I’ll never forget the first time I saw Doctor Zhivago, because that was the day I got my first period. Other women hear “Lara’s Theme” and think “undying  romance.” I think, “Help! I’m bleeding to death!” I never did figure out the plot; I was too busy running to the bathroom every other minute to make sure I was still okay. Mom had given me an informative talk about what to expect. But was I emotionally prepared for the jolt of suddenly, out of the blue, discovering it was actually happening?

No way.

I was 12. Now I’m 56. My period  served its purpose — 22 years ago, I successfully gave birth. This year my “baby” graduated college. I couldn’t be happier about the fact that my monthly “friend” has finally taken a hike.

Some women dread menopause because it symbolizes the end of their sexy, exciting youth. Not me — I was thrilled to toss my tampons and say “Sayonara!” to excruciating menstrual cramps. I’m not saying my period never brought me moments of joy. I’ll never forget the thrill of finally getting that three-week-late period when I was in law school. I’d just begun to get my life on track. I wasn’t ready to be a mother. When I got that period,  my heart soared. And one of the happiest moments of my life came when, years later, after months of trying, the little stick turned pink. I was going to be a mom!

Neither of these unforgettable Menstrual Moments quite compares with the time my friend Deb returned home to find her living room strewn with unused tampons. Her sons happily announced they’d discovered her cool supply of “pretend hand grenades“ and had spent the morning crouched behind the sofa, ripping them open, yanking them from their cardboard holders, then hurling them over the sofa, shouting, “KABOOM!”

As Mom told me solemnly when I was 12, after handing me a gigantic box of sanitary napkins and showing me the garter belt that would hold them in place (this was the pre-tampon era), “It’s all part of the miracle of being a woman.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” was my response. Even then I recognized that monthly periods weren’t so much a miracle as a ludicrously inefficient Rube Goldberg contraption for keeping the human race going. Sure, there’s something appealing about the way those monthly cycles gave structure to my life, and once they vanished, my days did have a certain sameness. At times I even miss those familiar patterns.

But do I actually miss bleeding every month? Are you kidding me?

When menopause arrived, I didn’t feel as if my youth had ended. I felt like I was reclaiming the person I was when I was 12. I sat down to watch that movie and my whole life changed. And now it’s changed again. I couldn’t be happier.

 

 

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  • RozWarren October 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Joan F is absolutely right about tampons being around when I was twelve but at the time I believe the thought was that you couldn’t use them if you were a virgin. Or that it was inappropriate if you were a virgin. Or something. All I know is that mom didn’t instruct me in their use and none of my friends used them. I didn’t begin using them until I was in college.

    Reply
  • Suzanne Fluhr October 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I’m in the “good riddance” camp. I’m happy (as are the people who live with me) that PMS is no longer a monthly scourge. I remember my last period only because it happened on the last day of a trip to Italy, in Rome. That meant PMS made my visit to Italy less pleasant than it might have been.

    BTW, I think Joan F is right about tampons existing back in the day when we were teens, but my mother never used them. She told me it made her feel like she was operating on herself. (Hmm, I wonder where my body issues come from.) I can remember trying to use them when I was a 17 year old college fresh”man”. It was a no go (not to mention a bloody mess)—so back to the kotex and the garter belt—or pins. I did eventually use tampons. I don’t remember when I figured them out, but by the time I used them, I was definitely in much better touch with my body, having had a first boyfriend and having poured over my generation’s coming of age bible, “Our Bodies and Ourselves”.

    I don’t remember my first period, so either it was a non-event or so traumatizing that I’ve buried it deep in my psyche somewhere.

    Reply
  • Joan F October 20, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Someone was lying to you, I am almost 76 and used tampons when I was a teen.

    Reply
  • Anne Beidler October 14, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I totaly agree with your bit about re-claiming your youth. I remember telling my doctor “I haven’t felt this good since I was 10 years old!!” Thanks for anothor great story Roz. –Anne

    Reply
  • kate October 13, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    The story of Deb’s pretend grenades is fantastic. I love this piece because it identifies the real issue, which is that nobody likes change. But in fact, not having to deal with periods any more is great! Having menopause harken back to the glory days of being carefree and 10 is brillant. Thanks, Roz!

    Reply
  • Claire Billing October 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Amen sister!

    Reply
  • Anne Gibbons October 13, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I, too, said good riddance to that so-called “friend!” Roz reminded me about the early years – those garter belts, worrying about white pants, cramps during Regents exams, standing in line at the cash register with that humongous box of pads.

    Happy Menopause to ALL!

    Reply
  • Holly October 13, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Women have so many mixed emotions when it comes to menopause. It’s nice to hear a positive remark. Because you’re right, it really can be the beginning of a new you.

    Reply