Changing from Girlhood to Womanhood
Helpful facts that young people want to know
SPRINGTIME eventually passes into summer; flowering trees in time become fruit-bearing trees. So, also, do young girls naturally become young women. It is as big a transition as from babyhood to childhood.
As when a bud opens up, revealing what the flower is like, so, too, when this period is over, the woman you are going to be becomes more clearly evident. Though curiosity may overwhelm you, you will have to wait to see. Yet there is much you can do to contribute toward happy results in this development.
Adolescence, as this period of transition is known, generally begins around the age of eleven for girls and may continue until about the age of seventeen or eighteen. It is a time that has its own joys and problems. The share you get of each can depend much on you. Knowing and understanding certain helpful points can aid you greatly.
BODILY CHANGES AND THE REASON FOR THEM
One is the way your body changes and the reason for this. During your adolescent years, you not only grow taller, adding perhaps five or six inches to your height, but also become heavier, gaining about thirty-five pounds. 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. Now, you may see other girls your same age suddenly outpacing you, or you may find yourself swiftly outpacing 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 wind up taller—and stronger.
Sometimes this growth spurt is initially more prominent 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 developing last. Facial contours change, generally becoming more angular, the chin more pointed and the nose longer. At the same time other parts of the body begin to develop fatty deposits that give the characteristic rounded form of the feminine figure.
PREPARATION FOR A MAJOR ROLE IN LIFE
But another development takes place during feminine adolescence. It is the start of what Jacob’s wife Rachel called “the customary thing with women,” menstruation. (Gen. 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 the 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 the womb or uterus, which has been stimulated to develop a special lining for receiving the egg if it should become fertilized. When the egg remains infertile, this lining in time is discarded. This is what produces menstruation, the periodic discharge of blood, fluid and some tissue debris. So, while some accompanying pain or discomfort may be experienced, it is a normal process and should cause no undue concern.
When does this process begin? Its start varies from person to person. While in many lands the average is around thirteen, one girl may begin as early as ten years of age (some 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.
Along with this there is a broadening of the hips, and the 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 facilitate the carrying of small children. During pregnancy the 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.
ADDED RESPONSIBILITY RESULTS
The privileges granted to women by mankind’s Creator, Jehovah God, carry with them 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 assure God’s blessing and favor and contribute to your lasting future happiness?
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 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 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 Sol. 8:8, 9) What does this mean?
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 do that? 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 in swinging back and forth in her affections, becoming infatuated first with this person and then with that one.
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 Sol. 8:10.
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. (Ps. 119:165) Should you deliberately draw attention 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?
Well, will you have the firmness and strength to resist any 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 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 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, cook and clothes washer, while being a mother requires great patience and endurance in tireless attention toward children—all this in good times and bad, in sickness and in health.
Besides this, even though a young woman might feel she is prepared for marriage and the work and problems that go with it, 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? (Compare 2 Samuel 13:1-9.) Rather than try to attract on that basis, would you not do 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 disposition and 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, unselfishness.
You can prove you are genuine in this by refusing to barter 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 inasmuch as it brings you real happiness.—Eccl. 12:1; 1 Tim. 2:9, 10.
STRIVING FOR EMOTIONAL BALANCE
The physical changes of adolescence have emotional repercussions. 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 and often unexplainedly. 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 modern industrial societies, with their shifting sets of values, are adolescent girls subject to tension and uncertainty.
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 serious personal effort to cultivate the fruits of God’s spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
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.
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 period of change. While you are subject to much “peer pressure”—pressure from others 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 about you will only aggravate 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 another adolescent could ever give.—Prov. 6:20-23; 19:20, 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 men.—1 Pet. 3:3, 4.
Do not be anxious or dissatisfied, then, 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.
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. (Compare Proverbs 6:24, 25; Ezekiel 16:15.) And how true that, “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.” (Prov. 11:22) Yes, “charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.”—Prov. 31:30.
May you, then, turn out to be beautiful in the enduring qualities that really count. For these lead, not only to true enjoyment of life now, but to life everlasting in a new order of unending beauty and perfection.