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The Rizzo years

The other day my husband asked if a little alien creature was going to pop out of my gut, like in that 80s movie starring Sigourney Weaver. “I’m perimenopausal” I told him, “and it’s an early stage, so buckle up; you could be in for a rough haul.”

Menopause, what an ugly word. Is that really the best we can do? And no one under 70 says ‘going through The Change.’ It’s bad enough we have to go through hormonal hell just when life should be sorted; we can’t call it something else? What about Lucky You? Or the Rizzo years. I saw a meme with a picture of Stockard Channing’s character in Grease that read: watching Grease as a kid and thinking you’d grow up to be like Sandy, but now realizing you’re Rizzo. Yes.

Rizzo was way ahead of her time. She was like my best friend, Lisa; a thirty-year-old trapped in the body of a high school senior. I wish Hollywood would make a sequel, Grease; 30-year reunion. Trailer- Danny and Sandy are still together with their grown kids living in the basement, and Kenickie, starring in one off-Broadway hit after another, reconnects with Rizzo who’s going through menopause. These days I can hear Rizzo’s voice; her sarcasm helping me get through whatever calamity I’m facing… Calmly driving in traffic while singing along to Green Day on the ‘oldies’ station, only to seethe with rage at the driver ahead of me who can’t be bothered to use her turn signal. Needing reading glasses- and not just for the fine print (why must they continue to use smaller and smaller font?!) Happily tweezing my eyebrows until I bring the mirror down to my chin and realize with horror that’s where all the black hairs have migrated.

I’m tired of natural female processes being taboo topics in our society. From an early age, women are taught to be discreet about (hide) the facts of nature: we have a period, a sex drive, and as we age, it turns out, an intolerance for idiocracy. Yet, we are supposed to keep it all inside, only showing the world our demure, acquiescent selves. To hell with that. To be feminine is to be strong and smart and sexy, and these all increase with age.

Also, I think, in the interest of public safety, there should be a voluntary sabbatical option for women in our fifties. A period when we have the space and time to be and do whatever we damn well please— kind of like maternity leave, but without a child to take care of. Time to focus on ourselves and listen to that little voice inside (even if it is coming from an alien creature.) After all, we are half the population and it is in everyone’s interest to keep us happy.

Illinois ratified the ERA last week, which gives me small joy. Due to patriarchal procrastination, it may very well take my entire lifetime just to get the amendment in the books. I realize I’m only in the shallow end of this hormonal relay and talking with an older friend, I was lamenting my lack of patience lately, how quickly I become irritated with the patronizing old goats— “Oh, yeah,” she said. “That doesn’t go away.”

Great. Not only is my give-a-shit factor at an all-time low, but now I have to muster the tolerance for this retrogressive pace while we’re at a crucial point in human history. Two steps forward, one step back; fifty years to ratify the equal rights amendment, one lifetime down. The upside is that I finally made it to a place in my life where I can do and say exactly as I please. Accusations of unladylike behavior carry as much weight as the threat of ‘going down on my permanent record.’ Along with dry skin, hot flashes, and extreme irritability, with age comes the confidence that I have made it this far; femininity is about endurance. By the time I’m through the Rizzo years I envision myself heavily tattooed, wearing terry cloth pantsuits, still laughing at raunchy jokes, and enjoying full equality in the United States constitution.

Oh- and still happily married, with an alien-creature-free gut.

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