yeah, you'd have given your eye teeth back in school to have looked as pretty as this girl
The years from thirteen to fifteen are the worst years in a girl’s life. Everything goes wrong. Nothing works like it should. Your legs go one way, your arms and head another. You trip over the mat, your feet, or nothing at all. You long to be a cheerleader, but without warning you’ve morphed into the town klutz. Strange and unkind things begin to happen to your body. You perspire and all the world can smell you. Your breath is rotten-apple fresh, your skin bumpy, and your hair stringy. You grow weird hairs in the strangest of places and nobody tells you to refrain from shaving your legs when they’re dry. Ouch.
When you’re pubescent, you get your period and nobody bothers to mention that it won’t go away after a day or two just because you’re bored with it. And you have to tell your mother that you started your period and need Kotex – the absotively-posilutely, most horribly embarrassingly awful conversation in the world – and you simply cannot, will not, say those humiliating words out loud so it goes something like this:
“Ma, I need … something.”
“What, dear? What do you need?” Mother is busy washing dishes and barely listens.
“Mouse mattresses.” This, coming from a joke you heard once.
“Yeah, you know- mouse mattresses.”
“Mouse… mattresses?!” Mother pauses, her hands still in the dish pan, and turns to look at you like you’ve got devils dancing on your head.
“You know…I got my… you know… mouse mattresses.” Your face and neck are beat red and you can’t meet her eyes.
“Mouse matt…oh! You mean feminine napkins! She pronounces it like she’s skipping along carrying a basket of flowers and singing a song of violets and daisies. You scream a little as she sweetly sings the horrid truth.
“Yes!” The admission kills you and you run screaming from the room to hide in your bedroom until it’s safe to come out again. Said mother goes out and buys you a box of Kotex and you look everywhere but at the box or your mother when she hands it to you.
That’s the same year you want so badly to start wearing a bra so when the family goes shopping for school clothes, you immediately locate the bra display and stand in front of it for as long as possible, hoping mother will notice. When she does and asks, “Do you want a bra this year?” you respond in your best rendition of studied nonchalance, “Well, I think I should. After all, everyone else is.” Inside your head you’re screaming with joy.
Puberty changes everything. For the most part, you don’t know where you are anymore and haven’t a clue which way to go. It carries you out with the tide, and of course nobody mentions that puberty is a riptide so when you find yourself struggling to get back to shore, you only end up further out. Nobody said to swim sideways, parallel to the shore. Before long, you’re barely treading water and drowning has become an almost tangible possibility.
Without warning, everything, and I mean everything, is embarrassing. Your family, your house, your clothes, the way you walk and the way you talk are all highly awkward and you become fraught with anxiety at every sneeze, snort, or chuckle. Even your dog turns into an embarrassing little beast who can’t keep his nose where it belongs.
You’ve outgrown your clothes by day two of puberty, but before that fact has a chance to register in your enormous, empty head, somebody at school decides, without telling you, that you are to be unfriended by everyone because your pants have become high waters and that is so uncool. So you walk into study hall all chatty and happy only to discover that no one will talk to you and you don’t know why until finally someone writes you a note, saying that Shannon, Kathy, Corrine, Laura, Sherry, Terry and Patty too, are MAD AT YOU and will no longer be your friends, then they all get up and move a few rows back. Finally, after a day or two of excruciating agony and horror, they decide to take you back and when you ask, nonchalantly, why they were mad, they say, “We don’t like the way you dress.” In your embarrassment, you get really mad and un-friend them all, choosing instead to go to the only group left in school, that rag-tag band of miscreants, some of whom are already wearing make-up, smoking, and having sex, which is to say they’re bad girls. You forgive Terry and Patty because they ask you to, but you try to never talk to the others again, which is hard because a few years later, you are all on the cheerleading team together and they make fun of you behind your back. But that’s another story.
Once you recognize the damaging effects of wearing high waters and for that matter, plaid with stripes, you do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Of course, you can’t get new jeans until the next school year, because your mother says, “If I do it for one, I’ll have to do it for all six of you and I can’t afford that.” so you do the next best thing. You cut a few inches off some old khaki pants you hate and sew them to the bottom of your blue jeans. You’re silly enough at that age to think that no one will notice, but they do, and so you go home to mother and cry and beg and plead and she finally notices how stupid you look with the khaki hem on blue jeans and buys you two new pairs.
Puberty makes you sweat and in more ways than one. Anxiety is the prevalent atmosphere no matter where you are and perspiration hits your pits like a truck driver late for a cross-country drive. You shower every day, sometimes twice a day, and slather your underarms with the best-smelling stuff you can find. In fact, you’re so worried about appearing unclean that when the house is on fire, literally on fire, albeit mostly smoke, you hop in the tub to take a bath before the firemen arrive and when they try to get in the bathroom to use the water, you scream wildly until your mother comes upstairs and demands to know what the *^$)&(&(*$ you’re doing in the bathroom when the house is on fire. So you get out and get dressed while everybody yells at you to hurry up. You go downstairs and stand around watching the firemen going up and down the stairs and suddenly the whole experience is so terribly embarrassing and you burst into uncontrolled laughter while your mom runs in and out of the house saving your sister’s rented wedding dress.
Yes, puberty is a riptide. Thank the good Lord that you’ll never go through that again without swimming sideways. Of course, there’s old age to look forward to.
Thank God He parts the waters for us now and then. And now, a word from our sponsor:
“The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.”
- Psalm 77:16-19