I’m not sweaty, you’re sweaty!

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Greetings from under the heat dome, where the air is thick, and we’re all damp in unpleasant places.

There’s no convenient time to be in a heat dome with temps over 100 degrees, but it’s particularly problematic when your 50-year-old body has decided to have its own internal heat dome at the same time. Both situations are temporary, but the heat dome that takes over women’s bodies can blaze even when it’s a chilly 68 degrees in the house. Everyone else in the family says they’re freezing.

Men, please stay with me here. This feels like such an awkward topic, yet it shouldn’t be. I can’t even believe I’m writing it down, but I trust my readers. I’ve shared far more vulnerable moments in this column over the years, so why should this one be different?

Before puberty, I was scared and embarrassed about even the concept of getting a period. When it arrived in junior high school, my goal was to ensure no one ever knew when it was happening. I once saw my dad cringe and change the channel when yet another commercial for Always Maxi Pads came on TV (complete with blue liquid demonstrations of absorbency).

For girls becoming teens before or during the 80s, the message from society was clear: “Periods are gross. Don’t be gross.”

I’ve been trying and mostly succeeding at that mission for 36 years. Now here I am, navigating another transition, and I feel like that 14-year-old kid all over again – strangely ashamed of something 100 percent normal and natural, something that happens to roughly half of the human population.

I don’t know when or how it happened, but somewhere along the way, women were made to feel like menopause is a failure – as if our ovaries went bankrupt because they were poorly managed. And because women have had so much practice at not mentioning periods, we don’t talk about the weird, distracting, or sometimes debilitating symptoms that may come along for the ride.

We don’t talk about it partly because we’ve all heard the stereotypical jokes about women “of a certain age.” So, after 36 years of successfully functioning as if everything is fine (while also bleeding far more than those pad commercials indicated), we finally finish having periods only to become a tired punchline. No wonder so many of us keep our mouths shut.

But honestly, I’m tired of being embarrassed about periods – the beginning, middle, or end of them. Every human on Earth owes our existence to the normal functioning of a woman’s body, so I’m done pretending it doesn’t exist in the name of being “proper” or ladylike.

Maybe I’ll throw a retirement party for my ovaries and thank them for their years of service. This messy, complicated body of mine made it possible to have three incredible children who are growing up to be top-notch humans. They are my life’s greatest work. I’m one of the lucky ones, and I know it.

And I hope that roughly 34 years from now, my own daughter becomes a 50-year-old person who never feels a moment of awkward embarrassment about this topic or any other biological fact. I hope she’ll be healthy, vibrant, and grateful that her body is right on time – progressing in the way bodies have been doing for thousands of years. Zero fear. Zero shame.

In the meantime, I’ll be here at my writing desk – occasionally switching on my newly purchased fan to help combat one heat dome or the other. Because the human body, with all its mysterious miracles, is much like the weather. Sooner or later, things will change.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at gwenrockwood5@gmail.com. Her book is available on Amazon. 

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