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Yes, we’re only on #9

September 23rd, 2021 by wiseone

photo by Kitty duKane

The list of 34 continues. Not sure what I’m talking about? Check out my earlier blog posts:

9. Mood changes

Because mental health is so burdened with stigma, I struggled with what to say when discussing mood changes because mood and mental health intermingle in my mind. No surprise here, but I AM NOT A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL. Talk to your doctor for real issues.

Tangent! And if your doctor blows you off, get another f’ing doctor. One that will listen to you, that will respect that you know more about your body than they do. I had a doctor who is now — sadly for us — retired. She told me that I know more about my body than anyone. This is true. This doctor existed in the real world, not on television or a novel or comic book or some drug induced fantasy. She was my GP who respected me and wanted to know what I thought about my body.

De-tangent: You KNOW not to take advice from random people on the internet, right? That counts for me, too. I’m only discussing myself, my experiences, and/or my NOT PEER-REVIEWED research.

WebMD, the most popular website for self-diagnosing brain tumors, lists the following as emotional changes that might be experienced during menopause: Irritability, Feelings of sadness, Lack of motivation, Anxiety, Aggressiveness, Difficulty concentrating, Fatigue, Mood changes, Tension. (AKA my Monday To-Do list.) That’s a lot of indicators, so let’s just stick to the three mood changes listed as examples in the now infamous 34 symptoms.

  • Anxiety: I’m not talking about an anxiety disorder. See your doctor about this.
    • Terms: I’m having anxiety, or my botheration is acting up or I’ve got inflamed angst, swollen worry, or a tormented attitude.
  • Irritability: “That bitch is fractious,” or, “Watch out. She has a tendency toward surliness.” And, yes, I’m saying surliness is positive. The first definition of surly in merriam-webster.com is “menacing or threatening in appearance.” Don’t mess with me. “My petulance is extra prickly today.”
  • Depression: There was a story on I think This American Life or The Moth or one of those NPR storytelling shows, where a guy (maybe Andrew Solomon?) talked about a better term for depression being a “brain storm” but “brainstorm” was already a thing. If I use the phrase “brainstorm” people will think I’m referring to coming up with great ideas rather than my brain is storming in my head, complete with dark clouds, high winds, and thunder. It’s not a serene place: my brain is in turmoil.
    • What if we call it a brain tempest? Or a mood squall? Or cyclonic humour?

Alternately: “I’m going into the ring with temperament, and it doesn’t look good” or “I’m stuck in bed with an unending assault of self-loathing” Another angle is being consumed with hopelessness, or as I like to call it, “chock full of no hope.”

A Rogue by Any Other Name

September 8th, 2021 by wiseone

CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Public Domain Dedication

As horrible as all the menopause terminology is, there are a couple of good names for the symptoms, like:

5. Rogue Ovulation

Is that not the best term? “Watch out. Her ovaries have gone rogue,” meaning there is one final egg that was a hold out, and finally gave up and dropped, causing a period. I want more cool terms like that.

But I don’t want the actual experience. I’m glad I’m done.

If it happens, perhaps we could treat it like a sporting event: “It’s been a long stretch for Murphy, but there’s been a rogue ovulation. Her huevos have rallied.”

That’s right. I said huevos. I’m reclaiming it for women. We’re the ones with the goddamn eggs.

Renaming, Reframing & Reclaiming

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m part of a vibrant and vital community of menopausal women. There is no shame in menopause. It’s not a dirty word. You cringe when you hear the term because “society” (read: cis men) has made menopause shameful. Think of menopause like reverse puberty. Don’t you wish there’d been no shame, but rather joy, when you morphed into your teen body? And wouldn’t you like to hug that awkward adolescent and tell them everything will be okay?

Maybe all these symptoms, or conditions, need renaming, or reframing. Can we make them all more badass, like rogue ovulation? Yes. Yes, we can.

I’m not looking for sweet words like “glistening” or “glowing.” I want worthy terminology.

6. Hot Flashes

Hot flashes have long been called a personal summer, which I like. How about “Sorry. Portable sauna in progress.” Or “Warning, blazing outburst.” “The oven is ready.” “Be careful. You may get burned by the broiler” My cousin (yes, that cousin) calls them “power surges.” Which might be my favorite.

7. Night sweats

Slick sleep? Saturated siesta? Sopping snooze? Fire naps? Or nocturnal blaze?

8. Vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness is now a parched pussy, or thirsty twat, or, for the more erudite, arid quim might be more preferable.

Stay tuned for more vocabulary!

Spin the Wheel! If you dare…

September 6th, 2021 by wiseone

Some of these symptoms I’ve experienced. Some shocked the bejeezus out of me.

