Fat, Media, Medicine, No Shit Sherlock

Genetic link found among shortness, fatness, and early puberty

I just wrote for Broadsheet about a new study that found specific genes associated with determining when puberty begins for girls (and in one case, boys), which throws at least a small monkey wrench into the theory that the Evils of Modern Society (hormones in our food, pesticides, childhood obesity) are messing up little girls, so soon we’re gonna have hordes of menstruating toddlers on our hands. That post is pretty much me ranting about how our culture’s attitude toward female sexuality is a MUCH bigger problem than a relatively modest decline in the age of menarche over the last 30 years. But over here, I want to discuss the part I didn’t have space for.

The Nature Genetics study also provides a clue for why girls who are shorter and fatter tend to get their periods months earlier than classmates.

The genes sit right next to DNA controlling height and weight.

I’m sorry, did they just acknowledge the existence of “DNA controlling height and weight“? Somebody pinch me. Moving right along…

Researcher Dr Anna Murray said: “This study provides the first evidence that common genetic variants influence the time at which women reach sexual maturation.

“Our findings also indicate a genetic basis for the associations between early menstruation and both height and BMI.”

*fans self*

Now, of course they’ve also got the expected caveat in there, way before the quote from Dr. Murray.

However, [the researchers] also accept that the onset of puberty is influenced by factors such as nutrition and exercise, and the effect of a single gene is likely to be relatively small.

In the Broadsheet piece, I also talk about a recent post by Tara Parker-Pope over at Well, in which she points out that there was a much more dramatic drop in the average age of menarche between the mid-19th and 20th centuries, which is widely attributed to improved nutrition and medical care. So yeah, genes are not the only factor at play here. But of course, somewhere around the ’70s, “Improved nutrition, yay!” gave way to “We’re all eating too goddamned much and too many of the wrong foods,” and then that led to panic about fat little girls sprouting pubic hair before they’re out of diapers. And everybody sorta forgot about genes, since their existence might mean that living A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE does not give one absolute control over one’s body. Perish the thought!

Now, after all these years of hearing that early menarche is associated with both shortness and fatness — ergo, we must put chubby little girls on diets! And, you know, will them to get taller! — someone comes along and shows a genetic link among all three characteristics. You don’t say.

From the anecdata files, as I’ve mentioned before, I was a skinny kid who hit puberty early (noticeable boobs by age 9, first period at age 10), and only then began to put on weight. I didn’t have “excess” body fat prior to menarche, but I sure as hell had fat genes and short genes. (At the time, I was pretty tall for my age, but then everyone else kept growing.) So for the very little that my personal experience is worth, this makes a lot more sense to me than the thought that shortness and fatness cause early puberty.

Also, the aforementioned Well post is primarily about a recent Danish study that showed the average age of beginning breast development dropped by a full year over the course of fifteen years — though the average age of menarche didn’t drop nearly as quickly. My first thought, naturally, was, “Fuck, it’s all gonna be about how Europe is catching up to the U.S. in terms of fatness.” But wait, what’s this?

Alterations in reproductive hormones and BMI did not explain these marked changes, which suggests that other factors yet to be identified may be involved.

They controlled for BMI and got the same result! Fatness did not cause early breast development! Yippee!

I’m not optimistic that we’ll stop hearing about how THE OBESITY CRISIS BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA is pushing younger and younger girls headlong into adulthood any time soon. But at least we’ve got some evidence that other factors are at play.  And since in the U.S., children (not to mention adults) are apparently no longer getting fatter, I will be really curious to see what happens in the next few years. If that plateau holds, and the average age of menarche keeps declining at the same rate (which is not nearly as fast as the hand-wringers would have us believe, mind you), they’ll have to find another culprit. I mean, they’ve already got hormones and pesticides lined up for that — and for all I know, there might even be a noteworthy connection there — but CHILDHOOD! OBESITY! has long been the favorite scapegoat. It would be delightful to see the attention shift to something else. (Of course, that would involve anyone outside the fatosphere actually noticing that childhood obesity is no longer on the rise.)

Anyway, read the Broadsheet post for the rest of what I think about the panic over precocious puberty. Which is not much, generally speaking. Then tell us what you think about all this.

197 thoughts on “Genetic link found among shortness, fatness, and early puberty”

  1. I got my period before any of my friends but months after I’d been forced into training bras by my mother. It started when I was 10 on the 2nd day of a week-long stay at summer camp. I was not a happy camper, literally in this instance. I knew what was happening, but I was too embarrassed to tell my counselor. I spent the rest of the week using wads of toilet paper in place of pads.

    I wish I had been less completely mortified at talking about periods, even to ask for supplies. That week would probably not have stayed in my mind so strongly as a horrible event, coloring my view of menstruation to this day.

  2. I also got mine when I was ten. I had bigger boobs than anybody in my class (which at age ten made you a bit freakish) and I was also at the time one of the tallest girls. Like Kate, though, I just stopped growing… at least upwards.

    It’s awesome when you see reports like this one actually reflect what you’ve experienced in your life… It makes me feel like I’m not crazy.

  3. My history is pretty similar, Kate. I was always the tallest in my class until I was about 11-12 and then I just stopped growing. I had my first period at 9. I had no concept of what was happening. My mother did tell me about menstruating but it was one talk and when I had blood in my underwear, I did not make that association at all. I was also embarrassed, JR, making my first experience a nightmare, as well. I’m determined to not let that happen to my daughters. We keep having talks about it and my 11 year old knows exactly what to watch for as signs that she’s about to have her first.

  4. Why are people concerned about earlier puberty anyway? Girls who hit puberty earlier aren’t much different than their taller and skinnier peers in terms of mental development.

  5. Why are people concerned about earlier puberty anyway?

    Because people are terrified of female sexuality and fetishize the “innocence” of pre-pubescent girls.

  6. Yep. That’s me. Short, fat with early boobs and periods. I started wearing a training bra in second grade. I hated P.E. because my boobs would bounce when I did jumping jacks.

  7. Interesting. I’m 5’3″, so not super-short, have a BMI of 25ish and started menstruating at 14, which I guess is fairly late these days.

  8. I remember my middle school health textbook had a whole little sidebar about how fat = early menstruation = breast cancer (so of course you had to be vigilant about your weight starting NOW), which having gotten my period before I started middle school was not particularly helpful.

    Otherwise, my story is fairly similar to yours, Kate. I wasn’t fat prior to puberty (though I was always short), but it doesn’t surprise me in the least to hear they’re linked. I also remember I didn’t actually ever feel fat until 4th grade, shortly before I started puberty, at which time I started really scrutinizing the size of my thighs versus the other girls. In retrospect, I suspect that I was just starting to develop a more womanly figure earlier than some others and hadn’t been given any way to interpret that other than “FAT.”

  9. Meg, the current average age is 12 for all girls; closer to just-turned-12 for African-American and Latina girls; closer to almost-13 for white girls. (I didn’t see any stats on other ethnicities when I was researching this morning.) So 14 isn’t as late as the early puberty panic would indicate, especially if you’re white.

  10. What you said. All of it. Seriously, maturing earlier in and of itself is not bad. Cultural attitudes that make it shameful and stressful are. (I had hair under my arms at 6 and boobs by 9. The teasing was baaad. I’ve no doubt that I had I not begun starving myself at age 10 I would have gotten my period much earlier than 13. Why yes, I also got the short and fat genes.)

    Just to expand on what you said about the drop in the average age of menarche: According to historian Joan Brumberg, “in 1780 the average age of menarche in the United States and Western Europe was probably about 17; by 1877 the average age had declined to almost 15; by 1901 it was 13.9; by 1948 it was 12.9.”* So yeah, not only was there a drop at the turn of the century, our average age of menarche has been declining at least since the inception of the United States. Hmmm….

    *Joan Jacobs Brumberg. “Something Happens To Girls: Menarche and the Emergence of the American Hygiene Imperative.” Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Jul., 1993), pp. 99-127

  11. Well, I got the early boobs (I was nine when I got my first bra, and it wasn’t a training bra), but I didn’t get my first period till I was in 7th grade. I did manage to get taller, tho, I was 5′ 9″ as a sophomore in HS. That I can blame on genetics, all the women on both sides of the family range in height from 5′ 7″ to 5′ 10″ (and that includes my grandmothers who were both born around 1905), the men are anywhere from 5′ 10″ to 6′ 6″. So I’m not sure where that leaves me in light of this study, since I’m tall, fat, got early boobage, but average time for onset of periods.

  12. In retrospect, I suspect that I was just starting to develop a more womanly figure earlier than some others and hadn’t been given any way to interpret that other than “FAT.”

    Repeated for emphasis.

  13. by 1948 it was 12.9.”* So yeah, not only was there a drop at the turn of the century, our average age of menarche has been declining at least since the inception of the United States. Hmmm….

    And yet, it’s apparently been declining very slowly since 1948, based on that. See my comment to Meg above.

  14. Oh no, JR! Fwiw, at most [decent] camps the counselors are trained in how to approach the situation where a camper gets her first period at camp (and to look for signs of that happening, if possible). Not that I blame you for being embarrassed to say anything. It actually happens to a lot of girls, though – just their luck, right?

    I have excellent anecdata for this: my mother got her first period at 10, and my sister and I both got ours at 14. SRY STATISTICS

    Actually, it seems really common for short adults to have hit puberty earlier than their peers, IME. I find this very believable!

  15. Huh. I guess I had a really “good” experience. Despite the embarrassing nature of separating the boys and girls into different rooms to watch “those” filmstrips, I got a pretty good education about exactly what to expect early in 5th grade (so around 10 years old). I guess I always assumed that everyone had the same education in public school that I did, but apparently not.

    When my parents were informed of these upcoming lessons (because they had the option to opt us out of them), my mom made sure to take some time to talk to me beforehand as well. Again, I assumed that was a normal mother-daughter conversation around that age.

    So when I got my periods at age 11.5, I was totally prepared, even though I was “early” in my group of friends.

    I was tall (taller than most my teachers at nearly 5’8″) and thin up until that point, but my upward growth stopped dead in it’s tracks. It was only when the outward growth continued that I started to get comments from people, mostly a creepy uncle who warned me that boys didn’t like fat girls. Which I brushed off as him being an asshole.

  16. And yet, it’s apparently been declining very slowly since 1948, based on that.

    Why, it’s almost like there’s no basis for the panic over Early! Puberty! Obesity! OMG! ;-)

    (I couldn’t tell from your comment if you thought I was disputing anything you said- I’m not. I’m running short on sleep and may not be communicating my thoughts very well).

  17. Meg, I’m also short but had a late period (but I’m also thin, and my growth was delayed by a chronic illness). And I know 14 statistically isn’t that far from average, but boy did it feel late. (Of course, I was totally lying to my peers and saying I had my period by then, and some of them probably were, too, so my perception of how many girls were menstruating was probably a little distorted.)

  18. I definitely remember the mingled sense of shame and competition that pervaded my 5th-grade girls-only sex ed classroom. Everyone knew that a few girls had already gotten their periods, and those of us who hadn’t were half jealous and half relieved. Even the supposedly warm and loving message of “you’re a woman now” is terrifying in a culture that so strongly devalues actual women while idealizing femininity.

  19. Toni, they absolutely tried to give us that education in my school district, but the school nurse doing it was so vague that I had no concept of what she was talking about and my mom had to re-explain it all to me later. I mean, they passed around a sanitary napkin, but they didn’t even take it out of the package. Famous words from me to my mother: “You mean it happens every month??”

  20. I mean, they passed around a sanitary napkin, but they didn’t even take it out of the package.

    Oh man! In my classroom they apparently had a beaker of water and dunked a tampon in it to show how it worked. I was sick that day and so had to picture it from the horrified report of my friends later. ;-)

    (I was also absent on the day they talked about sex and penetration. Must be why I’m queer!)

  21. Our girl’s only sex ed section was taught by a teacher who was out on maternity leave but stopped in to help out. She brought in her toddler as well as the new baby and the toddler spent the entire section chewing on the tampon she brought in as a visual aide.

  22. Fwiw, at most [decent] camps the counselors are trained in how to approach the situation where a camper gets her first period at camp (and to look for signs of that happening, if possible).

    Interesting. I don’t recall being trained in that when I was a counselor, though my cabin was 14-year-olds who had all (I’m pretty sure) already started anyway. However, when I went to the same camp at age 12, I was mortified by the thought of walking to the bathroom (in a separate building) with a huge maxi-pad in my hand, so I confessed my deep shame — I AM A MENSTRUATOR! — to my counselor, and she gladly ran one over and left it on the back of the toilet for me. Seeing her do that like it was no big thing was actually a terrific influence on me — I felt brave enough to handle it myself after that, and in fact soon realized that many of my peers already had their periods, too. Since I’d never talked to friends about it before and was so far ahead of my peers in general (hello, baby rack of doom), I couldn’t believe that A) so many other 12- and 13-year-olds shared my secret shame, and B) they talked about it like it wasn’t, you know, a secret shame.
    (I read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret 40,000 times when I was a kid, but I could never quite believe there were actually girls who talked so goddamn much about their periods.)

    So. Camp was actually a really positive experience for me in that respect — but JR, I can see how easily it could go the other way. I’m so sorry that happened to you. (FWIW, I didn’t even tell my own mom until my 2nd period, because I was too embarrassed, and she’d already stocked me with supplies.) And I hope Volcanista’s right that at least some counselors out there are trained in being sensitive to the possibility that girls around that age are struggling alone.

  23. I couldn’t tell from your comment if you thought I was disputing anything you said

    Nope! Just re-emphasizing the point, since you provided the handy 1948 stat! Thanks!

  24. I was short and skinny, started my period aged 12 and a half (a year or so younger than my sister [who’s ten years older than I am and to the best of my recollection was tallish and average sized] and about the same age as my mum) in spite of weighing only 6 stone (supposedly 7 stone [98lb?] is the magic weight) Stayed skinny for another three years or so, around which time I was 5’0″ and stopped growing (except I’m now 5’1″, but I think that’s maybe due to posture) and filled out a bit.

    I had boobs in primary school, though luckily noone noticed until the very last week, and it was the girl who’d been having periods since 9, so she just sounded kind of impressed. I went to an all girls secondary school, which I suspect minimised the whole nork-related-bullying thing a bit.

  25. (I read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret 40,000 times when I was a kid, but I could never quite believe there were actually girls who talked so goddamn much about their periods.)

    Oh, that book totally made no sense to me as a child. I couldn’t believe there were girls who (a) wanted their periods, (b) talked about it all the time, and (c) wanted bigger boobs when all I wanted was to have none (or at least normal size ones). Yeah, did not reflect my experience in the least.

  26. Maybe it isn’t really “most” camps, then. I was definitely trained very explicitly in how to deal with freaking-out campers menstruating for the first time. And I had to deal with some interesting teen menstruation issues as a counselor, too.

  27. I’m tall, was tall and chunky as a kid, had an early puberty in terms of boobs (oh yeah wearing 36C bras in 7th grade–age 13–is quite something, especially when you don’t have a mom) and pubic hair, but didn’t get my period until I was 14.

    I also grew two inches in height in college, which is really unusual for women, especially tall women. I’m a genetic anomaly!

    My genetic daughter (once my egg, but never in my womb) is starting to get pubic hair at 9, which kind of freaked her pediatrician, and hence her dads, out. Apparently there are some endocrinological complications associated with early puberty in girls. She’s also in the 99th percentile for height, and very solid though slender.

  28. Aw, man…puberty was when all the fat hatred started for me.

    I was a really thin kid. I got my first bra when I was 9, but that was the only significant body fat I had on me until I was 11. Then, virtually overnight, I had the body of a grown woman; I began to put on weight and developed hips and thighs. All the other girls my age where still really thin (most of them stayed that way). The boys in my class were disgusted by me, and weren’t too shy about letting me know. Middle school (and most of high school) was hell for me.

    For me, puberty was the beginning of all the body hatred, both from other people and myself. I went from a cute, thin little girl to a plus sized adolescent. My parents were really unhappy with my weight gain, and everybody at school was giving me crap for it. No wonder I felt so awkward and confused.

    God…puberty sucked.

    Sorry I started blubbering all over you guys. This thread triggered some bad memories.

  29. I was thin until puberty, and didn’t get my period until I was almost 14. I’ve always thought there was some sort of link between puberty, hormones and weight.

    I knew the power of genetics when I met my birth mother at 23 (I’m adopted) and found we had freakishly similar bodies (not to mention lots of other odd similarities like how we wear our hair, our politics, what we do for a living, etc.)

  30. Re. Average age of menarche, my understanding based on srs medical/sexual historian (that is, LJ-user oursin), is that the stuff about the average age of menarche being 17 is based on misinterpretation of a particular Swedish study about girls who had been taken to the doctor because their periods had not yet come on at the age of 17, and that the average age hasn’t changed as much as people think. Not to mention that plenty of girls have been having babies at 13 throughout European history and literature.

