Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Change of Life

I never heard my grandmother say anything about her personal health.  In my childhood women referred to "the change of life" in hushed tones with mild raising of the eyebrow.  Boys were brazen and cruel, with cutting remarks about girls "on the rag".  At school we called it the "curse".  In our "Health" class we were given a pamphlet with diagrams of ovaries, uterus and cervix.  The illustrations showed the thickening lining in the uterus each month and explained that it "sloughed off" .  A sanitary napkin was passed around.  This dry and clinical  information was for girls.  I have no idea what the boys were told.  It was inconceivable that we would talk to them about a woman's menstrual cycle.  We swirled around this issue in a cultural climate of confusion.

Today, we have unabashed public discussions and product advertising that were unthinkable just a decade ago.  Erectile dysfunction and low testosterone share the airwaves with Cheerios, investment trading,   incontinence and arthritis pain. But even in the rush of excitement about so many previously unspeakable maladies, the airwaves are largely silent with respect to menstruation.  Why?  Why do we still blush?  Do we somehow believe we are alone?  One-third of men and women ages 30-70 have experienced loss of bladder control at some point in their adult lives.  The nightly news sells their needs to advertisers and apparently has no qualms that viewers might be offended by cartoon-like figures fabricated from copper plumbing fixtures.  Every woman experiences the body and mind altering cycles of fertility. 100%.  From the onset of her periods at age 11 or 12, for the rest of her life, each woman learns that her equilibrium is easily put off kilter.  Menstruation lasts about 40 years.  Menopause lasts forever.  (Note to reader: don't believe "its just for a year or two")  For many women parts of the journey are unsettling, painful, even debilitating.  In polite society of even the recent past women were banished to insane asylums as they struggled with "the change".  Why isn't more known today?  Why so little research?  Do we still harbor aboriginal  taboos? When will we have the courage, or common sense, to bring it out of the closet?

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