I’m going through “the change.” You know, menopause, the Big-M, the slow, crampy, occasional perspiration-inducing slide into dried-up-uterushood—that is, if you can slide into anything dried up without a reasonable dollop of lubricant. My doctor, my friends, my husband, my mother-in-law, and even my kids keep telling me I’m too young (wise, wise people, they’ve learned that flattery gets you everywhere with me—flattery, flowers, and a regular supply of single malt Whisky), but my hormones just thumb their noses at the naysayers and push on with their agenda, which seems to be making me a complete emotional disaster and occasionally bloated, sweating, crazy-person.
I don’t mind. I really don’t. My uterus has been closed for business for eleven happy years, so it’s no surprise to me that it wants to retire for good, find a nice warm beach to lie on, take up paddle boarding, and sip salty margaritas—it’s worked hard for the last 31 years. It deserves a break. I just wish it didn’t feel the need to burn bridges with the rest of me to get there.
I wish, for instance, that with the closing of my own little egg factory, I didn’t have to vanish into the Island of the Invisible Women. The place populated by vibrant, smart, amazing women that the world has deemed dried up. Sexuality? What?! No sexy for you Lady, you’re licence to delight has been revoked! Evidently the years we spent devoting our time, our energy, and our bodies to other people has left us with an utter desirability deficit and we (perhaps as our most vivacious and confident selves) are virtually invisible, except to the other inhabitants of Invisible Island, and restaurant wait staff hoping for sizable tips (no one is ever invisible to them!).
I wish that the end of this era didn’t start with the beginning of the Whisker Era, in which I am plucking what could easily be considered piano wires out of my chin on a near daily basis (these bad boys would be worthy of a henchman’s garrote, if I let them grow long enough).
I wish that I could sleep-in and not lie wide awake, staring at the ceiling beyond seven in the morning, every day, including Saturday. I wish that my bum wasn’t flattening out and sliding toward the back of my knees or that my once lovely jaw line wasn’t being slowly consumed by my neck. I wish that the percentage of gray hair on my head (and other parts unmentionable) didn’t outstrip the other hairs 4 to 1. I wish……I wish……I…...I dunno.
That’s the truth. I just don’t know. I just don’t know how to do this aging thing. But I do know that I want to do it well. I mean, Heaven forbid I go kicking and screaming in a mini-skirt to my Botox appointment or knee-lift (saggy knees are sooooo last season!), or worse that I settle into myself (and a plush velveteen Barcalounger) in a shapeless polyester dress, comfortable shoes, and monthly perm at the hairdressers. I want to wear hot pink scarves and hot high heels and laugh out loud and laugh too loud. I want to be a wild, impulsive, unapologetic, challenged and challenging woman, with an out of commission uterus but fully commissioned passion.
The struggle for me is walking that high strung piano wire between being the impressive woman I want to be, embracing who I am (think Susan Sarandon) rather than a terrifying and terrified woman, desperately grasping for something past (think Demi Moore).
So, I’m constantly wondering how to make this transition—how to go from girl to woman to mother to grandmother. I live with the archetypes of the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone continually looping in my head.
We don’t have it easy. That’s for sure. We’re constantly inundated with the message that to be acceptable we have to be either the virginal maiden or the fertile mother. How crazy it is that as both of those women I was unsure and unable to express myself as a wild, confident, sexy woman (not that the virginal maiden was around in my life for very long—but don’t tell my kids—I choose a little revisionist history now and then!), but now as I get my fully fledged membership card to Invisible Island, I am growing into that empowered woman! Ironic, huh? Thing is, I’m kinda loving the woman I’m becoming.
So maybe that’s the key. Maybe I just need to embrace that I’m a whisker-plucking-hair-dying-bum-sliding-jawline-less, Invisible-Island dweller, and that’s okay, because I’m also strong and vibrant and wild and bright. Maybe I need to make room for the young women. To let them start their journey, instead of stalling myself in the middle of the female super highway and blocking all the lanes. I need to love that I’m through the other side and just keep going. And I am, through the other side—I have 5 stunning children, 2 marriages (one successful, so far. That my husband, this sweet lovely man, sticks with me is a testament to commitment and stubbornness—his, not mine!), an amazing career, a memory filled with wild, sometimes raucous adventures (oh, who am I kidding? sometimes? More like most times!), and most recently a breathtaking, beautiful grandson to show for my life.
