A few days ago, while cleaning out a drawer (that was in bad need of decluttering), I came across an old item that I had long ago forgotten I had. I looked at it and smiled. Then I laughed. Then I had a strange sentimental feeling of sadness come over me. Then I began questioning my sanity as to why I kept this particular item.
The item I found was an old pamphlet (or maybe brochure is the proper term) given to me by my mother when I was a young girl. There is no date on this pamphlet but I’m pretty sure it was printed in the early 1960s. The name of the pamphlet is it’s time you knew…. all about menstruation. I googled it to see if I could find a date and was shocked I actually found the darn thing on the Internet. By the way, did you know there is a website called Museum of Menstruation & Women’s Health? I sure didn’t. No, I’m not kidding, there really is such a thing. It shows this pamphlet and another edition made in 1966. The booklet I have is all in black and white and I clearly remember the day my mother handed it to me and suggested I read it. I was about 8 or 9. My mother and I had already had “the talk” (that happens when you have older sisters) but I guess this booklet was her addendum.
I remember having friends whose mother’s didn’t have “the talk” with them. I remember hearing tales of girls getting their first menstrual period and how they were unprepared and left totally in the dark to figure it all out on their own, or how they were horrified because they thought they were bleeding to death and that something was terribly wrong. My mother told me her mother was one of those girls. Her first menses came at a young age and her mother had not gotten around to preparing her. She told my mother that seeing that blood really frightened her. My mother wanted to make sure her daughters were prepared. And so she talked to all three of us and prepared us well. I guess I always thought my mother had the talk with me at perhaps too young an age, but in hindsight, I was glad she did because I was an early bloomer. I guess I never really understood mothers not having that talk with their daughter simply because they were too embarrassed.
I think I probably kept this pamphlet thinking one day I would have a daughter to give it to. That daughter never came and I had two sons. And this brochure has been tucked away in a drawer for almost 50 years. Crazy, huh?
I got quite a laugh while reading this antiquated brochure. After reading the first paragraph on the next to the last page, I realized how “out of date” it was.
The first commercially produced sanitary pads or napkins were marketed after World War I. They’ve changed in size and shape, but essentially the same kind of pad is still in use today–an absorbent material held in place externally by means of a sanitary belt.
If my memory serves me correct, sanitary belts stopped being used in the early 1970s (and I remember thanking the Good Lord that I didn’t have to wear those things very long). Sanitary napkins with the adhesive strip came on the scene about that time (and what a revolution that was—Goodbye awkward and uncomfortable belt!) but that was obviously after this booklet was printed.
Finding this brochure conjured up memories of adolescence and puberty. I remember 6th grade when they separated the girls from the boys and herded the girls down to the cafeteria where we were shown a menstruation filmstrip on the stage. I still wonder where the boys went and what they talked about. Did they have to watch a film also?
I remember a neighborhood girlfriend and I reading this brochure and other books on menstruation we would check out from the library. I remember us wondering aloud why all female organs seemed to always be compared to food items– ovaries were “the size of almonds,” the uterus was about “the size of a pear” and also pear-shaped, etc. I remember us reading about sanitary napkins marketed for young girls put out my Modess and one book describing those saying: “modess rhymes with oh yes.” My friend and I literally still laughed at that from time to time until the day she died three years ago. Sometimes out of the blue (it didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing, she would lean over and whisper to me, “It rhymes with oh yes!”). That always got us laughing. We also still laughed about the time we, as young girls, gathered up quite a collection of different brands of tampons. We had OB tampons, Pursettes, Rely tampons and a variety of Tampax tampons —junior, regular, super and super plus absorbent, with and without applicators, plastic applicators and cardboard applicators. We took them to her house (where she lived with her grandmother) and went promptly and quietly into the hall bathroom, locked the door behind us and proceeded to fill up the bathroom sink with water. As my friend’s grandmother knocked on the door repeatedly asking us what in the world we were doing (because she could hear our hysterical squeals of laughter), one by one, we opened the various tampons and dropped them into the basin of water. Believe me, this little experiment of ours could have won first place at any science fair— hands down. One tampon in particular (I think it was the Rely brand that was taken off the market in 1980 due to Toxic Shock Syndrome), darn near exploded once it hit the water. What was left was something that resembled a Goodyear blimp. I’ll never forget my friend yelling, “GOOD NIGHT! DID YOU SEE THAT?!” And again her grandmother rapping on the bathroom door. We laughed until our sides ached and we had tears streaming down our face. I always wondered what my friend’s grandmother thought when she later walked into the bathroom and looked into the trashcan to find a dozen or more sopping wet blown up tampons. Oh, the things curious little pre-pubescent girls will do!
Hard as I tried, I couldn’t throw the old menstrual brochure away which made me think I need to go running to the nearest psychologist to have my head examined. What can I say? I’ve always been a sentimental junkie.
Have you ever found something in a drawer and wondered why in the world you kept it?
My mother died when I was five. When menses started at the age of ten, I had no idea what it was. I thought I had some form of sickness, and kept washing my self. After a period of three months an aunt came to visit. She told me all about it. If she hadn’t come I would have been changing under wears, and spending time in the bathroom washing all the time.
That must have been so scary for a ten your old little girl. I’m glad your aunt came to help you. Thanks for sharing.