Periods, Sex, and Stinky Armpits

No one can bring perspective to all the shit in your life quite like your friends from childhood. Especially, when you are a middle-aged mom. Talking to your girlfriends is food for the soul. And wow. These days, we could all use a little extra support. When you were raised in the 80s and early 90s, being a girl mom today can feel like whiplash.

Last night, my high school friends and I were reflecting on the vast dichotomy between how our moms raised us - and how we are raising our girls. Our moms could barely talk to us about our periods. In my neighborhood, the moms conspired to get us each the "blue box." Mine mysteriously appeared on my bed one day. No note. No explanation. Just a sample of female supplies for me to explore and make sense of myself. Oh! And a copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

In the 80s, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was practically forbidden reading. Now, it’s a major motion picture.

Times have changed. Back then, we were largely left on our own to figure out our bodies, our periods, and our sexuality. Now, girls come to their moms asking for help putting in their tampons. And - just to be clear - it’s not a request for an instructional explanation. It’s literally asking mom to put in the tampon?!?!

We got such strange messages as girls growing up. On one hand, we were told to hide our sexuality. It was a private matter, practically one to be ashamed of. But on the other hand, we saw media imagery of sexy women being used all over the place to sell just about everything. Sure, female products like perfume, bathing suits, and lingerie made some sense. But something as banal as soda? Who can forget the 1992 Pepsi commercial featuring Cindy Crawford? There is a reason we have the phrase: sex sells.

Nowadays, my teeange daughter sings along to pop songs in the car like Industry Baby by Lil Nas X with sex-filled lyrics like "I sent her back to her boyfriend with my handprint on her ass cheek." When I was in the car and We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off came on the radio, it was immediately turned off. Apparently, such naughty lyrics were not allowed to touch my ear drums. Which I could never understand because if you actually listen to the lyrics, it’s about not having sex!!

And as far as body awareness and acceptance, we have made great strides there as well. When I was young, I was quite the sweaty kid. I knew I needed some deodorant, but my mom was not helping me with this. So I had to ask her. It felt like such a private matter that I couldn’t even verbalize it. I literally wrote it down and passed her the note. Nowadays, when my kids are walking out the door to school, they will ask me, “Can you smell my armpit? I can’t remember if I put on deodorant.” And I laugh. And I make fun of them. And then yes, I smell their damn armpit.

I think the moral of the story here is: talk to your kids. Growing up is f*cking tough. The more that is out there and in the open, the better. And it doesn’t even need to be verbalized if talking face to face is difficult. If you find it easier to write things down, text your kids. If you bought them a phone, use it to communicate…with them. And be real. Be real together. Adulting is hard too. So I don’t hide it from my kids.

No matter what the generation, navigating adolescence into adulthood is really hard. Those of us growing up through the 80s and into the 90s are still trying to figure out this whole adulting thing. And our adolescence didn't have social media and a barrage of information through all sized screens, big to small. We all need to be more communicative and compassionate with each other. Liberals and conservatives. Bosses and employees. Teachers and students. Parents…and kids. The world is kind of sucking right now.

And if talking to each other doesn’t work, maybe we should just smell each others arm pits.