I grew up in a buttoned-up New England family, where sex was not only not talked about, it was not acknowledged as a fact of life. I learned everything I needed to know about birds, bees and menstruation from a handful of knowledgeable friends and Judy Blume. It's taken some time, but as an adult, I've become more and more comfortable with discussing sex with both my friends and my partner, since my confidence and shamelessness seem to grow in tandem.
When you hit menopause, it can seem like you're living in a stranger's body. New sensations, new challenges, new feelings and new realities can take hold. Because of this, many women view menopause as a frightening experience.
Our culture is one of the main culprits in this negativity, often touting menopause as the end of a woman's “enjoyable” life as she’s known it—the point when her sex drive, beauty, capability and health all take a nose dive. When messages like this are so pervasive in popular culture and media, it's not surprising that many women who are nearing or experiencing menopause feel bad about their bodies and their relationships.
“Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me.” That old Salt-n-Pepa song is probably not the tune stuck in your head when you’re going through menopause. And for good reason. Your body is going through a lot of hormonal changes—specifically a dip in estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is the main female hormone and when it’s at a normal level, it helps to lubricate the walls of your vagina.
“I just love hot flashes!” —said no woman who has ever gone through menopause. Though the intensity and duration of hot flashes vary among women, some women need help managing the symptoms. There are many ways to help alleviate some of the discomfort of menopause, dealing with hot flashes in the heat of the moment (too soon? Sorry about that!) can be a challenge.
I’ve gained a reputation as a menopause expert among my friends, and I get this question more than any other. It makes sense. When you’re in the throes of a hot flash or inexplicable crying jag, who cares why this is happening—when’s it going to end? Unfortunately, as with many things pertaining to women’s bodies (hi, pregnancy), the length and symptoms of menopause vary a lot. Some aspects, such as age of onset, can even be hereditary.
My friend and I have a joke. Whenever either of us is experiencing a medical or physical phenomenon of any kind, we reassure one another, “Don’t worry, it’s just menopause.” Toothache? Menopause. Hangnail? Menopause. Bad hair day? Yup, menopause.
The heat rose up from my gut, to my chest, to my face, and I felt embarrassed, knowing I looked all red and sweaty. I could smell myself. My sweat never used to smell like this. I don't know what's worse—the emotional rushes or my crazy periods. I wish I could just go back to how I used to feel.