Saturday, July 2, 2011

And that's all, folks...

I can't believe that it's been over two months since I last posted on this blog - but then I also can't believe that we're halfway through the year already (July? Seriously? This is getting ridiculous)! And the driving force behind this perpetual state of partial belief is the reason I have decided, somewhat reluctantly, that this will be my last posting. The problem is, you see, that I seem to have very little spare time. And, somewhat incongruously, what I do have seems to be spent collapsed semi-comatose on the couch wondering where the rest has gone.

The ironic thing is that I expected my fifties (unimaginable as they seemed) to be relatively laid-back, being perhaps semi-retired, indulging in a range of hobbies that hitherto had been sidelined or unexplored. Golf maybe, or lawn bowls, some macrame, finishing the Jungle Book mural I started in the toilet (the room, not the actual bowl) ten years ago, joining the Richard III Society. Self-indulgent things like that. Instead I am busier than I have ever been in my entire life, just like most in this age range. In fact I am beginning to suspect that middle age represents the peak of busy-ness, a circumstance that causes time to implode around it, sucking you into a spinning vortex for about a couple of decades, before spitting you out (hopefully). Which is probably why elderly people sometimes look a little dazed, and aren't quite steady on their feet.

So I am streamlining my life. Dropping one day of teaching, buying a laptop, handing eviction notices to my offspring (which they promptly hand back, giggling merrily at my quirky middle-aged humour), buying a slow cooker, prioritising writing time (and making it sacrosanct), de-cluttering the house, tying up loose ends that are flapping in the wind. And saying goodbye to this blog. Because it's done the job it was meant to, really, and only owed its continued existence to the fact I enjoyed it. And that's not enough, not right now anyway.

So where is the book? Well, the first draft of The Invisible Woman, and other remarkable phenomena of middle-age was finished a few months ago and has been sent to a second lot of readers. The issue, it seems, is the tone - I want light and airy with undercurrents of punchiness, while the publishers envisaged a more serious, exploratory treatise. So we shall probably spend some more time discussing/negotiating/compromising, and then surge forward. But it is most definitely still a fluid construction, so if something suddenly occurs to you that might be relevant, please do keep sending them to me. And a huge thank-you for all the contributions that have arrived thus far, either via the survey or the blog or dribbling into my inbox a couple at a time. All wonderful, all informative, all very much appreciated.

I've had a terrific time blogging over the past year. So much so that I shall definitely repeat the experience when I have more time, and this new one will be wholly self-indulgent. Rants and raves and whimsical musings. I can't wait. In the meantime I shall try to make the most of the implosion around me. Balancing and juggling and prioritising and trying to find a little spare time. So that every now and again I can collapse on the couch, semi-comatose, and wonder where it's all going so fast. Middle-age in a nutshell.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Come fly with me...

After twenty-eight years, six months, and twenty-five days of motherhood, I have just made the most amazing discovery about flying with offspring. It's so simple that I cannot believe it hasn't occured to me before, and being a generous type I shall now share it for free. Take separate flights. That's right, put them on one flight and you take another and then just meet up at the destination. Now I do realise this methodology may be complicated somewhat if your particicular offspring are infants so perhaps you should just concentrate on getting them ready at that stage. Like spend a few hours in the airplane loo (take a good book or partner - your choice), or find a spare seat further away and then exchange looks of irritated camaraderie with fellow passengers about the screaming child up the front.

In my case this separate flights thing came about quite by accident. When my Kokoka trip was cancelled (grrr...), I ended up with a Qantas voucher. So, when planning our Singapore holiday, I originally went to book the three offspring with the same carrier but Jetstar was sigificantly cheaper so went with them instead. The end result being that the three of them departed for the airport at 7.30 this morning (a brief hiccup occuring when they all forgot the car-keys), and I am now sitting here, in my pyjamas, typing this blog entry in absolute peace and quiet. Enjoying the best start to a holiday EVER.

