It’s time to open up about perimenopause and aging, and toss the taboo.
There’s a history-making scene on a topic that no other TV show dared to touch before Sex and the City.
The famously saucy character named Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, is in a restroom with her three besties. Samantha gets visibly upset when Charlotte, and then Miranda, both ask Carrie for a tampon. After their usual funny banter, Carrie realizes she also needs a tampon and has given her last one to Miranda. Turning to Samantha, she says: “That was my last tampon. Are you packing?”
To which Samantha replies in an annoyed tone: “No, I am not. I don’t have a tampon and probably will never need one again.”
Earlier in the episode Samantha gets a magazine for premenopausal women in the mail. And throughout the episode she becomes obsessed with the fact that she is “day-old bread”, saying things like “my time is up.”
Confirming She Still Has Value
It’s a scene that has played out in real life for most women, when your menstrual cycle hits and you are unprepared. Only in this case it’s different because Samantha desperately wants her period. Not to confirm she isn’t pregnant, but to confirm that she still has value.
Never before did we see a TV character reflect the very particular and mostly hidden affliction of wanting to bleed to confirm their worth.
That’s because society conditions us to believe that our value comes from our ability to procreate. And even if we never actually have babies (just like Samantha), there’s still a strong push to appear to be of an age when it could happen. In a word – younger.
You could say that Samantha’s reaction was exaggerated. But there’s no question that many of us on the precipice of menopause do feel some sense of apprehension or even dread at the signifier of an older age.
So we often stay silent, not talking about missed periods or more importantly the many symptoms that come with perimenopause. And we certainly don’t talk sincerely about our fears of getting older, and the societal pressure on all women to stay young and ‘useful’.
What Good Are You?
We have somehow internalized the message that if you can’t procreate, what good are you?
One way to chip away at the stigma is for us all to make some micro-changes.
- The next time a trusted friend talks about her flow, try dropping a casual mention if yours is becoming spotty or sporadic. Or if you happen to be the friend still in flow, be sensitive that maybe others are struggling with unpredictability.
- Reach out to your friends or join a Facebook group focused on perimenopause and practice talking about the issue.
- Perhaps you’ve found a product that provides some relief from perimenopausal symptoms. So forward a link to someone who might be interested. Say something like ‘keep this handy for when the day comes because I’ve found it to be amazing.’
- Feeling bold? Perhaps ask your boss for menopause related accommodations like a cooling fan for your desk. Or suggest that your company host a speaker that is knowledgeable about perimenopause. This could provide insight and information for everyone, not just the employees with ovaries.
Bit by bit, we will loosen the noose of what our culture deems acceptable when it comes to women and aging. Since that pivotal scene on Sex and the City, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of this eye-opening meme many years later. Breaking taboos has never been sexier.