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Saturday, June 14, 2008

What a Girl Wants

         Sometimes, being a girl is difficult.  Especially when you find yourself in the minority with three older brothers--three very outspoken, very curious older brothers.  Yes, I have a younger sister, for whom I am very grateful, but let's face it--I had to blaze the trail of womanly adolescence in my house.  


        Now, let's get one thing straight: I love being in my family.  I wouldn't trade my history for anything in the world.  But, sometimes I felt like I was acting as a secret agent in my very own house. My mission: to hide the change known as adolescence; to divert any thread of conversation that could possibly lead to the forbidden words (these include bra, period, menstrual cycle (which is way worse than period, by the way), shaving your legs, tampons, pads, you get the point).  I tried desperately to blend with the boys, to not be noticed or stand out as different--but eventually, that was not so easy.  Especially at 13, 14, 15...Ugh. 

   So, as I said, I lived like a secret agent, hiding any and all paraphernalia that could lead to the suspicion that I may be going through puberty (oh yeah--that was another one of those taboo words in my mind, especially when my mom would pronounce it poo-berty. It still makes me cringe just thinking about it...).  It was hard, exhausting work, and I was never off-duty.  Well, except when I went to my friend, Erin's house...

   Growing up, Erin was (and still is) one of my best friends.  Erin lived in a house full of women.  It was her, her mom, and her two sisters.  Erin did not ever have to be a secret agent.  If Erin needed tampons, she literally called it out from her bedroom so that her mom could hear it clear across the house.  Like she wasn't embarrassed, like it was something to be proud of, even.  She had pretty underwear and everything, the kind that people would call panties--with lace and flowers and fun colors.  In my house, with all those boys wandering around, my underwear was strictly utilitarian.  It wasn't even close to panties.  Her house was like a woman's haven; a respite from my dogged and constant watch.  We did our nails, talked freely of bras and make-up, and could even dash from the bathroom to the bedroom in just our underwear. Amazing.  

    But I always had to go home, to the boys (who I loved, don't get me wrong).  And let me tell you, those boys were not shy about me and womanhood (I guess I was the only shy one).  I remember one day my brother, Jase, coming up to me with a serious look on his face.  He pulled me aside because he needed to "talk to me."  Okay...I listen as he continues to say, I was going through your drawers today and found a bra...Well, I never let him finish his point (and to this day I still have no idea why he was a). going through my drawers and b). bringing it up to me).  I kicked him in the shin and ran to my room.   And yeah, I cried.  Darby, who had seen the whole thing from a distance, later asked Jase what he said.  Jason innocently told her what had transpired, and Darby set him straight. She let him know that you don't say that kind of thing to your little sister. You just don't.  Oh, and try staying out of her drawers, too.

     Christine, another dear and close friend of mine, was quite vigilant in defending my secret-agenthood. She was basically part of my special-ops team.  I distinctly remember being at a church function when my oldest brother, Josh, put his hand on my shoulder.  At this point, I was squirming and hoping that he didn't feel the telltale strap that charged me with the crime of womanhood.  Too bad, he did.  And being Josh, had to say something about it: Is that a bra strap I feel? In my total defeat and humiliation, I didn't know what to say.  Christine came to the rescue, though, as she deflected his question with another question (much like Jesus and the pharisees, I gotta say...uh, no offense, Josh): Haven't you ever heard of a slip before? It was pure genius!  A slip can be worn at any age, and does not have a direct link to adolescence, and is therefore not embarrassing.  Plus, because she simply asked him a question, she was not lying--it wasn't her fault if he took it to mean something else entirely.  

       But my brother, Jonathan, takes the cake in interrogations.  I was 13, and had just gotten my period for the first time.  I was floored by it and didn't want to tell anybody, not even my mom...I was so upset that I figured my mom would be, too; that she would be sad I was growing up (when I finally did tell her a couple days later, she surprised me by acting like it was a good thing, a desired thing, even.  Who'd have thought?!?!).  So, anyway, being the secret-agent that I was, I had to come up with my own...devices.  The best thing I could think of was toilet paper.  Asking anybody for anything else would have given away my latest predicament, and I was not ready to do that.  

      So, me and my brothers get in a car to go to a church picnic at Nottingham Park.  I am a good secret-agent, always keeping my tools handy, so I decide to bring my own roll of toilet paper (in a big green shoulder bag) to the park.  I decide to stuff a jacket into the bag, last minute--just in case somebody asks me why I am suddenly carrying a bag with me.  Now I can say it's so I have a jacket, in case I get cold.  It didn't occur to me that it was summertime (no need for a jacket) and that most normal people don't carry jackets around in bags.  They leave them in the car, or lay them in the grass.  However, I get through the whole day without anyone mentioning that bag.  I think my plan worked. 

