My daughter, her first day of menstruation, her sexuality and her life.
You started your menstruation today. I know it is painful and difficult for you today, but I trust you will adjust well. I am there for you. I am glad you chose me to be your friend on this journey. I am not surprised that you knew about menstruation. It's just that knowing the right thing is essential so that you are not misinformed about all kinds of bodily changes you will observe in the near future.
At a personal level, I am happy to see you and your body grow. It's a healthy sign. It's a nice feeling to see you bloom into a youthful girl brimming with enthusiasm and life.
Remember, nothing changes in your life, though. You play and run, you eat and have fun the way you have been doing. Maintain good hygiene habits and change your sanitary pad when needed. If you want to wear a white dress, go ahead. You may encounter an instance or two where you may find that you have stained your skirt or your legging. That's just an accident, and I expect you to walk to the washroom and change, come back, and resume what you were doing. This is NORMAL. There can be an instance where you will not feel very well due to cramps in your lower abdomen. If someone (you are answerable to) asks you, you don't need to lie. You can look into the eyes and say - 'I started my periods today and having painful cramps. I just need some rest, and I will be fine.' You have to be comfortable with the changes that will come because they are normal, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about or to hide. That normalcy starts with you. I repeat, NOTHING CHANGES.
I also think it's a good time to introduce the 'bra' to you- A bra or brassiere is a form-fitting undergarment designed to support a woman's breasts. I read that 'bras are not anatomically required to support breasts, but are worn in response to cultural influences.' If you ask me, I think it's good to wear a well-fitting bra to support your breasts. Also, since you are a basketball player, a sports bra would be good. They are specially designed to support your breasts ALL the way around, making sure they are secure and your skin can breathe. Initially, you may feel very uncomfortable with it. Yeah! It tightens around your breasts, and you will feel the need to itch every now and then. The trick is -Give it Time. You will soon appreciate it.
Your body changes will be accompanied by a lot more changes at the feelings and emotions level. There is no bra to support you there or a sanitary napkin to soak up your distress. You may be wondering what changes I am referring to. I am sure some of you must be currently observing, and some will come shortly. And the biggest being
- You will fall in love every day- NORMAL.
Every love song will make you go crazy. You will feel fuzzy and excited when you see that handsome boy in your school or your favorite actor. NORMAL. :) Just understand that liking someone or having an 'actor' crush is fine. Committing to a serious relationship with someone is different. You will feel that ‘LOVE’ is happening to you here, there, and everywhere, but that’s not true. These are highly fleeting and transitory feelings associated with your age and will disappear once you see another handsome guy. Don’t trust these feelings too much. Let them COME and GO.
- Your friends will become your world, and your parents will stand at the periphery-NORMAL.
At this stage, you may think that your friends understand and relate to you more than anybody on this planet. You will share and confide in them and spend a lot of your time and energy on them. Fair. Friendship is a beautiful relationship and needs to be earned. Earning one friend in the true sense of the word is a lifetime achievement. I am glad you have good friends around. You need to keep in mind that they are but all of your age and with your level of maturity and an understanding of the world. That may not necessarily be to the best of your interest. We are there too. I hope Daddy and I have been able to establish some trust and transparency. I expect you to come to us and talk out much the same way you do with your friends. We are there to listen and guide.
- Parental conflict will increase- NORMAL.
Despite all our efforts to be your 'best friend’ many times, nothing we say will make sense to you. On some occasions, you will absolutely dislike what your parents think or say; you will hate them for being your parents; you will defy restrictions and want to rebel at every NO. There will be mood swings too. Chances are there that you will have lots of them. Sometimes it will be the hormone and sometimes the life events. It's not easy balancing academics, parental expectations, peer pressure, cultural norms, the umpteen yes and no list from parents, and your own WILL. FAIR. In all this chaos, you will see us standing right beside you. We understand, for we have fought this ‘parental battle’ and know how it is.
- You would be tempted to take risks of all kinds-NORMAL.
But I want you to understand that not all risks are worth taking—especially the ones related to SPEED, HEIGHT, and DEPTH. Just to conform to peer pressure or to appear COOL before them, I think it’s foolishness to drive at speed, not follow traffic rules, go to the edge of the cliff to take a dangerous selfie, or plunge into the ocean and try to ride the waves when you don’t even know how to swim. My love, these three things involve danger to LIFE, and there is no fun in playing with LIFE. Always be cautious of these stunts and what it entails.
'Try it once' will happen to you- your friends will say who are smoking, drinking, or taking drugs. NORMAL.
What do you do then? I tried cigarettes once and vomited after the first shot. The beer tastes awful (actually, alcohol tastes pathetic. I wonder why people drink?), and I never did drugs. It's tempting to give that 'one tree.' Go ahead if you feel you want to. But, But, but... I always went back to my father, your grandfather, and shared with him what I was up to. He asked me why I tried and what I intend to do now? I told him- 'They forced me, but I didn't like it.'
