We studied each other like cigar-chomping spectators about to bet on the ponies. Statistically speaking, we had discovered some tells:
If you played defense on the youth soccer team, forward on the St. Pius X basketball team. If you had full-fledged breasts, rather than squinched and barely-flated rough drafts. If you were in the back row for the Christmas program. If your forehead looked like an acne-graphical map of the Rocky Mountains. If you had ever experienced the mushy wet mess of French kissing. If you had an older sister.
You were probably next in line to get your period.
Men-struuu-ate, our sixth-grade teacher would call it. Fannie's mom dubbed it The Dot. We called it Izing. Slang for "Periodizing." As in: "Look at the back of my shorts. Can you see anything? I think I'm Izing." Or "I saw Betsy take her Sport Sac into the bathroom. I bet she's Izing."
Mine came in the winter of sixth grade. At a hockey game. Gina and I had invented this way to pass time: We would shout "No Sleep 'Til!" Then bust through a metal door and scream into the cold arena "BROOKLYN!" I had no idea that the subtle strobe-light throb was cramps. Later, faced with the indisputable evidence, I kind of forgot what the clues actually meant.
Well nuts, I thought. I dreaded telling my mom. I had to tell my mom. She was hoarding all the deceptively pretty packaged supplies in her bathroom, off of her bedroom. Even Johnny Carson wouldn't be able to drown out my rustling. I considered asking my brother to run covert ops for me, but sensed that might not be the protocol in such situations. Ugh. My mom. All that beaming, the certain hug, it was all going to be like a giant "I told you so."
"I guess you were right. I am a woman after all," I'd say all aw-shucks-like. Then we would embrace with a box of Always denting between our bodies.
"The talk" had happened three years earlier. I initiated it in a way that still brings shame flashbacks that I'm hoping to finally exorcise by posting it on the internet:
I'm wearing a long pink silky nightgown. I notice that I have developed tiny buds of breasts. Like someone pinched the skin on my chest and they didn't elastic back to completely flat. I walk upstairs to the living room. My parents are lying next to each other on the couch.
"I'm getting fat," I say.
"You are not," my mom says. She would never humor this kind of talk.
"No," I say. "Up here." Point at my chest.
A few days later, one of those highly-illustrated, super pastel books about how bodies change, with a Catholic bend, passed off like a Hallmark card. I saw it in her purse days before she gave it to me. Then she gave it to me and told me to get back to her with any questions.
Telling your friends that you got your period for the first time is something I now understand to be a humble brag. It's like, "Sorry Gina. You keep playing that stupid 'No Sleep Til Brooklyn' game. Frankly, I'm so hopped up on Midol that I can't even feel my left foot, let alone my fallopian tubes. Does this pad make me look like I have a tail?"
A few days after I got mine, another friend humble bragged her way into the club.
"She's faking it," the rest of us decided. "I mean, she's short. It's scientifically impossible."
She caught wind of the nay-saying and dragged a couple of us into the girls' bathroom after lunch and showed us.
"Food coloring," one of my friend's said afterward. "It wasn't even the right color."
The Monday Memoir series is a writing project that uses Tina Fey's memoir "Bossypants" as a template for my own life story. I'm using her subjects as a prompt. Tina Fey's memoir is very funny, by the way. It just seemed so easy to do. In Chapter Two she talks periods and gynecology. I'm sticking with periods, no offense to gynecology.