Denial, so the saying goes, ain’t just a river in Egypt. But African river or no, there’s no denying time. Time may change me, but this time, I can trace time. 30 years of it.
From the moment I read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret? until things started going wonky rather recently, it’s been 30 some-odd years of Tampax and Always, winged vs. wingless, Midol, Advil, condoms, pregnancy tests and what we refer to in our bedroom as Vatican roulette, otherwise known as pull and pray. That’s a whole lotta months of bloating, cramping, and mood swings. Even excepting those marathon months of pregnancy and stretches of nursing, it’s a lot of days spent worrying about leaking, staining, and getting the button done up on your jeans.
Menstruation is a funny thing. When I say funny, I mean funny-odd, not funny-‘ha ha’. There’s nothing funny-‘ha ha’ about it. But it is an odd thing, that cyclical reminder of female-ness. When you are a blossoming young girl, getting your period is a mysterious rite of passage. When you are young woman in a not-sure-where-this-is-going-yet relationship, it is a welcome monthly calling card. When you are a woman trying to take that first step down the path of diapers and sleeplessness, it can be a monthly heartbreak, a reminder of emptiness, of absence. When you are woman who is satisfied her family is complete the way it is, when the thought of another child is enough to make you contemplate a Thelma and Louise style exit off this mortal coil, it becomes nothing more than a nuisance.
That’s usually when you realize your body has to play catch up to what your brain’s been thinking for some time. And if you are a woman of a certain…ahem…age, your body starts to play catch up by taking a hormonal rollercoaster that makes those previous bouts with premenstrual irritability seem like a kiddie ride. Oh yes, I’m singing the blues; the pre-menopause blues.
All those notions you had of gray hair old ladies fanning themselves furiously or sticking their heads in freezers, those almost mocking views of the change of life that seem so far in the future you don’t need to worry about it being unsexy because…well…ewwww, who wants to think of gray-haired old ladies having sex anyway? What your mother never bothered to tell you is that before you get to the gray-haired old lady stage, you get a nice fiery stretch of peri-menopausal hell that can last for up to a decade. Lordy, lordy, lordy, what happens when you turn forty.
Unsure if you’re in the midst? Want to know what lies ahead? Been there, done that? In case you’re confused, I’ve put together a handy little checklist for you.
The Wine and Cheese (Doodles) Pre-Menopausal Checklist
Your lingerie drawer has gone from thongs to boyshorts, from boyshorts to briefs, from briefs to ‘shapewear’. And you don’t care, as long as it’s comfy.
You could give your mustache growing spouse a run for his money during Movember.
It used to excite you when Victoria Secret or La Perla had a sale. Now you get your knickers in a twist when M&S does three for a tenner.
Your sex drive could best be described with the phrase crash and burn.
Spread applies more aptly to that roll of flesh that has sprung up around your middle than the cream cheese in the fridge.
You find yourself pondering the existence of a bosom.
When everyone else is moaning about winter coming, you are thinking ‘thank goodness it’s starting to cool down a bit’.
You look back fondly at pictures of yourself in your mid thirties thinking how young you looked.
You’ve had to run to the pharmacy like a nervous teenager to buy a pregnancy test because your period is 3 weeks late and even though your sex drive is in reverse, there was that one night…
Mood swings? WHAT FUCKING MOOD SWINGS? YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY MOODS?
You find yourself standing in front of the fridge, or the pantry, or the closet door for up to five minutes trying to remember what it was you came in to get. Sometimes you get lucky.
You have to part your hair a different way to cover the thin bits.
You start to think you should renew your marriage vows so that they include “in sickness and in night sweats.”
If someone looks at your boobs the wrong way at certain times of the month, they hurt.
WebMD becomes one of your bookmarked websites because of all the symptoms you’ve had to google recently.
Oh, and if you are a man with a spouse who is grumbling about chin hairs and changing the bed sheets again? Good luck to you, my friend. You may want to think about renewing those vows, you may need the reminder when you’re on that roller coaster trying to stop her from throttling the operator who insists it’s not really that hot. It must be her.