    Mind you, I was a short skinny child who went through puberty late (I stopped growing at 26 – there is a skirt in my wardrobe, bought at 20, that is now considerably shorter that it used to be). I ended up a slightly-taller-than-average, slender but not skinny adult. I need not add that given school toilets, I thought menstruating late was a very good thing.

  31. For me, puberty was the beginning of all the body hatred, both from other people and myself. I went from a cute, thin little girl to a plus sized adolescent. My parents were really unhappy with my weight gain, and everybody at school was giving me crap for it. No wonder I felt so awkward and confused.

    Oh Charlotte, you nailed it. This is just how I felt too. My eyes welled up when I read this.

  32. (I was also absent on the day they talked about sex and penetration. Must be why I’m queer!)


  33. Interesting. I have nothing to add, other than to throw in my stats: I remember that I needed a training bra by 4th grade, and got my period in 6th grade, when I was about 12-1/2. I don’t remember feeling like it was particularly early or particularly late; it seemed to be right around the time a lot of the girls I knew were getting their periods. I think I must have stopped growing by 9th or 10th grade, at about 5’8″. My husband is 6’5″ and is constantly putting things on shelves I can’t reach, so I tend to think of myself as short or at least average, but then when I’m around a lot of other women I realize that I’m actually on the taller end of average for most of the women I know, and I’m on the fatter end of average, at about a size 16/18, as well.

  34. I, also, was tall for my age until about 13. I started wearing a bra at 9 in 4th grade, and got my period at 10 in 5th.

    At 12 one of my dad’s co-workers hit on me before realizing how old I was.

    By 13 I was a B cup, and the boys in my middle school made my life hell. The constant bra snapping, bra unhooking, groping in the hallways, even while they told me I was disgusting and fat, and would moo when I walked by.

    Looking back, I know that I most certainly was not fat at the time, but instead had a butt, hips, boobs huge thighs from biking 5-10 miles a day up and down hills. But all I could think, thanks to those moo-ing jerks was how horrendously gross I must be.

  35. The constant bra snapping, bra unhooking, groping in the hallways, even while they told me I was disgusting and fat, and would moo when I walked by.

    Also repeating this for emphasis.

    Dear Scientists, Please look into the connection between sexual harassment of pubescent girls by their peers and feelings of fatness/body dysmorphia. And maybe just in general, that thing we talked about above, where girls start to develop breasts and hips and have no way to frame it other than “I’m getting fat.” Kthxbai.

  36. volcanista, I don’t think the counselors at my camp were trained for something like that, or maybe I was just really stealthy. I was still so uncomfortable with the topic that I couldn’t even tell my mom when I got home from camp. I just showed her a pair of stained shorts when I unpacked my dirty clothes.

    Aside from Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, the other most unrealistic depiction of menstruation that I remember reading in middle school was The Diary of Anne Frank. She referred to her period as (paraphrasing) a special secret that brought her joy. No way did I ever feel like my period was anything other than an immense inconvenience at that age, especially with as bad as my cramps where before I got on birth control.

  37. Because people are terrified of female sexuality and fetishize the “innocence” of pre-pubescent girls.

    Yeah, it’s interesting to imagine what would happen if boys were reaching puberty slightly earlier (and maybe they are, for all I know.) Something tells me it wouldn’t be intertwined with fears about fatness, nor fears about how “unnatural” we’re becoming, giving how gendered those fears seem to be. Hell, perhaps it wouldn’t be intertwined with fear at all; perhaps it would be seen as cause for celebration.

  38. My understanding is that the average age of a first period is 11 plus/minus 2 years. So 9 to 13 is normal, and it has been normal since some time in the 1920s.

    My mother was 13 in the 20s. My sister was 11 in the 40s. I was 11 in the 50s, and my daughter was 13 in the late 70s.

  39. I seem to be in the minority, but I was really excited to get my period. It made me feel grown-up, and I was looking forward to getting it and was excited when it happened.

    I really don’t remember having too many embarrassing experiences in school regarding puberty other than–I kid you not–getting a standing ovation from a large group of boys during a graduation practice in 8th grade. I was totally and completely confused because I was neither particularly popular nor unpopular or otherwise notable, but learned after that they had decided to applaud the girl with the largest breasts in the class, who happened to be me. If I had known what was going on when they did it I doubtless would have been really humiliated, but at the time I was just confused.

  40. A Sarah, the only thing I remember making fun of boys for that was specifically puberty-related was their voices cracking. Maybe boys make fun of each other for different reasons?

  41. Huh. Very interesting to read all of this. I went to xtian school, so there was no talking about sex or periods or anything (I’m 41, not ancient by any means).

    My ex-gf and I turn this study upside down. We are the same age.

    Ex: 5’11, bmi 41, period at 15, in perimenopause for 3ish years
    Me: 5’5, bmi 24, period at 12, still going strong

  42. Maybe boys make fun of each other for different reasons?

    My husband recalls years of embarrassment and worry over getting erections at inopportune moments during the school day. That seems to be something that boys make fun of each other over, as well as lack of body hair, lack of development, etc.

    It seems like–although obviously this is just anecdotal based on what I’ve observed in schools and heard from friends–girls are more likely to be teased or otherwise embarrassed for developing early, while boys are more likely to be teased/embarrassed about developing later.

  43. I am sometimes appalled about what might’ve happened to me if my parents had bought into the CHILD/TEEN OBESITY CRISIS BOOGA BOOGA. I was a skinny little kid, always short; I think I hit puberty at a pretty average time (11?), but one thing that happened almost immediately was OMG BIG BREASTS. I was a C cup in seventh grade and just kept getting bigger and bigger, until I was greatly disproportionate for my body and in significant physical pain. (Didn’t help that I didn’t wear bras for a long time, until it was absolutely unavoidable, and wore ill-fitting ones after that — I was a bizarre size, and my mom was a hippie who’d never worn bras and didn’t know much about how they were supposed to fit.) Add into this the fact that I had deformed feet (by now I’ve had four foot surgeries) which made walking/running painful, and it’s not surprising that I started gaining weight as I went through puberty and on through high school. So I was pretty fat then. I suspect my genetic default probably puts me just a few pounds into the “overweight” range of the stupid BMI scale, and once I was old enough that they figured I’d stopped growing, I had the first couple foot surgeries and then breast reduction surgery — and like magic, mostly freed from pain and able to walk around my college campus, my body reverted to that genetic default pretty quickly and naturally — without my having to starve myself or exercise six hours a day. But suppose, instead of treating my actual foot and boob-related health (pain) problems, my parents and doctors had decided that my WEIGHT was the problem? Suppose they’d said I couldn’t have any of the surgeries until I lost weight? In my adult life, I’ve had a serious illness that resulted in severe weight loss, and since getting better have observed the typical 10lb gain in addition to all the lost weight regained; I can feel that the weight cycling, even though it just happened once, has done damage to me. I shudder to think of what kind of damage could have been done to my body if I’d been forced to starve myself as an adolescent/teen in order to qualify for the pain-reducing surgeries I needed.

  44. Oh man, does this bring back bad memories for me, too! I was 10 when I got my first period, and I was so ashamed that when my mom saw my stained undies, I just lied and told her I fell on something at recess, which made her even *more* concerned!!

    I, too, developed almost overnight. I was the tallest girl in class in the 4th grade, and by the sixth grade, I just stopped growing vertically! I was always called “fat” by the boys in junior high, simply because I had breasts, hips, a booty, and well-developed thighs from gymnastics and horseback riding.

    I have teared up reading some of these comments. It’s so sad that girls are made to feel so awful about simply becoming women. It’s disgraceful!

  45. I’m short and was skinny until PCOS kicked in, and i got my period at the dead average of 12, so no trauma there. The most annoying thing was that I woke up with it one morning, and it had mostly dried, so I seriously thought I pooped myself in the middle of the night.

    I remember being the first girl in my school to develop hips, but one of the last to get boobs. Oddly enough, i wasn’t bothered about this (or anything else; I think I scared people).

  46. The constant bra snapping, bra unhooking, groping in the hallways, even while they told me I was disgusting and fat, and would moo when I walked by.

    This is why I didn’t wear a bra until LONG past when I physically needed to. Because bra snapping HURTS.

    Of course, when I told authority figures about it, they said it was just “teasing” and I should ignore it. Bullying didn’t exist in those days, don’tcha know.

    Puberty is when the annoying fat harrassment (I was a large kid – not just fat, but tall for my age and strong) morphed into non-stop fat hatred – the effects of which I’m STILL dealing with some 30 years later.

    (Like many of you, I stopped growing taller while others kept on so I’m around average height. But in the lower grades, I was always among the tallest girls in the class.)

    *group hug* for all of us and the young girls we used to be. And while I’m getting misty-eyed reading all your stories, part of me takes comfort from knowing I wasn’t the only one. Thank you.

  47. From Kate’s piece at Salon:
    Says psychologist Aric Sigman, “Girls maturing earlier are more likely to become depressed, delinquent, aggressive, socially withdrawn, suffer sleep problems, drinking, smoking, drug abuse, lower self-esteem and suicide attempts. They’re also more likely to exhibit poor academic performance in high school than on-time or later maturing peers.

    I’m sure that has nothing to do with shame and embarrassment that early-maturing girls suffer at the hands of their peers and society. Kids are sharp and cruel when it comes to seeing differences between them and their peers, and they can other them so quickly. Add on to that, the internalized shame that lots of girls feel about their developing bodies and how poorly-equipped most people are to deal with body shame.

    Anecdotally, when I hit puberty, my body changed so quickly. It was as if Puberty Emeril came and, BAM!, suddenly I had boobs and hips and acne. I got purple stretch marks all over my hips, my thighs, and my breasts. I started wearing oversized men’s clothing and refused to wear a swimsuit in public. And despite 40 degree (Celcius) summers, I didn’t wear shorts for years. Because, well, I’d been one of the fat kids for years and it was fine if I stayed in that category, but there was no way I wanted to be the fat, pubescent freak in my grade six class.

  48. From Broadsheet: “…portending a future in which diapers double as maxipads and elementary schools are full of hard-drinking dirty sluts who never go to class.”

    If I didn’t already love you before, I certainly would now. I can’t quit laughing.

  49. Thank you for posting this article. I’ve long felt there is a connection between genes, height, weight and puberty in young women.

    Like many of the women here, I was quick off the blocks. In my school photo at 9 years old, you can see I’ve already got b-cups. My period started at 10. I stopped growing shortly after – at 4’11 I was at one time the tallest girl in my class, but after my body changed I only grew outwards. Sex education in my school was ridiculous – we didn’t even get a proper talk about periods until we were thirteen, by which time I could have given the bloody talk myself!

    Developing so young was a miserable experience and nobody had a clue how to help me – having a grown woman’s body in a class full of little girls was a nightmare. I ended up refusing to do PE class because of the pain in my boobs while running and jumping, and there was no way I was going to appear in front of anybody in a swimsuit. After being involved in a car accident at the age of 12, I was put into an adult ward because I looked 16 (not a bad thing actually, the women there were very kind to me) and at 15 I was being hit on my guys more than twice my age.

    It took a long time to make friends with my body, but getting hold of a copy of Fat Is A Feminist Issue when I was 18 helped me straighten my head out a little.

  50. When I was around 10 years old (in the late 70s), Mom took me for my annual physical to my idiot of a pediatrician, who leaned back in his chair after the exam and pronounced loudly that I was obese. Though not yet my full adult height of 5’4″, I was taller than most of my peers and had started developing breasts (which ended up being relatively ginormous when all was said and done). My period started a year or two later.

    A couple years ago, after remembering and getting pissed off about my doctor’s pronouncement (I did’t really know what obese meant at that age, but I didn’t like how he said it. My mother recalls literally being horrifed.), I pulled out my baby book to see what Mom had recorded for my height and weight at various ages.

    Turns out my numbers were pretty much on track for a girl’s development at that age, given the huge variation that genetics and environment creates in that range. I was not a fat, inactive kid — I was never home for all the biking, swimming and running around I did.

    In reality, my body was doing what it was supposed to be doing — preparing itself for puberty. I was simply developing at a normal (if somewhat rapid/early pace) which he apparently did not take into account before making his pronouncement.

    While there was much more than went into than that one sentence of his, I believe that my doctor laid one of the foundation stones for a life-long struggle with weight, yo-you dieting, body image, self-acceptance and more.

    In a nutshell, medical “opinions” can sometimes cause more harm than the good they claim to do.

  51. Says psychologist Aric Sigman, “Girls maturing earlier are more likely to become depressed, delinquent, aggressive, socially withdrawn, suffer sleep problems, drinking, smoking, drug abuse, lower self-esteem and suicide attempts. They’re also more likely to exhibit poor academic performance in high school than on-time or later maturing peers.

    This is so fucking typical, isn’t it? It’s like the people who go on and on about obesity being a problem because it leads to depression. Anything bad society does to women as a result of their bodies should be addressed by a massive public health effort (or just individual shaming) directed at changing their bodies. Do these experts ever stop and listen to themselves?

  52. Girls maturing earlier are more likely to become depressed, delinquent, aggressive, socially withdrawn, suffer sleep problems, drinking, smoking, drug abuse, lower self-esteem and suicide attempts.

    I don’t need a fucking science degree and a boatload of research to figure out why this is. It’s because they’re treated by their peers and the adult world that their maturing-bodies are disgusting. What’s more, the really early-maturing girls are labeled sluts.

    I will never, ever forget how many times “[m. leblanc’s real name] is a slut” were written on the walls at my school. You know what I did to be such a slut? Basically, I had tits.

    The problem is the way society reacts to their bodies, not their bodies themselves.

  53. Also, dear high schools: please, in the 10th grade health class that all students are required to take, drum it into the boys’ heads that they really should not go around sexually harassing junior-high girls. Thanks.

  54. I’m short and was skinny until PCOS kicked in, and i got my period at the dead average of 12, so no trauma there. The most annoying thing was that I woke up with it one morning, and it had mostly dried, so I seriously thought I pooped myself in the middle of the night.

    Oh god, that sounds so familiar. :)

    (Well, okay, I wasn’t skinny.)

  55. I’m never sure if I should be annoyed that single-sex schooling failed to give me a good basis for dealing with males in university/business situations, or profoundly relieved that I got to escape all the slut-shaming and sexual bullying.

    Strangely, though, I can’t remember my single-sex school giving us any practical instructions with regards to things like pads/tampons. My main reason for avoiding them was that, as a teenager, I really did not want to ask someone how they worked, and after that I was just used to it. We did get a basic explanation of the reproductive system and that we WOULD bleed, just not what we were supposed to do about it. This helpful lesson was delivered when we were about 11, and the science teacher kept frantically covering the projector notes whenever younger students (touring the school for some reason that day) wandered in. God forbid we tell 9 year olds that they have ovaries!

  56. The problem is the way society reacts to their bodies, not their bodies themselves.

    Co-signed. That’s pretty much the thesis of the Broadsheet post. (Which is now on the cover! Woo!)

  57. At my (all girls, private) school we had The Tampax Lady who visited in the first year (aged 11-12) and showed us how to put on a pad [apparently you grasp it between the thighs and then pull up your knickers… This was juuuuuuuuust before really thin pads with wings came out. I hasten to add that she did this fully clothed…] and explained about how it was only about an eggcupful of blood that we’d lose but it would seem like more and she gave us a navy plastic box to hide our Tampax in. She also told us how icky non-applicator tampons were. Nice bit of propaganda, there.

    My mum, on the other hand, had been told that Women Have To Bleed Every Month at some point, but thought that she was going to have to cut herself… Then her period actually started and completely freaked her out (she’s a total aspie and we don’t do well with surprising things coming out of our bodies…) particularly as she was at boarding school at the time (or possibly this was just after she made her parents take her out of the boarding school by threatening to run away).

  58. Huh. My early development (pubic and underarm hair at age 7 and I know I had breasts by age 9, even though my period didn’t come until age 12) was why they first suspected hypothyroidism –also why they told me (when I was 9 and seeing a pediatric endocrinologist) that I would be short. Link, perhaps, as hypothyroidism can cause weight gain? (I wound up untreated, taller than they predicted by four inches, but 2-5 inches shorter than every other female blood relation.) I wasn’t particularly fat until the PCOS hit me, age 19 (1997, just before the BMI change, so these are by the old standards…) –I was right around the line for normal/overweight. Not that that stopped me thinking I was fat and eating so little when I was 12 that I fainted in school, naturally.

    I was getting bullied by the girls in my class about my body hair (and that I “needed” to shave my legs and pits) from age 9, when we started changing for gym class. Bleah.

    (Talk about embarrassing… my first period ever started while I was trying on swimsuits. I kid you not. I was with my mother, and I knew what it was, but still, I bled through my underwear before I knew it was happening and had to by THAT suit. Bleah.)

  59. Oh, yeah, I do remember a couple of comments about my hairy legs/arms, one in primary school (which pretty much went “look! Anwen’s got hair on her legs! Also those shorts are really short!” all fairly matter of fact) and one in my second secondary school (aged about 15) “hey, are you a werewolf?? look at all that hair on your arms!!” I can’t remember my reaction, but knowing me it was probably to snarl in a werewolfish sort of way ;)

  60. I didn’t get my period until I was 13, and my mom was SO happy, and I was SO miserable. And to be honest, i don’t think i’ve ever forgiven her for being happy about something that I was so unhappy about (and am still unhappy about, and will continue to be unhappy about.)

