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"What we love most about this book (which we'll be gifting to our tween cousins, nieces, and daughters!) is the empowering message woven throughout: that 'your body is your body,' as Bloom puts it, and you're the only one who gets to decide what to do with it." — Health.com
“Full of practical advice, helpful explanations, and messages of encouragement…Period.” — Parents.com
From the founder of HelloFlo, a modern and insightful guide to periods and puberty for a new generation
When will I get boobs?
Does wearing a tampon hurt?
What's the deal with menstrual cups?
Seriously, when will I get boobs?
Honest, funny, and unafraid of the messy, real-life facts about a girl's changing body, this is definitely not your mother’s puberty book. HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom’s mission is to create informed, empowered young women who are unafraid to ask questions and make the best choices for themselves and their bodies. A celebration of women's bodies and all the confusing, uncomfortable, silly, transformative, and powerful changes that occur during puberty.
This full-color book—written by HelloFlo founder, Naama Bloom, and journalist Glynnis MacNicol—features bright, diverse, approachable illustrations and infographics, doctor-vetted information, and personal testimonials from real girls and women.
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||10 - 14 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
There is no such thing as clean underwear. At least for a girl. You may start your day with a nice, fresh pair of underwear, but by your first trip to the bathroom? Yup, there’s always something crusty waiting for you.
Sometimes less crusty than cottage-cheesy.
Sometimes less cottage-cheesy than yogurty.
It can often feel a bit like your body has taken it upon itself to produce its own personal dairy section. If you know what it’s for, it can be magical (some might even say vagical). If you don’t, it’s shameful, confounding, embarrassing. But it’s there. Always.
Being a girl is messy business. A fact widely known, though rarely discussed, by half the world’s population. At nearly every stage of a girl’s development something is spurting or sprouting or budding or blossoming. Garden metaphors abound! Based solely on evidence provided by decades of “feminine hygiene” advertisements, you’d be forgiven for concluding that getting your period is basically a monthly frolic through a field of sweet-smelling flowers.
But have you ever actually spent any time in a garden? It is dirty business. Literally. Plus, there are thorns and worms and, if you know anything about gardening, likely some sort of manure. So while it’s not a perfect field of sweet-smelling flowers, a real garden may actually be the perfect metaphor. Puberty is messy business.
Oh, and there will be blood. A lot of it. Think: horror movie. Sometimes it may look and feel like a waterfall of blood when in actual fact you merely overslept and your maxi pad, the one that all the commercials tell you is so good at absorption, was simply not up to the task of your heavy flow day. Some people call those ruined panties “period underwear” and only pull them out of the drawer each month as needed. We like to think of them as our Red Badges of Courage.
And while we’re on the topic of maxi pads, can we discuss the blue dye that we see in commercials as proof that the pads work? Since you probably haven’t gotten your period yet, I want to let you in on a little secret: the blood you’ll see when you get your period—it’s not blue. In fact, sometimes it’s not red. It can be all sorts of shades from red to brown. Just being honest here. You’ll find that’s the tone of this whole book.
So why does puberty get such a clean rap in all the commercials? Why do we usually talk about what happens to our bodies as though actualinformation is a tampon we need to quietly slip up our sleeves when we walk across the room? I’m not really sure. But what I do know is that it needs to change.
Girls, bear with me for a moment—we need to loop in your grown-ups.
The girl sitting next to you is smart. She needs to know what’s about to happen. Good thing you bought this book because I can guarantee the information she needs isn’t at the bottom of a Yahoo Answers rabbit hole. It’s a bit like reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret had it been written on the bathroom wall of Penn Station. With a Sharpie. Think that’s an exaggeration? Please pause here for a moment and go Google pubic hair.
Thanks to the prevalence of unrestricted pornography on the Internet it’s nearly impossible to Google anything about female anatomy without being immediately confronted by pornographic images. In fact, some studies suggest that children are encountering online porn as young as eight. Not your children, of course, never your children. But the children they know and talk to and play with. That’s because online porn is the contemporary equivalent of your friend’s older brother’s contraband issue ofPlayboy that somehow made its way to your sixth-grade sleepover.
