Menopause is one of those words women stash away for later use. Before it happens, it remains a distant, far-off land that you will pass through at some point, when you are much, much older, and usually without any advance reading.
“When I got a little older and went through that ‘M’ thing,“ Nora Ephron once said, “Nothing that was written about it corresponded to what was going on. It was all these cheerful little books called things like ‘Wisdom of Menopause,’ and life is way more complicated than that.”
Menopause: An Imperfect Guide, aims to be a much more approachable guidebook on the subject. Created by writer Sasha Davies and designer Nancy Nowacek with illustrations by Kate Bingaman-Burt, the 72-page booklet is meant to be read well before The Pause happens, and not just by women. Its Kickstarter, which ends on Monday, March 26, has already surpassed its goal for the initial print run that will be shipped in April, or emailed to those who order a digital copy. Afterward, it will be available for purchase on Amazon, and at the end of this summer, the two will also host a menopause “pop-up” in Downtown Brooklyn with workshops dedicated to menopause-related health, fitness and nutrition.
“Everyone knows that women menstruate, but we’ve generally figured out how to make that invisible,” said Davies. Menopause is equally invisible until a woman enters it — “and your body demands that you pay attention to it.”
The book is meant to make the whole thing less mysterious and less laborious than say, Germaine Greer’s 500-page classic, The Change, and more like a CliffNotes to a natural part of female development that we could all use more information on, whether we are years away from menopause, knocking on its door, or witnessing someone we know going through it without much support.
“Selfishly, I wanted this for me,” said Davies, who realized there was a major gap in the literature on menopause after scanning the aisles of bookstores and the library for something clear and concise and finding Suzanne Somers I’m Too Young for This! on the one side, and Christiane Northrup’s 700-page tome—the one Nora Ephron ridiculed—on the other.
“We know very little about how our bodies work, and that makes us not such good custodians of them.” She uses bone health as an example of our spotty understanding of a woman’s biology, and how the admonition to “start taking calcium when you’re 30” means nothing unless you really understand how menopause will affect your calcium levels and bone density a decade or more later.
For Nowacek (whose Citizen Bridge project we’ve covered before), the reaction she often gets in response to working on a guide to menopause, is “Why do you want to think about it?” Like Davies, the project satisfies both a desire to understand the mechanics of our bodies, and to confront the stigma associated with menopause head-on. “It’s deeply entwined with this identify shift,” she says. “No woman is really looking forward to getting older because our culture doesn’t value older women.”
Davies spent a year researching the book, part of a series of “imperfect guides to everyday things,” and had two gynecologists review it. It’s published with a Creative Commons license that allows anyone to republish and sell an updated version of the text—say from the perspective of the LGBTQ community or a different ethnic background—so long as it’s also licensed similarly.
“Think about all the books on how to lose weight,” says Davies. “And yet they persist because people need to hear it in a voice they can hear it from.”
Adds Nowacek, “We’re hoping that this is a voice —not only for women in their 30s but also men — that many will be able to hear in a way that doesn’t yet exist.”