When I first received this assignment to write on the topic of "What's so funny about Menopause," I initially panicked. I thought, "How am I going to convince women that there really is humor in this phase of life?" Then I remembered all the stories that women have told me, plus my own experiences, and decided to put pen to paper and see what happened.
My Mother, My Self
I'm not my mother.
I'm not my mother.
I'm not my mother!
Oh my God, I'm becoming my mother!
Do you remember how you felt when you first noticed the changes in your mother's body and behavior? I recall being worried.
"What's happening to her?"I wondered. She's a bit out of control with her eating. She's getting bigger around the waist and her stomach is sticking out in a very unattractive way. She buys pants with elastic waist bands and her underwear is from Fruit of the Loom. Hmm… whatever happened to the sexy little numbers she used to order from Spiegel catalog? And, I noticed, she can't remember anything. I tell her important things that are happening in my life, and the next day she doesn't remember a thing I said. I hate to sound critical, but mom is losing it!
Menopause, an Equal Opportunity Event
Many years later, much to my surprise, I realized menopause had worked its magic on my body and behavior, too. It was a beautiful spring day in sunny southern California. I awoke to the sound of birds singing outside my window. Note I said "I awoke" which meant I had been sleeping soundly. Little did I know then that "sleeping soundly" was soon to change.
The day started off perfectly. I didn't feel fat, I didn't feel bloated. It was a good hair day. My makeup looked great and my clothes fit perfectly. Off to work I went. "This is going to be a great day!" And it was a great day until I backed my car out of my garage, carefully checking in my side view mirror for anything I could possibly run over, like the neighbor's children. And there in my side view mirror, I spotted the longest black hair I have ever seen sprouting from the side of my face. I was horrified. "Where did this come from?" I asked myself. And how long has it been there? It wasn't there a few minutes ago when I was putting on my makeup. But it has to have been there a long time because it's curling. And why didn't my best friend tell me about it? And then I realized, she didn't tell me because she's my age and she can't see it! Great, now I need to get younger friends! From that day forward, two things I never leave home without… a magnifying mirror and a pair of tweezers.
Puberty to Menopause, One Product a Woman Will Never Live Without
The consumer products industry loves menopause. There are over 500 million women throughout the world that this industry can focus on and most of us will do anything not to look our age. As a result, we now have billions of products to choose from, all of which promise to help us look younger and feel better about this very normal stage of life. There is one product, however, that has cornered the market, which we now can't seem to live without, and we bought our first one while going through puberty. The product is "the bra."
Do you remember begging your mother for a "training bra?" Convincing her that all your friends had one and if you didn't get one, you would just die? I used that line, too. What were we thinking? What did we need to train our breasts to do? They were at the highest point on our chest than they'll ever be again. But, we were convinced we needed a training bra. Then when we finally left home and were in the work force, Playtex came out with the "18 Hour Bra." Really? An 18 Hour Bra? Who in their right mind wants to have a bra on that long? But we bought them. And finally Playtex has continued the trend and followed us to menopause. We can now purchase an 18 hour "side" bra. This miracle invention has reinforced side panels to help keep any extra body fat from spilling over the sides. The insinuation is once in menopause we will lose control of our breasts! So we have all these choices about how to clothe our breasts and keep them under control, but have you ever heard of a "10 Hour Jock Strap?" I didn’t think so.
A Case of Bad Timing
This article would not be complete without bringing up sex. In this new season of your life—one that brings so many physical changes and challenges—the timing seems to be a bit off. Think about it. For the first time in your adult life, you are liberated from the worries and bother of pregnancy and menstrual periods, leaving you free to enjoy great sex! But thanks to menopause, the sex steroids that allowed your brain to actually think about having great sex, and your body (especially your vagina) to respond to great sex, are in very short supply.
Decreasing hormones during menopause affects every part of a woman's body, particularly the vagina. Without a steady supply of estrogen to the vagina, the vagina starts to shrink in size. Great! Your vagina is shrinking in size and your male partner is having a sexual thought every seven to nine seconds. This seems pretty unfair to me.
What this really means for you is that without estrogen, the vagina becomes shorter in length, narrower in diameter, and the tissue becomes thin and easily irritated. So what does your male partner make of this shorter, narrower, thinner space? He thinks that all of the sudden he's gotten bigger! So there you have it, once again it’s all about him.
Coming Full Circle
The menopause transition is an equal opportunity event. The challenges it brings no doubt can affect the mind, body and spirit. Menopause is not for sissies, it can be a real kick in pants. The best advice I can offer women on how to get through it with grace is to keep a sense of humor. Laugh loudly and often. Find the silliness and the absurdity in it all. Before you know it, like puberty, it will be over. And then the most important question of the day will be, "What do I want to do with the rest of my life?"