I'd like to write about the end of sex which is both a relief and a heartbreak. It's been four years. Some days I tell myself its because I've had ten years of casual relationships, and that doesn't interest me anymore. Or I won't have sex with younger men anymore, but I don't think older men (my age) are attractive. Other times I tell myself its because I still love my ex-husband. Other times I tell myself--- well actually there is no end to the various excuses I've come up with. I have no idea what is really true. PhD guy came close to starting the whole machinery up again, but when he didn't approach me the next day; hey, want to have a drink some time, I didn't care enough to plot and plan an assignation with him.
Part of this, I believe, stems from a culture that relegates menopausal women to the fringes of society. The images in the media of women in their 50's are not flattering. Who amongst us hasn't opened an email from a well-meaning friend to find those cutesy cartoons of monstrous bloated women with their tits sagging to the ground--- watch out, I'm menopausal, I'm crazy, dangerous and unpredictable. They're supposed to be funny, and I suppose on the surface they are, but the subtext is damaging.
Menopause in this culture is seen as a sickness, something to be cured with a patch or a pill. More hormones, less hormones. Women's bodies in general are pathologized--- you just don't get your period, you go crazy, you get bloated, cranky, hungry, moody, you retain water--- in short, you are sick, and need treatment. Take this attitude and multiply it by ten, and you will have an understanding of how menopause is framed by medicine and by popular culture. Technically, I'm not fuck-able anymore. I'm not supposed to be sexual. I'm supposed to wear flowered skirts and take up gardening, and let the fifty year old men chase after twenty year old women.
There are very precise boundaries of what is acceptable behavior. In the middle ages, middle aged women were seen as witches, particularly if they were opinionated, wanted to remain sexual, had money, were intelligent. In the 16th century-- that type of woman was often burned at the stake, and I am not exaggerating. I often feel repressed by a culture that subliminally sends the message that I should throw out my heels, my jeans, and my push up bras, lest I be taken for the dreaded cougar. photo by: Marc Travanti