Dementia Fear

The M Word

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


Hmmmmm....Well, I remember my parents calling it "The Change" and my Dad buying Lydia Pinkham's tonic for my mother as if that was a cure-all. Personally, I had very few symptoms and can not remember exactly when this occurred, but sometime in my early to mid 50's...I had very few of the irritants that you describe, but do remember one like it was yesterday. Our daughter got married on Valentine's Day outside in a park on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We were all standing in snow to our knees...and I was the only person that was truly toasty and warm...Northern Minnesota was a great place to go through "The Change"!!! I was so busy working at that time in my life that I guess I really didn't give menopause it's due...Now my 30 and 40 year old daughters are being diagnosed as peri-menopausal....Somehow I find this just exaggerating a reality of living ones life...

The movie sounds very quirky and cool. A real must-see!

I didn't have much problem with menopause. In fact, I think menopause is a good thing compared to the alternative of continuing to worry about pregnancy.

Female gorillas don't go through menopause. They just keep having babies every five years or so. Just one more reason to be glad I'm not a gorilla.

I have 4 daughters who are in the range for change. So far the two oldest have only mild "power surges", as I prefer to call them. That's how it was for me, just annoying heat and sweat now and then, usually at night, but also at inopportune moments at work. We've been lucky females with no monthly cramps, no morning sickness, all vaginal deliveries and now, I hope, pretty smooth menopause.

My mother never talked to me about the M word. She was so innocent herself that she called the doctor when she missed a couple of periods at age 45 or so, thinking she might be (horrors!) pregnant.

The one thing I didn't know about menopause was the symptom everybody lies about - vaginal atrophy. I had almost no symptoms at all except that one. That's when I realized how many women lie about their sex lives. You read stories about a 70 year old women who decides after 15 years of no sex to just start up again - nope it ain't possible. A friend said she went on a cruise with her husband and wow that was the first time in a year. When I kind of said oh you are using topical estrogen she gave me the "doe in the headlights" look.

It's still a huge taboo, all I ever heard about was hot flash this and that, not about the thing that affects 100 percent of all women, that's still in the closet. Vaginal atrophy and low libido does a huge number on women.

It took me 10 years too !!! I finally learned to call the hot flashes "power surges" ... a term I became very fond of.

And unlike you but very much like my own mother, I had a horrendous time -- mentally, physically and emotionally. Took so many herbal mixture remedies I thought I would grow rabbit ears and my nose would begin to twitch. But they sure helped get me through. Whewww. So glad that's over with.

When my daughter got in that age range, I sent her a book called "Not Guilty by Reason of Menopause". She got a huge kick out of that one.

Quick (true) story about Lydia Pinkham ... one gentleman in our little hometown bought his wife a bottle as he had heard that it would help her get pregnant (as you said, a reputed cure-all for women). She wouldn't take it, so he, not wanting to waste the money, drank the bottle -- and she got pregnant !!!

What a funny story, Miki. I love it.

I went through menopause with ease. I had irregular periods and heavy flows, but I really didn't suffer much. In fact, I had hot flashes at night and thought something was wrong with the furnace. I didn't realize that it was me until years after it was over. Talk about being naive.

On the other hand, my daughter has suffered from severe hot flashes for years and a fan is an extension of her arm.

I'm surpised you don't mention HRT, which I went on when I went into menopause (at 42, too.) Despite all the scare press and misinformation, they were fantastic adjuncts to natural remedies like yoga. HRT took the worst of the symptoms away and helped me enormously.

Isn't it interesting if you start late, you end early? Me too! And it IS a ten year process. Fortunately, mine was very mild as were my monthlies. Even at 62, I occasionally have a hot flash or night sweats.

I think when you turn 40, your Dr should give you the latest book on menopause. At least then you can read to find out everything you are experiencing is "normal".

Thanks for mentioning the M word!

Looking forward to seeing the film. When I got to menopause my go-to book was "The Wisdom of Menopause" by Christiane Northrup MD. Now my younger sister has my book.

When my periods stopped it was a Red Letter Event as momentous and happy as when we paid off the mortgage.

Can you think of any system more obnoxious and inconvenient than having to do that EVERY MONTH just so you can be prepared to get pregnant once or twice in your lifetime?? Aaargg.

It's been a long time ago and maybe I've forgotten, but I don't remember a single problem.

Cancer yes, menopause no.

What a website topic! All these women talking about when/how they went through menopause. I love it! As for me, it was so sudden and so without incident that it passed right by me. I didn't get to mourn my last period, because it came and went and I only knew later that it had been the last one. What I really want to talk about is Portland and how I envy Ronni for living there. I'm listening to NPR as Jian Gomeishi broadcasts from there, talking to the "Portlandia" crew and extolling other virtues like the food trucks on every corner, the clean greenness of it. I once interviewed for a job there and dreamed of the life to come as I stayed in a riverfront hotel on the prospective employer's dime. When I didn't get the job, it was a big letdown. So Ronni, I know you miss NYC, but count your blessings. Oregon and Portland have got to be at least the next best thing.

Was also a late "starter." And early meno--at 48, completely stopped. I had the usual symptoms, but helped a lot by herbal remedies. I can tell you something though: I do NOT miss having periods. Since I never wanted kids, I always wished there'd been a way to prevent that monthly malady.

Menopause wasn't a big deal for me, either, except for the sleeplessness and definite change in memory. Occasional hot flashes that soy pills helped with. The much bigger deal was post-menopause: the vaginal atrophy, the thickening waistline, the change in memory, the osteopenia. Menopause is sort of a fond memory.

It's the night sweats and hot flashes (really hot minutes) that are still happening that bedevil me.

I'm almost 71 and still have three a night and about 4 or 5 a day.

My mom said she had them for the rest of her life. My doctor says that about 35% of women never stop having them, once they start. Sheesh!

I'm 81. And, to paraphrase Charlton Heston, they will get my Premarin out of my cold dead hands. If it were not for Premarin, I would not be able to function.
I have no idea where my hot flashes and physical exhaustion comes from, but I literally cannot function without medication. I wake from 3-5 Xs per night. I spend the entire day taking off and putting on clothes. My skin is damp and actually wet at times from perspiration. Old age and hot flashes together seem to me a punishment for some great and major sin I cannot account for.
My co-pay for Premarin is $50 a month. That should tell you how much it is worth having to me.
Yes, I tried all the other stuff and nothing worked. I have a good life with the medication and a lousy one without it. I prefer the good life. I've had no problems of any sort and I've been using it since 1985.

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