Drew Barrymore had Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler on her show the other day and what we have here is kind of like a movie throuple, or at least a potential one, because like Jen, Drew has also made several movies with Adam: The Wedding Singer, Fifty First Dates, and Blended. Not that it’s a competition here but if we’re comparing, I would say that Drew and Adam’s movies, for me, are better than Jen and Adam’s movies. The Wedding Singer and Fifty First Dates, at this point, are iconic rom-coms.
But we’re not here to beef. We’re here to talk about perimenopause, because at one point during the interview, Drew experiences what she thinks is her first hot flash. It happens at about the 3:25 mark.
More and more celebrities are talking openly about perimenopause, from Michelle Obama to Naomi Watts to Oprah and Emma Thompson, they are normalising the conversation and encouraging MORE conversation – because there are still so many women, too many women, who are uninformed about the process and therefore unprepared. For starters, it’s the language. “Menopause” is the general term that’s most commonly known and associated with hot flashes and mood swings and vaginal dryness and your period ending typically starting when a woman is in her 40s. More specifically, however, perimenopause is actually the stage during which a woman’s periods start to change and when she starts experiencing the aforementioned symptoms.
Menopause is official when 12 months go by without a period. So, let’s say a woman last got her period on March 1, 2023. If a whole year goes by and she doesn’t have another period, on March 1, 2024, she will have hit menopause. On March 2, 2024, she’ll be in post-menopause.
Drew Barrymore is currently in perimenopause, and as she shared on a panel with Gayle King on her Facing Fertility series, perimenopause doesn’t necessarily mean that your periods are more infrequent. It can actually be the opposite because Drew told Gayle that:
"I realized that I was in perimenopause when I started having my period every two weeks."
This is what’s happening to me right now. I have had my period since the Oscars. Which was over two weeks ago. Oscar weekend it was on full blast, then for the next ten days it was light; but last Friday, the floodgates opened again and I’m telling you, it’s a f-cking crime scene. Like I stayed in bed all day Saturday because the flow was so heavy, I had to change ultra tampons every two hours. And today it’s still bonkers. I got up at 430am today, it’s noon right now, and I’ve already gone through four ultras. Seriously I feel like a teenager again. It is a misconception then that perimenopause means that your period slows down. What is more accurate to say is that your period is unpredictable.
Different women will experience perimenopause differently. And since, historically, the medical community under-prioritised women’s health, we’re only now filling in the knowledge gaps, and a lot of that has come from women just talking to each other about their bodies and exchanging information. But since this is a relatively recent development, there’s been so much misinformation about menopause and therefore a lot of fear and shame. So the more we speak openly about it, without embarrassment, the more we can help each other out. Menopause is natural, it can be inconvenient, but it can also be … kinda cool?
To be clear, there are some women who have a really rough time with menopause and I totally appreciate that they are struggling. It is important for them to be heard. If this is you, please know that I respect that your experience is not mine and I am sorry that it’s been challenging. That said, I hope it’s OK for me to share with people that perimenopause, for me, has not been horrible. At least not so far. Yes, my crazy ass periods can be an inconvenience but they’re not debilitating. I haven’t had any hot flashes or mood swings, and generally I feel good. With the exception of Saturday, I have a lot more physical energy now than I did when I was in my 30s. I’m walking and running more than I ever have. And I have a lot more creative energy too. Some women have talked about “brain fog” during perimenopause. For me it’s like my brain is on fire, cognitively I’m in a great place, more curious than ever, particularly about my body.
Because it’s fascinating, this change is a f-cking trip! For a long time, the narrative around menopause was that it’s the death of something, a woman withering, eroded by time. Call me Pollyanna but I don’t think of it that way. For me it’s an evolution, which is cool as sh-t. To think that my body is actually morphing, for the second time! Because it happened in adolescence, my body altered itself from childhood to a phase where it was ready for childbirth (although I chose not to) and now it’s altering itself once again. In my mind, I see it as an energy transfer. All that energy that was spent once a month releasing an egg and all the work that goes into that process, my body is getting to the point where it won’t have to do that anymore … which means the energy can be transferred into a different kind of work. This, to me at least, is thrilling. It’s thrilling that the female form was designed to do this, has the POWER to this… without being bitten by a spider or zapped by gamma rays. Isn’t it a superpower though? The ability to transform?
I mean, I get it. If you’re getting perimenopausal headaches and vaginal dryness and generally just feeling miserable because you feel like sh-t, you probably want to slap me right now, and I wouldn’t blame you. Again, I understand that my experience may not be your experience. But I really hope that there’s space for as many experiences as possible to be shared. So that we can take away the stigma and the fear. I love what Drew did here, in the most casual way, just rolling with it unapologetically. This is good TV.
As for Jennifer, I don’t think we’ve heard much from her on the subject of menopause which is her choice. But as I mentioned earlier, more and more famous women are putting it out there and that can only be a good thing. (Unless of course it’s Gwyneth Paltrow up to her usual f-cksh-t, making you afraid of it and then monetising it.) Here’s Jen in silver last night at the premiere of Murder Mystery 2, still sticking to those neutrals for her press wardrobe.