You guys, we need to talk,

and it might not be pretty.

If you are squeamish in any way, are eating while you read this, or happen  to have been raised in the south, you might find this post a bit, shall we say, MUCH. You’ll probably just want to scroll on past this post. I promise to write something nice next week.

fingers-crossed-behind-back

Ok, if you’ve read this far, there is a good possibility that we get each other, which is great because I could use a little help here.

Since preschool, I have considered myself a professional when it comes to my bodily functions. I never wet the bed, spewed milk out my nose in the lunchroom, and never once, in three sexually active decades, did I have an unwanted pregnancy scare. But now I find myself at fifty, completely confused by my own female body.

To show you what I mean, I’ll share a conversation I had with my friend Jo Dee, just yesterday:

I’m leaving brunch at a friend’s house. I had to leave earlier than I had planned and I’m not happy about it. Walking to my car, I call Jo Dee.

“Hey,”she answers. What’s up?”
“Oh, just bleeding on myself. You know, it’s the new normal.” I’m referring to my near constant state of menstruation, since peri-menapause came a-knockin’ about six months ago.
“Oh, hon. Did you bleed through your pants?”
“I’m not sure. I’m sweaty too, so it’s hard to know.” I might be whining at this point. It’s mid- April and the LA sun is already blazing. “I’m going home to change.”
“Poor thing. And also, ew.”
“I know. Am I supposed to just always wear a pantyliner now? Is that what people do?” I can’t believe I even have to ask.
“I think so,” JoDee answers, but not in a way that inspires confidence. I have a feeling she’s as confused as I am. “I guess?” She adds. Yeah, I’m on my own here.
“Well then I have to find unscented pantyliners, because the ones I have make me smell like a giant roll of toilet paper. I hate it.”
She laughs. “Gross! Used toilet paper?”
“No, not used, but still. The smell gets all up in my nostrils and I can’t get rid of it.”
“Can’t you get some crunchy granola pads from Whole foods or whatever, with no smell?”
“Yeah, I can get like a coconut-hemp-compostable-diva-liner thing for seventeen dollars a piece.”
“I’m sure they actually do make unscented liners, though. Just the regular kind from Walgreens.”
“No, those are what I have. But they’re not unscented, not really. That’s what I’m saying.”
“I’m going home and smelling mine.”
“Careful, that shit gets in your nose. You’ll smell it in your dreams.”
She laughs. Laughter. It’s my Valium.
I sit in my car, with the air conditioner cranked and pointing directly at my sweaty face. “My body is totally different suddenly. I’m having to learn so much. And I’m buying all these new things, like I have all kinds of tampons now. I have a whole collection, a cornucopia of choices, for every possible situation. It’s ridiculous. They make one kind now, which I’m sure is for ladies in the home stretch like myself, that is huge— it’s like the size of a hamster. For those special days.
“That would just piss me off. You have to spend all this time and money on something you’re not even that thrilled to be going through to begin with.”
“But I am thrilled. I’m not crazy about gaining weight or weird hairs growing on me, but I can’t wait for my period to stop.”
“I know people who say they had a few big gushers and then never had another. They were just done. No problems.”
“Fuck them.” (This may sound harsh, but really, people. Know your audience.)
“Exactly,” she says, and I love her for it.
“But some people accidentally say the wrong thing and it’s really not their fault. I shouldn’t blame them but I can’t help it,” I say.
“Of course you can’t. On account of the the hormones.”
“Like this morning, I’m walking into church and the nicest woman walks right up to me and guess what she says?”
“What?”
“She says, we are having a blood drive next week. Can I sign you up to donate?”

“Oh my god.”

“I told her no way, that I have none to spare, but she wouldn’t give up that easily. She asked if I had ever given blood, and I said actually I’m giving it right now, and if things don’t change I’m the one who’s going to need a donation.”
“What did you say to her?” Jo Dee chimes in. (Oh brother, I say to myself, you’d think she’d know me by now.)
“No, that’s what I said! Those exact words! She looked a little terrified.”
I need to get home and assess the damage to my cute new jeans, but I’m not ready yet. I need to talk right now. As I scrounge under the car seat for a bag of almonds or an old fortune cookie, I imagine JoDee and I in our own Red Tent. We would sit on the straw, sharing stories and binge watching Transparent right on through our moon cycle, emerging only when we were ready to pick up our work again. The caring for the children, the doing of the things. The taking of fish oil and B supplements.

