It would also suck to get your period while staying with Daddy Warbucks (or Jamie Foxx). Unless you were wearing a big red dress. Maybe that’s the point.
The ‘growing up’ movie for my fifth grade sex-ed class was about Annie.
(Hold on. It only gets weirder from there.)
In this film, we got to walk backstage with the young Broadway actress currently playing Annie. She explained the rules for taking on the role: Once a girl started her period, she couldn’t be Annie. 2015 research tells me Growing Up on Broadway, circa 1984, wasn’t just shown to elementary school girls in Anchorage, Alaska. There are a couple of essays out there from others who endured it, and a clip of it still exists online.
I was already terrified of Miss Hannigan, so the additional trauma of actresses being fired for their bodies changing made me even more terrified of everything Annie.
But while watching the new Annie movie last year, I was somewhat distracted thinking about menstruation. It has to suck to need feminine hygiene products when you are in foster care, I thought. It would also suck to get your period while staying with Daddy Warbucks (or Jamie Foxx). Unless you were wearing a big red dress. Maybe that’s the point.
It also made me reflect upon the other films we watched. In seventh grade, we had to watch The Miracle of Life — yes, the one that shows a baby actually being born. Things are not supposed to stretch that much (I thought the same thing at 28 when I gave birth for the first time). Still, the intended sex-deterrent effect of The Miracle of Life wears off pretty quickly — watching vaginal birthing turns off the libido at least for a day, which is about the best you can hope for with teenagers.
The other sex-ed/menstruation/growing up movies didn’t help. Here’s what we had to work with back then . . . join me on a journey down menstruation memory lane.
Circa 1973, these girls realize that starting your period is different for everyone:
Perhaps the worst one, channeling Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, is 1974’s Linda’s Film on Menstruation. Somehow a girl and her boyfriend learning together about her period is beyond painful:
But props to Judy for saying uterus to a 16-year-old boy. (Yes, the dim-witted date is Jonathan Banks — aka badass for the ages Mike Ehrmantraut.)
These classics might be before your time, but Mental Floss states The Story of Menstruation was being used in schools up until the 1960s, and records show that the copyright was renewed as recently as 1973:
(If it makes you feel any better, 1960s sex ed videos for boys don’t make their lives seem too great, either.)
I’m hoping the traditional ‘becoming a woman’ movie has changed by now. I only have sons, and I live in Arizona (a state that thinks ignorance is the best protection against teenage sex), so I’ll probably never know. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like they've gotten much better. Here’s a full hour from 1997 that I suspect is still in use many places around the country:
The extent of my sex ed, aside from Annie, involved my mom leaving me a book about bodies on my bed. She also tried to have a conversation about growing up once. It involved explaining that boys would get too excited if I wore a bikini.
I was 12. All I could picture were boys running around a public swimming pool. Watch out, they could get hurt. It was beyond confusing.
For something that more than half of America is going to face, and the other half will have to understand, the weirdness about menstruation and puberty in this country is confounding. My sons so far haven’t asked about the Sex Not for Procreating. Sperm videos are excellent for teaching, I've found, and I got through my 3-year-old's phase of being convinced I was hiding my penis (I’m proud to say he now knows better). They haven’t seen any version of Annie, and I’m not sure what I can show them that will suitably traumatize them enough to keep their pants zipped for a long, long time.