One moment you are rocking a crop top and expertly applying body glitter in all the right places, and the next you are leaving your annual OB/GYN appointment with perimenopause propaganda. With every birthday in my 40s, the conversation around menopause and the overall fuckery of what happens to our bodies is a mainstay at almost every social gathering. It’s just what we do as women.
“I’m gaining weight just by looking at food.”
"I woke up this morning all of a sudden and my text messages are blurry, guess I’m going to Costco to buy readers.”
“OMG your hair is thinning too?! Because samesies!”
Every day, another random illness, pain, deficit, food sensitivity or skin condition. There have been three major cornerstones of my perimenopause journey that have been particularly fun. I like to call them the trifecta.
1) I started to suspect perimenopause when I would play that game I like to call, “Perimenopause or Pregnant” while I rage paced in front of a pregnancy test. My husband’s vasectomy eventually eased that pain point, but my periods became as reliable as the cable company showing up within the 7-hour window they provided. My whole “like clockwork” system was no more, and instead my period showed up whenever it damn pleased. Not only that, but it was almost as if my symptoms took a spin in the time machine to when I first started getting it as a teenager. I’m talking debilitating cramps, soul-crushing migraines, ugly mood swings and bleeding reminiscent of the first few days after you deliver a child. The kind of bleeding that mocks an ultra-sized tampon, knowing it doesn’t stand a chance.
Now, each month that my period is late, wonder if it’s coming at all.
I’m equal parts excited for the liberation of never having to stock tampons again, but also slightly terrified of how humbled I may feel and what other delights await as I drive slowly toward the gates of menopause.
2) Another fun part of this next stage of life are the stress hives that like to casually appear all over my neck, jawline and face. Literally without an ounce of notice, I break out into an obviously uncomfortable shade of red from the neck up with an added element of swelling around my eyes. I look like Will Smith, a la Hitch, when he has an allergic reaction and Eva Mendes rushes him to the drug store so he can down a bottle of Benadryl. At first, I thought it was a food or product allergy and started eliminating stuff – face creams, makeup, different foods. Still the stress hives prevailed, and I went back to my doctor. She said there are many women my age (aka 40s and up) that start to get stress hives, exacerbated by anxiety, hormones and other pleasantries. Sure enough, when I did a little grassroots crowd sourcing on social media, I was met with more “omg me too’s” than I even knew what to do with. My doctor put me on 3 different allergy meds plus Pepcid, which is apparently some Walter White-esque cocktail that has proven to keep the stress hives at bay. They helped but the hives were persistent AF, and my heightened anxiety wasn’t helping. Once I finally added Zoloft to the roster, that seemed to do the trick.
3) Don’t get me started on the chin hairs. The mothereffing chin hairs that sprout overnight and it’s not until you are sitting at a red light mindlessly rubbing your finger against your chin, that you even notice it. And why are they never little?! In fact, they are so egregiously long that it’s jarring and feels like a betrayal by your own body. So, if you are a 20-something who sees the memes about car tweezers and thinks it’s an exaggeration to get some laughs, it is not. Car tweezers are a thing, and you will need them. But the tweezers are just the gateway tool. Next comes the peach fuzz blade thingy. It looks like a small switchblade, but they make them pink, so you feel cute while trying to keep yourself from accidentally being mistaken for a Sasquatch in the wild. You carefully swipe it down the lower region of your face to remove said fuzz. What comes off that blade is both horrifying and satisfying. So, basically what I am saying is that I low key shave my face now thanks to the perimenopause gods.
The ongoing surprises of perimenopause and beyond are plentiful and unrelenting. I suppose as with any age there are certain milestones you and your body experience. May you get out as unscathed and with as few hot flashes as possible. But if you don’t, just know you are never alone. We are all in the chin hair brigade together.
Rachel Sobel is an award-winning writer, author, speaker, do-over wife and mom to two girls. She is also the creator and cohost of the lifestyle podcast, Friends Without Benefits alongside the Miami Heat in-arena host, Uptown Dale. Rachel has appeared on NPR, The Doctors, The Tamron Hall Show and The Kelly Clarkson Show (Rachel is still not fully recovered from Kelly calling her hilarious on national television). Her Instagram account, @whineandcheezits has garnered more than 100K followers and has become a community of women who rely on each other to commiserate about life, marriage, kids and now more than ever, middle age!