Friday, April 04, 2008

A Natural Woman

Last night I had a hot flash. I'm rethinking this whole cremation thing.

When a girl reaches puberty, it's called "becoming a woman." When she reaches menopause, does that mean she is no longer one? And if not, is she suddenly a man?

I have always believed that to be a woman is to conspire in the absurd. You spend your youth worrying every month that an event which is both inconvenient and unpleasant will fail to occur, and when it finally stops forever you are convinced that your personal end-of-the-world is near.

I reached puberty at 11. A year later, my mother, in a hit-and-run incident, left a pamphlet on my bed while I was in school called "As One Girl To Another" from the Kotex company, thereby discharging :) her responsibility to make such essential facts available to me.

It was a user’s guide to menstruation, which was never mentioned directly but referred to as “that time of month,” “falling off the roof,” or alternately, "the curse." The book tactfully overlooked the whole idea of blood, so those who read the book before the fact must have felt blindsided when "Aunt Flo" came to visit.

Since I read the book after the fact, I believed that I was bleeding to death from a wound I couldn't show anyone.

The book contained old-fashioned illustrations of all the things girls were not supposed to do at that time of month. Washing hair was forbidden as were tub baths because girls were "more prone to colds" then. Swimming was perilous and also running. A girl must not walk in the rain. Mud puddles could be fatal. She was not supposed to do anything physical at all, and I knew girls who literally took to their beds for a few days every month, maybe because with so many restrictions it was too boring to stay awake.

I was not one of them. I washed my hair defiantly every day, sloshed merrily in mud puddles whenever I encountered one and was generally a pubescent scofflaw. I didn’t die of this.

I will never see 35 again except on other people, but a man in a very bad tie leered at me in the supermarket today. His head did that revolving Linda Blair thing. He stalked me through the bananas and cucumbers and actually licked his chops as he watched me select heirloom tomatoes. He brandished a pair of cantaloupes at me.

"Did you see that?" I asked Flip, who was pushing our shopping cart.

"You've still got it," he said.

"I used to attract a better class of pervert."

"They check you out, too."

He raised one eyebrow and smirked. "Did you notice his tie?"

Of course I did. I'm not blind, legally or illegally. It looked like the aftermath of a dogfight. Puked up Lobster Thermador.

When we got home, I examined my chin in the mirror. No sprouting man-hairs yet. I guess I'm safe for now but maybe I should buy a dress, just in case. Plastic surgery is out, though. I'd rather look old than deformed.


meno said...

Oh i hear you sister!

I went on the internets the other day and looked up menopause.

The title of the article was "The 35 most common symptoms?

35? Holy shit.

Josie said...

LOL. "You spend your youth worrying every month that an event which is both inconvenient and unpleasant will fail to occur, and when it finally stops forever you are convinced that your personal end-of-the-world is near."

Oh goodness, yes.

Jocelyn said...

Your posts are ever balm to my soul. Your wisdom and humor make my near-future well, both scary and not. But the idea of being stalked in the produce holds a creepy appeal.

Nick said...

As a bloke I'm very glad I never had to worry about hiding my periods, tampons, PMT, getting pregnant and all that. It must drive you women nuts sometimes. And at least you're still getting noticed when you're out and about. So many men think only thin women under 30 are worth looking at. Which is their loss, if you ask me.

heartinsanfrancisco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heartinsanfrancisco said...


35?! I had no idea. Holy shit, no kidding.


I thought maybe it was just me that was perverse.


Perhaps a tad more creepy than appealing...


I'm a thin woman over 30. What's your point?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I am all for the natural woman. Seemed like the safest comment to leave here.

Nick said...

Heart, I was just thinking of the 'invisible woman' syndrome whereby women over a certain age become invisible to men because they don't fit the standard desirable female stereotype. Jenny's always noticing that.

thailandchani said...

One of the things I am most grateful for is menopause. The fact that it came (for its final run) on my birthday three years ago is a coincidence that was not lost on me. :) Since I had no desire to have children, "the curse" was an accurate description.

