I am a late bloomer.
I always have been. Each year on my birthday I receive a phone call from my mother to remind me of how long it took to get me out of her uterus. “Oh, I remember where I was [fill in the birthday blank] years ago!” she clucks. “Enduring 10 hours of labor trying to give birth to you! God, I thought you’d never come out.” I thank her for the call and suggest she send an ecard next year.
As the oldest of four girls, I should have been breaking new ground, but instead found myself still playing with Barbie dolls well into my thirteenth year. In fact, one of my younger sisters probably insisted we move on from them and I probably felt disappointed.
I didn’t get my first period until I was almost sixteen years old, a fact I hid from friends in order to maintain my street cred.
“Do you use tampons or pads?” I remember being queried one day in the eighth grade girl’s gym locker room.
“Oh, both,” I replied casually, trying desperately to impress, but not quite certain of how the logistics worked.
It didn’t help that I had the build and haircut of a pre-pubescent boy throughout most of my formative years. At school, younger boys, who still towered over me, would walk behind me in the hall, poking me sharply in the back and asking if I was male or female. I didn’t answer, but glared and self-importantly adjusted my unnecessary training bra in response.
It was difficult to include pictures of me with a group in my middle school yearbook, as the area between the top of my head and the face of the person standing next to me made for an expanse of empty space. Most of these pictures cut me off at the chin in order to include everyone’s head in the shot.
I didn’t lose my virginity until I was almost twenty. The idea of exposing myself on both a physical and emotional level terrified me. Not to mention the worry that a suitor would call during my favorite television show. In those pre-DVR days, I valued ‘Must See TV’ over the possibility of a long-term romantic relationship.
Although I started at the age of 17, I didn’t finish college until I was 36 years old. Granted, I wasn’t attending college for most of the 19 years in between, but it took me until my late 30’s to understand the value of having a degree. Also, having student loans makes me feel young and relevant.
As I stand on the precipice that is my 40th birthday, with a hand over my eyes to shield myself from the blinding light of my impending decrepitude, I am still waiting to discover myself creatively. I take comfort in the fact that there are many late bloomers. Colonel Sanders was 65 when he launched Kentucky Fried Chicken. Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at the age of 73. Dr. Seuss didn’t successfully write children’s books consistently until his 40’s. I suppose I’m in good company as I continue to germinate.