Being Raised By A Single Father Made Me Who I Am Today

As someone who has always preferred the social company of my own gender, the conversations I had during childhood were peppered with our reaction to the world as we grew from girls to women: periods, sex, and heartbreak. Before I had my first period, I was aware of what was to happen. Yes, biology lessons taught me the science behind it all, but my friends were the ones who delivered personal accounts of what it felt like to menstruate for the first time. The stories were always the same: a friend would rush to school with news of starting their period, and we would congregate in a group of whispers and giggles to hear all about it; the main similarity being the “talk” that each friend had with their mother about 1) what menstruating meant 2) how to navigate this chapter of adolescence. It wasn’t long until I realized that my experience of starting my period wouldn’t be the same. For context, I regard my relationship with my father as being close, and loving, but with generational differences, typically brought on by the fact that he is a Jamaican man socialized to view life through a lens not prescribed for my eyes — so there were many things we simply didn’t and don’t talk about. By the time I started my period, it was clear that this was one of those things. I remember getting my first period at school, anxiously stuffing my knickers with tissue in the toilets and then using my lunch money to buy pads on the way home. That was it. No talk. Just a period that saw me hiding feminine hygiene products in secret places around my bedroom until I moved out. It would be years, well into adulthood — once my therapy sessions had proven effective — when I’d feel comfortable speaking about periods with friends; it was my best girlfriend who taught me how to put in a tampon. I was twenty-five.

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