I remember this as if it happened yesterday. I was 17 years old, doing my last year of advanced high school. My friend Lucy Franco and I were having a conversation about ‘leaking”, (for that is what we called the menses) with another seasoned friend, Njeri. We were talking about the advantages of using pads over tampons. See Lucy and I had never used tampons so we were getting some lessons from Njeri.
Well into our conversation, I said, “Well, I cant imagine using tampons and having to put a new one every time you go pee.” Lucy quickly agreed, “I know!!!!”. Njeri burst out laughing, and Lucy and I were bewildered, seeing nothing funny in our observation. Njeri by now was on the floor, in tears, laughing her head off. When she had calmed down from the laughing hysteria, she said, “Wah! You guys don’t know you have two holes? One to pee and one where you bleed from?” Needless to say, Lucy and I were now even more bewildered!!! “No way,” we shouted, almost in unison. So Njeri went on to give us a short lecture on the female reproductive anatomy. Where had she learned it? Because to the best of my recollection, no one taught us that in “O” level biology. And neither my mom, nor my sister who brought me up had ever mentioned anything about two holes.(Not that they ever mentioned anything really…even about one hole).
No one had ever really discussed any womanly things with me personally . When I was in primary school, around the age of 11, I opened my sister Scholastica’s purse and there were several white bullet shaped objects neatly wrapped in clear plastic. I asked her what they were and she told me they were sweets. (I wondered why anyone would call a sweet “O.B”, but then I remembered we have a chewing gum called “Big. G”) Later I snuck again into her purse and stole one of the sweets. There were quite a few and I was sure she wouldn’t notice that one was missing. I quietly unwrapped it put it into my mouth and waited in vain for the sweetness to kick in. After a few seconds, my mouth started turning dry as the “sweet” started to swell up. I thought maybe I needed to crack the sweet to get into the sweetness. I sunk my molars into it, but the sweetness was not forthcoming. After a few tries, I gave up and I remember wondering how anyone would enjoy such a sweet. For fear of my sister finding the uneaten sweet, I tossed it in the latrine!!!
If she ever discovered a sweet was missing from her purse, she never mentioned it to me!!!
About a year or so later, now in 5th grade, some nurses from the nearby clinic came to give “the talk” to all the puberty aged girls. I remember them talking about bleeding from “down there” (I had never heard anyone mention the word vagina). After the lecture, it was Q and A time. I was a sharp child, and when one of the nurses asked what we can use to “stop” the bleeding, my hand shot up at supersonic speed. “A handkerchief,” I confidently answered. See, the mention of blood conjured images of an open wound in my mind, so I thought a handkerchief would be as good a solution as any!!! The nurses and all the older girls laughed. I wondered what was funny, but the nurse said, shaking here head thoughtfully from side to side said, “Mmmmmh, maybe.” And she went on to other respondents who gave varied answers such as “cotton”, “Always” (a brand of a pad), O.B (a brand of a tampon) and even a thick piece of cloth. All this was Greek to me, but I didn’t discuss it any further with anyone.
When I was 13 and heading off to boarding high school, my sister bought be a roll of cotton wool. She didn’t tell me what it was for, and I didn’t ask. By now, I had an idea what it was for. I used that cotton for this and that. See, I hadnt started my period yet.
Then in December of 1985, during the school holidays, my sister was away and my period started. I went to a shop in the neighborhood where we were authorized to take things on credit and my sister would pay when she got back. I took a packet of “Always” on credit. I didn’t tell my sister, and when she came home, she got the list of goods we had taken on credit but didn’t ask anything about the Always. She paid for it. In January 1986, I whipped out my shopping list for my back to school needs, which my sister used to scrutinize like the FBI else you sneak in a “non-essential”item. I am sure she saw the new addition on the list, but said nothing of it. She approved the shopping list.
So, this was the background I was coming from as me and Lucy Franco were rudely shocked, at 17, to find out there were actually two holes. The thought of 2 holes had never even crossed my mind!!!
We left the conversation with Njeri feeling both enlightened and embarrassed. I hoped secretly that Njeri wouldn’t tell the rest of the girls that we didn’t know about the second hole.
I didn’t share that story with anyone that I remember, until one day in 2011 after my family and I returned to Kenya from the United States of America.
I was at a friend’s salon in Nairobi, and the details of how the conversation headed this direction elude me at this point. There were about 3 ladies at the salon, including my long time hairstylist Nyambura. I started sharing the story about our conversation with Lucy and Njeri when I was 17 and I started laughing uncontrollably, telling them how embarrassed I was, and how I couldn’t believe that at 17 years old, I didn’t know that women have a peeing hole and a bleeding hole!!!
Nyambura, well over 30 years old and married once already shouted, “What? Two holes? Where? I didn’t even know we have 2 holes?” By this time my ribs were aching with laughter! All the ladies at the salon were doubled over and stomping with laughter. Never mind that I didn’t know at 17, here was a married-once, 30 year old woman who was receiving this as news???? I wonder how many women don’t know they have 2 holes till they die. I guess it may not be a basic necessity to know as you really never need to pee and have sex at the same time. But seriously? How many other things are we ignorant about because no one told us. And to be fair, maybe my sister, and my mother didn’t actually know there are two holes anyway!!!
You are probably laughing now but that’s not the end of the story. We finished laughing at Nyambura, and went on to talk about other trivial topics typical at salons.
I never thought I would talk about the hole story gain. But alas! Did I have another think coming!!!!
In July 2017, I was volunteering at a summer youth camp that our two daughters were attending in Oklahoma. My fellow volunteer and housemate had her two grandchildren attending the same camp. We hit it off like a house on fire.
One evening we were talking about camp activities for the girls and I said to her how I hoped our daughters wouldn’t get their periods during camp and especially not during the days that they had to do swimming because I really detested the idea of them wearing tampons. “Me too,” she said. I then said to her, “ can you believe that until I was 17 years old I thought you had to to change your tampon every time you had to pee.” “I know, isn’t it terrible?” “What’s terrible?” I asked her. “That you have to wear a new tampon every time you go pee?.” I could feel my stomach muscles start to tighten. I didn’t want to laugh.
“You don’t!” I told her.
It was her turn to be bewildered. “YOU DON’T?” She asked.
“No, you don’t. You have two holes. One where you pee through and another where you bleed from and have sex and have babies!”
“Whhhhhaaaaaaaaat?” She exclaimed. By this time, I was hysterical. My volunteer friend must be in her sixties. Married once, widowed and has children and grandchildren. And she didn’t know you pee from a different hole than you bleed from. I was about to die laughing!!!!
I couldn’t believe it. But then again, come to think of it, maybe if at 17 I hadn’t had the conversation with Njeri, I might never have known, and I wouldn’t know I didn’t know.
Right there and then, I decided I was going to conduct a research to find out if and when women found out the third hole…I haven’t completed the research yet but hope to start gathering data soon.