From adolescence to the sisterhood of all sisterhoods: menopause. In the sixties we burned our bras, now we trash our menstrual pads, Or do we?
The new year is over and I’m on a roll with “woman” stories, I think I’ll post a familiar one for my comrades in arms (women over 40). I promise I’ll get back to kid stories. But first…let’s explore another mystery of life…menopause.
While browsing through the feminine aisle at the grocery store the other day, I reached mindlessly for a pack of sanitary napkins and put them in my cart. I work in a sports related field and lose a little water when I play, so have resorted to using these things again, “just in case”. Then I thought,
”Wait a minute. I looked forward to menopause so that I WOULDN’T have to wear these uncomfortable things anymore. What happened?”
Thinking back, I remembered being twelve and getting almost giddy about wearing a “pad” for the first time. For ladies reading this who are over 50, you might remember the sanitary belt that slipped around the waist and then hooked onto that giant fastener thing that connected the pad from front to back to deal with the area where…well…you know…IT was happening.
IT meant that you had arrived at womanhood.
Another “woman” thing was wearing stockings. Before the advent of pantyhose, you held your stockings up via a “garter belt”. Both were uncomfortable, but you put up with it because it meant that you were “older”.
In the sixties, the mini skirt was in style even though the only skirts WE were allowed to wear were closer to the knees. So, we would jack our skirts up a little higher (when the teacher wasn’t looking) so that just a little bit of the garter strap showed…and everybody KNEW if you had on a garter belt to hold up your stockings, you probably had on “one of those” too.
If you were lucky, your bra strap would slide down your arm; accidentally, of course. Then, you spent your day pushing it back up saying,
“Oh that darn thing!”
You walked around those school halls with a smug look on your face that said,
“I am woman”.
THEN, a few years passed, and just as the excitement of your first driver’s license wore off, so did having a monthly.
”What’s so cool about this?” you asked yourself at sixteen as you woke up with earth shattering cramps; thus, the advent of the phrase, “I am woman, HEAR ME ROAR”. In the 70’s, tampons were supposed to make things easier, lighter; but unfortunately didn’t help cramps. And remember, cramps always happened at the wrong time.
“Sorry, Becky, I can’t go to the skating rink tonight. I’m having cramps.”
Your friend felt your pain, but didn’t let that stop her from going skating anyway. She was just grateful that she wasn’t cramping so what did she care? Her time was coming, but not tonight. She went to the skating rink, then skated all night with the boy you had your sights on.
Once you found out, premenstrual syndrome took on a whole new meaning. At the very least, after you went to her house for the purpose of scratching her eyes out, you had a reason for your rage if things didn’t go well; backpedaling being a common practice POST-menstrual. Later on, when the boy turned out to be a dud, you told her,
“Hey girl, I was PMS-ing,” and she understood completely. And you forgave her because you understood the power of hormones to cause temporary memory losses.
Menstrual issues had one thing going for them – they forged a common bond between women that no man could break, uh…after the fact.
In your twenties, you got married and had kids and, at least for me, got the sexy cleavage you always wanted. You really were a woman. Talk about arriving at womanhood – you’re a mother now! But just as the joys of new motherhood turned into reality as the baby stayed up all night with colic, so did the reality that the monthly monster will soon come back. So, you breastfed your kid at least a year to avoid it. Then, once it did return, you got another one on the way to get nine months of reprieve again. But, you couldn’t keep having babies forever, so learned to live with it.
Then, those kids became teens themselves and you looked for stores that doubled coupons since you had to buy a cart-full of pads and tampons. My girls were both teens at the same time (16 and 17 respectively), and my son Jacob, younger than his sisters, got an education on women early on. I remember a day when it seems the poor kid couldn’t do anything right around all the females in the house, and as he surveyed the hall closet (filled with feminine products), he called into the kitchen at me (loudly) and asked,
“Mom! Can I go fishing? Pleeeeease???”
Then, desperation dripping from his voice, as an evil female approached his living space, “PLEEEEEASE??”
Poor little guy. Then, the torture applied to everybody in the house once both girls, including myself were under the influence of a “full moon”. To redeem the moment, I told my son that at least fish bite better when the full moon is at its peak.
Eventually, your kids grew up and you had something good to look forward to. Your friends began talking about this natural phenomenon called, “MENOPAUSE”.
“You mean I won’t have to go through PMS every month anymore?” I asked, almost afraid that I had heard wrong.
Who’s been hiding this glorious information? Nobody told me about this! When you were twelve, the health books lied to you making you look forward to becoming a woman, and then the cramps came. When you got older, the cramps intensified, along with the mood swings. Then, you gave birth and the “joys of childbirth” turned into “intense labor”. Is someone lying to me again?
They didn’t tell me I had to go through PERI-menopause first. It gets worse before it gets better. Now, instead of the short, PMS tension and a light flow, my body has reverted back into cramps and a heavy flow again!!! Liars! Who are these people? You just thought hormones were bad at twelve until you hit this stage.
But then it happened. I went to my doctor to tell him about this new change of events, and he told me that my body has to adjust to the fact that certain hormones are no longer working, thus, the reason for all the drama going on continually instead of monthly.
I was going through MENOPAUSE.
Now, going on almost a year without the monthly terrorism I’ve endured since I was a child, I rejoice that I no longer have to buy those cursed things! Woo Hoo!
But, alas, I find the trade-off is that in order to do without those cursed things, you have to get….older. And with age comes a whole new set of problems. Can you say…Incontinence?
But then, I had to console myself with the fact that I was getting those pads so that I could play hockey with high energy kids. I don’t know too many grandmothers that can still do that. Except for the messed up hip I got when playing the last game (we won, so it was worth it), the pads kept me from having to change clothes. Those pads kept me from having to explain the facts of life too soon to my 7 year old granddaughter, Chloe, who discovered them in my bathroom. She asked what they were and I said,
“You know when you laugh so hard that you accidentally tinkle a little on yourself? Well, Nannie needs them for when that happens.”
She surveyed the area with several boxes on it and said,
“You’re happy a lot, aren’t you Nannie?”
Yeah! I’m happy a lot! I guess it’s all about attitude, and well, I think I might just as well stop fighting this thing and embrace it. Older people are calmer because we’ve already been there, done that and can convey wisdom and grace to those going through the places where we’ve already traveled. We have more compassion and understanding and maybe that’s why the little ones in our lives want to be around us so much.
You finally understand the importance of health as you approach the stage of life where you look for the fiber content on a box of cereal rather than the prize inside and are much more satisfied with what you find. You learn to say,
“Those are not gray hairs, they are HIGHLIGHTS.”
I like this adage written by Michael Pritchard, “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”
And that rings true. But I’m not ready for special undergarments…yet. The game of life isn’t over by a long shot. I prefer another saying that I heard recently, spoken by the noteworthy Charles M. Schultz. He said,
“Once you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.”
And I’m going to need it before long, just as soon as I find a sale on roller blades. My grandson’s birthday is coming up. The kid doesn’t know a thing about hockey, and I know what it takes to win. He’ll wear KNEE PADS and I’ll wear….SANITARY PADS.
BIG STINKIN’ DEAL. Let the games begin!