(No, really, guys, this post will squick you out and cause you to wash your eyeballs with bleach.)
The short-tempered bitch of a bodysnatcher that invaded my body for the past month has vacated the premises of my body. I was beginning to call the mood "PMS" wherein the "M" was not present and the "P" stood for "permanent." Is this the beginning of The Change? I do hope so! Not for the bitchy bodysnatcher, but for everything else.
A few years ago, a doctor thought that I was entering The Change. She also thought that I had high blood pressure, which I surprisingly do not. The problem was her context. This was at a health center at a women's college, and she was used to 18-20-year old bodies. My actually damn fine 38-year old body was being held to much younger standards.
That period of time, living in a dorm in my late 30s, surrounded by women who were, at a minimum, 10 years younger than myself, was interesting to say the least. For instance, one woman wore a Springsteen "Born In the U.S.A" t-shirt one day. "Hey!" I said. "I went to that concert." Turns out so did she. As a fetus.
I also encountered a creature known as an R.A. I'd heard of these beings. I used to know some, friends of friends and sometime the friends, when I was in college (and didn't live in dorms). They tended to be the "joiners" and the "team players." They also liked authority. As an 18-year old undergraduate, I was easily impressed with their maturity. As a 38-year old, third time graduate student, I found them humiliatingly annoying. Imagine having a person 20 years your junior chew you out for your room decor.
I kid you not. I had one of those little lights that looks like a candle, popular around Christmas, sitting in my window for ambiance. The R.A. saw it from outside and ran up. When I showed her that the light was electric, she told me that it was best if I didn't use it anymore because it looked like a real candle and real candles were a no-no. I also had real candles. Which she confiscated. "Dear god," I told myself, "I did ask for this by living in the dorm." I also later learned that I was not supposed to have liquor in my room, either. Whoops.
I digress. Back to The Change. The youthful doctor of youthful bodies had diagnosed me as entering The Change. This was not bad news.
When they first took the fourth grade girls into that separate room for The Film and The Talk, I thought, "No! Please! No!" I already knew what they told us, but I kept it in denial. I think I still do. This disgusting, irritating thing was going to happen for the rest of my whole, horrible life! Laura Ingalls, my guide to womanhood at the time, didn't include this in HER stories.
The next year, they included the bit about The Thing ending when we were old ladies. "How old?" I wondered, picturing my great-grandmother. Not until the next year did they give us a more specific estimated time of arrival. I specifically remember the textbook mentioning that, in very rare cases, some women have entered The Change as early as age 25. "Really!" I thought, "You promise?" Then, I thought, "How can I make that happen?"
Well, in college, I found one way: amenorea by way of anorexia. Yes, I had the middle-class white girl disease! In one semester I dropped from the oh-so-terribly-obese 117 pounds (on a 5'5" skeleton) to 88 (a 5'5" skeleton). I was damn proud of myself, too. What discipline! What control! What protruding ribs -- in my chest! Then my hair began to fall out. I couldn't stop thinking of food to the exclusion of all other thoughts. I couldn't stop shivering, and my bones started to ache constantly. Finally, I abandoned all eating disorders for no other reason than that I am lazy and anorexia and bulimia take too much effort.
I also learned to live with The Thing. You have to, don't you? I learned to anticipate the rush of hormonally induced creativity and the moment when your swelling belly suddenly flattens (or some semblance of flattens) and all of your waistbands stop binding. I learned to be on guard for any behavior that might attract comments about how "it must be that time of month." I learned to dismiss people who threw out "it must be that time of month" just as much as they dismissed me with that statement.
Meanwhile, I also looked to my mother and aunt for some genetic indication as to when The Change might come. Both began Changing in their early forties, so when that doctor -- who, incidentally, was younger than me -- diagnosed The Change, she wasn't as completely off-base as she initially seemed.
Would I end up missing it, once it was gone? I wondered. That's what happens on t.v. The often very fertile women have a little depressive episode, literally, mourning the loss the ability to have more munchkins. I can see that, I think, especially if you wanted to have babies and it was something joyful to you; but I never wanted babies. I love kids, but I don't want to bear and raise them. That's work! Hard work! Would I really regret this absence of childbearing in my life, as my father insists that I will (as if no one -- he in particular -- ever regretted the opposite decision)?
No. I won't. This is me. No babies. Looking forward to menopause. Plus, I'm finding that I am now enjoying aging. Youth, like eating disorders, was exhausting. The world keeps opening up in surprising ways. The stress of finding a career, finding love, finding whatever, and usually wondering if that is really what you want or what you have been taught to want (at least if you were fucked up like me), gives way, perhaps because I have attained some of those things or perhaps because I have more and more moments in which I am more comfortable in my skin.
Except, of course, when a short-tempered bitch of a bodysnatcher takes over.