How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran is a fantastically playful rant. Caitlin’s insight on girlhood and womanhood sounds like the instinctive knowledge I feel I should have had. The rant reminds me of my own loneliness through the teenage years. It is a paradox to feel lonely in a house full of people. I was lucky to have my cat, Suki (most often referred to as suks). But Suks never took any long walks with me. [Suks deserves her own post, she is a long story].
Below, I describe 2 of my life’s most lonely experiences.
- The arrival of Breasts
In the midst of all the confusion that exists in all big families with a cat, one morning, the breasts appeared. On me. I knew they would come at some time, but I had never given thought to what to do with them when they arrived. I also thought they would arrive eventually, slowly, but it felt as if they came all at once.
I was thin, so once they arrived, it was like two avocados on a stick. In an African family, regardless of where in the world the family is located, that is nothing to be happy about. Some curves are needed for things to be satisfactory.
Apparently, nobody else in the family had given any thought to the eventuality either. So we were all in shock, even the cat. And comments started flying round about breasts on a stick. And what to do with them.
I made a list of what I needed to do with them breasts.
- to hide them so my family & neighbors could forget that they were there
- to deal with boys staring at the breasts. Ignore them
- an answer/explanation why they hurt. Nobody seemed to have a satisfactory answer and googling was not a thing then
- to change how I moved my arms. that had to be figured out
- to deal with suks’ flea challenge as a diversion
2. Menstruation or the monthly curse
The menstruation challenge began, also unexpected, and embarrassingly in the middle of the day. Just a stain on my dress, less than a year after the breasts appeared. Once again, I had no clue why I needed that.
This time, I knew I did not need more hysterics in the same year so I kept it a secret. I stole my mother’s money and bought a pair of black knickers, pads & cotton wool. Until then, I had only had white and pink knickers. I should have bought painkillers too but I did not know I needed those either until it was too late.
I informed my mother of my predicament. She took the opportunity to remind me that I was now a woman and could get pregnant if I played with boys. I was 14½. She really said play with boys. I always thought that pregnancy, was a risk, since I was warned off boys since I was like 10.
“Why do you play with boys? you are a girl!” “Behave like a girl! you are not a boy!”
At the end of the first menstruation week ever, I was so frightened by the knowledge that I did not know when the next time would be. All data collected from adult women said was it could be in 2 weeks, in 21 days or in 28 days. So it could be anytime, anywhere and no help was to be had.