When I had kids in my 30s, I immediately felt contempt for the so-called “sisterhood.” No one had prepared me for pregnancy and motherhood. Not one of my older female friends and relatives thought to take me aside and say, “Hey honey, before you decide to get knocked up, you might want to know a few things…” Perhaps if words like “cystic acne on your chest,” or “purple mask of pregnancy,” or “never-ending, insatiable sex drive — but only when you’re alone!” had been uttered, I might have been more prepared, or even chosen not to have children at all. Who knows?
The point is — I am grateful (I think?) for communities like The Woolfer, and their Facebook forum “What Would Virginia Woolf Do?” After having spent considerable time hanging around with the raw, honest, badass ladies of WoolferWorld, I’ve learned a couple of things about what the next stage of my womanhood will look like. Mainly: I will be dry in places that I’d prefer stay moist, and grow hair in places I’d prefer it not grow. One cannot win the battle against time, but at least one can organize the weapons it throws at you into a neat collection, rather than an onslaught.
So here goes. A list of things I’m preparing for as I stand on the precipice of my 40s:
Cultivating an Obsession With Patti Smith
Ohhhkaaaay. I get it? I mean, like, she’s really good. She’s a legend. But by my Woolfer calculations, the minute I turn 40, I am going to go Beyonce Apeshit for Patti Smith. I’m going to buy allllll the books, hunt for all the vintage records, find all her articles, and for fucks sake, I am going to post about it on Facebook all the time, as much as possible.
Perimenopausal Rage (AKA The Red Rage)
I hear that dips in estrogen can cause an uptick in rage. Honestly, with the way things are going in the world right now (you know, the death of reproductive rights, utter lack of social justice, global warming, etc.), I have so much natural rage, I can’t imagine it getting any worse from here on out. And yet, apparently, it does. SO MUCH WORSE. What I can expect: Mood swings in which I feel completely fine, to intensely resentful or irritated within seconds — to the point that no one wants to hang out with me, including my own spouse, children, or the family dog.
Everyone Getting Divorced
Like, literally everyone. I was aware of the fact that not all marriages stand the test of time, back when I was a kid in the 80’s, but lately, I see my older peers breaking off left and right. It seems like as soon as the kids hit middle and high school, people (mainly the women) are like, “So, I think we are done here? Yeah?” And then it spreads like a virus, and the whole neighborhood catches it, and before you know it, your ex-husband is sleeping with a 30 year-old who looks exactly like your younger self, and the only men who will date you are either over 70 or just slightly older than your own children (the MILF factor). I have read this story over and over, friends, and I am frightened. Is no one safe?
Openly Using the C-Words
Cunt, Clit, and Cancer! Once you’ve entered the menopause stage, you give zero fucks! So you just say whatever the hell you want, wherever you are. All the words, without whispering. I’m already pretty liberal with my swearing, but even now I draw the line every now and then. But I know that someday, I’ll be cursing, and talking about horrible illnesses like they ain’t no thang — like a Woolfer! You know why? Because by then, I will have seen and experienced some things.
C’mon. It’s apparently as bad as it sounds. Probably the worst of the lot here. Perimenopause means my vagina is going to dry up, thin out, and, I don’t know . . . say “fuck you” and run away with the rest of my will to live. (I am currently stocking up on ALL THE COCONUT OIL.) This also means that sex will hurt as much as it did those first few times we attempted it after childbirth. Can’t wait for that knives-stabbing-along-my-vaginal-wall feeling again. It will be just like the old days!
Shaving my Face
You read that right. Just when I’ve completed my expensive laser hair removal sessions for the lip hair I’d had since my teens, chin hair should start to make its appearance during perimenopause. And I won’t be able to get it waxed every couple of weeks like other kinds of facial hair. It will sprout every day, just like it does for the boys (give it up for gender equality!).
Uncontrollable, Unpredictable Sweating
I used to think that hot flashes were something that only happened during the day, mostly to fussy or sensitive ladies, and lasted a few moments before they passed. Now I know that much like “morning sickness,” hot flashes can last for extended periods of time, and often hit during the night. I’ve read through countless threads about beds drenched with sweat (and not in a sexy way), and women having to sleep in separate beds from their partners because of the bed wetting (and not in a pee-in-the-bed way). Delightful.
Time to break out the hat collection, because, according to Woolfers, a bald spot may well be in my future. Either my thyroid will cause my hair to thin, or the stress of getting my kids into college will do it. And I look terrible in hats.
Being Up All Night
I love staying up late — to drink and be out with friends, that is. Insomnia, on the other hand? Ummm. No thanks. But when you look at the time stamp on a lot of these Woolfer conversations, it looks like these women never sleep! This seems like really adding insult to injury. Not only will I be angry, sweaty, covered in the hair that I’m losing, and too wired to sleep — I won’t even be able to listen to Patti Smith, because it would wake up the rest of the house.
Losing my Mind
Another fun side effect of estrogen levels lowering? Brain Fog! Sounds like an old sci-fi movie, like “The Thing That Came From the Shadows,” doesn’t it? Nope! It’s real shit that happens to women when they’re entering menopause. The ol’ vocabulary list becomes less robust, and short-term memory isn’t as great as it used to be. As a writer, this one’s going to hurt. Now, what else was I going to say…
Alexis Barad-Cutler is a writer, and the founder of Not Safe For Mom Group (NSFMG) — an online and in-real-life community where mothers express and explore unfiltered feelings about the grittier sides of motherhood without fear of judgment. In her writing, her community-building, and her live events, Alexis opens up a frank, yet vulnerable type of dialogue that moms have been craving. She also creates content for sites like Mindr, Fatherly, Beyond Mom, Hey Mama, and Well Rounded — among other outlets catering to the parenting set. Alexis lives in Brooklyn Heights with her husband, and their two young boys — who inspire endless content for her writing, and her undying affection for dirty martinis.