Do you remember getting your period for the first time? What took place? What happened? I can tell you what didn't happen, there was no party. Being a female of African descent born and raised in America, the only thing I knew about is when you turn 16, no matter your gender preference, you get a Sweet Sixteen party. It wasn't until later that I learned about the Indian Hindu ceremony, Rita Kala Samskara. It's a rite-of-passage after a girl's first menstruation, as she is now seen as a young woman both spiritually and physically. Family and friends are invited to the gathering, showering the young woman with gifts. It's a celebration as it becomes known that she can now carry life in her womb.
Growing up, I've had girls tell me horror stories. Some parents grew angry, scolding their daughter like she would go out and try to purposely get pregnant the next day. Some parents were worried, becoming extremely overprotective, basically putting the daughter on lockdown. Some parents were even disgusted, marking the period as unclean and reducing their time spent with their daughter during her cycle. That part has always been weird to me when the mother goes along with it, continuing the period taboo shenanigans.
It is up to us to change the narrative and breathe life into the power behind menstruation and what it means to be gifted with this ability to carry and nurture life. There is no need for any girl to start their period feeling anything less but empowered.
You may or may not have heard of a Period Party. Standard period party things include mothers buying uterus-shaped cakes or red velvet cakes and serving pomegranate juice to their newly menstruating daughters and a group of friends and family. Suitable period party gifts include heating pads, healing teas, cramp relief pills, and menstrual pads. But when I speak of a menstruation ceremony, I'm not talking about throwing something similar to your every-year birthday party. I'm not talking about a Sweet Sixteen. I'm talking about a coming-of-age ceremony, so unforgettable that it wouldn't be an option not to make it a tradition. If this is something your family already does, then I applaud you! But if not, it's time for us to begin menstruation celebrations with menstruation ceremonies.
So, where are our menstruation ceremonies? And what should a menstruation ceremony look like? What would you have wanted it to look like? I was 11 years old when I got my first period. I would have wanted to be greeted by women that I admire, with gifts, of course! I would be dressed in my newest outfit that showcased what I felt a woman should look like. I would have listened as they shared their life experiences regarding their journey into womanhood. We would eat from a spread of my favorite meals. It would have made it easier to digest the trials and tribulations that could lie ahead as they kept it real about being a woman of African descent in the Western world. I would have asked questions, so I wouldn't have to figure it out on my own as I embark on this journey.
They would have treated me like one of the girls as they gave me insight into their dating life and the signs to look for, whether it be a red flag or green light. I'm sure something like, "Leave those nappy-headed boys alone until you get your education," would have come up. We would then segway into motherhood and what it looks and feels like, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Instead of shunning the talk of sex and pregnancy, we would be getting manicures and pedicures as they spill all of the tea. The ceremony wouldn't be complete without a lesson in women's wellness as we get massages, learning about the importance of getting yearly checkups, preventative testing, etc. And before it ended, I would be presented with a keepsake that I'd have requested on the RSVP invitations. I would have wanted a DIY cookbook with their favorite recipes on one side and a photo of them with their favorite inspirational quote on the other. What would you have wanted?
I know that my time has passed, so it's up to me to ensure that all the taboos, myths, and laissez-faire attitudes behind menstruation ends. Our daughters, god-daughters, sisters, nieces, cousinesses, etc., should know that We Stan when they get their first period! We want to help them acknowledge the power and responsibility that their wombs hold. We are their support system and mentors as they move through life. That impact alone will change the trajectory for generations to come; no more menstruation insecurity. And I take that back; I still want my menstruation ceremony!