“Do you think anyone can tell?” I asked, looking down at my bathing suit.
My best friend Karen scrutinized me from behind. “Yup. They will DEFINITELY notice. You’re wearing a maxi-pad the size of a telephone book.”
“Yep. Plus, the wings are sticking out.”
I was beyond disappointed.
Karen and I were at our friend Michelle’s house. She was having a pool party, and of course, I’d been blessed with what every thirteen-year-old begs for until they actually get it.
For the first few months after “becoming a woman,” I’d thought I was just crapping my pants. My dad, who took care of the family laundry, had eventually become concerned and informed my mom, who in turn had spoken to me. Since then, I’d been stuffing my underwear with a teen-sized diaper so I could carry on with my normal activity.
Except “normal activity” did not appear to include pool parties.
“So I can’t just wear a pad?” I asked Karen. I was desperate.
“No way,” she said. “Michelle wore one last year, and it fell out of her swimsuit, and everyone knew it was hers.” We fell silent, picturing the soggy source of shame floating past all our peers. Karen thought for a second and suggested, “Why don’t you use a tampon?”
The idea of sticking a cotton swab the size of a coin roll in my lady parts almost made me faint. But Craig Costello was at the pool party. Craig had a gelled mushroom haircut, wore Big Johnson t-shirts ironically, and looked like Zach Morris from Saved by the Bell. Naturally, he was the dreamboat of seventh grade.
If Craig was going to be at Michelle’s pool party, I was going to be at Michelle’s pool party, and not just sitting on the side of the pool, pretending to have a stomachache. I needed to figure out this tampon thing.
While Karen waited on the other side of the door, I stood in Michelle’s bathroom, staring at the box of tampons I’d found under the sink. Then I scrunched up my shoulders, placed my leg on the toilet seat, and tried to stick one up inside me.
It made it about one centimeter.
Done! I threw my bathing suit back on and opened the door.
“It looks like you have a penis,” Karen said helpfully.
Ugh. Back to square one.
I unwrapped a new tampon, and tried again, but the combination of being super-tense and not being able to see a goddamn thing made the whole operation futile. One by one the tampons plopped out of me, turning the beige bathmat into what looked like a crime scene.
The sounds of kids splashing and laughing outside made me anxious. Karen scratched at the door. “Are you almost done? This is boring.”
Determined, I contorted myself like I was playing Twister (with every hand on ‘red’). I threw my leg up on the countertop and tried to angle myself so I could see in the mirror above the sink.
Suddenly the door burst open. “Karen!” I shouted. “Get—”
Only it wasn’t Karen I found myself face-to-face with—it was Michelle’s dad. He involuntarily shrieked as I gurgled “GETOUFFBLARG!!!!”
The door slammed shut and I sat there dry-heaving in horror. I wanted to bang my head on the toilet until I was no longer conscious, but I was too afraid someone would see the blood from my head wound and think I went on a menstruation spree all over the bathroom.
When I resumed breathing, I chucked the used tampons in the trash, threw on my bathing suit, shorts, and phone book-sized maxi-pad, and ran outside. Michelle’s dad was barbecuing. I totally wanted some, but I was terrified that the hot dog, ketchup, or bun would give us both post-traumatic flashbacks.
Instead, I parked myself poolside. Dangling my feet in the water, I watched everyone else’s good time.
“Why aren’t you swimming?” everyone asked.
Craig Costello emerged from Michelle’s house, holding a stick with something dangling from it.
“Yo, dude, someone left their nasty bloody panties in the bathroom!”
He began to twirl the panties, while everyone squealed “Ewwwww!” and moved away. Next thing I knew, my underwear sailed past my head and landed in the center of the pool. All the kids jumped out, as if my panties were chum in shark-infested waters.
As my bloody underwear floated past, I thought about how lucky I was to be a woman.
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