I had my first period before I even had my first health class. I didn’t tell anyone because I did not even know what a period was. I never understood why some women stood at the back of the recreation center where Muslims in my small town gathered while everyone else prayed. I never understood why my mother seemed to buy little boxes of white things every month. It didn’t occur to me that this was something that happened to almost every woman in her life.
If you had the flu and could barely get out of bed, what would you do? Would you go see a doctor? Probably. If you were feeling depressed and could barely get out of bed, what would you do? Would you see a doctor? Maybe.
We all have key events that happen throughout our lifetime that change our direction & open our eyes beyond our current reality. It is interesting to me how we have so many of these life changing moments, but at the time, we have no idea what kind of magic they possess & how they can change our lives & guide us to finding our passions & ultimately our life calling.
I guess you could say I’ve always been a crier. From a very young age, I’ve been sensitive to how people look at me, speak to me, or criticize me. You’re probably thinking, so what, everyone is, but I’m sensitive to an extent that can make me feel weak and can even hinder my day-to-day activities.
It was just three miles away from my grandpa’s house in suburban Noida near Delhi, India. But it seemed to be a different world.
I was wading through the narrow and crowded alleys of the slum adjacent to the biggest market of the city. A young woman, who earns her living by ironing clothes under a roadside tent, guided me through the maze of small houses and shacks to the local school for underprivileged kids.
We all knew why the women of the house “sat outside” every month. In the map of their very orthodox household, the women bled rivers and travelled in the confines of their landlocked house.
It started out in music class. That day none of the instruments were set up for us to play. The projector was set in the middle of the room and there was no song on the screen. They told all the boys to go to the gym. What was even stranger was that the female gym teacher was in the music room. In all my 5 years at elementary school, I had never seen any of the gym teachers leave the gym. As far as I was concerned, they lived there.
Every period story I’ve heard involves either great trauma or grave embarrassment. Girls claim they mistakenly believed they were dying when they first spotted the blood or that someone else noticed and pointedit out to them, scarring them permanently from the humiliation. I had heard it all by the time I was 12.
When you grow up as a Korean-American millennial in a traditional immigrant household, you quickly realize that little instances of cultural clashes make for the best stories.
Take, for example, the time that I convinced my Korean mother that Lunchables were standard, healthy, American school lunch fare, and all my other third-grader friends dined on the delectably fine products of Oscar Meyer. Or take the time that my mother asked if we were supposed to eat the Jack-o-Lantern that I had carved earlier that day in school.
I was nearing the end of 7th grade when it happened for the first time. I was getting ready for school and glanced at my reflection in the mirror. Something seemed different, so I paused to take a better look. I look fat, I thought to myself.
Something miraculous occurred that day, because my next thought was, No, I'm not fat, this is body dysmorphia. If I felt and looked normal yesterday, there is no way I could suddenly be fat today. I have my 6th grade Health class to thank for that moment.