I have tidied and vacummed the house (so that we return to some level of cleaniness), packed my suitcase, fed the pets, removed assorted items of crockery from various bedrooms, had a bubble bath (and cleaned the shower screen), made myself coffee and poached eggs on avocado and rye (yum!), consoled the dog who watched me pack and is now sulking, made a casserole for when we get back (anticipating feeling a little fed up with take away), watered the plants, read the newspaper, consoled the dog again - and it's only just after 9.00am. And the best is yet to come.

First a leisurely drive into the airport, without anyone begging me to stop at McDonalds, or turn the music up, or intervene in an argument, or... whatever. Then, after checking-in, I shall stroll through the duty free shops without being dragged off to look at advances in technology and/or clothing stores that vibrate with hip-hop music and pubescent sales staff. Finally I shall board my plane, where I won't have to stow anyone else's luggage, or trade the window seat, or pass out chewing gum. No, I shall make myself comfortable, get out my lap-top and write and/or read all the way from Melbourne to Singapore. I don't mind making a little polite conversation with my neighbours but that's it. Even if Ralph Fiennes offers membership to the four-mile high club I'm not interested (far too much effort). I shall only pause to consume meals (that I won't have to prepare) and champagne and hot chocolate. Hours upon hours of just me. Bliss.

And then, when I get to Singapore, I'm thinking I might just fly back again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Super-power number three!

Super-power number three (central heating)

Confused? Let me explain. Last September, after being nursed along for a few years, my old lounge-room gas-heater exploded in a most dramatic fashion. One moment it was humming along as per normal and then next it emitted a sound reminiscent of a flatulent elephant (or what I would imagine a flatulent elephant to sound like if I had the spare time and/or inclination to imagine such things), and orange flames spat out from the bars before settling down to a vicious glow from which curls of acrid smoke wisped up toward the ceiling. I have rarely seen my offspring move so fast, which makes me suspect that in case of a localised emergency - fire, flood, nuclear disaster - it will be each to their own.

The upshot of this was that we were heater-less for the beginning of spring, which can be quite chilly, especially in the evening. That ridiculous snugglie blanket-thing suddenly became a coveted piece of clothing, while dressing-gowns were in high demand and a black market began with the long-ignored water-bottles. In short everyone was freezing - except me. Where they all tottered around like michelin men with their layers of clothing, I made do with tracksuit and t-shirt, and where they huddled around the one borrowed column heater, I disdained it in favour of fresh air and cheery optimism. Because I had central heating. And if I did feel chilly at any time, all I had to do was wait a few moments and voila! Warm once more.

Yes, menopause could not have started at a better time. Hot flushes were my friend, not my enemy, giving me a freedom that had everyone viewing me as some sort of stoic superwoman. The hot flushes even eased off as summer warmed up, lulling me into a false sense of security for quite a while. But I may have done a silly thing - you see, last month I had ducted heating installed (incidentally when they removed the old heater we discovered it was original, in other words it was well over 50 years old. That's what I call value), which I suspect may have angered the menopause gods. The result has been a full-on rush of hot flushes accompanied by whingey offspring who keep nagging to have the new heating turned up. But I blame myself for this predicament; clearly I looked the gift-horse directly in the oral region and this is the result.

Nevertheless I am determined to remain positive and, as such, I shall continue to view hot flushes as a super-power. If it wasn't for the whole fitness thing, I could probably scale Mt Everest dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Hypothermia? Fiddlesticks. In terms of energy, I reckon one middle-aged woman is probably equal to three solar panels (let alone wind power) and, should the electricity fail for any reason (which seems to be a regular occurrence), I shall be ideally placed to maintain both my internal and external body temperature. In fact, with the way things are at the moment, I could hire out my forehead as a heating conduit. A super-power, in the true sense of the word.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Super-power number two!

Continuing with my positive thinking/super-powers theme, here is the second in the series. With several more to come! By the way, did you know that the world's strongest vagina belongs to a woman in her mid-forties who can apparently lift 14 (14!!!) kilograms with the muscles of her nether regions? Which is your cue to (1) flinch, (2) flex your pelvic floor, and (3) wonder how on earth they tested this.

