Mentor Me This Beotch

Menopause mentors–here’s an idea worth pursuing.  When we hit puberty we turn to our friends for information; we do not want to talk to our mothers, celebrate, or otherwise acknowledge the horror we experience.  Our mothers wanted to talk to us then, and in fact tormented us with stories of poorly inserted tampons and bulging pads and mysterious belts, they wanted us to know because no one ever told them.

But what about now?  Now that once again my body is turning on me? Where is dear old mom with her post-menses wisdom? Isn’t there some sort of comforting ritual for us now? Something on par with that trip to the drugstore for a box of pads and a bottle of Midol?  I try to seek solace in my friends, but none of them really know any more about these changes than I do,  and what we do know about The Change isn’t something we want to discuss with friends.

I don’t know about you all, but when I was a teenager my friends and I all coded our sexual adventures–it was a system loosely based on the old baseball theme–first base and so on, but we found our adventures went beyond the infield and that there was a whole world between first base and home run. So we improvised on a theme.  I’m thinking we need to repurpose the old metaphor for this next phase, or maybe we just need those who know to give it to us straight.

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Just last week, as some of you might know, I completely fell apart in a staff meeting, much to my mortification.  I’m on shaky ground at work anyway, but this, uhm, episode really did not reflect well on me at all.  Those crazy Catholics–the ones with and for whom I work– kindly cut me huge slack for my low low low protestant church upbringing, and they even tolerate my being a lesbian.  But now my rosary is a decade short of a century, and  just a touch of the menopause may find me out of communion, shall we say.

Why the reticence, Mother (and by Mother, I mean all our mothers, not mine, specifically)? Why the sudden and feigned indifference toward your daughters’ biological clocks?  Must we suffer alone and without your guiding hand?  I take back every less-than-appreciative remark I made about your giant Kotex pads and utter ineptness with tampons.  Just tell me what to expect and how to deal with this, this horrible affliction.  Alas, my sneaking suspicion is that you still don’t have the first clue about menopause–when it begins, what the symptoms are, when, or if, it ever ends.  Oh sure, there are a few rumors and some menopause-ish standards:  hot flashes, erratic monthly visits from Aunt Flo, monstrous mood swings.  But there’s more.  Far more.

Unfortunately, we (and by we, I mean all of humankind) don’t know squat about this death of our reproductive system.  And that’s what it is–the end of our, that is women’s, ability to bear children.  Which by my experiences so far, is meant to be the end of our natural lives.

We’ve not yet evolved enough to be able to live with our own old damn selves.  Our minds still believe we are young and vibrant, lithe and sexy, clever and witty . . . okay, some of us may still be clever and witty, but none of us are young or lithe, and sexy is now an extraordinarily subjective state.

Oh, I can hear you all clucking in the background–this is going to set feminism back a few years.  What feminism?  Have we looked around lately, and anyway, that’s not my point.  My point is that no one wants to talk about menopause, not really.  Sure, we are all taking better care of our bodies, eating right, exercising, meditating, playing Bunco with our girlfriends, but it’s not doing a damn thing to stop our bodies from their eventual rejection of all things procreative.  And I’m not even exaggerating–I’ve actually heard rumors of vaginal atrophy.  No wonder no one wants to talk about it!  What special brand of hell is this?  Men get Viagra and Cialis, and we get stuck with vaginal atrophy?  How is that even right?

Vaginal atrophy, pubic balding, month long-hemorrhaging.   Our mothers don’t or didn’t want to tell us about menopause because they can’t or couldn’t actually believe that it never really ended. They did not want us to know what they looked like under their matronly polyester pants and appliqued sweatshirts.  It was bad enough that they had to watch their once buoyant breasts droop to their knees, let alone tell someone else about it.  That’s not a legacy anyone wants, but it makes perfect sense for them to keep quiet about it 

Many of our mothers were fortunate enough to unravel, physically and emotionally, in the comforts of their own homes.  Most women my age can’t stay home for this unraveling, with only the children as our witnesses (not to mention scarred for life).  We must, in our menopausal states (both states, pre- and full on), pull ourselves together and go to work in a world where at least half of our coworkers do believe we have lost our minds. We sell ourselves so we can afford all of this whole and local, sustainable food that will keep us healthy, if not lithe and young, and the gym memberships that will keep us toned (under the sagging skin) and to make arrangements for our old age because you can bet our kids are not going to be able to take care of us (I could give you a million reasons why not, but I am trying to be positive).

How does any woman work with these mood swings? The bloating? After sweating and not sleeping the night away? What can we do about sudden-onset madness? Just how many pads per hour can one woman go through? And aren’t you kind of sad to see your pubic mons as less of a well-forested mountain and more like a vast and wind-swept, treeless desert?

Clearly it can be done–women are not sissies. A few survivors seem to make it through the madness and into the golden years to thrive.   So, start talking, dammit.  What does it take? We can even dust off the old baseball metaphors if it will make you more comfortable.  I need to know while I still have a job.

I need a menopause mentor.