Tittin and Hairin….
Is it sad that an episode of Orange Is the New Black brought back a childhood memory?
I just recently started watching the show and I’m hooked. I’m currently up to season three and the last episode I saw, focused on the character Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Dogget. For those of you who might read this, but have never watched the show, Pennsatucky’s character pre-imprisonment, is depicted as a sexually irresponsible meth addict who trades sexual favors for six packs of Mountain Dew. This is not the part that brought back childhood memories, just so we’re clear.
During her fifth abortion (also, not the part) she becomes enraged when a nurse makes a comment about her many visits to the clinic and after the procedure….Pennsatucky retrieves a gun from the pick-up truck of the guy who is presumably the father….and shoots the nurse in broad daylight in front of dozens of witnesses….most of whom are pro-life supporters protesting at the clinic.
The act wins her favor among the protesters who consider Pennsatucky a hero and fund a high-profile Christian lawyer to defend her. Though nothing about the storyline to that point would suggest Pennsatucky holds religion in much regard, the praise, attention and financial support that keeps her commissary account in the green, ultimately converts her into a religious zealot.
The part that brought back my childhood memory, was an episode that went back in time to Pennsatucky’s childhood. In it, a little Tiffany get’s her period for the first time. Yup, I’m going there….consider yourself warned.
Her mother, who isn’t exactly winning any votes for Mother of the Year, offers her own version of the birds and the bees, which is to say nothing about what the milestone means for Tiffany as a young woman, but instead, focuses the conversation on what it means for the boys will now inevitably seek her out for sex.
Tiffany’s mother tells her, “Go on and let them do their business. If you’re real lucky, most of them will be quick like your daddy. It’s like a bee sting, in and out, over before you knew it was happening.”
The exchange helps to explain all the ways in which Tiffany had been set up to fail right from her start….and how the damage done to her young psyche would ultimately set the tone for her values and warped views regarding men, sex and her own self-worth.
In my own life, the experience wasn’t quite that harsh and it never lead to a conversation about the birds and the bees. In fact, it really didn’t lead to a conversation at all.
My first visit from Aunt Flo came when I was about 12. When it happened, I was in the midst of a rough game of tackle football with a group of neighborhood boys I played with. After a particularly hard hit, I felt a little something leak into my underwear.
My initial thought was that I must have wet myself….that the force of the tackle had caused my bladder to give way a bit. I honestly didn’t know what else it could be.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely unaware that someday biology would punch me in the vagina….my mother’s various husbands and boyfriends over the years had likened her menstrual cycle to an exorcism and I wholeheartedly agreed….I just didn’t know when it might happen to me….I had always assumed though that I would be old….like in my 20’s….when it did.
That day, in the midst of the football game, I initially decided to ignore the sensation, but after a while, I couldn’t deny that something was happening down there and it seemed prudent that I investigate it.
I ran home to the bathroom, pulled my pants down and was aghast by what I saw. I wasn’t scared, I was pissed. I didn’t want this burden.
I also didn’t have the kind of relationship with my mom that made me feel warmed by the idea of calling out to her for help and guidance. Instead, I shoved a wad of toilet paper into my underwear and headed back outside to lie flat on my back on our lawn with my legs straight up in the air hoping this would somehow reverse the flow.
Of course it didn’t and after some time lying there, my mother called out to inquire just what the hell I was doing. I finally broke down and told her.
She squealed with so much delight you would have thought she’d learned she wasn’t an alcoholic….just misunderstood.
Then, she immediately went to the phone and began calling various family members to report on my entree into womanhood. She called my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, neighbors, friends from rehab, AA and so on, while I stood there….still trickling and asking her to please stop telling people. She told me to shut up, this was a moment for her and I was ruining it.
Once she felt she’d thoroughly basked in the glow of my menstrual cycle, she directed me toward our upstairs bathroom, handed me a box of Kotex and left without any further instructions or parting words of wisdom. This was generally how most of the mothering went in my life. My mother seemed to enjoy the novelty of parenting moments, but was rarely interested in the work that came along once the moment had passed.
I retreated to the bathroom and opened up what appeared to be a banana seat for a bicycle. Inspecting myself in the mirror….the pad was so large and bulky it extended from my belly button, up the crack of my ass and was bulging out from both sides of my underwear….I was mortified. I called down to my mother.
“Mom? “Do they make these any smaller?”
“We don’t have anything smaller!” She shrieked up the stairs.
“Can we get something smaller? Like, can you go to the store or something and get me something smaller? These are huge!”
“No!” She called back. “Jerry Springer’s on!” (Truthfully, I’m probably making the Springer part up….but NO was the answer….I was stuck with the twin sized mattress stuffed into my underwear for what I understood to be the next five to seven days.
Walking around as though I was riding an imaginary horse….the sound of crinkle paper coming from my crotch….I truly felt life was over….that I would simply spend my days drowning in a sea of feminine hygiene products. There was no one to tell me any different….no one to explain what it all meant, how it was changing me and how it was preparing me for the things that would come later in my life.
Eventually, I did manage to acquire Maxi-Pads that couldn’t have been used to sop up the Exxon Valdez oil spill and later asked my mother how to wear one with a bathing suit….an exchange that went something like this:
Me: Um, how do I hide this thing when I go swimming? (Standing in my bathing suit, wearing a pad). Is that what that little pocket thing in the crotch is for?
My Mother: Are you fucking stupid? You can’t go swimming wearing a maxi-pad!
Me: Then what do I do?
My Mother: You either don’t go swimming, or you wear a tampon.
Fast forward a bit and I’m standing outside the bathroom with a box of teen sized Tampons in hand.
Me: What do I do?
My Mother: Do you want a fucking live demonstration? There are instructions in the box. Read them.
As I sat on the edge of the tub reading through the pamphlet….and learning a thing or two about anatomy thanks to the corresponding pictures….I pondered whether a live demonstration might not have been so bad. It seemed really complicated down there….what if I landed in the wrong hole?
After half a box of attempts, I’d figured it out though.
Moral of the story: There is a very good reason God gave me a son….and why I will not be having anymore children. Why tempt fate, ya know?