Rites of Passage
It’s funny, the things you remember about adolescence.
When I was in fifth or sixth grade we learned about the process of menstruation via educational video in health class. Other kids giggled and squirmed. I fell off my desk, passed out cold.
Nothing adds to the general embarrassment of co-ed health classes like your male volleyball coach/health teacher frequently pausing in the middle of relaying some new horror that awaited our young bodies to call out “Sarah?! You ok? Don’t forget to let me know if you’re going to faint!” I mean, good on him I guess, but nothing made me blush faster.
I also remember being MORTIFIED by my well-intentioned mom waving a stick of deodorant at me from across the room while I waited to be called up to the beam at a gymnastics competition. I was, undoubtedly, already sweating through my unforgiving purple, wedgie-inducing gymsuit, just like I sweated through every other garment that came within an inch of my armpits.
When a friend and I got our periods, our moms took us out to a tea room for a little rite of passage acknowledging the start of our move towards womanhood. I was a little conflicted about going, as I felt a bit icky and scared about the whole shedding blood from the uterus thing (see above fainting spell). But on the other hand: scones with cream and jam! I’m so grateful our moms did that for us. That fancy afternoon tea helped make the metamorphosis seem a little less like something to fear and more like something to celebrate.
When I let a babysitter pluck my eyebrows, I remember being elated/terrified, thinking my parents would be furious with me, but that now kids at school would have to stop referring to me as “unibrow.”
I remember scribbling angrily in my heart-covered, generic-locked diary after fighting with my parents, and thinking: “I’ll never forget what this feels like when I’m an adult. I’ll make sure I remember so if I have kids, I’ll understand. I’ll acknowledge what they’re going through.”
And I vividly recall staring at my sweet little brother (5 years my junior) in the car on a family trip and wondering why I couldn’t go back to being like him: happy and goofy, with smooth skin and a cute little baby nose, while simultaneously being unreasonably aggravated by every damn thing he did.
I didn’t understand why I felt so mean so much of the time, why family trips made me want to kill all the things.
I felt like a freak and I worried I’d never feel normal again.
Looking back I realize that if I, a healthy, well-loved girl with strong role models felt so confused and alone with the constant thunderstorm of emotion that accompanied those years, it must have been a nightmare for kids who didn’t have all the advantages I enjoyed.
I think about that a lot when I’m working with my pals at Mother Nature Partnership, about how much worse the confusion/shame I felt could have been if I hadn’t had access to the (albeit faint-inducing) education I did around puberty and
And I think about how much better it could have been if I had realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling mean and confused, if I’d had a better understanding of exactly how much my hormones were affecting my emotions as well as my body.
And I think about how much better the beginning of the transition from child to adult could be if we had better support systems in place to celebrate, educate and demystify the whole process, and especially to let girls know that they don’t need to feel like freaks along the way, that they’re not going through it alone.
Which is why I love the concept behind this weekend’s G Day Toronto event.
G Day was created by the wonderful Madeleine Shaw (founder of Lunapads!) as a way to give girls the celebration she felt was missing from her own adolescence. The Toronto event will feature a diverse lineup of workshops for both Girls and the adults who support them (aka: Champions). Girls will connect with themselves and each other through movement, art, yoga, meditation, and inspiring presentations on sisterhood, women in technology, loving your body, and more. Champions will learn strategies for communicating with adolescents, balancing stress in family life, and promoting self-esteem in adolescent girls.
How beautiful is that?
For more information on this fantastic event, or to purchase tickets, click here. Metamorphocity readers will receive 20% off the ticket price by using the following codes at checkout:
TOBLOG20G – code for girl tickets
TOBLOG20C – code for champion tickets (parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts & uncles, etc.)
What do you remember about adolescence? Did you have some kind of celebration or rite of passage, or did you just figure it out as you went along? Let me know in the comments!