Your south Indian neighbors are celebrating their daughter’s coming of age. The fifteen-year old is beaming with pride when she brings you some home-made payasam. You’re rather baffled by this.
You remember your own coming-of-age. You were mortified at the sight of blood behind your pristine white skirt. You were enormously mortified and thought you had cancer. You told your parents that you were bleeding from there and your mother tried to hush you up; you sensed her discomfort.
Later, you realized that she didn’t want you talking about menstruation in front of your father. You asked why, but she very conveniently told you these things are not to be discussed in front of a man; any man. She taught you how to deal with the mess and gave you a quick discourse on feminine hygiene, and that was a lifetime ago.
But you still speak in muted tones around men you don’t know. You still can’t buy on your own a pack of sanitary napkins or condoms or bras or anything else that screams “sexuality”.
You always wondered why you were so ashamed of being a woman. Now you know.