You know what your grandfather said- ' Life will force you into many things. You cave in, or you don't define how strong you are as a person. Smoking, alcohol, and drugs (unless prescribed by a physician) are a bane to life. It's easy to start and difficult to let go here. Also, don't forget, you are known by the company you keep. Keep a company which inspires you towards LIFE and not takes you away from it.'
I never touched the cigarette after that. I wanted to be a strong girl who is not influenced by - 'Common you, try it once.'
So, dear love, REFRAIN. It takes away your most precious thing from you- LIFE. Later in life, if you wish to enjoy a glass of red wine, ensure you are in the right company and with people who care about you. Most importantly, know your limits. Drink with elegance and grace, and dignity. Everyone knows how to vomit after drinking irresponsibly. Hahahaha. Smoking and Drugs are a big NO. It only destroys. Don't even try. And if you land up trying once, come to me. We will talk. Being safe is essential for all of us.
- You will also go through periods of sexual arousal and may feel like getting intimate with someone- NORMAL.
Should you commit to a serious relationship? Should you get physically intimate or emotionally close to that special someone? Some researchers have found out that more people now believe that sexual intercourse before marriage is alright as long as you are emotionally committed to each other. At face value, it looks fair, but to me, it is irresponsible. Committing to a relationship and entering into sexual intimacy is a big step. It can lead to teenage pregnancy and parenthood. Do you think you are ready or will be prepared in the near future for such responsibility? To me, sorting out your career should be a priority. Once that is sorted out, you are better positioned' situation-wise' and 'age-wise' to make relationship decisions.
Sexual intimacy also comes with risks of STDs- Sexually Transmitted Diseases. By far, the most serious STD is AIDS. Researchers have found that AIDS symptoms typically do not emerge until 8-10 years after infection with HIV, and they found that most cases originate during adolescence. There are extremely dangerous diseases associated with oral sex, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. I do not see any reason why you should put yourself at risk at all. We may talk further about this when you are free.
- You may feel inadequate with YOURSELF-NORMAL.
Peer pressure will make things worse. You may desire a fairer complexion, a little more height, those well-shaped lips, or curved eyebrows. Try not to be dissatisfied with your body image. If you are 5'5 in height or have a wheatish complexion, that’s what you are. You cannot stretch yourself to become 5”8 or scrub yourself to become ‘Fair and Lovely.’ One of the biggest learning here is to be comfortable with what you are and who you are. I never compare you to anyone. Why should you? You are born unique. Do not live your life a photocopy of someone else. Capitalize on your strengths and work on your weaknesses only to grow in life, not to become like someone else. Appreciate and respect what you see in the mirror. This race is a futile one anyways because there will always be someone better than you. Much the same way, there will be millions who be yearning to have a life like yours. And if all this effort is for the sake of someone liking you, then RAISE AN ALARM. The foundation of a relationship of any kind should be with the ‘person,’ not how the person looks. Only then is the relationship sustainable.
Beauty fades with time ...the person only grows better with time. In confusion, come back to your loved ones, and that’s where you will know just how beautiful and priceless you are.
- You will feel confused and stressed about balancing academics and life-NORMAL.
A strong distraction or a passion will help you channel your attention and energy more purposefully. Your tennis game, your piano lessons, your love for writing stories, your eagerness to solve mathematical questions...I see a lot of potential in developing these and reaching newer heights in your chosen passion.
There is but one thing that I want to end this letter with. With these changes, you need to become responsible and respectful towards your body and the feelings that shall accompany it. I know how you feel right now and would think in the coming years. I have been there, and I went through exactly what you are going through right now.
Sway, you will but don't wander away. Step outside and see the world and come back home. Not everything needs to be experienced right away. Make informed choices. In the end, I shall not dictate what you should do, or you should not do. I shall only guide and make you aware of the consequences each choice brings. In the end, it will be your decision, and I am sure you will make the right choices. And if you really feel you have a special someone in your life, I would like to meet him.
Daddy wants to talk to you. Go and share your feelings with him. He is there to listen and care.
Expecting a 'responsible' you…with love always.
And ya...I know I have written a long letter, but I am sure you will always read it. I am proud of this 'letter connect' between us. Also, you wanted to get your arms and legs waxed. While I don't see too much hair right now, if you really want it to feel neat, go ahead. I remember how I waited eagerly to start college to finally get a razor and shave it all off. My mum, your granny, was so against it and I use to feel so angry. I don't think it is a battle worth fighting. And don't forget to wear the best makeup- your positive attitude and that smile. That's all you truly need.
Adolescence is a beautiful and exciting phase to be in. But it is also a stage of confusion, distraction, and stress. There are hormones in your body that will play gimmicks, and you have to take it all in your stride. You will now experience the time of deeper valleys and higher peaks, and I am there with you, for I have gone through it myself.