The adolescent rebellion of my body continues apace; hostilities were stepped up this morning by the sudden appearance of sensuous, pillow-like lips on a mouth that, as many of you know, tends more to thin-lipped viperishness. It has also taken to wobbling on high heels while walking past men of a certain beauty - obviously seeking that they reach out and steady it – and braking in front of television screens showing what Masonic Boom aptly describes as overpaid prize steers kicking a soccer ball around.
More seriously, dinner with Ms. K last night served as a reminder that most women have a really antagonistic relationship with their bodies. This makes me angry. It makes me especially angry in the case of menopausal or middle-aged women – especially since I think menopausal women are more justified in feeling victimized by society’s expectations than the chorus of women world wide asking «Do I look fat in these jeans?» So I’d like to point out menopause should be the most powerful time of our lives. There are two strong peices of evidence for this:
1. A lot of post-menopausal women’s feelings of invisibility probably come from the fact the advertising chatter aimed at them drops off precipitously. A woman in her late 40’s has been the primary consumer of her household for at least 20 years. A racing scene in a car commercial will not draw her in. because she has probably already had a shit car that looked good. She will not invest in a brand of chocolate promoted by a handsome actor, because she understands there is no relationship between sugar consumption and the quality of the man you fuck. She will not invest in a clothing line publicized by sexy commercials because she understands that slavishly following fashion and getting laid regularly are not linked phenomena. She is too experienced a consumer to fall for any of this nonsense. So marketers, in general, don’t bother; they concentrate thier efforts on making women ashamed of thier age and trying to hawk cosmetics to them. But shouldn’t the women be proud of the discernment that comes with age? Wouldn’t it be a relief to not be bombarded with media images the way statistically less discerning male consumers are from the cradle to the grave?
2. As Jared Diamond points out in Why Is Sex Fun?, humans are the only species wherein menopause is clearly documented, and it is only supposed to exist in a few other species with big brains and the ability to learn. The reproductive organs of most mammalian females fail at the same rate as her other biological systems; a geriatric elephant cow, for example, is still fertile, though less so than she was young, just as her blood circulates, but less efficiently than when she was young. The reproductive system of women, however, shut down long before any of her other biological systems experience a radical drop in efficiency. There’s only one plausible explanation for this; menopause is an evolutionary benefit to humans, who are also unique in the animal world in that they rely more on learnt skills than instinct to survive. An older woman undisrupted by the physical dangers and onerous duties of childbirth makes an ideal teacher. Belonging to a genetic group whose older women are free to provide supplemental education and parenting is an advantage to the degree that menopause was programmed right into us.