Column: Celebrtiies are talking menopause. It’s not enough

Naomi Watts says it will empower you; Courtney Cox warns it will consume you; a recent study argues that this may be one reason why women leave the workplace; and a UK company is using NASA technology to help.

I’m talking about menopause, and it’s happening to women too, in increasing numbers and in very different ways.

Cox, 58, recently posted an Instagram update to her 1985 Tampax commercial (with its alarming emphasis on feeling “clean”), which lists the many symptoms of menopause and ends, “Remember — menopause is no good. It can actually change the way you think about aging.”

Watts, on the other hand, releases celebrations of the hormone seismic event. At 53, she leans on the manifesto Menopause Equals Freedom, encapsulated in Kristin Scott Thomas’ great monologue in Season 2 of Fleabag.

It is no coincidence that she is also launching Stripes, a new cosmetics brand for menopause.

Gwyneth Paltrow, who turns 50 today, made her claim to menopause years ago with Madame Ovary, a “supplementary protocol” designed to alleviate peri- and menopausal symptoms.

In the UK, Fifty One Apparel has started making hot flash friendly clothing, using technology developed by NASA to help astronauts feel comfortable in their space suits.

I don’t begrudge any woman her own beauty or complementary protocol line; Nothing sparks a conversation in our culture like a bunch of cleverly packaged things. But can we stop relying on a few random celebrities (and Michelle Obama) to “boldly” speak out about their personal experiences with menopause and start treating it like the public health issue it is?

According to a recent study, approximately 27 million members of the American workforce are in the peri- or full menopause. According to a 2022 survey, at least 20% of them have at least considered leaving the job due to lack of support. Many of these women are, by definition, high-level employees who risk potential brain drain.

In the UK, similarly alarming statistics have prompted national action. In 2019, Channel 4 announced it would offer flexible working hours and paid holidays to people with menopausal symptoms. In 2021, an independent report commissioned by the Secretary of Labor provided a list of recommendations for employers, including reviewing sick leave schemes and offering flextime. The NHS recently signed a pledge to educate and support workers going through the menopause and 600 companies including the BBC, Tesco, Royal Mail and London Zoo have signed a similar pledge. Some companies have begun creating quiet spaces for those struggling with menopausal symptoms and training certain employees to become Menopause Champions to facilitate counseling and any necessary schedule or workload adjustments.

Apparently there is no “cure” for the drop in estrogen that is ending fertility for more than half of the population. But we could follow Britain’s example by being more diligent in educating the public, accommodating them in the workplace and generally breaking the silence about an inevitable physical transition.

And the US could certainly pour a few more dollars into researching treatments for some of the myriad symptoms so billions of us don’t feel like we can handle it all on our own.

As Wanda Sykes (the first woman I’ve ever seen to admit she had a hot flash in front of the camera) has been saying for years, there are myriad treatments for erectile dysfunction, but women going through menopause often becomes one fan and one prescription handed out for Xanax and told to wait it out.

Here I must add that menopause can last from seven to 14 years.

Forced because no one informed me of this fact when I was rounding the horn in my 50s.

Also, no one bothered to tell me that “hot flashes” is a ridiculously harmless term for the heat wave of a meltdown that travels through your entire body until it makes your head light up, or that the only thing about it For as long as it takes you to think (10 minutes? 20? A whole frigging day?) is how hot — and then sweaty — you are.

That’s just one of an amazingly long list of symptoms including (but not limited to): migraines, insomnia, vaginal dryness, night sweats, brain fog, chills, mood swings, constipation, weight gain, and heart palpitations.

I can’t be the only woman who, alarmed by the sudden erratic pounding in her chest, was hooked up to a heart monitor for two days only to be told (by my gynecologist and not the cardiologist) that this was a “perfectly normal” Symptom was menopause.

ok cool Cool, cool, cool. But maybe it would have been nice to know that beforehand. We may all know about those hot flashes — god knows male comedians have joked about them long enough — but no one mentioned your heart pounding out of your chest, or the migraines, or the sudden inability to sleep for more than an hour at a time Time.

Oh, and for at least a few more years you’ll be getting your period with all the usual bloating, cramping and the rest. The best from both worlds!

Not everyone experiences all or some of these symptoms; As with menstruation or pregnancy, the level of individual discomfort or disability is a crap shoot. However, if you’re talking about “mood swings” as if they’re solely hormonal, please remember that you might also be dealing with someone who regularly catches fire, has a simulated heart attack, and possibly a migraine while having about two hours of sleep and still alive getting menstrual cramps.

Frankly, it’s a wonder women over 50 don’t commit more violent crimes. It explains why so many older women develop that fabulous “no-effs-given” attitude that makes them want to burst into every line they see.

Especially considering how casual society has been about the whole damn thing. I won’t go as far as “massive cover-up”. But until recently, the symptoms of this bodily experience have been cloaked in mundane terms, if spoken softly at all. “She’s going through ‘the change,'” men of my parents’ generation said in hushed tones as their wives staggered toward the kitchen to enjoy the blessed relief of sticking their heads in the freezer or belligerently refused “to whip something up”. unexpectedly invited the five employees to dinner.

Like menstruation, menopause has been largely invisible in the still male-dominated realms of art and culture, except when played for laughs or as another example of why women are such mysterious, volatile creatures – and therefore not men can be expected to understand them.

Meanwhile, the male midlife crisis, which presents with virtually no physical symptoms, has dominated myth, legend, literature, film, and television for centuries.

Women have often participated in the hush around menopause; it is primarily a function of aging and we all know how women have been taught to think about aging. Fertility, real or imagined, is still linked to sexuality and attractiveness, and many of our cultural narratives see menopausal women as “done” with both.

That’s absurd when you consider all the glorious and vibrant postmenopausal women that surround us. That’s why speakers like Watts, Sykes, Scott Thomas and Obama continue to be important.

And we’re seeing menopause portrayed more and more often in movies and television. In “Juliet,” the HBO bioseries, Julia Child goes to the doctor to see why she’s having night sweats, only to find out she’s going through menopause. At first, she feels silly that she didn’t figure this out herself (as if women aren’t—not—systematically kept in the dark about their own bodies); then she is very sad.

Sadly childless, Julia sees menopause as the end of something. She wonders if her husband will still find her attractive. She then decides this is a sign that she should start a new chapter – which, for Julia Child, means inventing the TV cooking show. We don’t see any more symptoms throughout the series, but the point is well made.

Most of us aren’t going to use our menopausal and postmenopausal years to make cooking sexy and liven up public television in the process, but maybe if we all start talking a little louder and more honestly about how ourselves “the change” actually feels like, we might as well help change the world.

Or at least let NASA ask what they can do about insomnia. Column: Celebrtiies are talking menopause. It’s not enough

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