    But I was old enough that I knew what it was, I even thought I had squirelled away provisions so I could avoid actually discussing it with my Mom. Alas, someone stole them. (I was avoiding this because I knew she would be SO happy, which I still don’t understand AT ALL.)

    Anyway, I was tall, and already had boobs.

    Onto my theory of bra snapping and slut shaming via 10 year old boys. It seems to me that the slut shaming and bra snapping is not actually out of a desire for adolescent boys to make these girls feel bad, It is probably out of frustrated DESIRE period. (See, pulling hair on the playground, teasing girsl you like, etc.)

    I theorize that is just another messed up way that young boys express their positive feelings towards girls.

    Feel free to tell me that I am full of shit.

  61. It’s weird to me sometimes how people are just shocked to realize that genetics can control things like weight and height and when you become sexually mature or how large your breasts are, but we can blindly accept that oh yeah eye color and hair color that’s got to be genetic.

    There’s such a weird disconnect that we have to always be able to strive for something we’re not and it’s almost a cop out to claim it’s all do to genetics. So even if studies can prove that yes you are the way you are because your mother and your father hooked up one night and made you and not because you were bad and had a cookie when you were 10 and are now addicted to sugar.

    Honestly, as we begin to understand the genome better and understand gene regulation and being to pierce the interons (which were previously all thought to be junk) I think there are going to be more and more articles proving that this and this is caused by genetics and just as many people denying it and trying to find something else to blame it on so they can keep raking in the dough.

  62. Jesus. I was still in elementary school when puberty hit. Just gross. Also, I was fully grown by age 11 – one glorious year when I thought I was going to hit average height. My folks kept measuring my height every six months until I was 14 until they just gave up.

  63. @Sniper I was fully grown at 11 also….5’2″ and a full figured 175 pounds. That’s when the period started. And the dieting. And now I weigh 275 pounds. For a fairly intelligent individual, I was really stupid not to realize that after each diet I gained about 10 pounds more than when I started.

  64. @JR — I had the EXACT same thing happen at “band camp” (really!) in 5th grade. I can still feel the pain of those wads of TP.

    It wasn’t my very first period (THAT happened when my parents were in Florida on their very first sans-children vacation), but it was one of the first and it had never occurred to me to pack anything. I was so unable to utter the words that even when I called my mom, all I could say was “You know that THING?” — fortunately she grokked it right away and called the administrator and suddenly some supplies appeared. (For her part, she had explained it and demonstrated how to use things, and yadda yadda. The embarrassment was all my own, being 10 years old and all.) And this was in 1971, thank you very much.

  65. I tend to think that puberty/the middle school years are miserable for everybody, in one way or another. Whether you develop “too early” or “too late”–which really seem to be the only too options we allow people, just like women can really only be “too thin” or “too fat,” and every woman I know thinks her breasts are either too big or too small, and everybody I knew growing up felt either too short or too tall–it’s not fun. I’ve done substitute teaching in middle schools and it’s like walking into one of hell’s inner circles.

  66. Oh, as an aside, I once needed to borrow a pad from the nurse in middle school and they pads they had available were–in all seriousness–the really old-fashioned kinds that came with a belt. I think they must have bought like eight trillion boxes of pads in 1963 and were still working their way through them. I’m not that old–I’m 31 now, so that must have been around 1990 or 1991, when pads were made with adhesive. That was not fun.

    The other awkward moment I remember was approaching my mother about using tampons. She’d never used one, herself, and so just sent me off to the bathroom with a mirror and the instruction booklet, knocking on the door every few minutes to see if I wanted help. There’s just something unpleasant about knowing your mother is standing at the door waiting to make sure you’re doing okay inserting something into your vagina.

  67. I’m another one who was tall and sort of solid/muscular but not fat prior to puberty – when I got my period at age 9 I was by far the tallest girl in my class (5 feet even) and taller than most of the boys. The conventional wisdom back then among pediatricians seemed to be that girls who hit puberty early end up short because they stop growing, not that the shortness somehow causes the early puberty.

    Also totally agreed with the people above pointing out that developing boobs is often seen as getting fat if it happens younger than average. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be much parents can do to counteract that – my mom told me that I was just developing all the time at age 9-12 but it was my peers I believed rather than her.

    I wonder if anyone has ever studied the rates of body dysmorphia in women who hit puberty early, because looking at my group of friends it’s there in every single one who had early puberty regardless of their shape/size as adults. Does anyone here know if any studies have been done?

  68. Man, if I’d been able to postpone puberty and get another few inches of height, I’d’ve been thrilled. Hooray, genetics (and my parents pretty much shopped organic, so I wasn’t being fed BGH). CRAZY HOW GENETICS ACTUALLY AFFECT US! (And I got my dad’s thin build and my mom’s short height, a combination my parents had no control over whatsoever.)

  69. I was a tall fat kid, had boobs in 7th grade but not huge ones, more like fatboobs than ladyboobs. I didn’t get my period until I was almost 15. So much for fat making you estrogeneriffic, eh?

    My elder daughter got her first period at 10. She’s short. The younger one got hers at 13. She’s six feet tall. I wonder if there’s anything to that.

    Also, charlotte, your experience is v. similar to my younger daughter-she was a thin kid, all arms and legs, very gangly, she started getting fat when she hit puberty for no apparent reason. My older daughter went the opposite direction-she was a pudgy kid and got thinner after puberty-she’s also only about five-four.

  70. I don’t have much to add except another data point. I take after my mother’s side of the family, where we start out tall and reasonably thin, then hit puberty early and gain a ton of weight.

    I was always the tallest girl in my class (which caused a shit-ton of trauma, believe me, far more than my weight or even my horrible acne issues), and ended up slightly taller than my female family average, at 6 feet 1/2 inches. I first got my period at 11, and unlike most here found it more exciting than scary. I already had breasts by then, but I don’t remember when they started to develop. By the time I graduated high school I was wearing about an 18/20, then dropped down to my lowest adult weight, a small 14/16, during my first year of college (when I was frequently too busy to make it to the dining hall). I’m 32 now, and I’ve worn a 28 for the last several years.

    I know of two female cousins on that side that have had gastric bypass surgery, by the way. The first is a couple of years my elder but is otherwise nearly my twin, and the second is a couple of inches shorter than us and has always weighed maybe 50 pounds more than us. A few and several years later, respectively, they’ve both returned to approximately the same weight. (At a guess from looking at them – I never asked for details. The idea icked me out even before I found FA.)

  71. Also RE Karin’s point, I don’t think you can ignore the effect that early puberty has on girls in terms of sudden unwanted sexual attention from much older men. I had adults hitting on me at 9, and one of my Dad’s friends tried to drag me into an empty bedroom at a party when I was 11. The sudden onset of often extremely aggressive sexual attention from adult men can be terrifying for little girls, and culturally we don’t do much to help them cope, it usually seems to be taken to be somehow the fault of the girl for having the bad judgement to develop T&A rather than the fault of the men for blatantly soliciting children for sex.

  72. Haha anwen, I got the exact same teasing and I reacted the exact same way! Rawr!

    I “developed” (I hate that polite term for getting big tits) early, although my period didn’t start until my 13th birthday. (That was NOT a good day. I had cramps all day and I had no idea why, and of course I couldn’t tell my mother why I didn’t want to have a party anymore, because she would just get all happy about it.) Anyways. I was about 5’6″ at age 12, with D-DD breasts. I don’t actually know if I really was fat, but my classmates told me in no uncertain terms that I simply must be. I was also very camera shy around that time, so I don’t even have any pictures to look at to see if I really was. But I suspect that my fatness was just my womanly hips and breasts developing. I wonder if knowing that would have helped prevent all those years of anorexia and depression and body hatred.

    The worst thing about developing early was not the uncomfortable bras or the teasing from my classmates. It was getting hit on and groped by grown men before I understood what was happening or had any way of making them stop. Now, of course, I know that I am under no obligation to return a male stranger’s “friendly” hello, but as a 12 year old I had been taught to always speak when I was spoken to and to return polite greetings. God, people are sick fucks sometimes.

  73. The sudden onset of often extremely aggressive sexual attention from adult men can be terrifying for little girls, and culturally we don’t do much to help them cope, it usually seems to be taken to be somehow the fault of the girl for having the bad judgement to develop T&A rather than the fault of the men for blatantly soliciting children for sex.

    This times ten million, for my own life experience. I was also tall, and the fashions of that time were the same for kids and teenagers (jeans and t-shirts), so I was frequently mistaken for someone in her late teens or older, even when I was 12.

  74. Okay I can’t read through all the comments, so who knows what I’ve missed.

    But I am so much more fascinated by the short-fat relationship. I mean, no offense to all you tall-fats, but down here at 5’2″ I’ve always felt we were our own breed; I’ve been eye-spying sistahs my whole life. And so just, holy shit.

  75. I was also tall and skinny and got my period pretty early. It was a horrible experience because it happened on a class trip and I had no idea what to do except asking some of the other girls for help, who were like, “Oh, I think someone from the other bedroom already has hers, too – we’ll go ask for pads and not tell them who asked.” Then the word spread that someone had just got her period, and everyone was guessing who it might be. *headdesk* Fortunately I don’t think they figured it out.

    Later I got really bad cramps and felt like it was the end of the world, but when I asked my teacher for help, she completely dismissed the issue and got all annoyed with me for complaining. Told me it couldn’t possibly be that bad. Oh, how did I want to go home …

  76. I was just reminded of an Anne Lamott quote about the junior high/pubescent years:

    “The seventh and eighth grades were for me, and for every single good and interesting person I’ve ever known, what the writers of the Bible meant when they used the words hell and the pit. Seventh and eighth grades were a place into which one descended. One descended from the relative safety and wildness and bigness one felt in sixth grade, eleven years old. Then the worm turned, and it was all over for any small feeling that one was essentially all right. One wasn’t. One was no longer just some kid. One was suddenly a Diane Arbus character. It was springtime, for Hitler, and Germany.”

  77. Geez, some of those Salon comments are enough to make you tear your hair out. One guy made a *joke* about being enlightened and feminist but still “freaked out” by women’s bodies and that it was evolutionary. Just…blecch.

  78. Wow, it’s so affirming to hear all these stories and know i wasn’t alone, even if i felt like it at the time!

    I was always tall and relatively thin until i was about 12, i started my period at 11, my mom was trying to make me wear bras in 4th grade when i was 9 and i hated them. they were so itchy and i did all sorts of things to avoid them (including wearing an elastic swimsuit belt under my shirt so i could snap it if my mom asked if i was wearing a bra, i was so miserable.)

    I was about 5’4″ at 12 and have only grown about 2 inches since then but i weigh around 250 now. through junior high and high school i was SURE i was fat because i wore a size 12 and the “other girls” were all upset if they were an 8, but i had boobs and hips. i was very physically active and that is aside from the just shy of a mile walk to and from the bus stop every day.

    and my mom never talked to me about my period. ever. which made me reluctant to discuss it at all with anyone which i did not get over til i was 25 or so. I knew exactly what was happening because i had read a ton of “you’re a woman now” young adult fiction since i read years above my grade level and we actually had fairly competently done, age appropriate, reason based “sex ed” starting in 4th grade. but i was ashamed of my period and have had a lot of body shame, since those bras in 4th grade, that i am still processing.

    i won’t even start about the teasing and torment i went through as an “early bloomer”. i don’t want to cry at work.

  79. I was fat from about age 7, and had boobs by 9. At which point I started growing upwards. I didn’t start my periods till 12. I grew a little bit in the vertical direction) after that (I remember outgrowing at least one school uniform), but by 15 I was at my adult height, 5’5″. I really think it’s more likely that I got different bits of build from different sides of the family: my dad’s family are fat and tall, my mother’s thin and mostly short.

    I think I got a taste of what puberty used to be like, a little, because I had one of those old-fashioned mothers who believed in ignoring it. I got told nothing about periods, boobs, body hair, sex – any of it. I gleaned what I could from books and magazines, and a visiting aunt took me out to buy my first bra, but in other ways it was all pretty confusing and scary. Not least because I had horrific cramps, bad enough that I could hardly walk some months, and both my mother and teachers told me it was ‘just part of being a woman’. The hell it was – it went away and never came back after I went on the Pill at 19. If those were the ‘good old days’ of girlish innocence, you can keep them.

    I was also painfully naive around sex, but it looks like I had a lucky escape compared to some people here; older guys only started hitting on me when I was 14 or so. My folks seemed to have this crazy idea that any man would back off at the magic word ‘No’ from any woman, and that therefore if anything happened, it must be my fault. Hence, even when they were in the same room at a party (and they often took me to otherwise adult-only parties), they’d expect me to be able to ‘take care of myself’ – and blame me if I couldn’t. Jesus. Yes, people are sick.

    Lori…on towels with loops – that was what my mother handed me (silently) when I got my first period. They must have been absolutely ancient; she’d already long gone through the change, and it was 1980. I went and got adhesive ones, and she barked at me ‘Don’t ever let your dad see those!’ To my husband, who regularly buys me towels, it beggars belief that any woman could live with and sleep with a man, yet feel compelled to shield him that totally from her bodily functions.

  80. @Lori did we go to the same schools? I dreaded going to the nurse when my period arrived unexpectedly, because I hated those pads. They were huge and bulky and required a belt, which I did not own, and I couldn’t imagine a time ladies ever wore those things.

    I was wearing a real lady bra by the time I was 10; I remember buying something in a B-cup to wear under my pretty pink dress for my grandmother’s wedding. I just kept getting bigger and I wore ill-fitting bras until about a year ago, because I just had no idea what to do with these things! (It was a total relief to discover cups bigger than a DDD. I waited my whole life for this.)

    When I was 11, I had my first kiss with a boy on the same day as my first period. It all started when my friend and I left school on the last day before summer vacation. Her cousin and I liked each other, we made out at his house, and when I got home and changed into my bathing suit I was totally freaked out. My mother said no swimming for me! And I felt like I had a pillow in my panties for the rest of the weekend.

    I’ve been 5’4″ since I was 11, but I wasn’t fat until I was about 20 years old, despite what my mother’d said all my life.

  81. Also RE Karin’s point, I don’t think you can ignore the effect that early puberty has on girls in terms of sudden unwanted sexual attention from much older men. I had adults hitting on me at 9, and one of my Dad’s friends tried to drag me into an empty bedroom at a party when I was 11. The sudden onset of often extremely aggressive sexual attention from adult men can be terrifying for little girls, and culturally we don’t do much to help them cope, it usually seems to be taken to be somehow the fault of the girl for having the bad judgement to develop T&A rather than the fault of the men for blatantly soliciting children for sex.

    OMG. THIS!!!

    When I was around 11, we lived in an area where there was a lot of new construction going on, and that summer (1977 – I’m 42) my mother made me wear a t-shirt over my bathing suit. I remember how bad it made me feel, because on some level I knew she was trying to protect me from the leers and comments of all of the construction workers, but it made me feel like a freak, since my younger brother and sister could cavort around in the little backyard pool to their hearts’ content, but I couldn’t.

    It was the start of my becoming an inactive, withdrawn adolescent. I stopped doing pretty much everything athletic by then, and just spent the summers in my room, reading. And writing in my journal about how sad I was.

  82. I wasn’t short, I got my period when I was 12, got boobs at 11, and was stocky fat. But most of the girls in my class were either thin with no boobs, or the same size as me with no boobs. I was the Pamela Anderson of grade school, and not in a good way.

    To this day I don’t understand the hype over huge breasts. I guess since I have them and they are natural *ahem* I don’t see it as something that is totally sexy, especially on women who are very thin, and they look like two basketballs bolted onto their chests. But I guess since it makes them feel good, who am I to judge?

  83. (For her part, she had explained it and demonstrated how to use things, and yadda yadda. The embarrassment was all my own, being 10 years old and all.)

    Ditto, 14 years later. I think Mom was so desperate to NOT make it seem shameful — as it was for her — she protested too damn much. “Really, it’s NORMAL and NATURAL and it’s OKAY TO TALK TO ME and you should NOT BE EMBARRASSED!” Which was enough to embarrass me right there.

  84. “It was the start of my becoming an inactive, withdrawn adolescent. I stopped doing pretty much everything athletic by then, and just spent the summers in my room, reading. And writing in my journal about how sad I was.”

    OMG. That paragraph sums up my life from the ages of 11-18. Looking back, I know those years were the beginnings of the depression I struggle with now.

  85. For me, puberty was the beginning of all the body hatred, both from other people and myself. I went from a cute, thin little girl to a plus sized adolescent. My parents were really unhappy with my weight gain, and everybody at school was giving me crap for it. No wonder I felt so awkward and confused.

    This was true for me, too. I remember the time my freshman English teacher showed a video where, in the background, the guy I was doing a scene with (it was the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet and was a class project) was doing “BIG TRACTS OF LAND!” signs with his hands.

