It could not have been a more confusing time for me in general. My best friend was somewhere in Havana—a quick and popular excursion for Floridians. Her father, then mayor of Miami, had taken his family there to celebrate New Year’s 1960. Suddenly there was word of a coup as the dictator, Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by the young revolutionary, Fidel Castro. American tourists were holed up in their hotels while bullets whistled through the streets. This was the backdrop for my first period. Returning safely, my friend’s story was far more dramatic than mine—hers as a witness to history while mine was elemental and inevitable. I had been prepared for the arrival of menarche by a film I saw in school and my mother had also given me a book to read. She provided me with what felt like gigantic and uncomfortable padding and an elastic harness. This mattress between my legs prevented me from walking straight and I soon understood that tampons must have been invented for us Florida girls whose bikini bottoms were attached to the mouths of puppies on the Coppertone billboards all over town.
But I would still have my own moment to be center stage. Two months later, uprooted from my natal home and my best friend, my family relocated to Springfield, New Jersey. Much to the distress of my mother and I, my father had accepted an upper level job with a pharmaceutical company. My third period found me in the girl’s locker room of a junior high school as my new friends, Nancy, Andrea, Anita, Roni, Roberta and Pam watched with astonishment as I (the new girl) calmly went to the wall and placed a nickel into the sanitary napkin dispenser. I smiled as I looked at their open-mouthed surprise. I was the first in this new group of friends to need Kotex, and by virtue of that, my position was assured.