‘ down there ‘


because of the climate of denial in which I grew up where the euphemism ‘down there” was commonly used I made a pact to wise up the current crop of girls in my care.

information exploration and discussion seemed to be a good policy.

my mother said nothing to me about the girl becoming a woman never mentioned the ‘s’ word or the ‘b’ word by which I mean sex and bleeding, bottom was ok.

one day after school sitting on the toilet in our bathroom I noticed blood . I was equal parts horrified wondering if something had broken ‘down there’ and a vague awareness that it was a coming of age drama for the female gender.

I ran out to the kitchen and told mum who had to stop what she was doing and make me a belt on the sewing machine. it was no cause for celebration or discussion. I hung around in my blood stained undies hopping from one foot to the other trembling with an energy of a new self emerging from my body.

a few whirrs of the machine later and I was being fitted with a wide stretchy belt with tags attached at the front and the back. to these tags she safety pinned a pad –back and front – big safety pins. it was not meant to fall off.

is that comfortable ? Mum fussed as she did  with sewing matters-  a competent seamstress with pins poking out of her mouth as she pinned hemmed  tucked  darted and modified all the clothes she made for us girls over the years of our growing up.


comfortable didn’t begin to get close but we got my undies back up and straightened out my skirt  and that was that. later on Mum tossed me a packet of modess and said you will be needing these.

end of story.

no sisters left at home to bug – they had fled for australia when I was nine so it was me alone on a sunny afternoon .

I felt odd – butterflies doing jigs in my tummy so I went into the living room and lay down on the couch just like dad did when he came in from work but not something I ever caught mum doing.

in she comes while I am dreaming away  and trying to work out  how I was going to be able to live with this and what it would mean .

could I still climb up trees and onto the shed roof and from there jump into the pool in susans backyard.eeks how did one go swimming?

jeepers how on earth would I ride my bike and how obvious was it going to be when this was the year of the mini skirt.

what are you doing lying down? she asks, never mind I need you to go down the shops for me.

my afternoon job was shopping for mum while other kids played even though mum had all day to do it her self . I didn’t know what was going on with her  but something was off kilter. many years later I found empty valium prescription bottles of the 60’s stashed in the back of the pantry.

I pleaded, ‘ I cant go out  like this mum please don’t make me.’

she laughed perhaps even snorted but ladies don’t snort do they ?

its not the end of the world, off you go.





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