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Go With the Flow

There were girls at my school who got their first period — and the almost-breasts that came with it — at age 11. We “late bloomers” revered them as divine othergirls, elevated beings with a god-given head start into grown-up-ness.

We would never catch up.

And yet, I was in no hurry to bleed. If it meant carrying a purse, wearing a bra and having to listen to “More Than a Feeling” while making out with Jamie Lieberman behind the handball court, then — gross — you could keep your lousy period.

The day it finally came, I threw up.

My parents took me out to dinner to “celebrate,” and the stupid look on my father’s face made me wonder if every single person in the family-style restaurant could tell I had gone from child to child-bearer that afternoon in the time it took me to finish my math homework.

When we got home, my meal leapt from my throat into the very commode that had carried my first menstrual blood away just a few hours earlier. I felt like I couldn’t keep anything of value inside me — like a rowboat that had sprung two simultaneous leaks.

Mom blamed the incident on a bad batch of soup, but I knew better. I knew it was my body chucking up the now defunct substructure of my senselessly slaughtered girlhood.

Either that, or it was the thought of kissing Jamie Lieberman.

I’m not the only girl who resisted climbing aboard the Womanhood Welcome Wagon.

“I was totally mortified,” a friend of mine says about her first period. “I wasn’t all proud and wanting to show it off like in a Judy Blume book — I just wanted it to go away.”

Her grandma sent her a panty liner in the mail, “like a prize or something.”

Another friend remembers her first visit from Aunt Flo: It was the very first day of summer vacation, and her plans to join friends at the beach were … um … soiled when her mother strapped her into a cumbersome sanitary belt — the kind no bikini can hide.

“I was miserable,” she said. “There was nothing magical or womanly about it. It just sucked.”

But wait. Hold the Midol. What if our periods didn’t have to be so humiliating? What if American girls were as thrilled to get their first period as they are to get their first car? What if, as in other cultures, we could appreciate the changes that bleeding brings, rather than abhor them?

Local poet and playwright Lisa Citore poses such what-ifs in her new ensemble piece, Bloodlines. Opening Friday and running through March 24 at the Center Stage Theater, the show combines sensual dance and Vagina Monologues-style sketches for a mŽlange of menstrual musings as bold and unapologetic as a crimson stain on a once-pristine pair of white panties.

Citore, a cervical cancer survivor and sacred sexuality expert (whose invented surname spells “erotic” backwards), was inspired to write the play when her own daughter came of age recently.

The play goes a bit “woo woo” at times, insisting our genitals are a “holy portal,” likening our sexuality to pomegranates and generally frightening those of us priggish pragmatists who have yet to be formally introduced to our wild inner goddesses. But it’s also compelling, intriguing, strangely satisfying and uproariously funny in spots.

I’m taking some girlfriends to the show because my 248th moon is fast approaching. And if I’ve learned anything from two dozen years of sacred-if-vexing blood cycles, it’s that laughter — the kind that gives your uterus a good jostling — is a fabulous cure for cramps.

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