“My Transition to Womanhood Left Only a Smarting Handprint on My Cheek”

Flickr.com, Bruna Schenkel.

Flickr.com, Bruna Schenkel

As maiden voyages to Israel go, mine was more or less typical. My family toured and ate falafel and crisscrossed the country, stopping one afternoon in the Old City of Yafo. It was there the trip diverged from the ordinary. While the rest of our tour group shopped for artwork and souvenirs, I got my first period.

Though my body ached, my entire being was elated. My cycle—newly minted in no place other than the Jewish homeland, a powerful omen if I ever heard one—belonged entirely to me. I didn’t have to share it. I didn’t need to ask anyone’s permission to keep it. Still, I’d been caught off guard without supplies and needed my mother’s help.

The moment she entered the W.C., she slapped me. I shouted in my head, and my shock and anger made their way into the narrow space between us, like mortar setting two stones. We stood so close together in the small space that an onlooker might have mistaken the proximity for an embrace. 

3 comments on ““My Transition to Womanhood Left Only a Smarting Handprint on My Cheek”

  1. Rebecca K. on

    One of the most interesting aspects of the story is how you portray your feelings – then and now – about the event, but because of how thoroughly you described the scene, we get a glimpse of her feelings, too…and they were so clearly different from yours. Which makes me wonder – do some people not mind getting “the slap?” Because, I think I would have reacted like you did if that had happened to me.

  2. Mari Stachenfeld on

    What I saw when I read it in both rooms–the bathroom and the artist selling room–is a tremendous amount of generational misunderstanding, which led to the anger in you, the writer. I see a generation, your mom’s, wrapped in the old ways and not really aware of your feelings.I too would have been stunned and enraged by that slap; luckily, for all my mother’s other entwinements with her father’s religious past, she read a lot of psychology books in college and after and so was gentle when I began my menarche.

  3. HH on

    Any mother who does this to her daughter should be hit back. Hard enough to break her stupid nose. “It’s a tradition” is a lousy reason. It was once traditional to witness marriage consummations and show the bloody sheets to the neighbors to prove the bride was a virgin. Some things are cruel and should never happen. Ever.

    I would not want a party or celebration dinner, either, but thank God nobody was stupid and cruel enough to assault me

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