I was ten years old, when my brother was Bar Mitzvah’d. It was a big deal. The synagogue was packed and there was a big party at a fancy restaurant afterward. I have no memories of the event at all. I don’t even remember what my mother made me wear.
I do remember watching my brother prepare for the ceremony. Week after week, he struggled to read his Torah portion, in Hebrew, out loud. His voice kept cracking. He was becoming a man. I was still a girl.
The next year I got my period. I didn’t want to become a woman. I didn’t want my breasts to grow. I didn’t want to wear a bra. I didn’t want to get my period or sprout pimples all over my face. I didn’t want to shave under my arms. I alternated between being angry and wanting to cry. I hated that everyone was waiting for me to “blossom”. I withdrew. I didn’t want any parties or celebrations.
I think, if you asked me, at age 11, if I’d rather go through female puberty, male puberty, or no puberty at all, I would have answered no puberty at all. I mistrusted adults. I did not understand teenagers. I was scared of dating, sex, pregnancy, marriage, and parenthood. I wanted to be a boy. I wanted to keep things simple. Continue reading