Project Healthy Alexandra
No one really talks about menopause, and what it is really like. No one talks about what happens to your body, your mind, your libido, your hair, your moods, or your emotions.
At first, I thought I might be losing my mind. I couldn’t concentrate or remember things. I would be perfectly fine in meetings and all of a sudden would be burning up with my face, neck, and everything flushing – all while making a controversial point in an audience full of European men.
The good news is that I work in the beauty industry and that was the one place that I could make our “ageless” consumer come to life. We had lots of conversations about lines and wrinkles, and loss of plumpness and volume. The truth is, I would love for there to be loss of plumpness and volume, as long as it was on my stomach instead of my face! Aging, it would seem, has a questionable sense of humor.
The real shocker about menopause was the official 365 day rule which stipulates that unless you haven’t had a period for a full year, then you aren’t finished with menopause. Only, nobody told me that initially. So when I hit day 325 of not having had a period, I thought I was done despite the light spotting on my expensive new panties. But if your body decides to give you a gusher before then, well, you have to start back at day one. All of those triple digit days without a speck of blood just don’t count.
When I finally made it to day 365, I thought I would get some sort of message or announcement. Crickets. No parade or delivery of ivory white delicate panties. Talk about a let down! Do you call your friends? It isn’t exactly an “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” moment brought to us by Judy Blume, is it?
I never thought I’d say this, but I miss my period. Just a little. I had no cramping to tell me that my 28ish days were up and things would be changing for the next five. I had no more rushes of emotion out of the ether; no more lunar connection. Instead, I had the rogue kryptonite facial hairs appear. I could spend a good 20 minutes in front of the magnifying mirror with industrial strength tweezers, before bedtime – only to wake up in the morning with a vine growing from my chin or upper lip.
Vigilance 24/7 is needed.
Then there is the dryness. The gray hairs in your privates. The thought of sleeping with the family dog instead of having sex — even when you love your partner. Oh, joy!
I have learned that this is where sisterhood and community is invaluable. Your gynecologist has good stuff for the dryness, and there are lots of over the counter goos and potions to help. The gray hair is just crazy, though. Trim? Pluck? Dye? I have no idea but that was scary – especially since it felt like yesterday that they appeared in the first place.
And the sex part? I never in my wildest dreams thought I would rather sleep than make out! Never having gone to a prom, that could never be me. But things are different for me now. Togetherness has a new vocabulary. Sex makes everything else nicer and sweeter the next day, the next week.
It drives me crazy when people talk about the wisdom of menopause. Please! But there is something to getting older and wiser and more patient. I honestly feel, on a good day, that my head, heart, emotions, and impulses are a bit more aligned now than they ever have been. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get crazy when there is a work problem that I can’t figure out immediately, or I get teary when my boss is giving me well deserved feedback, or when I just want to eat licorice and go to sleep at 8 pm. I do! And the greatest gift of all is that I don’t have to apologize or make excuses for being me at this ripe, and actually lovely, age of 55.
Now I know enough to realize that as soon as I get accustomed to this age and stage, it will change again. And I will appreciate it all as I pause to sit cross legged on the floor to do a puzzle with my favorite three year old.