Moving into Womanhood
1-3. During adolescence, what might cause a girl concern as to her own physical growth? But what eventually happens?
SPRINGTIME eventually passes into summer. Flowering trees in time become fruit-bearing trees. So, also, do young girls naturally become young women. As when a bud has opened up, revealing what the flower is like, so, too, when this transitional period of adolescence is over, the woman you are going to become is more clearly evident. In this development there is much you can do to contribute toward happy results.
2 During your adolescent years, you grow taller, adding perhaps five or six inches (12 to 15 centimeters) to your height. You also become heavier. As a rule, there will be a couple of years when you experience a “growth spurt,” a time when your rate of growth in height and weight speeds up remarkably. You may see other girls of your same age suddenly outgrowing you, or you may find yourself swiftly outgrowing them. Either way, there is no need to become concerned about this. Each individual’s time for this rapid growth period comes at its own point. Girls generally enter this “growth spurt” a year or two earlier than boys. There is, in fact, a time when girls may tend to be taller than boys of the same age. But the boys catch up and, since their growth continues longer than that of girls, generally the boys finish up taller and stronger.
3 Sometimes this growth spurt is initially more rapid in one part of the body than in another. Your feet or hands may seem to become distressingly long in proportion to the rest of your body. But, in time, the rest of the body gets into the swing of growth and things equalize. Usually the lengthening of the torso and the deepening of the chest cavity develop last. Facial contours change. At the same time other parts of the body begin to develop fatty deposits that give the rounded form of the feminine figure.
OTHER BODILY CHANGES
4-6. (a) What “customary thing with women” begins during adolescence? What purpose is served by this bodily process? (b) What other physical changes also occur at this time, and why?
4 But another development takes place during feminine adolescence. It is the start of what Rachel, a woman spoken of in the Bible, called “the customary thing with women,” menstruation. (Genesis 31:34, 35) In a sense, it is a thrilling moment—it shows that you have reached the threshold of womanhood. Hormone secretions have begun to work in your body. They stimulate your ovaries to begin releasing egg cells, quite irregularly at first, but then about once every four weeks. The egg cell, when released, passes down into your womb, which has been stimulated to develop a special lining for receiving the egg in case it should become fertilized. When the egg remains infertile, this lining is in time discarded. This is what produces menstruation, the periodic discharge of blood, fluid and some tissue. While some accompanying pain or discomfort may be experienced, it is a normal process and should cause no undue concern.
5 When do these monthly cycles begin? Their start varies from person to person. While in many lands the average is at around thirteen years, one girl may begin menstruating as early as ten years of age or even earlier, while another may not begin until sixteen or even later. Similarly, the length of the menstrual flow may vary from three to five days.
6 Along with this change from childhood to womanhood, there is a broadening of your hips, and your breasts begin to develop. These many developments, some visible, some invisible, are all preparations for the dual role in life that mankind’s Creator has reserved for women—that of being a wife and a mother. The broader hips that girls develop not only aid in making childbirth easier but also make it easier to carry small children. During pregnancy the normal fatty deposits on the woman’s body are a reserve supply that can be drawn on as she nourishes unborn or newly born children, and with birth the breasts begin producing milk.
GROWING ATTRACTION TO MEN
7-10. (a) How does the development of a girl’s body place upon her added responsibility as to her conduct? (b) How is this responsibility illustrated in The Song of Solomon by the comparisons of a certain girl to “a wall” and “a door”?
7 The privileges granted to women by mankind’s Creator, Jehovah God, carry with them the responsibility to respect and act in harmony with the Creator’s purpose. The mutual attraction that God has caused to exist between the sexes is largely related to procreation. As a girl’s body develops so that she is capable of bearing children, she exerts a stronger attraction toward males who have reached the stage of being able to father children. But this attraction can be misused or abused. What, then, needs to be kept in mind so that you can take the right course, one that will contribute to your lasting future happiness and assure God’s blessing?
8 In the Bible book The Song of Solomon we find an interesting expression evidently made by the older brothers of a maiden from Shulem. First, one is quoted as saying: “We have a little sister that does not have any breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day that she will be spoken for?” That is, what would they do for their sister when she had ceased to be flat-chested, had grown up and someone now asked to arrange for her marriage? Another brother answered, saying: “If she should be a wall, we shall build upon her a battlement of silver; but if she should be a door, we shall block her up with a cedar plank.” (Song of Solomon 8:8, 9) What does this mean?
9 Their figurative language apparently meant that if their sister proved to be firm as a “wall” they would handsomely reward and honor her. How could she prove firm as a wall? By showing firm determination to remain chaste, showing strength in resisting any attempts to involve her in immoral conduct. When suitable for marriage, she would show herself steady and constant in holding to right principles. On the other hand, if she was like a “door” that swings open to anyone exerting a little strength toward it, even to someone unwholesome, then they would have to take steps to restrict her, in effect, to ‘bar her shut’ as someone not to be trusted as regards the opposite sex. She could also be like a door that swings open and shut in her affections, becoming infatuated first with one person and then rejecting him for another.
10 The Shulammite maiden, now a matured woman with breasts, successfully passed this test and was able to say to her brothers: “I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. In this case I have become in his eyes [that is, the eyes of her prospective husband] like her that is finding peace.”—Song of Solomon 8:10.
11-14. (a) Why might the wearing of short skirts or tight sweaters lead to unwanted problems for a young woman? (b) As a young woman, for what reasons especially would you like to be attractive to a young man?