2. Burning Mouth Syndrome

Along with your skinny vagina is “Burning Mouth Syndrome” with the decreased hormones resulting in reduced saliva production. Instead of your coochy ripping open, food is ruined. Things taste metallic and your mouth feels like it’s burning. I don’t know which is worse. I mean, you can’t go without food. I guess I’d rather have zero metabolism than have burning mouth syndrome. As if we had a choice. Of course, you’ll probably get both.

3. Hair loss/thinning hair

I thought that was for the dudes! Nope! Don’t you wonder why your Aunt Maggie suddenly started wearing wigs? Because society doesn’t prepare us for bald women. Bald dudes can be sexy. Hello Patrick Stewart. Sure he’s old now, but he came to my undergrad acting class when he was in town for “an audition” for some new Star Trek thing. (Yup. I’m old. It was TNG.) He would’ve been in his early forties. I walked into my acting class and standing next to my teacher was some dude in tennis shorts. Some hot bald dude who acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Hubba hubba. But, aside from the voluntarily bald – like Charlize Theron in Mad Max, Demi Moore in GI Jane, or Lupita Nyong’o in everything – bald isn’t a look that society embraces for women.

I was lucky that I started with thick hair. I never achieved scarcity. However, there was a time a few years ago that I kept clogging the drain in our shower. When I’d shampoo, my fingers would get tangled in the hair coming off my head. I kept trying to figure out what was wrong. I thought, it must be stress. It wasn’t until several years later, as my menopause was winding down and when I was writing down the 34 symptoms that I realized that time was early in my menopause. Mine eventually stopped. Others does not.

4. Osteoporosis

This shit is evil. Did you ever wonder why all these old women were always falling and breaking their hips? I’d heard that some of the time, they weren’t. There’s a theory that hips break, so they fell. Now I can’t find any sciency that states that, so it was probably an old husband’s tale.

I’ve been considering starting skateboarding again, but this crone’s bones are not what they used to be. It might be a serious mistake.

Thirty-Four Symptoms

August 27th, 2021 by wiseone

If you’ve been playing along with the audience, you knew there was more menopause to come…

Google never lies:

I’ve already mentioned a few of the typical symptoms. But then… there’s all this weird shit that no one mentioned! I googled “menopause symptoms” and one of the google summaries, you know, where something is googled so often that google helps you along with “People often ask” and then they answer it on the front page of your search. So, yeah, I googled the symptoms and it said, “What are the 34 symptoms of menopause?” 34? Thirty-fucking-four? No one — and I mean no one — mentioned that.

Don’t forget google’s famous, “People also ask” section of the results:  “How bad can menopause make you feel?” and “Can menopause ruin your life?” and my favorite, “Do you fart more during menopause?” For the cis-men in the audience, and those that did not get to experience the glory and hell that is menopause, the answer to all of these is “Yes.”

(According to the image above, the questions have changed.)

Let’s plunge right in:

1. Thinning Vagina

AKA: Atrophic vaginitis

Did you know that your vaginal walls thin during menopause? Dry, sure. Mine became thin. And, no that isn’t some crazy vaginal regeneration shit. Ooo. Her vaginal walls are so thin, they could be on the cover of Vogue. They call it vaginal atrophy. Atrophy, like withered. Not hot.

From a practical sense, it puts a serious damper on your sex life. Put it in gently, dear, or you’ll rip me open! Seriously. Who wants sex like that? Rough sex, b’bye! Okay. Not b’bye. But maybe, if I ever wanted rough sex… If I got turned on by open sores… And pain. But I don’t. Maybe this is what they mean when they say, “pain may occur during sex” – only they forgot to finish the sentence, “because your pussy may rip open.”

One way to combat this? Masturbate. Masturbate. Masturbate. Your vagina will thank you. Do it often. Because it brings blood flow to the area.

You’re welcome.

Stay tuned for 33 more symptoms!

The Talk

August 19th, 2021 by wiseone

Not THAT “The Talk”

“The Talk” was edited for clarity and inclusiveness on August 27, 2021.


If you’re one of my younger friends who still has their ovaries, consider yourself warned. I will ask you if we’ve “had the menopause talk.” Even though I’ve just warned you, when it happens, you will get a look of terror in your face. A look of “What the actual fuck is this crazy old broad going to say to me?” or “Doesn’t she know we don’t talk about such things?” or “What crazy idea does she have now?” The talk must be had. Especially, for those of us with dead moms and no older siblings who’ve walked the walk. I sure wish someone had had the talk with me. Thank gawd for the internet, cuz it explained so many things. Of course, it also confirmed about 20 or so diseases I was dying from.

I have The Talk because during menopause because your body does all sorts of inexplicable new things that no one ever talks about. And some of the classics. You get your, “What? Am I going through puberty again?” bullshit with the raging hormones. Zits? Yes. Mood-swings? Yes. We’re talking anxiety, irritability, depression, crankiness.

