Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Women of a Certain Age

I listened to a story this morning about women in the military. Now I was listening to the radio while driving on roads that were plagued with patchy ice, so my attention was certainly divided. I became alert, however, when the woman being interviewed - a woman credited with breaking through a glass ceiling or two in the 1960's and 1970's - talked about why women, while allowed to enlist, were not permitted to go very high on the leadership ladder. Ready? It was that by the time a woman would have served enough time to be eligible for such a promotion she would be at the age where she was entering or nearing menopause and would therefore be unable to be trusted to make rational decisions.

As a woman I was offended.

As a wannabe feminist I was outraged.

As a woman at that stage of my own life, if I cocked my head at a certain angle,I could sort of see their point.

Oh, and just in case it doesn't go without saying: This is stuff for the history books. I don't know much about the military and won't pretend to, but I do know that we've come a long way, baby.


Since the hormones have - to elaborate on the military theme - staged their final attack, they have won every battle and seem poised to win the war. Some days I can't be trusted to make a decision about what to make for dinner without crying - I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for making decisions that involved people's lives.

Ah - but here's the thing.

Contrary to what Chaka and Whitney and Oprah would like me to believe, I am NOT every woman. When I have felt that I was unable to complete the requirements of a job in a manner of which I could be proud, I would quit that job. (Usually by giving notice. Once by walking out. Oops.) Some women don't have that luxury and I ache for them. Some women don't respond to those cues and I ache for the people they have to work with, for and around.

But that's me.

My experience has been rough.

I knew it would be - everything hormonally related has been rough for me.

Some people are like that.

Some people aren't. The girls who always got their period on time and never got cramps (well, maybe a little twinge right at the beginning - more a reminder, really, than anything else) and never got zits and CERTAINLY never got migraines. I imagine those to be the girls who end up saying, "I just had my period one month and didn't the next and haven't since" type of people when they hit menopause. I try not to hate those people, because it isn't their fault they hit the hormone jackpot. But sometimes it's hard, my friend. Sometimes it's hard.

Those women make it rough on the rest of us, too. They never have mood swings and are as clueless as to how to handle ours as men are. They never have hot flashes and always sleep straight through the night and are less than sympathetic when we're bitchy.

I haven't slept longer than 2 hours in a row since somewhere around 2003.

Just think about that next time you want to call me a bitch. It's not that you wouldn't be right, or justified. It's just that - well - I haven't slept longer than 2 hours in a row since somewhere around 2003.

So maybe one of the mucketies in the military in the 60's had a wife or a mother or a sister or a mistress (hey, who am I to judge?) who was going through it my way. If that was his model for all women, well - you can sort of see why he might not want us commanding troops.

I know not every woman has it this bad.

You know not every woman has it this bad.

But he didn't. That subject was so taboo back then, I'm surprised he even knew what it was.

Who can forget the 1972 episode of All in the Family when Edith Bunker was going through 'the change' and Archie gave her 30 seconds to hurry up and change already? (ok, who who is going through or has gone through menopause, or is a male in the age group of the preceding women can forget...) Which was silly. Because it took her the whole 30 minute episode. Minus commercial breaks.

Kitty took almost a whole season to navigate her way through it on That 70's Show.

So we were getting closer. But nobody prepared me for the better part of a decade...

Of not sleeping longer than 2 hours in a row.

And that's only one of the symptoms. That's the one I'm willing to lay out here, but along the road there have been many many dignity defying symptoms. I am having enough respect for you to keep them a mystery. You're welcome. (But they're bad. So, so bad. *shudder*)

Oh, and by the way - I know about all the hormone treatments and herbs and exercise and dietary changes and so on and so on scooby dooby dooby that are supposed to make this time more tolerable for me and everyone in my path, I've even briefly tried a couple. I can't really articulate why, but they're not for me. Besides, natural relief - in the form of making it to the other side - changing already - is right around the corner, right?




Oh, please, for the love of all that's holy, RIGHT???

PS - less than 5 days left in February! Yay!


Unknown said...

Ok, forget the military crap, I mean I'm outraged but they are so behind the times, it will be decades before we get over don't ask don't tell.......but REALLY!!!?
As for menopause and lack of hormones, it's a nasty taste of nature. It comes and goes for me, I was sleeping well, feeling find for a few months and then...BAM, hot, sweating, feeling like crap...all of that again.
I am totally with you. I couldn't take the HRT, they were crap.
I wish you sleep................and a cool place...not one with snow, but a cool breeze, you know, and a cabana boy!!

Cheryl said...

The cabana boy idea works well for me. I think that's the route to take.

I'm not a wannabe and I'm tired. The generations coming up are clueless about what it took to get this far. Our future? Pfft. Not coming from the nitwits in those generations.

As a late bloomer, life was hell. Irregular always. It was a blessing to go through menopause so early. I didn't know I was there for a year. I had tons of symptoms but laid those off on stress. I never took the pill and until I'm told I need it for bone health, I won't go to HRT. I put enough chemicals in my body already. That crap scares me.

Here's to wishing you increased hours of nonstop sleep. Can I hear 2.5 hours? Good luck, cutie. I have friends in the same boat. All I can do is just listen. Judgment free zone in place as often as possible.

Unknown said...

Oh, dear, I feel your pain! I was fortunate to come through unscathed and without HRT, but I have friends and family members that had experiences similar to yours! I loved the Archie video! I can't remember if I saw that episode or not....It was so long ago and before i went through "the change!"

Pam said...

I'm knocking on the door of The Change and hearing you and my friends talk about these horrible, no good, very bad symptoms has me scared out of my mind. Can I please keep my periods? Pretty please?

Gibby said...

Wait one minute. Are you telling me that now that my kids are finally old enough to not bother me at night and disrupt my sleep, I'm going to start not sleeping AGAIN?

Unknown said...

Funny story. True conversations that happened last week between my mother and I.

ME: Oh my gosh, I have cramps. Owwwww.

MOM: Hahaha, there are some upsides to this "getting old" thing.

ME: Well, I'll be forty in six years.

MOM: Forty? What are you talking about?

ME: Isn't that when menopause starts?

MOM: I was fifty-five ... and there's a genetic link. Hahahahahahahahaha.

You're right, it's not talked about, and when it's alluded to (a la your military example), it's pretty bad.

And my mom is cruel ... that's all :)

Anonymous said...


I'd just like to say that men have their own hormones to deal with. At least woman don't tend to punch walls while angry and all that testosterone stuff!

Lynn said...

My menopause wasn't bad, but I cannot figure out how I got through all those Periods without killing someone. Once I drove over a foot high curb, while yelling at the idiot who was going straight in a right turn only lane!

Anonymous said...

Well articulated and I can totally relate! I've got what's *not* considered an early start on menopause because they only took my uterus three years ago. I still have my ovaries and they are functioning, so I couldn't possibly be going through menopause according to anyone with a PhD after their last name. Except for all of the hot flashes, pimples, memory loss, food cravings, brownouts, word confusion, dryness, lack of sexual desire except at the weirdest times, weight gain, mood swings, fatigue and night sweats.(However, even with all of that, sometimes I would still rather have a woman's hand near "the button" - compassionate yet fierce about protecting her own.)
Glad to find you out here!

scrappysue said...

RIGHT!!!!! we need to share, so we don't feel so alone and feeling like we're going crazy!!! after night after night of only 2 hours sleep - i'd feel irrational too!

Joanna Jenkins said...

No hormones???? You are a very brave woman. I couldn't live without them.

Hang in there.

xo jj