Make All Women the Norm

International Women’s Day. So far I’ve seen various articles on it. Most are men talking about how the day should be celebrated, or ‘fun’ little articles on how roses are being handed out to random women in a particular city. Would it kill the media to focus on strong female role models? Or even whisper about our pay inequality?

Apparently so.

And all the women shown to me today are thin, young, wearing fashionable clothes and make-up. Not a one over 40 (much less 50), not a one brave enough to show their true, unpainted face.

It brings to mind the very basic arguments of feminism: what and how can we be and act? Why do we even need to ask these questions? Why is every action or non-action we take scrutinized so fully?

Make-up. When I was young, I was all for it. I felt more attractive and therefore more confident. As I sit here sans make-up and with a lot more experience, I understand that the reaction I had when younger was denial: I denied the fact that I felt invisible and therefore used brightly colored paints to decorate my face in attempt to stand out and be noticed. That’s what truly lay behind my earlier viewpoint, tho I was unable to acknowledge it at the time.

And I believe that mindset lay behind much of the back and forth bullshit I’m hearing these days. It’s reinforced by media stereotypes, cultural influences, paradigms and idioms. It’s cemented in by jokes and situational comedies, by cover spreads and centerfolds, by our own desire to be seen, heard, and valued.

See me: we paint our eyes, outlining them in dark colors, adding shading and glints, we glue on false eyelashes, we stick color bits of plastic on our eyeballs to make our eye color change, we draw in dramatic eyebrows. See me; I’m here.

Hear me: we paint our lips, outlining them, plumping them, adding gloss and glitter all in an effort to draw attention to what we say.

Value me: we paint our cheeks with blush; too much and we are whores, too little and we are sallow-faced and unhealthy, but just right and we can be mothers, leaders, world changers.

Using make-up isn’t wrong. It doesn’t make you wrong, or less. But with the obvious (tho little discussed) health issues associated with make-up use, it does beg the question why women feel the need to continue using it.

We question why smokers continue to use a product dangerous to their health.

We tell drug users they’re killing themselves, and they need to get clean.

We body shame the fat, tell them they’re costing our health care systems millions just because they’re lazy.

But we don’t address the ‘window dressing’ women feel compelled to do. If we do, we are shunned. Extremists. Un-womanly women.

And everyone seems to think the large issues need tackling first. That’s silly. It’s the small stuff that should be worked on first: build from the ground up. Show real women: women over 40, women over 50, fat women, skinny women, ugly women, beautiful women. Women with make up on and women with make up off. Make all women the norm. We need not be one thing or another, this or that. That truly is extremism.

 

 

 

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Manic Tornadoes: We End Up on Menopause

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My sleep routine has begun to topple over. When doctors ask about my sleep habits, I’m honest. I can stay in bed 6-8 hours every night. That leads to a ‘oh, you sleep enough’ or worse, ‘oh, you sleep too much for bipolar’. I should probably lead with this:

I’m laying down on my bed for 6-8 hours every night. I do not sleep 6-8 hours every night. I toss, I turn. I do not know how long I toss and turn because I stopped looking at the fucking clock every ten fucking minutes back when I was 20 something – it’s counterproductive.

Right now my body is trying to turn me completely around. I’m tired as can be sometimes during the day, but round about 10 p.m. I get a devilish burst of energy – an hour before I generally head to bed. I toss and turn so much trying to get relaxed and comfortable I almost drive myself nuts. And that nagging feeling that I’m always sitting on a piss is coming back, too.

I’m going manic. Or hypomanic. Whatever.

No big surprise, really. My last 2 posts have been bleeding POSITIVE, for pete’s sake. Me. Positive. Oh, yeah. That’s a warning sign.

Contrary to what I’ve been undergoing, I actually had an appetite last night for dinner. That’s weird, I know. Most of the stuff I’m reading would suggest people generally need less food when they’re on the up. But up until last night, my evening meals were VERY light. Light enough I was beginning to have concerns for myself (I don’t want to drop the extra weight I’m carrying too quick – dangerous and lousy for your skin). I had an actual plate full last night. A sensible sized piece of meatloaf, 2 big piles of veg, and some bread. And I ate every bite!

Wow, that is weird….me complaining over me NOT eating. I’ve complained over eating too much, not eating the right things, eating at bad times of the day. Suddenly I find myself on the flip side of food: most days I struggle to eat a minimum of 1500 calories. Since I’m also active, I don’t want to drop my caloric intake too far. And frankly since my cooochie-koo has given up the ghost my body’s been changing so bleeding much I barely recognize it.

Menopause…what a fucking trip it is, ladies. Since I have no female role models in my life and HAVEN’T had any for a long time, I didn’t have any foreknowledge walking into this thing other than (1) it’s a natural event and (2) every female goes through it. There’s some things I’ve learned now that I wish I knew then, so I’m gonna share ’em (WARNING! Brutal honesty ahead).

