Periods were once an absolutely dreaded monthly reminder of having a uterus (which makes sense if you were in the Victorian era and had to wear a sanitary belt along with the corset, petticoats, and whatever else sucked you in all day). And up until recently, they’ve still been pretty dang taboo.
I remember denying the fact that my first period was happening by being like, “I don’t know, maybe I got a cut or something?” and my mom responding with, “Don’t worry, I won’t make a big deal about it.” Meanwhile, my younger cousin, just seven years later, proudly called every member of our family to announce that she’d started hers.
The tides have fully turned and hopefully the stigma of menstruation is slowly shedding (#periodpuns). People are now throwing period parties to celebrate their children’s entrance into the world as official adolescents, which range from a small celebratory dinner with some red foods, to full-on bashes with a cake decorated in fake-blood icing, uterus and tampon-related décor, and menstrual product party favors.
Where did the idea for period parties originate?
It’s not clear where the trend started, but the whole period party thing may have gained momentum over a 2017 viral tweet about a family being “extra” (yes, they did order a cake that read “Congrats on your period”) by throwing their daughter a party to soothe her anxiety around starting her cycle.
Brooke started her period today & myfamily is super extra 😂😩 pic.twitter.com/ed14gNrgKf
It’s a relatively newer concept in the U.S., but other cultures have been celebrating menarche, or your first period, for quite some time. For example, in traditional Japanese culture, it’s common for the family to kick off their child’s first period by eating a sticky rice dish called Sekihan, made with red beans that turn the rice a reddish color, explains Mayu Kataoka from Marina del Ray, California.
“When I first got my period, I told my mom what happened, and next thing you know, she cooked up this dish for my entire family that same night. It was a totally normal thing for my parents, but being a teenager, it was definitely awkward and made me want to disappear from the dinner table,” Kataoka says. “But looking back on it now, I can definitely laugh about it and appreciate it.”
Call period party-throwing parents “extra” all you want, but maybe they have a point. For many parents, it’s a way to combat negativity around the biological milestone and their child’s changing body. After all, according to ACOG, menstruation usually begins on average between ages 12 and 13, and studies have found that adolescents between 12 and 18 are particularly vulnerable to developing negative body image as a result of those uncomfortable physical changes during puberty. Research suggests that the transition may involve even more anxiety for those who enter puberty early and are visibly more developed than their peers.
So what does a period party entail, exactly?
@bridgetvanwell sounded off on Twitter joking about her mom throwing her a period party with her mom’s friends and her friends, which mortified her at the time. “They all came with pads, tampons, and one of my mom’s friends even gave me a journal,” she says. “I believe my mom did this for me because she didn’t want me to feel embarrassed about the changes I was going through, and instead she wanted me to embrace it. When you’re 13, becoming a woman is a scary thing,” she admits.
Jen Peck from Columbus, Ohio, also kept the lines of communication open with her daughter from the very beginning about how her body works. “We talked about how your period is not something to be embarrassed about and she should feel open to talking about it, because it’s normal,” Peck says.
Peck promised her daughter an ice cream cake and celebration when the big day came. “She was so excited to celebrate and thought it was so funny that we were having ‘You got this’ put on her cake. It was family—my husband and son were a part of it too—with some friends, who then talked about having their own parties. She has two younger sisters that we plan to continue the tradition with too!” she says.
Another positive is that Peck’s daughter has been breaking the silence among her friend group and siblings, too. “She is still very open about it and I think it has helped her friends be open about their periods as well. I think it’ll also help her younger sisters when their time comes,” Peck says.
Period parties can make learning about menstruation *way* more fun and engaging.
One important outcome of period parties is that they can be a moment for education about how the body works, especially if kids are getting the bare minimum in terms of sexual education in school, points out Kathryn Davis, MPH, LOOM educator.She leads educational period and fertility coaching sessions for adult women in the Los Angeles area (some of whom have had little education about how their cycle actually works).
“I’d like to see health education and sexual education change in our nation, but it’s good that it’s coming from families,” Davis says. “Body image starts to change for female bodies before the period comes, which can all be very confusing, especially if you’re not having discussions at home and at schools,” she adds.
Period parties can be celebratory, but parents should take the opportunity to open up the conversation about why this is happening to your body and what it means to be menstruating and ovulating as well, says Davis.
Some parents have made the educational part fun by ordering treats, like the uterus, pad, and tampon sugar cookies from Sarah’s Cookie Jar in Huntington Woods, Michigan, for their kids before having a puberty education session. Others choose to simply inaugurate their child into adolescence with a nice dinner, or a trip to get ice cream and to the movies. It’s important to gauge your child’s feelings around this milestone. “Periods are unfortunately still stigmatized and it can be embarrassing, and if that’s the case, parents shouldn’t contribute by throwing a party,” Davis says.
Period parties are not only combatting the taboo of menstruation, but they’re bringing families together with that goal, says Victoria Gordon from Pompano Beach, Florida. She started creating period party printable graphics for her niece’s impending first-period celebration, but then decided to sell them on her Etsy shop, Hello Honey Party Shoppe, which she opened in 2018. “I realized that there were a lot more girls her age that could benefit from it, in terms of normalizing it for their family and the sort of togetherness that comes from having a party,” Gordon says.
Gordon’s family has been actively planning parties for her niece and all other members of their family who are about to start menstruating. The goal is for the recipient of honor to receive a year’s supply of tampons and pads so that they’re good to go for a while, and to come together in sisterhood and conversation. “My motivation for creating décor for period parties is for my niece and all the women and young girls in my family. Your first period is sometimes confusing and scary, especially if you’re not educated about it in the correct way,” says Gordon.
She believes that period parties, even if gaudy and cheesy, are a much better alternative to silence about the body’s natural processes, and will eventually become normalized. “If more people hear about period parties, it will be less of a gimmick,” Gordon says. “Trying to break the stigma around periods is going to take a while, but I’m here to see it through till the end.”
Source: Read Full Article