I’ve been “ageing in place” for about 18 months, on or off. Mostly “on” because living in the world’s most locked down city the “off” times slip the memory. Or is my memory slipping because I’m arriving at yet another juncture in this female life when “brain fog” is a verified biological fact?
Women are said to experience brain fog when they’re post-childbirth, pre-menstrual, and perimenopausal. I can remember a time when male columnists in conservative publications would shit-stir about women and their cycles of fog, claiming this proved they’re too temperamental to hold positions of power.
They were right. Men are far more reliable: reliably capricious and ego-driven.
But most of us have experienced the paradox of time in a global pandemic: it marches relentlessly on even as our lives stand still. And there’s only so many chores we can do, only so much Netflix we can watch. In the creepy silence of a weekday morning, we’re forced to confront the truth of our mortality.
I’m watching Netflix on Saturday night – nothing like an episode of Schitt’s Creek to calm the existential angst – when I hear sounds of a party nearby. Music. Defiant exuberance. Tyres screeching. I keep pausing the TV to peer gingerly out the window. “Just f–off!” someone yells. Is curfew still a curfew if no-one enforces it? It’s midnight – actually 1 am, as the clocks are going forward an hour.
Even more than usual, time is in a hurry.
On Sunday, tired from the previous night’s drama, I roll out the yoga mat in front of Adriene Mishler, an angelic-looking 37-year-old from Austin, Texas and YouTube sensation. Last year, with most of the world confined indoors, her already solid fame went stratospheric, the media proclaiming her “the patron saint of quarantine.” She films her yoga sessions at home. Her blue heeler, Benji, frequently wanders into the frame.
She lifts into plank pose. She says:
“Now, whisper to yourself, ‘I am strong.’”
I quake, and then lie in corpse pose until my dog runs his wet tongue up-and-down my cheeks.
I do more navel gazing in the bathroom. At least I try to, but the undergrowth conceals the view. I administer the supermarket wax strips to everywhere reachable from waist down, ripping with the grim efficiency of a factory worker. In the magnifying mirror, I catch sight of two white hairs poking anarchically out of each nostril. What the –?
On my scalp the grey is rampant. Many women decided in lockdown to finally go grey. They speak of liberation from the tyranny of the cosmetic-industrial complex. I envy their courage. But I’m scared. White hair, white skin: in daylight, would people even see me?
As the 13-year-old paints the back of my head with dye, I think about how the day before an old school friend told me one of our former classmates is soon to be a grandmother.
According to the “grandmother hypothesis”, a theory born in the 1960s and still popular, women live well past menopause so that they can help raise successive generations of children. This has an evolutionary benefit for the human species.
On the subject of menopause: in recent weeks more than one friend has sent alarmed text messages about the jab’s supposed impact on their menstrual cycle. No period for months, they said, and then within days of getting vaccinated, suddenly they get what Canadian gynaecologist and author, Jen Gunter, calls “a super-soaker event.”
I say to these friends: get a grip! Yes, the medical and scientific establishment has an ignoble history of trivialising women’s health concerns, but: a) even if there’s a link between the jab and your period (and despite anecdotal reports, there is no scientific evidence that links menstrual irregularities to the coronavirus vaccines), big deal, because anything – essential oils, the flu, your psychopathic boss – can bring on harmless, impromptu bleeding, menstrual cycles being so fickle and sensitive to environmental cues it’s a wonder the species endures at all, and b) sister, you’re perimenopausal, so no blood for months followed by random super blood is exactly what you ought to expect, the proximity of the jab being merely coincidence. And then I refer them to experts who say the same thing.
Only – a few days after my second jab my period came three days early. No big deal. But then, not two-and-a-half weeks later, it came again.
“So do you think the jab might have had something to do with it?” I tentatively asked a doctor I know, hoping for.. a longer lease on youth, I guess.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she snorts. “You’re 52. Of course, it’s bloody perimenopause.”
I’d almost forgotten I had had a birthday.
It is okay, I tell myself. This is the era of menopausal militancy. Michelle Obama has spoken out about getting hot flushes in the White House. The British parliament has launched two – two! – inquiries into menopause and discrimination. One of them asks: “How effectively is the Government Equalities Office working across government to embed a strategic approach to addressing the impact of menopause in the workplace?”
Apparently almost a million women inBritain have left jobs as a result of menopausal symptoms.
Bring on the battle over blood. It’s better late than never.
Julie Szego is an author and freelance journalist.
This article was originally published on The Age. Views in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect CGS policy.