Sunday, August 05, 2007

When I Became A Woman

The older I get, the more I realize just how much I have to learn. But this article is not about mental maturity; this is about physical maturity, if you will call it that.

When I was in elementary and secondary school in Nigeria, I always thought I was grown and sexy. In fact, I could have sworn I was grown and sexy. The boys in my school always liked me; I was not that light-skinned, but they called me ‘yellow paw-paw’, and the young men on my street assumed my name was ‘Chi Chi’ because in their limited minds, only Igbo girls were light-skinned. It flattered me then, but I now realize it was ignorance on their part and mine. When I was in JSS2, my French teacher told me he thought I was a little Chinese; apparently, I have ‘Chinese eyes’. To be politically correct, this would be called ‘Asian eyes’. I thought he was crazy for thinking I was a little Chinese, but when I came to the States, a few people said I had ‘slanted eyes’, and therefore hinted a little bit of Asian blood. Well, I have asked my mother, and she is quite sure that neither she nor my father has any Asian blood in them. Furthermore, she is also very sure that my father is my actual father.

So I was pretty much at the top of the ‘grown and sexy’ list even though I was only about 10, and I put myself at the top of that list. No need to discuss that I had no clue what sexy meant; if I did, I could have sworn it was a dirty word. Everything was great. Life was great. I was sexy. Life was sexy. I remember how I always used to wear a ‘shimmy’ under everything I wore. Thinking back on it now, I do not know why every woman in Nigeria felt the need to do so. But I have to say that I wore the heck out of them. I had the ‘long shimmy’, the ‘half shimmy’ (otherwise known as under skirts), and the ‘singlet (also known as vests)’. My favorite was my white mini long shimmy; it stopped right above my knees. Every time I came back from school, I would take my school uniform off and walk around in the shimmy.

My God, I was on fire! I was so hot that you could have fried a crispy chicken on me, and still had to use a fire extinguisher. Yes, I was that hot – or so I thought. Everything was going great. Every day, I would put on my blue school uniform, sparkling white socks (which were now looking blue because I soaked them in ‘blue’ the previous night. Remember ‘blue’?), and shining brown sandals (which my aunt sent from America, so you know that even increased my hotness level), and I would match out the door feeling too hot for my own good. Sure, I had to trek to my friend’s house to catch a ride, but I was still hot. As far as I was concerned, that only gave me ten extra minutes to show a few extra people just how hot I was.

I thought I had it all until things suddenly changed. Without notice, I became the bottom of the food chain. What happened, you wonder? I’ll tell you what happened. My friends started growing peanut-sized lumps on their chests and I did not! Do you know how humiliating that was? Night after night, I cried and begged God for breasts. I told him to give me a little, just a little bit! I had absolutely no breast at all; I did not even have enough to qualify for a training bra! My friends complained that their ‘lumps’ hurt and itched, so I too started pretending that my invisible lumps hurt and itched. I would kneel beside my bed, praying and crying to God for breasts. I made all sorts of promises, if only He would give me lumps! I would never lie again. I would never insult my class mate. I would never cheat in a test. I would never use markers to draw on Ngozi, the house help’s face while she slept. I even fasted for lumps!
Just when my lumps started showing and I thought I was back at the top of the list, something else knocked me off. One day, my best friend, Uchenna came to school feeling down. All day, she had her head on her desk, not really talking to anyone. Finally, she revealed the reason for her downcast attitude.

“It came yesterday.” She said to me.

Confused, I asked, “What came?”

“My menses. And I’m having cramps.” She whispered. I neither know why she whispered or why we called it ‘menses’. Today, I will gladly tell anyone and everyone about my monthly visitor, Ms. Flow.

“Cramps?” I asked her. I had no idea what cramps were. Uchenna, on the other hand, knew everything because she had two older sisters while I had none.

