Not sure if it was just my school, but in fifth grade the girls went in one classroom with the lady teacher, and the boys went the other way with the male teacher. I am not sure what the boys discussed. When we reconvened they seemed to have played games or something, while the young ladies had been let in on the secrets of growing up female. We were wide eyed at this wonder and a little petrified. Some girls had already entered that “magical land” of womanhood. They did not seem as excited as the video let on it should be, with blossoming and all. For some of us that blossoming took a lot longer, but blossom we did and life moved on. I remember the one teacher seemed so brave and empowering when she told us if we ever needed (said in a very emphatic tone) to go to the bathroom, and someone said no, she said we should just get up and go. I could not imagine in fifth grade such defiance, but I had not entered womanhood yet, it would be a few years later that I appreciated her wisdom.
Now a few decades and a couple of children later, I have been thinking about it and realizing how many of us, as we enter our forties (or getting closer to exiting, ahem), that we need that class again, but for midlife. There are things that older women need to be telling the younger-older women, even if we do not believe you, we need to know about this next blossoming, and at times wilting not a TMI kind but just a heads up this might happen, or if your body or brain is doing this, do not worry that is perfectly normal, or when to use the proverbial get up and leave the room with or without permission if you need to go.
For my fortieth birthday, two wonderful older women took me out to dinner to celebrate. Dinner conversation turned to my eyesight, and how I was not sure what was wrong because I was having trouble reading. The one woman was a straight forward sixty year old, told me to go buy some readers and all would be well. She let me know that this happens in the mid life world. Instead of peppering that woman with more questions, I regretfully slipped into denial letting her know I had perfect eyesight my whole life and surely turning a number was not going to take a dent at it, foolish woman that I was. Being that I love to read and it was becoming a real struggle, I sheepishly went to the store after that and splurged on a $1 pair of readers. That whole dollar improved my eyesight immediately. So apparently just like that fifth grade blossom, it happens in a variety of ways and over varying amounts of time, but there are some things that we all need to know are going to happen eventually. So I am proposing that some older women get together and start hosting a “fifth grade” health class for midlife women. I know I would be at the front of the line to attend. In the meantime, this is your warning, I will continue to start awkward conversations with older women to get to the bottom of this mysterious stage of life.