When I was a girl, I learnt something about hormones. Some were okay – it was fine to talk about things like adrenaline and testosterone. There was even some grudging respect for ‘adrenaline junkies’, and men with a lot of testosterone were viewed with a level of admiration for their ‘manliness’.
Women’s hormones were things to be whispered about though. Menstruation and menopause were not for open discussion. The fluctuation of women’s hormones was not only taboo, but were actually a flaw in how women worked. Jokes about ‘that time of life’ and how crazy women went lurked under the surface. Women’s anger and emotion about anything could be flippantly and quietly dismissed as ‘just her time of the month’.
When I was 12 I started my periods. This coincided with my mother starting the menopause, and my dad leaving home (for the first time – he came and went over the next decade or so, it was pretty chaotic). Our house was awash with hormones that we couldn’t speak about.
What I did learn though, was how the menopause meant that my mother felt she was no longer a real woman. She was diminished, finished, completely without worth. I didn’t realise I was internalising her beliefs and perceptions; those stories stayed with me, without question, for a long time. This was backed up by the seeming disappearance of women on our TV screens once they reached their 40s; and how the male romantic leads continued on our screens, but with younger and younger women as their female leads.
When I reached the perimenopause though, I realised I’m not ready to disappear. I see a world that is changing, slowly but surely. Women are stepping into their power all around me, realising we can change the stories.
What stories did you internalise about women’s hormones? How have those stories changed?