the one time I was finally first in my class

Writing last week to a prompt about experiencing puberty, women inside Vermont’s prison responded in a variety of ways – from humor and self-deprecation to soul-wrenching sadness and even terror.  For any woman, the story of her first period can be fraught with confusion, embarrassment, triumph, despair, loss of freedom, entrance to maturity. With the added perspective of hindsight, these recountings become all the more poignant.

LS’s title led us to hope for a success in her young life, only to realize the irony of her words by the end:

My face was as red as my blood-soaked pants.
Standing in line to go somewhere I don’t even remember.

I was never the first chosen to play games.
I was never the first to be called to the board, ‘cause I probably really didn’t have the answer.
I wasn’t the first choice to go to the birthday parties.
I wasn’t first on the list when grades were handed out.
I wasn’t first to find the hidden prize.
I wasn’t the first to get in trouble.
But I wasn’t the first not to.
I wasn’t the first to arrive or the first to leave anywhere.

But standing there, in line, I was the first to be embarrassed,
the first to be heckled,
the first to have the first hint of puberty.


i’d rather you not know . . .

Eve covers herself and lowers her head in sham...

Eve covers herself and lowers her head in shame in Rodin’s sculpture “Eve after the Fall”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night we wrote with 14 women, each of whom had breathtakingly raw and honest things to say about who they were, have become. And, in keeping with the prompt, shared what they wish someone might see about them; as well as what they would prefer remain hidden. What follows is TD’s quickly-penned response to the full prompt: “what would you not want someone you respected but didn’t know well to perceive about you?”

There are things I’d rather you not know. It’s how it happened that’s shameful; and having these feelings crop up at just the thought of you finding out makes me want to run and hide. While you jump and shout about, stamping, your hand flailing, and I envision your voice getting louder as I start to shut down and your lips are no longer moving.

I feel selfish, too knowing you are my father and you were the one who watched me grow; and how would you of known, it was hidden so well.

Standing before you, I feel so awful and my own pain is just too much to try to even begin to feel; but watching your whole world crumble as the tears flow just makes this even more confusing.

I don’t want you to remember this, but we have really no choice. The things I didn’t want you to know came out. My only thoughts are: can you still love me the same; and are you still going to be here to support me? I’m scared to death to be alone a minute longer to all the hurt and shamefulness that’s been going on inside of me. There is a void within me that has shattered my perception of who I am and what it is I should be.

Sometimes I wonder if it was meant to happen, these things I keep within me. I’ve realized over time how to push the pain and fear deeper down, just for the sake of my own well-being. On the outside, I’m looking like the woman who’s reached her beauty; but inside is the killer. I’m all these mixed emotions, bottled up tightly, trying to figure out if I let out the true thing I feel within me, will you love me, accept me and fill me with your pride? Somewhere along the way, I got lost in others’ plans; but today, with your help, I can better begin to plan how to feel like a woman of self worth and confidence.