What I Know Now. You Should Too

It all started drastically with no warning sign. Others had whispered through the classroom walls about how they were using sanitary pads and that you could be unhurt but still bleed. There was some excitement to it—puberty—but little did we know it was to be a shift to womanhood, sexuality and all other mirror conversations society deemed uncomfortable.

I was 14 when I got my first period. For a while I had been waiting to experience my first stain so that I could relate to the conversations that girls in my class were having. Some got their first period at 12, whilst others were going to have it later than I, but it was okay I heard, bodies and genes are different.

In time, breasts started to grow bigger and bigger, girls started talking about boys, getting  boyfriends and asking questions like, “When did you have your first kiss and how was it?” Nobody told me what to do when I started liking girls too. There was no explanation for being different or even when you felt you did not want to have “a lover” yet.

The hair of every teenage girl stands whenever it is time for their parents to give them “the talk”. The talk is an uncomfortable conversation between them and their parents, mother, or guardian about sex. I am referring to it as an “uncomfortable conversation” because often it feels like the generation gap between parents and children prevents parents from understanding that times have changed or that the adulthood journey is very personal.

Now, if I was to advise the 14- to 17-year-old me, I would say to her and other girls that age:  give yourself time to know yourself. Be patient with your feelings as you do not have to figure it all out at once. You are a piece of art and therefore allow yourself to evolve. There are a lot of young girls who find it difficult to figure out their sexuality but that is totally alright and the right age to be confused. In time my dear, you will figure it out.

Indeed HIV, sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies are real, so I would tell a young woman to be very cautious. I would say: do not allow peer pressure to drag you by the nose. Your “NO” is a complete sentence and do not indulge in sexual activity when you are not ready. Your body your decision. There are so many laws to protect and guide you from people who might want to take advantage of you or your vulnerability. You may come to know about things like “Date Rape” or “Early Child Marriages”. Do your best to keep away from spooky environments or people with questionable behaviours.

When you start to notice things you do not understand, such as period pains, a pimple or pain on your intimate areas, do not be shy to ask others or contact a doctor. You will realize there are some things that are not scary because another girl has gone through it as well. At times you might have some discharge or white cream on your panties, seek medical attention or remedies when the colour seems abnormal or there is an intense odor. Under normal circumstances it is just the vagina cleaning itself. Disregard using some “feminine washes” or using soap down there. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ and water should be enough. Remember, it is a very sensitive area. Sanitary cleanliness is very important when it comes to menstrual health and management. Whether a young girl is using pads, tampons, menstrual cups, cotton, a cloth or a rag, it is important to not worry yourself and stay clean. Remember, we come from different backgrounds and afford different sanitary wear. As long as you are clean, nobody will know, so it is very possible to remain comfortable during your periods

You are not alone in the different experiences. Embrace yourself, girl!

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