Some Like It Hot: Menopause And Other Disappearing Acts

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Dr Liz Conor didn’t write an introduction for this piece, and no-one at New Matilda is game to chance their arm. So just read on, okay?

It has come to my attention that it isn’t the done thing to talk about the Big M in polite company. I believe it was taken off the school curriculum sometime around the Trier witch trials (1581-1593). Frankly I think it’s due for an airing.

Firstly, women have no cause to be polite to anyone about any of the unwarranted corporeal torments we have to pretend aren’t happening to us in any given moment.

Secondly, as every last woman on this earth knows, we are talking about it in polite company, namely amongst ourselves. So all you men readers, you are politely being shown the door.

From endo to mastitis, living in a woman’s body is like being under a siege of driveby shootings, only the snipers are firing out of our endocrine glands. As we pass clots and puss nipples… ok all the men have gone now.

Polite? We should be ripping heads clean off.

The 20 per cent of you women who have no symptoms, you’re allowed to stay as long as you refrain from gloating or sermonising about how Amazonian women have no symptoms because they’re crowned with scented orchids and passion flowers and coated every night in ceremonial rainforest honey (even while being dispossessed by ranchers with chainsaws paid off by Maccas).

So menopause. What is it good for? Sure it’s great to feel in harmony with the world, what with your temperature dialling up like a fan-forced convection oven roasting hapless squealing penguins by a flaming voodoo doll of Heston Blumenthal. I mean, that I can weather.

Matter a fact I’ve got it now.

Indeed, the first flush of menopause, while disconcerting, has that post-orgasmic aura about it. That finest film of sweat basted up your calves feels like the trailing hem of a diaphanous Hammer horror vampire virgin as she floats aloft, sighing.

There you are, reading quietly on a tram, chatting in a café, fronting a performance review panel and suddenly you find yourself blushing wildly over compliance indicators for hotel bookings, thereby throwing the room into confusion.

There you are, wherever you may be, overcome with the violent compulsion to tear off your clothes. Frantically unwinding your scarf like an overhead debil debil, wrenching open your décolleté, yanking up your trouser legs all the while assuming the hue of a thoroughly rogered scullery maid scanning the moors for a cold plinth to splat her febrile naked arse on.

I thought it was dead sexy. At first.

Radiant, I’m up for. Radiant heat from spontaneous human combusting, that’s taking things a bit far. You’re left feeling like that little granny found smouldering in her armchair, her remains only recognisable from her neatly stockinged knees down.

You know that Granny probably went out with a hot flush. Probably thought, like climate deniers, ‘Hey, if I’m gonna self-immolate I might as well take the world with me’.

Having spent the kids’ inheritance she thought she might as well graduate to spending the species’ inheritance while she was at it. Then again she wasn’t one of the one per cent of Kleptocrat white men, so it’s unlikely she’d have those tendencies.

spontaneous_combustion2

Oh. I’ve lost my train of thought. Again.

It’s that slow burn that kills. And hourly. And for years, maybe five, sometimes 15. Cue the bit where we imagine how men would commemorate their lost fertility ranging from executive feet cooling-ponds recessed into the floor under board room tables, to large-scale erectile monumental masonry, to little felt scapulars solemnly draped around their necks at their Holy First Flush before the gathered… dammit someone did that with menstruation already.

What no-one tells you (we women get ALOT of that) is the bit about being fucked by a Thorny Devil. At the latest Catholic Ladies College reunion, this is how it was described to me. Now if the Thorny Devil (Moloch Horriblis) has hitherto not been on your sexual menu, allow me to introduce the little prick. Sexy little guy isn’t he?

They don’t call him a devil for nothing. And that’s thorny, not horny.

No, you haven’t contracted a nasty rash of congenital cocklebur, nor has your lover for that matter. What’s going down, down there, is the fall away of oestrogen, presently my favourite condiment, which is doing something only specified in the BMJ, making any contact painful or numb.

Painful. Or Numb. I’m talking contact with your genitals. Painful or numb.

Yeah, thanks God. You clearly are not a woman after all, we 50+ women just figured out.

And if we were Catholiphates and endured a lifetime of sexual dispossession and reproductive theocracy, it’s a little late for us to realise now, isn’t it. Very subtle.

Then there’s the delightful devolution we call aging, from skin pores to skin craters, from fitted eyelids to gutted fish scale, from scalloped waists to tripe, from 20/20 vision to smearing your eyeballs with Vasoline, none of which seems particularly graceful to me.

It’s very important we don’t go in for self-loathing at this juncture. As we bump blindly into the Queen, rant at our teenagers for bleaching the reef, thrash in our beds alternately throwing off doonas and beloveds only to sidle up to them again and then subsequently nod off that morning during our team-leader’s seminar, we should remember one thing, (which is lucky ‘cause that’s about as much as we can remember):

We are the Crone, bearers of Powers of Endurance (amen to that), Teachers, Healers, Wise and Fierce. We are Grandmothers of the Dragons thank you very much. Golden Girls every last one of us.

Can’t wait to get into the swing of that, right after I’ve forestalled my third year of menopause with some Hormone Replacement Therapy. That’s right, earth goddess de-proselyte that I am, I’m outsourcing my oestrogen and going in for chemically enhanced maturation. The planet has quite enough to contend with without me burning up the carbon budget – well, not technically, but overheating is surely only adding to the problem.

There should be a paragraph about here where we 50+ women storm the Bastille of silence around menopause, and carry little red gloves which we don in a raised fist whenever we’re having hot flushes, appoint a UN ambassador for Menopause Goodwill, and then Free our post-maternal nipples on picnic lawns before, erm, no media at all for some reason that eludes me.

Some like it hot. I do not.

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Liz Conor

Liz Conor is a columnist at New Matilda and an ARC Future Fellow at La Trobe University. She is the author of Skin Deep: Settler Impressions of Aboriginal Women, [UWAP, 2016] and The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the 1920s [Indiana University Press, 2004]. She is editor of Aboriginal History and has published widely in academic and mainstream press on gender, race and representation.

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