Monday, December 30, 2013

Hysterical Women

The beautiful blonde doctor said “do you think maybe you’re….a little depressed” and I thought “are you fucking kidding me of course I’m depressed”. Trying to keep the “fucking kidding me part” out of my tone I said “umm my entire life has been turned upside down. So ya I’m a little depressed. I think it’s appropriate”. I’d been sobbing off and on for ten minutes. Not for the first time in this group of doctors offices. There is probably a big note in my records that says “OMG SHE CRIES”. Her reaction wasn’t unexpected just disappointing.

Months later, sitting in the same office with a different doctor describing how I’d quit grad school because of extreme fatigue, I watched his face and knew it was coming. He started talking about all the things they treat with Prozac. Telling him I wasn’t interested in antidepressants and coming up with the lame “they have side effects” as my reason he said “water has side effects”. Really? That’s what he’s got?

Neither he nor the beautiful blonde knows me well enough to be prescribing psychiatric meds. All they know is what they’ve seen in a few twenty to thirty minute exams and some blood work. Having a general physician prescribe psychiatric meds isn’t much better than having the neighbor who watches a lot of Dr. Oz/Dr. Phil do it.

If you asked your best friend “do I need a psych med?” she’d probably say “Helll no... you need a new boss!” or “No my love…you need to lose the 25 pounds that has you hating yourself” or “you need to quit saying yes to everything everyone wants from you” or “you need a doctor to figure out why you went from a healthy active woman to one who doesn’t have enough energy to put the groceries away”. If your best friend says “you need an antidepressant” then you probably do.

It makes me angry for women. Doctors don’t do this with men. Not to the same degree. Sure they’ll prescribe psych meds to a man. But it isn’t their first stop. It’s 2013 and women are still treated as though we’re “hysterical”. Maybe we should just go back to Uterus removal. It might be as effective as all the dope. If you have mood swings you’re bi polar, if you’re sad you’re clinically depressed, if you’re angry or anxious you need Xanax. Beware of the emotional woman. Emotional women are scary. And somehow not smart.

Several times I said to my doctors “I think it’s appropriate to be sad in this situation”. They would look like: “I’m going to keep my face totally neutral but I really think you’re nuts for not letting me give you this drug”.

Eventually I took one of their drugs. An Antibiotic that was prescribed after I requested a urine sample be taken. Something that hadn’t been done in eight months of suffering.

That antibiotic appears to have cured my depression doctor. Imagine that.


Saturday, December 21, 2013


Lately I’ve had several conversations about whether or not it’s possible to be “cool” when you’re middle aged. One conversation was simply "does cool exist?" Whether it exists is a diatribe and I’m only up for a short tribe right now. I started thinking about “cool” while pondering some gorgeous young women with face tattoos. Kat Von D comes to mind. In case you’re not cool enough to know who she is I included a picture here.


She’s gorgeous right? And oh so cool. She shot to fame with some kind of tattoo reality show and before you know it all kinds of beautiful young (young in case you missed that) women were copying her. Edgy is cool. Kat Von D is cool and edgy. Tattoos on a back, shoulder or ankle, have become main stream. Even old people, like forty year olds, were getting them. What’s next? Face tattoos! The truly cool edgy girls all have them. And I thank the universe they weren’t popular when I was young or I’d have one now. Me and Mike Tyson.
This isn’t a “they'll regret it when they look for work” or “they’ll regret it when things start to sag” invective. It’s “they’ll regret it when they’re too old to be cool and still young enough to care what they look like”. They don’t know it yet but too old for cool is a blink away.
I found this picture online

And thought “She doesn’t know that eighty isn’t the magic number. It’s somewhere between forty and fifty.”

It’s when her priorities change. Which happens just about the time her metabolism begins to slow down and none of the “clubs” play music she likes. She’s too young to know that someday she’ll look back at those sexy facebook selfies and think that being beautiful didn't change her life. She won't care anymore about posting the perfect picture of her rocking the cute bikini.

