Coming Out and Physical Maturation
Posted by Lynne on October 09, 1997 at 22:41:40:
I wonder how much the custom of "coming out" correlated to a young girl's first menstrual period? I think it may have, due to the fact that girls of the Regency Era probably did not begin having their periods until about age 15-16. I just finished reading a book about this subject, and the author mentioned that before the development of good medical care and good diet, the average age for a young woman to begin menstruating was about age 15...even older was not uncommon (the average age for girls today is 12, at least for girls in developed nations). This author even related the story of one young woman who married before she began to menstruate (she was 16). But my point, I guess, is that maybe starting one's period was one of the criteria for being "out" and allowed to partake in courtship rituals....and maybe that is why, as someone mentioned in an earlier thread, that there was some confusion even among the characters about when a girl was "out", as if being "out" was a type of private code for: "she's physically a woman now." I am not saying that was the only way a girl "came out", but perhaps this physical change in some way was kind of a rule of thumb for deciding if it was time for her social entrance into adulthood.
It just seemed a strange coincidence to me that about the age of a young lady's "come out", was about the time most girls of that era started to menstruate. In today's culture, girls of 15 and 16 have been doing some of the adult rituals---dances, etc---since about age 12-13 (in our area, they begin having dances in the 6th grade)----and again, that correlates to about the age our girls begin to menstruate. Girls of about 12-13 also start the stuff with the makeup, boys, etc. But a 12 year old in the 1800s was still very much a little girl.... But is all this really do to physical development or cultural expectations? I guess that's hard to know....kids now are bombarded with the adult world at very young ages, I have even seen very little girls wearing makeup. Any else with some thoughts?
Just had another thought: someone could write a Fanfic about one of the JA characters who, like the girl I mentioned above, gets married before she is physically capable....I guess that would be kind of weird, but might be an interesting story if written with delicacy. Though other than Lydia, most of the characters are much older when they marry...
Oh, and for anyone interested, the book I was reading that I mentioned in those post is entitled: The Body Project: an intimate history of American girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Random House, 1997, ISBN 0-679-40297-7.
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