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Author and Performance Artist Lauretta Ali
Lauretta's Articles and Interviews

The First Time

I was eight years old at the time.  I had no idea what to think.  All I felt was the rush of fluid escaping from between my legs!  I raced to the bathroom and found that my underwear and pants were completely bloodied.  I then remembered what my Mama had told me.  Once the bleeding began, I would be able to have a baby.  I was terrified!  I didn’t want a baby!  How could this have happened?  I cried for hours and I didn’t dare tell a soul….


My brother and I had spent our toddler years in the 1950’s foster care system.  We were reunited with our mother when my brother was seven and I was eight years old.  We entered the system when he was two and I was three years old, respectively.  We, two, prayed together often for the day that we would be given back to Mama.  We had no idea we would be trading one nightmare for another.


Our Mama was a closet alcoholic.   She went to work at her factory job, never missing one day.  She was a shop steward for the company’s union.  No one knew our family secret. 


My mother couldn’t really talk to me about sex, getting my period nor having babies.  She had only a few comments regarding any of the past stated situations.  “You are not going to do to me, what your sisters did to me!”  (I would not bring a baby into her house.)  “Keep your legs closed and crossed at all times or I will beat your behind!”  (After years of sexual abuse in foster homes, I didn’t need her threats to keep me in line!)  “If you get your period, you can get pregnant!”  (After taking care of my brother while in foster care, I certainly had no interest in taking care of a baby!)  Thus was the extent of my mother’s talk with me about the birds and the bees.


I had few role models growing up.  My grandmother always hated me and my light complexion.  My mother’s sister and she would often visit our home and leave behind chaos and havoc.  Thank God for my oldest sister’s aunt (on her Dad’s side) Caroline Allen.  As soon as I arrived from foster care, she began to take me everywhere with her.  She cleaned the homes of white women for many years, which enabled her to buy her first home.   She would take me with her often and I would help her clean.  She would give me 50 cents and I would cherish the money earned.  I would often spend the night at her home and she treated me as if her were also her blood niece.  She had a daughter Regina, who became like a best friend to me.  It was during one of those visits that the dreaded “period” decided to emerge.


What do I do?  I began to panic.  I removed my underwear and pants and washed them thoroughly.  I didn’t dare tell anyone.  I didn’t want to have a baby.  I couldn’t have a baby!  My mother would kill me.   So, each day of my visit with Aunt Caroline (one week) I would wash my underwear.  I also used her wash cloths to cover my shame.  It was my own shameful secret and I spent many days crying.


Finally, Regina confronted me.  She asked me point blank if I had my period.  I began to cry and scream that I had done nothing wrong and begged her not to tell anyone.  She comforted me and told me that her mother already knew.  She had stated to Regina “either that girl is the cleanest little girl in the world or she has gotten her period.”  


Later that evening they both sat me down and talked to me.  It was then that I learned what my “period” was and that I wasn’t a bad girl for getting it.  I learned about what it would take to get me pregnant.  They bought me my first box of sanitary napkins.  They are women that I love and remember to this day.


Aunt Caroline is no longer with me.  She was the victim of a break-in robbery at her home in North Carolina a few years ago.  Yet, I will always remember her for the woman she was in my life.  Aunt Caroline…I remember you, Auntie!

Interview with George Cook of Let's Talk Honestly

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