Let me tell you some good news about menopause: Unlike the Christmas pup, it’s not for life. Menopause is a gateway—or rather, a transit lounge. Although some of us have delayed departures and end up being stuck in the lounge a little longer than we would like – and for some of us the lounge leaves a lot to be desired in terms of service and comfort – all of us will depart as soon as our flight arrives. And once that big bird takes off and you move on from menopause, not only will you rise above the clouds, but you will break free of so many ties that may have tied you to the earth for decades.
The post-menopausal period can be potentially one of the most creative, productive, and empowering times in a woman’s life. Why do I hear you ask? freedom, that’s why. Once menopause recedes, women are free of our female biology for the first time since we were 12 or 13.
Think about it. Think back to all those years of dealing with the logistical, physical, emotional, and psychological issues of the period. From school to exams to your first job and beyond. Then think about the years you may have been trying extremely hard not to conceive, often followed by the years you tried very hard to conceive — and the final kick of your womanhood is menopause.
But once our female biology has gone back in time, we’re hitting calm waters for the first time in decades. This is a tremendous freedom that should be celebrated with fierce devotion. Menopause is not a time to mourn the passing of our childbearing years. It should be a time to dance in your best white pants.
Then there’s more good news, because biological freedom isn’t the only freedom that comes with aging. By the time you reach your 60s, as a mother, you will likely be free of your children as well. I mean, let’s face it — they may still live at home and not be entirely financially independent, but they don’t need you anymore. You can take off and do things – just for you – for possibly the first time in years.
Financial freedom can also be a feature of this stage of life, once you’ve paid off your mortgage (as opposed to your real one). But as things are now, even if you’re lucky enough to have paid off the mortgage, let’s not dwell on the finances too long.
The other great freedom at this stage of postmenopausal life is realizing that we no longer care as much about what other people think of us or our choices. For me, this process began when I was 40 and has increased with each decade since then. Now I really feel more comfortable in my own skin, not only physically but also mentally.
During the months of lockdown, as I headed towards my own 60th, I thought about all of this. I thought about how powerful postmenopausal women could be with all this newfound freedom. But I also wondered why so many women don’t feel empowered as they age. Why do we keep hearing women say they feel invisible in their 50s and 60s?
One of the main reasons older women feel invisible is the fact that we don’t reflect ourselves in our broadcast media. The few older women we see on TV tend to look a lot younger than they are and I have no doubt they work extremely hard to make that happen.
“Life after menopause can be potentially one of the most creative, productive, and empowering times in a woman’s life. Why do I hear you ask? freedom, therefore’
I have no problem with every woman doing what she wants to look how she wants to look. But I hate that they feel like they have to in order to stay relevant. I disagree with the fact that we don’t see women showing their age on TV, just as we don’t see fat women showing off on TV. Movies have the same problem, although very slowly it is beginning to change. So is it any wonder that older women say they feel invisible?
But the number one way to undermine older women and make them feel invisible is to tell them they need to “fight aging.” This message is so ubiquitous that we hardly notice it anymore. We accept that we should buy the more expensive moisturizer that contains some kind of magical acid to smooth fine lines and wrinkles. If these magic pots worked, there would be no wrinkles. But they don’t, and so we have the double whammy of being told we’re not good enough, while at the same time being relieved of our money on products that couldn’t possibly do what they say on the tin. Fighting aging is an impossibility, but distracting older women is a great way to keep them from stepping into their power.
Gloria Steinem famously said that as women age, they become more radical (while, she said, men become more conservative). She went on to say that “one day an army of grey-haired women will quietly take over the earth.” Who and where were these grey-haired women, I wondered?
As I thought about it, our beloved barbers had been closed for months, and slowly more and more silver-haired women were being born. After decades of seeing only very old women with gray hair, we now have the beginnings of an army of creative, energetic silver haired women. Perhaps the decision to fight back against the societal imperative that we must dye our hair is a first step in telling the world to stop judging women by their looks.
Women (and girls) learn incredibly early that society dictates how we present ourselves to the world. We learn that how we look is just as important as what we achieve. In fact, we know that our accomplishments are much more appreciated when we look cute, hot, or young while doing it.
Postmenopausal women have a duty to our younger sisters, to our daughters, and to our granddaughters to work hard to end this gender judgment. Imagine if ageism worked the other way around. Imagine young women being told to fight youth and encouraged to inject themselves in the face to look older. We would be outraged. “Anti-aging” is also a nonsense that robs older women of their self-confidence and makes them feel like they have failed in old age.
Aging is a privilege and we are not invisible. In fact, we are strong and powerful. Perhaps Steinem’s army of grey-haired women could start their world conquest by teaching women to love their bodies. Because sister, no matter how old you are, you are enough. And when you are postmenopausal, you are actually more powerful than you think or feel. So grab your freedom with both hands, seize the power, find your voice and go out and change the world.
Book by Barbara Scully Wise Up: Power, Wisdom and the Elderly Woman is now available from Easons and all well-stocked bookstores barbarascully.com
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/health-features/once-menopause-retreats-we-are-free-of-our-female-biology-for-the-first-time-since-we-were-12-or-13-42014731.html “Once menopause recedes, we are free of our female biology for the first time since we were 12 or 13.”