    I didn’t see him doing it until we ran through the video (and had no time to re-shoot) and I was so upset I buried my face in my arms and plugged my ears until the video was done. So far as I know he was never reprimanded for it. What better way to screw with a pubescent girl’s body image than to make fun of her publicly and get away with it?

  86. Funny, my sister and I both hit puberty at the age of 10. If I recall correctly, my mother started menstruating at the same age. She, of course, grew up during the Great Depression and was anything but fat. She didn’t get fat until after having her first child (well, depending on your definition of fat, she’d probably be considered fat today, but was on the thin side for the 40s). My sister and I were both thin as children, but both became fat almost immediately after hitting puberty. Neither of us is particularly short (just over 5’5″).

    I’ve always contended that something went haywire with our metabolisms when we hit puberty. You can almost trace our weight gain to the month when we started menstruating, and definitely to within the first year.

  87. Me three, Charlotte and Vasilia.

    And JupiterPluvius, I’m with you on the difficulty of going through puberty without a mother around. Or at least an emotionally close female relative.

    This thread is breaking my heart. It kills me that so many of us went through such shit when we were younger, and that so many girls are still facing it. But then there’s the solidarity and sympathy and recognition being shown and *blub*

    *hugs to all*

  88. My mom never schooled me on any kind of period-related information – I had two older sisters and, basically, learned from watching them (much like that anti-drug commercial where the kid tearfully screeches, “I LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU!). I can’t quite pinpoint in my head how old I was when it arrived, but I do know I was at the Rick Springfield concert, came home, and just slapped a pad on. I don’t think I even told my mom.

    Becoming more womanly was a mindfuck for me because I was a tomboy and strongly, strongly rejected anything “girlish” for years. I think I felt more comfortable being boy-like because of my size (I hit 5’8″ by the time I was 12 and was the tallest kid in class up until high school) – I wasn’t expected to be “pretty” because I was fat and built pretty much like a boy for so long, and dodged being rejected by the boys for not being a pretty girl. But once I became fairly identifiable as an actual girl, I couldn’t be just pals with my boy-friends anymore and that broke my heart.

    A not-so-serious period story: I used to work with a woman whose daughter was the shining gleaming light of her life. One day, she walked around the office floor, stopping by all the women’s desks to proudly announce her daughter had gotten her first period and was “a woman now”. I can only imagine how mortified her daughter would have been had she known her mother was broadcasting it to her entire workplace.

  89. @Ashley: I also totally thought I had somehow crapped my pants without noticing (which was extra shocking and worrying because it was during the day, while wide awake). My first period was barely even blood, so I just had this sad little brownish streak in my underwear.

    In terms of puberty as a whole, I hit it around sixth grade — my first period started on the very first day of junior high, which still seems totally unfair to me — and it happened very quickly. I was just hanging out, minding my own business, and all of a sudden I was six inches taller, had boobs and hips and great big thighs and hair appearing all over the damn place, started bleeding from the crotch, and had totally lost my sense of where my body parts were at any given time (there’s a word for this sense, but I don’t remember it), so I appeared to be made entirely of elbows for the next few months while I figured that out. This all happened over roughly five minutes. It was kind of a shock.

    More seriously: like a lot of other people have said, I also immediately interpreted my new great big thighs and hips as “oh my god, why am I fat all of a sudden?” I knew all about the mysterious phenomenon of boobs, but the whole concept that hips and thighs might be involved in puberty seriously did not occur to me. I mean, until maybe two years ago. I had a lot of good “Your Body Is Changing!”-type education — why didn’t anyone ever mention that it was changing this way, too?

  90. (Oh, and I also had a totally disastrous summer-camp-period-experience. I feel a sudden kinship with everyone else who’s mentioned one.)

  91. @Elsajeni – I actually got my period on the day we covered periods in sex ed class, which was kind of hilarious. Had the class, finished the school day, came home, went to bathroom, looked down and went “oh come on, you have to be kidding me”.

  92. Though at the time I pretty much was convinced I was not at ALL normal and was a huge monster who just wouldn’t STOP growing, looking at all of this has further pushed me to believe what I’ve been thinking the past five years or so looking back at photos of myself and seeing that despite stupid charts telling me I was WRONG and awful I was actually a pretty healthy, normal, stout and tall girl. I was about 5’7 in the seventh grade and went from about 160-175 and started my period about a month before hitting my 13th birthday.

    And yet, despite all my normalcies, to me my body was the worst body anyone could inhabit and needed to be reigned in lest it destroy the world in its awfulness. I remember the shame and revulsion I felt reinforced in my mind when I read some stupid diet thing in a book printed by Seventeen magazine that basically told me that because I wasn’t 125 lbs I was going to die tomorrow of the fatz. *sigh* I’m not an advocate of book burning by any means but sometimes I really have a strong desire to burn every book, magazine and journal preaching this idiotic ideology and ruining children’s perceptions of them.

  93. I was totally prepared for my period though. When I was in fifth grade, all the gals went to a “period 101” class where we learned about the menstrual cycle, why it happens, what to expect, and a booklet on how to insert tampons, as well as TSS. We also got a kit containing pads. Mind you, this was in Catholic school. (I’m not Catholic, mom sent me because she thought I could get a better education, had to throw that out).

    Of course, it ended up that I got my period while I was not at home where my pads were, but at my mom’s house (I lived with my grandparents). I got this funny feeling all of a sudden, like I peed myself, and I knew it was started. So I lined my underwear with toilet paper until I got home. I was relieved that it happened, but that feeling didn’t last as my next several periods came with cramps that would probably make Charles Manson cower in a corner and cry.

  94. I had the same kinds of joys of developing early that Charlotte did. All of a sudden, I had the body of an adult woman (breasts, hips, thighs), but I was still the same awkward girl inside. And now, heretofore normal-seeming men were looking at me like I wasn’t a person anymore — they wouldn’t meet my eyes, they’d stare at my ass, my breasts. The year before, when I still looked like a kid, I wouldn’t have hesitated to ask the mall cop for directions to the fountain where I was meeting my mom. After I “developed”, there was no way I was getting near him (or any other man). They all seemed skeevy all of a sudden.

    And other things — like the clothes I was allowed to wear, and the things I was allowed to do suddenly changed dramatically. That tee shirt and cut-off jean shorts was suddenly NOT OKAY. Having water fights in the front yard with my siblings was NOT OKAY. Climbing trees and hanging upside down from the branches was NOT OKAY — but all of those things were just fine the year before. I felt my freedoms being curtailed (along with my comfort zone), and I didn’t understand why. Nobody explained what was going on, much less tried to pitch an up side to all of these changes. It was a very creepy thing for me — and I’m still dealing with the aftereffects.

    Moreover, that was when my mother started talking about being fat and needing to diet and watching everything that went into my mouth. I still feel like a bad person if I use full-fat salad dressing around her.

  95. You know, it makes me feel better to read that so many women went through so much of the same torment with the beginning of “womanhood”. I’m short and fat, although I was not really fat until after I had my first kid. I was kind of chubby when I got my period at 12. I got my first bra at ten after my mom had been teasing me about my boobs for a year. I only have little b cup boobs, but maybe nine is early for getting them, I don’t know. I’m so sorry for all those women who were almost molested because their bodies were changing. That’s the real problem. Society needs to stop mistreating women for looking like women. Every size human is okay!

  96. Getting lots of flashbacks, reading through these comments.

    I’d like to add that attention from adult men was also confusing because you’re supposed to be pretty, right? So if twelve-year-old you is hit on by an adult, that’s a kind of victory, right? Especially if what you’re hearing from everyone your own age is how fat you are.

  97. @Elsajeni – My first period was barely even blood, so I just had this sad little brownish streak in my underwear.

    I’m mildly ashamed to admit it, but even though I knew a fair amount about puberty at that point, I totally failed to realize it when I had my first period. I just had that little brown streak one day, and it wasn’t until the next month that I mentally connected that lone streak and sick feeling with my period and mild cramps.

    I was just hanging out, minding my own business, and all of a sudden I was six inches taller

    As I mentioned above, I was way more traumatized by being taller then everyone else than I was by gaining weight. But it wasn’t helped by the growth spurts I had for a long time. On some random day I’d find myself exhausted and ravenously hungry, and would stuff myself for a day or two. And then I’d wake up the next day, with no exaggeration, up to an inch taller. I was clumsy to begin with, but there’s little quite as surreal as your body changing on you that quickly, especially when you already hated that aspect of it.

  98. Oh, and though I was never molested or accosted by anyone, I could and did easily pass for 16 or older by the time I was 12. It made it very easy to get away with some very stupid stuff that I never could have managed if I actually looked 12.

  99. OMG, Anwen, I got a mean comment about “hair” in fifth grade, something about looking like a gorilla. I tried shaving my arms later and I think it just grew back thicker. :P

  100. I’m 44, and what I remember was the glorious year that ibuprofen came on the market, and I no longer spent a day every month curled up in agony on the couch. It makes me laugh to see the warnings parents now receive against giving their children aspirin – how many thousands of aspirins did I take in the years before ibuprofen?

  101. I’m kind of new to fat acceptance and I’m still trying to figure out where chemicals fit n. There are lots of studies that show that chemicals in our food and water (e.g. BPA) promote weight gain. So what then? I recognize this site is against blaming/shaming individuals (and I’m pretty wary of that myself). However, recognizing the effects of other forces that promote weight gain seems to make sense to me…

  102. Kate,
    Did she also mention how when she asked her mother (or was it one of the nuns?) what “sanitary napkins” were, she got the very helpful answer, “They are for menstruation.” She thought they said “administration,” didn’t know what THAT was, either, so she carried on with the assumption that those things under the sink were extra-clean napkins. (For guests, maybe? Like the good china? no pun intended)

    Oh also, I still remember the (verbal) tampon lesson… “Don’t try to push it straight up, aim it at the small of your back.” “Where’s the small of my back??”

    Oh man. Resurfacing memories – ha.

  103. I’m 44, and what I remember was the glorious year that ibuprofen came on the market, and I no longer spent a day every month curled up in agony on the couch. It makes me laugh to see the warnings parents now receive against giving their children aspirin – how many thousands of aspirins did I take in the years before ibuprofen?

    I had NO IDEA that ibuprofen was that recent! That’s long since been my “thing I would die without were I born in pre-modern times.” Aspirin does nothing for me.

    Incidentally, my mom was pretty good about explaining my period and the like, but I think she must not have gotten bad cramps because she never mentioned the concept of taking pain killers to help with cramps at all (and I was always the kid who was too embarassed to ask anyone about it straight out ). I discovered ibuprofen by trial and error sometime in high school.

  104. I’m 42, and OMG yes thank God for ibuprofen going over-the-counter. I vividly remember being unable to sleep due to all the Midol I’d take in the pre-ibuprofen days….

  105. Its really interesting readin everyone’s experiences. I’m glad that mine was relatively trouble-free.

    I stopped growing upwards in about year 7 (11-12?) at my all time height of 5′ nothing, and was still very thin.

    But I was quite late going through puberty. I was one of those who was excited by the idea and wanted to be a “real woman”. I remember asking my mum if I could buy a bra when I was maybe 14 (not sure) and she laughed and asked me what for? That was pretty hurtful at the time. But I did eventually start to get breasts, and they kept growing for many, many years! I would say I started getting them around 15, was a DD by the end of high school (16-17) and then by the time I was about 21 I had my Rack of Doom at a 34F.

    I didn’t get my first period until I was 16. I knew what it was – I’d been waiting for it! I still managed to get it the day my parents went off on a child-free holiday and left us with our grandparents though. It lasted a whole week. Since then it has always been pretty heavy, and frankly the excitement has long since worn off!

    I didn’t start getting fat until around 20, and thats when the dieting started – encouraging more fat! So now I’m 27, 5′, F-G cup boobs, and medically obese at 163 pounds. My mum is short and fat (much fatter than me) with big boobs too – who ever would have thought?

    Also, went on birth control pills around 20, until the start of this year. Now that I’m off them my period is mysteriously absent. I haven’t had one since the start of February. My baby sister has PCOS and I’ve asked my doctor about this, but she said its not unusual for it to take several months for periods to go back to normal after you come off the pill. If I’m still having weirdness in another month or two she’s going to test me though. Its also likely that my mum had PCOS, long before they had a diagnosis for it.

    Oh hai genetics. Thanks for stopping by.

  106. @ Another Sara – That’s actually one of the few apects of how my parents raised me that I’m 100% happy about. They were always so open about sex and so clear that I deserved to have boundaries and feel able to defend them that my reaction to old men hitting on me wasn’t ever to feel flattered, it was more “get away from me or I’m calling the cops”. I thought those men were acting in a way which any reasonable person would instinctively see as totally wrong and worthy of censure. (If only I had been right about that…)

    When Dad’s coworker attemtped to get me into bed WHEN I WAS 11, WHICH HE WAS AWARE OF my immediate response was “if you don’t let go of me right now I’m going to go ask your wife how she feels about being married to a pedophile”.

    I really wish society would drop the idea that being hit on by men old enough to be your Dad when you’re an adolescent is a compliment. It’s a lot like the idea that catcalling is a compliment, a self serving excuse for men to be assholes.

  107. @Living 400lbs – Ugh, Midol. I guess the caffeine is supposed to help alleviate cramps? Not sure how that’s supposed to make up for the fact that you end up so wired you’re bouncing off the walls.

    Now Nurofen Plus (ibuprofen with codeine), if only they’d start selling that or an equivalent in the US.

  108. This is a timely post as my daughter is 9–years-old, is beginning to show some breast development, has gained quite a bit of weight this past year, but remains in the middle of the growth charts for height. I’ve been thinking that we needed to start “the talk” when just yesterday she came in with my box of tampons saying, “What on earth ARE these, Mommy?” I guess thinking they are “Mommy’s bandaids” doesn’t cut it as an explanation anymore, eh? Ha! Well, the talk was started, needless to say.

    My own experience was that I got my first period at age 11, but was pretty skinny and relatively tall at the time. (I didn’t get heavier until my early 20s). I wore a training bra, but only because my girlfriends did, not because I actually needed one. My older sister, though, began when she was 10; she was quite a bit heavier than me, and has remained shorter (about 5’3″.) She recalls the embarassment of having “big boobs” at that age, and being teased quite a bit. Thank God I didn’t get any of the unwanted sexual attention some of you have talked about. (Hell, I didn’t even get it when I started wanting some! I had my first kiss on stage in my high school musical.)

    All of this period talk has me remembering these free “kits” that were available from, I think, Kotex and Modess (this was in the early 70s.) I wrote away and requested these kits, which included pads, belts, the special panties with the loops for the huge pads, and booklets with information about menstruation. I remember one called “Personally Yours.” It had flowers on the cover and was all about that “special time.” I was well stocked with supplies when I got my first period. (Geez…how pathetic. I still send away for free samples!!)

  109. BTW, if anyone here is also reading the letters over on Kate’s Broadstreet post, wanna come help me beat up Amerigo? I’m about ready to jump through the screen and kick him in the teeth. He seems to be doing that whole “genetics? what genetics? we just need to put toddlers on diets” thing.

  110. I got the craziest mixed messages about my body from my parents during puberty. I had to wear a C cup bra by the time I was in fifth grade, and my period showed up the year afterward. (I specifically remember that I had to ask my dad where my mom kept her pads, because my mom was at a PTA meeting that night, and I was beyond mortified. Dad DID NOT deal with things like that. Then my mom came home, and I cried, and she said oh yeah, she knew I must be getting my period, because she had seen my underwear in the laundry, but she forgot to talk to me about it. LOLWUT?)

    So there I was in sixth grade, with my C-cup boobs. I had been on diets since I was in second grade, I was 5’2″ (still haven’t grown another inch), I weighed 115 pounds, and everyone was constantly lecturing me about my weight. My mom was always warning me that she *never* weighed more than 133 pounds, she was taller than me, and she ‘still wasn’t thin!’, so I knew that if I ever got bigger than 133 lbs, it would mean that I had FAILED.

    But meanwhile, mom picked out a seventh grade boy that *she* thought was cute on the night of my sixth grade orientation, and she would make me feel good by buying me these scoop-necked tops and the crazy bodysuits that were popular then (I had a green velour one!) and asking me if I had flirted with the boy during the day. She complained that she had never had breasts as big as mine before her pregnancies, and, in retrospect, I can tell that she was trying to live vicariously through my adolescence. (It wasn’t working, because I was a huge, irrepressible dork, and no amount of scoop-neckedness was going to change that.) I think I *did* feel vaguely pimped out, but it was just sooo nice to have some positive feedback about my body for the first time in years and years. I had been primed to believe that I just wasn’t pretty – ‘but that’s okay,’ they said, ‘because ugly people like us can still sometimes grow up to be happy!’

