My little flock of seven is nearing a momentous time in their lives: the passage from pullets to hens. The best layers commence production when they are about five months old, and Ginny, my black Australorp, is showing every indication that eggs are imminent, including a comb that grows plumper, waxier and redder each day. Guess it’s time I sat them down for that “growing up and liking it” talk about becoming a woman. You know: Do go swimming, if you use a tampon. Don’t wear white pants.
It was this kind of helpful counsel, dessiminated through public schools by sanitary napkin manufacturers (that’s the cover of the 1964 edition of the Modess booklet, above), that provided my introduction to what they glowingly described as “the wonderful process of changing from a child into a woman.”
“It’s the time when you’re old enough and grown up enough to think for yourself, to choose your own clothes, add a dash of lipstick or powder, a glint of nail polish. It’s the time when you begin to notice boys, and what’s even better, they begin to notice you! It’s the time of your first date, your first boy-girl party, your first formal dance,” the pad people enthused, before conceding it ain’t all roses.
“Everything is happening for the first time,” they wrote. “And that’s part of the trouble. Because everything is so new to you, you feel confused, puzzled and unsure of yourself at times.”
Confused? I’ll say. Make-up? Fashion? Boys? As a budding lesbian, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be that cute Patty Duke look-alike on the cover or date her. Where was the guidance for girls like me? How was I supposed to grow up and like it?
I did, of course, though it took a little longer, and I had to find my own way. I trust my pullets-becoming-hens will do the same. So I will spare them the reminder to shower or bathe daily (“cleanliness is the key to daintiness”), and encourage them to wear any color pants they choose. (Oh. Wait. )
Yes, my girls will be women soon. But I think they already know what they need to — just as I did, though that knowledge took some liberating. So I’ll leave them to it.