their bodies, so they got a 1. Some women had a lot, like a big hairy bush and the hair went all the way to the anus. I remember looking at that pamphlet and thinking “just my luck, I’ll be the one with the hairy ass”

Also some girls in my class had already started their periods (we were 10) and I prayed every day that I wouldn’t start at school. I’d be ok starting at home on a school night or weekend, just please please please not during class. I prayed about this every day. We were on Christmas Break and it was about to be over. We were scheduled to return to class Jan. 5th, and I started that morning. I cried so hard and prayed that I wouldn’t have to go to school….

…Then we got 6 inches of snow and they cancelled school. I cried happy tears. My dad, who was home at the time freaked out that I was sobbing and I told him I needed to call mom NOW! So I call her and tell her what happened and she told me she would be home at lunch time and to take a bubble bath.

Also, I got my tits when I was 12. 36D right off the bat, and they only got bigger. I am now a 40E.
Hurray puberty!

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30 jessi March 30, 2011 at 2:15 pm

My mom was real straight forward with me about my period. I knew what to expect and I wasn’t left in the dust about anything, thank goodness. However, when I was a teenager I would just throw the applicator in the trash once the business was done. My mom asked me to cover it up in toilet paper so my dad and little sis wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. I agreed. Now I’m married and when I have my period I slip the applicator back in the little plastic cover and throw it on top of the trash. Sorry I’m not sorry hubs, I get my period and to be honest, you should be happy about that. :) ps-was that tmi? oops.

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31 Clare @ Fitting It All In March 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Oh gosh, my mom is a pediatrician and she GIVES the puberty/sex talk at my gradeschool. As in me and all of my friends had to sit there and listen to my mom talk about tampons and sex. awesome.

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32 Phoebe March 30, 2011 at 4:35 pm

I was so miserable and hating of my period the first couple years after I got it. By far my biggest wish is that someone had made a bigger effort to impress upon me that you seriously are not always so bothered and inconvenienced by it. I thought that I would never get to a place where I would genuinely forget that I had it, during the day, when in fact that happens to me a lot these days! Yay! I also remember sadly making a list of “cool” females who nevertheless had their period, including Willow Rosenberg from Buffy, to console myself about it.

The other thing I wish there were educational tips for is when it is or is not appropriate to mention that you have your period to someone you are making plans to hook up with. Over email when you are discussing when to meet up, or do you spring it on them during the encounter? And if so at the bar or when you are already at your or his place? (I guess this is mostly a tip for college girls and not middle schoolers.)

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33 Kristin March 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Something I do get concerned about, honestly, is the amount of chemical/bleaching/plastic/adhesive in tampons and pads and other things like that … also fragrances sometimes. I honestly cannot use Tampax or Always products (never tried Kotex) because of all the fake stuff in them. It reacts terribly with my skin. However, even for people who don’t react terribly, I hate the idea of literally putting BLEACHED things INSIDE my body. I am not a person who is obsessed with organic/natural/etc., but since I’m so sensitive to all period care, it makes me wonder about the health problems so many women deal with. Could they be related to all the chemicals/dyes/etc. being used for years in and around your skin?

Just a thought! I don’t really know any research. I use Natracare — http://www.natracare.com/Default.aspx?CultureId=en-GB — instead of any of the big name brands and they work a gazillion times better for me.

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34 Hannah March 30, 2011 at 7:19 pm

That’s very cool!
It wasn’t really sex ed advice or anything, but there was always a joke about my middle school. The intials were PMS, so everyone went around saying, “I go to PMS and have five periods a day!” However, you weren’t allowed to say it if you didn’t actually go there, it just wasn’t right.

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35 Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle March 30, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I have a good one…5th grade health class successfully explained the birds and the bees to me and talked about periods and so on…but all of the diagrams and maxipad commercials I had seen seemed like your period would be exactly that…the amount of a period (so like, a drop). So when I was 11, I finally got my period one day at school, and there was so much blood that I thought I was internally bleeding. I completely freaked out to my two best friends and the nurse that I was dying. I made such a scene, the nurse called my mom, who of course thought the whole thing was hilarious. I, however, did not. One of my friends told my whole class the story and everyone made fun of me for weeks. That is the story of my first period!

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36 Sarah April 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

A great resource to check out on the history of menstruation with a keen eye toward how those products are marketed today is Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation. It’s good and fairly concise and the tone sounds a lot like yours, in fact.

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37 Rachel April 1, 2011 at 11:14 am

I remember hearing about that book when it came out…sounds like a good Kindle download for the weekend!

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38 The Mighty Tamara April 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Congratulations on the wonderful opportunity. I don’t really have a mortifying period story, just that my mother and sisters acted like it was nasty secret. Words like “monthly”, weird references to what happens, and getting upset when I talked about cramps were all part of my teenage years. Now I’m super open about my period, cramps, bloating with my mother. If nothing else, I do it to remind her that a period isn’t a nasty, dirty curse.

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39 Mary (A Merry Life) April 4, 2011 at 3:17 am

That’s awesome! That’s a good fit for you, I think. You would have been an awesome big sis to ask questions. Congrats!

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