I was a tomboy growing up, as shown below by the ludicrous black high top sneakers that I’m sporting with those thoroughly 80s aquamarine-colored highwater trousers. Those aren’t jeans, kids. Those are straight-up trousers. And you can’t even blame this sartorial choice on the family, as you can see my sister Bonnie is pictured on the left in clothing that is not from the Pouting Dude section at Zayre.
What’s the saying? Little girls are made of sugar and spice and black high tops and trousers? As you probably already know, I eventually grew out of it and became a bona fide painted-up hussy. A real trollop. A genuine slut-puppy supreme with tramp fries.
But enough about what I have in common with your MOM. Ohhhhhhhh!!
Seriously, though, even today my “conservative” office pants are so tight that my dry cleaner returns them to me pre-tipped with dollar bills already sticking out of the waistband.
That being said, in the years between the tomboy and slut-puppy phases, the most disgusting thing happened to me. The worst, most horrifying thing that had ever happened to anyone. The most god awful, hideous, terrifying event:
I shuddered just thinking about it.
As a tomboy, the entire process of puberty felt like a personal affront to me. I tried my best to escape it, but there it was, inescapable and right there in the mirror. My widening hips no longer fit into my skate shorts, and my skin was as greasy as Danny Zuko’s hair. I sometimes cried for no reason because I felt “emotional”, whatever the hell that meant. It was no longer socially acceptable to spend all my time raising tadpoles in the old baby pool in the backyard. Climbing trees became greatly frowned-upon. Legs would have to be shaved. Lips glossed, hair tossed. Still waiting for the boobs to really come in, though.
Oh god. I was turning into a teenage girl. No, no, no, no, no. What could be worse? What could be worse than that?!
I’ll tell you exactly what was worse. The Puberty Detective a/k/a My Grandmother.
Let me start off by saying the disclosure that you always have to make when you start a story like this: I love my grandmother.
Now that we’ve dispensed with the disclosures, I can tell you about the nightmare hellscape this woman attempted to inflict upon me between the ages of 10 and 16; the tenacious, torturous pit of Hades that became my existence every time I visited her.
Did she beat me? No. Did she withhold dessert when everyone else got some? Never! She did something way, way more heinous.
She had questions. Oh god, the questions. Not just any questions, either.
I had been given a heads-up on this by my older sisters, who’d told me that when they were my age, our grandmother would routinely bust out with gems like, “So have you gotten your period yet?” or “Are you wearing a bra yet?”
I was already in a constant state of panic due to my ever-increasing hormones and related identity crisis, and the mere thought that another human being might ask me these kinds of questions made me want to unzip my skin and run out of the room a skeleton.
I couldn’t very well pack up and leave the country, so I did the only thing I could do. I formed a plan to thwart the Puberty Detective’s investigation at every turn.
The plan was that I would work diligently and tirelessly to avoid ever being along in a room with my grandmother until the coast was clear. I figured the coast would be clear around age 16, when it would have been silly to ask those kinds of questions, so I had six years to play “Keep Away” with her. I could do that. Hell, I’d been hiding the fact that I actually liked boys from everyone for years already, despite the fact that I was one of the founding members of The Against Boys Club (ABC, y’all) in elementary school.
Laugh if you will, but after enduring years of physical torment and harassment from the boys in our neighborhood, The Against Boys Club successfully planned and executed a bus stop takeover one morning where we totally beat all the boys’ asses. Don’t let anyone tell you that organized crime doesn’t pay. Those little 9-year old bastards never even saw it coming.
Now that’s a brag – and I’m braggin’ it.
So for those six years between the ages of 10 and 16 years old, any time I found myself alone with my grandmother, I would find a reason to have to run out of the room. We’d all be sitting on the patio and I’d see that the other people were getting up from their chairs to walk back into the house and I would go on red alert: You better find a reason to leave this room and find it NOW. Then I would say I had to go to the bathroom or something, and flee the room.
Sometimes I would misjudge the timing and The Puberty Detective would actually start to ask one of the dreaded questions, “So, Maggie, have you gotten your…” and I would jump up and disappear like Houdini before she could even get the word “period” out. One time, I actually did the classic “What? What? Did I just hear someone call my name in the other room?” before sprinting out of the room.
I look back on all of this now and wish we had been able to be closer, and that we hadn’t lost all those years to me running out of the room, but I was so freaked out by this Puberty Detective business, she became my number one persona non grata. The same woman who quietly sang hymns while she vacuumed, who wore one of those flowery bathing caps in the community pool at her 55-plus community, became the person I feared most in the world.
She wasn’t menacing, she was just curious. Her inquiring mind just wanted to know, but I mean, come on. Puberty is bad enough without having to field questions from reporters.
Besides, had anyone known what they were in for, they would have never wanted to see THIS come to fruition.