Friday, February 23, 2007

Life's Embarrassing Moment

I was chatting with some women on another forum, and the subject of "most embarrassing incident in High School" was suggested. I didn't have to search my mind or try to remember a long forgotten memory. I knew immediately what my most embarrassing moment was. It haunts me still today.

My most embarassing incident in High School happened when I was sixteen years old. I "blossomed" late in my teens. I didn't start my period until I was sixteen. Way later than most girls and after two of my younger sisters did. I was always embarrassed that I started late and never let on to anyone that I knew less about periods than anyone else. I pretended to others that I knew what they were talking about. I had a terrible fear that people would think less of me if they found out I didn't know something.

One afternoon, right before our Debate Team had to leave for the weekend to compete, I felt a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. It was winter and I was wearing a wool skirt. Imagine my surprise and horror to discover I had started my period. At school! Totally unprepared. I had no sanitary supplies with me at all. I sat on the toilet frozen, afraid to get up. Not knowing how to stop the bleeding and what to use. I contemplated my options. There weren't many. I could go out and find someone who could help me with my "problem" or I could stay in the bathroom and hope everyone forgets I exist. I opted for the latter.

After what seemed like an eternity, one of the girls on my Debate Team came into the bathroom looking for me. She asked me if anything was wrong and I mumbled something about starting my period. She assumed that I meant it was one of those monthly occurences, not a monumental moment in my life. And, I wasn't going to correct her. She asked me if I had any tampons, and I said "no", only half knowing what a tampon was. She offered me one under the bathroom door with the question, "you do know how to use this, don't you?" with the emphasis on "you do". Well, what do I say to that? Of course, I knew how to use it. If my life depended on it, I'd say I knew how to use it.

I didn't. But, I wasn't going to ask, so I tried the best I could to use it in the way I thought it would work, then left the bathroom and joined my team as we boarded a large van. I took a seat by the window and kept to myself marveling at the fact that I had just started my period and I was finally a "woman". A woman with no one to share the news. The experience was all mine and mine alone to endure. No one would find out, ever.

During the long ride to the school we were competing, I felt a pain and a pressure in my vaginal area, and could never get comfortable on the cloth covered seat. All through the trip I scooted one way and then another on my portion of the seat. Lifting one butt cheek and then the other trying lessen the discomfort. I discovered why I was having so many problems when we stopped and debarked. I looked down at the seat and was horrified to discover a large blood stain. The tampon didn't work. I'd bled through my underwear, my skirt, and onto the seat. I hurried off the van, hoping no one else would see what I had done. I distanced myself as far from my group as I could, always keeping my front facing the group.

As discreetly as I could, I attempted to pull the back of my skirt toward the front so I could see how big the stain was on my skirt. It was huge. My skirt was plaid, blues and grays, so the dark red showed through well. As it dried, it turned a rusty brown. The cloth stiffened. I searched my mind for a solution. Could I get my suitcase and hurry to the bathroom and change? Would my coach hold a debate for me? I didn't dare ask. I wasn't in any hurry to explain why I needed the time to anyone.

Besides, there was no time to go to the bathroom. Our coach rushed us through signing in and sent our teams to various rooms for competitions that were to start in a few minutes. I was rushed here and there, until I finally entered a room where my teammate and I were to compete. The room was quiet. The judge sat in the first row. The other team already seated. A few people sat in the audience. I froze at the door.

How was I to concentrate? What was the resolution again? Was I for it or against it? Could everybody see the horrible stain on the back of my skirt? How was I supposed to stand up in front of everyone and argue my points? A hundred questions rushed through my mind as I followed my teammate to our seats. The judge set the timer, the debate begun.

I competed as second negative. Somehow, I managed to walk sideways to the podium, make my points, and walk quickly back to my seat all without incident. Did anyone see the stain? God, I hope not. I drifted in a blur between statements and rebuttals. On automatic pilot I answered. The only coherent thought in my brain was the blood on my skirt and how much more was I bleeding?

