(Note: This is not a post about "sex" or purity. This is a post about how my journey into puberty occurred. I'll get to the purity stuff later.)
Discretion vs. Simplemindedness
The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences (Proverbs 22:3)- Bill Gothard
My body started developing secondary sex traits very early. By the time I was ten, I had breast buds and needed a training bra. What might surprise some is the fact that my mother and father saw this and immediately set about taking me to the thrift store to find some training bras. Yes, much to my embarassmenmt, my father went along for the purchase. It was humiliating to have the entire family standing outside the fitting room while my mother handed bra after bra over the partition for me to try on. When I found one that fit, she loudly announced the size to my entire family so they could search the racks. It's one of the subtle hypocrisies of my family: your body was supposed to be a highly personal, spiritual thing, but because of reasons I'll state below, it wasn't kept private.
I also started having body odor and a need to shave my armpits a year later. This was problematic because, unless you were a boy, there wasn't room in the budget for antipersperant or razors. I realized that I smelled gamey so I took to stealing my mother's deodorant on the sly. The razors were a bit more difficult. My father ran the boys' lives like a prison warden. To get a new razor, they had to leave the used one on his sink. He would look it over and decide if it was dull enough to require a new one and then leave the new one in their plastic basket under the bathroom sink. They were in charge of their razors and since my father hated wasting money, they were encouraged to use them until it cut their faces from dullness. If they went through more than a certain quantity every month, it was discussed during family time.
I wasn't allowed, technically, to shave. Anything. My mother wasn't allowed to shave anything, either. Dad decreed that god put that hair on our bodies for a reason and he didn't see why women should shave at all. I always wanted to ask him why men should shave, then, given the biblical justification for growing a beard and applying the same standard of "God put it there" rationalization to men. I never did ask. I did, however, start sneaking razors from the homes of people we visited and I'd hide them around the house, in places most people wouldn't think to look. I just wasn't comfortable with having hair under my arms and, at a certain point, I didn't like it on my legs. When it started growing on my pelvic area, I was in a panic! That hair stood for something I didn't want to think about. It was an outward symbol that my childhood was coming to a close and in ATI-fundamental-QF circles, that had broader implications. Consequently, for about a year, I butchered my pubic hair in uneducated attempts to get rid of it. I plucked it. I shaved it. I did anything to try to stop it's inevitable appearance or spread. One afternoon, I hadn't been so careful after my shower and I left some of the evidence in the bottom of the bathtub. One of my brothers saw it and told my father. He punished me publicly with the "rod". I was humiliated.
My period started when I was thirteen. I had been feeling very crampy and grumpy for several days. It was so uncomfortable that I had told my mother I thought I was ill. I had snapped at a younger brother for something petty and my mom reminded me of the JOY principle. In our house, there was no room for PMS. That evening, when I was changing into my nightgown, I saw the blood in my underwear. Once again, panic set in. I had no older sisters and my mother's idea of educating me on my own body was limited to telling me the rudimentarily how babies were made. She'd neglected to tell me about how painful a period could be or how much blood there would be. I knew that periods existed because I'd seen her sanitary napkins and been with her when she bought them. I'd seen the calendar and the dots marking the start and end of her flow. I knew about planning intercourse around ovulation. It was the physical experience of it that had never been discussed. I shoved my dirty underwear in the fireplace when no one was looking and shoved tissue into my new undies to keep from telling anyone about my new "womanhood". I went to bed.
As you might guess, this didn't go well. When I woke up the next morning, my nightgown and bedsheet were bloody. I didn't have time to hide the evidence. My younger sister woke up and started screaming when she saw the blood. My father ran into our room and shook uncontrolably. Seeing the sheets, he assumed I'd "defiled my body". I am still shocked that this was his first impression. Rather than seeing his teenage daughter standing there in obvious shock and terror and putting two-and-two together, he assumed I'd somehow snuck someone into my room and had sex! My mother followed my sisters screams and my father's shouts into my room. She, fortunately, recognized the look of confusion on my face and calmed my father into reason. It was like a light switched on in his head and his mood changed in an instant. He was now congratulating me and smiling ear to ear. Telling me we'd have a "special lunch" later in the week to "celebrate". That was the last thing I wanted to do but I didn't have the strength to argue after the shock of the morning.
My mother helped me clean up and it was business as usual until that evening when my dad handed me a marker and proudly, almost, told me to mark the day on the calendar with a "pink dot". Mom's dots were red. I was horrified. He meant for me to keep track of this publicly? In front of my brothers? But what could I do except obey him and walk to the calendar to "place my dot of womanhood"? The following day, he and my mother took me out to lunch and explained menstruation to me. It was one of the most humiliating days of my life but it didn't stop at menstruation. I was subsequently informed of my status as a woman, now, and how I should start praying for the "one God had for me" and thinking about the type of mother I'd be.