I learned a new word today... menarche.
Menarche is when you start your first period, and it's a word I should have known a long time ago since "The Moon Cried Blood" is an entire novel about women who acquire psychic powers at the time of menarche. I like it. It sounds kind of mysterious.
But I learned the word because Anne Rice posted a link to this article on Facebook:
|The cover of my novel The Moon Cried Blood|
According to the article, the average age of menarche (first menstruation) hasn't changed that much: it's about three months earlier than it used to be. But other signs of puberty such as developing breasts and starting to get body hair are coming along earlier. They used to start about two years before menarche, which would be at around ten. Now, more and more girls are showing signs of puberty before ten, so that doctors are saying eight or nine may be the new normal due to changes in dietary habit and other factors. But menarche remains largely unchanged.
But we will get back to that a bit later.
There are many types of things that may be categorized as horror, but not every spooky little trot out into the supernatural world of dark corners and dimly lit corners keeps us up at night. There are certain subjects that grab us by the intestines and work gut-wrenching twists and turns into all of that fortitude we believed we had when the lights were on and we were not alone.
We all have things that haunt us... those things we innately fear, what keeps us up at night. What makes us afraid, as writers is possibly very telling, but when we hit a nerve that everyone seems to have others are frightened too. When you write something frightening to many, you have a work a lot of people can relate to, and as a writer, you can suck these others into your world. Such was the case with Solitude, a sci-fi/horror novel that has a somewhat universal appeal in that it speaks to something that many fear: being alone. Solitude is about being isolated, being alone with the company of your own thoughts in a world that is falling apart.
It is truly about the degree to which we use the presence of others to assuage that fear of strange and incomprehensible that terrorize us in non-waking hours, the fear of the unknown. Other people are the known that makes for a focus distracting us ever from the unknown, other people, and animals... life that keeps us occupied and not fearing our death.
At least that's the way I see it, in the dark corners of my own mind.
Fear of quality time with your own thoughts is understandable, but I wonder what might have been going through my mind when I wrote an entire, even longer novel about my old unreasonable fears of menarche - the start of a period, the entry into womanhood. The story - The Moon Cried Blood, which the self-critic in me finds to have very blatant and not all that subtle allegories about the moon, moon cycles, menstrual cycles, and how powerful and dangerous it is to be a woman: not so much dangerous to others as yourself, when you acquire this power and become a target... well, what the hell was I trying to say?
I would say... the book was less about me making a political statement, and more about personal fears related to womanhood. I am a woman with endometriosis, not only that, but a woman who became symptomatic at an early age, in my teens. I associate menstruation with a tremendous amount of physical pain, crippling physical pain.
When I saw the movie "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," mind you, not the TV show (they wrote it out of the TV show), one of the things that really cracked me up was that Buffy got menstrual cramps when the vampires showed up, as a reaction to their unnaturalness. Menstruation is a natural thing, but it is something that you're told you are not to discuss, and especially not in mixed company.
If you are a woman, a period is a big part of your life. If you're a woman like me - with some menstrual issue, such as endometriosis, or PCOS, or any of many other conditions I could mention associated with your period, it's something you need to deal with and account for but are supposed to keep as almost a secret.
"The Moon Cried Blood" is about a matrilineal line of witches, where the powers skip a generation. It is largely about womanhood - for a thirteen year old girl, for her previously absent mother, for her ancient great-great-grandmother who is living against all odds. These African American and Latina American women are through destiny embroidered in a fight between good and evil that they only become a part of once they achieve menarche. Indeed, one character in the book is under psychic attack by an enemy who seeks to delay the onset of menarche by setting seeds in the girl's mind for an eating disorder, so that the condition is an attack being made from an exterior source to prevent her from gaining womanly powers.
Many of the women - the heroines - in the book had traumatic, troubled lives.
Now... back to the article:
The article briefly mentions that some doctors are telling the parents to accept the girls going through puberty as part of a range of normal - before going on to ignore that very advice and go on and on about what is wrong with these girls, who we are now to believe are somehow broken.
It talks about estrogen and estrogen like substances in food, being overweight, and finally... about absentee fathers. Being raised by female single parents according to this article, is going to cause you to start puberty at six if you're a girl... say WHAT?
Then I went to read the comments on the NY Times site and on Anne Rice's site, and there were a number of comments from women about how the girl's puberty being medically delayed (which the article suggests, is unnecessary and unhealthy for girls seven and older who are considered pretty much normal even if their early puberty makes people uncomfortable) in order to prevent pregnancy. Say What??? Wow - what kind of world are we living in where people assume that puberty and menarche mean the onset of sexual activity? Most people go through puberty years before starting to have sex. So I'm not sure what people are thinking.
Except that maybe people are deathly afraid of girls growing up.
The mothers may feel they need to protect their daughters from the dangers associated with womanhood. For me, the onset of puberty was followed within a short number of years with serious menstrual pain, and no, I was not like the girl in "Hello God, It's Me, Margaret." I was kind of the opposite... you know, like the girl in Stephen King's "Carrie".
I changed the artwork for "The Moon Cried Blood" because some people thought it was Young Adult fiction and it really is not: it has a rather Shakespearean level of adult themes in on the level of death, betrayal, and bizarre family relationships. So now the cover just has a big, bleeding orb.
Just like a woman.