Looking around the internet, there are plenty of articles that cover the strange and arduous rites of passage that young males from around the world undergo. But guess what? Girls have had to put up with ordeals like that too since time immemorial. And just like the boys, they’ve always risen to the challenge. After all, womanhood is no picnic (just ask your mother about what fun it was giving birth to you), and consequently many societies required their girls to prove that they had some gumption before being considered an adult. We’re not talking about the despicable type of crap that gets the U.N. involved here. We’re talking about badass feats of endurance and tests of inner strength that rival anything that boys have ever had to endure. Things like…
Getting Tossed Overboard in the Middle of the Ocean
The Nootka, or Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, much like the Ancient Spartans, held a low opinion of wimps. Not only the boys but also young women were expected to be strong and brave. And they had to prove it. Before gaining acceptance as a capable member of the community, Nootka girls first had to demonstrate that they were ready for the responsibilities of tribal life by getting treated the way mobsters deal with stool pigeons (minus the cement). To honor a girl’s first “menarche” she was ceremonially taken out to sea in a boat until land could no longer be seen, then unceremoniously dumped over the side, naked.
After being tossed into the drink like an undersized mackerel, she would then be expected to swim her way back home (or maybe ride there on the back of a killer whale, if she was especially ambitious). Only when, or rather, if, she was able to make it to shore would she be considered a woman in the eyes of her people and ready to take on the task of motherhood. This may seem a little harsh, but a strong resolve was necessary for carrying out their harsh methods of parenting. Nootka children were never slapped or spanked, but instead subjected only to that most brutal of parental devices, shame.
Being Lectured to While Buried in a Sand Pit
There’s nothing teenagers hate more than being lectured to by an adult. Recognizing this, the elders of the Luiseño Indian tribe of Southern California devised a way to make sure that they got their girls’ full attention first. At the onset of puberty, Luiseño parents would first mortify their daughters by announcing that fact to the entire community. But this was just the beginning of the embarrassing public spectacle, as it also meant it was time to break out the shovels, and bury the girls in a pit.
Once interred, the girls were to remain still for days on top of fire-heated rocks and were “not permitted to scratch themselves or eat salt,” which has to be the last thing you’d want after four days buried atop hot rocks. Eye-rolling was probably also discouraged while one by one the older women of the tribe would line up to hold forth on matters of future expectations and responsibility. Accounts vary as to the specifics of each part if the ceremony, but perhaps most grueling must have been when the old women got around to the topic of the “bodily changes” that would soon occur, a harrowing scenario that’s likely familiar to any young girl who has ever had an aunt say the words “breast buds” at a family dinner.
Having Your Teeth Chiseled Into Fangs
Many adolescent girls go through a phase where they become preoccupied with how they look, and some of them will go to great and sometimes hazardous lengths to attain what are sometimes unreasonable societal standards of beauty. Starving yourself to be thin is one thing and we don’t wish to make light of the harmful effects of eating disorders, but at least with those someone isn’t filing down your teeth with a rock to give you a mouthful of shark choppers.
To the Mentawai people of Sumatra nothing is quite so fetching on an eligible bachelorette than a smile that looks more at home on a barracuda, which probably also speaks volumes about how little importance they place on foreplay. When queried as to exactly how and why the practice of chiseling girls’ teeth into points without the use of any anesthetic came about, the answers usually go no farther than “because my ancestors did this.” So could past generations of Mentawai possibly have been paying homage to the toothy predators around them such as the Sumatran tiger? Either that or they were just really serious about their corn-on-the-cob eating contests.
Getting Tied Up and Smeared With Filth
Every little girl dreams of having the perfect wedding, a special day where she can be the center of attention and be treated like a princess for a little while. But what about the other people who aren’t so thrilled about it? What about the spurned suitors, the jealous spinsters and the relatives that had to cancel their vacations to free up that particular Saturday? Well, there just so happens to be a Scottish tradition that gives an outlet for all that pent-up resentment.
The “blackening of the bride” is a custom that takes place before the wedding, and like the best kind of bachelor parties, involves a lot of soiled clothing. The brides-to-be are abducted by friends and family, cornered, then pelted and splashed with whatever disgusting substances that happen to be on hand. These substances can include things like rotten food, paint, mud, feathers, ashes and the rest of the ingredients that go into making haggis. There’s no way this wasn’t invented by that one a*****e groomsman at every wedding who thinks he’s hilarious when he’s drunk.
Once suitably “blackened” the brides may be tied to a tree or secured to something like a chair to be paraded around town by the mob as the humiliated centerpiece of a loud, unruly pub crawl.
So is there a point to treating the future missus like she just missed a question in a Japanese game show? Reportedly it harkens back to the pre-Christian, primitive tribal days of Scotland, and the thinking goes that the “hazing and humiliation knocks the rosy notions of marriage out of a couple’s mind and better prepares them for facing the harsh realities of married life.” Nowadays the filthy ritual can include the groom as well, which can actually work in his favor by covering up all the vomit and stripper glitter from the night before.
Being Locked in a Room and Fattened Like a Hog
A teenage girl’s body image issues can be a cause for concern for parents who worry about their daughter’s self esteem. For parents in the Okrika tribe of Africa, not so much. When their daughters reach the ages of 14-16, it’s time to send them to “the fattening room,” where their bodies will be painted with intricate designs and blacksmiths will pound metal rings onto their legs to impede movement. Then, over the next 3 weeks while the matrons of the village preach the importance of remaining a virgin before marriage and go over the responsibilities of becoming a woman, the girls are stuffed to the gills in calorie-rich, thigh-enhancing foodstuffs in order to “make the body come out.”
It turns out the Okrika were actually on to something with this. Studies have shown that that higher body fat is linked to earlier onset of puberty. But on the last day of the ritual it’s time to work off that extra chub, as that’s when the girls are taken away from the village and down to a riverbank to be chased around by an old man with a stick. The man, an elder of the village, drives the girls back to the village, symbolically “ensuring both their safety and future fertility.” It’s hard to imagine a western teenager putting up with this kind of scenario, but it seems like a solid system overall. That is, if you’re the type of father who would prefer to spend a little extra money on plus-sized clothing and therapy rather than become a grampa while still in your 40s.
What E. Reid Ross doesn’t know could fill a book, but he is eager to learn how to sell that book for video game money. Feel free to friend him on Facebook and check out his supple body of work over on Cracked.com. He and a few pals also blaspheme old comics at RealToyGun.com.
For a less stoic ordeal, read about the miserable bastards who suffer The Most Common Embarrassing Medical Emergencies. Assuming your genitals survive that, find yourself a tough gal and Get Married Like A Man!