I am ashamed to say this, but I was green with envy. I knew that almost all of my class mates had been getting their ‘menses’, but it did not hit home until my own best friend started seeing hers, and mine was no where to be found. I asked her what the pain felt like, but she could not really describe it. She just wanted it to stop. That night, I was back on my knees, praying, crying, begging, and promising to keep all the promises I failed to keep earlier. Did I mention I was fourteen by this time? I fasted some more too. Everyday, I eagerly ran to the bathroom and pulled my underwear down, hoping for at least one spot of blood. I even bought a pack of Simple Sanitary Pads. Remember Simple? It came in a bright yellow pack. I only wanted it because my favorite aunt who was now married and living in America used to use it when she lived with us – although I had no clue that it was for blood.

Can you imagine how betrayed I felt by God when I found out that my friend, Isabella whom I was fourteen whole months older than not only had much bigger breasts, but also had her ‘menses’? Isabella, on the other hand used Always pads, which I experimented with a few times – even though I had no ‘leakage’. I prayed for my ‘menses’ and everything that came with it. Yes, I also prayed for the cramps. Without my ‘menses’, I did not feel complete; I did not feel like a woman. It did not help that I was round and had low cut hair – not that I’m no longer round, but my hair is long now.

I was fifteen when one day…voila! A drop of red appeared. I was so excited that I could have had a seizure. So off I went to put on a Simple sanitary pad. As soon as I put it on, I sat on the porch outside my house, feeling accomplished and complete. I had done it all. I was now officially a WOMAN. I sat down confidently with one leg crossed over the other, chin held up high, and there was no stopping me now. I waited a few hours to go and change the pad; I was sure it would be full and almost pouring out by then, but to my greatest surprise, there was nothing! I cried. And cried. And cried some more. The next day came, and there was still nothing. Where did my drop go? My mother explained to me that it was not ‘regular’ yet. Ms. Flow disappeared until I was sixteen when she reappeared and has continued to do so every twenty-four days.

These were the big stumbling blocks I faced in becoming a woman. The little stumbling block was being teased for having too little hair. I am not a hairy person, so if I shave my underarms, the amount of hair that will be there after a month would probably be as long as the one a regular person has kept for only a week. I used to think it was a problem. Now, I am grateful for it. But once upon a time, I begged God to give me more hair. And do not get me started on begging for pimples. That is a story for another day.

After all has been said and done, I now realize that Ms. Flow did not make me a woman. She only made me fertile. Everyday, I realize that the day before, I knew less, and as I grow, I continue to learn. I am a woman today – I think. But tomorrow, I will be more woman than I am today. Needless to say, I no longer beg, pray, or cry, or fast for lumps, hair, pimples, and Ms. Flow. But I especially do not ask for any shape or form of cramps. Been there. Done that. Do not ever want to go back there.

28 comments:

JJ said...

Ms V..nice words. I remember when my own Ms. flow came too..i was going to do my hair at the iya onidiri's place and i had just returned from school for mid-terms n JS2 i think. Memories. I remeber shimi and underskirts..my first one was pink in color and 'blue', lol.
And its true,those things do not make us the women we are today and the ones we will become tomorrow.

Noni Moss said...

Very interesting post - brings back memories. I too used to wear shimmies and run around in them after school (but that was when I was about 5/6. I remember also praying for breasts especially as I was a late developer. I begged my mum to buy my crop tops even though I had no breasts for them as I hated changing in front of the other girls in school. As for my period - lolll - I so remember feeling jealous of everyone that got it. I finally started when I was 12 but it felt like I was the last person on earth!

Vera Ezimora said...

JJ: I was in SS1 when I got mine, JJ. The thing no dey easy oh. I have been scarred by that event. Even among the late bloomers, I was a late bloomer. Imagine that!

Noni Moss: LOL. You got it @ 12 and u felt bad??? Imagine how I felt, lol! I 4got 2 mention how painful and downright embarassing it was 4 me 2 change in front of people. Chei!

Beautifully Human said...

Funny post! I remember wishing I had bigger breasts (still do!) and wearing my bikini top as a bra cos I didn't have a training bra! lol
Why is that the things which make us women are downright painful/uncomfortable? I guess its all in the miracle of creation.

