In the process of reviewing in The Atlantic a book on menopause, L.A. author, performer and radio science maven Sandra Tsing Loh gets revealingly personal — and really, we'd expect and accept no less.
In my case, when it arrived at 49, perimenopause was terrifying, and like nothing I had ever before physically experienced. It was not just the hot flashes, it was the mood swings, although the phrase mood swings sounds far too cartoon-like and teen-girlish. I would describe it as the sudden onset of a crippling, unreasoning gloom....
You experience anxiety at the notion of being face-to-face with your loved ones, because they will immediately read from your dull eyes that which you can no longer hide—that you don’t love them, never will again. (And note that I had already divorced my husband of several decades and had run off with my demon gypsy lover … Now I felt repulsion upon hearing the squeaky wheels of the recycling bin he was dutifully rolling out to the curb.) At one time, the sweet smell of your baby’s head was your whole world; now you can feel the clanging chime of her 10-year-old voice, note by note, draining your will to live. Where once you coordinated 70 volunteers and thousands of dollars of fund-raising with four- and fivefold Excel spreadsheets at your kids’ school, now the mere thought of trying to figure out how to pay the United Visa bill online makes you so depressed, you can’t get out of bed. Your chemistry has changed—and that is no small thing.
How often do I feel, midlife, as though I am in a strange Island of Doctor Moreau–like science experiment? My preteen daughters are flashing more and more midriff as they cavort to the (PG or R? If I could only make out the LYRICS!) gangsta rap of Radio Disney. My ridiculously old father is a giant baby who wheels his own crib into traffic, pees into a Starbucks cup, and still wields, intact, his own power of attorney. As I grow ever more sullen about it all, I feel I should be living alone in a perimenopausal cave.
She calls the piece "The Bitch is Back." LOL. Also: For those who have followed and probably admired the urban adventures of Loh's hitchhiking father through the years, I've put her update on him after the jump. We all get old, if we're lucky.
Meanwhile, my Shanghai-born father is 90 years old, has Parkinson’s, and is in a wheelchair … But that doesn’t mean, with his eerily Jack LaLanne–like resting pulse of 38, he isn’t frighteningly willful and able. Every day, my dad wheels himself down to the bus, shouting at his Malibu neighbors and at passing Mexican day laborers to help him; three hours later (via a trip that involves several bus transfers and all the shouting for help that comes with), he arrives at the UCLA campus, where he crashes chemistry and neurobiology lectures, wheeling himself to the front row, asking loud questions, disrupting the class, then going to the bathroom, getting stuck in the stall, and ordering Ph.D. students to help him. The bewildered science departments have been calling us, as well as the UCLA campus police, asking us to remove him or at least assign him a caregiver. We have to reply that we do have a full-time caregiver, but my father is impatient to get out in the mornings, won’t wait, and indeed, just as often, enjoys the sport of evading capture. I myself have chauffeured my father around, but eventually found myself unwilling, when the men’s room was five feet away, to continue to (manually) help him urinate on the street.