After a year of accumulating fat across my body, I woke up to a lousy surprise on my 10th birthday: my first menstrual period. Crampy and irritable, I went to alert my mom of the surprise the uterus fairy left on my sheets. I had read about this before in my "Care and Keeping Of You" American Girl book (huge shout-out, by the way). But, it was so much worse than expected. At 10 years old, I wasn’t ready to pack my toys away just yet. I couldn’t fathom how my childhood could be over so soon; it was stripped away from me the moment my mother gave me my first menstrual pad. Turns out, I had much more to learn:
Sex Ed is taught too early for you.
Since nobody wears a bra in the fourth grade (except me), my elementary school didn’t bother to teach us about the inevitable changes that would sucker-punch our bodies. It wasn’t until eight months after I started my period that my middle school gym class taught students about adolescent maturation. I don’t blame them for teaching us about puberty in the fifth grade because only a few of us actually started popping out eggs and sperm before then.
People feel uncomfortable around you.
On my 11th birthday, I overheard my aunt telling my mom “she’s not supposed to have boobs yet, she’s eleven!” I was immediately struck with shame; why couldn’t my body look like the girls my age? Waitstaff stopped handing me the children’s menu and were stunned when I told them that I was too young for the adult menu. When you’re technically a child that looks 4 years older, people see you as an oddity.
You’re a creep magnet.
While teachers and relatives have a hard time looking at you, older men do not. I remember dining at a restaurant when I was 12, and my grandmother asking me to switch sides with her at our table. I later found out that three gentlemen in their late fifties had been gawking at me from their bar stools. I felt defiled; my body was on display and it was the first time I had witnessed this type of sexual attention.
Finding clothes to wear is impossible.
Shopping for clothes with my mother was like landing on Normandy Beach. While shirts and jeans in my age range were too small, anything that fit my body was deemed “too adult” for my mother. While shirts at Aeropostale made my chest too voluptuous, I was still desperate to deflect any and all eyes. Naturally, this caused apocalyptic screaming matches in dressing rooms statewide. Even shirts that didn’t hug my curves were often too low cut due to shopping in the Misses section. I could not win with my breasts (and still have not to this day)
You get involved with guys at an early age.
Around the time I was 13 was when my growth began to slow down, a phase that many girls hit at 15 or 16. Mentally, I felt mature enough to handle a relationship (and the making out that came with it). I was still in middle school, so this posed a problem for me to get this around my parents. It involved a lot of sneaking around, which becomes a cycle when you learn to manipulate the system well enough. I’m awfully surprised that my parents did not send me to some child labor camp from the ages of 12-14.
But ultimately, you become a well-rounded adult.
Once I hit about 16 years old, my adolescent hormones had just settled down. My doctor said that I had ‘a full adult body’ now, and I definitely felt it. I began to focus more on my future by doing extracurriculars involved in health care. My grades improved, and I was not sneaking around any more. I believe that going through puberty at a young age has made me a more responsible college student and gave me an extra boost in my reasoning skills. It also gave me a lot of experience and self-awareness, which I may not have gotten if I hadn’t been blessed by the uterus fairy at 10 years old.