I'll admit it - it's pretty easy being a man. There's really nothing to it. You are born and shortly after that some spotty resident doctor takes a cigar cutter and nips a chunk of skin off the end of your penis, or it may be bitten off by an elder from the synagogue, depending on the religious persuasion of your loving parents. Then in elementary school you get beaten up a couple of times, then maybe once more in high school, and maybe a couple more times in your 20's when you are out drinking with Australians. But that's about all the discomfort you go through. Sure, you might eventually find a partner and produce some kids and they will ruin your world for a while, but it passes. And work? Yeah, you probably have to get some jobs so you can earn money to feed the family, which definitely cuts into your free time, but isn't usually too painful, at least not physically, unless you take up a career in the circus and regularly get shot out of a cannon.
You do that whole routine until you are 65 or so then you retire and take up golf or duck carving or find something else to pass the time until you get too old and your kids sentence you to a nursing home where you eat grey oatmeal, find your only life joy in bowel movements, and eventually just waste away until you expire. It's really not that bad, and it is possible to have some fun along the way.
For women, it's way harder. Like I mean, way harder. And the problems all seem to centre around reproductive organs. Let's forget about all the other horrible stuff they have to live through like ritual humiliation from mean girls, relentless pressure from the fashion world to look fabulous, having to walk in ridiculous heeled footwear, Oprah's book club, eyebrow plucking, pubic hair waxing; man, the list goes on and on.
Let's focus instead on those reproductive organs. I think the biggest problem for women is that all this reproductive magic happens on the inside, unlike men where the tools hangs freely and shamelessly in the open air. Women's internal casing results in yeast infections, cysts, UTIs, and all sorts of awful medical procedures which involve cold stainless steel tools in warm places. There is a litany of painful and awkward events that men never have to go through. We cry the blues when we have to get a colonoscopy, despite now being put under instead of the good old days when they just bent you over a medical table and you looked down to see (and feel) the coil of garden house they were shoving up your butt rapidly disappearing. And women have to get these damn things too sometimes! I didn't even know that until recently.
Now here comes the big one - menstruation. As teenagers, or sometimes before, girls get their periods. I think they are sort of happy when they get it, as it's like a "welcome to womanhood" present. But they get sick of it real fast and continue to deal with this monthly annoyance for four decades, give or take. The only reprieve from the relentless period is pregnancy - 9 months of vomiting, cramping, brain fog, back pain, food restrictions, and endless visits to crammed and germy medical facilities. Then the big prize you get after these months of misery is something akin to passing a camel through the eye of a needle. Wheee, the baby is born, then many women do it all again a couple of years later.
So what happens after all these rounds of baby-making, periods, and lady-problems?
Look, I come from a family of boys so I had no idea about any of this stuff and I've had to fumble along and learn as I went (thanks Google). In fact, when my daughter was born and I noticed all her female parts were already in place, I was shocked. I guess I thought it all sort of grew in later. Ignorant? Yes. Curious? Always.
So now I'm learning about menopause. More correctly, Ana and I are learning about it together. But, as the woman in our life partnership, she gets to experience all the discomfort and strangeness of the transition while I stand by (not too close) and try to be understanding, but usually fail miserably.
First thing, why the hell did they put the word "men" in menopause? That's the stupidest thing I can imagine. We have nothing to do with it. And what's with the "pause" part? It should be "menostop"; all the research I've done on this says that period ain't coming back.
Second, nobody talks about this, yet it happens to every woman. I don't know if it's historically been some sort of conspiratorial secret, but keeping it under wraps probably landed a lot of women in witch court having to explain the cause of their erratic behavior and bizarre symptoms.
Third, have you seen the listing of symptoms caused by menopause? They don't make any sense. On one hand, menopausal women are often overtaken by uncontrollable rage - strikingly similar to when Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk and starts destroying everything in sight. Well it's no wonder they get mad, look at this listing of typical menopause symptoms:
- poor memory
- inability to concentrate
- depressive mood
- weight gain
- mood swings
- painful intercourse (ever tried "doing it" with the Green Goliath? Ouch.)
All sounds exactly like the Hulk, right? But here comes that other hand - instead of getting all that incredible muscle mass and awesomeness of the Hulk, they are instead inflicted with bone density loss, lack of energy, joint soreness, headaches, dizziness, night sweats, and hot flashes.
I hate to overdo the Marvel references, but are you familiar with Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, otherwise known as the Human Torch? He can engulf his entire body in intense fire and radiated thousands of degrees of heat, scorching all bystanders and even melting concrete. A truly top class superhero.
That's what happens to Ana. But unlike Johnny Storm who could shout "Flame On!" at any time to turn on the rockets, with Ana it happens randomly - in the car, at work, during dinner, in bed, while folding laundry. The only place I haven't seen it happen is in the bath, but that would be a disaster akin to an undersea volcanic eruption and likely steam the roof of our house right off. When Ana flames on, she literally starts to glow red and we have to quickly open all windows and start fanning her to avoid meltdown. During one of these episodes I suggested that as part of the Ontario government's plan to combat climate change, they should replace all the nuclear reactors and gas plants with a few thousand menopausal women whose combined energy could easily produce the required number of gigglywatts to power the province. She didn't think that was very funny.
For now, we're all trying to help Ana along in this journey. Trying to be understanding, caring, loving, but most importantly, clearing out when the sparks start to fly and keeping fire extinguishers always close at hand.