I am currently reading a really amazing book that I bought as a present for my sister but have yet to give her (oops, hi Kel, hope you’re not reading this!): My Little Red Book.
My Little Red Book is a collection of stories from a whole range of different women about getting their first periods. Since I have always felt I had a pretty memorable first period story myself (but then again, who doesn’t?), I was very excited to read this book and hear others.
I am not even halfway through the book yet, but the other night I read a first period story that I identified with so much I just had to share it.
Three words: pancake batter uterus.
The story is called “The Blusher, 2002” and in it, Elli Foster recalls how, two years prior, she was shown a rough diagram of a uterus with pancake batter at school. At the end of her story, after she has gotten her first period, she remembers that a friend offered her a tampon but she had to decline because she didn’t know how to use one. She says, “If only I had paid more attention to the pancake-batter uterus…”
Now, while I know I never saw any of my elementary school teachers actually sling pancake batter in order to teach us about female anatomy, I am familiar with the pancake batter uterus. It was featured in one of those “Your Changing Body” (or some other clever metamorphosis-implying-titled) videos that they show you in fourth grade while the boys go in another room and watch “Your Growing Pubic Hair” (or a similarly-titled film).
As I remember it, the video goes a little something like this:
Girl sleeps over at friend’s house.
Friends all giggle as they discuss their “changing bodies” – I specifically remember a lot of giggling about tender breast buds.
Girl wakes up the next morning and discovers she has gotten her first period.
Girl goes downstairs to tell friend’s mother, who just so happens to be making pancakes for breakfast.
While girl asks where she can find the Kotex (or whatever brand is sponsoring this video), friend’s mother takes it upon herself to illustrate the female reproductive system using a ladle of pancake batter.
Friend’s mom makes a delicious looking uterus, complete with ovaries and fallopian tubes, and lets them sizzle on the griddle.
Friend’s dad eats the pancake.
This video and the tale of the pancake batter uterus did not make the same impression on my friends as it did on me. Many of them don’t remember anything about it.
Of course, they remember watching the videos, the segregation from the boys during those sacred female bonding moments, the asking of awkward questions to our 60-year-old post-menopausal female grade school teachers.
But the pancake? Lost in time. It’s as if the girl with the tender growing breasts ate it out of their memories with a big pad of butter.
I, however, am not so lucky. I not only still have the image of that edible reproductive system burned into my brain (15 years later), I continue to recount it to others ad nauseam (literally, in some cases). I bring it up to women I meet in the bathroom if I catch them disposing of a tampon wrapper, “Don’t you remember that video with the pancake in the shape of a uterus? Isn’t it great to be a woman? Here, try a Divacup!”
But now, without further ado, as inspired by My Little Red Book, I, too, will share my first period story:
I was 11 years old, in the 5th grade, and I discovered that “I Got It!” (probably the name of another educational movie about menstruation) in the bathroom at school that morning. What made the date particularly memorable was that at the same time I was getting my first period, my little brother was being born. I had to tell my Dad when I got home from school that day, who was very supportive and didn’t make me feel weird or awkward at all. When I told my mom at the hospital that night, her best friend was there, and I will never forget what she said to me:
“May God bless you until the day you go through menopause!”