03 July 2009

She lives!

[Warning: um, I'm gonna talk about menopause and menarche - if you don't know (or want to know) what either of those are, or faint when women talk openly about bleeding like a stuck pig, stop reading now.]

I live! and boy, how do I know I'm alive? I'm blogging at 3:30 on a Friday morning, after ~4 hours sleep. Oh, wait, that's how I know I'm going through "the change." I'm only 46, as of last month, but I've been dealing with perimenopause for some time. The hot flashes and night sweats started over a year ago. At least I thought they were hot flashes and night sweats. Now I think they were visits from a happy fairy who'd been doing cardio, hugged me too closely for a few moments, then left. Because now, I have my own blast furnace and no thermostat, no one stopping the fueling of the fire. Hot, hot, hot, sweat, cold. Off and on, all day. And night. And sometimes, my eyes pop open when all others are dead to the world, and the body says, "Hey, you know what would be funny? If we wake up so we can experience this biological wonder in a conscious state. You can handle it, come on...."

So here I am. And I guess that intro provides a disclaimer source: blogging at this hour may lead to sub-par quality (you wouldn't believe how long it took me to type that sentence, either). But fuck it, I'm in the moood.

The menarche part of this - my 11 1/2-year-old niece became a woman yesterday. Heyyyyy - it just hit me - if menarche means she's becoming a women, does menopause mean I'm de-womaning? Oh, wait, I still have my womanly bits and gender identity intact, so I guess not. I was around 14 when I "got mine"; 11 seems so young. Sister and I spoke all-too-briefly about it when she announced the news. Sister reassures me that menarche at 11 is not unusual these days, and Niece was advanced a grade some years ago (not to mention she has remarkably attentive, communicative parents), so mentally Niece was already way ahead of where I was at 11.

Sister wants to have a rite of passage for Niece to mark the occasion, but not necessarily a religious one. Google found me lots of "woman's 'first moon' " blather, based on goddess worship. Wouldn't forward that even if I thought she were interested. But she could have a menarche party, thanks to Menarche Parties R Us; looks like all the hips girls are doing it.

I'll tell you what "rite" Niece won't have: facing our Dad (her Papa) and his attempt to show love and support and wonder, which is really embarrassing for the new woman. Although I remember more of Mom's emotion than Dad's at the actual announcement. Oh, and how awkward those belts were (kids today have NO idea, but yes, in 1976-77, we still used pads with belts).

My favorite Dad + period story came out of a battle of wills: Sometime during that first or second year after, uh, onset, Dad invited a family over for a barbecue. He was friends with the parent(s), and they had a couple boys who were my age or younger. Part of my responsibility as oldest daughter was to take charge of my siblings (i.e. keep them out of adult view) AND to entertain these unknown kids. I was a hostess to the next generation. Entertaining included swimming, a pool being great for keeping kids out of adults' hair. BUT, I was on the rag, and had not yet braved the world of tampons. AND, I was going through a really shy time anyways, and didn't want to have to deal with strange kids. I just wanted to hide in my room and read and listen to records. Dad wouldn't let me get away with any abdication of my responsibilities, especially with my weak excuse that I was bleeding and would leak in the pool. Although I probably worded that differently at the time.

As happened quite a lot back then, we argued. I thought I would win by whining, "But I haven't used [a tampon], I don't know what to do!" Dad won the argument by telling me something to the effect of, "You go into that bathroom with your mother and have her show you how to use one, then you come out here and be part of the family and entertain those boys.... It's your responsibility!" I think he also threw in some "some stop making excuses... stop whining... grow up...." Funnily enough, I don't remember being embarrassed as much as being so mad at him for catching on that I really just wanted to get out of having to be around people I didn't know. Tampons were just slightly intimidating (you know, based on rumors at school, like you won't be a virgin anymore, they can get stuck, etc.). I think I even lied about having cramps, shame on me. But Dad was the boss, so I plugged it up and put on a happy hostess face. And spent the rest of the day burning with that glorious teen-aged resentment that is the source of much melodramatic passion and bad poetry. Grrr. Authority had won once again.

And that's why I now hate men.


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