the smell of my desperation has become a stench

“Perhaps You’ve Noticed You’re Changing…”

One afternoon last week as the girls were sitting around the kitchen island after school enjoying their daily afternoon snack the topic of menstruation came up. It always happens like that, doesn’t it? You’re having a meal with family or friends, and just as you’re about to put a forkful of roasted chicken into your mouth someone goes, “My hemorrhoid cream is NOT working.”

In that instance it’s kind of mean to ask them to wait for a more appropriate time to talk about this subject because they are obviously in pain and seeking some sympathy, some comfort, maybe some reassurance that they are not alone. I mean, swallow your damn chicken and tell them you are so sorry that their butt hurts.

Leta covered her ears and shook her head when I asked if they had shown her “the video” at school yet. Remember that from fifth grade? The puberty video? The one that made us all wish the building would suddenly collapse on top of our heads as that would be preferable to hearing the word “urges” used 200 times while in the company of our peers.

Seriously, the word “puberty” alone tastes like a hairy underarm coming out of your mouth.


“I do not want to see that video! I already know what goes on, you’ve already talked to me about it. I don’t need to SEE anything,” she said still shaking her head.

I remember taking the girls with me when I went bra shopping last year, and when I approached a display of lacy, underwire bras she contorted her face like she was witnessing a grisly murder.

“UGHHHH! Those are so gross!” she yelled loud enough for other shoppers to hear her.

Really? Those are gross? I totally couldn’t help myself and responded, “I can’t wait to talk to you about tampon insertion.”

I explained that everyone has to see the video, or at least everyone whose parents consent to it, and that she should pay very close attention. I had to break it to her delicately that she comes from a long line of women whose periods in no way resemble a disco dance party. No, ours can be completely debilitating, and without going into any gory details (you enjoying your chicken salad?) I am personally on the pill specifically to manage and curtail those details.

Marlo was eating fruit snacks (organic and free range) while listening to this whole conversation. Leta kept saying that she was afraid that there would be weird things in the video, and suddenly Marlo’s eyes bulged out of her head.


An evil vampire rabbit eating another evil vampire rabbit. I guess that’s not too terribly far off. In fact, I bet most men think this is exactly what happens.

Leta and I tried to muffle our laughter because Marlo was being completely serious. And if you laugh at her when she’s not performing for the sake of laughter she gets her feelings very hurt.

“There probably aren’t any evil vampire rabbits in that film, Marlo,” I explained. “But I’ll check with the school JUST TO MAKE SURE.” And then what I didn’t say out loud was that Leta should be very reticent about the fact that she’s going to have to sit there with her classmates and listen to some of the most uncomfortable words our language has to offer: spurt, moist, gland, pituitary, genitals, pubic, pores, menses, AND ON AND ON AND ON.

I guess it could be worse:

  • kmpinkel

    2015/01/20 at 3:09 pm

    Dear God, I had to turn the video off when they started using the sketches. I am still avoiding puberty.

  • Norma Jean

    2015/01/20 at 3:12 pm

    Don’t forget vulva.

  • Stickybeaker

    2015/01/20 at 3:15 pm

    Re: horrible periods, check out mirena. I am no longer a wreck for two weeks a month. They are not paying me anything.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/01/20 at 3:15 pm

    How on earth did I forget that one?

  • Ames

    2015/01/20 at 3:28 pm

    That video made me giggle. I’m 37 going on 12.

  • schmutzie

    2015/01/20 at 3:41 pm

    I got sucked into watching that whole thing, HEATHER.

  • PhotoCoyote

    2015/01/20 at 4:49 pm

    When I started taking magnesium every day for fibromyalgia pain, my debilitating menstrual cramps almost completely disappeared. So did most of my PMS emotions. It was a miracle. The specific type of magnesium I take comes in tablets too big for a lot of people to swallow, but I discovered a yummy tasting powder that mixes with water (hot water makes it foam up a lot, which is really fun). It helps with sleep and stress, too. It’s made by Natural Vitality, and you can find it pretty much anywhere you buy nutritional supplements, but it’s a lot cheaper online at VitaCost. (No, I don’t make any money by referring you to them.) Here’s the URL so you can see what the container looks like:

  • REK981

    2015/01/20 at 3:54 pm

    I was going to call you a lucky B for being able to take the pill to help alleviate the debilitation. I can’t do an IUD either. I am broken…It is Hell. Last month she had great sympathy for my pain and suffering. In a few years she will not feel so sorry for me, she will resent me.

  • issascrazyworld

    2015/01/20 at 4:27 pm

    YOU CAN’T MAKE ME WATCH THAT, HEATHER! My thirteen year old still runs away if you say the word boobies to her. Please note that I probably mention it in casual conversation as often as you say the word butt to Leta. Good parenting at it’s finest. Heh. My ten year old….I honestly don’t think she’s even ready to hear about such things. It will go completely over her head I’m sure.

  • Kristen

    2015/01/20 at 4:51 pm

    My daughter (5th grade) and I just watched the puberty video in anticipation of her watching it with her class.

  • Laurie Fleming

    2015/01/20 at 4:52 pm

    What everyone really wants to know is are the birth control pills paleo?