But even without those images there is simply so much information out there. How can a curious young girl, in search of answers about the changes she is experiencing, going to be able to differentiate between what is true and what she finds on the fourth page of a grammar-free message board?
I believe it’s critical for your girl to understand what’s happening to her own body. She needs to know that the world may start treating her differently just because she now looks like a woman. She also needs to know the basic essential fact that puberty is connected to reproduction. If she’s not armed with this information she will have a much harder time processing the world around her and making good decisions. So take a deep breath and kindly hand the book back to her.
Okay, Girls, back to you.
As founder of HelloFlo.com I’ve been in the unique position to hear from thousands of girls and women about how they relate to their own bodies, and I’ve come to realize that the way we talk about physical changes is, well, lacking. I’m writing this book because you deserve honesty and real information. And you deserve to understand what’s going on—both in your body and in the world around you.
That’s why I’ve written this book. To supply you with all the facts, even the messy ones and the ones you may find most embarrassing to talk about. And I’m doing this in a way that acknowledges how intelligent and sophisticated you are.
Underlying everything HelloFlo does had been a determination to talk honestly with young women about what is happening with their bodies. No euphemisms, no avoidance, no blue dye.
We also celebrate it. Puberty is not a curse. It’s confusing, uncomfortable, sometimes painful, but also interesting and ultimately powerful and empowering. It’s like if a Girl Punk Band made a musical and your body was the orchestra. All Girl. All Punk. All power. That’s what this book is—Punk Rock Puberty.
There will be questions you were afraid to ask and ones you didn’t know even existed. There will be answers. There will be jokes. There will be stories. Many true, sometimes mortifying, stories. There will be pictures. There will be drawings. There will be Instagrams. There will be Beyoncé. And most definitely there will be blood.
As corny as this sounds, it’s my dream that every girl enters puberty with enough knowledge of what’s going on in her body and mind to keep her confident throughout. I’ve spoken to countless doctors, parents, and girls while writing this book, and I’ve tried to put everything that’s useful in these pages. I’m not a doctor, I’m not even an expert. What I am is a woman who was once a confused girl who made it her mission to remove some of that confusion for the girls that came after me.
Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon
How soon is soon?
One year? Five years? Thirty minutes?
Let’s start with the first question.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that at some point your breasts will develop. Your period will arrive, and your body will start to bleed on a regular basis. (More on the bleeding later. I’ll get to that.) It’s also a sure thing to say you’ll grow hair under your arms, between your legs, and on your legs. And these are just the changes you’ll be able to see.
You may be thinking to yourself, that’s a lot of changes. And you may be hoping that I can somehow tell you when to expect that change. I wish I could, but unfortunately I don’t have that magical power. What Ican tell you is what’s behind all those changes and, hopefully, get you a bit more prepared to deal with them, perhaps even embrace them, when they come.
You are going to hear this a lot throughout this book, but the fact is that everyone’s body is different and everyone has her own clock. This is an important thing to remember in life, not just about puberty. The truth is, so much of preparing for womanhood is preparing for things to happen to your body over which you have very little control. I can give you a rough idea of when these changes will start to occur, and in what order they will arrive, but that’s about as good as a timetable gets.
Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it would be nice if we were all born with a timetable we could look at in advance (Period Arrival time: Dec. 12, 1:15 p.m.), but that’s not how things work.
The trick to dealing with puberty is to not give yourself a timetable. Try hard not to measure yourself by what’s going on with your friends. Your friends’ bodies are their own and have nothing to do with yours. Some may develop earlier than yours, some may develop later. Whatever your timetable, it will be right. Because it’s right for you.
But What’s Normal?
Puberty can begin anywhere from eight to sixteen years old. That’s a big span of time. Yes, the average age for first period is twelve years old, but remember how an average is calculated, it’s all the numbers in the range added up and then divided by the actual number of data points. The average of twenty and eighty is fifty. See how that works? Fifty isn’t particularly close to either of those numbers. This is important because many girls (and their parents) use that number twelve as some sort of goalpost for determining if they are normal. But you’re normal even when you aren’t the average.
