Turning 40 — or 50, or 60, or any age, frankly — isn’t the beginning of the end, despite what so many people in our society seem to think. The good news is the tides on that, ahem, old-school way of thinking seem to be turning — and when it comes to growing older gracefully, gratefully, and flat-out fantastically, one person who’s working to change the conversation is Judy Greer. The actress and founding partner of Wile, believes that “our lives are just beginning” at this stage, and she’s out to update the narrative around perimenopause, menopause, and aging in general.
Growing up, Greer’s home wasn’t one where topics like sexual health or menopause were discussed, she says. In fact, at the SHE Media Co-Lab Future of Health event during SXSW, she shared a hilarious (yet telling) story about seeing her mother standing completely naked on their balcony in Michigan one January day. She was “flashing” — both literally and figuratively — but it wasn’t until Greer got older that she realized her mother wasn’t just trying to scandalize the neighbors — she was having a hot flash.
“No one was talking about this,” she says. “No one wanted to talk about this. My friends didn’t really want to talk about this. And my mom never really talked to me about it. My mom is cool, but I didn’t grow up in a house that was very open about sex, sexual health, about any of that stuff. I pretended to take the pill because of acne.”
Since then, she says, “I’ve had really great conversations with my mom about it. I’m so sick of people treating age like it’s something that needs to be ignored or changed.” Or even treated as something to fear. She continues, “I remember my mom and dad turning 40 [and seeing] these parties where, like, there are tombstones in the front yard. We’re smarter and better than that.”
Changing that over-the-hill-at-40 mentality and the stigma of words like “mid-life” or “middle-aged” is part of why Greer wanted to be involved with Wile. “I was thinking, in the beginning, ‘I’d like to change the words. I’d like to find new words.’” she says. “But then I realized, ‘let’s not. Let’s just embrace the words we have. Let’s use them for good and not evil.’”
Greer also realized there weren’t any products for women who were 40-plus and entering perimenopause after she started not feeling like herself in her early 40s. “I started doctor shopping until I found someone who was down to party with my [menopausal] symptoms,” she says. “I would tell doctors, ‘I shouldn’t have to feel this way. No one should have to feel this way.’ That was what eventually brought me to Wile.”
While the age at which perimenopause and menopause happen for women may vary, they’re an inevitable part of life. However, despite the imminence, the conversation around life at age 40 and beyond needs more attention — and Greer hopes to encourage more women to be accepting of that next chapter in their lives.
“I just wanted to start this conversation,” she says, “and being part of this company could do that so that we can all really embrace ourselves, solve these problems, deal with these symptoms, and feel our best selves again.”
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