>Approximately three weeks before my 12th birthday, I woke up with a stomach ache one morning. Because I disliked many aspects of school and preferred to stay up all hours of the night reading, I frequently woke up with a “stomach ache.” However, this day was different. My sides hurt like hell, and so assuming that a major bought of diarrhea or something was in store for me, I convinced my parents to let me stay home. I went back to bed, hoping it would go away if I out-slept it.

When I woke up a few hours later, the discomfort was worse than ever. I went to the bathroom and waited for an eruption, but none came. After a while, I figured it was safe to leave the toilet and move into a pleasant day of watching TV and reading. Then I noticed the blood. Oh shit. I should have known better, really. I’d read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret at least two years before. Margaret’s friend warned her about cramps. On the other hand, Margaret and her pals were demented enough to actually want their periods, so what did they know?

At some point earlier in the year, it occurred to me that nature would inevitably screw me, so I obtained a free sample of tampons in the mail after I saw an ad in Seventeen magazine assuring young women that you can use tampons from your very first time. I shoved one in with no problem, and crying, I called my mom at work.

“I know why my stomach hurts,” I sobbed.
My mom was alarmed. “What’s wrong?”
“I got my period!!!” I was howling by now.

I don’t know what she said next, but I’m sure it was some sweet thing meant to calm me down before getting practical. “Do you need some pads? I have some in my closet.”
“No, I used a tampon.”
“What?!?! Is that a good idea? I better ask the doctor.”
“No!!! Forget it!” I was enraged. What the hell did she need to call the doctor for? There was nothing he could do about it. And what was it his damn business anyway. I was sorry I said anything. “I’m going back to bed.” I slammed the phone down.

A few hours later, she called back to check in. “How are you feeling?” Without waiting for much of an answer, she went on. “I spoke to Dr. Sherman, and he said congratulations,” she informed me. I was outraged. “Congratulations?!?! Congratulations?!?! Easy for him to say. Blood isn’t going to ooze out of his crotch every month for the next 45 years. Asshole! Tell him to fuck himself!” (I swear I said this.) My mom ignored my outburst. “Well, he also said it’s OK to use tampons.”
“Goodie for him,” I replied sarcastically. “I’m using them anyway.”

My mom’s reaction to the tampons threw me, though. She claimed she was afraid I’d get toxic shock syndrome and every once in a while drag up some story to scare me out of using them. “You know so-and-so who works with your dad?” she’d ask. “Well, his son’s girlfriend used tampons and got toxic shock syndrome. They rushed her to the hospital, but it was too late. She died.”I think she also clung to the belief that you weren’t a virgin if you used tampons, and that was a major thorn in her side. Well, she didn’t have to worry about that. Those slender regular junior sized blood suckers that I used barely made a dent in me. If a few years of youth gymnastics didn’t bust my hymen completely, no lame small tampon was going to finish the job. Which, quite frankly, is a dumb thing to worry about anyway. But my mom is weirdly old fashioned. It’s sort of cute.