Puberty and Adolescence

Before recent cultural changes, the onset of puberty brought about a new world of restrictions for both sexes. Young men, upon reaching puberty, began participating in the yoogum, "stratified and ranked eating classes." Consequently, a young man could and did begin formally participating in village ceremonies and became more active in subsistence activities. Nevertheless, Yapese boys well into their teens and twenties still led lives dominated mostly by play. Every Yapese village had at least one men's house, and it was here that a young man often slept and interacted with his peers and adults. The men's house fulfilled an important socialization role for young men in learning the intricacies of Yapese customs.

On the other hand, when a Yapese girl became "rugood' at the onset of her first menstruation, her life drastically changed. Girls who were "rugood" were considered extremely ta'ay, "polluting," necessitating their adherence to many restrictions. Each Yapese village had at least one dapal, "menstrual house," where menstruating women had to remain for at least a week each month. Following a girl's first menstruation, she went to the menstrual house for an extended period of time ranging from 6 to 18 months. After this, she was required to spend an additional 6-12 months in the tarugood, "place for menstruating women," (somewhat of a place for purification), a specific parcel of land distinct from the menstrual house. Upon departing the tarugood for the first time, a Yapese woman would wear a black cord of hibiscus fiber, marfaa', around her neck to symbolize the attainment of womanhood. Throughout the rest of her life, a woman would never be seen without her marfaa'. Although the menstrual house did not function in the same socializing ways as the men's house, young women did learn about cooking, weaving, folklore, and childbirth while remaining there. Upon her first return to her natal estate, the young girl would find that her father had constructed a separate sleeping house for her. Her polluting status was so great that she could no longer sleep in the same house or eat with the rest of her family. Many older Yapese women refer to the onset of puberty as a sad time in their life, since they could no longer interact in ways they had been used to with members of their immediate family.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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