If you’re still caught up with the question of when, there is one factor that might be helpful. It’s really the only one, and it’s definitely not perfect. If you have access to them, ask your biological mother or aunts when they started experiencing the different parts of puberty. But even with that information, I’m sorry to say it’s not a guarantee the same will happen to you. One of the factors for the lack of precision is that the way we are living now is very different from the way your mother and aunts grew up. Not that long ago, puberty would arrive similar to a line of falling dominoes. Your breasts would start developing, you’d get hair under your arms, your period would arrive—all in the course of a year or two.
Now, however, doctors are noticing that puberty begins much earlier than it used to and lasts much longer. So you may get breasts but then not get your period for another three years. Scientists aren’t sure why this is happening. It may have something to do with all the light we’re exposed to—think about it. One hundred years ago some people didn’t even have electricity let alone an iPhone they took to bed—that’s interfering with our sleep and growth patterns. It may also have something to do with the food we eat and how it’s cultivated. It may even be from the chemicals in the air or water. It may be from all of these factors working together or something I haven’t mentioned. There are many theories, but no one has the answer yet.
The point is, it’s harder than ever to predict when puberty will start and how long it will last. While there’s never really been such a thing asnormal, even the normal ranges we used to refer to no longer apply the way they did.Your body is running a solo show here. All you can do is pay attention, and be prepared.
Rube Goldberg Machine
A Rube Goldberg machine is a great metaphor for hormones—it’s a complicated piece of machinery that is designed to perform a relatively simple task. The machine works through a series of chain reactions. Chain reactions are what we need to talk about now. I’m going to oversimplify here, so bear with me. In your body, the machine that triggers the chain reaction known as puberty is your ovaries. Actually, it really starts with an area of your brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus releases a hormone that causes the pituitary gland to release a hormone that, essentially, wakes up the ovaries. We’ll talk about the other function of ovaries later but for now here’s what you need to know.
Until you enter puberty your ovaries are basically like lightbulbs that have been dimmed really, really low: They’re there, but they’re not doing a whole lot of anything. Then, when you begin puberty, the volume is turned up a little bit and they start to go to work. And by start to work, I mean they produce those hormones. When the ovaries start making estrogen and progesterone, the hormones then travel all over the body and tell different parts of the body to do different things—breast development, hair growth, hip widening, and periods. It's one very complicated chain reaction.
Most of what we’ve discussed so far is mechanical. Hormones are released, and a series of chain reactions cause your body to change. It’s all pretty simple when you look at it that way. But another way to look at it is that the chain reaction also starts you on the path to -adulthood—or rather, womanhood.
So what does woman really mean? In my opinion this is actually one of the most important psychological aspects of puberty. Everyone starts saying you’re a woman. But really, you’re still a kid and you should enjoy being a kid.
What’s different is that your body is preparing itself for doing grown-up things—like being able to have a baby.
But that doesn’t mean you’re ready to have a baby. You may not be ready to have a baby for a long, long, long time. You may never want to have a baby.
Just remember that the ability to have a baby does not mean you’re no longer a kid. It just means that you’re a kid whose ovaries have started producing hormones.
But how will it feel? Can you tell me?
Yes, I can tell you how it’s going to feel. Or at least I can give you a good idea of how it will feel. And I will. In each chapter we’ll talk about how the changes might affect your day-to-day life, and how to deal with each of these changes so that you feel like you’re in control of your own body. The more you know what’s going on, and what will go on, the less scary everything will be (this is true in life also). And a lot of these things might not be scary at all! Sure, sometimes some of these changes might feel uncomfortable, but they won’t ever keep you from doing the things you want to do. It’s just a matter of being prepared.
And that’s what this book is about. It’s about explaining to you exactly what is going on in your body, and all the different ways you can take care of it. And like I said earlier, I’m going to tell it to you honestly and won’t use any euphemisms because nothing about this topic embarrasses me, and it shouldn’t embarrass you, either.