The Thing I Remember About Menopause

Painted Background 270My introduction to menopause happened when I was 14 years old and we had just moved to a new city. My mom was talking and walking around in our new living room slash dining room slash kitchen circling like a caged bird. She was wearing a pink silk blouse with a loose bow and one by one she completely unbuttoned it while I was sitting there, down to her bra. Thank gawd she left that on.

Flushed, flushing, clearly uncomfortable, and laughing! She was laughing.

I also remember that her migraines stopped when she reached menopause.

And that she said “Fuck You” to me for something I did not do like clean my room or make a phone call or, as she puts it now, "something important like that" (she had never sworn at me before, nor has she since).

Her menopause was also the beginning of our separation. I was separating from her, I was becoming a young woman, discovering my sexual self and sexuality. I was coming to terms with not being a child. For her, I too was no longer a child and yet would always be her child.

Moon pic Years later, she posed for a photo that my dad took when they were on a vacation in Mexico. She looked "hot", sensual, vibrant, and sexual. And this was years after menopause. She kept her 23-inch waist, decades past menopause. She did handstands against the wall, decades beyond menopause. She gave renewed energy and voice to her role as a social activist after menopause.

Now that I myself am entering the stage of peri-menopause, she is here with me, mentoring me on what to expect with menstrual stop-and-starts and its unpredictability. The end of menstruation seems like the start of it. I am grateful that she is here to gift me with her presence, humour, honesty and sage advice as I move through this hormonal and life stage transition.

We can learn about menopausal transitions from books, websites, blogs. We can learn about them from our family doctor and team of health professionals. We can learn from our family of relatives and friends. We can learn from each other.

We think we are alone when we go through transitions but that is usually untrue. Our transitions affect those around us, usually those we love the most. They impact our children, our families, our friendships. Talking about it with them can bring us closer at a time when we can feel quite disconnected.

What is the one thing you remember about menopause? What was your introduction to menopause?

Fifty Shades of Grey...Hair

When I first heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, I thought it was about hair. Fifty shades of grey hair. Fifty shades of grey hair as we transition from being a young adult to an elder. A shade for every year. I wonder what a shade of grey looks like? What do 6 shades look like? What about 19? 31? 46?

In the past few years the topic of grey hair is often woven into conversations with girlfriends as we notice our many shades of grey growing in. We talk about noticing women who have grey hair, grey hair we admire, the elements of grey hair we admire, and how many middle-aged and older women don’t show their grey hair. Actually it seems like a lot of middle-aged and older women hide their grey hair. That’s including me.

As we talked about this transition towards grey hair we realized that it’s not talked about; it’s a hidden topic like the grey hair itself, like menopause used to be. As if middle-aged women don’t have grey hair, aren’t greying, aren’t growing older. Acts of concealing and revealing age(ing).

I remember my first grey hair. It was a milestone, a moment that marked the beginning of aging for me in a very real way. It was sometime around my 30th birthday, far away from becoming an elder but a biological step towards it. I dealt with it by yanking it out. Then it was two and then it was too many to count. A few years ago I decided to cover it with dye. Covering and concealing the in-between stage with dye. Dyeing the middle years until I’m an elder, and even then.  Encouraging me to dye until I die.

Is covering our grey hairs a symbolic act, a psychological way to slow down or stop our life stage transition from youth to middle-age, or middle-age to elder?

Hair product companies and advertisers hire models and celebrities to encourage dyeing, covering, and concealing grey hair. Concealing our grey hair is more than just hair though, isn’t it really about concealing our age and concealing our authentic selves?

What messages do these hair product companies and advertisers send? That if we have grey hair, we won’t look sexy, be sexy, feel sexy, be attractive, feel attractive, be admired, be beautiful, be sexual, be happy, be successful, etc. Isn’t this ageism?

Actually it’s a very personal question: What makes you feel attractive, beautiful, desirable and sexual, without any outside influence(rs)?

Turns out that fifty shades of grey hair is also about sex and challenging the myths of sexuality as we age.

I’ve been looking around for middle aged women who are authentic, open and transparent about their age and aging, allowing their grey hair to show. It takes courage to be authentic and transparent about oneself at any age, and especially if there are potential career, financial, or relationship consequences.

Here is my wish list for those of us who have or will have grey hair:

I wish hair and beauty product companies would create shampoos and conditioners that help us nourish and care for our beautiful grey hair.

I wish hair salons would offer more options for classy, funky and stunning haircuts for women with grey hair.

I wish hair product companies and hair salons would help us reveal our grey hair instead of conceal it, especially as it grows in.

I wish hair stylists, hair colour technicians, and make-up artists would be comfortable revealing their own grey hair.

I wish hair-care and beauty industry would spend money and research helping us age healthfully and positively with our grey hair.