Note: I was busy drafting this post thinking I could talk about my experiences of menopause since I haven’t had a period since the fall. Finally! I’m no longer the woman menopause forgot! (And yes, I know it’s not officially menopause until it’s been a year. Yep.) However, between first draft and hitting “publish” I started to bleed. Of course.
Surely I can talk about peri-menopause though. And I have this to say, yawn! So far it’s pretty boring. Nothing to report here.
(Okay. There is one thing to report. I had kind of imagined the way menopause worked is that one’s periods gradually end. From 6 days a month to 4 to 2, then every second month. You know, an orderly gradually cessation of all things bloody and crampy. That’s the way it ought to be. If I ran the zoo, as Dr Seuss might say. Instead my periods went from the usual boring kind of thing to wild, extra bloody, extra crampy, and completely unpredictable. It was hard to teach and exercise was challenging and so at my doctor’s advice I got an IUD. Problem solved. Back to extra boring. And I haven’t looked back.)
Boring is not unusual for me. I remember during each pregnancy doctors rhyming off the bad symptoms associated with pregnancy: Swollen ankles? Nope. Heartburn? Nope. Backache? Nope? Basically pregnancy agreed with me and other the warm, happy, fuzzy glow there wasn’t much different about being pregnant. Other than a brief stint of morning sickness of the super convenient variety (I couldn’t cook food or do dishes. I had enough non-pukey time just to sit down and eat quickly.) I walked, biked, and exercised through pregnancy with not much to report other than obvious increase in size. Childbirth was likewise not very dramatic.
So there’s this silence around pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause–these things that some female bodies do. And sure some of it is because its “not supposed to be talked about” but some of it is also because for some of us, it’s dull. How much is there to say really?
In all of these things, it seems obvious, YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY.
So when friends started sharing this piece last week–The Truth is Out There about Menopause— I was surprised. THE truth? Just one?
I didn’t comment. I just ignored it hoping it would go away.
I’m pretty good at avoiding ‘someone is wrong on the internet’ syndrome. I pick my battles.
The part of the piece I liked was about shame.
Jennifer Nadel writes, “There’s also this weird shame. There’s almost a conspiracy of silence around it because obviously being menopausal isn’t quite the same as being hot and young and nubile and sexy. To say out loud “I’m menopausal” feels like saying “I have lost my femaleness,” which obviously isn’t true, but as a result so few of us are really openly talking about it. We’re both in the same book group, and the moment we discovered that everyone else in the group was also going through it, it was just heaven. Whenever women of a certain age gather together, it’s not men or careers they want to talk about, it’s menopause.”
But I was less thrilled with the general tone of the piece which was about all the bad things associated with menopause. Again, the uniformity bugged me. Again, the misery.
Rebecca got it just right I think when she commented,
A post about menopause on a friend’s page this morning got me thinking. All my life I feel like people – very much centrally including other women – have been basically threatening me that my body is going to betray me because of its femaleness. I’ve been told how I will see, just wait for it, my body will get gross and unsexy and low-libido and shapeless and leaky and weak and painful and moody once I am pregnant, no, once I have a kid … no, once I hit 35, no 40, no really it’s once I hit perimenopause, no it’s menopause that will do me in.
I have just realized that I am angry about this. It’s like a constant onslaught of microaggressions designed to undermine my self-trust and my sense of at-homeness in my body. I think it is distinctively gendered … women are supposed to hate and fear our bodies and not trust them, so if we trust and like then well enough now, someone is always ready to tell us how temporary that is.
Now of course plenty of bodies leak and have pain and change shapes at these times and any other time, but there is nothing magical or universal about these changes. Personally, I am basically the same shape and size I was at 19, and my menstrual cycles are the same, and my functionality is the same or better; none of these scary threats has manifested so far. Lucky me, and obviously there is lots of variation, and eventually I will die like everyone else. But I am pissed at being told repeatedly to fear my body and its future, and I am pissed at being asked to orient myself towards inevitable decline, inevitable failure to count as a possible object of sexual desire, etc.
Every body is different. Childbirth and menopause and so on are not magical and they do not come along with any kind of universal shared experience. Let women enjoy their bodies, wherever they are at, in all their strengths and all their frailties and frustrations. Don’t create counterfactual or impending body shame and fear when you can’t manage to generate the actual kind. We are all gonna die eventually. In the meantime, YMMV and YOLO and all that.
Yes, yes, yes.
Also there is this in the news this week: How menopause affects athletic women.
(tl/dr version: The symptoms of menopause are less severe but your race times may be affected.)
Also, menopause seems to be something that only happens to white women with grey hair and scrunched up angry faces according to Google image search. Though I do like the “gun show” photo.
What do you think? Do you think we don’t talk enough about menopause? Do you find such conversations falsely universalizing?