Some Great Things About Going Through Menopause

We are two journalists writing about family and caregiving from a feminist perspective. Research, interviews and personal stories connecting systemic issues and family life; also, 40+ mom humor. You can read past issues here. Follow us on Instagram @matriarchyreport.

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The stigma around menopause is, perhaps, slowly fading.

From Darcy Steinke’s book Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life to wellness pieces in The New York Times (From April 19: ”How Long Does Menopause Last?” ) to season four of Pamela Adlon’s Better Things, this fundamental experience of human beings is getting some more serious attention.

“We are in the biggest menopausal and perimenopausal cohort that has ever existed, in the history of the world,” Heather Corinna told me.

Corinna is a sex educator and author of the book, What Fresh Hell is This: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities and You.

“When you're a big, ginormous group, it is much easier to get a system to change. More and more of us are agents within those systems. So we do have some power.” 

I spoke with Corrina a few weeks ago.  It was a conversation where we discussed all things menopause: from health care inequities to diet culture to the joys of sex during this phase of life (there are many).

Heather Corinna’s book is chatty and funny and packed with research. It’s inclusive and judgement-free.

One big takeaway for me: There is plenty of good news about a phase of life that has for a long time been almost completely taboo. 

Good news item #1: There are simple things you can do to feel good in your body, even when it’s changing in new ways.

“There's a phase of early puberty that I call the ‘lumpy potato’ phase,” Corinna said.

“You're growing some fat. Eventually it will go to certain places, but for a while it's all over the place. There’s the lumpy potato phase in menopause, too. You can't change it. You’ve just got to go through it.”

One way to deal with that “lumpy potato” phase is by moving in ways – any way at all –  that feel good to you.

You can run a marathon, you can have more sex – solo or with a partner –  you can dance classical ballet, you sit in a chair and wave your arms in the air. You can take an Afro-Samba drum class at a local community center and be embarrassed the whole time (*coughs*) but still have a great time moving your body.

You can do any kind of movement that appeals to you. Movement is the key to health.

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Corinna’s chapter, “Ya Basics,” outlines some of the science behind the benefits of movement.

But what I needed to be reminded of is that any kind of movement is better than none. 

What we eat, how we move, we get to tailor these things to ourselves, Corinna said. “There isn’t anyone who can't do movement.  What kind of movement and how often, all of those things are different.” But we can all move, and we get to choose what works best for us. 

Good news item #2: Saying no to things is good for your menopausal body and mind. Reducing stress is critical to getting sleep, which is critical to the health of your bones, your heart, your brain. One way to reduce stress is to set better boundaries. (Unpaid work, for example. Or managing other people’s work or their schedules. Or other people’s feelings).

For Corinna, setting boundaries has looked like taking seriously how many hours they want to work in a week and holding to that, instead of saying, “Oh, it's fine if I work more.”

“No,” they told me. “I'm going to make it not fine for me to work more.”  

Good news item #3: I laughed a bunch while I talked with Heather Corinna. More laughter and more social connection are great ways to move through this time. So is talking about whatever it is you’re going through.

That might look like LOLs via text with some pals or joining an online support group. Wherever you’re getting your love and your laughter these days, lean into that.

Corinna writes in their book, “As an introvert and someone who’s had a long road to learning how to ask for help and still gets itchy just thinking about it, I was surprised to find that when I started talking to more people about this, I really liked it…It gave me a better send of what I actually needed — and could have! — and the more practice I get, the better I get at asking for and finding what I need.”

You can read my full conversation with Corinna here, and you can learn more about their work as a sex educator and writer, here. Scarleteen, their website devoted to sex education, is an incredible resource for anyone looking to develop a positive and delightful relationship with sex and sexuality.

And we’d love it if you would share your favorite ways to move, the best boundaries you’ve set, or some great things that have made you laugh out loud.