    Then my mom scared the absolute hell out of me one night. I used to wear that stupid green velour bodysuit with a grunge flannel shirt over it, but I’d take the flannel shirt off when I came home to do my homework. One night, my mom got stern with me and warned me that I shouldn’t go around the house like that. Because, she said, my Dad might get *sexually aroused.* I was horrified. I didn’t even know that was possible. I was so afraid of that happening, for such a long time. It plagued me, and I had some terrible dreams. To this day, I don’t know how likely it is that my mom was right, because by the time I was thirteen, I was Unforgiveably Fat and pimply, and any thoughts that I might attract anyone were long gone.

  111. Emily, threads about parents and adolescence always seem to have a lot of heart-breaking comments, but yours is . .. wow. I’m so sorry.

  112. I made a mistake. The booklet I referred to was called “Very Personally Yours”, and was produced by Kotex. The one with the flowered cover was called “Growing Up and Liking It”, and was made by the Personal Products Company. You can find links to reproductions of these and others here– http://www.mum.org/compbook.htm

    @Emily–that is some fucked-up stuff. How horrifying that your Mom told you that about your Dad! I am reminded almost daily how incredibly lucky I was/am to have my Dad—-a child of the Depression, but very modern (in a good way) in his attitudes towards women. (Good thing! He has three daughters.)

  113. Emily – Bear in mind that my experience might have no relevance and the same behavior from our moms might have had different causes, but…

    My Mom did the same thing sporadically throughout my teens. In my case it mostly confused me because I was SURE that my Dad had no tendencies in that direction at all, in fact he was quite manifestly indifferent to my state of dress unless there were going to be non-relatives around.

    Made no sense at all until, when I was 17, Mom finally told me that both she and her little sister had been molested by their father as children. So even though intellectually she knew my Dad wasn’t like that, she couldn’t help but be overprotective and occasionally panicky.

    Not saying that this is the case with your Mom too, but is it possible that, even if nothing happened to her personally, she’s reacting to something she saw, that happened to one of her friends etc? Like I said, I may be totally off base, I’m only responding because what you said struck a chord with me and hearing that stuff as a kid freaked me out the same way it did you.

    (Apologies if this comment is triggery for anyone reading)

  114. our average age of menarche has been declining at least since the inception of the United States. Hmmm….

    Democracy leads to menstruation. IT’S SCIENCE!!!

  115. Democracy leads to menstruation. IT’S SCIENCE!!!

    And note that the age of menstruation dropped precipitously after women started demanding the right to vote!

  116. ((((((((((((Emily))))))))))))

    Jeebus, that is some really, really messed up stuff. I’m so sorry you had to go through that!

  117. I had seriously large breasts by the time I was in sixth grade and remember hearing one of the boys say to the others, “what do you think is in those, coconut milk?” And silently fuming. I was just under 5 feet tall, and weighed just under 100 pounds. My period didn’t come until later, I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember exactly when, probably when I was about 13. I remember my dad saying something angry to my mom about how I hadn’t gotten my period yet. What. The. Fuck?! I was furious to know my dad was aware of it, and that he was mad about it (with my dad concern=fury, I guess). And somehow it was my mom’s fault? Or mine?

  118. Not at all being a scientist (working on my BA in English), I would say that the whole obesity epidemic horror is – as always – people taking things to an extreme and to a desire for instant gratification. Yes, fat cells may cause early puberty, but dieting (in extreme parenting cases, starving) young girls is a BAD idea. Fad diets can cause further weight gain when stopped (are you seriously gonna know what overeating is when all you’ve had for the past three weeks is cabbage soup?), and adolescent fat cells get used to being the size they are (i.e. yo-yo dieting for the rest of your life).

    I think a big underlying problem is this decade’s obsession with instant gratification. Don’t freak out and put your slightly chubby daughter on a diet. If she were a boy, you’d brush it off the “weight problem,” saying, ‘Oh, he’ll grow during puberty and the weight will be distributed.’ Also, food with hormones and vaccines are okay. Your parents served up steak and veggies from the supermarket. They shot you up for everything from polio to the measles! …we’ll live. Just don’t give in to scare tactics or the idea that double-clicking should apply everywhere.

  119. Wow, (((hugs))) to everyone here who had shitty puberty experiences. I guess I was relatively lucky….

    I was fat from about age 8 onward, but I never really “developed.” At 14, my mom took me to a pediatric endocrinologist and I was diagnosed with PCOS. So, I was given birth control (and Metformin, but I have an ongoing battle with taking that medication) and that was how I got my first period. It wasn’t really traumatizing since I knew it was coming, LOL. I bled a hell of a lot, though.

    Been on the pill since then (I’m 20 now), and the few times that I’ve taken a break from it, I haven’t menstruated. It cleared up a lot of my acne (oh god, I remember how my body was just absolutely COVERED in zits, it was horrifying) but definitely not enough.

    I’m pretty content with how puberty went for me, but I do wish the PCOS hadn’t have stunted my breast development. I’m happy with my B cup, but they never “rounded out” and took on the shape of adult breasts….more like really big manboobs. It’s hard to explain, but I’m sure other PCOSers with small breasts know what I’m talking about, haha.

  120. I hit my adult height of 5’4″ (and my adult shoe size) by the time I was 12, but didn’t get my period until the month before I turned 14. My mother had given me the Period Talk when I was ten (along with helpful illustrated diagrams of the reproductive organs, from a paperback she kept in her night table) because she noticed I was starting to get a MUSTACHE. Also introduced me to Jolen Creme Bleach then, too. I know that’s when the other hair started coming in as well, because I started shaving at summer camp the year I was ten. My mom had sent me with a box of pads “just in case,” and did so the next couple of years as well.

    By the time it showed up, I mostly felt “about time already!” That faded pretty fast, since, as you might expect from the early mustache, I had PCOS, and my cycle was wildly irregular, and within a few months I was spotting for two weeks straight. Luckily, my mom knew what she was seeing, because she’d been diagnosed with PCOS when she was 17, way back around 1960. So my adolescence was filled with pediatric gynecologist appointments and endless blood draws and that ultrasound where your bladder has to be full to bursting. The only up side of that was having a doctor already in place who I could ask for the Pill when I decided I wanted it, and a built-in excuse that the prescription was meant as a treatment strategy. (Hey, it was a lot easier to tolerate than the oral Provera which was the first thing they tried! That shit is EVIL.)

    Oddly enough, despite the PCOS, I was a skinny kid who stayed skinny through puberty; going on a high-dose estrogen pill to stop that two weeks of spotting made me gain 15 pounds in a single month (I was constantly starving! Seconds at dinner, dessert, and then bread and butter for a bedtime snack! I never ate like that off the Pill!) and even then, that brought me up to 110.

    I liked the boobs I got from the Pill, though. I know I started wearing a bra in sixth grade, but those were definitely training bras; does anyone remember stuff with sizes like 30AA? I remember that there was a schoolwide scoliosis screening that year, and it took place ON THE STAGE of the gym/auditorium, with everybody else WATCHING as they waited their turn, and it was the height of shame to go up for your screening in an UNDERSHIRT, because if you didn’t need anything more than an undershirt by sixth grade, you were a freak. Of course, I had skipped a grade, and I didn’t really need more than an undershirt, but my mother took pity on me and bought me something from Sears that looked like a sports bra, except it had no support whatsoever. It was nylon like Danskin tights and was pretty much a cropped undershirt. Later that year was when I got enough to fill out a training bra. And then the bra-snapping started. But by the time I was in high school, I was in a private school with a different bunch of students, so an extra cup size felt like a blessing, not a curse.

    My daughter got her period at 11, when she was maybe 5’1″, and KEPT GROWING after it — she’s 5’5″ or 5’6″ now, at 13, and doesn’t seem to have stopped yet. Maybe. It’s hard to tell. My height and my shoe size stopped at the same time. Her shoe size has been stable for at least a year, maybe two (AND SHE STEALS MY SHOES) but she keeps getting taller, which goes against everything I’ve been led to expect about puberty.

    I know I embarrass the hell out of her, frequently, but I also know that she’s willing to come to me with questions.

  121. Aren’t genetics interesting?

    I got an early period and early breast development, too. I was about 11 when I suddenly grew monster boobies seemingly overnight. Really, I went from undershirts to a C cup in one fell swoop, and skipped the training bra entirely. My mother is convinced it’s related to rBGH in milk, which I drank in copious quantities (and still do.) Maybe that’s part of it, but I think the fact that all the women on my dad’s side of the family look like they’re smuggling Christmas hams under their shirts, and all developed those monster boobies at an early age, is part of it, too.

    I seem to have missed the short gene, though. I was 5’7″ when I graduated high school, and wore size 8 shoes. Halfway through college I was 5’8″ and wore size 9 shoes, and now, depending on which doctor’s office they measure me in, I’m either 5’9″ or 5’10” and the shoes I just took off are size 11. Can someone tell my long bones to fuse already? I’m freaking 30 years old, it’s time to stop with the growth spurts. (No, there does not seem to be any medical issue underlying this particular bit of freakishness, apparently, I’m just way behind on the whole epiphysial plate thing)

    That height and weight are genetic doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Nor does the idea that early puberty is encoded in genes as well, but it is pretty interesting that they may be so closely related.

  122. My conclusion here, Kate, is that you are ME. I was taller than everyone else, there is no WAY you could call me fat (I have a photo of myself, aged 10 or thereabouts, where I had muscle definition in my arms that fitness models would weep for) and I started puberty right around age 10 and went right into a B cup bra because boobs suddenly Appeared.

    I did manage to hit 5’5″, so I’m not tiny (actually, I’m midway between my mom at 5’9″ and my other female relatives on both sides, who are all closer to 5′) but I never did get the extra inches up I was hoping for. (Wanted to be the same height as my mom, oh well.)

  123. Puberty really messed up my relationship with my mother – at age 11, in six months, I went from a tallish, slighty chubby kid, to being 7 inches taller than her and about 100 pounds heavier, with feet four sizes bigger, though I was not actually overweight. I don’t think we had a conversation that didn’t involve my weight or appearance for the next seven years. I think she’s still disappointed to have a fat daughter (I’m the only girl). But I now think that she has an eating disorder – certainly some level of body dysmorphia, because she is so obsessive about her own eating and exercise, and because she went so strange when I hit puberty and got so much bigger than her. She now has osteoporosis of the spine, losing nearly an inch in height already, and STILL won’t eat calcium-rich foods because “they’ll make her fat”. Yes, even skim milk. I’m glad she only has grandsons, not granddaughters – she never bothered my brothers about their body shape and I don’t want her to pass body hatred on another generation.

  124. Reading through these comments has been enlightening: I’M NOT ALONE. I started my period when I was barely 11—horrifically embarrassed, had no one to talk to (no mother), had to figure everything out on my own. By then I was as tall as I would get (5’3″) and wore a 36C bra. I had a dramatic hourglass figure, hips and boobs and small waist. I thought I was hideous. I carved “fat” into my upper thigh when I was 12. My female cousin, who has a natural set point BMI of 18, told me that I “could have such a pretty figure” if I would just lose some weight.

    I weighed 120 pounds. That’s a BMI of 21.3. I wore a size 6 and could sometimes fit into a 4. But I was a young girl with a woman’s shape, which clearly made me freakish and unnatural. Yet at the same time, like so many others who’ve posted, I was suddenly getting hit on by men old enough to be my father. The world seemed to see me as freakish (fat) and unnatural (fat big boobs big ass fat) and sexy (jailbait) and slutty (you know you were cutting your eyes at me) all at the same time.

    And now I’m thinking about how much I hated myself, how much I was pushed to hate myself, as a THIN girl with curves—and how it must have been exponentially worse for girls who were fat. I want children of my own, but part of me is terrified of having daughters. How will I ever, ever protect them from this?

  125. My earliest recollection of impending puberty was when my godmother, after the two of us having a lovely day out and about frolicking in the sunshine, told my 8 year old self “…okay, you know what? You need deoderant.” Yeah. Congrats, you’re a woman, your pits stink! …I also remember the orangy-scented Teen Spirit that I picked out a few days later, with my mom.

    My period arrived when I was… 10? 11? Anyway, I was prepared, if a little befuddled and a little apalled at the big foofy pads my mom had on hand. Pillow in the panties, indeed. I was really happy that maybe a year or so later, the really really thin pads came on the market. With wings! Oooh, wings. Because I was soon bleeding like some poor wounded animal. My mom, thoughtful mother that she was, was quick to teach me the trick of “set aside the stained ones for that time of the month”. Aah, moms. They’ve been there, they’ve done that.

    I was never harassed for any outstanding sexual characteristics, other than simply being female. And fat. But I was never actually a very fat kid, when looking at old pictures of myself. Just a bit plump, maybe a bit of a belly or thicker legs. I’m most certainly fat NOW…. Did I just end up living up to the namecalling? Eh, best not to ponder it… Boys will tear you down and do horrible things not exactly because of frustrated desire… at least, not in the “I like her” sense, but in a “she’s female, she’s a sexual object, hey let’s put her down, dominance hurr hurr” sense. It’s not about them liking you. It’s about them shoring up their own uncertain manliness.

    Also, also? PRAISE IBUPROFEN. OH GOD. I don’t know where I’d be without it. Probably curled on the floor under my desk, rocking back and forth and praying for merciful death.

  126. Probably curled on the floor under my desk, rocking back and forth and praying for merciful death.

    I’m severely allergic to ibuprofen and before one doctor took the time to test me for all kind of alternative anti-inflammatories to see what I could actually take, this was me! I can take *one* anti-inflammatory, Ponstan (mefenamic acid) and it is my one true love.

  127. Can we simply do away with doctors, teachers, and all other assorted “mentors” who spend our formative years bullying us into the confused state we find ourselves in as teenagers, and the further distressed adults we become?

    Reading everyone’s replies, I feel I am watching my childhood replay before my eyes.
    Taller than peers at age 7-13? check!
    Breast development at 9? check!
    Periods at 11? check!
    Short and ‘fat’ (read butt, thighs and boobs)at 14? check!
    Years of distorted body image to follow? check!

    I have since been diagnosed as having PCOS, which was always there for any doctor to pick up on, but I was always told that “erratic periods and changes in hair growth and phyisical shape are normal in the puberty.” I was 19 by this stage and had been dealing with ‘puberty’ since i was 9!

    Another 9 years on, and I’m still dealing with people who buy into the propaganda.

    If you need another data point on this study, I think I will nominate my whole damn family! Sister, cousin, Grandmothers and mother are all exact replicas of each other.

    My daughter is 6 now, so we’ll be going through it in a few short (no pun intended) years. Hopefully the previously mentioned ‘mentors’ will have learned a few things by then and her experience will be a lot less painful that many of ours.

  128. Oh god, Ponstan! I used to refer to it as depth charges, because if I took it on anything other than a REALLY FULL stomach (tricky when you have woken up having incredibly bad cramps and feel like throwing up, and don’t really like breakfast on a good day) I would vomit quite spectacularly.

    My friend is Buscopan, which is actually for IBS but basically relaxes the muscles in the lower abdomen and reduces the cramps a fair bit. Unfortunately, for best effect, you’re supposed to start taking it about three days before you come on, except I have always been massively irregular (but I don’t have PCOS, oh no, course not, just irregular periods, hairy neck, spots, mood swings etc etc /sarcasm) so I got put on the pill so as to make me more regular and reduce the pain. It did help a bit (though I still never managed to remember to start taking the buscopan when I started the break between pill packs) but probably made my PCOSish tendencies a lot worse.

  129. It wasn’t until I hit the internet that I was really, really glad that my mother explained all the embarrassing stuff in great detail, long before we ever touched on it in school, because even with everything I knew I was still pretty unprepared.

    The thing that gets me the most, even like, ten years on though? How all those little books in school tell you that your first period won’t be niagra falls, and you don’t need to worry about blood on your clothes or blood on the chair, and nobody will be able to tell?

    LIES I TELL YOU. First day of period number 1, first bleed, and I’m there in my pretty blue and white check school uniform with a massive bloody patch and blood all over the chair.

    Well, start as you intend to carry on, I guess. Never have I been happier than when I got told that a Mirena was probably going to be my best bet for controlling that kind of bleed.

    Also, odd as it may sound, but I find that ice packs really help with the cramp. I don’t know why, but I always feel hot and sick when I’m on, and an ice pack just seems to numb that sucker into submission where heat packs just make me feel sicker.

  130. @anwen – I start taking Ponstan two days before my period at maximum dose and take it all the way through, at maximum dose. It sometimes makes me nauseous, but it’s still far better than the alternative (which has involved going to hospital for a shot of morphine).

  131. I’m 44, and I’m another one who didn’t recognise my first period at the time, because the blood was brown. Mum found my underwear in the laundry basket and told me what was happening. I blame the sex education classes; we had to draw cross sectional diagrams of a uterus shedding its lining, and by the time I’d done all the colouring in in red crayon, I was expecting it to look like chunks of fillet steak when it came out – hence my surprise at what really happened.

    On the height/puberty thing: it’s well known among vets (I am one) that sex hormones influence the timing of growth plate closure – particularly testosterone. So if you castrate a dog or cat well before puberty, it will often end up with slightly longer legs than expected, because in the absence of testosterone the growth plate closure happens a bit later than it would do otherwise. I wonder whether the growth plates close earlier and more firmly in girls with PCOS, if they are producing more testosterone?

