If you’re in your 40s or thereabouts, you’re probably familiar with the dreaded P-word. Not period. Not pasta (although, yeah, maybe that, too). I’m talking about perimenopause, the period (sorry) just before menopause officially kicks in.
This transitional time typically starts sometime in a woman’s 40s but can happen as early as her mid-30s. Symptoms of perimenopause — ahem, it should go without saying that I am the furthest thing possible from a doctor and no one should ever take any actual medical advice from me — include irregular periods, hot flashes, issues with sleeping, mood changes, vaginal dryness, and so many other fun changes to the body as hormone levels go all wackadoo (to use the technical term). When I told one of my friends I was writing about the plus side of perimenopause, she said, “Is there a plus side?
I tend to want to look on the bright side. So let’s meno-pause (again, sorry) and think about the upside to what’s happening downstairs.
- You’ll spend less money on tampons, pads, liners, period underwear, and replacing the regular underwear you’ve ruined.
- You won’t have to think anymore about whether or not to have that second (or third, fourth, or fifth) kid because it’s no longer easily within the realm of possibility.
- Your days of using birth control are numbered!
- You’ve got a great new topic of conversation to have with your gynecologist.
- If you’re an always-cold person (like I am!), you might actually enjoy hot flashes. Maybe your spouse has tortured you for years by keeping the air conditioning at an Arctic level during the summer months, justifying it by saying “I can’t take off my skin, you can put on another layer!” (Not that my spouse has ever done such a thing, but maybe yours has.) Now is your time for sweet revenge as you crank up the AC or turn down the thermostat and throw open a window.
- That one weird, spiky chin hair will now double or even quadruple in number, which means you can use your own chin as a Brillo pad or give them all names and create a fictional band for them to play in. You can also make a pact with a friend to pluck each other’s chin hairs should either of you end up in a coma (that way you’ll know who your real ride-or-die friends are).
- You’ll assess your wardrobe and where you shop for clothes as your body changes shape. Maybe you used to be dismissive of Eileen Fisher, but now you’ve opened your mind (and your wallet; those clothes are not cheap). Suddenly you understand your mom’s weird obsession with Chico’s.
- You might find yourself embracing new fitness challenges and new foods. Try to focus on the novelty of starting Whole30 and becoming intimately familiar with HIIT and not the fact that your metabolism is gone for good with no plans of returning.
- You can re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol, because you will suddenly find yourself unable to drink more than one alcoholic beverage without passing out at 8:30 PM, and then waking up at 3 AM, and then feeling terrible at 6 AM.
- You can blame any and all moodiness on it.
- You might spend less time blow-drying your hair, because you have much less of it than you used to.
- You can explore the bounty of restrooms that the world has to offer as you navigate needing to pee every 20 minutes.
- It’s a chance to educate your children on a topic they probably won’t learn much about in health class.
- As one of my friends said, “You get to revisit the joys of the best part of your teenage years — acne and menstrual cramps — alongside your actual teenager!”
I spoke with Wendi Aarons, a period humorist and author of the book I’m Wearing Tunics Now, about the positive aspects of perimenopause. “There are all these celebrities now with their own menopause-related brands that you can try,” she said (such as Stripes from Naomi Watts). “And you might find you finally have something in common with Gwyneth Paltrow!”
So there you have it. And if all else fails, you can take solace that you’re not alone. Millions of other women are in the same (hot, sweaty) boat right along with you.
Janine Annett is the author of the humor book I Am “Why Do I Need Venmo?” Years Old. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Real Simple, Parents, and many other places. She lives in New York with her husband, son, and dog.