Super-power number two (eyes in the back of our heads)

Enhanced by (but certainly not limited to) motherhood, by the time we hit midlife this particular super-power is honed into a quivering antenna. It might seem like witchery, and most probably had more than one medieval middle-aged woman burned at the stake, but is of course really just a melange of logic, observation and intuition all coated wth a health dose of experience. Been there, done that. Ho, hum. The upside is that we can render small children open-mouthed and teenagers narrow-eyed at our uncanny awareness of what's happening behind our backs. And we can have so much fun! Sure it's at their expense but you've got to take what you can, where you can. "How does she do that?" they mutter to themselves as they cast wary glances in our direction, not able to see our smug grin.

The downside, however, is that this super-power, once developed, cannot be switched off. Sometimes even rousing us at night so that we suddenly find ourselves staring at the ceiling with the sure knowledge that something, somewhere, is wrong. Ah, well, if there's one thing I've learnt from all those comic books it's that with great power comes great responsibility. Just look at Superman.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Super-power number one!

It occurs to me that I spend an awful lot of time on this blog whingeing about the more negative aspects of middle-age, like weight and fitness and wrinkles and chin hairs and... damn, there I go again. But there's also masses of great things about middle-age as well, it's just they don't tend to piss me off in the same way the other stuff does. It's like that old adage, if you get good service from a shop, you tend to tell an average of two, maybe three people, while bad service will have you spreading the word to at least seven. So, in the interests of balance, and operating under a new ethos of positivity, I've decided to spend some time discussing not just the good things that come with age, but the super-powers. That's right, super-powers - plural. One per week, starting with the grey that matters.

Super-power number one (the middle-aged brain)

The middle-aged brain is a thing of awe, with inductive reasoning, logic, spatial orientation, vocabulary and verbal memory all peaking in middle-age and, for women, the latter two continuing to climb into our sixties (1). It seems that older brains have developed 'cognitive templates', which are better able to predict and navigate life, meaning that the middle-aged brain beats both younger and older brains in such things as managing personal economics, judging true character, and social expertise (no surprises there). In addition the older brain may take a little longer to assimilate new information but when it does, it doesn't just race ahead but manages to take in the bigger picture at the same time (2). That's us, always multi-tasking.

Interestingly, the ready willingness of the middle-aged to blame the temporary loss of car-keys or whatever on a 'senior moment' may be based more on propaganda than fact (3) After all everyone mislays items, all the time, yet you would never find a teenager, for example, blaming their age (instead the typical reaction would be "shit, who the hell took my car-keys? Mum! I can't find my car-keys! Mu-um!"). Besides, when you examine just how much you accomplish over the course of a day it quickly becomes clear that rather than having a 'senior moment', you're having a 'too much on my mind' moment. Which should serve as a sign that you need to sit down, put your feet up and have a glass of champagne. Then you won't need the keys because you can't drive anyway.

Oh, and the catch to this particular super-power is 'use it or lose it', which means that every flick through a trashy magazine, or 1/2 hour spent watching a soapie, (or five minutes with Two and a Half Men), has to be balanced with a crossword, or a suduko, or a viewing of The Lakehouse.

1. Willis et al. (2006). Long-term effects of cognitive training n everyday functional outcomes in older adults.
2. Strauch, B. (2010). Secrets of the grown-up brain. Black Inc. Melbourne.
3. ibid.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thinking of Japan...

In a sense I think we were a little disaster-weary a fortnight ago, having had a summer of fires and floods and earthquakes. A trifle desensitised to the tragedies unfolding beneath the lurid headlines and dramatic reporters. A little numb, albiet wary, and not quite as generous with our concern. And then along came Japan, and a massive earthquake that was itself, imagery-wise, quickly subsumed by the tsunami that followed. Rolling waves of dark water gathering trucks and cars and houses and airplanes like flotsam, pockets of determined fire tossed within the tide, the disembodied, shell-shocked voices of those filming the events, the occasional scream turned gasp turned stunned, disbelieving silence. A reporter, the following day, kept using the word apocalyptic, over and over, as if the English language was limited in the face of such devastation. And perhaps it is.

