What are “menopause entrepreneurs” like Naomi Watts selling us? I saw it myself.

I’m going through menopause. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’m in the middle of menopause, which leads to menopause, which, unlike perimenopause, is less of a process than a sign.

Let me explain. Perimenopause is a period that typically begins in a woman at the age of 40 and lasts from one to ten years. Then the woman’s reproductive system begins to receive signals (or give signals) that it’s time to turn everything off; in other words, that he is reaching the end of his fertile years. Perimenopause is often accompanied by mood swings and irregular periods. This can make life for some women, like me, a confusing, disturbing, irritating random hellscape.

Menopause, on the other hand, is the end. There is no specific “moment” when menopause occurs. A woman is said to be there when a year has passed without menstruation. In this sense, a 50-year-old woman who has not had a period is menopausal. So is a 70-year-old woman who has had periods for 15 years.

Soon I will be that woman too.

A few years ago I started suffering from symptoms that I didn’t think much of at first. There was irritability and my tendency to cry at the slightest provocation. My periods were more frequent; usually every 3 weeks every 4. The night sweats were so terrible that I woke up soaking the other side of the bed so thoroughly that I had to walk to find a warm, dry patch. The sheets were easy to wash; mattress less. I wondered what the woman who comes to clean my apartment thought of me.

Earlier this month, journalist and author Susan Dominus published a New York Times Magazine cover story about menopause and the ways the medical establishment misleads women. It was a longed-for, deeply reported, essential feature shared back and forth by a significant number of my female peers, all of us Gen Xers in our 40s and 50s. In addition to outlining the ways in which this phase of a woman’s life has been misunderstood and “misdiagnosed,” it addressed menopause marketing, that is, companies that capitalize on current menopause conversations to sell products and services to the underserved. audience.

In fact, many businesses are entering menopause. Friends my age (I’m 50) report ads for supplements and exercise programs aimed at menopausal women dominating Instagram feeds. In addition, there are at least half a dozen new venture capital-funded companies being founded—usually by menopausal, entrepreneurial women—that want to help perimenopausal and menopausal women navigate the confusing maze of medical advice on things like hormone replacement therapy and connect users with medical professionals who can help.

And then there are conferences. Last weekend I attended a $200 event on the west side of Los Angeles called “The New Pause,” a one-day symposium-slash-conference of sorts marketed to women facing or going through menopause. and menopause. (I didn’t quite get the “new” part – still don’t – but oh well.)

Sponsored by Swell, a member-driven “first-of-its-kind midlife community,” and Stripes, actress Naomi Watts’ midlife answer to Goop, the all-day event, the second of its kind (the first was in New York last October), was held at the fancy Hotel Santa Monica, attended by a few hundred of the kind of women you might find in the conference room of a fancy hotel in Santa Monica. In other words, a bunch of rich-looking white women, many of whom are fair, wearing neutral colors in soft fabrics like cashmere and brushed cotton. There were also leather pants.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room. I’m not rich, rich-looking, or white, or a woman who carries a Kate Spade bag. Meaning: This is the place in the story where it would be most natural and easy for me to launch into an overly judgmental, snarky account of a gathering of middle-aged women with whom I have nothing in common.

Except: I think I could.

In fact, if I’m being honest, I’m not necessarily that different from the women I sat with for over six hours (with breaks!) on an overcast Saturday afternoon listening to a series of talks and panels on all things “female sexual medicine” (a term I’d never heard before).” for energetic joy” and to raise the “vibration” to the right nutrition. I, too, am a woman of a certain age who worries about skin hydration, thinning hair, emotional ups and downs, and many other things I’m frankly embarrassed to admit I worry about. (Vaginal dryness is not one of them. Yet.)

Still, I’m also terribly suspicious of anything marketed to me as a woman; especially when it’s marketed as some sort of solution or respite for living as a middle-aged menopausal woman. I saw a lot of this marketing in action at an event where a dozen tables were piled up with products to be inspected and sold in the hall/space next to the conference room. They included Nutrafol, a supplement designed to thicken and strengthen thinning hair. There was also some sort of protein bar that calls itself a “break food”. (It’s a… protein bar. Contains kale.)

So what happened in this room: A group of us, myself included, sat upright in a row of upholstered, straight-backed chairs and listened to more than a dozen women—therapists, scientists, doctors, lawyers—sitting and standing on stage. and talk about the transition of menopause both mentally and emotionally. Some of it was a little off the wall. A woman just stood on stage, told us to close our eyes and put our hands over our hearts, and then asked over and over (and over), “What makes you happy?” (Eventually I took his cues and came up with a few ideas: my friends, food, animals, travel, hikes, Maine.) Another speaker, author Joel Stein, took the stage to joke about mouths and his menopausal wife. recurrent urinary tract infections. (“I knew there would be a room full of lively, beautiful women with whom I wouldn’t have to use a condom,” was his opening line.) This was quite depressing, and no fun at all.

But what else? Well, there was a lot more, and not all of it was cringe-inducing. One panel, featuring an OB-GYN I knew socially, discussed the controversies surrounding hormone therapy. (At one point, a lone man on the panel explained something to one of the female speakers.) Some speakers discussed heart health and happiness. And while I wasn’t there with the fashion designer who took the stage to talk about “joy rockets” and how to feel “juicy and amazing,” I and, it seemed, most of the audience, were enthralled during it. the aforementioned panel’s questioning of a 2002 report by the Women’s Health Initiative, which suggested an increase in the incidence of reproductive cancers with the use of HRT… and sent a generation of women tossing the pills in the trash. (The report has since been retracted.)

All of which means that there were both highlights and lowlights in that room, and I don’t just mean expensive hair dye jobs. But I’d be lying if I said the symposium’s message was about aging gracefully: it was more about aging with purpose… and maybe a few CBD-infused vaginal suppositories. (And yes, it’s true.) Which is another way of saying that, along with the marketing and advertising opportunity that The New Pause provided to its organizers, the conference attempted to address some serious health and medical issues and risks associated with aging women.

In this respect, The New Pause was successful. But after spending those six-plus hours in that gorgeous meeting room, I wondered what the women in that room, myself included, really needed. Is it creams, gels and cooling facial sprays for hot flashes? (One of the panelists insists that the correct word is “vibrate”, not “blink”.) Is it community and discussion? The latter existed at The New Pause, but there are certainly better, fairer (and more affordable) ways to start and sustain conversations than fancy conferences in Santa Monica. Or just memberships in online groups.

I think a large part of the reason the New York Times cover story struck such a nerve is that it not only unapologetically leaned on a topic that has been debated and tiptoed about for decades, but it educated its readers on options for perimenopausal care. symptoms…and empowered them to stand up for themselves among medical professionals and researchers who have ignored their problem for so long. Readers felt seen and heard. In some ways, this felt like its own “new break”.

And they didn’t have to pay $200 it.

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