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Over the next week, I pondered the strange way God created his world and why lumps, of all things, were part of any divine plan.
My all-girls school didn’t provide any answers. The body was a private matter, an immodest secret. Maturation was discussed in a roundabout way, if at all, like the time in seventh grade, when the principal walked into my classroom and said that we must start using deodorant. “Girls,” she said, “you are 12 years old already, almost adults…. When that happens, the body’s odors grow stronger. That is why we have deodorant. Every girl must remember to put on deodorant every morning.”
My friend Chany raised her hand to ask a question, but the principal said there were really no questions to ask. It was simple. Then she smiled, turned and left the room.
Soon I learned that there was still more to being a woman than lumps and deodorant. A year after my chest began to grow, I found myself bleeding in the bathroom. This was menstruation, I learned; it would last for up to seven days, with bad cramps and swelling, and this, too, happened because of the babies I would one day have. It was the way God ran His world, ever since he cursed Eve for eating the forbidden fruit, punishing her with painful childbirth and cursed blood cycles.
I pictured Eve on the day I started to bleed. There she was in Eden, surrounded by luscious trees and stunning flowers, dressed in nothing, and hardly even knowing it, with only one commandment to obey: Thou shall not eat the stupid apple. I’d heard the story so many times, studied it, read it, memorized it, fell asleep on top of it, but now, suddenly I felt a deep and abiding hatred for her. All this? For a piece of fruit?
But there was something more important on my mind, and that was Tziri. I needed to know if she already got the cursed menstrual blood, because there was no way in the world that I could accept getting my period if my bossy sister didn’t get hers first, way-before-me first. She was older and fatter; it was only right that she should get the thing before I did.
My mother told me that it was none of my business and that these were private matters, not open for discussion. I wanted to ask my sister, straight out, precisely if and when she’d gotten her curse, but I knew she’d run straight to my mother. So instead I complained to my good friend Blimi.
Blimi always knew everything. Her mother subscribed to Reader’s Digest, a forbidden magazine, and Blimi often snuck it out of the bathroom at night to read. Blimi was the one who explained to me the mysteries of life, and the divine reasoning behind many of God’s strange plans. She could not help me with my older sister’s secrets, but she did know why women grew lumps years before we ever needed them. Blimi knew because she’d heard it from her married elder sister, who had heard it from someone else who knew.
You see, she explained to me, once, in ancient times, when the world existed on a higher spiritual level, girls got married when they were just 12 or 13. The women in the past were wiser and better than we could ever be, and therefore they were ready for marriage at a much younger age. As time went on, each generation deteriorated and became worse than the one before it. Today, girls get married later in life because they need more time to grow, she said. But the cycle of female maturation has already been set in place; God cannot suddenly delay it by seven years. And so our bodies still change when we turn 12 years old, and we are left to wait patiently for marriage and babies.
It was brilliant. It all made perfect sense. Chest lumps and periods came right on time, while we get married seven years too late. I went home from Blimi’s, happy. The world still seemed like a lighter, better place. God made sense, after all.