Read your religion chapter about “sexuality.” Ask your mom what the word “sexuality” means. She will snap back, “I thought your father explained that to you?” You will have no recollection of your dad explaining anything remotely related to sex to you. Don’t ask again. Wonder how many more chapters of your religion book will be completely mystifying to you. (You shouldn’t have worried about that too much.)
Commiserate with your friend when she finds blood in the toilet bowl after her mom uses the bathroom. Her mom must be so ill if she’s bleeding into the toilet. You’ve never heard of that disease before.
Thank God that your friend started her period first. Look up the dictionary definition of “menstruation,” which references “menstruating.” Look up “menstruating.” Continue looking up the other references, which just continue circling around each other.
Look up “sex” in the encyclopedia when your parents are away. Then, look up the other references.
Hold your breath when a kids’ movie uses a girl’s first menstruation as a joke. Your family will sit in stony silence. The mere mention of menstruation is almost more than they can bear. There will never be any discussion about this movie, this joke, or whether it’s the joke or menstruation itself that is inappropriate.
Cross your arms and feel self-conscious about your newly noticeable nipples. Quietly ask your mom if you can get a bra. Go to JCPenney’s with your mom and try on a lot of bras. Your mom will feel the lined bras you picked out. “For heaven’s sake, they’re all padded!” she will say. Don’t point out that the labels clearly differentiate between “padded push-ups” and “lined.” Don’t explain that the whole point of buying a bra is to have “padding” of some kind to disguise your embarrassing nipples. Just keep your head down and find one that fits. You don’t yet realize that you will need new-sized bras every year and a half.
Understand “rape” as the act of stealing someone else’s clothing and leaving them naked. When your mom asks you if you know what rape is, say yes. She will lament that you already know what it is, because she “wanted to explain it to you from the Christian perspective.” Wait for further explanation. It will never come.
Share with your mom that you’re concerned about how to participate in martial arts, since you are grappling and have to wear semitransparent white pants. Your mom will say, “Huh, I wonder how the other girls manage,” and leave you to work it out for yourself.
Sound out “vagina” in your Bob Jones biology book, but get it all wrong. You will not hear anyone say this word aloud until a friend does when you are seventeen. Thank God for friends who went to public school.
Before going to a mall with a friend, ask our mom for money for “underwear," hoping you can avoid some bra drama. Nope. “For UNDERWEAR?” she will say, shocked. It will still be too much when you admit it’s for a bra. Choose crazy-colored five- to seven-dollar bras from the Target clearance section, because that’s an acceptable price.
Ask your friend what a "whore” is, because a boy down the street called you that, and you can’t find it in the dictionary under H. She will not know either.
Only ever use the purple junior tampons because of toxic shock syndrome, which is the one thing your mom told you about tampons. By this point, you will understand that your mom fears many things in life, including airplanes and raw eggs. But when you open the Tampax Pearl boxes, they will include a TSS warning label in the instructions.
Throw out the yellow regular-flow tampons that you bought with your own money. You’re not sure how serious a risk TSS is, but you will feel too embarrassed to give your friends or acquaintances all your spare yellow tampons. (You don’t even know if they use tampons.) Feel guilty for wasting both money and plastic.
At Target with your mom and little brothers, hold a pink floral bra partially behind your legs. Signal to your mom that you found one that fits. She will ask you to show it to her for inspection in front of your brothers anyway. After this, start buying bras on your own with your allowance.
Use a friend’s library card to check out a book about sex and puberty. Realize that you are a teenager who never understood that during intercourse, a penis penetrates the vagina, and doesn’t just rub up against it. Lean your head on your hand and worry that this seems completely impossible. Hide the puberty book in a big stack of other books so your friend can return it to the library. Get out a mirror and look at yourself for some insights. Instead, find the idea of intercourse increasingly baffling.
Keep all pads and tampons hidden in shopping bags behind clothes in your closet.
Leave the room for a snack during the scene when Viola sticks a tampon up her nose in She’s the Man. You have learned your lesson about that which must not ever be named or referred to.
A friend refers to “the third hole,” and you will return to the encyclopedia for clarification. How did you miss this vital piece of information? By this point, you are in high school and have already had Bob Jones Christian biology.
Recoil in horror when, as an eighteen-year-old at your first job, a desperate colleague will ask you about tampons in front of your male boss. Misunderstand your desperate colleague as asking if you dropped a tampon—a cardinal sin—when actually, you are the only other woman working at Big 5 that day. How does she not know this is the topic that no one shall ever name or refer to? Especially in front of men? Blush up to your ears and leave the poor woman hanging because you adamantly repeat that you have no association with tampons.
Learn how to delete your Google history. Late at night, travel into the depths of hell—science-backed parts of the internet—to read non-religious resources on sex and sexuality.