As for being invisible, it's a state of mind. I will never be invisible again and I'll be an eccentric old woman who wears purple, just to prove it!

the walking man said...

Not to dis women and the monthly "problem" but I am only 53 am impotent,(13 years a diagnosed diabetic, insulin for the last 8) piss on myself while I sleep, fall down without warning, yesterday had to get a shower seat and a four footed cane, have had more fingers and camera's up my ass in the last five years than I thought might be ever be a likely event,have had 15 surgeries and right now am trying to avoid #16 by having 9 needles and steroids injected into me, which I get to repeat next week on the other side of my neck and the week after that just above my ass..why some of it is the diabetes and car wrecks but most of the spinal damage is because I worked like a dog. The point is we all have our "problems" but at least this one for you eventually goes away.

Peace...really I mean it Peace


the walking man said...

Oh yeah and haven't been ogled by any woman except my old lady (who for some crazy reason does it a lot) in twenty years.



WNG said...

Mama G was going through menopause as I was going through adolescence. It was a great time at the G house.
All I can say is that if you're ever in Plymouth, MA for Christmas and standing at the screen door in the snow with your shirt unbuttoned trying to cool off keep an eye out for visiting priests coming up the driveway.

RED MOJO said...

Very Funny, "hit and run incident". I love this post! I think the chin hairs might be more genetic than they are hormonal. I've been plucking them out since I was thirty five! Mom too!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It was. The safest. Really. Nobody's gonna get hurt.


I knew what you meant. :)

One of my first posts, on my birthday in 2006, was about this issue. I think it was called "Things I Miss About Being Young."


Now that was a special birthday, as it turned out.

I don't feel invisible either, but the attention I get is usually of a different kind now. I think it's an improvement because it's more about me than what I look like.


It sounds like you have many serious problems, but they are not attributable to your being a man.

I wasn't complaining, just musing on the strangeness of life as a woman.


Menopause and adolescence are a volatile mix. My mother and I should have been in different houses.

Mama G lives in Plymouth? Years ago, I did a season at the Priscilla Beach Theatre.


Really? You are a shining light at the end of my tunnel because while I have always suffered from convenience envy, I have never wanted to be a man.

On a limb with Claudia said...

This is very well written. I think we are still trying to sort out how to live longer. I mean, if we live until we're 80 or 90 more than half our life we'll be men....


do you think it comes with a pay increase?

Nick said...

Thanks, Heart, I read the post. Yes, the number of times I've seen men fawning over young women and doing anything they ask simply because they're young and pretty. It's totally embarrassing. And as you say, the women don't realise what's happening until they get older and don't get the same attention.

If you're interested, Jenny's written about this as well:

Mariposa said...

Hahaha! How times change...I got my first mens when I was 12, on my birthday and I was so freaking excited, I told Dad first then he told my Grandma has a list of things not to do, but like you I'm defiant! LOL

And I'm LOL with Josie on that line she quoted!

Lex said...

So much to look forward to.

And nice fruit arrangement!

VE said...

I was drawn to your blog via your ruby slippers (they so fit my last few posts) but I didn't think I'd land in the world of menopause! I think I'll head over to the produce aisle very quietly and check out the melons...

Nick said...

I liked your remark over at Jenny's that the male view is that women age, while men mature. Don't they have a nerve!

Sorry, I seem to have commentitis today....

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It's only fair. But there is probably some requirement that a person be BORN male and not just appear so because it's the default setting.


It does set up unrealistic expectations which are only dashed by time.

I read Jenny's fine new blog. She writes wonderfully well and I'll be back soon and often.


I would never have told my dad because it would have confirmed his suspicions that I really was female. I preferred to leave that small element of doubt.


Yeah, I love fruit.


Yesterday they were big and round.

Thanks for coming by, and now I'm going to don the ruby slippers and visit you.


I'm always happy to see a comment from you so please don't stop.

Tanya Brown said...

