I was 14 when I got my first period at my Dutch grandmother’s house. I remember lying on Oma’s couch, clutching my stomach to try to quell the strange cramps that had overtaken me. Later, in the washroom, the rust-coloured stain on my underwear alarmed and excited me.
Oma was excited, too. She promptly called my mother on her party line to pronounce for all to hear in her broken English, “Anne has her periods!”
My mother showed up with a package of Stayfree pads, big as a cereal box, and we marvelled over the newfangled adhesive strip that had recently replaced the seemingly medieval menstrual belt. “You’re a woman now,” my mom said. Oma beamed. It was my own Red Tent moment. But rather than gathering in a menstrual hut in the dusty desert like the women of biblical times, we were together in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I was served cups of tea and tiny pink Midol pills to ease my cramps.