Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Facts of Life

My gynecologist mentioned the word perimenopausal to me, and surprisingly, it didn't send me convulsing into hysterical fits of vanity. I chuckled, feigning to be a bit taken aback when in fact I was feeling more like: Wow, did I just win the World Cup or what!?

Germaine Greer once said "If you think you are emancipated, you might consider the idea of tasting your own menstrual blood - if it makes you sick, you've got a long way to go, baby."

I believe myself to be an emancipated feminist all the way. I vote, I support feminist causes, and I happen to be raising two strong women who will continue the struggle. I’m outspoken, opinionated, and not easily intimidated by men, calling out sexist behavior any chance I get. Here’s a random feminist fact: I don't like when men hold doors for me, it’s creepy, and I can hold my own door. Additionally, I’m not very domesticated; despite the fact that I am a stay at home parent, I expect my husband to share all household duties with me.

It's not that I am sickened by my own menstrual blood, if I had to, I would, I might. I just don't know why we had to go there that's all. Whether this negates my feminist values, I beg to differ.

I’m looking forward to menopause for many reasons, and no longer menstruating is definitely in the top 10. After the birth of my first child, my period didn't return for a year, Thank you lactational amenorrhea. After the birth of my second child, I got a menstruation free vacation for over two years. It was glorious bliss. I never had to worry about leaks, spills and cleanup. Dealing with periods has been much more pleasant since discovering the Diva Cup, though having a sticky, bodily liquid ooze out of me every month is not something I would describe as fun. By the way, if the previous sentence sickened you, even a tad, then you definitely have a long way to go.

Ironically, I remember being devastated when my older sister got her period before me. The fact that she was older, and therefore should get her period first, did not even enter my mind. It was a badge of honor, to be recognized with pride by the women in my family, to be the center of their conversations for the moment. They would look at you with glee in their eyes and toast their café con leche at you. Ah! I am a woman; I could be allowed a seat at their ceremonial table. I could participate in their island gossip, at long last! Thank you bloody amiga!

When I did finally get my period, it wasn’t as glamorous as I had imagined it. In fact it was very intrusive, unscheduled, and quite burdensome. I was in the middle of an exhilarating sprinkler run on a hot summer day in New York with all my friends. There we were, playing, running, and shrieking with laughter in an urban created water oasis. The rest of the afternoon found me staring longingly out the window, envious of the neighborhood kids and their period-free days.

Not to say it has been all bad. Menstruating, is as multifaceted and complex as any good “friend”; there are both good and bad qualities.

Besides the typical anxious, bitch behavior (which can happen at any time really), the monthly devouring of everything chocolate, occasional threats to cut anyone who stands in the way of  me and the aforementioned chocolate, and the intense yet brief emotional outbursts, there are many positive reasons to menstruate.

Having a regular cycle is like having an intimate conversation with your body once a month. It’s your body telling you, yep you are healthy, you are a woman, your womb works like clockwork. That is a beautiful thing.   

And if all goes accordingly, your cycle allows you to create life, to sustain it, and when it’s ready, your amazing, all powerful womb will instinctively know, and begin the surges for your birthing muscles to do what they do best.

Our cycle brings with it an awe of nature and the universe around us. Many cultures throughout the world have philosophized at length the correlations of the moon and a woman’s menstrual cycle. It’s a mystical relationship that is also earthy, connected, obviously to our own bodies, our genes, our diet, our health, our environment, and ultimately our cosmos.

Our own American culture’s association with the menstrual cycle and menopause is a fascinating subject. Aging women are not treasured here in the U.S. as in other countries. We lose our beauty with our youth; we seem to lose our seduction prowess, our magnetism. A woman who has been recognized her entire life for her beauty could have a harder time than most during this next transition of her life. We have placed so much emphasis on our youthfulness and attractiveness, that when they are transformed, how do we begin to define ourselves? And parallel to our society’s rejection of us as old, haggard women, is the long list of menopausal symptoms our bodies begin to face. Hot flashes, mood swings, lack of sexual appetite.

The women of the ¡Kung tribe of Africa (otherwise known as the “clicking” tribe) have a very straightforward idea of menopause:

“My mother lived on after that. She menstruated month after month, for a very long time. Then one month came and she didn’t menstruate, then another and another. The months just passed her by and she was finished with the moon.” (Nisa. The Life and Words of a ¡Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak)

Women of this tribe place no importance on menstruation or menopause, and report no physical symptoms on the latter, with just minor ails on the former.

Where do these symptoms therefore arise – from our bodies, the moon, society, or from our heads?

My personal journey has been one of complete acceptance. I bow down to the sacredness of life, and the two, beautiful beings I was able to create because of a healthy menstruation. When it’s time for my cycle to cease I will bid it adieu, albeit grateful for the guiding presence, ready for the next stage of life. I embrace my aging self, able to define myself through many realms of beauty inside and out. Our connection to the moon does not end with menopause; we continue a path that is focused on the wisdom years can bring. These are my affirmations that I hope all women can share. Accept your wrinkles, your gray hair, for they are the traits of a sage. And enjoy your period free days! May the transition be smooth for all of us. 

Embracing my wrinkles.


  1. Beautifully written, Patricia. Embracing that new chapter in our womanhood, while honoring the path and journey we have (are) taken (taking). Once we enter the gates of menopause, I am sure we will have more reflection and embrace this renewal, rebirth, rite of passage... a metamorphosis that reminds us of our very presence, self-worth and also our lived experience - including our children and family! Like you, I am also embracing the next chapter in my life. Thank you for writing this piece.

    1. We can embrace it together and I hope we'll get to share some time and reminisce when we're old woman one day! :-)

  2. Interesting piece. As a teenage guy, feminism isn't something I know much about, however allow me to play devil's advocate:

    I hold doors for all people, whether men, woman, teen or adult, friend or stranger, simply because I was raised to believe that it is a polite thing to do, not a creepy one. I sometimes say "ladies first" either jokingly, or seriously, when who goes first is arbitrary, again, because my parents taught me it was a polite thing to do (albeit a slightly old fashion one). Not only that, but the treatment of the elderly is a problem across Western society, one not restricted to gender.

    However, don't get me wrong: We still have a long way to go before we close the pay gap, effectively prevent sexual harrasement, and put a relative end to misogyny.

    Just out of curiosity: as a rational thinker and feminist, what do you think about the #YesAllWomen, movement, and the response of #NotAllMen?

  3. Perhaps I should clarify that though it is very polite when people hold doors, old world chivalry annoys me. I hold doors too, especially for elderly and Moms with huge strollers but I can't stand when men act as if women are incapable of any strength whatsoever. But I sure appreciate kind people! I am not familiar with #NotAllMen, I'll have to look it up. Thank you for reading and your thoughtful comment!