Boy, you've brought back memories. I used to have a girlfriend who wouldn't bathe during her period because her mother had told her that "water could get up there". What it would do once it "got up there", I don't know, but evidently something quite horrible, because she wouldn't risk it. I could always tell when she was having her period because she'd go around looking greasy for several days.

The whole menopause thing is looming, and it's starting to feel like adolescence 2.0. Adolescence 1.0: I'm knocked over by hormones I don't understand and am unprepared for. Adolescence 2.0: I'm knocked over by a lack of hormones I don't understand and am unprepared for. I'm kind of not looking forward to it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It's always something.

That's why I think being a woman is in the realm of the absurd.

Echomouse said...

God, I remember the "no swimming" bit and the literature from Kotex.

I still refer to it as the curse. It is! I begged our family doctor for a hysterectomy when I was 13 because I was in so much pain from it. He said "no, you'll want kids one day" to which I replied "oh no. I won't. I know it." And here I am, at 43, kidless and on purpose. Knowing I was right makes me wish I hadn't suffered all these years with this crap. And now, I've got menopause to worry about! Crap!!!!


heartinsanfrancisco said...


That's amazing. I didn't even know what a hysterectomy was at 13.

It does seem unfair to have to go through all that for nothing. Of course, you were also born with an appendix, which doesn't do anything either unless it decides to rupture.

Angela said...

Oh, man. There are so many good lines in here, I don't know where to begin, but the line about attracting a better class of pervert had me spitting my coffee out all over the computer. Thank you for the laugh!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I owed you a good laugh. Well, you and Babs, actually. Every time you post something about her, I laugh insanely, spilling coffee, waking my cat, everything.

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Ah, and then there is the man in Oregon who is pregnant. Does he have the best or worst of both worlds?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I heard about him!

He used to be a woman, is now legally recognized as a man and chose to give birth. I'm leaning toward the best of all worlds but I'll be thinking about your question all night.

Molly said...

Seems like it would be much better to "become a woman" in this day and age! The nuns used all kinds of euphemisms too....mostly after the fact, so that I, like you, was rudely shocked and alarmed when it happened [not at eleven though, thank you God!] I haven't sprouted chin hairs yet and feel more womanly than ever. You'll survive, and thrive, without that inconvenience every month!

Molly said...

Forgot to ask---Are you the artistic coach for all those graffiti one sees around high schools?? Had to ask after seeing that banana/tomato pic!! Hilarious....

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yes, eleven is much too young. A few months before, I had a burst appendix and the doctors said that if I had already reached puberty, they would have made a much larger incision to "check and make sure everything was in good order." Why, I have no idea to this day, but happily I was spared that particular intrusion, at least.

And I coach no one, not even my cat, although she tries to instruct me on right living. I found the pic online.

jameil1922 said...

you are hilarity. “falling off the roof,” or alternately, "the curse"?? wow. the first thing that popped into my head was how old are you? ... sorry. that is some craziness. on the other end of the spectru: "the what's happening to my body book for girls." TOO MUCH INFO!!! i gave it back to my mother.

Say It said...

I know it sounds odd, but, I do not miss periods or any of the crap that went with them. I had 2 years of menopause before one of my ovaries kicked back in. It sucked. Unfortunately, I'll get to do it again when this ovary gives up. I'll just keep icepacks in a cooler near me and fresh cotton sheets next to the bed.

katrice said...

Hot flashes... if you've never experienced one, you can't possibly understand. Lex was there for my first one.

I'm with you on the plastic surgery. It's so much more beautiful to let nature take her course.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I am older than dirt. But I am well-preserved.

Say it,

I have passed that milestone but according to my doctor, my ovaries are still healthy and young-looking, even juicy. (See comment above. :)


I still get them. One does not get used to this. Every hot flash is just as unpleasant as the ones before it.

Anonymous said...

Falling off the roof??

My mother was very matter of fact about that sort of thing.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


My mother was very modest with a large dose of denial thrown in.

She always said that she wanted me to be a lady, and I always responded that I would prefer to be a woman.