I don’t think I’m imagining the surge of mainstream menopausal stories in 2019. I expect to see a greater interest in the subject in the next five years.
The Stranger recently published a first-person piece, “Mysteries of Menopause.” I hadn’t thought of The Stranger as a mouth-piece for the middle-aged but it makes sense since alt-weeklys had their heyday in the ’90s and young people in the ’90s are now old.
My first published article was in The Stranger (though there is no online evidence of it ever existing), solicited at the time by an editor who was in Harvey Danger and read my zine. It might not be possible to be more ’90s.
The Guardian has been on a menopausal tear recently and even has a tag devoted to it. I do appreciate British euphemisms like “fanjo” and “front-bottom,” of course.
P.S. I never posted this and then The Atlantic came out with a piece, “The Secret Power of Menopause” that also served as a sort of review of three books, including
P.S. I never posted this and then The Atlantic came out with a piece, “The Secret Power of Menopause” that also served as a sort of review of three books, including The Flash Count Diaries. Others were The Slow Moon Climbs: The Science, History, and Meaning of Menopause, and No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History
The scene where Fleabag (I only just realized the character doesn’t have a proper name) was having martinis with the “Woman in Business” award-winner immediately caught my attention because I’m always attuned to older women drinking on-screen. Then it took a turn into a soliloquy about aging while female, which took a turn into menopause.
Belinda: I’ve been longing to say this out loud — women are born with pain built in, it’s our physical destiny — period pain, sore boobs, childbirth, you know. We carry it with ourselves throughout our lives. Men don’t. They have to invent things like gods and demons… they create wars so they can feel things and touch each other… and we have it all going on in here. Inside, we have pain on a cycle for years.
Just when you feel you’re making peace with it, what happens? The menopause comes, the fucking menopause comes, and it is the most wonderful fucking thing in the world. And yes, your entire pelvic floor crumbles and you get fucking hot and no one cares. But then you’re free, no longer a slave, no longer a machine with parts, you’re just a person, in business.
Fleabag: I was told it was horrendous.
Belinda: It is horrendous, but then it’s magnificent. Something to look forward to.
Wow, ok, though I wasn’t sure if I was meant to identify with the messy 33-year-old or the wise 58-year-old. Millennials are becoming curious about menopause because it’s a major life change still in the abstract future while Gen X might already be there, at the threshold, or just a few years off. It’s neither hypothetical nor lived experience, for the most part.
The two characters in Fleabag that are most likely Gen X are Claire (Sian Clifford, 42), one of those chilly, successful self-controlled sheath dress women that I’m in awe of because that type is so foreign to my core being (that everyone mistakenly thought she was a lawyer rather than in finance was fitting) and the godmother, and the former is trying to get pregnant and the latter in a no-so-distant flashback expressed that she still might like to have a child. So, that’s what we have.
I wished for the mainstreaming of menopause in the media, and little by little that has come into being, but like 90% of it is demoralizing. The latest is estrogen’s role in schizophrenia and menopause triggering psychosis in women who had no history of mental illness. Great!
Yet just as our reproductive organs are thought to make us fragile, emotional, and irrational, we are expected to endure their effects on our bodies and minds stoically and without complaint. Boyfriends and husbands perpetuate this bias, but so do doctors, even elite ones. And if menstruation remains taboo, even in an era when little girls strut around wearing T-shirts that read the future is female, then menopause is worse, because the only thing more disgusting and shameful in culture than the manifestations of fertility — the blood and the egg-white discharge and the hormonal cloud — is the absence of all of that. In the Bible, an infertile woman is labeled cursed.
Defined broadly, menopause is the programmed end of fertility in a female animal. Human women, of course, are well aware that their fertility will decline with age and cease after a certain point, typically around age 50. In the animal kingdom at large, however, menopause is an oddity — and a long-standing evolutionary mystery. An organism’s ultimate goal is reproduction. Why sacrifice that consummate purpose? Even more puzzling, why would an animal naturally become infertile and then go on living for years? Throughout history, scientists have proffered numerous theories. But studying the biological phenomenon of menopause is difficult, in part because it seems to be so rare.
Lenny Letter, on the menopause for millennials beat.
…millennials are already trying to make menopause cool.
“Is this the new normcore?” Haley asked.
“Maybe,” I said. “I’m trying to think of how to describe it in that same vein. Middle-aged…menopausal…Menocore??”
Day 38, period-less. Is this menopause? The beginning of the end? I have absolutely no idea how menopause even works and I’m dreading the time a decade from now where the older millennials will be owning it and making atrophied vaginas cool.