A menopausal inquiry: the start of a series

I wrote a post in 2018 about being 53 and still menstruating, and every month when Sam looks at the top ten most read posts on the blog, it shows up. (Well, along with one on upskirt shots that clearly isn’t being search from a feminist lens. But that’s another story).

For a while now, I’ve basked in the pride of being a Menstruator Emeritus, having periods well into my mid-50s. But my reign with this particular sash is coming to an end: I’m turning 56 in three weeks, and I haven’t had a period since September. That doesn’t mean I won’t have another one, but it’s definitely a signal that things have changed.

Photo of fan by Ronan Furuta on Unsplash

What I have had is constant hot flashes, disrupted sleep, and a special kind of aphasia where I can’t remember names. (I had to google the name of our previous provincial premier the other day, the first out queer premier in Canada, a woman whose farewell convention I went to last March, a woman I almost named my cat after). I wake up with sweat dripping down my back. I invested in two expensive Dyson fans, one in my bedroom and one next to my desk. I’m the woman in bare feet and tank tops deep into a Canadian winter. I am still having steady, weird cramps related to changing hormones.

So, true to form, I’m going to do a little inquiry into menopause and what it means at this moment in history. This is the start of a series over the next few weeks, structured around the ideas in this book: The Slow Moon Climbs. In it, Susan Mattern argues that menopause has historically been seen as a powerful, transitional time to a new phase of life. When we medicalize it, we pathologize it. There’s a good discussion of the book on this CBC Ideas podcast.

I’m going to read the book (the publisher gave me a review copy), and write about it one chapter at a time. (It’s a LONG book, and the first chapter seems to be all about Genghis Khan). I’m going to explore other books about power in post-menopausal life, like Women Rowing North and The Last Gift of Time.

A lot of the writing about post-menopausal life presumes a traditional earlier life of marriage, cis-femaleness wifehood, motherhood, and looks at one’s 50s and 60s as a reprieve from those roles. That’s not my experience and nt my life story. But I do think this is about a new space in life. I want to look closely at what does it mean to shape middle and older age with meaning, with intention, with continued fitness and strength. Like these folks at the Feisty Menopause podcast, whose motto is “it’s time to hit play, not pause.”

Most of all, I will explore what it means to me. I made a comment to a friend that if I’d known September might be my last period, I might have done something ritualistic. I joked about “burying the last tampon,” and I didn’t exactly mean it, but I felt a kind of loss that I hadn’t marked this moment.

So I’m investigating.

What do you want to know about menopause? What are you experiencing? What are you afraid of? What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to exploring with you!

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is spending a lot of time in barefoot inversions in Toronto right now. This series will be tagged #makingmeaningofmenopause

6 thoughts on “A menopausal inquiry: the start of a series

  1. I’m 49. I thought I was in menopause a number of years ago. My mom had early menopause. I had 3 years with no period between 40 and 43
    Turns out it was adrenal fatigue. I should have known better…my sister had her second baby at 41…but I was busy starving, exercising and drinking compulsively.
    So. Questions…Do you find a cycle to your symptoms? Are the night sweats constant, or monthly?
    Have you tried any natural remedies?
    Does your doctor ask about any of this?
    There’s a start! Lol.
    Thank you for sharing. It is nice to have an open dialogue.

  2. I’m excited you’re working on this, Cate. Reflecting on your queries, I was surprised to realize I’m afraid of menopause. Partly this might be because my mom pathologized it heavily when I was a kid and seemed to be in it my entire childhood; at minimum this suggests a family history of not having a great time of it. But I’m also realizing (and we’ve talked about this so I won’t bore the community with TMI – peeps rest assured I am working hard on this with lots of support 🙂 that MP is a looming reminder for me that I have never felt like a “real” woman because I have not had a typical, heteropatriarchal experience of womanhood either and for (cis- and straight) me that registers as failure. So menopause feels like finally failing the test, or running out of time to finish the race. (Yes, intentional metaphors!) As part of the work I’m doing to change this toxic narrative I want to look forward to a very different menopause than the one that haunts me. I’ll be very keen to read along with you!

  3. I’m 45 and have been experiencing perimenopause for over a year. I’ve been able to manage my “symptoms “. I love the idea of ridding myself of my fertility forever because it’s something I’ve never needed and never valued.
    I look forward to hearing your story.

  4. Weirdly enough I worried that my hair would stop being curly. (Because it became curly around age 11, so …) that would have messed with my sense of identity much more than the loss of fertility did. Fortunately it is as curly as ever and people seem to dig the gray.

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