Blog Post 2 – Rituals and Rites of Passage – Sarah Wagner

Rituals are a common and necessary part of an American’s everyday life.  Important ritual transitions to U.S. citizens include formal and informal situations.  Examples of formal rituals could be graduation from high school or college, wedding, or religious ceremonies such as bar/bat mitzvah or first communion.  Informal examples can consist of daily routines such as a girl learning how to on makeup or a boy starting to shave.  Other examples could be when one can legally drive or drink (but not together!).

When looking at the list above, pretty much the only formal ritual transition I’ve experienced is high school graduation and my grad party.  Although my extended family is Catholic, my immediate family isn’t very religious.  I’ve never been baptized nor had a first communion.  Being a female and after watching the “Rituals and Rites of Passage” video, I can discuss my experience of my first menstrual cycle.  I was in sixth grade, and I won’t go into too much detail here…but I thought I might’ve had my first period, showed my underwear to my mom, and sure enough it was my first period.  Like the typical American culture we kept it secretive.  We didn’t say anything to my dad about it.  I remember it was a Sunday and of all times of year this secretive event was the day before we were starting swim class in my gym class.  My mom wrote a note that I could not participate in class for a few days.  She didn’t write down a reason.  I handed it to my MALE gym teacher.  After reading it, he asked me if it was for personal reasons, hinting at menstrual cycle, and I nervously nodded my head.  Might I add I was already afraid of my gym teacher and this note made my fear so much worse.  But he respected my note and let me skip for a few days.  Although I was shy about my first experience I did feel more woman like.  This was part from the expression my mom gave, almost as if she was proud of me.  If I watched the “Rituals and Rites of Passage” video back when I had this experience I would be shocked that anyone would celebrate, let alone be public about it. I cannot relate at all to the Native Americans’ view on this topic, but at my current age I now respect that other cultures have a different view than us Americans.

Looking from the belonging-liminality-belonging idea, most college students are in the liminality portion.  When I was in high school my parents let me make my own choices about some things, but there were still situations where I felt the childhood “belonging”.  My parents would set some limits such as curfew.  They would pay attention to what I would do everyday, the friends I hung out with, and where I would go.  They kept up with my school life monitoring my grades and meeting my teachers.   They did some of my decision making and I followed their expectations.  In college I’m much more independent.  I don’t have to follow parental rules, I no longer have a curfew.  They don’t know anything about my academic life besides what I tell them.  However, I’m still not in the adulthood “belonging” stage.  I’m in the “liminal” stage: I currently live in East Lansing, but my permanent home is my parents’ house; I go to a doctor’s office alone, but I’m still on my dad’s health insurance; I am responsible for my own banking account, but it’s dependent on my parents’ banking account.

College students have much more freedom on how they behave.  They can dress how they want and not have to worry about breaking any high school rules like the length of a skirt or the terminology on clothing.  I remember at my AOP there was a girl that wore very short, “damaged” jean shorts and a spaghetti strap tanktop.  I thought she was revealing more skin than appropriate.  (She ended up living on my floor freshman year and was much kinder and friendly than I thought she’d be 🙂 )  Then I realized there isn’t a dress code in college, you’re free to express your inner style.  From an implicit viewpoint college students feel the pressure to fit in, and for my example fashion wise.

2 thoughts on “Blog Post 2 – Rituals and Rites of Passage – Sarah Wagner

  1. Sarah,
    I found your story about your first menstrual cycle very relatable to what many girls go through as well; and of course it fell on when you were to begin swimming lessons because that is how those things always seem to go. I remember thinking that I had started a new cycle one day in a very young male teachers class. I asked him if I could use the bathroom and he said that I could not; I told him that it was for personal reasons and that I really needed to go and he once again told me no. At this point I was very frustrated and told him that I either needed to go to the bathroom or call home to get my mom to bring me new pants because these ones would be stained and he immediately turned red and just said “go, go, go!”
    It was slightly humorous that he was more embarrassed than I was. And for me to even say this to a man surprised myself, because you mentioning how secretive a woman’s menstrual cycle is kept and encouraged to be kept is so true.
    I also liked your last comment about the girl you first saw at college and thinking her outfit was inappropriate. Isn’t it funny how something like dress code in school is hammered into out heads over and over again, and maybe without even realizing it we think that everyone should be following these same rules, and just how much rules and lessons like that follow us beyond our primary school years.

  2. My own first period experience was quite different than yours and I barely even regard it as a ritual that I’ve gone through. I don’t quite even remember the actual day or experience but remember that it was also in sixth grade. I had grown up in a single mom household with my sister who is five years older than me so there was no secrecy involved regarding menstrual cycles. I was well aware of what was happening; in fact I had taken the time to google and read as much as I could about the experience to know what to expect. I didn’t ever really talk to my mom or sister about it. I didn’t take it very seriously as something important, it was just biological. I believe my mom asked at some point well after I had been menstruating regularly, if I had even started yet. It feels kind of weird that I hold such little regard for something a lot of people take as a meaningful even but at the same time I’m glad I didn’t experience much shame either.

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