I was 50 when I woke in my dark attic bedroom in Brooklyn, my heart speeding and my body incandescent with heat. I did not feel simply hot, no, I was being smothered by an internal fire that seemed to pool inside my body like lava.
At first I thought it was a heart attack.
After more flashes, over my morning bowl of oatmeal, as I rode the subway under the East River and while I taught, I realized it was not a heart attack. It was a hot flash.
I had entered menopause, that fraught transition in every woman’s life, known in an earlier time as The Dangerous Age.
Earlier life stages, going through puberty and giving birth, had opened up new worlds, the excitement of sexuality and motherhood.
But menopause arrived without absorbing directives. Instead of new obsessions and responsibilities, I felt a nothingness.
It’s a void created in part by our oversexed patriarchal culture, a world that has little respect for older women.
Valued most for our sexuality and role as mothers many women feel, once that phase is over, as I did. Marginalized. The message, never stated directly but manifesting in myriad ways, is an overwhelmingly nihilistic one: your usefulness is over. Please step to the sidelines.
…..I searched for books that might help me understand what was happening to me. I read Suzanne Sommers’ The Sexy Years and Gail Sheedy’s Silent Passages.
Both are fear-based.
Both authors are frantic to keep the veneer of a fertile femininity intact.