“I saw that you want to start a Facebook group for menopause women and period stuff.”
“Yeah,” I say, tearing into an old fruit roll-up. “I was kind of kidding, but so many women responded, I’m thinking it might be a good idea.”
“There are obviously a lot of us in the same boat.”
“It’s totally selfish on my part. I just want to have a place to ask the nitty gritty questions. I want practical tips. How to’s.”
“You want to know if you’re always supposed to wear a panty liner.”
“Exactly! I want “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” for grownups.”images

We talk for a bit longer, but that’s where my memory fades. Tasting the jelly bean sweetness of dried berries in my mouth, I start the car and head for home, remembering what it was like to be eleven.

Twelve.

Having seen the educational films in health class, and the string that hung between my mother’s legs, I knew what was coming and had a vague idea of what to do.

Sort of.
I had a package of thick pads and a pair of plastic underpants with metal clips that seemed too sharp to wear next to a place so soft. I stole a box of tampons and studied the package insert, chewing on a lock of my hair as I looked at that cartoon of a see-through girl standing sideways.

Unknown-2
I needed more.
I needed instructions from the women who could instruct, and embraces from the women who could embrace. When I was eleven, I looked to Judy Blume and the older girls at my summer camp. Somehow I pieced it all together.
It’s harder now.
I’m a grown-ass woman. I expect myself to know better.
But I’m as awkward as I was back then. I know it will be fine, perfect, even, to unfurl the way nature made me. But the sun is hot, and I am not in control of this.

And maybe,

it could also be

that I know what comes after blooming.

images-1

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15 thoughts on “Going With the Flow

  1. This is great, Maggie! I have no sage words to offer though. At 54 I refer to every period as my last period ever (MLPE) only to be shattered any where between 28 and 42 days later. I’ll never have tomato aspic again..no great loss there…

    I never try to second guess the master planner but there is just no #ucking reason for women MY age to be bleeding..oh wait….maybe I do want to have another baby….HA ha ha. Baby arugula, baby spinach…

    I wear black pants a lot and keep a bag with a change of undies and pads (unscented and crazy long) in my car….not proud but true. My Mother assures me that the end is near. Can’t happen fast enough!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “crunchy granola pads from Whole foods” “size of a hamster”. You CRACK me up, Maggie! I can totally picture Cindy’s face… (gasp!) LOL! Keep writing, girlfriend, we are all here in the same boat supporting you! I hear apple cider vinegar is amazing for menopause….. hot flashes and stuff…when THAT arrives!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you once again for your candid authenticity. On a more practical note – I used the panty liners from Costco, cuz money. I never noticed a perfume coming from them (except my own – ugh.).
    I can’t help you with anything else because I am in fact one of those gals who has to leave the room when people start sharing because y’all don’t want to hear about my experience. And all that that implies.
    That said, I’m happy to support you in any way I can. See you at church.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi – great post. There is a website/post called Menopausal Mondays with good info, that I check out regularly. I am turning 52 on Halloween and finished my periods right before my 50th birthday. Before that, I suffered with fibroids the size of a large grapefruit and two golf balls that caused 10 days of insane bleeding at a time with a 2-3 day break in between. After surgery, it got better and I got pregnant. They came back and the roller coaster lasted until the end. My advice is to use Always Infinity Overnight pads when you are going full on and the smaller Infinity pads as liners. They are amazing – like those diapers that can hold 4 x their size. I never had a leak in an Infinity pad. Tampons always seemed like a way to wick blood out, when you’re bleeding that hard. Yes. I get the gross. Always Infinity. Always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the tip! That is exactly what I need– cold hard facts 🙂 I have an appointment with my OB next week to rule out anything weird, but I’m fairly certain this is just how it goes for women in my family. Maybe why my mother had a hysterectomy that summer I was at camp. I hate to say it, but from where I stand now, I kind of get it

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      1. Yes, menopause has many ugly faces, and most symptoms are “normal for you.” My female OBGYN got it. I had to switch to a very good male doctor when she took a break to deal with a double mastectomy (she’s back now – thank God). While I was going through the weirdness of irregular periods before the end – where you don’t have them for months then have one or two, then nothing, he was testing me for everything under the sun, just to be on the safe side. When she got back, she said – it’s just menopause. It’s fine!

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      1. It’s amazing the level of confusion we still have about our own bodies. I remember when I was a kid, standing around with three of the neighbor moms. The subject of tampons came up and our neighbor across the street said that she wasn’t exactly sure how to use them. These were grown-ass women with kids. Fortunately, one “brave” woman managed to ask her “you know how to have SEX don’t you? It goes there!” If that was confusing, no wonder they had no words of wisdom on something as complicated as menopause! I’m finally, FINALLY done. And I realize that I forgot to mention my secret weapon: Always Infinity pads. They are super thin and unnaturally absorbent. I don’t recommend liners. Arm-up with a super thin pad.

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