Celebrating menopause breaks the silences of a lifetime and forges a future of openness and sharing.
The silence of menopause had already been broken publicly. In spite of our youth-centered culture, several books about menopause had appeared, as well as a Newsweek cover story focused on turning 50. Many of us now felt about reaching 50 what Gloria Steinem felt at 40. "You don't look 40," someone remarked to her. She quipped, "This is what 40 looks like!" Rather than experiencing an empty nest at the end of our biologically reproductive lives, many of us at my ceremony felt giddy with freedom, with the chance to forge a new path of our choosing, without obligations. We were asking ourselves, some for the first time, "What do we want to do with this new opportunity?"
While the menopause ceremony suffered some of the awkwardness and embarrassment that accompanies a lifetime of silence, it was also filled with laughter, sorrow, relief, and understanding. I hope the silence that has enveloped so many other important life-turnings will, by the strength of our ceremonies and rituals, our books and our conversations, be similarly broken. Ceremonies and rituals today, like those of old, make each life-stage a time for self-revelation, first to ourselves, then to one another, and then to the larger human community--for breaking out of the tyranny and alienation of silence.
At the end of the ceremony, I read a Marge Piercy poem. When at last that lifelong leak of blood comes to an end, she says, "I will secretly dance and pour out a cup of wine on the earth." Now the dance need no longer be secret. Now menopause may become what the title of her poem calls it: "Something to Look Forward To."
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