Let’s tackle the bad boy in the room first: HOT FLASHES. Like most women, I knew about hot flashes. I’d heard the jokes. I’d read the warnings about hormone replacements. I was prepared (I thought) to deal with it. Turns out I was no more prepared for it than I would have been for birth. Nothing you think you know about feeling hot is going to make a hill of beans difference when the first hot flash hits you. Nothing. ‘Cause there ain’t nothing out there like it. You’re set on fire from the inside. For me, it was a growing heat in my solar plexus area that spread and grew and kept getting hotter and hotter. There’s no escaping it, no fanning it away. You’ve just got to ride it as best as possible, which means keep fanning yourself, keep using cold items to cool your skin, keep opening windows and doors to step outside until it passes. It’s not fun, and goddess help you if you think you’re going to be able to wear fucking makeup through it. You won’t be able to. Maybe in the first 3 years you can; my hot flashes were small, brief, and infrequent at first. By the time I was in my 8th year of perimenopause (the state when your period is infrequent but still shows up), the hot flashes were something cooked up in the pits of hell. Oh, and if you’re not scared yet, here’s the kicker: they can continue for the rest of your life. Yep. The rest. of. your. life!

Perimenopause. I googled it quickly to make sure I was using the correct term. The definition on-line is (and I quote): “the period of a woman’s life shortly before the occurrence of the menopause”. SHORTLY before? SHORTLY? Whoa! I do NOT consider 10 years to be “shortly”. It’s one hell of a long time. If you live to be 80, it’s fucking 1/8 of your entire fucking life! Fucking shortly my ass! And yes, 10 years isn’t all that rare.

Mood swings are a hard thing for me to talk about because I was subject to wild mood swings BEFORE I started down this road. I can tell you they got much, much worse. Everything was amplified, everything was just MORE.  I had to grow a little philosophical about it in the end and tried to see it as a reverse puberty. The forces at work are the same, and the process is just as mysterious and fucking insane. It didn’t help much when I was in the grips of it, tho. About 3 years into perimenopause I hit a depression like no other. My depressive periods up until then had been what I’d now describe as melancholic. I’d be down, but I could function. Three years in and I could no longer function. I couldn’t look at people. I didn’t stop crying. It was a horrible, dark time that made me realize what serious depression was all about. I was put on an anti-depressant. A year later I was soaring, reaching a manic state I’d never seen before. For 2 and a half years I went like nothing else. I WAS superwoman. I set up a charity dedicated to bringing the arts to rural communities. I gathered performers from all over, brought them into downtown Nowheresville and let them do their thing. I set up video performances with some unbelievably high status directors, including an award winning Italian woman I can’t believe even responded to my request. I was EVERYWHERE spreading my message; the most together, with it, continually happy and upbeat I’ve ever achieved in my life. Then the bubble burst and I burnt out. Had to pick up the pieces again. Shut everything down; could no longer handle any of it. Since then I’ve been up and down, up and down. Sometimes within the hour, sometimes days, and sometimes weeks. There is no rhyme or reason anymore, no rhythm to count on. One more thing: sex drive. Mine went from what I’d call a normal state to overdrive. I stole every moment I could to masturbate and fantasized sexually ALL THE TIME. That was the last shout. I now have no interest in sex with another partner. I DO still masturbate from time to time, but many times I disappoint myself and fail to reach orgasm no matter what I do.

And then there’s the hair loss. Down THERE. I can’t even begin to tell you about my horror when I first noticed my pubes were marching down my legs. That’s on top of a good sprinkling of grey hairs, too. Oh, goddess. This point may not be an issue if you’re one of the people who’ve gotten into shaving everything. I was always a trimmed girl; keep it neat but don’t fucking shave it off. Had to be; my pubes tend to be ingrown hairs if I shave them off and no matter how turned off you may be seeing pubic hair it’s a thousand times worse seeing red bumps from ingrown hairs everywhere! It’s also just icky and itchy. So what if I’m hairy? At least I shave my pits.

Oh, but don’t frown quite yet, ladies! Cause hair loss down there is supplemented by hair GROWTH on your face. I mean dark man like hairs. Sometimes spiky sliver grey hairs that you can’t see but you sure as hell can feel cause they poke a whole in your damned finger! Yeesh! I now have to spend a good half hour every fucking night patrolling my face under a magnifying mirror. Pluck, pluck. Tweeze, wax. And the timing of growth spurts has just been fucking with me: I’ll clean up my entire face, no sparse eyebrow hairs or anything poking from my chin or upper lip every DAY yet still I catch these big things dangling from my face like they’ve come from a fucking UFO and just LANDED there while I was walking down the street or something. Geez!

Wrinkles and sagging skin and cellulite, oh my! Think you got some BEFORE menopause starts? Get ready, cuz here it comes! It’s distressing to watch yourself age. Distressing to see your skin begin to sag and all those tiny lines that once didn’t show up unless you were badly lit are now becoming obvious in any light. You learn to love yourself again. And again. And again. ‘Cause from now on, it’s not stopping.

My body odor’s changed, too. I used to smell like flowers when I’d sweat. It was completely nuts. I stopped using deodorant and perfumes all together. Bees followed me everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Can’t even begin to tell you how many times someone asked me what perfume I was wearing when I wasn’t wearing anything at all (I even went to non-scented shampoo and I don’t use hair products). Now, I look back at that time as lucky! I STINK!! The smell from my underarm pits drives ME up the wall. And no amount of bathing gets it off. Never. I can step right out of the shower and smell it on me. BLAH! It’s completely disgusting.

Best advice I can give any woman – EVERY woman out there is to stay informed about your options and keep communicating with the people in your life. It’s important for them to know what’s happening to you. Menopause is a fucking force of nature, people, as terrible and frightening as a tornado. It WILL come through and whip away at things you once thought important. It will fly things into your life that you never would have considered before. It will leave you changed, yes, but changed to a person you may have forgotten you were. Or forgotten you could be.