Couple year ago, I wrote a story called “The Menopausal Waitress.” Writing that story, I realized a woman entering menopause shared several symptoms with a person transforming into a werewolf. Hot flashes. Night sweats. Insomnia. Irritability. Loss of memory. An obsession with hair. Menopausal women. Werewolves. Equally unpredictable and dangerous. What will we do next?
The woman in the story “transforms,” but whether her transformation is metaphorical or literal, supernatural or biological, is open for interpretation. (Ambiguous opposed to vague.) Freud would have field day with the story. After all, my protagonist eats a guy.
Before that story, I spent three years writing my first novel. The protagonist was a bartender named Dillon Curtis, named for Ponyboy Curtis from the book that made me a writer, The Outsiders. Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.
Dillon Curtis is my male alter ego. I could walk like him for you. Smoke a cigarette the way he does. Mimic his smile. His drawl. How he hooks his thumbs in the belt loops of his jeans. I have spent years with him. Cultivating him. Loving him.
Dillon Curtis suffers intimacy issues. Self-imposed isolation. An inability to trust. Happy to give you an orgasm but never a life-long commitment. In fact, he is bound-and-determined to give you an orgasm, and I always considered Dillon’s dedication to the female orgasm redeeming. Endearing. Unusual, too. Not so much selfish as scared.
When Dillon Curtis is attacked and bitten, which leads to his transformation into an actual werewolf like Benecio Del Toro in The Wolfman, his self-imposed isolation becomes a necessary evil. He has no choice. Now, he is cursed to a life time of solitude and loneliness, whether he wants it or not, and of course he does not want that now.
Dillon falls in love with a woman named Lumen who he has hired to assist him through his transformation every month. A business transaction. Strictly financial. Unless they are kidding themselves. Dillon believes Lumen deserves better. He is a monster. He could kill her. He could kill someone else. He has killed someone before. Tragic stuff.
Freud would have a field day with this one, too.
I was never sure if I was writing a supernatural thriller or literary erotica, or what that even means, literary erotica. I don’t write porn, I know that, because I care too much about people. So I write erotica. I guess. Right? Literary erotica? Who knows?
Jeva Lange called my writing “anti-literary” and “anti-intellectual,” which is either scathing criticism or fervent flattery. Hard to tell. She called my writing ordinary and cliched, too. I am a cliche. I didn’t know I was menopausal, or experiencing the “change of life,” until a couple months ago, after my gynecologist ordered a blood test then suggested estrogen therapy. I knew I felt different. Unhinged. Tired. Mostly unhinged. But also tired. Especially tired. The exhaustion is something else. Some days, motivation is hard to muster. I still write. I still exercise. Aerobic stuff. But I often cry though an entire work out or burst into spontaneous fits of laughter. Or both.
Menopause feels like puberty, except you are no longer an adolescent girl but a middle-aged woman, and while the world is nuts about adolescent girls, it is not so crazy about middle-aged women. We are past our prime. We have “life experience.”
Translation, “baggage,” especially if we are single.
Men are allowed to age. They are “distinguished” rather than old. Men are allowed to remain single. They are “confirmed bachelors” rather than emotionally stunted.
Last summer, I took a psychology course and read a text that claimed middle-aged men are happier if they are married and tend to live longer. Middle-aged women are happier when they are single. Go figure. Like Jack Nicolson as the Devil said in The Witches of Eastwick, “Marriage, good for the man, bad for the woman.”
Maybe all that “Old Maid” stuff is bullshit.
One more way a patriarchal system punishes women for reveling in our independence.
This “change of life,” I’ll run with it. Tear it up. Howl. But I will also lose track of what I am doing and find it hard to concentrate and be in bed by nine. Probably eight. XO.
“The older we get, the more culturally invisible we become, as writers, as people. But you have your words . . . Write as well as you can, with as much heart as you can, whenever you can. Make sure there are people in your life who will have faith in your promise when you can’t . . . You are not a late bloomer. You are already blooming.” Roxane Gay