You know menopause is annoying and making your life miserable. But did you know the very word itself might be partly to blame for the negativity surrounding middle age and the change? There is more to what is in the menopause name than you may think.
Origin of the word menopause
Menopause literally comes from the Greek root words:
Men: meaning month and in the context ‘menses’ or monthly menstrual periods
Pausis: literally to stop or cease
This makes menopause literally the stopping of or cessation of the monthly menstrual cycle. This is why we now use perimenopause to describe those years leading up to the last menstrual period. Menopause itself is the stage after a woman has not had a period for a twelve consecutive months. Postmenopause is the time afterwards or the years following that last menstrual period.
Ok, I know all about that and you may be thinking why bother with such insignificant details. After all, who really cares where the word originated? But as the late George Carlin brilliantly pointed out in his comedy routines, words are very powerful. They influence our lives in ways that we are not aware of but once we learn a bit more it is astounding what we uncover.
Menopause has a negative tone over women’s lives in many areas of Western society. By and large, the West glorifies youth in terms of looks, vitality, and reproductivity. Younger women experience their highest fertility peaks and coincidentally the human body was designed to make females desirable to males, primarily for making babies. This attractiveness obsession has reached even further into society placing emphasis on achievement and purpose during ones younger years. It is not so much anymore of trusting no one over 30 but rather who needs them?
Menopause may have marked the end of life in the literal sense when life expectancy rates averaged as low as 40 or 50 years until just a few decades ago. Especially for women, once childbearing was no longer possible what were their purposes in later life if they managed to live long enough? The menopause transition served up a message of uselessness and obsolescence for women who dared to live into their senior years.
Now as women live longer and may spend upwards of three decades hanging around after the last box of pads or tampons, menopause still casts an unwanted psychological shadow over society. Healthcare providers look for ways to help women manage the physical menopause symptoms through lifestyle improvements. At the same time, the mental and emotional aspects of menopause prove to be just as important. What do women need during menopause?
Even with emerging news that menopause is not the end of life though it can still seem that way to many women. Whether or not a woman has chosen to have children, she still faces the social stigma of declining energy, packing extra pounds, graying hairs, and fading looks. Bombarded with daily images of the ideal woman, youth reigns supreme and old age is at best tolerated and at worst ignored altogether.
This leaves women feeling vulnerable to the whims of social expectations in every area of life from the bedroom to the boardroom. Vim and vigor are in; hot flashes and sleeplessness are out. More disturbing is the general assumption, despite the changes brought about by the Baby Boomers as they inch their way through life, that old age equals worthlessness. Step aside and make room for the youth because your time has passed.
Taken literally, menopause simply describes the end of that time of the month. Yet the far-reaching impact has made menopause a dirty word and one that is very much feared. It is a natural phase of life that every woman who lives long enough will experience and is still the elephant in the room that no one feels comfortable discussing. Ignore it and maybe it will just somehow go away.
We need to realize that menopause is not going to go away and in fact will be a part of our lives. But that is all it is; a part of our lives that moves us from one stage to another. Yes, we will yearn for our younger years at times but there is no reason to give one word so much power over our lives.