I’m still waiting for my boobs. At fourteen, my female classmates were starting to bounce around the lacrosse field, and I was in my room with my breast—I mean best—friend, agonizing over a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. (For those of you born post-’80s, this was the bible of female puberty in the ’90s. It had pages. That you turn, not scroll.) While my gorgeous friend had already reached what this book described as Stage 3 (mid-development), I was trapped in the vague limbo between Stage 1 (budding) and Stage 2 (early development).
And I’m still there.
In my confident, post-puberty adulthood, my travel-sized companions have proved to be delightful as well as convenient. As a young teen, however, being “flat-chested” caused much turmoil. The images illustrating my failure to develop courtesy of Our Bodies were one thing, the constant taunting and self-comparison another. My faux-boob size changed with my mood as I inconsistently stuffed my bra with tissues, socks and gel inserts. Meanwhile, my “early-developing” friends cried in the locker room because boys harassed them for being too buxom. I can only imagine what the Internet has added for today’s young breast-budders.
Concerning sex and sexuality in general, we obsess over timelines and rules. We want someone, anyone, to tell us that we are normal when really nobody is, not even the person telling us we are or aren’t. So now that we’ve fully established that I’m not normal or a “typical developer,” here’s what I know about female puberty.
The first thing that’ll pop up are your boobs. And, as we know, some of those don’t pop up much. It starts with the “budding.” Why must our womanly naughty bits always be botanically described? Because “they” want our sexualities to be delicate little flowers ripe for the picking. First lesson of female puberty —never compare yourself to a plant.
Anyway, the “buds” happen, which are small, tender lumps that develop under your nipples. Your nipples will then change size, shape, color and sensation. Tenderness is okay and expected and by the end of puberty, what you’ve got on top is what you’re stuck with until pregnancy or age either swells or deflates you. Something to look forward to.
Six-ish months after breast development, the pubes start popping up on the vaginal mons (the curved area above your labia), outer labia (the lips) and the area between your vaginal opening and booty. Hair that appears on your legs and armpits is also technically “pubic hair.”
Just like the penis, the vagina itself grows during puberty. Outer labia become more pronounced, tissue color can darken and the inner labia get showier. You could say that this is when your “flower blooms,” but then I’d have to vomit in my mouth a little, as that’s the very last thing I want to do when speaking of vaginas.
Then your “flower” bleeds. Your first period shows up and it just keeps bleepin’ showing up at all the wrong times. There’s entirely too much to say about this period, so stay tuned next week.
Around your first period, your height and bone mass finish growing, and your body fat is stored in odd places. You’ve got a growth spurt, a first period, new boobs and plenty of zits. Everyone feels like an awkward, mishapen mess. Even the hot girls. I promise.
I also promise that it will even out. Body image issues are common at this point. Photoshop has not only destroyed our brains but is also unable to edit the images we see in the mirror. So, thanks, fashion magazines, for making puberty even more fun for us girls.
While male puberty and masturbation often go hand in hand (well, maybe not “hand” in hand), female puberty usually revolves around periods and pregnancy. He gets an erection to play with and all we get is a mother-trucking orchid in our panties? C’mon. We don’t just bleed and jiggle. We also begin to sexually explore ourselves and others circa puberty. Hint: Just because you’re not 18 doesn’t mean you can’t own a vibrator—removable shower heads do wonders. After all, flowers do need to be watered.