First period: everyone knew I was bleeding

First period: everyone knew I was bleeding

My mother invited all my relatives and neighbours to celebrate my first period. I was a shy 11-year-old when I had my first period. I didn’t want the world to know that I was bleeding. But everybody knew. I was confused and embarrassed.

Shashi Mehta is a 25-year-old media worker in Bangalore. Her story is part of our First Times series.

It was my mom who broke the news to me that I had got my first period. She was doing laundry that day and she had seen blood stains on my underwear. She called me and said, “You’ve become a woman now. There’s nothing to worry. It’s natural.”

After a while she told me that everyone in the family had to be informed of the good news. Before I could object to the idea, she picked up the phone and began telling family and friends that I was now ‘mature.’ Then to my surprise she invited a lot of her friends, neighbours and relatives home to ‘celebrate the moment.’

My mom told me, “That’s how it’s done traditionally in a Tamil Brahmin family. It’s auspicious when a girl gets her first period. And good news must be shared. For about three days, you can skip school because we’ll have a few rituals and a ceremony at home.”

For the next couple of days, my home was flooded with visitors. They were getting me gifts. My mom had dressed me up like a princess! I felt utterly stupid being the centre of attraction, receiving compliments from people about how pretty I looked that day.

I just wanted to be left alone to be able to deal with this change in my body. But I had no time by myself. The thought that I was in a roomful of people who knew about my period made me very uncomfortable. Something very private to me was now so public.

But there was no one I could speak to about this. I tried asking my mom if there was a way out of it. But she was offended. “Stop acting like a little kid. You’re grown up now. Every woman has period and there’s nothing wrong with people knowing about it,” she told me.

For a long time afterwards, I felt awkward meeting those people, who were present at the ceremony during my first period. When I look back at those days, I only remember the experience as traumatic and impersonal.

Instead of letting me cope with a huge change in my life calmly, I was pushed into making the news public. It wasn’t as though it was an easy situation by itself, but the whole approach just made it worse for me. If I ever have a daughter, I’ll let her decide what she does when she gets her period!

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