A modern, thriving, civilized, financially-sound, technologically-advanced country brought to its knees within minutes. Only to find the nightmare broaden to encompass a third disaster, this one with a potential fallout that is mind-numbing in itself. Nuclear - the word jerks as it is spoken, with the first syllable setting the tone for what follows. And we think Chernobyl, reflected across the sad-eyed faces of posthumous children, or Three Mile Island or any of a bevy of armageddon-type movies, with or without Will Smith saving the day. And we shiver, a little, as we should. Time has yet to tell what effect this unfolding disaster will have on the nuclear industry but one can only hope that we live and learn.

In amongst this horrible awfulness, however, for me, was a realisation of something positive. Something that gives me a glimmer of hope while we, as a world, continue blundering blindly forward like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Something that reflects the seismic shift that has taken place in our global consciousness over the past sixty years. Something that drove the immediate and heartfelt outpouring of sympathy and support and compassion from nations across the globe, from Australia to Canada, America to England, Israel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, Iceland, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Iceland, Morocco, Mongolia and many, many more. 117 countries to be exact. Including New Zealand, themselves still reeling. And if we can step up to the plate as responsible, compassionate, mature global citizens when the chips are down, then there's no reason we can't do the same when they're not. There's strength in solidarity. And that's the way forward.

Thinking of you, Japan, and sending my very best wishes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day!

Wishing a happy International Women's Day to you all! This is a day to celebrate how far we, as women, have come, while still taking a moment to reflect on how far we've got to go. And for those who think 'psshaw (a sound which, incidentally, I consider shamefully under-used), we first-world females are doing just fine and dandy' (or words to that effect). I include the following three ads as a mini-montage of the past fifty years. And it may - or may not - surprise you to learn that the third one (designed to sell men's suits [?]), was released only in 2008. So unfortunately it's not yet time to rest on our (ever-expanding, in my case) laurels, but nevertheless a day when we should raise a glass, or a mug, and give ourselves a toast. We deserve it. Cheers!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I spy (significantly less than I used to)

After the disappointment of the whole Botox thing (as in it didn't miraculously make me look twenty years younger), I've been musing about what I would change about the ageing process if magically granted a single choice. In other words, what do I hate the most? And I came to a rather surprising conclusion. Well, it surprised me anyway. Because it wouldn't be the wrinkles or the jowls or bags or chin-wattle (although I'm not particularly enamoured of any of them). It wouldn't even be those ridiculous chin hairs or stray eyebrow hairs or whatever you want to call them. Nor would it be the extra weight, although it REALLY pisses me off, or saggy boobs or flat feet (okay, now I'm starting to feel depressed). No, if I had one single choice to wind back the clock it would be something far less visible than all those, and yet vision would be the entire point. I'm talking, of course, about my eyesight.

I don't mind so much having to wear glasses - but I hate having to depend on them. And yes, there's a difference. Wearing glasses means picking out cool frames and being able to look intelligent even if your top is on back-to-front (I get dressed in the dark a lot). Depending on them is holding a packet of crackers in the supermarket and being absolutely, frustratingly incapable of deciphering the smudgy blur of nutritional advice. Or struggling to read the dosage on a packet of medication. Or standing in the shower trying to work out which bottle is shampoo and which is conditioner and which is hair removal (four-minute shower my ass, it takes me that long to make out the 's'). If my eyesight keeps going the way it is now, soon I'll be the fat female with the bald head who keeps falling asleep while driving.

The other problem is the on-and-off relationship that I seem to have developed with my eyewear. Basically dysfunctional with issues of mutual dependency. So that I panic when I put them down somewhere and cannot find them again - which is a lot of the time. Or then, even when I do have them, I spend a great deal of time adjusting the damn things, slipping them into place to read, then pushing them down to the bridge of my nose to look into the distance, then thrusting them up to the top of my head when embarking on a conversation. Only to have them fall off when I tilt my head so that they hang suspended from my hair - sort of like a pair of abseilers in trouble - and I look like a right twit as I try to disengage us. Or I slip them back down in a hurry and manage to pull clumps of hair out at the same time so that the strands are suddenly hanging poised in front of my eyes like some sort of weirdly wafting antenna.

