It came that month just like it always had for the past 35 years- minus pregnancies. And then it never came again. There had been no signs leading up to this, no peri- only meno.. full on menopause. Which is itself a misnomer because there was no pause – just a dead stop. I was 47 and not happy about this. Am I in the minority to say I loved my period? I loved the days leading up to it, the fullness in my otherwise small breasts, the roundness in my face, the lushness of my hair. And then when it came I felt cleansed, full of youth and renewal. I loved the heightened libido that inevitably followed 14 days later, signaling that I was ovulating and that my husband and I would have to take extra precautions because the best lovemaking of the month was assured for those few days.
I won’t bore you with the hot flashes, as many as 100 per day, every 15 minutes, round the clock. The skin that suddenly went dull and sent me scrambling for anti-aging miracle creams at high-end cosmetics counters. Perhaps the cruelest toll it took on me however, was the complete loss of sexual desire. Me! I’d always been the sexy one, the bawdy one, the one who didn’t hold back on giving and getting. All of a sudden sex hurt.
“It hurts. Penetration hurts.” I hung my head in embarrassment as I tried to explain to my doctor. Her internal examination verified what I already knew.
“You’ve lost all lubrication down there,” she said, and then went on to explain about the thinning of the vaginal walls and the heightened sensitivity-not in a good way- to intercourse. This was almost 20 years ago and there were very few options. Estrogen was just too risky and she wouldn’t prescribe it. She said I could go to a specialist who might but honestly, I was scared of the risks too and just too ashamed. As much as I prided myself on being a feminist and a sexual being, I just could not bring myself to share this most intimate of intimacies. This was not discussed freely among even the closest of friends, there was no Google and so, I pretty much gave up. I didn’t have to learn to please my husband ‘in other ways’ because I always had but he missed the intimacy maybe more than I did. Menopause hurt us both.
There have been no miracles since then. There is no viagra for women but other remedies, while not cures, have been invented. My husband and I have found new ways to make love, to be sexual, in our 60’s. It is not so often and there can be long stretches in between. It is not the house-shakin’ or even bed-shakin’ (better bed maybe?) of our early years but it is still deep and intimate and loving, perhaps more loving than it’s ever been.
We’re that cute couple who come in for dinner early and don’t linger too late because we want to be home in time for Jeopardy. You see us walking side by side at the same time every day each of us with our own ear buds inserted. We’re not in a spat.. or maybe we are. But do not dismiss us as an old married couple who left passion behind. It’s still lurking in surprise places and with a wink and a nod it finds us once again.