  132. While I am not short (5’11”) I do have genetic markers for obesity and precocious puberty – both of which are hallmarks for PCOS:

    [You may only present one symptom or none at all]

    •Oligomenorrhea (Irregular) menses
    •Amenorrhea (Absent) menses
    Precocious (Early) Puberty
    •Alopecia (thinning of scalp hair)
    •Hirsutism (excess unwanted hair)
    •Hypertension (High B/P)
    •Pregnancy complications, Infertility
    •Persistent Anemia (low iron levels)
    •Forgetfulness, ‘fog brained’, lack of concentration
    •Cysts in many, but not all cases; Enlarged ovaries
    •Weight Issues, Obesity (Centered around midsection)
    •Acrochordons (skin tags), Acne, Acanthosis Nigricans (dark patches), Seborrhea (dandruff), Hidradenitis Suppurativa, other skin problems
    •Chronic pelvic pain, migraines/headaches, bloating, water retention, swelling of hands/feet
    •Frequent Yeast Infections, Urinary Tract Infections, Bladder issues
    •Hyperandrogenism (+ testosterone, androstenedione &/or DHEAS)
    •Restless Limb Syndrome, Sleeping problems
    •Shaking, heartburn, uncontrollable hunger &/or mood swings before or after a meal
    •Hyperinsulinemia (+ insulin levels), Insulin Resistance, Diabetes
    •Depression, thoughts of ugliness, suicide or wishing to be dead/never born, feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, feeling less of a woman.


  133. Oh and you do not need to be fat and short to get your period early either. I got mine in 6th grade and I was 5’6 at the time (Im in 8th and 5’9 now) and I was also not underweight but I was thin (size 2/4) so once again a reason for me to say ‘screw you’ to the so called “experts” Yay!

  134. I think my mom thought she was doing the right thing, and a really forward thinking thing, when she made hand-drawn diagrams with the real, clinical, Latin names for all the male and female parts of the reproductive systems. However, it only served to confuse me more because she didn’t explain what ties it all together emotionally or psychologically, or anything about how it all relates to sexuality. I mean, I know that’s the hard part to talk about, but that’s what’s even more important than understanding why I bleed every month.

    I would actually stand in front of the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door and, because I could stick my tummy out, I was convinced I was pregnant. I was 11 and didn’t even have my period yet!

    P.S. SM, I had no idea you missed sex ed on penetrative sex day! LOL!

  135. I wonder if anyone else had this experience:
    I never got used to pads and *hated* the way they bunched up. All the teen magazines said my mom wanted me to be as comfortable during “that time” as I could be, and gave advice about how to ask for tampons instead. At approximately 15 y/o, I asked my mom to buy me tampons instead. And she refused, telling me I’d have to get used to the discomfort. I “wasn’t ready” for tampon use. It doesn’t sound so bad reading it now, but at the time I was humiliated. Keep in mind, this was a woman who knew, definitively, that I was sexually active.
    I had to wait until I was 18, living on my own, to use tampons. WTF, Mom?!

  136. So my adolescence was filled with pediatric gynecologist appointments and endless blood draws and that ultrasound where your bladder has to be full to bursting.

    Oh man, I totally had that ultrasound when I was 17. It turned out they didn’t think I have PCOS, despite a few symptoms, but the other thing I remember about getting tested for it was that the doctor said that people who have it are often fat and “not slim and trim like you.” This was one of the biggest moments of cognitive dissonance in my adolescence, because of course I had been told that (and treated as) fat since I was a little kid, and getting big tits and hips only made that treatment worse. My doctor was literally the only person who had ever implied that my figure was womanly instead of fat. It was a complete shock to me.

  137. Some mothers seem to get a bit funny around the tampon issue. I seemed to spend a lot of time in school reassuring girls who’d been told my their mothers that they couldn’t use tampons because it’d mean they weren’t virgins any more, or that if they used them they’d die of horrible infections or get them stuck or any number of other things, which looking back on it just seems to be those mothers projecting their own insecurities onto their daughters.

  138. And she refused, telling me I’d have to get used to the discomfort. I “wasn’t ready” for tampon use.

    To be fair, kinda, I have found (only as an adult who doesn’t believe in TMI) that for a lot of women, tampons are waaaaay more comfortable to use after you’ve engaged in penetration of some kind. I really really wish someone had told me this as an adolescent, because it was a total fucking revelation afterwards. I know the whole “your hymen is a sacred barrier” thing is complete crap, but for some women it actually is a rather strong barrier until it’s broken! I’m just wondering if your mom was thinking that but failing spectacularly to explain why she thought that.

    God, there are so many things I wish someone had told me as an adolescent. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and inform myself of what I really needed to know about all this shit.

  139. Ugh, Philosopherkrista, I was going to say something about the whole “You’re not ready for tampons” thing. I think I started using them when I was about 13, but the prevailing wisdom — which of course came straight from the fucking Kotex-sponsored booklets they gave out at school — was that they weren’t “safe” until you were older. I’m pretty sure that myth has gone by the wayside now (owing, no doubt, to aggressive PR by Tampax), but it was still thriving in the ’80s.

  140. Several of my friends find tampons too painful to insert to ever want to use them. These friends have also mentioned that they need their obgyns to use the child-size speculum for their annual visits.

    I could not wear tampons comfortably until I discovered non-applicator tampons. I can fiddle with those until they sit comfortably, but I could never figure out how to get a tampon to set right with an applicator.

    I remember my mom mentioning tampons as an option when I first started, but she never used them and didn’t see the point of buying something other than pads.

  141. Speaking as one of the few men who sometimes post here, my puberty started pretty much exactly when I was 11.5 and was, or at least seemed to me, to be very rapid. In about two years or less, all my young-adult body-hair (of which there was quite a bit) came in, and by the time this two-year stretch was over, I had done all the growing I was going to do. I am not especially short, but not especially tall either at about five and a half feet, and regardless of my weight, I have always had a squat, stocky sort of frame. My “maximum ideal weight” is supposedly 160 pounds, and when I was young, my actual weight would tend to range between 180-200 pounds.

    I guess I agree with you that it’s good to hear about research that tells us that weight is largely genetically determined, but that probably won’t steal any thunder from the Church of Dieting (Praise Be to the Blessed Holy Diet!).

  142. I’ve never heard the link between child obesity and early menarche before, and I’m a little staggered. What won’t they link up with fatness these days?

  143. I’m curious about what is considered “early” and “late” for puberty in girls? I’m surprised to see people saying that getting their period in sixth grade was considered early. I remember getting a talk in school in fifth grade, and my mother talking to me about that time, and IIRC 12-15 was considered “normal” for starting your period, which I would assume would mean that even 11 would only be a bit early.

    Maybe I just come from a family where people began their periods relatively early, but I don’t remember getting my period in sixth grade being cause for concern or worry, and I’m pretty sure that female relatives had inquired about whether I’d gotten it yet before that. This was in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

    It just seems like another issue of anything that happens to women’s bodies being cause for concern, because I can remember friends who were 13 and 14 and hadn’t gotten their periods yet feeling like freaks and worrying if something was wrong with them. If 11 and 12 is too early, and 13 and 14 is too late, when exactly is the right time to get your period?

  144. Wow, I had the opposite experience with tampons. The main thing I remember my mom saying when I told her my period had started was “learn to use tampons, they are much better than pads.”

    I also had a much less stressful puberty than most everyone else here. I was fairly short (I remember always standing in the front row for class pictures) and of average build (not particularly skinny, but not really fat, although of course, I thought I was fat from probably 4th grade on). I developed in the normal/slightly late range – didn’t start developing breasts til I was 12 or so, period around 13. So by the time that happened, I had had a fairly comprehensive sex ed class and my mom had talked with me a bit about puberty. When I got my period, I told her and she showed me where she kept her supplies and gave me the aforementioned advice about tampons, which I started using almost immediately (although there was a bit of a learning curve).

    In retrospect, though, the best thing my mom did when I was approaching puberty was leave a copy of “our Bodies, Our Selves” out where I could find it. I was painfully shy and found the puberty conversations I had with my mom excruciatingly embarrassing, in spite of the close relationship we had, but I loved to read. I kept that book hidden under my bed and read it religiously for YEARS.

  145. @Lori: I thought of 13 as being late because by that time, it seemed like most of the girls I knew had already started theirs. On the other hand, I didn’t talk about it much with my friends, so some of that was probably paranoia that I was weird – if I was getting my period at 13, everyone must already have had theirs, right? In retrospect, and based on the 12 years old average, I guess 13 is pretty normal.

  146. I had boobs early, but I was a little later with the lil’ red friend (I mean these things compared to my friends and classmates). But I have PCOS, so the whole thing has always been whacked up. Starting at 13, I’d get one or two, then nothing for like a year. Finally they put me on BC when I was 19 and it was regular. I’ve been off the BC for like a year and a half but have only been “regular” for the past 5 or 6 months…I’m 25 now. Maybe it’s because I’ve changed my lifestyle – eating better/intuitively, exercising more, plus I got my binge eating under control. Yes, all of that means I lost weight, too, which is what I’m sure my dr would say the culprit is. *eyeroll*

    Since PCOS is caused by teh fatness, obv. Certainly not the other way around. I should just eat less. /snark

  147. I have no clue when I stopped growing, but I’m 5’4″ now. I started my period in the middle of class when I was 11(6th grade), but I was already rocking a C-cup by then and had skipped the training bra. (I would be a 38DD by 8th grade, for reference.) The girls in one of my classes said, “Wow, someone’s been blessed by the Hooter Fairy!”

    I was always on the shorter end of average height, but I’ve been fat since the day I was born. (9 pound babies represent!) When I got my period in 6th grade, I was already wearing a Misses 14. I guess I bypassed the pubescent slut-shaming because I was still rectangle-shaped and dressed like my mother.**

    **It was 1991. Apparently there was some sort of fashion dead-space between the end of the 80’s and before grunge kicked in around 1993. For 2 years everything I owned was straight-up fugly despite still being able to shop in larger straight sizes.

  148. The girls in one of my classes said, “Wow, someone’s been blessed by the Hooter Fairy!”

    Sounds like me, except it was this one boy who announced in front of my 6th grade class that I had “huge knockers.”

  149. I’m 5’2.5″, fat (starting from about age 6) and had an early onset of puberty (I had just turned 11). I didn’t have too many horror stories, except for a time in 8th grade when I was groped by an awful boy, and I can tell you it had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with trying to control me and make me upset. Ugh.

    As far as oversexualization of young girls, I can tell you that I was still very much in a “eww…gross…boys” phase for about a year after I got my period. Unless those boys wanted to play soccer or baseball or collect bugs. Then it was ok to play with them. But kissing? Gross. Getting an early period doesn’t change the fact that little girls are still little girls.

  150. Sweet Machine said: but for some women it actually is a rather strong barrier until it’s broken! I’m just wondering if your mom was thinking that but failing spectacularly to explain why she thought that.
    Like I said, this was a woman who *knew* I was sexually active. Unlike what some others have mentioned, I was never unaware of the connection between sex/menstruation/physiology/puberty. There was a weird emphasis on (controlling) female sexuality in my home.

  151. wow @ all of these stories. I have Turner Syndrome and I got my period at 14 1/2. I took growth hormone until that age and then I got off of it and started taking birth control pills. I needed the added femal hormone to be able to have a period. The female hormone slows down growth – I know women of all hights who have started their periods early, but it scientifically makes sense that AFTER they wouldn’t grow much taller, that is an affect of estrogen and progesterone and why they waited so long to start me on it, so that I could get as much growth in as possible. For the record I’m now 5 foot even, so I guess the growth hormone worked…in my eyes, comparing myself to what I’d be without growth hormone, I’m tall :D.

    I had such a disconnect that I never thought I would have one. Mom wanted to get pads the first time we stopped at Target after I started the pills. I said “I’m not going to get my period.” I don’t know if it was just all of my friends all ready having theirs for so long I just thought it would never happen to me. I think it was more “I’m not like other girls in this way and that way why am I going to get periods like them, too? i won’t.” I told some of my friends when I was – maybe 5th grade? Some had their period some didn’t, they were all talking about it first. So I said “I prolly won’t get mine for a long time.” And they thought that was horrible. My mom was a 6th grade teacher, we watched some movie on girls getting their periods when I was a 6th grader, she said they were going to have question and answer time and she was totally terrified of me saying something to the other students about my situation. I wouldn’t dare, there’s a difference between my friends and the whole 6th grade and my mom would be in the damn room. But still it probably made me feel more different to hear that than anything the doctor said – I had a good endrocrinologist at the time and when I saw her I felt normal and proud of my body – it was stuff like mom saying that so embarrased that made me feel like a freak. Kinda a “we want people who have cocnerns to feel comfortable asking questions, but not you” I mean I get it, she was worried about me embarrasing myself AND her, and I was seeing doctors and there were other places/people I could ask questions so it wasn’t like I needed to like some other girls who needed this opportunity, but still the overall vibe I got was “this difference of yours is something to be ashamed of, you’re not normal.”

    Turners’ doctors are trying to find ways to get girls started on female hormone EARLIER. I think it’s probably easier going though puberty later than earlier, but the earlier still has it’s psychological problems. Much more than being short or the other TS physical issues, I have found. When I went through puberty it was like night and day for me – the hormones, I could feel them in my body, I was probably more aware of them then people who don’t have to get them through borth control. Maybe it’s not as bad as being teased for starting early, but I got teased for being flat and I just didn’t feel like I fit in with boy crazy girls my age, and I don’t think girls realize just how much estrogen affects the way girls interact with each other socially unless you’re the one that doesn’t have it – it’s like there was a language they were speaking I didn’t understand. I think it’s added to my independence now and I’m glad I’m my own person, but I felt really different starting later than all the other girls. And for every girl who develops early treated like an adult when they’re a child, there’s a girl treated like a child when she’s an adult.

    I feel ok at 28. I have problems, but I wouldn’t want to trade mine for anyone else’s. My way was right for me, not necessarily for anyone else. I wish studies would stop that attitude that one way is right for everyone.

  152. Cool post Kate! I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject.

    Since a lot of other people shared their personal puburty history, I will share mine:

    Short underweight kid, breasts started ‘budding’ (in my case were excrucuatingly tender for years but never really grew, still haven’t) at 11, hair at 12, underweight teen, period started at age 14, am now 2″ taller and 15 lbs heavier than pubertal weight and remain underweight. I still have an adolescant-looking body. Growing up I drank artificial-hormane-laden whole milk as my main beverage, usually about a 1/2 gallon a day.. so that theory doesn’t apply to me at least.

    My sister got her period at age 12 and proceeded to grow from 5’2′ to 5’10” in the next 5 years!!

    My best friend growing up was tall and fat, parents and school were prepping her for her period when we were 8, but she didn’t get it til she was 14, just like me.

  153. I started my period at age 12. My mom was always really open with me and I could talk to my dad too so it wasn’t too bad. But, I definitely started growing hips and breasts earlier than almost all of my friends. Growing up, even before puberty, I was never a skinny kid, which upset me immensely and made me from a young age feel like I had to go on a diet. I hit my adult height by about 8th grade and have stayed the same weight and height since then, except the years of an active eating disorder. I’m 19 now. My mom has a similar puberty history (I’m not sure what to call it, like we started at the same age and stopped growing at around the same age). My mom, who practices intuitive eating, has stayed at a fairly constant weight her whole life.

    It seems like before puberty I had baby fat, mainly on my stomach, and then after it just redistributed itself into breasts and hips.

  154. Oh, about tampons:

    My very first period I used pads, but was really uncomfortable wearing them. The next time my period came, I switched to using tampons and never looked back. I was too embarassed to ask my mom how to insert them, so I just sat in the bathroom, with a copy of this book about puberty and stuff that explained how to insert tampons. After a couple of unsuccessful tries, I got it in and then never looked back. I started using the super absorbency tampons maybe 2-3 months later because I had a heavy flow the first couple days of each period. And I wasn’t sexually active at the time, so I guess maybe my hymen isn’t intact as much? Because tampons have rarely been uncomfortable to wear. I’m still a virgin, also, so does this mean that the first time I have sex, it won’t be very painful? I don’t know if my question makes sense. I haven’t really asked anyone about this before because I feel kind of awkward talking about it in real life.

  155. It wasn’t until I was purchasing drugstore lubricant for sexual purposes that I noticed the package indicated a number of uses including “tampon insertion.” I thought, wait, what, brilliant! And that was what finally made them at least insertable for me. I can’t believe I’d never seen that tip in any of the thousand other uterus / vagina education pamphlets / books I’d seen or even family members I talked to about my difficulties. That tip should definitely be added to the appropriate education courses.

  156. Just to chuck in my data point, I was/am/always short — and my parents are, too. I felt chubby and then fat growing up, and the doctors recommended that I lose weight starting very early, but looking back at pictures, I may have been stocky, but I wasn’t really fat until late high school/college. Meanwhile, I started my period three days before my 12th birthday. I stopped growing taller pretty much immediately, and have been 5’0″ ever since.

