That said, there's another aspect to all this: puberty is downright scary. Never mind "weight gain", or "curves": when I was growing up in the early 70's, most women of note were tall, thin, and had perfectly straight blonde or dark hair, unlike today, when you actually can have a few quirks. Since I'd always been round, it wasn't that -- a few pounds one way or the other didn't affect me. Nor was it losing tomboy initiative, fairy princess self-esteem or being told to think about boys, not math and painting. No. It's something like this.

By the age of ten or eleven, your body seems set. You're still growing, an inch or two every few months, but there's no surprises: you have three well-defined major orifices, a flat chest that you're supposed to hide, but no one seems to react if your undershirt comes off, say, while fleeing a strange dog, four serviceable, vaguely cylindrical limbs of medium strength, and a face that, barring small scrapes or insect bites, is a smooth, uniform bisque, easily cleaned with castile soap and water. You enjoy reasonable good health, and body maintenance is a simple, effortless routine.

And then, it happens. Your nipples, which up until then had seemed purely decorative, begin to feel. Then hurt. Your favorite cotton dress chafes at the end of the day, and if you try to rub on them, you get a weird feeling in a part of your tummy you didn't even think you had. And it gets worse.

All of a sudden, males turn from being disinterested at worst and companions at best to being actively hostile. They point at you and start to make coarse jokes and use bad words. Ordinary conversation with them becomes next to impossible.

"So my mom bought me this peacock feather..."
"Hehehehehe, she said 'cock'."
"She said 'pee'."
"She said pee cock. Geddit? Pee? Cock?"

"Jay likes you."
"So why isn't he telling me this?"
"He's shy. Go and talk to him."
"OK, Jay, what's up."
"Get away from me."
...followed by a fight. They're suddenly all bigger and stronger than you, and something funny keeps happening down in their groinal area. So you stop talking to them.

Hair begins to sprout from embarrassing places, and your mother begins to tell you to use deodorant. And for good reason -- you stink. Not like normal sweat, which is mostly just water, this is oily, rank sweat that makes your hair gooey and glazes your face with grease. Then the bleeding starts, and the cramps and the fainting, and no amount of Hygiene classes can prepare you for it -- at first, I thought I had caught some bizarre disease. Hair also grows on your legs and arms, and it seems like every other comment by older relatives sounds like "You're such a pretty girl...why don't you..." followed with some comment designed to make you feel as if you've suddenly become a hairy bloated bag of oozing pus. This is followed by finding out that you are oozing pus, all over your face. Crying doesn't help much: your mother and her friends (and the school social worker) simply tut-tut about hormones, and reiterate the speech about how a pretty girl like you shouldn't...

And other girls aren't much help. If you're developing more than everyone else you feel like a cow. If you're not developing fast enough, you feel inadequate. Just a year or so ago, you could hug your friends, and walk hand in hand, or even arm in arm -- no one cared. If you touched another girl, on the arm or shoulder, or brushed against her, it didn't mean anything more than a mild social faux pas. Now, it seems like everyone tells you that you're like Elizabeth Bean (whoever she is), who is the embodiment of all things disgusting, or a slut, who is somehow even worse, if you try hanging out with the boys. Every small detail of your attire, grooming, speech and behavior gets nitpicked into oblivion, and everyone seems revolted/fascinated by the smallest bit of dirt, whether it's on your body, or not.

At night, strange fantasies stir, and bizarre images float through one's brain -- and the contralto voice of love and death begins to sing...

Little wonder we were depressed. My classmates read books about saintly people who conquered handicaps and died young, and drew pictures of couples in identical T-shirts and jeans seen from behind. (There was a considerable contingent obsessed with the book/film The Exorcist as well.) My cure was becoming an "aesthete" proto-Goth, reading H.P. Lovecraft, Symbolist poetry, and the lives of artists and poets who died young. No monster I met was quite as horrific as what I had become.