There’s a word you’ve never heard before, and then it’s everywhere.
Just months ago, perhaps, you asked someone what it meant. Now it’s rolling off your tongue, beaming from your phone, all your friends are talking about. Ubiquitous shorthand for your mood, your choices, your… vibe.
So it is with Peri.
Side note: The Very Peri audio series is your all-in-one survival guide for getting through perimenopause. With 10 topics covering everything from science and symptoms to solutions and support. Everything you need to know to take on peri with confidence. Listen Now.
Perimenopause. A word that encapsulates the time when your hormones climb onto a swinging, plunging rollercoaster for the first time since those rollicking periods (pun intended) of puberty and (perhaps) pregnancy.
If menopause is the destination, Peri is the meandering roadtrip that gets you there. And until very recently, that abbreviated word was elusive to us. A simple, bold label to stick on the overflowing grab-bag of complicated stuff going on in your body and mind as estrogen drops and chaos reigns.
Grateful women have grasped Peri with both hands. Every generation does things differently and Generation X aren’t into suffering in silence. It’s not how we do things. We invented oversharing, people. We invented blogs, and Instagram, and Twitter. We will not shut up about this biological blindside our mothers attempted to drown in tea and gin.
Generation X is Peri AF and we are not going to take it anymore. We’re going to shout our Peri Pride from the rooftops.
Except, until recently, for… me. And possibly you.
I didn't want to talk about Peri. Even as my friend and boss Mia Freedman, braver than I in about 1000 ways, hustled a blockbuster expert summit into existence to help women make sense of this wild time, I was cautious. Of course I would help, but did I want to shout to the world that I, too, was Peri?
Because I am part of the “shut-up and bear it” brigade. We’ve been sitting with the embarrassment and humiliation our own bodies for years we’re not quite ready to buy a T-shirt advertising our current hormonal predicament, thank you very much. I was, basically, ashamed.
I’d been foolishly holding onto the idea that maybe, maybe, people still think I’m 40 (mate, I’m 50). And I am very familiar with the genuine fear of dismissal women fear as they edge ever further away from the sexy relevance of youth, something - like a lovely, safe relationship and skin elasticity - that we don’t know we’ve got til it’s gone.
Working on this summit with Mia has changed that. I hoovered up the information the interviewers uncovered, lightbulbs pinging as I went. Oh, that’s why I don’t feel much like sex right now. Oh, that’s why I can’t sleep. Oh, that’s why my son so often asks, ‘Why are you so angry, mummy?”
But I am inching from the shadows, not running. Peri Pride eludes me because I am still in fear. I bet a lot of you are, too. So what are we afraid of?
Well, the world has taught midlife women to be afraid of a great deal:
Being irrelevant, over, discarded.
Being a punchline, a joke. A bad haircut. A Karen. A punish. A nag.
Being out of touch, slow, dull.
We’re afraid of being defined by a number: The date on our drivers’ licences. The hormone count on a bloods check. The number on the birthday balloons.
We’re afraid that this bridge we’re about to cross, that we have worked so hard to reach, might have nothing on the other side but a stretching, barren plain.
No job prospects. No opportunities. No pay rise. No security.
As Gen X feminists, we’ve spent our lives pushing back on being defined by our hormones.
PMS-ing are you?
Baby brain, is it?
Time of the month again?
And that fear tells us that Peri Pride will warn our bosses that our memories are full of holes, our tempers are toxic and chaos rules.
We don’t want to give anyone another reason to discount or sideline us, just as we’re fading from view.
We don’t want to alert our partners to the possibility of our libidos dropping, our rage becoming uncontrollable and that this shape-change we seem to have no control over is permanent.
We don’t want everyone to know they’re irritating the sh** out of us, or tell our children that our last few nurturing hormones are the only things keeping them fed and watered.
No thank you, we think, we’ll wear our Peri Pride quietly.
Listen: The Quicky speaks to an expert doctor and a woman currently living through menopause about what it's really like. Post continues after podcast.
But my Peri epiphany is that us quiet midlifers might just be part of the problem. Suffering in silence has trapped us in thinking there is no choice but to surrender to a decade of confusion, exhaustion and tears. That this is the latest in a long line of inevitable biological injustices that seem unfairly dealt to women. That to ask for help and guidance - to insist on it, in fact - is weak, or needy, or selfish. And where does that get us? Stuck in the dark. Alone, anxious, knackered.
So, I am inching out of the shadows, stepping into the light.
My name's Holly Wainwright, I am Very Peri. Maybe you are, too?
Come. Sit down. Have a warm tea and a cool cloth. We have much to discuss.
We've brought in the best peri-experts in the world for the Very Peri audio series to share the most up-to-date advice and info. Everything you need to know to face perimenopause with confidence. Listen now.
Feature Image: Instagram @wainwrightholly.
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