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.

 LS

transformation of innocence

Puberty.

Photo credit: independentman

Last night, we discussed the challenging passage every young woman navigates at some point in her life: Puberty. When asked, as part of our initial check-in around the circle, to share what made each of us most self-conscious in those terrifying and difficult years, we responded with concerns far wider-ranging than one could have imagined.

Still later, in response to the prompt – write about a transformative change during your adolescence – some of the most tragic life stories tumbled onto the page and out of the mouths of these women grappling with fear, abuse, lack of nurture and opportunity of every kind. Their courage and raw honesty is palpable, as evidenced in the writing of SS.

WARNING: her words are hard to hold. They contain harsh reality and gut-wrenching honesty.

I remember when I was somewhat naïve. Not naïve about me or my body. Just naïve to the adult world . . . As a child, I was forced to be a part of the adult world. I had sex long before I ever started my first period.

I was selling crack before puberty took place. I never noticed my body or the transformation. My mind was grown long before my body. Baggy pants, long tees – I wanted to be like him. Being big never mattered and even though I envied the other girls I grew up with, I never wanted to be like them.

I know I had more to offer than a body and a smile. My mind was worth more than what I had between my legs. I learned the hard way. At 14 I was an adult. I f*d like a grown woman and I paid bills like a grown woman. All my innocence stolen from me. I didn’t see it that way then. It was what had to be done.

I stepped into that role, took the burdens way. Made sure we’d be OK. Continue reading