Many of us can no longer recognize ourselves. We suffer from discomfort and pain. It seems as if the body we once had is gone, and that loss feels horrible. “The body changes shape and you think: Is this me? The diet, which you can't maintain because of a crazy work routine, doesn’t work; you have to change your wardrobe and the style of your clothes. Your favorite pants don’t fit anymore but you still keep them. Humor is the only thing that helps me deal with these situations. Laughter is the best way to get to know the new, overweight me and establish a harmonious relationship with myself,” Anna says.
Does this sound familiar? We felt the same during puberty: menstruation, body hair, hormones and our own alienation from our changing bodies; fear that we can never get back to the way we looked before. But unlike menopause, society (and families) considers menstruation as a cause for celebration. We’ve just entered womanhood ”; our worth has gone up. Our body is ready to perform its most sacred and sacramental role –reproduction.
Menopause is the opposite of all of that. All the cells that somehow make us fit into the feminine category are still in place, but their functions are missing. We are scared.
Menopause is automatically associated with aging, which has become a taboo. "Aging is not an illness and we cannot fight it," says Anna. However, we have many examples of age-control: we should dye grey hair, peel our wrinkled skin and rejuvenate our vagina. Our stress escalates when we see 25-year-old Cara Delevingne in a wrinkle-proof cream commercial.
Society’s message is clear: an old woman is not sexy. And we start asking ourselves: Do sex and orgasm still exist after menopause? What does it mean to be a woman who can no longer have children? Is there any meaning to life after menopause? And if so, what is it? Regardless of how we define ourselves, society still judges us by our reproductive organs and the ability to leave descendants. No matter what we think about our sex, gender, identity or destiny, it is a fact that we are physically changing and if menstruation “gives us femininity” in the eyes of society, menopause “takes it away.''
And in that case, what's left? Or what are we more afraid to lose – femininity or womanhood? Perhaps it’s more interesting to ask how these two differ from each other. And if femininity is defined only by the ability to have children, then does menopause mean us returning to our premenstrual selves? What about a woman who has been freed from the sexual and reproductive destiny defined by society? Maybe at this point in our lives, we gain more than we lose? Surely, femininity is not measured only by the ability to have a child or to be an object of desire. Of course not.