Twelve years ago this week, I wrote my first blog post. The topics I’ve written about have changed as my life did – from my dating debacles to sexual health to cancer to parenthood to diversity in education. And, today, I’m shifting gears again to write about something that I almost avoided posting about:


I gave a speed talk on menopause at my 25th college reunion. I’ve written about being thrown into medical menopause after chemotherapy. But, I haven’t been that public on my rather public social media platforms about menopause and post-menopause. I felt stuck between Sex and the City and Golden Girls, and it was neither sexy nor golden.

So, why am I writing this now? Most importantly, I want my friends who feel as though they’re going through all these confusing changes alone to know that they aren’t. For people with loved ones in menopause, I hope they can learn something, too. It also is part of who I am to talk about that which is uncomfortable. Lastly, I write this as someone who is now post-menopausal with a greater knowledge base and appreciation for what my body has endured.

What does it mean to be in menopause?

“In menopause” is a catch-all term that makes the experience seem like more of a discrete event than it is. There are three stages of menopause: 1) perimenopause; 2) menopause; and 3) post-menopause. Today, I’ll be focusing on perimenopause (also known as pre-menopause or the transition to menopause).

Am I in perimenopause?

On average, perimenopause starts at 47, and menopause at 51. But, for some, perimenopause can start in their* 30s, and for others, it can start in their 50s. It’s worth asking older relatives who have been through menopause as to their age and experience with it.

Image Credit: Cleveland Clinic

The most obvious signs that you’ve started perimenopause are:

  1. Period Changes:
    • Your periods can become irregular in terms of the amount of bleeding, frequency, and duration. Remember when you were a teenager and you never knew when your period would come, how long it would last, and what clothes or bedding would get stained in the process? Yes, perimenopause can be reminiscent of that. Be prepared!
    • During this stage, your ovaries are producing less estrogen and fewer eggs, but you can still get pregnant.
    • For 25-30% of people in perimenopause, periods can be significantly heavier. You might wish to speak with your GYN about options.
    • If you are using a form of birth control with hormones such as the IUD or the pill, or have had a hysterectomy, you may not notice a change in your periods.
  2. Menopausal symptoms
    • During perimenopause, your body is adjusting to a decrease in estrogen. This may cause a range of symptoms, including sleep disturbances, mood changes, headaches, joint pain, slowed metabolism, bladder issues, digestive problems, and vaginal pain. Saska Graville for MPowered cites 34(!) possible menopause symptoms.
    • 85% of those in menopause experience hot flashes. During a hot flash, your skin temperature can increase by five-seven degrees. (Hot flashes do not change your core body temperature, though. If you’re wondering whether it’s a fever or a hot flash, check your temperature with an oral thermometer, not a temperature scanner.) On average, hot flashes last for four minutes.
    • Some may get many of these symptoms, and some very few. Hormonal birth control and hormonal replacement therapy [HRT] may reduce the severity of these symptoms. Talk with your GYN or internist as to whether you may benefit from these options. Also make sure to factor in your risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis into your conversations about HRT.
      • If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your doctor about these topics, my old post about talking to your doctor about sex can be adapted for menopause.  
  3. Blood tests — Blood tests can rule out other health issues with similar symptoms like thyroid problems, while checking your hormone levels. Since hormones fluctuate during perimenopause, you may need more than one blood test to look at your follicle-stimulating hormone levels (FSH).

How long will perimenopause last?

On average, this stage lasts four years, but again, every body is different. For some, symptoms are minimal and last only a few months. Others experience a multitude of symptoms with perimenopause lasting up to 10 years.

In my next post, I’ll explore menopause and post-menopause and then shift back to anti-racist resources. Until then, please comment and post.

Be well xoxo

* Since 2008, the majority of my posts were written as though everyone with a vagina identified as female. I know better now and am trying to approach this post correctly using gender-inclusive language.

** Disclaimer: Although I wear many hats, I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. This post is not a substitute for medical advice. Hyperlinks are plentiful in this post to help steer you toward additional information from reliable medical sites.