  • Karen

    2015/01/20 at 5:32 pm

    I volunteered with a sixth grade class, and all the middle school 6th graders in SF would gather in a huge auditorium to watch a live play: Nightmare on Puberty Street. So much giggling, but it was kind of nice that it was co-ed!

  • Boom89

    2015/01/20 at 6:28 pm

    When I taught 5th grade, the puberty video included the helpful tip that one should apply the sanitary napkin “sticky side down.” The other teachers and I could not make eye contact with each other during this portion of the video, imagining the result if one were to apply it sticky side up.

  • Soozey

    2015/01/20 at 10:04 pm

    When I had the film in the late 70s, they gave the girls a sanitary belt to take home and I guess “try out.” Thank you 3M for developing light adhesives.
    I just wanted to pass on to anyone listening: IUD, Mirena to cure horrible heavy periods. And no crazy time freakouts, which is what the pill did to me.

  • georgeschwimmer

    2015/01/20 at 11:01 pm

    I am 50yo female MD who drives a volvo and I can barely say the brand name of my car without breaking into a rash for fear I will say something that sounds like vulvo when i mean VOLVO. I almost didn’t buy the car bc of that one reason. (ps disregard male moniker)

  • Courtney Brillhart

    2015/01/20 at 11:07 pm

    OMG, this is the video I watched in school!!!!

  • LisaBoBisa

    2015/01/20 at 11:35 pm

    Me too – know what I took out of it?? That apparently in the 80s they worked out in their jeans…..and that host is sporting one awesome side part/comb over! Haha!

  • Jen

    2015/01/21 at 12:36 am

    I think that post really balanced Leta’s story so that it was universal and not too personal, on a topic that could’ve easily felt invasive. If that makes sense? I really enjoyed it.

    I wish I’d had a sister!

  • Sara Beth

    2015/01/21 at 5:42 am

    Why did I just watch that? WHY DOES THE SKETCH LOOK LIKE NICKELODEON’S DOUG?? My childhood is ruined. Also, there’s a lot of creepy penis size talk. “But seriously, how big will my penis get?”

  • KathyB

    2015/01/21 at 7:16 am

    I had a college roommate for a little while whose stepfather doc gave her morphine injections for the crippling pain of her periods. Fair skinned. Skin would turn blue over the spot when ovulating. And I thought my cramps were bad. No puberty vids for us back in sixties. Finally showed us something in high school health class (separately from boys of course). Unspeakable I guess.

  • Erin Gill

    2015/01/21 at 7:22 am

    Our sex ed teacher demonstrated childbirth by squeezing a cabbage patch doll out of a panty hose leg. It was like, OK we get it – that shit nasty.

  • Joni

    2015/01/21 at 7:33 am

    Going to show my age now… the 60’s we had to attend a “special event” at our school with our Mothers. It was in the evening, and the movie (yes, it was a film) was titled “It’s Wonderful to be a Girl!”. My friends and I decided we would never do those things in the movie. Especially that period stuff. Yeah….that worked.

  • Carla

    2015/01/21 at 9:12 am

    Timely post and comment. On my way to ob/gyn – he has recommended Mirena but I am reading lots of crazy side effects, weight gain, cramping, mood swings, etc. It may sound vain but I have worked hard to lose 30 lbs in the past year and do not want to gain any back.

  • Becky

    2015/01/21 at 9:18 am

    “And if you laugh at her when she’s not performing for the sake of laughter she gets her feelings very hurt.”
    Awesome, Mom.

  • Rebecca Fleur Lockwood

    2015/01/21 at 11:46 am

    We watched Scandinavian puberty videos in my girls Grammar school in the 1980’s…very enlightening! We started with worm reproduction, then moved on to animals and then humans. Goodness knows what might have happened to me if we had stopped at worms…

  • Ari

    2015/01/21 at 12:28 pm

    I got a Mirena IUD for this reason and just bled nonstop, albeit with less pain–not super common, but definitely be aware that mileage may vary.

  • Jo D

    2015/01/21 at 1:10 pm

    i got 34 seconds in and couldn’t stand it! So uncomfortable! (And I teach health!)

  • theboldsoul

    2015/01/22 at 2:49 am

    Yes, it COULD be worse. Tell Leta THIS is what girls in my day (1960s-early 1970s) were forced to see in the 6th grade, courtesy of none other than WALT DISNEY (and when you still had to wear a belt with sanitary napkins – ugh!):

    I’m surprised they didn’t have woodland animals romping across the screen. Most of us giggled nervously through the entire thing and made fun of it afterward (it was Disney, can you blame us?) But that was as graphic as they were willing to be in the public school system then. My mother, a nurse, had thoughtfully provided me with a set of books called “The Life Cycle” a year earlier when my breasts started growing, so like most of the girls in that room, I already “knew everything”. At least we didn’t have to watch it with the boys in the room; they were banished to another classroom (but they kept trying to peek through some windows to see what was going on, which made us giggle even harder!)

  • Gryph

    2015/01/22 at 5:42 pm

    Our video had pancakes. they made them int he sape of ovaries and uteruses to illustrate what happens with our bodies. Yuuuup.

  • bigred

    2015/01/22 at 9:35 pm

    I had the pancaked video too!!! And many friends of mine who lived in different regions of the country saw the same one. It must have been very widely distributed.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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