Izz said...

i don't exactly relate, but makes me think back of when I first felt "I'm the man". This was with my first kiss. Too wet and all over the place and inexperieced and dirty and yet a sweet achievement. But of coursem I truly became a man when I started to want a kid of my, some three years ago, and I owned up to not only fathering the little amazing cute girl (now two girls), but owning up to being a responsible daddy to the both of them, and amidst all that, becoming a hubby at only a very tender age, in other peoples minds - but methinks in the traditional times, all married younger than the age that me and her married in - me 24 and her 22.

I'm a man, YEAH, I'm I man enoooough, I don't think so, not until I complete the 14th chapter of The Half Prince of Timbuktu (of which this morning my wife was kicking my butt outta bed screaming you lazy butt... and we actually wrote that on the can of the Redbull that I gallopped for the energy to start writing and guess what, I stayed in bed some more). LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL !!!!

Izz said...

My wifey is your new #1 blog fan and hope she doesn't get to read this comment above, otherwise my ass is toast.

s.chic said...

Oh Gosh, Nice post... jeez the memories!... by my JS 1 i was in "bra tops," and had my "simple pads" all packed up for boarding house inspite of its irregularity... i think i was the envy of many JS 1 girls then...hmmm
ps: girl can you write!

Kingpin said...

Pretty interesting. I recently posted one of my articles titled Metaphor of the beard on Nigeriansinamerica.com talking about pretty much the same issues only from a young boy's perspective. Funny how our lives seem to revolve around petty physiological issues as kids.

I like your write ups.

Check out my blog and leave a comment.
www.visionofthefuture.blogspot.com

omohemi Benson said...

LOL,nice post.
I was also a prayer warrioe for "breastisis" and the Ms. Flow,
I finally received Ms. Flow 2 months before my 14th birthday,Halleluyah!
My mother pulled my ears and warned me that I should not "touch " a man as I have now become a woman.

Everyday, I realize that the day before, I knew less, and as I grow, I continue to learn. I am a woman today – I think. But tomorrow, I will be more woman than I am today
Very true words.

Anonymous said...

Nice post.... i was a tom boy albeit a mild one but i wasnt too keen on gettin the "MONTHLY VISITOR" as ma mom called it!!! she gave me a long lecture on it when i was bout 7 which i said "yes mom" to promptly forgot and went off to play... i was amongst the young uns in my class so i guess i dint feel bad wen my friends all gt "visited" and i didnt. oh the memories

truth said...

A totally enjoyable read. I was in no hurry to have all those 'fertility assets'...i guess that's what happens when they come kinda early for you. The only thing i prayed for as a kid was long, full hair....more of it! Now all i can say is my prayers sure were answered (ronke, my college room mate, can testify to all the broken combs we had)lol.

Vera Ezimora said...

Beautifully Human: It's definitely all in the miracle of creation. And also the fact that we, women have some major issues. lol.

Izz: LOL. Your wife is my fan? Am I lucky or what?! Tell her I'm sending my love. I'm gonna have 2 start ignoring you and putting my attention on her then. Who needs Izz when we have Mrs. Izz?

S. Chic: You were the girl I used to love to hate. You had Ms flow by JSS1? Woah!! I woulda been contemplating poisoning you out of jealousy, lol. Gosh, i woulda been sooo jealous. LOL. But thanx 4 the compliments babe.

KingPin: Yeah, it really is funny how our young lives are all about these things. I remember how my cousin used to rub alcohol on his chin to make his beard grow. I still dunno if it worked ot not (or if it ever works even). I'll check ur blog out.

Omohemi: Funny enough, my mother never gave me that speech about not touching a man o! The woman and I never ever spoke about sex or its consequences. It was a 4bidden subject, I guess. I wonder what would happen if I should show up pregnant right now. Hmmm. Should I try? LOL

Anonymous: From the moment I knew something like that existed and people in my class were getting it, I wanted to have it too. I was a major late bloomer.