11 You, too, face a similar test as you approach womanhood. If you want to enjoy true peace of mind, heart and conscience, and protect yourself against experiencing peace-wrecking problems, you need to exercise self-control and show strength for what is right. Ought you to draw attention deliberately to those parts of your body that relate to motherhood by wearing short, snug-fitting skirts, low-cut blouses or tight sweaters? That would have a sexually stimulating effect on those of the opposite sex. Then what?
12 Well, will you have the firmness and strength to resist all advances that such emphasis on those body parts might induce? And, even though you show physical development, do you have the mental and emotional development you would need for marriage and possible motherhood? A cat is ready to have kittens at twelve months of age and instinctively can do a good job of caring for her offspring. But humans are not creatures of instinct like animals. Humans have to learn far more than they inherit, and learning takes time. To try to rush the process would be like trying to force the petals of a rosebud to open before their time. That would only ruin the flower and damage any future beauty it might have. Remember, too, marriage is not just being a bride. It also means being a housekeeper, a cook and a clothes washer, and being a mother requires great patience and endurance toward children—all of this in good times and bad, in sickness and in health.
13 Besides this, even though a young woman might feel that she is prepared for marriage, what kind of husband does she want to try to attract? If a young man is attracted simply by what a girl appears to be able to give in the way of sexual satisfaction, is he likely to make a good husband? Rather than trying to attract on that basis, would it not be far better to seek enduring friendships on the basis of what you are as a person—in your mind and heart? You can do that by developing personality traits that are attractive to others. Also, by such things as your conversation, by showing a wholesome, cheerful outlook on life, by showing that you appreciate such things as honesty, modesty, decency, kindness and unselfishness.
14 You can prove that you are genuine in this by refusing to throw away these fine qualities for a few moments of pleasure that would only cheapen and lower you in your own estimation and in that of others whom you respect, admire and cherish. Especially by showing that you have truly worthwhile goals in life, that you want to ‘remember your Creator in the days of your young womanhood,’ can you gain as friends persons whose friendship you will always treasure and which can bring you real happiness.—Ecclesiastes 12:1.
PROPER VIEW OF APPEARANCE
15, 16. (a) Though it’s natural to be concerned about your physical appearance, what will have a far greater effect on your future happiness? (b) In terms of everyday life, explain Proverbs 11:22. Also Proverbs 31:30.
15 It is natural for teen-age girls to be concerned with their personal appearance. But do not be overly anxious or dissatisfied with your physical form or face, as if your whole future depended on this. Look at the grown-ups around you—people you like and admire. Are not many, perhaps most of them, of rather ordinary appearance? Physical attractiveness is not the real key to future happiness.
16 And this is just as true of the girl who does have physical beauty. She should realize that many beautiful women wind up leading very empty, and often immoral, lives. How true is the Bible proverb: “As a gold nose ring in the snout of a pig, so is a woman that is pretty but that is turning away from sensibleness.”! (Proverbs 11:22) Yes, as the Bible also says, “charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.”—Proverbs 31:30.
STRIVING FOR EMOTIONAL BALANCE
17-19. (a) What emotional changes may a girl experience during adolescence? What can help her to attain emotional balance? (Galatians 5:22, 23) (b) What personal habits can also contribute to one’s stability?
17 The physical changes of adolescence may bring emotional changes. Even as a young girl may feel full of energy one minute and exhausted the next, so too her emotions may tend to fluctuate widely. Periods of brightness and joy may be quickly followed by periods of gloom and depression. You may find yourself wondering if you are really normal or just what kind of person you are turning out to be. Especially in the modern industrial society, with its shifting sets of values, adolescent girls are subject to tension and uncertainty.
18 It would be easy to give in to this instability, become withdrawn, introverted, or become very independent and assertive. Some girls do give in to displays of rudeness, flashes of bad temper or coarse speech. Others begin to make a pretense of being something they are not, becoming superficial. But this does not help; it only worsens matters. Now that you are coming out of childhood, it is a time to make a serious personal effort to cultivate the fruits of God’s spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control.
19 Cultivate, too, habits that contribute toward stability. Instead of letting your room become messy, keep it orderly and neat. Strive for regularity in sleeping and eating habits; your developing body needs all the help you can give it. The more you can do along these lines, the more calm and stable you will feel, and this will help to moderate your emotional experiences.
20, 21. (a) When you have questions about life, why will you get more reliable information from your parents than from other teen-agers? (b) What, in particular, will make you a truly attractive person?
20 By all means do not let this period of transition cause you to pull away from your parents. They can provide the solid help and reliable firmness you need to lean on so as to keep your balance during this time of change. While you are subject to much “peer pressure”—pressure from others of your age to be like them—realize that they themselves are changing. That is why what pleases them today may not please them at all tomorrow. To be overly concerned about what they think of you will only increase your problems. That is why, too, when you have personal, intimate questions, your parents are by far the better source of information. They can give you a much fuller, more balanced answer than your schoolmates could ever give.
21 Just as early showers are followed by pretty flowers, so, too, if you learn to weather the storm and take things in your stride, you will find the way to stability and confidence. While you should be concerned about keeping yourself physically well and clean (by good diet and regular hygiene), you need to concentrate—not so much on what you are on the outside—but on what you are on the inside. The adornment of a “quiet and mild spirit” produced by the ‘secret person of your heart’ is what will make you truly attractive—in the eyes of God and of humans.—1 Peter 3:3, 4.
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Are you like a door . . .
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. . . or like a wall?
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Do you put too great an emphasis on physical appearance?