It was 31 years ago that my doctor “diagnosed” me (if that's the word” with menopause. I was shocked. I had never much thought about it and when I did, I sort of maybe guessed it happened to women in their sixties – not something I needed to know about yet.
But there it was and the doctor said it was not uncommon to begin menopause at 42, especially for women like me who had started menstruating later than average. I was 15.
We lived in different times three decades ago. Menopause was not something mentioned in public and seldom even among women – well, not the ones I knew who were mostly in their late thirties or early 40s and unlike me, not yet concerned with it. So I muddled through on my own. It took ten damned years to be finished.
There were night sweats that I thought were kind of amusing and I kept a big beach towel in bed with me to roll over onto when I soaked the sheets. I gave up wearing white altogether because periods became so erratic that they might gush at any moment, anytime, anywhere.
Daytime hot flashes forced me to give up wearing silk. As I've mentioned here in the past, my mother came up with a brilliant replacement solution.
She dyed pieces of lace to match the various colors of about ten lightweight sweatshirts and sewed the lace onto the front of the shirts – blue on blue, green on green, etc. I could wear them under suit jackets and they were subtly elegant enough for me not look more casual that was expected at work in those days.
I don't recall memory problems or crying jags and other kinds of emotional outbursts. I regarded menopause as not much more than a nuisance but from what I have heard over the years from friends when their body changes caught up with mine and from the more open discussions in the media in recent years, I got off easy.
Enter The M Word from writer/director Henry Jaglom. It's a movie. It's about menopause. It's funny. And oh my, it is real.
As with most of the few movies I feature on this blog, I intended to give it a short mention on Saturday's Interesting Stuff if I liked it. But I had so much fun, you're getting this full post.
Set in a struggling – one might say, truly awful – television station in Los Angeles, it opens as big guns arrive from network headquarters in New York apparently intent on cutting staff.
And so they try, except that Moxie, a kids' show actress at the station, leads the strike of dozens of the mostly female, mostly menopausal women on the staff who all refuse to leave when the firings are announced.
But that's just the framework on which Jaglom hangs what is a sort-of double documentary about the experience of menopause: one that Moxie talks the New York honchos into allowing her produce and the one that is this film.
Which is, of course, what Henry Jaglom has always done and does so well – documentaries without the deadly earnestness or, what “reality shows” would be if they were about reality.
Take a look at this trailer. I dare you not to empathize with these women and, probably, recognize yourself among them:
As you can see, this is not your average adolescent daydream of a film; there's not a slick special effect or comic book hero anywhere in sight. It's ragged at more than the edges - in the way Jaglom films are - that nicely mirrors the women's unsettled emotions. And there is even a poignant appeal from one of men about the idea of male menopause.
The M Word opens in Los Angeles and New York next Wednesday, 30 April with wider distribution to come. You can learn more about the movie here and I urge you to put it on your don't miss list. It's a load of fun and great to see the topic handled so well.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Gee Whiz