The unbearable lightness of menopause
Losing your libido isn’t as big a deal as losing your mojo
My mother and I never really had “The Talk”. I got my first period while lounging in my balcony, studying for my board exams. When I saw the red rivulet, I felt relieved that I wouldn’t be the only girl who went to college completely bypassing puberty. My mother handed me a pad with a flimsy elastic band and said, “I’m sure you know what to do. You’re a woman now.” Needless to say, I wanted my menopause to be spectacular.
My ‘child-bearing’ years were spent trying to find myself, so I ended up in a situation where I was pregnant at 40.
I visualised that my daughter would go through puberty around the time I was in menopause and we would have hot-headed exchanges fuelled by our respective hormones (or lack of them).
I begat a boy and that movie went out the window.
My uterus, which helped me pop a delicious, full-term baby at 41, shrunk back as promised. My body dropped the weight in less than a year and my bum also managed to squeeze into pre-baby jeans.
The faithful uterus renewed its vows a few months later. I was back on my 28 day cycle. Though everything felt different about my body, I was the only one who knew it.
In a few years, my uterus announced ‘pack up’, although it was coy about it. The period got weirder and weirder until it finally desisted.
I was too busy picking up the pieces of a broken marriage to care, but one day, I noticed that the “in case of emergency” tampon in my purse lay unused for three months.
Since the libido had been AWOL for a while, I knew there wasn’t a bun in the oven. I went to my homeopath before I decided to pop the menopause champagne.
“It’s not over until you go for a whole year without a period,” she said.
And so I waited. In six months, the red river was back. And how…
A few more false alarms ensued in the coming years.
The lines between peri (near) menopause and menopause were blurred in my case; perhaps I was too much in a haze to notice the transition.
A friend brought it to my attention. Recently divorced and back to the dating game, she was agonising over peri menopause. “I hope I can still get wet?” she asked.
I had no such worries and was relieved at finally not having to perform in bed. Raising a child alone was performance enough on a daily basis.
Another friend asked me about hot flashes, and I didn’t have much clarity in that area. As someone whose tolerance for bad weather has decreased exponentially since her childhood, I found myself complaining about the heat more than usual. I blamed it on climate change.
As for mood swings – I am Gemini and pretty much by the book. Linda Goodman would be proud.
But forget the physical stuff for a while. One of the most astounding byproducts of menopause for me was the fearlessness and courage that came with it (akin to the pre-puberty bravado).
Being invisible to men can be liberating, almost a superpower. I’m no longer competing in the attraction race. Sure, I care about my appearance but I’m not filled with self-doubt.
I’m more creative than ever – I paint, sew, keep an art journal, do mosaic work – although it’s hard to concentrate and stay focused.
I was already sporting a grey mane for years; it wasn’t hard to say hello to a grey strand in the vicinity of my vagina or the one on my chin.
Surprisingly, for all the body image talk on social media, menopause still doesn’t feature much. I wonder why.
In my mother’s time, cleaning bales of rice, wheat or tamarind made the perfect backdrop for intergenerational conversations between women, especially about puberty, child-birth and menopause, notably.
As I continued to feel betrayed by my body (everything is an effort, even standing up), I discovered Nora Ephron and Joan Rivers. I found Brene Brown and vulnerability. I realised that physical beauty is transient. Connections we nurture with family and friends is not.
And losing your libido isn’t as big a deal as losing your mojo.
I didn’t mourn menopause; I celebrated it. My body fat is now distributed so evenly that I can no longer blame one part for it – I am nicely rounded off.
My being is no longer controlled by sex hormones. My disinterest in sex no longer has to stay hush-hush.
My bluntness is now seen as confidence rather than arrogance. I’m awarded authority (the greys help).
I can admit when I’m wrong without feeling stupid and it’s seen as strength instead of weakness.
I found out that the weight that you are at 50 is almost impossible to change, unless you become seriously ill. So, I promptly ditched any attempts at intermittent fasting.
Getting older has been good for me.
Lalita Iyer is the author of The Whole Shebang and Raising Mamma.