The sad demise of Lane Pryce isn’t the only momentous event that happened on Sunday’s penultimate episode of Mad Men. Sally Draper “became a woman”–got her period–while on a date at a New York City museum with her creepy friend Glen. Upon feeling a little sick and discovering blood on a trip to the bathroom, a panicked Sally fled, taking a $25 cab ride back to the ‘burbs and her mother, a surprisingly compassionate Betty. Some folks, like over at The Frisky, are comparing Sally’s experience to that of Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones. The recent emergence of Sansa’s “red flower” (I suppose that’s how they talk on GoT) resulted in a stabbing of bed sheets. These dramatic portrayals of first menses led one commenter on Television Without Pity to lament that she wished men would quit writing these unrealistic scenes. Others countered that having your first period is sort of dramatic. It seems that how you judge the realism of fictional female puberty has a lot to do with your own experience.
Thank God for Judy Blume. I came of age when most every little girl I knew was devouring her books, including Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret, which follows a sixth-grader as she explores religion and puberty. (Blume would later introduce us to sex with the scandalous Forever. The book was released in 1970–four years after fictional Sally Draper got her period and about 11 years before I got mine. I think post-Are you there, God?, post-Our Bodies, Ourselves, and post women’s movement, female puberty was less mysterious and frightening to those of us who were to live through it. By the sixth grade, I had chanted “We must…we must…we must increase our bust!” with Blume’s Margaret. I had listened to Diana Ross sing “When We Grow Up” on the Free to be You and Me album. I had sat through one of those painful girls-only info sessions in the school gym. And I had gotten “the talk” from my mother. I kinda knew what was coming and was okay with it.
When I found my period had started, one weekday evening while running errands with my mother and grandmother, I didn’t even bother to mention it until later at home. I wasn’t embarrassed about menstruation, but more the idea of everyone making a big deal about it.
That’s my story. No frightened cab rides or rending of linen. But the era in which a woman grows up (I happened to come of age in the love-your-body 70s) and how openly her parents feel about reproduction can make a difference in how smoothly the transition from childhood to young womanhood progresses.
What’s your first period story? It is dramatic, frightening or mundane like mine?