Tangent! I love that “crankiness” is a symptom on WebMD. I searched for “crankiness” without the menopause filter. It’s also a symptom of organ transplant rejection and type 1 diabetes. I don’t know how to process that information.

De-tangent: Except, of course, during menopause your metabolism isn’t teen-aged. Your metabolism not only slows down. It comes to a screeching halt and starts driving backwards at full speed. If you like food – and who doesn’t? – you’re screwed. When I was 20, if I needed to lose weight – which I didn’t – Why am I even going here? I didn’t need to lose weight until my late 30’s and only then because it’s easier to buy clothes when you’re not plus sized. Also, when you’re thinner, you’re more bendy for sex. Very important. Sorry. I did not want to talk about weight, because, fuck weight. It’s just, the reverse metabolism is evil. E-fucking-vil. Suddenly you need a new wardrobe because of the weight gain. And then another. And another.

Some of us get nonstop periods. That’s not fair. It’s hellacious enough to sit on a fine merlot once a month. But then, they flip the script. Instead of 3 weeks off and 1 week on, let’s do 3 on & 1 off! And perhaps we’ll insert a geyser! You need two tampons and maxi pads for just one hour. Period panties are usually the saddest pair of chonies you’ve got. To the uninitiated (that is, those who’ve never ovulated), underwear graduates to period panties. They don’t start out that way. They’re usually just fine. Till they rip. Or till they get stained with your, crap-I’m-early period. They’re the old sad pair, not the ooo-someone-might-see-these pair, but the please-don’t-let-me-get-in-an-accident pair. The mom-would-be-horrified-if-she-knew-I-was-wearing-these pair. The, let’s be honest, most comfortable pair.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Menopause. When my cousin first got her period, she said, “I can’t wait for menopause!” She still stands by this statement, post-menopausal.

You’d think that once you hit menopause, you could have sex with impunity! Can’t get knocked up anymore. Sure, there are diseases, but if you’re in a monogamous relationship (and trust your partner not to stick their dick or anything else anywhere contaminated), you should be good. (Right, honey?)

There are the typical menopausal issues:

  • Hot flashes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble sleeping because of hot flashes
  • There’s that thick piece of hair that just sprang up on your face.
    • Or neck.
      • Or nipples.
        • Or an unwanted beard or mustache.
    • I’m more of a single hair type. But they appear with a vengeance. They love moles, especially moles that didn’t exist before.
  • There’s the previously mentioned pubescent mood swings.
  • And “vaginal dryness” – we gotta change that term.

Intro to Menopause

August 13th, 2021 by wiseone

This started as standup. Then became a blog. And so it continues…

Warning!

I’m about to get raw.

The good news: I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant anymore.

Don’t get your boxers in a bunch. Because I know this would otherwise upset you: I’m gonna group perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause into one category. Because, seriously, who cares? Most cis-men don’t know the difference. And really, it’s just a clusterfuck of physical mayhem.

Hiking with a friend the other day, I started talking about menopause. As you do. His wife is a little younger than me, so I figured he’s had to talk about this, or will soon enough. If not, I was doing his wife a favor by breaking him. In. By breaking him in. He was being magnanimous and asked what symptoms I’ve had.

“When I fuck my husband, my pussy rips open.”

What do you talk about when you hike?

—————

Stay tuned for more!

Period

November 12th, 2020 by wiseone

The standup continues…

Good: The tagline, “You’re a vagenius”
Horrid: that they’re called “down there wipes”
Embarrassing: that I call my vagina a “hoo-ha” in this post
Hoo-ha remains because I believe in calling myself out

I grew up hearing a quote from my cousin, who, at the onset of her period, said, “I can’t wait until menopause.” It was an attitude I adopted and ran with, because, seriously, blood snot coming out of my hoo-ha and ruining all my clothes and making me double over in pain was stupid and annoying. No wonder they called it “the curse.” It makes me think that if there is a god, she must be a dude, because, seriously, is this some sort of revenge porn? There had to be a tidier less painful way to prove you’re not pregnant.

There were a few times I worried about being pregnant, but my period was more likely to be early than late so I didn’t have the scares that so many of my friends did. I don’t even know if I can (could) get pregnant. My mother — in one of her many ploys to get a grandchild — told me that after she had a baby she stopped having cramps. I may have considered popping one out for about 30 seconds, but I was more willing to have cramps for two days a month for thirty-five years instead of having my life derailed by having a child. Wait. Let me do the math. Doubled over in pain from four to eight hours per menses. (I said menses cuz I’m doing math and it makes me sound more STEMMY.) Average that to six hours per period. Twelve months a year. For 35 years. That’s over 2500 hours, or over 100 days, or 15 weeks, which is about three and a half months. So, I gave up three and a half months of my life so I didn’t have to have a kid in the off chance that it would get rid of my cramps. What if I had a kid and still had cramps? If I do that math, its….. just pure evil.