Truth: Lucky you. I have given up on the long, full hair. I don't think it's gonna happen for me, babe. LOL. It's in my genes, so I guess I can blame it on my folks. Thanks 4 reading.

Nilla said...

Interesting...

lol I think my "Ms Flow", came around Js1 or Js2...can't even remember again :-)

I feel you on them thinking only lightskinned people are igbo.
Some igbo people just start speaking igbo to me, cos they assume I'm igbo.

MrsIzz said...

Intresting post I must say.Guess what i have chinese eyes so they say and i had no breasts until I was pregnant with my first daughter.Now the part that made my life miserable,the periods.I was 15 years when I first had my periods and for that five days I wished I didn`t have to go anywhere.I am amazed that you prayed for something that is so uncomfortable,the breasts I would have,but not Ms.Flow.

adumaadan - Blacktinkerbell said...

I didn't get my period until I was in JSS 3 and still have no breasts to speak of. Needless to say, life wasn't easy.

femme said...

i thought this was too long to read at once but you wrote it so well it just flowed and and i was surprised when it ended so fast.

tlk said...

loving this

catwalq said...

CATWALQ ACADEMIE II HAS BEEN POSTED....

Favoured Girl said...

Lovely post, it does bring back memories. Those "shimmies" and socks that had been soaked in blue! I can't believe you wanted to see Ms Flow so badly. I wanted boobs but not the cramps and pimples.
Yes I did leave my job in Accounting to become a writer....

AIVY said...

great post... i remember when Ms Flow started, i was soooooooo embarassed that i didnt tell anyone, i used to take my aunt's Always which felt soooooooo damn uncomfortable (those really long ones). Thank God for modern day Always and tampoons

Anonymous said...

Great story Vera!

Ide

Anonymous said...

thats a good one it brings back memories,my was diffrent i already had breast and my mum bought bra for me,i so cried
ify

nene said...

Vera, nice read... I remember the shimmi's and d boob stuff but wot particularly hit home for me was buying "always pads" and pretending like i had periods...What a shame!!Now its just funny sit back and laugh about these things. Back then it was no joke o....Keep up d gud work my dear...BTW my friend T back then in highschool bought me my first bra in JSS3...

simplegal said...

LOL! I wished I was a late bloomer...i met Ms. Flow when I was 10 and we've had a weird relationship over the years. I can sympathize with the Lady lump wishes coz I also prayed so hard for them! Cramps and pimples? Nope didn't want them though I had them.

Lol @ blue...so nice to remember that.
Keep up the good work Vera!

rethots said...

...and just like yesterday (only, 'twas years ago) Vera became a woman.

Vivacious n Chic said...

I enjoyed this post so thoroughly! Wow! The memories of the 'Shimmys', white uniforms n socks turned blue by 'Robin blue', my first 'menses' - which by the way heralded it's arrival with severe cramps, and has continued to do so for the past 13years or so.......
Lovely post.
I totally understand the longing for breasts when everyone around you seems to have grown, but why a sister would pray for pimples is what beats me! (I'd assume it's cos i had enough to spare for atleast 3 more people if they were interested. LOL!)

Ms. Dufa said...

WOW, So, i'm almost two years late! I just had to laugh out loud @ "I was sure it would be full and almost pouring out by then, but to my greatest surprise, there was nothing"....Before I got my period, whenever the Always advert came up, I'll say "Stupid people, they're just stealing money . When you can just use tissue.". Then I asked my sisters, "When the blood is coming, why cant you just rush to the toilet?"....Oh, the memories!
I started when I was 10 going on 11. I did not have breasts and I prayed so much too and God decided to say a big NO. I still don't have breasts anyway but I'm learning to love myself just the way I am.

Ms. Dufa said...

Oh and at once I desired pimples too. I was at my cousins place and I told her I had pimples and she said that was impossible because only grown-up people have pimples. My 7-year old mind swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Don't you wonder how the name "shimmy" came about?