As ridiculous as it sounds, this has become such an issue that my hairdresser actually commented about my hair thinning in this one spot - which happens to be where my glasses live for a great deal of the time. I'm literally pulling my own hair out. Or, put another way, my deteriorating eyesight is sending me bald. And also mad, given that halfway through this post I got up to do a few things (let the dog out, collect the dirty laundry, turn off all the extra lights in the house, start the washing-machine, let the dog back in, sympathise with D1 regarding her job, pick up the coffee mug in the hallway, wash the dishes, clean up the dog pee just inside the back door, sympathise with D2 regarding her job, turn off the extra lights again, lecture D1 and D2 about the correlation between leaving lights on and our hefty electricity bill, bang my head against the wall a few times - that sort of thing), and put my glasses down somewhere or other. Where they promptly vanished. So that I am now typing with a straining, constipated-like squint which is probably - now that I think of it - the reason that the Botox didn't work.

So the way I see it I have two choices - wear a hat and carry a magnifying glass at all times (hmm, perhaps Sherlock Holmes was a fellow sufferer?), or buy one of those glasses-chain thingoes to serve as an anchor. You know, the ones that instantly age a person by about ten years no matter whether they are made from leather thong or glittering gold or funky beads hand-crafted from the vegetarian saliva of an Amazonian virgin. And maybe the fact that I simply cannot see myself wearing one of those is the very reason I need to.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Well, after three weeks of salads and wraps and flopping exhaustedly on the exercise bike each day (and sometimes even using it), I have managed to shed the grand total of one point one kilograms. I was going to try those over-priced Celebrity Slim Shakes (no, I didn't buy them - my slim as a reed daughter did, and then promptly forgot about them) but a plague of weight-conscious mice got to them first, devouring all the chocolate and the vanilla sachets and then zumba-dancing over the mouse-traps with their slim little feet. The odd thing was not that our mice are weight-loss-savvy, but that they were distinctly fussy in the bargain. Even when they had consumed every last shred of chocolate and vanilla powder, they still didn't attempt the strawberry-flavoured ones. So if dieting mice are rejecting the latter, then I'm taking the hint.

But the lack of weight-loss is made all the more frustrating by those contestants on The Biggest Loser who seem to shed kilos just marching single file to the weigh-in room. Or being yelled at by Michelle, or having a breakthrough moment with Shannon, or being dojo-ed by the new Blondie. Whose intensity levels suggest some underlying issues of her own. Plus she really needs some new material, I've only tuned in three or four times and I've already heard her say that whole treat-your-body-as-a-temple-not-a-nightclub line twice. A nightclub isn't even a good analogy - too much fun and frivolity and high heels and glad rags and daft pick-up lines and cheerful early-hours exhaustion. I'm thinking an all-you-can-eat restaurant, or maybe even one of those ancient Roman lounges, where plump patricians in togas recline languidly while being fed delicacies from silver-plated trays.

But it started me thinking about what sort of structure I would use to describe myself and I came to the conclusion that I'm very much like my own home: rambly and messy and comfortable and in a perpetual state of partial renovation. The good news being that we can both still scrub up okay, the bad news being that it now takes a bit of effort. And I decided that from now on, whenever I do something for the house, like buy a plant or a painting or another sarcophagus, I'm going to do something for me. Maybe some new clothing, or a foot massage, or a bar of decadent soap. Something vaguely equitable, just to add value to us both. We deserve it.

Which is all excellent timing as the mission-brown, termite-nibbled, been-falling-down-for-years front fence is finally getting replaced next week. 32 metres in slim-line Windsor picket with non-exposed posts and a new letter-box complete with lockable flap and catalogue insert. Hmm...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mirror, mirror...