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, there was a Little City Girl.  Her parents raised her with love, support and opportunities.  They let her know that she could be anything that she wanted to be when she was older.

At 14, Little City Girl told her father that she wanted to go to Wellesley College and become a lawyer.

“Why do you want to be a lawyer?” he inquired.

“Because I like to write, debate and help people,” Little City Girl replied.

When she went to Wellesley several years later, the professors also impressed upon her and her classmates that they could be and do anything.

A college internship brought City Girl to Washington, DC, in 1993, and she fell in love with the nation’s capital.  After her internship ended, she stayed in DC and got a job as a legal assistant.  She went on to law school, and when she finally started to work as an attorney, she was thankful that an instinct that she had 12 years prior was the right one.

In her first job, she noticed that wearing a short skirt or a fitted sweater to work prompted inappropriate comments from her bosses.  With each subsequent position, she sported more pants suits and felt more comfortable informing male colleagues that their behavior was unacceptable.

She also learned that although her dating stories were entertaining, she had to be selective about what she shared with co-workers.  One partner only knew that she was dating an NFL player – without any specifics – and thought it funny to walk into a meeting after a football game, saying:

Your boyfriend can’t handle his balls.

In theory, she could do anything professionally that she wanted.  But, unfortunately, that didn’t mean that her age, gender, appearance or sexuality wouldn’t be topics of conversation or affect other people’s perceptions of her around the office.

When City Girl left firm life for a nonprofit, she began doing some legal policy work.  She always relied on facts and the law, rather than emotions, when speaking about a polarizing issue, but that didn’t stop a few very conservative people from sending her office hate mail.  Her former boss approached her about doing policy work exclusively.  She was flattered, but she worried that she would miss working directly with the clients if she chose that path.

In 2008, she decided to take a sabbatical from the law to focus on health issues and finish her master’s program.  As she prepared to write her thesis, she thought it would be fun to start blogging about her dating adventures.  She chose to blog anonymously so that if she reentered the policy arena, her sexuality wouldn’t be used against her.  (If she had received several pieces of hate mail and comments about her appearance or significant others without provocation, she knew that her sex life and dating mishaps would become ammunition for those who disagreed with her politics.)

As her blog readership grew, she began attending events as City Girl.  Quite a few people in DC knew both her real name and blog link, but they kindly respected her privacy.  Local online publications were also understanding, taking her picture with her name or quoting her as City Girl without using her name or face.  She managed with the help of others to remain anonymous from the legal policy world.

In 2010, City Girl wondered if it was worth taking another year away from the law to see where her blog could go and start teaching sexual health workshops.  She joined the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists and attended their annual conference. She also found a platform, as she wrote about the use of toxic ingredients in sex toys and the need for self-regulation.  Lotus Blooms and Fascinations at Fun Love approached her about writing for their sites and reviewing body-friendly products for them.  She began to ponder how she could advocate for safe sex toys on a larger scale.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2010, she decided to use her experience to try to raise awareness and help others.  Her friends and doctors knew that she was willing to talk about what she was going through, and opportunities to do just that followed.  The more that she talked about her experience and let others in, the more she wanted to continue to do so.

She finished chemotherapy and realized that she is stronger than she thought that she was.  She also realized that there’s much more for her to do as an advocate and that it’s time to come out from behind her laptop.  If she can help one more person through her blog, her photographs or her interviews, it’s worth it.  She accepts that she may never work again in the legal policy arena, although she wishes that there wasn’t a double standard with respect to female sexuality in the workplace.

Once upon a time, there was a City Girl with long, red hair named Stef Woods.

Stef Woods, City Girl, City Girl Blogs


Photo Credit: Kristina Hopper Photography

She’s bald now, but she still feels sexy.


Stef Woods, City Girl, City Girl Blogs

Photo Credit: Moshe Zusman Photography

Although she’s not exactly sure what will happen next, she trusts that she will live happily ever after.