It’s okay. The pain lessened after about twenty years.

Whoever came up with the phrase “Sitting on a fine merlot” – Thank you.
Photo Credit: THOR, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gender Schmender

November 1st, 2020 by wiseone

This started as stand-up so I expected you to see me when you heard this. But now you’re reading it. So…..

Who’s that girl?

I know, you’re thinking, well, she’s really given up on herself. Nope. This is me. I’ve never been girly. Rachel Maddow wears too much makeup for me. You know that girl who wore a tux to her prom? That was me. Even though I went with my boyfriend. I find that I still have to come out as hetero. A situation I would often find myself in when I moved to San Francisco. Having to come out. And to every therapist I ever had… No. I’m not a lesbian. I like dudes!

Then the world at large started becoming aware of the difference between gender and sexuality – or we all caught up with the enlightened. That’s when a light bulb went off in my head. Ohhhh. All these years, that’s what people have been picking up on. Not that I was a lesbian, but that I was part dude. Not transgender. Just a pinch. Okay. More than a pinch.
Gawd bless the nonbinary for letting me realize this. I love the overexuberance of youth. Some say they over-embrace the nonbinary, but if they didn’t where would we be? Fuck “we” – where would I be. Questioning my sexuality because everyone else did.

Let me back up.

I had short hair when I was little. I used to get mistaken for a boy. A LOT. By girls in the girls’ bathroom. Girls screaming – something I never did. I mean, I yelled, but I never screamed – girls screaming that I was in the wrong bathroom. Their response both upset and empowered me. What’s wrong with me?! I’m a freak! Wait… I had older brothers and I wanted to be like them. So, yay?

I wanted so badly to be like them, my older brothers, that I shaved once – before they shaved. And cut up my face. My family laughed at me. Girls don’t do that, they said. And I thought, well, they don’t because it hurts.

I also tried to pee standing up. They told me girls don’t do that, either. And it was messy. Mom had to talk to me. Apparently, boys are equipped to do this. Which is not fair, because public restrooms are disgusting. I’d rather pee standing up instead of spending eons fashioning an ass-gasket – er, er, toilet seat cover – out of toilet paper. Just one of the many ways that men have an advantage over women. Wait. Gender. Men/women. Plumbing. Whatever. I get confused when I have to talk about whatever we are / I am anymore.

I’ve often wondered if my proclivity toward men’s clothes is just about the pockets. Oh, and the comfort. And the flat shoes. And I don’t do skirts. Didn’t. The only time you’ll see me in a skirt is if my crotch needs some air. Ugh. My poor mother would go batshit any time I dressed as a girl, any time I did anything remotely girly. Needless to say, she wasn’t happy that I wore a tux to my prom. My first year of college, I asked for make-up for Christmas. She bought me $500 worth of make-up. And this was 1984. So, that makeup would probably cost at least a couple thousand in today’s dollars. Seriously. She wanted me to be girly.

Sorry Mom.

Stories I Tell Myself

December 18th, 2016 by wiseone

For all the artists who didn’t.

And all the artists who did.


This HowlRound article about motherhood and theater got me thinking, about the paths not taken, about fear, about motherhood.

I think about all the things I didn’t do and why not.  Here’s what I tell myself:

  • In college, I gave up acting for directing because of the fear of rejection.
  • I fell in love with directing.
  • I needed a full time job for the benefits. The one time I went without benefits, I broke my hand. So, I got a job with benefits.
  • I gave up directing because I couldn’t work a full time job and direct. (Why not? Because that’s what I told myself.)
  • I started writing plays because they didn’t require the rehearsal time commitment, but being a writer requires self-discipline. I’m good with a deadline, but not self-imposed deadlines. (Why not? Because that’s what I told myself.)
  • I didn’t pursue theater because I may want a family and I knew I couldn’t do both. (Why not? Because that’s what I told myself.)
  • I didn’t have a family because it would mess with my theater and I knew I couldn’t do both. (Why not? Because that’s what I told myself.)

Am I a reliable narrator of my own life? Read the rest of this entry »

Wake Up

June 12th, 2016 by wiseone

I wrote this post in 2012, but never published it. I just found it. Here it is, unfinished (I was going to write more about Jeanette Winterson toward the end of the post and of course wrap it all up in some fabulously pithy way, but I forget what I was going to say.)

My friend Mary Downing died this week. She was an amazing director. Since finding out, I’ve been flooded with emotions, feeling her loss on so many levels. We were inseparable in grad school, made more so when we did our theses as a joint project. We co-directed a season of lunch-hour plays. I grappled with Pinter while she tackled Durrenmatt. I played with silences and color while she made heroes of the insane. I learned so much from watching her in action. Everything was an opportunity for expression, no detail overlooked. (A pile of Christmas lights on a fireplace grate? Glorious!) Read the rest of this entry »