Well, I have to say that Botox was an extreme disappointment. After lengthy examination I have concluded that there is little difference. If I had taken before and after shots, I think they would have been interchangeable. If anything my smile lines have simply migrated to under the eyes, where they have congregated to make me look a little jovial and baggier than usual. Sort of like Buddha, so that now my face matches my belly. Not quite what I had in mind.
But then again this experience has made me realise one thing - that I very seldom spend much time looking at myself in the mirror nowadays. A quick glance to make sure I don't have blobs of mascara studding my cheeks, or a wily chin hair wafting gently in the breeze, and then an efficent - and usually critical - examination of my hair and that's about it. So there's a goodly chance, I suppose, that I look massively younger and just don't realise it because I'm comparing myself to way back when, and not now. And even mega-doses of Botox ain't going to bridge that gap.
It's not like I don't have a plethora of mirrors in my house either. There's one in the hall, and one over the fireplace, and several full-length ones fixed to wardrobe doors. As well as dressing-tables, and vanities, and cabinets, and we even have one of those make-up mirrors that magnify and illuminate and make pores look like moon craters while giving your skin all the glow of a ruddy apple. Conversation with my daughters, and their friends, are punctuated by teenage eyes sliding away to whatever mirror is behind me, where they give themselves a brisk once-over before sliding back. Only to repeat the process again a few minutes later, like it's a compulsion.
I can't quite remember what it was like to have such an easy relationship with my reflection, but I suspect that they - too - are looking for flaws rather than admiring the overall result. Why do we do that? There's that old joke that women will never be truly equal with men until they too can walk down the street with a bald spot and beer belly and think they look sexy. And if that's the case, we have a long way to go. God, says my slim, smooth-skinned, gorgeous nineteen-year old, staring critically at herself, I look like shit. Her friend turns it into a competition. Look at me! My nose, my chin, my ass! It casts a frigging shadow! And I wonder why it is that they cannot see what I can, or appreciate what they have. So maybe it's not about appearance as much as acceptance. And all the Botox in the world isn't going to help anybody without that.
So I have decided to start rediscovering myself. Spend a little more time enjoying the view. After all every line and wrinkle and crow's foot is part of the language used to tell my story and I quite like myself, and where I've been, and what I've done, so why shouldn't I value the end result? With this in mind I just spent ten minutes, stark naked, staring at myself in my dressing-table mirror and can confidentally say that's not a good idea. Probably best to start a little slower.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Botox - believe it or not!

Well, all I can say is thank-you very much [coat with sarcasm please]. With over 400 women connected via email, plus nearly 200 via the survey and another fifty or so via the discussion groups, I found only ONE (uncontactable) person who admitted to using Botox. Now either that says that we are a remarkably sanguine lot, or well-preserved, or totally at ease with the middle-aged-ness of our faces. The latter of which was not particularly reflected in survey answers, where wrinkles ranked right up there as things we're not too keen on. So that leads me to suspect a few more women are having foreign substances injected into their faces, but they just don't want to talk about it. Fair enough. But this left me in a bit of a pickle - how can I write about Botox with no information? Which brings me back to my original (sarcastic) thank-you because it meant I had to - after making and breaking two appointments over Christmas - drag my saggy, baggy face down to the local salon and be my own source. Yes, that's right, my name is Ilsa Evans and I have now been Botoxed. Gulp.

When I say Botoxed, I have to admit that I opted for a minimal amount over a minimal area - which will no doubt result in a patch of pristine skin that only makes the rest of me look even older. The truth is that I would be laughed out of Wisteria Lane, but it's good enough for me. And I now have something in common with all those shiny-faced celebrities - except for the fact that I'm admitting to it and they are not. Who me? Never. It's just genetic good fortune, darling. All the women in my family are wrinkle free and trout-mouthed even at eighty. Honest.

