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.
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.
“Shh! Shush!” Are these the first expressions that come to mind, when you think of periods? You are not alone.
I was shushed so often that I thought boys or even grown men would never have heard of menstruation. “How would they know, if no one is going to tell them. Right?” I thought. It sounds childish now, but it made perfect sense to my tween mind.
Growing up in a fairly conservative family in small-town Alaska one might make assumptions about the information and education I received about health, puberty, and sex. Luckily for me, those assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. As I reflect on my own growing up experience I realize how incredibly lucky I was to have such supportive and understanding parents, friends, and teachers. I was in third or fourth grade when my mom sat me down for “the talk,” which of course made me turn bright red and assure her I had absolutely no questions.