    My mom was pretty good about it… I got the sense that having these talks was in no way her favorite part of motherhood, but she knew it was necessary, and didn’t want me to be ashamed — she wanted me to be informed and prepared, so I was, if slightly awkwardly. She’s done much the same for my cousin, who had a kind of complicated upbringing. My mom was willing to let me try tampons, but I’ve never found them a bit comfortable, and still wear pads.

    I was teased a little for being fat, but not much. My own perception of my fatness was way off of my actual fatness, so I lucked out, teasing-wise, from that. And while I had grown-up-sized boobs in late middle school (36C), there was always someone with bigger boobs than me, so she got picked on, and I didn’t. My rack of doom (46H, now) grew in gradually over the years, mostly post-birth control. So, yeah, I felt like a big freak, who was fat and ugly, but really, I was my own worst critic, and honestly got through puberty easy, compared to a lot of other folks.

  157. I’ve been reading the site for a couple of months now (loves it!) but this is my first comment.

    I can really relate to many of the comments here and have a funny story to share. The most ridiculous thing I remember about the puberty class in 5th grade was the video they showed us on the biology of menstruation. It featured a pubescent teen who got her first period while sleeping over at a friend’s house. In the morning the friend’s parents were explaining it all to them while making breakfast. The dad used pancake batter to pour a uterus-and-ovaries-shaped pancake in the skillet and give a biology lesson to the girls. I shit you not. I don’t think I will ever forget that as long as I live. At least it always makes me laugh whenever I make pancakes now.

  158. Famous words from me to my mother: “You mean it happens every month??”

    Yep, me too. I thought it happened once and then was over.

    Also, I started developing at what would probably be considered a “normal” age–booblets at 11, period at 12–but I grew slowly. I was short, skinny, and small-busted and was teased for that. Oh, and zits. Let’s not forget the zits.

    But anyway, I developed at snail pace. I was an AA cup for ages. I hated bras, but my mom made me wear them, and I had this pipe dream that when I grew up and left home, I’d still be an AA cup and I could just abandon bras forever.

    Well, not so much. When I finally did finish growing, I was a D, and then once I got fat in my twenties, I’m a DD who suspects herself of actually being an E or F in need of a fitting. So, going braless is not comfortable to me even though my mom’s not around to nag me to wear one!

    Once I developed the boobs, I got teased for that too. “Udders” were mentioned. I got my ass grabbed in the hall. I got teased for being a slut, often by the same people who teased me for being a virgin. (I don’t get it either.)

    I didn’t get “fat” comments directed at me; my teen self would probably be considered chubby these days but my size was acceptable in the early nineties. I wore an 8/10 at the time. 12, for anything that was tight in the bust.

    Oh, and did I mention zits? (Hell, I still get zits. I’m 31. I hate them, but I figure they keep me looking young, lol.) There was also pressure to tan.

    I remember the first time that, as a teen, I got a compliment from someone who wasn’t (a) my mom or (b) hubba-hubba-ing over my tits. It was a girl I’d gone to HS with but never known well. She told me, out of nowhere, that my sisters and I had always had beautiful hair. I’d been trying to wrangle my hair for years and never thought someone might think it was pretty. It’s telling, to me, that I still remember that little word of kindness and am tearing up writing about it now. This has to have been 14 years ago.

    Oh, and hair was always a minefield. It got oilier for about a year during puberty, and I was shamed so much over my “greasy, dirty” hair that I essentially nuked it for years with harsh shampoos and no conditioner until it looked like straw and was utterly unmanageable. It took me years to figure out that, when the topsy-turvy of puberty was finally over, I actually had naturally dry hair.

  159. Madeline, your mileage may vary, but I’ve found that it’s easy to hook a tampon around the hymen, but when I actually began inserting phallic objects, it was more difficult to get the right angle. Think of the hymen sort of like a piece of saran wrap that’s attached at a couple points – maybe more. Sometimes the saran wrap is thicker/better attached, sometimes it’s very thin, sometimes loosely attached (so sort of stretchy), sometimes not. Maybe you can shift it aside enough to accomodate a tampon, or even a whole penis, or maybe not. Anatomy varies widely. Also, women lose their hymens via all kinds of routes, so it’s hard to know for sure.

    I am so fucking glad puberty and teenageness is over. Even though I was not ginormous at size 12 or 14, it was a miserable time in my life, and I felt far more hatred than I do now (another 40-60 pounds and 15 years later).

  160. My first period was relatively uneventful; to be honest I felt a wierd combination of excited/indifferent when it happened. I got it when I was twelve, a few months shy of 13. I knew it was coming; my mom and I had the talk when I was 10. She was really good about it too, very open and was always reminding me that I could always come to her for questions.

    So one day at the end of 7th grade, I came home from school and found blood in my panties. I wasn’t quite sure if it was my period, so I waited a few hours before I told my mom. She was more excited than I was, lol. The next month she got some of her female friends and my aunt together and took me out to dinner to celebrate (we went to Olive Garden…I can’t believe I still remember that random detail). I got a couple gifts, including this awesome book from my mom called “I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America”. That book is still sitting on my bookshelf. Looking back, I’m glad my mom felt like the event was something to be celebrated, and not dreaded.

    Hugs to all you ladies who were approached by much older men while you were still young teens. I couldn’t imagine what I would’ve done in a situation like that. I guess I lucked out; no man bothered to approach me until college (and he was drunk, but that’s another story…). I was a young girl with a woman’s body, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. My mom looked at my body with disdain, and I felt rejected by her for a long time.

    This thread is making me feel all nostalgic and sad.

  161. Like Kate, I was tall and thin as a child (and can remember a few “how do you stay so slender?” comments from adult women, which, wtf?) but developed early, stopped growing, and got fattie fat fat. I used to fantasize about being short, so I’m pretty happy with my height at 5’5″, about average.

    I had a couple weird incidents with older men as young teen. One was a male doctor who insisted I needed me to bare my left breast so he could listen to my heart. I’m still not sure what motivated that, but it seems really inappropriate to me now. I can’t remember other doctors doing that. I sure as hell resisted at the time. My mother was in the room and she didn’t stand up for me. I guess she thought I couldn’t be molested as long as she was there. I eventually gave in and felt very shamed by the experience. They can hear your heart through the paper gown, can’t they?

    Anyway, I’m one of the early puberty followed by fatness and (semi) shortness crowd. I don’t even remember my first period, but I felt like a total freak getting it in elementary school. I was convinced that no normal girl got her period until at least middle school, and that anyone who found out was judging me for being such a freak. Meanwhile, my best friend, who has been fat since childhood, didn’t get her period until age 16.

  162. I’m a day behind this thread, so I’m trying to catch up on comments! I’m going to put all my responses in one place so I don’t monopolize the “Recent Comments” widget (though that is fun to do sometimes!). Disadvantage: ridiculously long comment.

    It seems like–although obviously this is just anecdotal based on what I’ve observed in schools and heard from friends–girls are more likely to be teased or otherwise embarrassed for developing early, while boys are more likely to be teased/embarrassed about developing later.

    This definitely was not my experience, fwiw, though maybe it is the trend – I’m not sure about that. But developing late can be very difficult. Girls who develop early totally get harrassed and shamed for being too sexualized, but at the same time girls who develop late are harrassed and shamed for not being sexual or sexy enough. I don’t actually know if one is tougher than the other (and if the early development is coupled with fat-shaming, maybe that’s a lot harder to live through), but it certainly isn’t easy to be on either end. Puberty blows all around.

    The most annoying thing was that I woke up with it one morning, and it had mostly dried, so I seriously thought I pooped myself in the middle of the night.

    I don’t think it’s uncommon for a girl to shit herself with menarche, especially if it starts in her sleep. And speaking from experience, it really adds something to the whole magical experience of entering womanhood!

    Bree: To this day I don’t understand the hype over huge breasts. I guess since I have them and they are natural *ahem* I don’t see it as something that is totally sexy, especially on women who are very thin, and they look like two basketballs bolted onto their chests. But I guess since it makes them feel good, who am I to judge?

    Except you kind of just did…

    Another Sara: I’d like to add that attention from adult men was also confusing because you’re supposed to be pretty, right? So if twelve-year-old you is hit on by an adult, that’s a kind of victory, right? Especially if what you’re hearing from everyone your own age is how fat you are.

    I’m not sure about this. I mean, maybe that was how some girls felt, because the messages they’re getting are really conflicting, but it doesn’t feel that way to a lot of girls. Confusing, yes, but a victory to be harrassed or assaulted – hell no.

    Vanessa: I’m kind of new to fat acceptance and I’m still trying to figure out where chemicals fit n. There are lots of studies that show that chemicals in our food and water (e.g. BPA) promote weight gain. So what then? I recognize this site is against blaming/shaming individuals (and I’m pretty wary of that myself). However, recognizing the effects of other forces that promote weight gain seems to make sense to me…

    I think most of us consider a lot of that to be very pseudoscientific. Though if you have a specific study in mind, I’m sure people would be interested in looking at it.

    Kaz, I’m with you 110% on the heat pads making you feel sicker. I never understood that remedy. Heat is a sure way to make me feel like I’m going to vomit, on TOP of having cramps.

    Oh god, midol. It took me maybe 6 months or a year to put it together that caffeine + menstruating made me feel like my body was going to explode from jitters and general unpleasantness. And acetaminophen and ibuprofen were never enough to handle the cramps and headaches and general aches alone. But then I learned that there were no medical warnings on any labels against taking an NSAID like ibuprofen at the same time as acetaminophen, at the normal doses, so that’s what I started doing (though it involved illegally sneaking OTC drugs into school, because I had to stagger them so that they did not wear off at the same time, meaning taking pills every 2 hours – first one, then the other. If both wore off at the same time I’d have to go to the nurse to lie down before I stopped being able to walk). (Unfortunately, neither one did anything for the bursting-into-tears problem. God, high school sucked.)

    Oh, the huge pads. They did feel like sitting/sleeping on a pillow. I kind of liked them as a younger teen, though. My flow was too heavy for small pads, I hadn’t figured out tampons yet, and frankly, the pressure from the big pads helped a lot with the pain. Not abdominal cramping, but that severe burning vaginal/vulvar feeling I used to get. I really do not miss those days.

    Fwiw, I was one of those girls that had a very hard time using tampons until post-penetrative sex. I was a little scared of them at first, but then it was just really uncomfortable, though i tried. (It also helped to discover at the ob/gyn years ago that my vaginal canal is crazy crooked off to one side, and that I need to push the tampons over to that side to insert them without real discomfort.)

    Madeline, how much the hymen covers is really, really variable. It might mean that sex would be a little more comfortable for you the first time, but no one can probably say for sure. Especially since some women find that wonderful hymen-breaking experience more painful than others. Kinda burns a little, fwiw.

  163. Also, on the topic of boob development: who else found breast growth so uncomfortable that they had to lie across their school desks to avoid grabbing their chests to stop the itching? god, was that uncomfortable.

  164. OMG!
    After my last comment, where I said I was never approached by older men when I was a young teen, I went off and did something else, and then all of a sudden I was reminded of this incident that happened when I was in 8th grade (I was 13).

    I was in gym class, and we were doing a dance unit; every day for a couple weeks we would learn a new dance. This was during the Macarena craze (late 90’s), so at the student’s request, my teacher let us do the Macarena even though we all knew it. At a certain point in the dance, you have to move your hips/butt from side to side. My teacher was walking around watching us do the dance; when it came to the part where I had to move my hips, he exclaimed loudly “Wow, Charlotte can really move that backfield area!” (he was into baseball and used baseball terminology a lot). I was actually a litle flattered by his comment, and just laughed it off. It wasn’t until about a month later when I realized that I had been hit on by a 40-something year old guy. I was so pissed because this gym teacher was one of my favorite gym teachers in my middle school. I felt a little betrayed.

    Sorry, this thread just triggered a random memory I hadn’t thought about in years.

  165. I don’t think I had an easy time with tampons until after I had sex, either. I’ve always preferred pads anyway, though, although I will use tampons the first few days. I do remember how glad I was when pads with wings came out. I don’t remember exactly when that was, but it was some time after I started my period but before I had finished high school. Definitely nice to be able to put on a pad and not worry about it shifting off your underwear.

    Speaking of memories this thread is bringing up, I had totally forgotten that, when I was in ninth grade, my geometry (a man in his 50s or 60s) made some sort of comment about my breasts in front of the entire class. I don’t even remember what he said, because I was writing something on the board at the time, with my back to him, and some friends told me about it after.

  166. I was at a high school today and I really didn’t see this “obesity epidemic”. I see a lot of teens eating unhealthy looking cafeteria food. I saw teens of different sizes but more seemed quite small than “obese”.

  167. “if you don’t let go of me right now I’m going to go ask your wife how she feels about being married to a pedophile”.

    I want my kids to be like you.

  168. I was 11 when I got my period, 8 when I got boobs… which I think was far more mortifying in a catholic school uniform compared to the little stick girls with flat chests. Was a little chubby starting around that time, but I’m not sure which came first, the extra pounds or the grown up bra.

    In any case, the study doesn’t surprise me. But as an adult who has turned out to have severe endocrine issues, I wonder what role the pituitary gland plays in all of this?

    Is that just completely out of left field?

  169. I really have to take issue with the mocking of “hormones in our food” and “pesticides” as being in the same boat of ZOMG as the obesity “epidemic.” There are repeated, demonstrated, and quantified/iable health problems that result from both hormone use and pesticides in what we are fed. And, much like obesity “research” funded by diet companies and health “guidelines” put out by multinational agribusiness, the “science” and policy processes that claim to keep consumers, workers, and growers safe are really only beholden to the interests of the chemical (i.e. hormone and pesticice) producers.

    I also shudder at the rhetorical dismissal of hormones and pesticides as a real problem because of the very, very real disproportionate impacts these added chemicals have on women, the poor, and, hey guess what!, fatties. Particularly in the case of pesticides, when there are literally thousands of undocumented migrant farm workers contracting cancer, suffering stillborn and birth-defected babies, and falling victim to accumulated nervous system disorders demonstratively due to work with the toxins meant to kill only insects, but NO ONE gives a damn because the folks are a) poor and b) “illegal”, I can’t help but read the rest of this post with a bad taste in my mouth. And, presumably relevant to a great portion of your readers, the fact that most harmful pesticides which supposedly aren’t so bioaccumulate in FAT to concentrations at which they *are* harmful and NO ONE seems to care because, well, if fat people are subject to a greater accumulation of toxins in their bodies that’s our own damn fault for being fatties, again colors what would otherwise be a right-on post for me.

  170. “The next month she got some of her female friends and my aunt together and took me out to dinner to celebrate (we went to Olive Garden…I can’t believe I still remember that random detail). I got a couple gifts, including this awesome book from my mom called “I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America”. That book is still sitting on my bookshelf. Looking back, I’m glad my mom felt like the event was something to be celebrated, and not dreaded.”

    If I ruled the world, this would be the norm. This made me choke up with happiness for you and pain for those of us who suffered anxiety, fear, embarassment and shame about it.

    Just for the record, I’ve always been medium height (topped out at 5’3 – 1/2″). I was led to believe I was always fat, but photos show that this was simply not true. I did start to get kind of fat around 4th grade, but I didn’t start menstruating until September of 7th grade, when I was just past age 12-1/2. I was a little surprised that it started at such a “normal” age, since I felt abnormal in so many other ways.

    I think I started using tampons around age 14-15, but this did *not* make losing my virginity (at age 18) any easier. As eager as I was for penetration (and I had experimented a little on my own) I must have had a cast-iron hymen, because getting through that thing was a very painful, three-day ordeal. But I’m pretty sure it’s rare for it to be *that* painful. I don’t want to freak anyone out here!

    And apologies if TMI.

  171. Madeline, I wasn’t sexually active until years after I started using tampons regularly, but I found that it didn’t really make penetrative sex more comfortable. Let’s just say there is a big difference between the size of a super tampon and my partner’s girth… On the other hand, for me it wasn’t just breaking my hymen that was uncomfortable, it was the whole process – as far as I can tell, I have a particularly tight vagina, which the tampons didn’t have much effect on since they aren’t all that big in absolute terms. That being said, there’s a lot of variation in genitalia, so my experiences may have no correlation to yours!

  172. OMG volcanista! I remember that awful itching, it was the worst! I would sometimes wear two training bras just to feel that tightness to relieve the pain. And yes, I would lie across the desk to force myself not to scratch.

  173. Oh and I forgot to add my mom refused to let me and my sis eat anything “unhealthy” and I still got hormonal issues like boobs and spotting in 4th grade.

  174. “If I ruled the world, this would be the norm. This made me choke up with happiness for you and pain for those of us who suffered anxiety, fear, embarassment and shame about it.”

    My heart goes out to any girl who felt ashamed and embarassed about that moment in thier lives. Right before the dinner, my mom told me the reason why she was celebrating that moment of my life was because when she started her period (ironically, she started at 12, just like I did), her mom was very hands off and distant. She wanted our mother-daughter relationship to be more open and happier than the one she had with her mom.

