What Fresh Hell Is This?

(by Heather Corinna)

I am not really a fan of surprises. So when I realized that I felt like I was missing some basic info about what to expect in the coming years in terms of perimenopause and menopause, I figured I should probably try to learn some things. Hence this book, whose subtitle is “Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You.” I mean: I am almost 42 years old and before reading this book I think I could have told you that a) menopause is defined as the point when it’s been 365 days since a person’s last period and b) there might be hot flashes and mood swings before that. But, like, in terms of the length of perimenopause, or what else to expect, or what you can DO about any troublesome impacts, or what the options are in terms of hormone therapy? I couldn’t have told you much.

I definitely feel like I know more now, though the various impacts of and aspects of perimenopause and menopause are quite variable. Some people are in perimenopause for a long time; for others it’s much quicker. Some people don’t feel like perimenopause is super-disruptive; others do. Heather Corinna does a great job of covering the range of possible perimenopausal and menopausal experiences, drawing from medical research, the experiences of others, and their own experiences as a perimenopausal person. The book is gender-inclusive and sensitive to the ways that different people’s gender identities and feelings around gender can affect their experiences. It’s vocally anti-diet-culture (and aware of how pervasive diet culture is). And it’s very approachable, by which I mean both that the information is clearly presented and that the tone is conversational in a way I found extremely likable. (Like: in a section about the history of European + American medical approaches to menopause, there’s a reference to “some history that will make you feel stabby but is important to know.”) (And yeah, a lot of the history definitely made me feel stabby: the way that (male) doctors have historically pathologized menopause, talking about it as a disease to be cured; the way that a bunch of 20th-century writing on menopause focused on the impacts to the husbands of menopausal people rather than on the people experiencing menopause themselves.)

As far as advice goes, I feel like this book does a good job of reminding people of the “basics” —like focusing on sleep and hydration, reducing stress, getting “social support,” and incorporating physical activity into one’s life—without over-simplifying and without being condescending or preachy. The book is also good at recognizing that different people’s histories/experiences will mean that various options may be more or less practical/appealing/within reach for them. The overarching theme is to find things that work for you and to take care of yourself/make yourself a priority. The book’s last chapter, which is partly a meditation on postmenopausal possibilities and role-models, real-life and fictional, holds up the idea of reaching a point of “postmenopausal IDGAF” as one possible positive impact of menopause. Which … sounds pretty good, actually.






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