At 44, when I had hot flashes out of nowhere, I sought answers. My gynecologist told me that my hormone levels had dropped to menopausal levels. Stop? Dangerous M-word? I couldn’t understand it. He left me crying in the exam room. While she couldn’t get out of there quickly, I lay in shock. My own body was deceiving me.
My gynecologist told me that my hormone levels had dropped to menopausal levels. Stop? Dangerous M-word?
And did that betrayal also mean the end of my sex life? Was I shrinking like an old leather shoe? I realized I was too young to go into old cron territory. I mourned the end of my cherished feminine prowess and being viewed as lively and charming.
No friend, family member, or MD has ever sat me down and said, “Look, this is all going to hit the fan—here’s what you have to do.” And yet, menopause happens to everyone. So why are we not having this conversation? There is still such shame and secrecy around the normal and inevitable changes of the body – especially for women. We are conditioned to see these changes as a series of small deaths, a cultural punchline. Menopause represents not only the loss of fertility and desirability, but also one’s standing in society, as made clear by moments such as the iconic refrigerator scene in “House of Cards.” It can feel as though a woman’s entire purpose is distilled to the beginning and end with reproduction.
Later that day at the doctor’s office, I began searching for “anti-aging” concoctions and experts online. I was looking for someone – anyone – to guide me through my rapidly changing organic landscape. I tried bioidentical hormone creams, vitamins and supplements, birth control pills, and eventually even hormone pellets—anything that could make me feel like myself again. Through this barrage of bioidentical hormones, I kept the wolf of menopause at bay for years. It worked until it did.
After turning 50, when I lacked energy and had no libido, i tried testosterone, It restarted the engine, But it also made me a little aggressive and self-involved. After a while, my husband stopped coming to bed with me and preferred to watch the “Vikings” alone, safe from my distant hands.
It turns out, the biggest changes in my 50s had nothing to do with the way my body looked. My mind and my body began to adjust. An internal reorganization took place. I felt that I could no longer force myself to be circumstances or consequences. It began with a re-examination of certain friendships or obligations that had run their course. I discovered the benefits of saying no, as opposed to the futility of trying to please everyone. It was also quite liberating to feel less inclined to prioritize everyone’s needs. With an empty nest, I had to call the shots. And I really heard what my body – all of it – was saying.
It turns out, the biggest changes in my 50s had nothing to do with the way my body looked.
While my younger, people-pleasing, hoop-jumping self would have done whatever was necessary to keep the peace or have sex, because nothing I do now, my body is completely invested. Not there. Autopilot is now broken. And it is a blessing in many ways.
In the bedroom, this transition has sparked some heated conversation. But while being momentarily unpleasant, it has also led to a deeper understanding of each other. And when you feel more connected, you have better sex. Menopause is not meant to “pause men”.
Another thing I do differently now is to talk to my friends about it. Many women still want to be sexually active as they age. And yet when society and the medical establishment openly talk about helping the male libido, the woman’s desire is mostly ignored. It’s time to debunk the old belief that a woman’s peak occurs before menopause. And the time has come to talk openly about how to meet the needs of women. (Hint: Smoothness is key.)
The stigma around menopause seems like both a cultural and medical failure—doctors need to talk openly about how aging affects our bodies, but so does women (and men). . Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. Instead of fearing and ignoring the inevitable until it’s too late, let’s face it, and when possible, celebrate it. Sex as we age is a perfect example of this. Sure, it’s going to be a little different. This may require additional preparation or toys. But it also has the potential to be wonderful, especially for women. Finally, I felt in control of my body and my desires. I wasn’t withholding romance, I was embracing it – on my own terms.