“My Little Visitor,” by Helen Beer

Feb 5th, 2020 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I was twelve when my “little visitor” arrived for the first time. Its arrival was heralded by my mother as a “first taste of womanhood.” Frankly, in spite of her obvious enthusiasm, I found it a damn nuisance, nothing more. I can’t say I wasn’t prepared, though.

No, like an annoyingly effervescent Girl Scout, my mother had prepared me well. I’ll never forget that morning—I had to have been ten—when she went digging in the bowels of her closet, emerging with a particularly self-satisfied smugness. That was something new; it caught my attention. So did the enormous woven straw basket she held out in her hands to me, like some weird offering to my impending fertility. She sat me down on her snow-white chenille bedspread and, in a tone of voice I can only describe as chummy, she proceeded to empty the basket of its contents, one by one.

First came Our Bodies, Ourselves. She made me look as she flipped through the pages, positively gushing at the explicitly clinical, technically accurate, oh-so-braless, oh-so-Seventies-feminist illustrations.

“You’ve no idea how lucky you are… look at this!” she exclaimed. “There was nothing like this when I was a girl.” I’m lucky? No, you were lucky!

Pages flipped by in front of my ten-year-old, pigtail-framed, oh-so-scarlet face. Next came the hand mirror. Its use was explained.

“This is so you can see yourself… your wonderful, womanly parts.”

Womanly parts? I’m still a girl!

She handed me a flashlight next. She spared the explanations; it was obvious. Visions of sitting in my bed examining myself down there made me, well, nauseous.

A lovely pink box of Kotex came next, followed by an oddly shaped elastic contraption with little hooky thingies at the ends, followed in quick succession by a little blue box of tampons. Pink is for girls, blue is for boys, right? Wait… so does that make tampons phallic? This is so confusing!

She opened the box of tampons, took out one of the little nippers, peeled its wrapper… “Okay, honey, this is a little complicated.” She stood up, then assumed a semi-squatting position, the little white cardboard cigar poised and ready between her polyester pants-clad legs. “Now, um… you follow along with the printed instructions.”

I unfolded the piece of paper she was pointing to, and was greeted again by, well, illustrations of a highly explicit nature. Oh, no!

“Mom, you’re not gonna…”

“No, uh… I’m not actually going to show you how it’s done; I’m just going to try and walk you through …”

“No, no. That’s okay. I’ll figure it out by myself. I mean, I’ve got the mirror, and the instructions…”

“Oh, well… are you sure? It’s a little awkward the first couple times.”

“Yep. I’m sure. Really.” Ain’t no way in hell I’m sticking that thing in me. You gotta be kidding! Who in the heck thought that up? I mean… cardboard?

“Well, that’s fine. You’ll just be using these when you swim and ride… oh, and for gym class and, uh, anytime the bulk of the pad is inconvenient.”

Oh, hell’s bells… maybe I’ll just have to figure these damn things out, after all. But… cardboard?

She opened the pink box and pulled out a huge white bulky thing.

Oh my God! That doesn’t go inside, does it?

She began to weave the ends through the little hooky thingies of the elastic contraption, and damned if she didn’t slip it over her pants and pull it up around her waist. What a sight!

Oh, okay… that’s not so bad.

“You’ll just have to figure this out on your own, honey… how often to change, how to keep it from bunching up, sliding around, leaking… it’s kind of an acquired skill. You’ll get better with practice.” She smiled. Or was it a smirk? “And you’re going to be getting a lot of practice.” Yeah, it was a smirk all right.

My mother slipped out of the elastic contraption and began to pack everything away in the basket once more. She handed it to me. The Offering once more.

“Now you know, honey, you can ask me anything you want… so, do you have any questions?”

Hell no!

“What’s for lunch?” It’s what I really wanted to know. “Grilled cheese sandwiches? Soup?”

She laughed. “Really, honey, I mean it… anything you can think of. You might want to read through this book, then come back to me with your questions. Okay, honey?”

I want my Nancy Drew, okay, Mom?

“Okay, Mom.” It’s best to humor your parents.

“Hmmm… grilled cheese and soup sounds good to me. Tomato okay?”


Two days later, my older sister pulled me conspiratorially into her room. I said pulled; I meant dragged. You never do this…you never invite me in; it’s your haven, your sanctuary, your…

“She gave you ‘the basket,’ didn’t she?” she asked, making air quotes.

Oh, so that’s what this is all about.


She wandered to her closet and pulled out a couple books, and a long, cylindrical object. She sat down on her bed and patted the spot next to her.

This has to be some kind of trap…

“Come on… I won’t bite. It’s time you learn the whole story.”

So, I sat down next to her. She didn’t bite. But holy shit! Did she ever give me the “whole story.” All I could think was: what a difference five years makes; she must’ve thought I was such a baby.

Somewhere between The Story of O, Fear of Flying, The Happy Hooker, Our Bodies, Ourselves, vibrators, hand mirrors, tampons (the cardboard comes off!), sanitary napkins, sanitary belts, motherly advice—and sisterly advice—lies the essential truth of growing up female. Or at least the early 1970’s version.

Thank God I have a son. Yep, when I found that copy of Penthouse magazine and a hand towel under his bed while vacuuming one Saturday morning, a smile crept over my face. Or was it a smirk?


Helen Beer sells for a living, as a sales engineer for an industrial foundry–not a bad gig for an English major/Russian history minor. She’s had success in short story contests, with multiple placements in both Moondance Film Festival and the Screencraft Cinematic Short Story competitions. She’s had two feature screenplays reach the quarterfinal rounds of both Scriptapalooza and Screencraft’s drama category. Her prose has appeared in Literary Potpourri, FRiGG, Typishly, Flash Fiction Magazine, Persimmon Tree, The First Line, 101 Words, Sky Island Journal, STORGY Magazine, Haunted Waters Press, The Write Launch, Twisted Vine Literary Arts Journal, and Prometheus Dreaming, with upcoming works in Nervous Ghost Press. When not working or writing, she enjoys the Zen-like tranquility afforded by time spent riding her horse and mucking stalls. Visit her at helenbeer.wordpress.com


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