This piece is an 800 words piece for a spoken voice competition: Entanglement – Voices of Women. https://voiceswomen.com/entanglement/. It was written in response to an ABC Life Matters podcast in which women spoke about their experience with Menopause. For something that happens to every woman, it was astounding how disparate and often heartbreaking this journey is for some. While the piece was not successful, I feel this is a subject that should not be something that is spoken about in “hushed tones”. As the great Helen Reddy said: “I am woman, hear me roar”. Enjoy!
Who is that?
I look at her with her white strands weaving through lank oily mouse-brown straps. She bends forward to inspect. Are there more? Less? Perhaps they are falling out as well? Like her eyebrows, once dark and defined; Frida Kahloesque. If only anyone had even known who Frida Kahlo was in 1984 downtown Hokesville – it would have saved a lot of wax and pain! Now, she’s just a stand-in for Santa, white whiskers protrude from her chin and upper lip, and God, even the curve of her ear. Thank God, she had never got around to those piercings. The stud would have looked like a silver tulip emerging from thick grey leaves, perhaps that’s why her mother had cautioned her with such knowing eyes. She sighs, peers again at the mirror, leans in and reaches for the tweezers. Is that a new lump?
What the hell is going on? Has her body given up any desire for vanity? Somehow lost the roadmap to beauty in a tangle of lines and crevices, so deep the Ponds institute will now be recruiting experienced gyprockers able to smooth any surface to finger-touch matte perfection.
She sighs again. Men-o-pause. Why the hell do “men” get a say even in this? Is it a reminder? Does this mean they will stop looking, stop assessing and trade you in for the new model; the one that still makes them pause and admire?
Every crevice in that face is seething. White hot. Well, hot pink with red ascents. The face in the mirror is rose pink, small balls of perspiration are gathering on those lovely white whiskers which poke raw and angry through the tight little lines that mark the edge of her thinning lips and the ball of puss they gathered on the way through. Charming!
Tiny blood vessels have broken at the side of her nose and cheeks, their sharp little ends piercing her now papery skin, another bloody spider web! Soon, all these cracks and lines will join and form words. “Past it!” they shout. “Old, shrivelled, dried up, useless” a morse code to all passersby.
“This will pass,” she was told. “Just need a patch, it’ll make everything better.”
Really? Like you’ld know all about it, Mr GP with your George Clooney grey sideburns, and comfortable shoes. How can any man know what it feels like to be swept away in this torrent? Your whole life regulated by blood and fertility. 28 days, regular, hot and dark, seeping from you, until it vanishes to a wispy wash of pink, like the wrung- out contents of the greying laundry, spat out and sent into the drains. Then what; it stops?
Or is supposed to. Well not for you! Lucky, you in the mirror. Instead, you are going to have a drought and a flood. Nothing, hooray you say – that’ll be nice. But the only thing missing is the tide, the moon still drills into you, and pulls harder, determined to make its presence known. Distracting and distorting thoughts, until words are a tumble. No one ever told you that dyslexia was a side effect. You tell the Doctor. He smiles in that “Yes, dear” way and offers you a “patch”.
“It will all be over soon. A couple of years – that’s all. Perfectly normal, and then everything will come good,” he reassures, hands over a script and turns away. His square fingers close your file and place it on the shelf, ready for his next patient. He stands, surprised you haven’t actually moved and then raises his hand to motion you out. He’s a busy man, things to do. You, well you’re past it, not worth a man-o-pause today.
Then the drought breaks. Of course, at the most opportune moment. You are finally reclaiming your life, or so “Jane from marketing” assures you, in her smart khaki pants and blond pigtail. Adventure, that is what you need! Reclaim that lost time spent helicoptering over children, seize the day – carpe diem! But no. No whitewater rafting for you, instead a torrent of red that breaks all attempts at containment, till you feel a sandbag between your legs is the answer.
Who the hell is that woman staring back at me? It’s sure as hell not me. I lean again to take a closer look. She has my eyes, with their tangle of tales. They are still clear and somehow sad. Sad that I do not want to know her, to share her burden. Instead, I want to pluck and poke, to cover her, to make her more like myself. To render her an image; an image of what was, and what she should be. She stares back accusing, and I look away, ashamed, unable to meet her eyes as I return the cold metal of the tweezers back to the sink.
I turn out the light. Tomorrow is another day. It’s only a couple of years. It will pass.