Somehow, at the end of the competition, our team had won. Do I remember any of it, not a second. Only the moments when I thought all eyes were on my stain. No one mentioned it.

After the competition, we loaded back into the van and our coach dropped the girls off to one house and the boys to another. They were people's homes that volunteered to house the out of town debate teams. Finally, I was able to go to the bathroom. To my inexperienced mind, I discovered that the tampon had only entered at the tip and didn't stop the flow of menstrual fluid at all. No wonder it hurt and I was in pain. I panicked again. I was in a strange house with strange people and once again needed help.

This time, I calmed myself and searched the bathroom. Hoping to find something other than tampons, as I didn't want to experience those twice, I opened doors and drawers. I found sanitary pads and gratefully and without asking, used one and took several for later. I hid my skirt from the other girls, not knowing if anyone had discovered what had happened to me. I didn't see any whispering or pointing, so I thought I'd gone unnoticed. I knew that if someone had discovered what happened, teenage girls wouldn't be able to keep it quiet.

However, the next morning, the adults were inquisitive. We were all asked if everyone was "okay" and whether we needed "anything" or wanted to "talk" to someone. Was I going to raise my hand? Are you kidding? The adults had found the stain on the bus seat, but no one owned up to it, least of all me.

We had one more round of competition that day, then we went home. Our team made it to the state finals. We'd done well. Proud of our accomplishments, I let that feeling flow over me as we traveled the roads back home. Thanks to the sanitary pads, the ride back was much more comfortable.

When I got home, I hurried to the bathroom as quickly as I could. Tearing open the cupboard door under the bathroom sink, I fumbled through Ajax, rubber gloves, toilet paper, and soap until I found what I was looking for. The tampon box. I read the instructions carefully and discovered I'd definitely improperly inserted the tampon.

My announcement that I had started my period to my stepmother was met with a resounding, "it's about time." A box of sanitary napkins were tossed at me with an off-hand comment along the lines of "use these." My initiation into womanhood.

My most embarrassing moment. I've never told anyone
about what happened on that debate trip.

Until now.

6 comments:

hana said...

What a story! I honestly don't think I could beat that one.
~Elise

This part is for Jack Frost... Hi Jack, it's me, Hana the Dog. I read your dogster diary just now. I should have checked the moon this weekend because then maybe I could have acted up and blamed the full moon.
~Hana

Rita Marie Keller said...

Oh Vicki...I can relate! Whenever I think of my most embarrassing moment, the first thing that comes to mind is the day I got my period in 7th grade math class. I was told after I had to stand in front of the room to do a problem. My friends didn't have the guts to tell me. The teacher, an older male, didn't tell me. The cutest guy in school told me delicately. I was so embarrassed, but he was so sweet and asked me if I was okay and if there was anything I could do. The school nurse drove me home where I cleaned up and changed my clothes. I never wore that skirt again. Thanks for sharing your story and being so honest. Marie

Robin said...

Vicki, I could feel how awkward and embarrassed you felt. I'm curious as to how this made you feel when writing it?

Vicki M. Taylor said...

The events took place about 30 plus years ago. This is the first time I've been able to even get it down on paper, let alone talk about it. While I wrote it, I drifted back to that time, but with the mind of a 45 year old. I kept my perspective. Would I ever want to relive that moment? Never. I'm glad I was finally able to deal with it in a healthy way. It truly was the worst most embarrassing moment in my life.

Robin said...

Vicki, The story definitely made an impression me...thanks again for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe you talk about that on a blog. What ever happened to grace and keeping private things private? Geez... You 'romance writers" keep nothing to yourselves, I have noticed.... makes one wonder how happy some are that must tell their entire lives online. (Not necessarily you) Im sure there are plenty of secrets...but some stuff should remian private...I have never liked hearing women talk openly about their periods...thats all. How about, whats the most FORWARD approach you ever made to a man?? Yeah...thats much better! ;-)

Jesse