The Story about My Menstruation
January 2, 2013

I have a confession to make. This is something that I usually avoid discussing with people, but lately I’ve had a lingering question that rose after reading a book. It’s a graphic novel titled “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel. Although only in a small portion, Bechdel mentions several times about menopause. Suddenly I have a fear of menopause.

You see, when I was young my parents indulged me with food. When I was five or six KFC had just developed several franchisees in the country. It was pretty much the first fast food joint to be established on where I lived, and everyone was hyped. Apparently, I’d loved KFC so much that Dad brought it home nearly everyday.

I was in second grade when I arrived home, went into the bedroom I shared with my elder sister, and she immediately pointed to between my legs yelling, “There’s red on your panties!” I looked down and, sure there was, a big red stain.

At an age that young, I did not understand the concept of “menstruation” or why I should keep it secretive from male friends. I was actually proud that I had something that seemed unique – none of my friends, not even my sister, had had period – and even more, that everyone seemed to treat me specially when it came to the menstruation topic, so I talked about it with my female friends. Four years later, I’d had a girl asked me in the washroom if it was true that I got my first menstruation when I was in third grade. Ashamed enough to have it at a young age and to have an acquaintance asked about it, I didn’t correct her that I actually got it a year earlier. After that incident, I stopped talking about my first menstruation with anyone. Actually, I barely talk about my periods, but it’s only because unlike my friends who have it rough – accompanied with cramps, physical exhaustion, mood swings, unsteady flux and a boost in appetite – my periods are normal, if not barely noticeable apart from the appearance of blood. The fact that my periods have been pain free and unobstructed in flux is the only thing I appreciate.

To this day, even though I feel deep guilt whenever I thought about this, I’ve been blaming my parents for my early menstruation. I blamed them that I am now the shortest in the family. I used to blame them that I’m overweight, but I’ve accepted it now because I realized that I could fix it. Height isn’t something I can fix. I truly wish I were taller. I’m working on this issue with myself right now.

Anyway. It was not until I was in either fourth or fifth grade when an optometrist, noticing my unusual height (I had a growth spurt from second grade to seventh grade and stopped growing pretty much since), suggested that my parents brought me to a hormone doctor. I remembered that his last name was Batubara (it means “coal”). He examined my breasts for several minutes and then asked Dad and I to wait outside so that he could have a talk with Mom. During the examination, however, he remarked that it had been too late to make any corrective attempts.

I never got to hear his full explanation since my parents never brought it up anymore. I never asked too. I never had a concern about it until lately. The only question I’ve asked my Mom when I was in high school was, “Had I got menstruation at the proper age, would I have been taller now?” She looked at me for a moment. I can’t remember if she looked surprised, but I remember getting a vibe that it wasn’t something she’d like to talk about. I can’t even remember if she looked at me while answering or looked away, but she said, “Maybe.” After that, I avoid bringing up the issue with Mom again. However, that one remark by the doctor alone is enough to fuel the blame on my parents, that had they brought me to a professional earlier, I might have been “corrected.”

This issue had been forgotten during the last years, but now that I’m reading this graphic novel, I’m reminded about it again. I start questioning if I’ll get menopause earlier. I learned that girls usually get their first periods around thirteen years old. If I had mine six years earlier, wouldn’t that mean menopause would also come six years earlier too? Will I get menopause when I’m in the early forties, or even perhaps in the late thirties?

Furthermore, is it too late if there ever comes a time when I want to have my own children? Will the any remaining ova I have be qualified enough?

The only thing I want now is to have a talk with Mom about what the doctor had said, to know the truth about what had happened to me instead of suspecting possibilities. I can’t do it now, though, because I’m far away from home and this is not something I feel like discussing on BBM or through Skype. I want a face-to-face conversation. A real, serious talk.

***

I wasn’t planning to write this too, but it came up to me suddenly and I wondered about it.

Last year my family (parents and aunt) were talking about my 10-year-old cousin who Mom suspected was going to get her first menstruation soon. She said that if so, my cousin would not be able to grow taller much more. Dad then said that it was possible, if my aunt was willing to do it, to bring my cousin to a hormone doctor and have her menstruation delayed so that she could still grow taller.

I wonder if he learned about that from Mom.

I asked him spontaneously if it could also make me taller. He commented casually that it was what we could have done if it weren’t too late.

I wonder if he ever felt guilty about it.

My aunt and Mom became silent afterwards and they moved to a different topic. I’m sure that what happened to me has been a common knowledge to my extended family that is uncomfortable to discuss, but thankfully have been learned. They must have learned not to do as what my parents did, not to feed their children fast food. I would probably become a legend in the family, the girl who had her menstruation too early, a valid character whose story would be told over and over again to new mothers and later generations as some sort of a “health warning.” I’m a living proof of it.

(P.S.: I’m reading a book titled “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser. I must be the gladdest person to know that health warnings about fast food on children have risen these days)

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Cold Dinner… Not Nice.
July 18, 2010

Tonight I had a cold family dinner. A freezing one. It was so chilling I didn’t even dare to position my chair and only exchanged a few lines with my Mom. The menu was my choice – Pizza Hut, my fave meal – yet it didn’t taste as nice as I remember. Probably due to the coldness.

It started with everyone going to the dining table. I was in the bathroom, washing my hands with the door wide open, so I could hear a little bit of the conversation. Dad called my sister and asked her whether she could become a mentor.

“Mentor?” My sister repeated in a high toned voice. The rest was unclear. My notion was that it has something to do with my sister’s dog knocking Dad’s guitar down, but it heard quite flowing and friendly as usual.

Then after my sister, Mom, and I sat around the tables – still with the usual manners – Dad kind of asking my sister whether she realized that her tone just now was not nice. She answered him by saying that she was surprised, but he insisted that her tone was that of emotions. His face really showed that he was not happy. The kind of expression we (the ladies) alerted. I tried to ‘extinguish the fire’ (not yet the icy situation) by joking that Dad has a pile of plate in front of him but he still took one from the kitchen. No good response.

His speech continued in repeating his wanting to leave home and go somewhere away (I thought, well just go then). Several times. Then about how he felt this house lack good communication (it’s partly your fault). Well, I wasn’t playing the so-nice daughter (regarding my thoughts), so just guess how much I was surprised when he said that the only person in this house he can have a nice conversation with is… ME!!

Wow. I mean, Wow.

At the moment, I froze on my chair.

Me, after some heart-aching conversations (my heart, that is). And after my failed temporary pledge not to speak to him anymore (I pledged against my sister as well). I thought he’d be mad at me (I don’t know about his heart). Maybe I was wrong all this time.

But afterwards, the whole table was filled with complete silence. Probably the most silent family dinner I’ve ever been in.

I had no courage to speak. Partly because of the expression on Dad’s face, and also since I was afraid my sister would think that I was taking it as a compliment and tried to suck up. So after minutes of painstaking silence, I talked to my Mom and she answered, but that was it. It was probably the kind of situation Jodi Picoult described in her novel Mercy as ‘a viscous wall among us’ (I changed the sentence to fit my story).

Dad finished early and went back to TV (I know he would never finish early, not when there’s a box of pizza on the table). Some moments later my sister went upstairs to her room with the dog (good companion for hard times). I was left with my Mom. I asked her if I could take the last piece of personal-sized pizza. She reprimanded me.

So… after Mom finished cleaning up the table, I went upstairs too. And wrote this down.

So Sleepy…
October 9, 2009

I’m damn sleepy.

I wanna go ASAP

To the nicest,

Coziest place in the world

My bed

Lucky I’m home