I’ll never forget the day I knew it was dead and gone, over and out, kaput for good. I was 51 years old, and I was thrilled. I’m talking about my period, of course, and the day it stopped ruining every pair of underwear I’ve ever owned. Ironically, it was Valentine’s Day.
I DIDN’T GET MY PERIOD! Could it be happening? Would this be the month I stopped feeling like I had been shot in the crotch? I felt like I’d been waiting for this day my entire life. I don’t need to bleed. I need new shoes. And possibly a neck lift.
I decided that I should celebrate the momentous occasion with a party. I figured it’s only fair that after years of other people’s engagements, weddings, and baby births that I throw a massive celebration for what matters to me: the ability to wear white whenever I want! It will be a bon voyage party. I will send out invitations. They will have a picture of a tampon with a circle and cross through it. Everyone will join me in celebrating the death of my period. We will sit on giant containers of water to symbolize the amount of H2O we retained over the years. The decorations will be cotton ponies. The goody bags will include white panties and tampons that beep when they’re done. (Why hasn’t someone invented this?)
Yes, the excitement for me was palpable. Sure, not getting my period anymore meant that I could no longer have kids, but at 51 the only kid I wanted was the baby goat you can get to walk on your back during yoga in L.A. But — as usual – my joy was dashed by everyone else’s fear and shame.
Them: Oh, menopause? I’m so sorry.
Me: Sorry? Why? I’m not.
Them: Oh my god! Menopause is the worst. The hot flashes will kill you. My moodiness is a nightmare. My mood swings are epic.
Even men got in on the act. Want to see a guy roll his eyes out of his head? Mention menopause. Listen to him say, “My wife is such a bitch right now.”
I’m not the kind of gal to take this sort of thing lying down. And I didn’t want to be the kind of woman who wore her menopause like a badge of dishonor.
Here I was thinking I had finally gotten to the upside of womanhood only to be told that I was about to get strapped into another ride I did not want to be on. The Not-So-Merry Menopause-Go-Round.
But I’m not the kind of gal to take this sort of thing lying down. And I didn’t want to be the kind of woman who wore her menopause like a badge of dishonor. I decided that maybe my mood swings were actually just my moods from being around people who don’t listen to me. I decided that the extra weight I put on was because I ate two bags of Twizzlers for dinner. I told myself that I was sweating at night because it was summer!
Somehow — without even realizing it — I chose to ignore that brutal lead-up to menopause. I actually pressed pause on the whole experience I was supposedly going to have and changed the messaging in my own brain. I refused to say the word out loud. I refused to call something a hot flash. I refused to blame my mood swings on changes in my body. I just erased it from my brain. And guess what!? It worked! Now I may be some kind of miracle lady, but I don’t think so. I think we’ve been brainwashed.
I feel like women are told that menopause is the end of everything, and so many of us lean right into the suck of it. We tell each other terrible stories about the sweating and the screaming and the weight gain, and we let it drown us the way our periods did for too many years. Yes, the sweating, weight gain, and mood swings are real. I’m just asking you to take one moment and say, “Not today, menopause.” And tomorrow do it again. And so on and so on. I think we can choose to look at it as the beginning of a new life for ourselves that no longer includes the burden of bleeding every single month. I feel like if we set our minds to anything we can accomplish everything.
Listen: Just because someone tells you that something is going to be a terrible shit show doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Menopause doesn’t make you less of a woman — it makes you a superhero who no longer needs a protective giant red cape. Mind over menopause. Now go throw yourself a period party.
Heidi Clements is a TV writer and former executive producer on the Freeform sitcom Baby Daddy. She is addicted to good shoes and bad cake. She lives in Los Angeles with her two dogs, her anxiety, and the judgment of others. Follow her on Instagram.