I have to say it was a rather fascinating experience. And informative. I arrived with half-baked perceptions of women trapped within tangled notions of self-esteem, fragile egos quivering with desperation, dark sunglasses in the waiting room, and frozen smiles at the checkout. Wrong on every count. Jessica, the nurse, who kindly answered all my questions, says that for most of her clients, it's more about erasing life's little tragedies. Women who have gone through some sort of trauma, such as a death in the family, only to see this written across their faces. And wanting it gone. While that may well be correct, I'm guessing it's also about vanity, and wanting to wind back the clock, and rejuvenation. After all it's why we pay big bucks for the latest gamma-beta-globules of virginal seaweed kelp - if we're told it'll do some good.
So after our interview came the big question. Yes, or no? And by then I felt a little like I did at five years of age when Daryl Thatcher dared me to put my bare feet into gumboots full of tadpoles and then walk around the pond and back. Which, now that I think of it, was probably a lot more traumatic for the tadpoles than for me. So I did it (then and now). Putting myself in Jessica's hands - literally - and even following her advice that if I was going to opt for the minimum, then I should hit the crow's feet. I have to say the most painful part was the ice-bag that was used to numb the area - that killed - with the injections themselves paling in comparison. Then came the instructions - do not expect instant results as Botox takes between four and fourteen days to work (seems a bit lazy to me but what do I know?), and do not, under any circumstances, rub and/or massage the area for four hours as apparently the stuff can travel (wtf?). Whereapon I was immediately struck with an almost overwhelming urge to rub and/or massage said areas, and this urge lasted for exactly four hours. Necessitating quite a lot of time spent sitting on my hands.
In the waiting room were several women who glanced at me curiously so I did my best to look nonchalantly urbane as I strolled through and out to my car. Instantly forgetting that windows have glass as I examined myself every which way in the rear vision mirror. But nothing had changed, and two days later nothing has changed yet either. Except that my daughter spends quite a lot of time examining my face (much like she used to examine seedlings when little, waiting impatiently for a sign of life), and my mother gave me a look that I haven't seen since I was a teenager and did something particularly daft. But it doesn't feel any different, and most of the time I forget I even had it done. So will I ever do it again? I doubt it, but stay tuned.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Middle-aged women rock!

The only evidence that yesterday I had ten raucous, riotous middle-aged women in my backyard are the six empty champagne bottles and assorted dip and cracker packaging (and chilli cheese - whoever invented that should be knighted). But I swear their combined warmth and wisdom has created a kind of energy that still fizzes. Like power.

As for the subject matter - well, if someone had told me a few years ago that I would willingly spend over four hours talking about menopause, I would have confiscated their car-keys. Or sidled away surreptitiously. I mean - menopause? How interesting can it be? Well, as it turns out, when you throw the experiences of ten women into the pot, add some champagne (and chilli cheese) for flavour, and then give the whole dang lot a good stir - very bloody interesting. Hot flashes, night sweats, extraenous body hair, hormone replacement, fire-cracker sex (you know who you are!), itchy-creepy-crawly skin, uterine scrapings [insert instinctive flinch], even nether regions that forget their place. The latter convincing me that pelvic floor exercises must become part of my daily routine - either that or perhaps a few hours spent standing on my head each evening.

I also now know more about HRT than my doctor was able to impart, as well as what happens when you go camping in the middle of nowhere, thinking you are post-menopausal only to find out, that first evening, that you most definitely, absolutely, 100%, are not.

I'm having too much fun for this to feel like work but I'm certainly not complaining (I'll save that for if the pelvic floor exercises don't work). And as we disbanded yesterday, everyone was vowing to do it again, catch up more frequently, talk about this sort of stuff and lace it with humour, companionship and champagne. But I know, we all know, that life will get in the way and we - ourselves - will slide back down the list of priorities. Though it shouldn't be that way. We need to talk. Back in the fifties and sixties this was recognised when consciousness raising became popular for women, where they would meet in groups and look at 'norms' (like lower wages, not being able to get a bank loan etc) and recognise them as part of a discriminatory pattern. Comparing experiences and drawing strength from others. We need to do the same, more frequently, because when it comes to the more challenging aspects of midlife, like menopause, we are our own best resource. "There is no greater power in the world," said Margaret Mead, "than the zest of a middle-age woman." Which makes me feel a little like a lemon but I get her point. Middle-age women rock.