One day when I was twelve or thirteen, I was out shopping with my mom, and she saw a woman she knew. Sherry was standing in a corner of the store, her face covered in rivers of sweat, and she was rapidly fanning herself with a magazine. “She’s going through The Change,” my mom whispered to me with a look of sympathy and quickly pulled me in the other direction. “The Change of Life.” I had no idea what that meant, and I didn’t ask, but I could tell that whatever was happening to Sherry was bad.
Was “The Change” like what happened to Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf? I wondered later in my bedroom. Was my mom’s friend Sherry about to grow fur all over her body and howl at the moon? Gross. No wonder we didn’t want to be around her.
But now that I’m Sherry’s age, maybe even older, I think how different it would have been had my mom instead said, “Oh, look! Sherry’s having a hot flash! How exciting that her body is entering a new phase of life! Here, go over there with this Cosmopolitan magazine and fan it to help cool her down. BUT DON’T READ THE SEX QUIZ.”
I don’t blame my mom because obviously people weren’t as open about things back then, but now we are or at least we should be. So maybe it’s time we started celebrating menopause. It’s not that far-fetched of an idea. I mean, we celebrate a girl’s first period now. Or some people do. There are period-themed party decorations, and Pinterest has pages full of tampon-themed food. (Which, no thanks. I do not want my cake with strings attached. Ba- dum-chh.) You can find countless books and websites and apps to support and inform girls, all offering reassurance that it’s normal and natural for the female body to have a period.
Can you imagine such a thing in the ‘80s? How that would have shaped us differently? Instead of scuttling to the bathroom with a tampon hidden in my pocket, I could have just yelled, “Gotta swap out my Kotex, classmates! It’s a heavy flow day, so no rope climbing for me!”
Now we’re grown-ass women and we know better, so how about acknowledging, sharing, and cheering what’s happening to us? How about we throw parties for The Change? Parties to say good-bye to the periods we’ve lived with for thirty-five plus years. They could be like retirement bashes with gold plaques that say, “Congratulations on a Reproductive Life Well Lived.” Or “Bon Voyage, Aunt Flo!” Or “Your Time of the Month Has Come to An End, Friend.” Or “You’re Fresh Out of Eggs, F*cker!” The goodie bags could include mini-fans and a Golden Girls jigsaw puzzle and maybe a bottle of rum or two. Wouldn’t that be fun? And empowering?
How much happier would it feel to enter the post-menopausal years with our meno-pot bellies full of cake and laughter instead of shame and confusion? Hit me up, Hallmark. I got ideas.
As of this writing, I’m not yet in menopause, so you can hold off on my party planning. The only reason I know I’m not is because at my most recent annual exam/pap smear at age fifty-three, my doctor popped his head up from between the stirrups and cheerfully announced, “Well, you’re not in menopause yet!” I didn’t know what to say besides, “Oh, okay, thanks! USA! USA!” Then I stared at the limp gynecologist office mobile hanging above my head and wondered how he could tell that from just looking between my legs. Was there a countdown clock near my ovaries that I’d never seen before? A “Still going strong!” sign? Was a magical being named Peri O’Menopause dancing a jig on my fallopian tubes? But then he solved the awkward mystery and chirped, “Mucus! You still have a good amount of mucus!” And then I felt uncomfortable and sweaty and couldn’t make eye contact with him when he later handed me a brochure about colonoscopies and told me to stop being such a baby and schedule it already.
Right now, I’m holding steady and healthy, but like most women my age, I still get the occasional and/or regular symptom. Mostly backaches and sleepless nights and fussiness. I recently hurt my neck reaching for the remote. (Adding insult to injury, because I wanted to turn on Love Is Blind.)
But maybe next year, the mucus (I don’t even like typing that word) won’t be as plentiful at my exam and maybe The Change will at long last happen for me. And when it does, you can bet your ass that I’m going to throw myself a big party.
From the book, I’m Wearing Tunics Now by Wendi Aarons. Reprinted by permission of Andrews McMeel Publishing, a division of Andrews McMeel Universal. Copyright © 2022 by Wendi Aarons.
Wendi Aarons is an award-winning humor writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker Daily Shouts, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, US Weekly Fashion Police, Scary Mommy, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, and various other outlets. She is the author of the middle-grade book Ginger Mancino, Kid Comedian and the humorous memoir I’m Wearing Tunics Now, and a contributor to many anthologies. Her humor pieces have been performed by award-winning actresses including Uzo Aduba, Sharon Horgan, and Alison Brie of "Glow.” Wendi’s eponymous blog was named “Funniest Parenting Blog” by Parents Magazine and she was named “Most Entertaining Writer” at the Mom 2.0 Influencer conference. She both speaks on and teaches humor writing to both children and adults, and lives in Austin.