AGA Roll Call: Womanchild

I was one of those girls who went to bed one night a Girl, and seemed to wake up the very next day with a giant set of breasts. My body developed early: I was the first girl in elementary school to have breasts, the first to try and figure out, alone, why I both wanted to hide them and have them seen. I was the first to be forced into a brassiere (and was really pissed about it), the first to have to fend off the strap being snapped behind me all the time.

What came with that was an unexpected bipolarity of being treated like a girl -- including the benefit and enjoyment of some level of androgyny, being allowed to play football afterschool with the boys, picking fights, having "buddies," not being groped -- and then being treated like a woman, but only in the respect of appearance and sexuality, as well as sexual objectivism. I didn't inherit any new rights with my changing body: of course, it was a woman's body, so there weren't any real rights to inherit.

My girlfriends treated me strangely, my male friends treated me strangely, and in my house, with my development also came some abuse saved, apparently, for girls when they grew into what looked like women. I was also molested by a community member the very same summer I grew breasts, and it was pointed out to me quite directly by that person that they had watched them growing with interest. Little of puberty, all of this given, was especially of benefit to me: it seemed to isolate me from everyone I was close to: bring people's eyes all over me. And yet, at the same time, I felt as if I'd some new power I didn't have before.

I never had the chance to hear any other girl's puberty stories growing up, save what I read in Judy Blume books: those were conversations I'd only have later, with older women, all of us looking back. I never got the chance to talk about the good parts or the bad parts among my female friends: it all seemed to be a competition, one I'd no interest in winning, but which I apperanty had won, like it or not, from the starting gate and my prize was both unwanted isolation AND attention.

Puberty is a big deal for everyone, but it often has specific relevance for girls. It often massively changes how others treat us, and often with our entrance to puberty comes our entrance to all kinds of sexual attention we may or may not want; may or may not have any idea how to deal with and make sense of.

Write about your experiences with, and feelings about, puberty, no matter where you are in your development.

What's all this felt like for you? What's it like dealing with it with friends? Whether you were or are an early bloomer, a late bloomer, or somewhere in between, how has puberty played out in your life? Tell a puberty story.

If you could be a big sister for all the little sisters in the world about to enter that phase, what advice would you give them? What story would you share?

What do you think about the particular relevance puberty has for girls and women, especially? What IS it about that weird space between girlhood and womanhood? What is it about that place where it's not really up to you anymore as to whether you define yourself as a girl or as a woman, but up to others based on what your body looks like?

Tag your post with "AGA Roll Call: AGA Roll Call: Womanchild," or, if you're a reader here, leave a letter at the All Girl Army forums, or a link to your letter at your own blog or journal in the comments here.

To read our writer's responses to this call as they come in, click here.