PS (as in pre-script): Guys, the following may be TMI for some of you, so you may want to skip this one. Better yet, read on and possibly gain a better understanding of women.
There are two ultra-important sentences in a woman’s life that we females all understand: “My period started,” and “My period is late.” They both have a number of meanings. The first, being said by a pre-teen or teenage girl, can mean that she’s getting her period for the first time – a monumental event that changes one’s outlook on who you are. It can also be a flat statement that means, for some, that activities need to be adjusted or curtailed. Finally, it can be said in disappointment during those years when a woman might be hoping to become pregnant or in relief if, during those years, she really doesn’t want to become pregnant. The second sentence can, again, be related to a possible pregnancy and is either a joyful statement, if pregnancy is desired, or a worried statement, if a pregnancy is not then wanted. For women my age, the sentence, “My period is late,” can be the clearest indication that menopause has actually begun.
There are many indicators of peri-menopause that women can experience for years before actually entering menopause: night sweats, hot flashes, dryness, but the absence of a period is a pretty good indicator that one’s hormones have made that big dramatic shift. With the exception of the onset of menstruation in a girl’s early teens and, possibly, pregnancy, the end of menstruation and the beginning of menopause are probably the most significant bodily changes a woman experiences during her lifetime. All three of these events, onset of periods, pregnancy and menopause carry with them enormous changes, both physical and mental. Physically, there are shifts made that one cannot control (at least without supplements) and mentally there are not only the myriad of emotional upheavals that happen because of the shifting hormones, but there are also the inevitable changes in self-perception and social definition – Who am I now?
I don’t know of any woman who won’t understand what I just wrote about in those last two paragraphs and, I thought, most men probably understand as well. I happen to be married to one of the all-time best men around. He’s understanding and patient; he considers my little foibles to be endearingly quirky; I would offer him up as an example for other men who want to be good husbands. And yet, two nights ago, when I cautiously confided, “My period is late,” his response sent me into a total tailspin. He looked at me, seeming somewhat confused, and said, “So what’s the big deal?” WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?!! For me, this confession was laden with meaning. For years, I’ve anticipated this event; I’ve thought about what it will mean. I'm already past the average age for the onset of menopause. Now, possibly, here it is and I’m feeling very emotional and my husband, my best friend, my man asks, “What’s the big deal?”
Once my tears had dried (yes, his question lead my emotions to overflow through my eyes) we had a little conversation about the importance to women of these kinds of changes and I think he better understands what this all means to me so that next time he won’t be asking me that type of uninformed question. Next time, because, well, my period started.