Sunday, December 04, 2011

Spiral Notebook Sunday: Wedndesday, September 8, 2004

Welcome to the inaugural edition of "Spiral Notebook Sunday." (a.k.a. "I promised to post every day in December after posting every day in November, so I will be resorting to whatever desperate measures necessary to put up a post every day, including, but not limited to, a weekly posting of random scraps from my spiral notebook journal, a work in progress begun in July of 1983 Sunday," but that wouldn't fit in Blogger's title box.)

Here's this week's offering, in which I muse about puberty and girly bits. Consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Daughter-Only and I were sitting in the van in the grocery store parking lot waiting for Hubby to pick out videos and, out of the blue, she says, "I have a scratch on my nipple and it really stings!"

I mention this because I'm tickled that she would casually mention a stinging nipple--this in sharp contrast to my own deep phobia at that age (ten) and many others about my body, and especially, about speaking aloud about any portion thereof to anyone including (and perhaps especially) my mother. My mother never really gave me any reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed about my bodily functions--she was always letting me know I could come to her about anything, absolutely anything...[still] I had my doubts about spilling the beans about anything remotely related to my body and anyone else's and anything those bodies might be prone to do.

To illustrate the extent of my secrecy regarding such things, two stories:

I had my period for three months before my mother found out about it--and she found out then completely by accident. I hid what pads I used by rolling them up and sticking them inside empty bleach and laundry detergent bottles--in the days before recycling, they went out with the caps on, in the regular trash, so it was quite a clever hiding place. There was a brownish smudge in a pair of my panties that Mom noticed while doing laundry.

She was standing in the center of a pile of dirty clothes in the laundry room when she called me down from my room. She asked me about it and I sheepishly admitted that it had been going on for three months. I will never forget the look on her face--her disappointment and her struggle not to let it show.

Around the time I was thirteen, I was staying at Nanny's and Pappy's when I got this huge lump on my left breast. I assumed it was likely cancer and I just knew I would rather die of it than talk to anyone about it, undergo the necessary examination, expose my newly hatched B-cup breast to my mother, let alone a total stranger. I sat in front of Nan's vanity mirror, gazing into my own tragic eyes, contemplating the things that would be said about me at my funeral--how noble I had been to suffer in silence to spare my family the pain of my illness. Being the musings of a thirteen-year-old, there was a singularly self-indulgent note to the selflessness of my decision to go bravely into that dark night all alone. Of course, two minutes into this morbid fantasy, my tumor began to itch like crazy and it crossed my mind that it might be a mosquito bite--one of perhaps thirty-five I had at that moment. (The irony of a mosquito on what Pap had until recently referred to as my "mosquito bites" did not escape my attention even in my turmoil over my until a moment ago terminal illness.)

My point--lost in my meanderings--was that I literally would have DIED rather than mention my boob to my mother--at least in that moment, I was convinced I would rather waste away than speak up.

So, when Daughter-Only said to me, "I have a scratch on my nipple and it really stings," not only without a hint of discomfort, but without even a giggle or a smirk, I thought it was amazing.

In light of the fact that I don't hold my mother accountable for my own reticence on these subjects, I can't very well take credit for my daughter's openness and comfort. I think a fair portion of it can be chalked up to innate personality characteristics of each of us. Daughter-Only is simply more "out there" in every single way than I was at her age (or so many other ages as well--in fact, she's more open in lots of ways than I am even now).

As I said, my mother was always encouraging me to confide in her, to not be afraid to ask questions about anything and so on. (She was so earnest, in fact, that my silence became a weapon I could use against her in our power struggles--the most effective weapon.) She never let me doubt that she was available or that my body and bodies in general were anything but natural, normal and good.

I have gone in a different direction with Daughter-Only and the boys--whether by accident or by design--I have made issues like these a part of our everyday lives. It isn't an event to have a conversation in which words like masturbation or whatever come up. I guess the difference between my mother and me is that she wanted desperately to be comfortable with subjects like sex and the body, but she had no foundation in her own childhood on which to base that comfort. I had the foundation--and though I was unwilling or unable to take advantage of the invitation to share with my mother, my children are now benefiting from it. I think my mother would be gratified to know that all her efforts hadn't gone to waste.


PS--This afternoon, when I asked Daughter-Only, who is now 17, for permission to use this entry, since it all began with a scratch on her nipple, she had only one reservation. She said, "The reason I feel more comfortable talking about things with you than you did with your mom has nothing to do with how different our personalities are. It has to do with our relationship. Most of my friends don't have the kind of relationship with their moms that I have with you."

I'm thinking of reminding her of this conversation the next time she's enumerating all the ways I'm ruining her life.


  1. I, too, hid my period for months before my mom found out. I think we might be twins separated at birth. Or you are reading my diary.

  2. I am enjoying your blog and this one sparks a response - I would NEVER talk to anyone about things related to the body while growing up - I sensed my mother's own modesty and awkwardness around this. I could give you stories about the whole first period business that would make your hair curl (and not just the pubes) . When I was a college student, however, with a 12 year old sister, my mother sent her to me for the answers to her questions and I gladly embraced the role. And the conversations in the home we created for two children (a boy and a girl) were much more comfortable. But I believe your
    is correct - the relationships between my children and me are much richer, much more open, much more comfortable than I experienced with my own parents.
    I look forward to reading your posts ---

  3. oops - left out the word daughter -- as in, "your daughter is correct" .....

  4. After everyone but my mom and I were gone, our relationship deepened into more of a friendship than mother-daughter relationship. She's still my best friend and I tell her (just about) everything. I wouldn't trade the openness she and I reciprocate for anything!

  5. I told my mom about my period right away, but we never talked about ANYTHING sexual. She never even told me about sex. I've always tried to be more open with my kids. When my oldest son was home last time, we were in the car and he started talking about a problem he was having and I almost cried because I was so grateful that he felt comfortable talking to me.

  6. Aww! A nice post. And I would keep it on hand next time you offend the teenager ;)

  7. This strikes very close to home for me as well! I also hid my period for several months- my mother found out from a friend's mother. And anything about our bodies was very parents were very old-fashioned, hard-core catholics. I'm thinking that a post on the time my parents made my sister and I watch the "growing up" video with them in our living room and the Q and A that followed might be in order, if only my mother didn't read my blog! On a seriosu note, I hope to have a relationship like this with my daughter when she's older...thanks for sharing!

  8. Just wanted to say thanks for all the comments and all the stories shared. I was really on the fence about posting this particular journal excerpt, but you all made me glad I did.

  9. I was not happy when I got my first period. I thought "Great. Now I have THIS to deal with for the rest of my life!" I told my mother about it "just because" and her ELATED reaction - complete with calling my dad and squealing on the phone - did nothing to help my mood!