In elementary school my best friend and I were both tall and thin. One Saturday night when I was sleeping over at her house we sat against the side of her bed and I bemoaned my skinny legs. “One day you’ll be grateful,” she told me. During the night I woke up bleeding and didn’t know what was happening to me. I cleaned myself and told no one until I got home and discovered I was still bleeding. I was afraid something was terribly wrong with me. My mother, pregnant with my youngest brother, yet elegant as always in a red wool maternity suit, was busy making gravy from the bloody roast beef drippings and became irritated when I interrupted her. She sent me to the upstairs bathroom with a bundle of feminine hygiene equipment and a terse explanation. Then she screamed up the staircase that thanks to me the dinner was ruined. The gravy was burned.
I extend compassion to my mother who was ill-prepared to raise a daughter, but this memory holds clues to why I was so ill-equipped and alone as I tried to navigate the world of womanhood.