Trigger warning: This article includes mentions of rape, depression, and suicidal ideation. If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988, 24 hours a day.

Gabrielle Union and I are talking about our periods — specifically, what happens to them in perimenopause.

“They’re coming every two or three weeks,” I say. “No one warns you this is going to happen.”

“And no one tells you what’s going to come out,” she says. “Like golf balls.”

She recommends Knix period underwear: “They’re going to be your friend. K-N-I-X.” I write the name down.

Almost every woman over 45 (like me) and certainly every woman over 50 (like Union), has entered the menopause journey. But you can probably count on one hand the number of women in Hollywood who have ever publicly uttered the M-word. Union has a pretty good idea of why that is. “I think to claim it is to claim defeat as a viable woman, a valuable woman, because that’s what the patriarchy has led us to believe,” Union says. “Years ago, I learned a phrase that some misogynistic men use in Hollywood: ‘What is her fuckability quotient?’ So if you think about the fuckability quotient, being honest about aging and menopause is like taking yourself out before they even notice that maybe you’re on deck to be booted into the pasture. You’re not going to have the same pay; you’re not going to get the same jobs.”

But speaking of fuckability: Fuck those guys. 51-year-old Union hasn’t just uttered the M-word, she’s shouted about it. She first shared in 2021 that she entered perimenopause — the phase of fluctuating estrogen levels that leads up to a woman’s final period — at 37. Union says she has now been in perimenopause for 14 years.

“Menopause” refers to simply the 366th day since a woman’s last period, after which she becomes “postmenopausal.” “I’ll get right around the year mark [without a period] and think, OK, I’m ready to let it go. And she’s like, ‘Hey, girl, I’m back,’” Union laughs.

Predictability is certainly not a hallmark of the menopausal stage. To help women trying to get a handle on what they’re experiencing, Union is partnering with Clearblue to promote its new Menopause Stage Indicator, a symptom- and cycle-tracking app plus five urine tests that measure FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels to indicate a person’s likely menopause stage.

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