self-promoting behavior at the at&t store.
it's the girl who plays defense on your youth soccer team who will get it first. if, on the way home from the field by the prison, you're pulling orange pulp from your front teeth, doing surgery to remove sweat-soaked shin guards and wondering what exactly happens to a jersey left in direct sunlight that makes it smell so bad, and your dad says something like "that stephanie sure can boot the ball ..." he has, naively, conjured it. stephanie is going to get it. soon. maybe right this second.
then things really take off. pretty soon every girl who was in the back row for the christmas pageant the previous year will get it. it's like your music teacher mrs. s-, the orange nylon wearing triller, shelley long's doppelganger with a glockenspiel, has cast out puberty spells with the flick of her director's wand.
occasionally someone will get it out of order. on your way to the playground after lunch, colleen pulls you to an out-of-the-way girls' bathroom off the cafeteria. "i think molly's faking it," she confides, her voice hollow from inside the stall. "i don't believe she got it. ... but i did and she doesn't believe me!"
the door swings open and colleen gives you visual proof that you didn't ask for. truth? you think colleen, a burgeoning great soap opera mind, squirreled away some of her mom's blue food coloring and went all jackson pollack in that little stall. and somehow you have received co-star billing for a later meeting on the playground. "yes," you'll say, exhausted. "colleen got it." secretly you'll wonder why, though: she's shorter than you. but she weighs more. maybe getting it has to do with weight.
some girls won't tell anyone. they will clam up when the conversation turns to the invisible chalk board where we are keeping score: the got its versus the don'ts. maybe in high school you'll find out: betsy? fifth grade? really? should have known. she really "packed a wallop," according to your dad.
some girls come to school, rosy cheeked and ready to start their day, nay, their life, as a woman. by 8:50 a.m., everyone knows. by 10 a.m. she's making a huge show of digging her her le sporte sac, putting something lumpy in the one-pocket uniform skirt, whispering in mrs. o's ear and skipping down the hall. group bathroom breaks are ripe with the sound of aggressively tearing into a plastic resealable pouch. to the uninitiated, it probably sounds like she's gorging on snickers bars in there.
but this can all just be a grand show, too. like the time you noticed the telltale strap across gina's back, grew indignant -- she was as flat as you! -- and went home and hinted that it was time for a, you know, training bra.
[when you later realize that the strap was from the slip gina was wearing that day, and that your own training bra makes your back itch, you hide it away for a few more months. ... dear diary, you write in your puppy journal. a lot has happened in the past few months. i've been wearing a bra for so long that i don't even wear it anymore. this is a true story.]
the worst part about getting it is telling your mom. she sat you down years ago to explain it using the complex medical terms that she surely must have needed flashcards to remember. endrometri-who? she hid always medium absorbancy pads, suspiciously packaged like diapers, under the sink in her bathroom.
first, you wonder about the shelf life of this product. then, when you get it, you wonder how you can sneak into her bathroom and retrieve the supplies without the crinkling of wrappers and the rip of adhesives -- zwaaaaaak --- announcing: look out, mom. there's a new woman on the block! hide the avon products and jean nate! you start to wish you had hidden the supplies in your own bathroom so you could avoid the pageantry, the streamers, the parade, the donkey rides your mother surely has planned.
mrs. k explains how to use a tampon to a room filled with sixth-grade girls. every month for the next 20 years, you remember her advice: aim for the small of your back. in sixth grade, seventh, eighth, you are loyal to the pad. pads are your politics, your religion, your husband. you are as fiercely devoted to them as you are to pin-stripped jeans. when you tell your mom: i'll never not wear pin-stripped jeans, you are also saying i'll never wear a tampon.
why? because kelly s.'s mom is a nurse. and one day, a group of girls are sitting on an l-shaped couch in her mom's new husband's huge living room. you are debating tampons versus pads, and pads are winning. "my mom says she will never wear tampons," kelly announces with authority. "because when you have a baby, the doctor has to pull out handfuls of leftover cotton." this is another thing you will think of every month for the next 20 years.
getting it is a disaster waiting to happen. paranoia ensues. baggy jeans and long sweatshirts, beneath which you're wearing biker shorts to hold this mess in place. "can you see it?" you whisper to fannie on your way to class. "am i leaking?" neva is your worst-case scenario: she got it during coed summer basketball camp, right through a pair of light green shorts, in the old gym. word-spreading through a hot, airless gym. mr. g knew she was a woman before she did.