This One's for the Ladies

It’s time to take that other monthly business more seriously.

Yeah, I know this is the November issue. But, gentle readers, I am speaking to you from the recent past of October third! Boooooooo! I am the ghost of October third! And where I’m coming from, it’s still National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

So let’s take a minute here to be aware of our bajungas. I know some of you are male, and I do always try to play to a mixed crowd. But it ain’t gonna happen this month. You fellas can still read on if you’d like; just be aware that I’m going to be talking about woman stuff, and what the hell, as long as you’re still reading, take a minute to be aware of your breasts. You guys can get breast cancer, too.

This reminds me of the time back in the seventies when the boys and girls in fourth grade were separated for that special gym class. The boys went to their talk with Mr. Leinfelder, the gym teacher. We girls were ushered into the multipurpose room to watch a filmstrip about private parts. The Kimberly-Clark Corporation gave us gift packs of U-boat sized “mini” pads. Just about every female teacher was present to make sure there was absolutely no giggling. Even a couple of the lunch ladies were there. I don’t remember what the filmstrip detailed, exactly, except that we all were supposed to expect to become women soon, and when one became a woman, there were certain accoutrements that you had to keep on you at all times. Things that you would keep in your purse, because you were now a woman and women carried purses just for this purpose, to carry things in them for a while and then put them in their underpants. Things to contain the flow. After the filmstrip, to our collective horror, and with all the enthusiasm of a flight attendant demonstrating the nearest exits, Mrs. Chevalier, the most soignée member of our faculty, held up a pair of giant practice ladies’ briefs, unwrapped a mini, and pulled the adhesive zip strip off to show us all how to stick that bugger on target.

“Like a diaper?!!” Deanna LaMenga yelled out. And then there was giggling, and plenty of it. Nonstop, irrepressible giggling—from the time the filmstrip ended, throughout the painfully awkward “Question Asking Time,” and during the bathroom break, when Deanna ripped open her Kimberly Clark Gift Pack and stuck mini pads all over her face and chased a guffawing Jenny Tooley out of the girls’ room and down the hall, arms stretched out stiff in front of her, groaning like the Mummy.

I laughed that day until my sides ached, and then I laughed some more. Everybody did. The lone exception, curiously enough, was Gina Venutti. Gina was in our grade, ten or eleven years old, but she had C-cup boobs and a figure that would make grown men look the other way fast. Gina didn’t laugh that day. And now I understand why.

When you’re a young girl, accepting the responsibility of your changing body is so thrilling, so new, that you don’t take any bit of it for granted. Then you grow up, live a little in your skin, and it’s just another damn thing on the to-do list.

For women, there’s always a party in our pants. Menarche and menstruation, childbirth, perimenopause, menopause, cramps, aches, pains, not to mention yeast infections, bladder infections, and all the rest. You couldn’t ignore it if you tried. In the upper berth, meanwhile, your buoys bob calmly, isolated from the relative storm of the southern hemisphere. As long as they look good, they are pretty easy to forget about. Until there is trouble.

So, as the ghost of October third, I’ve come to haunt you into performing your breast self check. Not just this month, but each and every month from here on in. Pick a day each month and stick to it. Do it a week or so after your period. Think of it this way: You got your oil changed, so now it’s time to rotate the tires. Do what works for you. My friend Kiki uses the arrival of the telephone bill as a reminder to do her self check. This wouldn’t work for me, as I studiously disregard the arrival of all my bills. I’m the type of person who needs something more dramatic to jog my memory. So I use the air raid siren that goes off the first Wednesday of the month. I immediately take cover, and take my health into my own hands.