Maybe I wasn’t the only woman buying a pregnancy test at Kroger at 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning–this is a college town after all–but I’m pretty sure I was the only one with gray hair and an itemized tax return.
So…yeah. I had been feeling anxious and snappish for a few days but when I couldn’t sleep that night becasue the waves of anxiety were washing over me and my heart rate was in the triple digits while lying down–it hit me. My period was late. Several days late. And in 35 YEARS, that has only happened twice. I remember those two times clearly because their names are Vivi and Carlos.
Pregnancy tests are super accurate and fast these days. They’re digital too, so instead of that cryptic blue line that I had to search for with Vivi, this time the digital readout window said:
LOL SRSLY? UR OLD
I was so relieved that I woke G up to tell him the good news. He got things a little muddled what with being asleepish and it being 2 a.m. and me starting with, “I’m having an anxiety attack. Can you keep me company? My period is late and I just took a pregnancy test.” (This was the moment when he truly woke up and yelled “OH SHIT!”) It took him a few moments to hear the “IT WAS NEGATIVE!!!”
Finally got to sleep at 4 a.m., only to wake up a few hours later convinced that the test had to be wrong. Seriously–twice in 35 years. And those two times were already awake and getting jelly on the Roku remote. The anxiety rushed back over me in a flush.
I made an appointment with Dr. Web MD and started searching specific things like “am I old enough for menopause even if I have a child in preK?” I found the results somewhat unclear because there is NO WAY I AM OLD ENOUGH FOR THIS:
- Average age of onset for perimenopause: 47. HA! I am 47 and a half, so that can’t be it.
- Low sex drive. I wouldn’t call it “low.” More like “riddled with fatigue and resentment.”
- Mood swings. Oh, fuck you, Web MD. I’m still in my prime. (sobbing)
- Trouble sleeping. I can sleep FINE. In hotels. And during the day. As long as the ceiling fan is set to warp speed. And 50 mg of Benadryl doesn’t hurt.
- Hot flashes. I don’t have “hot flashes.” I have anxiety that rushes over me in a flush. Totally different.
I called my sister, because she has both a medical degree and a uterus. Her diagnosis was, “Duh. At least you save money on tampons, right?”
I called my friend who’s a few years older and she said, “Yeah, you’re going to want to kill everyone but it gets better. Try yoga. And drinking.”
I called Big Gay and, after a lot of commiserating, she said, “Well, I will say that I feel more comfortable in my own skin at this point in my life.”
So there’s that, I guess. I’m going to be the sweatiest most self-actualized mom at kindergarten registration.
I wrote this a week ago but I’ve been too afraid to publish it. We’re not supposed to talk about “lady parts” and what they do, right? I’m tired of the sense of shame I have about the way my body works. I have periods and I am grateful for them because they made it possible for me to create two people from scratch. (Well, it started out as more of a back rub than a scratch.)
Our girls deserve to know that the way our bodies work is miraculous and normal. When Vivi and I were in the Wesleyan bookstore last month, she hollered, “WHAT ARE TAMPONS?” across the store and I knew it was time to start The Talk. I didn’t get a talk–my education about what my body could and would and SHOULD do came from the teeny folded up square of paper with the diagrams and instructions inside the tampon box. Periods were something we whispered about and worried about, not something we straight up discussed.
When I googled menopause, I felt like I should erase my browser history, like it was something embarrassing or uncouth. Like I was failing in some way, admitting defeat. When I called my friends and family to ask questions, it made me nervous, like I was asking them how much they paid in taxes this year or whether they ever bit their own toenails.
Hell, I’m nervous about putting this out there but I thought it was funny and true. And I want other women to know that I’m in the same boat. My therapist assures me that there are a lot of positives about moving past periods and into the next phase. Let’s talk about those! How sex is more fun when you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant. How you can buy ALL the white pants and ride a white horse down the beach at daybreak.
It’s strange–knowing that I’m going to be different from what I have been for 35 years. The most of my life that I remember. What’s ahead?
I had all this on my mind when I went to Wesleyan for Alumnae Weekend. At the luncheon for the class celebrating its 50th reunion, I looked around at the other women at our table and realized that they are all about 20 years older than me. Every single one of them has gone through menopause and come out the other side. They’re lawyers and teachers and writers and designers and community activists. They are moms and grandmoms and dog moms and aunts and great aunts and daughters. They are smart and kind and funny and compassionate. They are beautiful and glamorous and genuine. They’re my sisters.
As in every other phase of my life, I can’t wait to grow up a little more and be just like them.
Then I went back to my hotel to take an afternoon nap with the fan on High. This video popped up in my Facebook feed and I HOWLED with laughter!