Posted Monday, June 12th, 2006
The Real (Menopausal) Me
Donna M. Kenworthy Levy
Most of my life, I tried very hard to please other people. As a devoted wife and mother, I enthusiastically cooked all my family’s favorite foods on a healthy rotation basis. I even decorated the plates with parsley and curled raw carrots. Enclosed in my children’s homemade bag lunches were sweet notes on which I drew happy faces and stars. Just recently I discovered that my dear ones thought the relishes were dumb and the notes embarrassing. In a mood to “share honestly,” my husband, son and daughter finally informed me that my quaint habit of leaving fresh flowers on their pillows at night drove them insane!
Apparently I should have lived by a different formula. The recipients of my love and devotion will tell you that what I was giving, they didn’t want … like my concerned reminders about using dental floss … or invitations to third helpings of succotash. Oh, yes, I had some odd notion that food was love.
What was so pitiful was that I didn't have a clue how my behavior affected those around me. I didn't understand why I wasn't appreciated. After many years of craving flowery words of gratitude and not hearing any, I finally just gave up. The dawning of my awareness became apparent when I complained, “What good is it to really, really love other people when they just want to be left alone?” I knew I was on the right track, when voices all around me would mutter, “You got it, Mitzy!”
It took another fourteen years before the light shone brightly enough for me to understand that giving space was also love. Even though I cringed inside, I refrained from mentioning that Jeff’s brown argyle socks didn’t go with his navy slacks. And if he, a grown man, wanted to go outside in sleet without his jacket, I guess that was his choice. Our children were delighted with the new me, who never complained about their piercings, tattoos, and strange diets. In their minds, my silence confirmed my love for them. I personally couldn’t see the logic of having these seemingly disinterested kinds of relationships … until I started to feel the same way. However, I didn’t feel that way myself until I de-toxed from estrogen. I had been blessed with early menopause.
Viewing life with this newly acquired clarity, I can truly say that I don’t think we get to be our true selves until we can walk around without feeling horny for at least three months. Freedom from desire is actually one of the most helpful by-products of hormone depletion. The killer in life is needing attention and affirmation from other people. With this realization at the forefront of my thoughts, I smile sweetly as my dearly beloved retires to bed before the 11:00 news. “Sorry, Mitzy, but I’m just pooped.” I kindly reply with relief, “You don’t need to apologize, Sweetheart. Go get some rest.”
Listen, it’s nobody’s fault. After being married for over twenty years, wives no longer sit around dreaming about sucking their husbands’ toes.
No doubt my worst offense was feeling I should always be honest. When I was growing up, my parents, teachers, and spiritual advisors all recommended honesty as a way of life. From my present perspective, though, all I can say is that it’s a grossly over-rated value … if not out and out lethal to marriages … maybe to all relationships. Life moves along much smoother when the tongue doesn’t verbalize what the eyes see. What? Someone doesn’t know when he’s gained ten pounds?
How devastated I became when my good intentions were not apparent to the people I loved so much. How did my darling family so misjudge my character? Oh my, such name calling! One can easily imagine the heated altercations that took place in my domestic past. And if I just happened to be pre-menstrual … well, then things definitely tended to get out of hand. Without hormones presently influencing my thinking, I no longer bother to tell people much of anything now unless they absolutely demand my opinion. When pressured to impart some wisdom on a subject, I’ll utter some thoughts and then just leave the room. I no longer need anybody to agree with me. It’s not that I think I’m right and others are wrong … or vice versa. I’m just sharing my point of view. Take it or leave it. Maybe I’m turning into a man. It sure feels good. Hmmm. Was that an offensive sexist comment I just made? Oh, well.
I never knew this cool headed, detached individual lurked inside me. I can now listen to all the up’s and down’s that beset my adult children and really have no desire to get involved. I know they need to work out their own challenges in life. It’s not that I don’t love them. I don’t love them or anyone in the same way I used to. I don’t define my life through their lives.
“Gosh, Jeff, I’m sure in the mood for fried liver and onions. How about you?”
“What a sickening thought! You know I can’t stand that stuff!”
“Well, that’s what I’m going to have. Why don’t you make yourself a sandwich?”
Oh, menopause, my friend.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by jocelyn johnson on Tuesday, June 13th, 2006 at 3:50 PM
there's something more assured and more likeable about the new, real, menopausal narrator-- although I'd guess that age and new cultural expectations, along with hormones, accounts for her change.
Also I wonder about the pre-menopausal person described. As an early morther did Ms. Levy really need to be austere and silent? What if she just did different things for her family, things they wanted, without pandering for their praise?
Posted by Barbara Ganz on Wednesday, June 14th, 2006 at 7:51 AM
I loved this posting by Donna. It was full of humor, honesty and perceptions about life changes we go through along with our cultural unwritten traditional code that is expected and accepted for women to go along with the "status quo".
Talking about codes, I hope Donna writes another article because I would look forward to reading anything she would write-the same way I have read the rest of Dan Brown's books after reading the "DaVinci Code".
I think I will ask Donna to come over to my house so I can have a smiley face on my lunch with curled carrots and liver smothered with onions along with fresh flowers on my pillow. That is so motherly and nuturing. :-) I also want my daughter to learn from Donna so that I can get the Cincinnati Chili she cooks more than once a season when the moon is full. My husband would appreciate her influence on me too. Instead of mismatched socks to outfits, I actually put a bigger hole in his threadbare shirt that he wears in our yard that is so holey it is not holy in my eyes, and such an embarasement. I figured wrong when he still kept wearing it even though it looked like a moon crater shirt. Why do people gete so upset at honest when we mean the best for them and love them so much? Gee.
This article so reminded me of my own life experiences with honesty, comments, hormones,being raised to please others, be accepted and find out what love really is about. Donna, come back to write again!
Posted by reba karp [ rkarp40856@aol,com
] on Wednesday, June 14th, 2006 at 11:10 AM
"The Real Me" was a fun and easy read. It said it all! I found myself in her words and it was comfortable and reassuring. There are times I think I have or I am going mad.
I like Donna's style. colorful and yet not flashy.
A complete book of such "confessions" should be forthcoming.
Posted by Hillary Madel on Friday, June 16th, 2006 at 12:13 AM
This is a fun read. The character seems so real, that one forgets she is fictional. Thank you for sharing.:)
Posted by Angela Nolan [ firstname.lastname@example.org
] on Friday, June 16th, 2006 at 9:21 AM
Thank you for this story. Isn't freedom a wonderful thing? I'm still in the middle of my menopausal journey, but already I feel societal conventions falling by the wayside; already I feel stronger, more indepedent and well, just more me.