What I don’t understand about the And Just Like That…, the Sex and the City reboot, is that if you’re going to go for all the stereotypical laments about aging, why glaze over the most obvious one? Menopause has long been considered a taboo topic, and the way it’s been handled in the series seems to confirm this. While hardly a sexy topic, hearing aids, gray hair, colonoscopies, and having a plastic surgery consultation or hip replacement surgery aren’t, either.
It took until Episode 9 for the series to make any significant mention of this major event—and it was ultimately played for laughs. Charlotte brightly announces that she thinks she’s done. “I haven’t gotten my period in four months, so I think I’m finally in menopause!”
“Welcome to the club. Prepare to be sweaty,” says Miranda.
“Actually, it’s funny,” Charlotte continues. “I haven’t gotten any hot flashes or breast tenderness or brain fog or any of those awful symptoms you guys had.”
The underlying message is that some lucky women get to escape the icky symptoms, and if you’re not one of the lucky ones, your experience is best left unmentioned. Then the scene ends.
The actual cessation of your periods is the least of it. Those “awful symptoms” can go on for years—both before the bleeding stops and after—and greatly affects a woman’s quality of life. Besides, there is the psychological aspect to contend with: Often, an unexpected sense of loss and anguish can surround the perceived end of femininity. But, wait—Charlotte’s not “done” quite yet. At the end of the episode, she gets a “flash period” all over her white jumpsuit, and that sight gag wraps up her brief flirtation with menopause. It looks like Steve isn’t the only one getting short-changed in AJLT.
As a 53-year-old woman who loved SATC, I was looking forward to catching up with the women. I was keen to see them shine some light on the harsh realities we’ve all been facing since we last met. How would our beloved characters handle changing physiques, sex and waning libido, mood swings, brain fog, hot flashes and the myriad ways menopause can force internal and external reckonings? There was a great opportunity to use a popular platform to alter the conversation around “The Change” (or critique the lack thereof)—but no.
Back when Kim Cattrall’s Samantha Jones was still a part of the franchise, she claimed—as the oldest member of the original cast—to be a “hormone whisperer” in The Sex and The City 2 movie. She announced she was leading the way through the “menopause maze”: “I’ve tricked my body into thinking it’s younger,” she said after listing her “vitamins, melatonin sleep patches, bioidentical oestrogen cream, progesterone cream, and a touch of testosterone.”
Her revelation was treated unkindly, with Carrie smugly pointing out that she and Miranda weren’t of that age. Then, when Samantha’s hormonal first aid kit was confiscated in Abu Dhabi, she fretted that without it she’d go “ricocheting back into menopause.”
The remaining three characters are now firmly “of that age,” and they have plenty of company. In the United States it is estimated that 1.3 million women enter menopause each year, but in AJLT, it took until Episode 6 for the M-word to even be uttered. At a picnic with Carrie and Charlotte, Miranda remarks that she seems “to have replaced too much drinking with obsessive masturbation. Is it menopause you think, or is it just my compulsive personality?”
Did I miss something? Since when did menopause equal masturbation? That’s laughably inaccurate—and if it were the case, a lot more shows would be finding ways to work a menopause theme into their storylines instead of dodging it. Unless Miranda is on a mega dose of testosterone, that connection doesn’t make sense. The only potential truth here is that menopause often brings one’s honest needs to the fore (in some cultures, it’s referred to as the “Second Spring” and associated with reclaiming yourself and your priorities), and perhaps Miranda’s new love interest had awakened a long-silenced desire.
Menopause is complex and different for every woman, but it doesn’t have to swept under the rug anymore. Aging is a slippery slope for sure, but it’s a nuanced one, and one with footholds here and there to grab hold of along the way. Many of those footholds are provided by other women who are willing to share their personal struggles and what has worked for them. We need all the help we can get, and who could have better provided this help than the women of SATC?
Perimenopause kicked off my own quest to deal with a suddenly non-compliant body. Forty-four seemed to me a very early age to deal with hormone tinkering, but it turns out it wasn’t. I was desperate to find someone to lead me through the maze of menopause, but just like Samantha, I had to become my own hormone whisperer. I’ve tried it all: bioidentical creams, vitamin supplements, birth control pills, and, eventually, testosterone pellets. Little did I know that managing the symptoms of menopause requires frequent recalibration until you give up or die. There are days when I feel like everything is hanging by a string—including my pelvic floor—and other days when I feel on top of my game.
AJLT’s creators and writing staff are not alone wanting to tiptoe around this normal passage in a woman’s life; even OBGYNs in training receive relatively little instruction about menopause. Yet there are plenty of women talking about it on social media and podcasts launching on the topic. Mommy bloggers are hitting perimenopause and menopause and aren’t content to keep quiet or pretend it isn’t happening. So why is our culture so dead-set against accurately portraying women in menopause onscreen?
The rare counterexample is that fabulous Fleabag episode in which Kristin Scott Thomas goes off on the merits of menopause and the revolutionary concept of looking forward to it. It contains a lot of colourful language, but the upshot is, “it is horrendous, and then it’s magnificent.”
Life is messy, and so is menopause. I would have loved to hear the SATC ladies discussing the pros of pelvic floor therapy, lube, and vibrators. Even if they go there in the remaining episode, it’s too late in the game to have any lasting effect.
Young women I’ve spoken with, who binge-watched Sex and the City during the pandemic, have not complained about the way aging is portrayed in the new series. They say they don’t care, they’re just happy to have their old friends back again. They’re “not of that age” yet, and so they can’t see what’s missing. Maybe by the time they are, there will be shows unafraid to address it.
This article appeared on Vogue.com.