Illustration by Tavi

This month, Mrs. Kaplan taught us all about investigative reporting, and asked us to do a report of our own, locating sources, taking interviews, and trying to answer questions. I was going to do my investigative report on Yetis, but my father said that I could not travel to the “goddamn tundra” to get the scoop, so I chose puberty instead, mostly because I wanted to know about periods in case I get mine soon. And because when I said “puberty” at the dinner table, my father freaked out a little and coughed on his wax beans, which serves him right for not allowing me to follow my dreams.

For this assignment, I talked to five sources:

Janice, a fifth grader who knows everything about sex from her older sister, Missy
My mom, who did not like this assignment at all
Tony Flavio, the 11th grade boy who mows our lawn
Missy, Janice’s sister, part-time babysitter, full-time 10th grader
@heycoolteenz, a professional Twitter account run by the teen-outreach marketing division of Z&P Personal Grooming Products, Inc.

1. How would you define puberty?

Janice: It’s your period and stuff. Like, your pits start to stink and you grow hair and you need a bra and you sometimes get zits and you have to, like, shove a tampon up your lulu when you swim in the ocean so that the sharks can’t find you.
Mom: You know how a caterpillar spins a cocoon and then emerges as a butterfly? Puberty is the cocoon. OK? All set?
Missy: I would define it as “the worst.” And tell Janice to stay out of my room. I know she’s been going through my stuff. She leaves a trail of glitter wherever she goes.

2. What is discharge?

Janice: All I know is that my sister’s friend’s cousin totally did it with Tony Flavio, and she got, like, discharge fever. For serious.
Mom: Um, do you know when it rains, but uh, before the rain, there’s a bit of mist in the air? That’s it. That’s what it is.
Tony Flavio: It’s when you get out of the military.

3. What is a tampon?

Tony Flavio: When a girl’s wearing a tampon it means that Red Storm is playin’ at the theater and the parking lot’s full, know what I’m saying?
Janice: They’re little cotton bullets that you stick up your hoo-ha so that you don’t bleed all over the place. Missy calls ’em ding-a-lings-with-a-string, which makes my mom so mad!
@heycoolteenz: Yo! Got the flow? TeenzTampz can stop that flood o’ blood, and so can our RadPadz! #swag #dopeprotection

4. Where should I expect hair to grow? And what should I do with it?

Janice: They’re called pubes, OK? Because they grow in your pubular area. You gotta get your facts straight.
@heycoolteenz: Hair, hair, everywhere! Under your arms and way down there! On your lip and on your nips! Take it off with Smootharama Wax Strips! #waxinandchillaxin #dopehairremoval
Mom: Beautiful gardens grow in unexpected places and are tended to in a variety of ways. OK? We’re having chicken for dinner. You love chicken!

5. What should I do about body odor?

Missy: I dunno. Just take showers, clean all your parts, and wear deodorant, and you should be all right. And you can shave under your arms if you want, but you don’t have to. Is it true that you’ve been talking to Tony Flavio? Did he say anything about me?
Tony Flavio: A man who wears cologne shall never be alone. I read that on a bathroom wall once. That’s solid advice, right?
@heycoolteenz: Thinking about entering the Hunger Games? Be sure to stop sweat with TeenDreamz deodorant—even if you kill people, you can still smell fresh! #forrealz

6. When should a person buy a bra?

Mom: You know how we can always tell that spring is on the way when the crocuses start peeking out from the ground? That’s when you need a bra. When your crocuses start peeking out.
Missy: During the semi-annual sale. There’s some good deals there. But there’s also always some girl hovering over the 36B section like she owns it. I’m always all, “Uh, hello? You’re not the only one with 36B breasts on this friggin’ earth, so let me dig through the bin without your Auntie Anne’s pretzel breath all up in my face, gawd.”
Tony Flavio: Valentine’s Day? That’s when my brother buys them.

