Coming of Age
My story was very similar to many that were discussed in Aida Hurtado's chapter "Growing up Female". I am the youngest of three sisters, and they are five and seven years older than me. As far as menstruation is concerned, I had all of the "traditional" textbook learning from my schools, so I had a pretty good idea about what to expect. But I remember the day I was finally visited by my monthly blessing, because I had horrible cramps and when I found some colored discharge on my underwear I asked my closest sister about it and she gave me a hug and told me I was finally a woman! Later I told my mother and got pretty much the same reaction. However, I didn't tell the oldest sister or my father, because both of them have been more distant towards me (until later years, when my sister and I became very close). Having two older sisters made it a lot easier for me than for many girls, because we always had a full supply of pads and tampons in the bathroom. However, I remember finding the specific pad that was given to all girls in 5th grade and using that first. In my mind I think it was my own rite of initiation to do so. Afterwards I called my closest girlfriends and told them the news and they proceeded to ask me what it was like.
It was a very different story when it came to the first time I had sex. I never really got "the talk" from anyone in my family, although the middle sister would share bits and pieces of information with me if I asked. When I lost my virginity it (unfortunately) ended up being with this a**hole who broke up with me three days later. For this situation (I think partially due to shame) I didn't tell anyone in my family, and confided only in friends. My mom finally found out I was sexually active when the clinic I normally went to for birth control closed, and I couldn't afford the prices at my new location. I think that because I was the youngest daughter, she didn't judge my actions as harshly as she might have, and was more proud of me for being responsible about it. I'm not sure if she shared any of this information with my father or not, but if she did he never mentioned it to me or offered any words of wisdom.
As far as dating is concerned, my parents never gave me strict guidelines as to when I was allowed to date. When I asked my mom about it, she said that I can start dating whenever I feel like I'm ready. This was a huge vote of confidence from her and I consider myself very blessed to have such a trusting mother. I had a lot of independence growing up, which both helped and harmed me in certain ways while going through puberty. The fact that I had two older sisters was very helpful in the early stages, but once I hit 14 I was the only child left in the house, which made it very difficult for me in the later years of development.