   But, now it is late.  Jonathan and I are in the habit of talking before we go to bed.  He knocks on my door, then comes in and sits on my bed.  I am not suspicious; I don't think anyone could have suspected that bag--not with the jacket in it.  But he calmly looks me in the eyes and starts in with the interrogation, Jess, I know you got your period.  I saw you with that bag all day--I even saw you take it into the bathroom.  I know what you had in that bag...I feel like a criminal, the kind that is offered a lawyer, but why bother?  All of the evidence so clearly points to me; the case is in the bag (no pun intended, promise).  The trial is simply a formality. Everybody knows I am guilty, guilty, guilty.  Oh why did I ever think that stupid bag was a good idea?  But then he goes on, I know you talked about your jacket, but I know what was really had in that bag: you were using it to carry tampons!  At this, I brighten, and I begin to see a small crack in the offense.  Maybe, just maybe I have a case.  I jump in,  But, I didn't--I don't even use tampons (I said this with great gusto, because it was actually true--remember, at that point, I was only using toilet paper)!!!!!!  But Jonathan only saw this as further evidence that I had gotten my period, because he said, Ahhh, so you don't use tampons? Then you must use something else--why else would you bring a bag into the bathroom?

    Well, Jonathan is very stubborn.  I was not a liar, so I simply stuck with my feeble defense of, I don't use tampons, I promise. There were NO tampons in that bag!!!  But, he knew.  The bag gave me away.  For once, my secret-agent plan had actually backfired and caused me to be noticed.  And of course one of my brothers was the one to notice.  Oh, and my mom saw to it that I quickly graduated from my toilet paper plan.  This was a very good thing, and that is all I will say about that.

   I love my brothers, but they sure didn't make it so easy for me to grow up in peace.  I remain truly grateful that I never have to go through adolescence again.  Once was enough, thank you very much.  

14 comments:

jason said...

This is fiction, all of it! Except the parts about Josh and Jonathan of course.

Jessica Latshaw said...

Methinks he doth protest too much...

KathieK said...

Oh my, Jess, I can't imagine...I am the 2nd of 3 girls and 1 brother (who is 6 years younger than me)...so I never had to "blaze the trail of womanly adolescence", but in my own modest way (haha), I have helped advance the cause of sisterhood by teaching my husband how to shop for feminine hygiene products. He has gotten so good at it that he has even been able to guide other men in their first foray down the feminine hygiene aisle!

Peaj said...

Cheese Louise...

So much for my romantic notions of older Christian brothers looking out for younger Christian sisters.

This is why daughters should not have more than one older brother. You'll notice that I cleverly planned my family that way.

I won't do the Darby yell here, but I love the "Darby set him straight" line. Good for her, and I hope Jase was a little better behaved in the future.

Can I yell at some of your brothers next time I see them? I never treated my sisters that way. Of course, I don't have any sisters, but if I did... ;-)

jason said...

I'm glad I finally get to tell you what I was going to say!

"jessica, now Josh and Jonathan (you remembered that part wrongly) were going through your drawers today and found a bra... I wanted to warn you that they will likely be quite immature about it and will ask inappropriate questions but I wanted you to know I fully support you in your transition to womanhood and will do my best to quell those nasty beasts mom and pop insist on calling our brothers!"

min said...

I am still laughing, Jess! I think this time in your life is going be quite healing!! You move across the country and we get to know you in a whole new way. THAT is pretty cool... We are also getting to know your brothers in a whole new way too!!

Drew said...

Two younger brothers + very little shame = a very different experience growing up for me.

But I'm sorry you had to go through that, babe. I guess we'll just have to make sure we have all boys, you know? :)

Jessica Latshaw said...

Drew, I don't think that is up to us...

Jase, lol--very interesting spin on history!

Jessica Latshaw said...

Oh and Peaj--my brothers did look out for me, and still do! They just sometimes embarrassed me along the way! :-)

Anonymous said...

you know, for a great dancer, you sure are a heck of a writer.

Jessica Latshaw said...

thanks, anonymous--for both of those compliments...that is very kind of you:-)

Selah said...

Who hides a jacket IN A BAG? I blame the whole thing on Mom for not taking you in and leading you to embrace the beauties of womanhood. I guess Mom thought it would be better to leave it to your 13 year old brother :-)

Ps Toilet paper? You know you can find that at any bathroom IN THE COUNTRY. You didn't exactly need to carry it around in a bag hidden by a jacket...

jason said...

Ps Toilet paper? You know you can find that at any bathroom IN THE COUNTRY. You didn't exactly need to carry it around in a bag hidden by a jacket...

LOL, this is great point!!!

I hadn't thought of that!

Jessica Latshaw said...

Ok, Jonathan, way to go hiding behind your 7-year-old daughter, but I am pretty sure it was you who commented, and not Selah!

And well, I wasn't sure that there would be T.P. at a bathroom in a park--I had to be prepared.

Oh, and you weren't 13-I was 13! So, you were 15. because remember how we aren't twins? :-)