I was a teenager in the 1960’s. We didn’t have sex education at primary school, and I’m not sure that we did at secondary school either, but somehow I had picked up the basic information that periods happen. My first period came when I was 14, and at school. It was very light, and I made a pad out of toilet paper as I wasn’t aware of any provision of help at school. When I got home I told my stepmother that I needed to buy some Dr. White’s, and walked round to the local supermarket to buy some. I think that must have been what my stepmother used, and I wasn’t aware of any alternatives. My stepmother’s response had been fairly muted, although there was a hint of recognition and connection – one of the few! I felt quite odd going to buy the sanitary towels, it felt a bit grown-up, but also a bit scary and alien at the same time.
The pads were very thick, with loops that fastened onto a thin belt that went round your waist. Not comfortable at all! My knowledge was incredibly limited, and I think it would have been really helpful to have been more aware of what was happening to my body, and why. In time I learned the amazing value of the menstrual cycle, but never got as far as celebrating it and that would have been such a powerful thing.Incidentally, when I was 13, a great aunt asked me if I had started to “mend straight”. I was baffled as I didn’t really do a lot of mending, and I only understood when she rephrased the question – I’d never heard the term menstruation, and I think she was trying to make it sound superior in some way, because she was uncomfortable talking about it.