Why my menarche celebration is an embarrassing memory I want to forget - A personal account

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I can still recount the incident vividly. It was a Saturday afternoon when I was chilling at home after a half-day at school. Suddenly, I felt a sting in my lower belly. When I peed I saw some blood and low-key freaked out. But I was not entirely dumb and immediately knew what was happening to my body and calmly went out of the bathroom and told my mother what happened. 

 

My mum had gasped at first, with shock clearly washing all over her. Of course, I was only in class 6 then and it was very uncommon for girls to hit puberty so early back then. She was clearly upset that people were going to be judgemental about my menarche as if I had committed a crime. Then immediately after that, she broke into a myriad of emotions ranging from happy to excited to stressed about planning the ‘puberty function’   

 

My mum never took out the time to explain what was going to happen hereafter or how I should take care of my body. I remember her just awkwardly teaching me how to wear a pad and went about calling family members and relatives to inform them that I had ‘attained fertility’. She explained that we were going to host a ‘Puberty function’ where we’d rent a hall and invite some 100 people, make me sit on the stage and perform ‘nalangu’ (a blessing ritual where elders smear sandal on the girl’s cheeks and shower flowers) I was bewildered at the thought of such a thing, cried my eyes out and protested. 

 

Finally, my mum agreed to do a low-key ceremony at home where 50 aunties and uncles whom I had not met since I was 5 were grinning at me creepily (apparently that’s a way of acknowledging that I had turned into a woman and I was supposed to feel shy). What’s agonizing is the fact that these puberty functions in South Indian households last for 7 days. 7 days! An entire week I had to sit through partial strangers smearing sandal on my cheeks (also pinching it in a teasing way, ugh), do embarrassing slow walks around the kolam (a drawing on the floor using rice powder) with a lamp in my hand, oh and here’s the best part - I had to do it all in sarees. Who on earth thought it was a good idea to burden teenage girls with silk sarees when they were already dealing with such a huge phenomenon in their lives? As if I was supposed to suddenly feel womanly the day I hit puberty.

Though it has been more than a decade since it happened, the entire episode was a blur and a memory I cringe at to this date. I wish my mum had bought me lots of chocolates, ice cream, junk food, had ‘the talk’, and helped me transition smoothly into this new phase. Guess that just happens in Hollywood movies... Sigh!

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