7. Will my skin change at all?

@heycoolteenz: Zits are the pitz! Stop that acne before it stops you, hot crew! Use our Zappity-Zoo system and blast that blemish for maximum hotness appeal! PLEASE RT #zitsaredumb
Missy: You might get zits, you might not. I sweat a lot more than I used to, but I stopped using Strawberry Blazter [Z+P], which made me break out and smell like a sweaty popsicle, and that seems to work. Did you ask Tony Flavio if he gets zits? Or if he has a date for homecoming?
Tony Flavio: My arms get tan from the sleeve down during baseball season. Missy asked about me? What’d she say?

8. What is a vulva?

Mom: OK, um, well you know how we have a front yard, yeah? And then we have a front door that goes inside the house? And uh, the front yard is still technically part of the house, and has all kinds of neat parts. Sometimes there is grass on the yard…um, John?! I need a glass of pinot! Now, please!
Missy: All I know is that you better not go on the internet and say “vagina” when you mean “vulva” because people will flip the eff out on you, OK? Just trust me on this.
Tony Flavio: My uncle drives one, it’s all right, you know. A decent ride. Sound system’s a piece of shit, though.

9. What is a nocturnal emission?

Janice: It’s when a boy has sex with a ghost. And he doesn’t even know it, because he’s asleep. And then he wakes up and his sheets are all sticky—’cause of the ectoplasm, obviously.
Tony Flavio: That’s when you gotta bring your car in and make sure it’s registered and shit.
Mom: It’s a very natural thing that happens to boys, that’s all. Remember that time in second grade when you dreamt you were in the bathroom at McDonald’s and you wet the bed? It’s like that, but not pee, and probably not involving the bathroom at McDonald’s, though, I mean, who knows with teenage boys. John?! This glass isn’t going to refill itself. [Reporter’s note: Dear Mrs. Kaplan, PLEASE do not share this with the class. Thank you forever.]

10. What are menstrual cramps?

Janice: You know when Bella was having Renesmee, and she was all, “Ahh! My stomach is being torn out from the insides!” I guess it’s like that, only you just take some aspirins and use a heating pad.
Missy: It’s like being kicked with steel-toed boots from the inside. But it gets you out of class 85% of the time, so it balances out.
@heycoolteenz: Got crampz? Knock ’em out with CrampStamp. Our special Eaze-Itt blend is guaranteed to do the deed! #pleaseignoretheratpoisonrumors

11. What is PMS?

Missy: Ugh. It’s like when the Willy Wonka girl eats the gum even though Willy Wonka is all, “Bitch, don’t eat that gum,” and then she fills up with blueberry juice and has to be rolled away by Oompa Loompas? Except instead of blueberry juice, it’s just water, and you don’t get rolled away by Oompa Loompas, you just roll around trying to get into your jeans.
Janice: It stands for “Period Might Start.” Or maybe it stands for “Pissy Mood Sequence.” I can never remember. But I know it’s happening to either my mom or Missy when they start crying at commercials and watching The Notebook.
Tony Flavio: That’s Plymouth Middle School, Home of the Panthers!! What up, class of 2009?!

12. Is there anything else I should know about puberty?

Janice: It pretty much makes you a sex maniac. My sister totally got busted making out with Tony Flavio at the movies by our Aunt Kathleen. Like, tongues and stuff. She’s probably gonna get discharge fever.
Mom: Yes. I just ordered the entire Judy Blume collection for you on Amazon.
@heycoolteenz: #trendingtopic #whydogirlsalways #coolteenz #periods #acne #keepitfreshyall #swag #onedirection
Missy: You’ll survive. Shout-out to Tony! I love you, baby!
Tony Flavio: Be on the lookout for nosy family members when you’re out on a date. Oh, and seriously, if you want to feel those 808s, don’t drive a Vulva.

Conclusion: It appears I am in for a lot of sweating, bleeding, potential shark attacks, cologne, and 808s (?). And I’ve possibly been exposed to discharge fever. Not quite the tundra, but an adventure nonetheless.

P.S. Mrs. Kaplan, Tony Flavio wanted me to tell you that he hoped you were still “fine as hell.” He also said that if I included this compliment in my report, I might qualify for extra credit. Just throwing it out there. ♦