  175. ecosconnie, most of the time when people are warning consumers about the dangers of pesticides and hormones in our food, they are also quick to tell us we need to do certain practices or take certain supplements or make certain dietary changes to “purge” our bodies of “toxins” and other completely unscientific ideas. A lot of the response to the use of “chemicals” (uggggggh) is uninformed and from the gut, and it goes hand in hand with so much other magical thinking about which foods are good and which foods are evil. Refusing to moralize about food is pretty damn sensible.

    I’m not saying I love eating pesticides (I actually prefer not to roll in the DDT, myself, and I have enough of a background in environmental chemistry to be aware of a lot of the issues involved), but the pseudoscientific approach of many activists on this issue does not lend credence to it.

    I’ve also never seen statistics that the hormones-in-food-cause-earlier-onset-of-puberty hype is actually borne out. Maybe that has in fact been statistically shown, because that’s not a subject where I’ve read all the studies. But I’m extremely skeptical that that cause has been uniquely fingerprinted. Kate is right that the change in nutrition is likely a much bigger factor all around.

  176. I’d also like to say that genuine health crisis (ie the involuntary, often criminal overexposure of migrant workers to massive quantities of pesticides, which may or may not be properly administered with proper protection, or the destruction of water ecosystems because of nutrient run-off) is a category of difference from “look! Poor people are fat and poor people eat more conventional veggies, therefore fat must be caused by pesticide residuals!”

    I generally think pesticides aren’t the hottest idea (for loads of reasons), but fat isn’t in the top fifty concerns I have. There’s bigger things to worry about. (Oh, fat activism. The puns are just so convenient.) I am not complacent about certified organic chemicals, either – stay the hell away from rotenone, too.

    On the other hand, lab-based does not necessary mean EVIL. I’d like to pimp Jeff Gilman’s “Truth about Organic Gardening” for anyone interested in homeowner pesticides – he has a good look at the various impacts of various practices (and cites studies and everything). It doesn’t hurt that he generally comes down where I do – that poison is poison is poison, but lab-based poison is not necessary more poisonous than plant poison or bacterial poison.

  177. I have to agree with volcanista – I’ve never seen a reputable study that backs up any widespread health problems due to pesticides and hormones in food. I buy organic when it’s convenient, and cage-free/hormone-free/vegetarian-fed eggs all the time, but it’s for ethical considerations around sustainable farming practices and the treatment of food animals, not because I think they’re actually healthier for me. If good studies exist, I’d be very interested in reading them. The only ones I know of were done by quacks, scam artists, and people who are anti-science in general.

    I’ve occasionally contemplated whether or not we look like quacks to people outside of FA, and whether it makes me hypocritical to dismiss and deride, say, anti-vaxers, while also going against mainstream medical thought. Then I remember the saying, “There’s no need to be so open-minded that your brains fall out,” and happily go on with my life.

  178. Chemicals are *incredibly* bad for you. If you breathe DHMO for as little as two minutes, you can DIE. Yet it’s piped into everyone’s home, all over the developed world, with little to no warning from the government or health authorities or ANYONE.

  179. Yeah, I don’t for a moment believe that those fancy Omega-3 Eggs that were in stores for a while were going to extend my life, but I bought them sometimes because 1) I think cage-free is more humane and some organic feed practices might be more ecologically sustainable, and 2) hard-boiled, those eggs tasted better than any other hard-boiled eggs I’ve ever had, so maybe that feed just made delicious chicken ova, omega-3s be damned.

    Risha, I’d been contemplating a blog post on how discerning is reasonable to be, and whether or not I’m a hypocrite for mocking people who believe in unified field theory and think that microwaving food in tupperware is going to make me keel over dead. And then I decided it wasn’t worth babbling about. :) Maybe if I’m more inspired on another day!

    Ailbhe, I’m part of the government effort to provide DHMO, and I order you to stop spreading these vicious rumors before terrorists kill us all. I have been breathing small quantities of DHMO almost every time I have attempted to drink something* for MY WHOLE LIFE, and I am not dead. SO THERE.

    *One of many reasons it is either very annoying or very comical to hang out with me.

  180. If you ever get inspired, volcanista, I’d be very interested in reading your take on it.

    More importantly, however, I wanted to let everyone to know that the last several posts in this thread finally decided me on what I wanted to eat for dinner tonight. My cage-free vegetarian eggs got used in a large omelet with lots of cheese and Italian sausage (with a side of heavily buttered wheat toast, orange pineapple juice, and hazelnut coffee). It was delicious, so thank you for the inspiration.

  181. I’m not sure about this. I mean, maybe that was how some girls felt, because the messages they’re getting are really conflicting, but it doesn’t feel that way to a lot of girls. Confusing, yes, but a victory to be harrassed or assaulted – hell no.

    @volcanista: Absolutely, it’s never a victory to be harrassed or assaulted, and I’m sorry if my comment seemed in any way to imply that. What I was trying to get at, though, is that if a girl doesn’t fully understand the difference between getting a compliment and getting catcalled, it’s possible for her to respond to a catcall by feeling oddly proud that she actually, apparently, for once looked the way she was “supposed” to. I say this as someone who has been fortunate enough not to experience assault in my life so far, but who did experience catcalls at an early age.

    Not sure if that made my point more or less clear…

  182. Yeah, Another Sara, I wondered if that was what you meant. I agree that because girls get such mixed messages, she could feel both disturbed and violated at the attention, and glad for what she’s been told is positive attention (or maybe guilt that she doesn’t feel happier about the attention). it’s all kinds of fucked up.

  183. I was 12 and a half when I got my period, but then I didn’t get it again for six months, till I had turned 13, so I guess that was when I started in earnest? Anyway, dead-on average – not particularly early in any way. So, anyway, I told my mom, the morning when it first happened, and she…. omg, this is so classicly ‘her’… she sighed heavily and said “Well, you could have waited another couple of years!” (I could have?? How?!)

    This was about when I started getting strong strong “you are fat” messages from her, too. Well, to a certain degree I’d been getting them all along, but they definitely intensified around then. It wasn’t until I was about 30 years old that my critical thinking kicked in and I realized that, at about 100 pounds – I remember the scale hovering right around 100 that year, when I was in grade 7, so that sometimes I was two digits, sometimes three – and about 5’3, almost my full adult height, I could not possibly have been all that fat. Actually, it was probably the only year of my life that I was, yes, skinny. But with boobs. I guess the boobs were the problem.

    ‘Problem’ as defined by my mother. She definitely bought into the premature-girl-adolescence-paranoia. Though… mine wasn’t really all that premature. Boobs starting around 11, period at 12/13. I was totally average and didn’t even know it, except through Judy Blume, whom I would have been lost without. My mom, by her own account, was so completely flat as a board till she was 14 that, until then, she used to wear bikini bottoms without a top. This was in Europe, after the war. Maybe they had a shortage of cloth? I don’t know. I take it all with a grain of salt. But, yes, in her own memory, she ‘wins’ because she didn’t need a bikini top, let alone a bra, not because she was slutty – because she was totally childlike and androgynous and, quite possibly, anorexic. And I just never quite managed to live up to that.

    Okay, but? Here’s the (other) bizarre part. When I was around that magic age, 12/13 years old, 100 lbs, with boobs, hardly any hips or stomach, and a period, I was about the same height as my mom, but slightly thinner. Except, um, that I was ‘fat’. Oh, I’m getting retroactively confused. But anyway, because she kept herself so artificially skinny (I think her natural healthy weight is more around 140) her clothes sort of fit me at that point. AND SHE MADE ME WEAR THEM. Her clothes. Yes, she did. Instead of buying me my own. I was in private school with a uniform, so I didn’t have to wear her outfits to school. But, other times – particularly for more ‘dressy’ occasions – yes, I did. And her previous-years’ bathing suits. My theory is that she loved seeing her clothes on a slightly-skinnier body. They more or less fit me, as I remember.

    The big flaw in this plan? I was wearing, at 12, the slightly-sexy though classy clothes of a stylish almost-40 year old woman. Yes, I’m sure they must have looked ‘good’ on me, in a sense. They also made me look wayyyy older and more hit-on-able than my age. Not hit-on-able by teenage boys, particularly , but by, well, men who were roughly my parents’ age. Surprise surprise.

    Oh, my poor mother. It certainly wasn’t that she wanted me to be hit on by older men. She was just … limited, I think, in her ability to keep a grip on reality around issues that were so loaded for her, for her own reasons. Come to think of it, she never knew when she was dressing sexy, either. She would wear these deeply plunging necklines and then be bewildered when the dentist tried to look down her cleavage, and she would say, “but that was an exPENsive dress!”, as if that made it asexual.

    I’m sure she just wanted me to wear her clothes because she thought they would look pretty on me. And they did, probably. The sexy factor just wasn’t something she would allow into her conscious mind, though it was always in her fears. She would have been apalled by the older-man factor, if I had told her. I myself wasn’t apalled. I kind of liked the attention, and I must have had a guardian angel or two watching over me, because nothing TOO damagingly sleazy ever happened to me at that early age, which was a minor miracle in itself, as I had many close calls with men following me home from the bus stop and into bushes etc.

    But, my poor mom. Yes, she spread rampant confusion in my little mind, which took all clarifying forces of Judy Blume to dispel (and, really, thank GOD I was a reader, or I would have known nothing), but it was only because she was hopelessly confused herself. I know want to reach back in time and give her a big hug.

  184. And her previous-years’ bathing suits. My theory is that she loved seeing her clothes on a slightly-skinnier body. They more or less fit me, as I remember.

    Oh God, mara, you’re bringing back memories for me because I have a photo of me, aged maybe ten, wearing one of my mother’s old bathing suits. It fit me – but the dreadful thing for me, and I remember her mentioning it at the time in a superior kind of way, was that it was the suit she wore when she was pregnant with me. (It was a rather psychedelic late 60s combination of black, white and yellow swirls, and it had those horrible stiff breast cups, which I took the scissors to because they were so uncomfortable.) Way to give me the message that I was impossibly, grossly fat compared to her. Truth was, she was very, very thin anyway, and she was sick as a dog through both her pregnancies so I’m guessing (there are no photos of her at that time) she either didn’t put on much weight or may have even lost some.

    Anyway, the vast majority of the time as a teen, I got tutted at because her old clothes, thankfully for me, didn’t fit me – most of them were way too small. In her case, they were neither sexy nor stylish – I’d never have been encouraged to wear them if they were! – and what I wore seemed to be very much less a factor in getting hit on than obvious boobs and equally obvious extreme naivety.

  185. Oh, the anger. I want to kick some fucker over “Girls maturing earlier are more likely to become depressed, delinquent, aggressive, socially withdrawn, suffer sleep problems drinking, smoking, drug abuse, lower self-esteem and suicide attempts… with “It is important that we understand why early menstruation occurs as the obvious consclusion.


    But also, on the early puberty/height/weight thing, it’s worth noting that there is no gene known that contributes more than 2% of genetic-based variation in height, or more than 4% to genetic variation in weight. So saying the early-puberty genes are next to genes “controlling” height and weight is overstating, since at most you’re going to be dealing with about a 2-4% variation in height (assuming that you have a strongly-acting variant at both loci next to the novel genes) in height, or a 4-8% variation (ditto) in weight. Which is not enough to make someone who was otherwise going to be short tall, or someone who was otherwise going to be thin fat. But since the OBESITY CRISIS BOOGA BOOGA is based on .2% here here and there, I suppose at that level it is a significant impact.

  186. My experience is fairly similar- Tall and medium sized until I got my period at 9, and then I looked like a full grown woman and didn’t grow after that. I wasn’t fat, but really, really hourglassy. I never ever remember getting any attention at all from boys my age, and girls were mean to me, but not about my weight really. I didn’t know a lot of grown men, but I did get way more attention from them.

    In 5th or 6th grade I visited a friend who was slower to develop, and had a pool. We went swimming, so I was wearing a bathing suit. Her mom looked at me and asked her daughter why she “didn’t have boobies like sophia’s?” I don’t know if it was the same visit, but her dad told me I had a beautiful figure. Also, come to think of it, her older sister also liked to brush my hair for hours and hours, so maybe they were just a really strange family. And now this friend is a free-lance writer who writes about sex.

  187. What the hell? Would have been nice to have found all of you in 1982 when I was 12, thought I was tall at 5’2″ and have been there every since. Geez, I feel like I am reading all of my own stories in your comments. And, from the time I was 12, getting hips and boobs, I was suddenly told that “girls like me” could no longer wear 2 piece swimsuits, halter tops or anything too short. Thank goodness I found a good therapist who helped me piece this all together about 5 years ago, but never really believed you were all out there with me. Love my life, but I’m so sad for all the shame (and subsequent self-shaming) that got put on me unnecessarily.

  188. Jupiter… I’m jealous of you, a little.

    I started developing at 9 (which was the same time I started to realise I liked girls), menstruating at 11 and wore a 38H bra by the time I was 14. When puberty began for me, I was 5’2″ and of a fairly average weight for my age and height. I’m only 5’4″ more than a decade later, and have E-cups and a BMI of 26… and am in recovery from bulimia, which curse lasts a lifetime from all accounts and my experience.

    I’m on a neuropathic painkiller that causes me to gain weight irregularly around my bosom and waist, and I can’t bear to wear a bikini because I hate my body so much. I haven’t been happy in my own skin in a long, long time, and haven’t dated since I was 20. It doesn’t really help that my stepmother, 20 years older and mother of four, can fit into my school dresses from age 10 (though they are indecently short on her, too). She does her best not to rub it in, but she has her own body dysmorphia problems.

    Why can’t society just stop stigmatising people based on our differences anyway? We’re never going to -all- be uniformly the same, in looks or gender or sexuality or any damn thing else. Why not accept it? And I know this sounds strange from what I’ve just said about not being happy with myself, but I’ve been trying to -be- happier with myself for years. Vanity sizing is defeating me.

  189. I started developing breasts at about age eleven or twelve (around the time I was put on my first diet), but my period didn’t come along until I was about fourteen. Of course, by then I was also wearing a larger bra size than my mother (Mum’s always been a small cup size, whereas I was in a B-cup by thirteen and had grown out of a C-cup by the time I finished my compulsory schooling – December of the year I turned 15) and was nearly the same height.

    My full-grown height is about 5’2″ (so, the same height as my mother), but we have completely different body shapes. Mum has always been fairly petite, whereas I’m more like my maternal grandmother – solid, stocky and plump. I have heavier bones than Mum (and larger feet – her feet are size 5, mine are 7.5 – 8), and I have always been a fairly “solid” kid, except for one brief period between the ages of eight and nine, where I rushed through a growth spurt and my body took about a year to catch back up with things. I was never one of the tall kids in the class – heck, the only time I was about middle height for my age was when I was about twelve or thirteen, when I’d had most of my adolescent growth spurt, and some of the taller girls hadn’t really started theirs yet.

    I can remember one of my high school peers (who had also gone to the same primary school as me) being treated as a “slut” for no other reason than she appeared to be interested in boys, and she had large breasts. The boys a year or so older than us (and thus experiencing the full hormonal surge of puberty) were, of course, interested in her because she had the large breasts, and the reputation of being a “slut”. Myself, I doubt she was any more a slut than I was – and in my case I was a social outcast because I was “weird” – I suspect she didn’t know how to say “no” when the guys asked her out, or couldn’t think of a socially acceptable means of doing so. She also had bad luck in her particular cronies, who tended to be somewhat bitchy and backbiting, in the way that adolescent girls can be. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a slut when she started out at that high school. I do know that by the end of the first year there, she’d clearly decided if she was going to be labelled a “bad girl” by all and sundry, she was going to be a bad girl. So she was smoking, and wearing her clothes tight and short, mouthing off to teachers, hanging around with the Bad Crowd and similar.

    We used to catch the same bus home some days, and one of the things I realised then was that she wasn’t any happier about the whole mess that puberty had become than I was. She’d had the whole parcel of issues that being female involves in our society dumped on her, and she wasn’t equipped (psychologically or sociologically) to deal with them. Looking back, I think I rushed headlong into being “fat” because it was a way of avoiding a lot of the same problems – if I was a fat girl, at least I didn’t have to worry about guys coming on to me. Then again, I was hyper-paranoid about sex from about age nine onwards, for a variety of reasons, and I really did (and still do, to a large extent) have problems handling sexual attention. Then again, I’ve also purposefully forgotten a lot of my high school experience, if only because I figure I don’t need a constant re-run of my time in hell.

  190. I was the tallest girl in my class up until 6th grade and I started wearing a training bra in 2nd grade. I got my first period when I was 11. It was horrible the first time I got it b/c I didn’t even realize it until I got home and had blood all over the back of my pants. My mom was so mad at the school b/c no one said anything to me. I didn’t even realize what was going on b/c my mom and I didn’t (and still don’t really) talk about things like getting my period. Now I’m 17 and if I need to talk about things like that I know I can always talk to my female cousins.

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