“You were on your period,” my sister Jenny said, incredulous, “and you bled through your clothes and I had to come get you. Right there,” she said pointing at the school, “behind the building!” She wasn’t just sassy about it, she was dead wrong about it.
We stopped by Starbucks for our latest episode of Jenny and Anna Bake, picking our favorite drink so we could make our own homemade version of it at home. The Starbucks was near our old high school, Bellevue West, and it reminded Jenny of that one time I unexpectedly started my period, called her in a hot panic, and begged her to pick me up.
She thought it happened when I was in high school, but it was middle school. When the period hurricane reached shore, I called home and she was the one who picked up. In high school, Jenny was out of the house and married with kids, so it had to be middle school. Besides, that disastrous day happened to me, thank you very much. I think I’d have specifics on the worst day of my childhood.
I recall exactly how it went down. I was in math class, a hell in its own right, and bent over to get something out of my backpack. As I leaned over, I felt what can only be described as Niagara Falls in my pants. I knew immediately what happened and came to terms with the fact my life was over.
Starting your period, through your clothes, in middle school, is perhaps one of the worst things that can happen to modern woman. If just one kid caught a glimpse, the news of it would spread like wildfire. Those who didn’t mock you, would fear you. You’d be the real-life example of their worst nightmare realized. I’d be ridiculed, laughed at, sneered at, and pitied. A pathetic, period leper! My reputation would proceed me wherever I went. “There’s that Anna Lind over there. Remember when she bled all over middle-school? So sad.”
I had a jacket in my locker, so I sat like a statue and waited it out. When the bell rang, I took my backpack and held it low and awkward behind my butt as I scuttled towards my locker. Once I got my jacket, I wrapped it around my waist and beelined it towards the bathroom.
It was bad. Badder than bad, it was catastrophic. There was no “patching this up” and “getting on with my day.” I’d have to burn my clothes and/or the entire school down. I ran white hot, knowing what was on the line. My dignity! My life! My ability to endure two more years in the same building with these sociopaths!
I made my way to the nurse’s office. At the front desk, I got straight to the point.
“I started my period, I need to go home.”
Startled, the secretary sent me back to the nurse’s office, where I sat, stiff and impatient. Eventually she came in the room, chewing on something, as if I interrupted a snack.
“Do you have an extra pair of shorts in your gym locker?” she asked. Was she a moron? Did she really think I could just slip into a pair of gym shorts, totally mismatching my plaid flannel button up– in middle school? And get away with it?
“Nope, I need to call home.”
“I think we have an extra pair of …”
“No thanks! I’m going home!”
She gave me access to her phone, and I called my mom at work. It rang and rang as I felt panic squeeze up to my ears. I tried home, praying for a miracle. Maybe my dad would be home? Probably not. I had to try.
“Hello?” my sister answered.
“Oh my gosh, Jenny, thank God. Thank you.”
“I started my period. It’s a total disaster, I need you to come get me.”
“Really? Okay, give me 15 minutes.”
“I don’t have 15 minutes!” I shouted into the receiver. Jenny would normally be at work at the Estee Lauder counter, so the fact she was home was a total miracle. I like to believe guardian angels roused her from sleep and encouraged her to call in and play hooky. I think I just got lucky, and she didn’t feel like going to work. Either way.
“Okay, geez. I’m leaving.”
I walked outside, with nothing to stop the dam of puberty flooding me with its fury, and waited. After a short time, I saw her black car speeding up to the curb. INXS’s “Devil Inside” blasted through the speakers. Jenny rolled down the windows, “Hey buddy!”
I opened the door, and looked at my older sister tenderly, emotional even, with gratitude. Until she scared me with shouting.
“Woah, woah, woah, don’t get blood on my seats!” she yelled. I quickly looked around to see if anyone was in earshot. “Sit on your backpack!”
I levitated mid-sit and shoved my backpack under me.
“I’m so glad you were home,” I said, relief splashing against my face like cool water.
“Seriously, this whole thing’s a bummer, huh? Wanna go get a pop or something?” she asked, putting the car in gear. INXS filled the car, cool air hit my face through the open window. I watched the middle school as it shrunk farther and farther away. Inside that school, I was a poor, desperate, exiled child– who bled through her elastic jean shorts.
But in that sporty black car, with my older sister, and INXS– I could be whoever I wanted to be.
“I’m down,” I said, running my hand through the breeze. “But maybe after I change my pants.”
Jenny nodded gently and took us home.
This moment between my sister and I was captured on our latest episode. You can watch it here (and also learn how to make a delicious Starbucks drink from home 😉