Learning about the birds and bees, Chapter 1

The baby boomer generation often gets credit for starting the sexual revolution. But when you find out how many of us learned about the birds and bees, it’s a wonder we ever figured out which end was which.

It all started with how we girls were told about “becoming a woman,” the nearly universal euphemism for getting your period. Here’s a sampling of responses I received when I asked some in-real-life and virtual friends how they got the scoop about Aunt Flo:

We had a pink tea at school – 5th grade – and some pads mysteriously showed up in my panty drawer…that was it.

Oh, god, I think my mom left a pamphlet on my bed when I got my first period.

My mother handed me a book and told me to go down in the basement to read it…like the topic couldn’t even be discussed in daylight.

I learned that a period was more than the dot at the end of a sentence from a friend in third grade who had an older sister.

Mom never did “explain.” She handed me a book and a box of Kotex long after I knew the facts – which I found pretty funny.

My mom gave me that little paper pamphlet from the Kotex company with the 1970s girl on the front. And she made comments such as, “Only married women can use tampons.”

My mom threw a book at us – “You’re a Young Lady Now.” My sisters and I still joke about it.

My mother didn’t tell me anything about getting my period until I actually started bleeding. I was just relieved to know I wasn’t dying.

I could tell mom was a wreck about her first daughter having her first period. The day I started my period, she said, “Now you need to be very careful to not let boys touch your breasts because it leads to other things.”

Frankly, I don’t even remember if my folks even had the birds and bees talk with me. All I remember is that one of my girlfriends in junior high showed me how to use a tampon!

How did my mother tell me about puberty and starting my period? By giving me a book entitled “Now You Are 12.” Scared the shit right out of me! But it did have a very pretty cover of a girl in a white summer dress with a wreath of daisies in her hair. My takeaway was, “I sure hope this doesn’t happen to me.” And I wanted to be like the girl on the cover of the book.

I don’t remember my mother telling me anything. I DO remember her giving me a booklet produced by Kotex called “You’re a Young Lady Now,” about menstruation. That would be a hoot to read now!

There’s another “educational” classic: an animated film – “The Story of Menstruation” – produced in 1946 (the start of our baby boomer generation) by none other than Walt Disney. It’s probably the first film ever to use the word “vagina.” And there’s no mention of sex – just an oblique reference to how having our period is “part of nature’s plan for passing on the gift of life.”

So, fellow boomers, once we young ladies got the period thing under our belts (remember those contraptions for holding pads in place?), the next step in “becoming a woman” was to learn what sex was all about. In next week’s post, I’ll share how some of us were told about those facts of life. In the meantime, here’s this week’s Boomer Haiku:

The best thing about
The Curse was getting out of
gym class – remember?

What about you – how did you learn about menstruation and what it meant? Please share!

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9 thoughts on “Learning about the birds and bees, Chapter 1”

  1. I found an explicit novel under the bed at my older married sister’s house. It was like finding a buried treasure. In my mother’s defense she did address menstruation though. She hooked me up with my cousin who was two years older than me and explained things very well. And I’m pretty sure my school owns that informative movie which they showed on a reel to reel projector. Ah! The good old days!

    1. Oooh…the explicit novel! And of course it would have been at your MARRIED sister’s house because no self-respecting single woman would/could get her hands on it, right? Ah, yes…the good old days!

  2. My sisters and I used to say, “NOW, you are a young lady!” We got the pamphlet and no more! And I think Bill Spencer is forgetting those National Geographics…emphasis on the graphics…at least that’s what my brothers were looking at!!!!

    1. I wonder how many parents got (and even still get) that deer-in-the-headlights look when their daughters “became a woman?” They probably saw that pamphlet as their salvation! And can you imagine the fun that marketers could have had promoting National Geographic for its “other” purpose (“Delivering sex education for the next generation of American youth!”)?

  3. Back in the 60’s, I think boys had to piece things together from adult magazines, graffiti in the boys’ bathroom at school, and the Sears catalog.

  4. I can remember blood spots on my underwear and my grandmother, with a grave look on her face, surreptitiously informing my mother about it. After that, memory is hazy, until 7th or 8th grade, when we girls were sent into the school gym for a showing of an educational film about menstruation. The boys stayed in the classroom for their own educational experience, whatever it was. I think they were showed some kind of film, too.

    1. Double posting to say that I got no sex education from my parents and almost nothing at school, except for the continual warnings about “going too far.”

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