K was the first person who told me about periods. She had missed a day of school and I had asked her what happened.
“I am a beeeeeg girl now”
“Chch – I am a beeeeeg girl now”
Later that day she told me about how she had found blood on her chaddi, told her mum about it and got a day off, not to mention the aunties who had come over with gold and sweets. She was smiling when she said this, and I did too – because she made it sound so normal. On the inside, I was mortified – blood on her chaddi meant that there was a cut on her private parts – and all her relatives did was buy her some kaju barfi. I wanted to scream.
“Are you OK?! Did you find the cut? Did you go to the hospital? Did you put a bandage? Are you really, really, OK? Should I call an ambulance?”
Not that I knew the number for an ambulance, but figured that this would be a great opportunity to learn. But K seemed fine, and happy, surprisingly, about her bleeding private parts so I didn’t ask.
The next day, I confirmed that we were best friends. During lunch, she came running to me and told me all there was to know. It was just the two of us, sitting at the last bench, talking about periods over rice, fish fry and paneer pasta. Over the so many girls she had as friends, she chose to tell me about her periods and I was honored.
M got her periods a few months later, just before 7th grade began. She came back to school looking plumper and K immediately knew.
That day I confirmed that we were no longer best friends. Bumped down a spot, I became the third wheel in a relationship that was founded on being the only two girls in class who had their period. Soon, I started noticing that more girls in class were taking days off and coming back with leave letters that made our class teacher smile. There were more girls in class that hid green and purple plastic squares in their breast pockets on their way to the washroom. There were more girls forming friendships over bleeding private parts and I was not one of them.
I went crying to my mother one day and frankly, she was just surprised I knew about periods. She laughed when I told her I wanted to get my periods. Asked me why I hadn’t gone to her earlier. Would that have made my periods come earlier too, was that how it worked then?
Eighth grade begun and I still hadn’t gotten my period. By then, almost all the girls in class had been going through this phenomenon for a year, and were fed up with their periods and grew jealous of me. Me, who had cried for not getting her period with the rest of the class, was now the center of attention. It didn’t last long, however. Four months into eighth grade, during summer vacation, I got my period.
It was a quiet affair. No gold, no sweets. Told my mother, took a shower, put on a pad and went about my day. I told my friends and they congratulated me. But I could hear disappointment in their voice. In the days that followed, I knew why.
Being a beeeeeg girl was tough.
Featured image credits: Silvia Marchetti and Bodyform UK