Growing older comes with many surprises— some good, some not so good. The Fine Line, a digital magazine created especially for women over 45 who are interested in fitness, wellness, beauty, fashion, and more, explores the surprises of aging in the 21st century in a series of essays called #RealTalk. In this essay, writer Randi Mazzella reflects on the meaning of loss through the lens of a new life stage.
When I was 10 years old, I read Judy Blume’s iconic book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Immediately, I began writing in a diary like the title character in the book, jotting in the corner “no period yet” on each day that passed with, well, “no period yet.” Months went by. I didn’t get my period, so I gave up writing about it.
At 13, I lied to a classmate, saying, “Of course, I got my period,” because I didn’t want her to think I was the only girl in seventh grade who didn’t menstruate. It wasn’t until a year and half later, while holiday shopping with my dad that I actually got my first period. I didn’t tell him, but I did tell my mom the minute I got home.
Almost four decades later, I am again in search of my period. It has gone MIA the last few months, and I am wondering if it’s gone forever. I am wondering if I should get a journal and write about my mixed emotions: “Are you there, God? It’s Me, Randi. I’m not sure I’m ready to be in menopause, but I guess I am.”
As a preteen, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my period, certain it would mean I would gain entry to a secret club I desperately wanted to be a part of. Now it seems I am a member of a club I don’t feel ready for. In my mind and heart I am young, but my ovaries beg to differ. Regardless of how young I feel or think I look, my uterus is middle age and ready for retirement (should I throw it a party and buy it a watch?).
AS MUCH AS I LOOKED FORWARD TO THE START OF MY PERIOD, THAT’S HOW MUCH I DREAD NEVER GETTING IT AGAIN.
As much as I looked forward to the start of my period, that’s how much I dread never getting it again.
It’s not that I always loved getting my period. In fact, since that December afternoon when it first arrived, my period and I have had our ups and downs.
In high school, the cramps were debilitating. I would come home from school, take two Midol, and lie on the floor with a heating pad on my stomach, listening to Madonna on the radio and wondering why women had to suffer so much.
In college, I had my first serious boyfriend and no longer dreaded getting my “monthly,” as my mom liked to call it. In fact, I prayed for it, as in, “Please, please, please, let me get my period and not be pregnant.” In my late 20s, when my husband and I wanted a child, those prayers went in reverse.
Aside from when I was pregnant, my period was something I could count on each month. Like a trip to Costco, it was something that needed to happen on a regular basis so that there could be order in the world. Yes, it seemed to be due on annoying days, like when we were leaving on vacation or I was going to a party and wanted to wear white pants. And, yes, I tended to greet it rudely, exclaiming “Ugh! I have my period!” when I saw it arrive. But still, I expected it each month, and we had a rhythm going.
Then, a few weeks ago, I realized I hadn’t gotten my period in a long time. I knew I wasn’t pregnant.
FAST FORWARD A DECADE AND ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT KARMA IS A BITCH — AND SHE IS CAUSING ME TO SWEAT PROFUSELY OUT OF NOWHERE, EVEN WHEN IT’S BELOW FREEZING OUTSIDE.
Is that it? Am I really done? It seems so odd, like saying goodbye to a friend whom you didn’t really like but you constantly relied on. I kept watch. I thought maybe I was just off schedule. But months passed with no period.
When my oldest daughter was in grade school, I became friends with one of the moms who had a child in the same class. At one point, that mom mentioned to me that she was in perimenopause. I thought, “Whoa! This lady is old!” I was so astounded that I was a vibrant, menstruating mama and this woman who had a child the same age as mine was hot flashing beside me that I commented not only to myself but also to my husband later that day. Fast forward a decade and all I can say is that karma is a bitch — and she is causing me to sweat profusely out of nowhere, even when it’s below freezing outside.
Though I didn’t plan to have more children, knowing I am no longer biologically capable makes me feel old and a little sad. I understand now why it’s called “the change.” It really is a change. When I celebrated my 50th birthday, I thought that number would make me feel old, but I felt pretty much the same. But this concrete evidence of aging makes me feel mournful. It makes me feel frightened. And it makes me feel guilty that I ever looked at a woman my age and decided she was “old.” I don’t want people to see me that way.
When I told my 19-year-old daughter that it seemed I wouldn’t be getting my period anymore, she said, “You are so lucky! I wish I didn’t get my period! It sucks!” I remember feeling that same way at her age. I hope in time that I will feel that way again.
For now, I know that not having a period doesn’t mean I am not a woman: It means I am a mature woman who has lived a lot of life and still has more to live. I am just as alive and vital as I have ever been — with the bonus of being able to wear white pants any damn day I please!