It’s been an amazing ride! But it’s not over. My uterus may be drying up and heading for a retirement village in Boca Raton, but I’m not. So as I sit having dinner at a favourite restaurant with my gorgeous maiden (she’s 10 going on 17), and my breath-taking fertile goddesses (21, 24, and 26—the new mama of our group, my daughter-in-law), I realize I can stop looking around and seeing where I fit or how I belong or how I can hold onto what I was (or what I thought I was), and just be what I am—a slightly cranky, always sarcastic, menopausal, life-loving, 46-year-old wife, lover, mother, gramma, sister, friend, and entirely unmanageable woman (with slightly saggy knees and a longish mini skirt)!
And as I sit finishing dinner with my gorgeous girls, I’ll raise a glass and toast my retiring uterus. I’ll say, “I’d like to thank you for years of dedicated service, though I have to admit, you did cause your share of pain—literally. But as I look around the table at what you’ve helped create I want to honour you. You’ve worked hard and you’ve earned a rest. So enjoy. As for me, I’m going to continue this fabulous journey without you! Sláinte!”
Oh, and then I I’ll pick up the cheque for dinner, and leave the lingering wait staff a generous tip.
Everything you ever wanted to know about menopause, but were afraid to ask.
My kids are driving me crazy. Plain and simple. It's been a long, hot summer, and being up-close and personal, every damn day, with two sweaty pre-teens, a stroppy university student, and an earnest, droopy 24-year-old on her navel gazing who-am-I journey is pushing me to the edge. It reminds me of all the summers I spent with my grandparents, and the many days my darling Gramma would say (before she'd slipped down the hall to take off her girdle and secretly slide a mickey of Gordon’s Dry Gin out of a pair of sensible shoes at the back of her closet), "Oh! You kids! Shut up!! You're driving me to drink!!"
Ya know, I think Gramma was on to something.
So, with her wise words in mind, I've decided to take a page out of her book (or a Gin out of a shoe, if you prefer that metaphor—which I do) and develop a strategy, a plot, an ingenious scheme, to make it through the rest of the summer. My plan is simple in concept and sure not to fail. Bwaaa-haaaaa-haaaaaaaa. Bwaaaa-haaaaa-haaaaa-haaaaa-haaaaaaaa…(the evil laugh doesn’t work as well in print as it does in my head, but try to go with me on this).
When approached with the Greek chorus of “I’m-bored, I-want, I’m-hungry, she-touched-my, I-need-gas-money” demands, and the overwhelming scent of hose-wet adolescent, I’ll stop. That is, freeze. Stop moving entirely. You see, a mother standing in a kitchen or laundry room, or sitting on the toilet is such a ubiquitous sight to her offspring that she becomes almost invisible (a mother’s natural camo, especially if she's holding any implements coated in food remnants, filthy socks turned inside-out, or as with seeming regularity in my case, mid-stream). If, in the event that Step One fails and the Barbarians sense my presence (which I admit, may be more often than I like, them being equipped with highly tuned mom-dar), I'll move on to Step Two.
After being spotted by the hordes, with the unfortunate failure of my camouflage, I'll smile (to put them off their guard), then run. Admittedly, I'm not as fast as the little ruffians, and when determined they have incredible stamina. But I hope that with the combination of the disarming smile, and the sudden movement (of which they’re unfamiliar—sudden movements from their mother, I mean), the savages will be unsure of what's happening, thus giving me a much needed head start. I plan to press my advantage, make a fast-break for any room with a lock, and once inside throw the bolt (or turn the little button on the knob, but that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive).
Now, I haven't failed to account for the problem of having the brutes on one side of a door, and me, locked on the other—which most mothers have learned results in the pound-kick-pound-scream attack. So I've made a survey of all the rooms in our house with a lock, and discovered that each of those rooms also has a window. Always have an escape hatch (that's my motto). Oh, yes. Always have an escape hatch and wear shoes.
My plan is good, but I fear that it may be slightly flawed, as eventually my Catholic guilt will force me home where I suspect the Bestowers of the Stretch Marks will be lying in wait. So, when forced to re-enter the battle ground, I will proceed to the final step: Step Three.
With laser-like focus—through the noise and din, unreasonable demands and high-pitched whines—I'll make my way to the drink cupboard and pour myself a stiff one. Once imbibed, I will repeat this step until sufficiently lubricated as to make all complaining, whinging, demanding, and shouting irrelevant (to me). At which point, I will proudly raise a glass to Gramma and carry on the family tradition by bellowing, "Oh! You kids! Shut up!! You're driving me to drink!"
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