 Instead she’ll care about mammograms because her mother died of breast cancer and it was ugly. She’ll think about planning for retirement. Because at fifty she’s already been working for twenty five years. Her kids are having kids and need her help. Maybe she’s lost a child. No one thinks about cool then. And by now life has taught her that the cute drummer in the band at the local bar isn’t a rock star. He's a manager at Best Buy.
She still wants to look good. She still cares if her jeans fit or her hair is going gray. She cares if her husband or the man she’s dating thinks she’s sexy. She cares that her cleavage is wrinkled. When the hell did that happen? She realizes she can't pull off a spandex dress anymore and her favorite very short skirt looks ridiculous. She only wants high heels that don't hurt.

She's letting go of being young and realizes she is no longer cool. But... she hasn't given up on being desirable. That's when she'll care. That is long before eighty.




Saturday, December 14, 2013

                         Idaho Mountains
It’s an hour and a half before mom has to be at the doctor. She’s eaten less than a cup of food a day for a week. Months earlier I’d taken her to the emergency room. It turned out she was starving and dehydrated. I thought then “she’s throwing a temper tantrum”.  Everything in her life is out of her control except what she puts in her body.  

She can’t drive, she can’t walk. Her cordless phone confounds her, she can’t navigate automated answering services, her doctors barely speak English and barely tolerate her. No one sees her and no one cares to know her anymore. I’d probably stop eating to.  

 She knows I think she’s making herself sick and swears she isn’t. The need for me to believe her so strong that I do.  

 Mom’s childhood was spent hunting and fishing the rugged Idaho Mountains. Traversing on foot and camping overnight. Still grade school age she was left with older siblings to fend for themselves through most of a winter. Snow nearly reaching the roof of the homesteader’s cabin. At twelve she was running moonshine with an older brother. 

Part of her life she was a grifter. Dealing dirty card games to rough men who threatened to kill her if they caught her cheating. After losing all their money a couple of unhappy customers approached her outside a bar saying they’d “take the money” she’d just won from them. With a very large gun she said “you could try”. My piece of shit father loved that story.  

Forty years later she needs me to bathe her for a doctor’s appointment. Sitting on one of those bath stools for old people she is shaking uncontrollably. I’m worried she’s cold, but then realize she’s bone weary. There will be no more Idaho Mountains for my mother.  

 I wonder if this is humiliating. Hating the thought of my gun toting moonshine running kick ass mother humiliated I make some jokes. I wash her hair with false confidence, and I marvel that while skeletal she’s still beautiful and somehow dignified.  

Then it came. The thought “I’m helping her die”.  “She’s at the end of her life. She can’t wash her hair. She can’t towel off her own body”.  Instead of the fear I expected would come at that moment I felt lucky and honored.  She felt sad and done.  

Several months later mom and I barreled through the Idaho Mountains. Mom traveling as ashes in the saddlebag of my Harley Davidson. The container held in a purple velvet crown royal bag left over from her liquor store days. Over wine glasses after a long ride my husband and I would laugh at the possibility someone might break into my saddlebags and “steal mom”. What joy that would have brought her.  

One day we pulled off at a clear mountain stream. My husband waited for us by the side of the road while mom and I sat near the water listening to a song she used to sing. I held her for a while, listening to “A Daisy a Day”. Then I left her in the Idaho Mountains.



















Sunday, December 8, 2013

 Texts between my stepson and I went like this: “can u think of a name 4 a blog I want to write?” “what wd u write about?” “womens issues middle aged women like me” he texts back immediately “Middlepause”. Then he texts “but I’ll think sum mor”.

Nearly every day since, I’ve had at least a passing thought on the irony. That this peak of health climbing the career ladder everything to look forward to (both good and bad) young man came up with a name that so completely speaks to the issue.  The things he can’t know because of his age and the things he won’t know because of his gender.

He’s at an age where he still believes that the teenage and adult woes he, his friends, coworkers and siblings had/have won’t befall his children because he’ll parent differently. Then they get to middle aged with grown children who are just human, with some big problems and some little problems, like all the rest of the world.

He’s of a gender where the obsession with young women’s bodies, their boobs, the natural colored waist length hair, their smooth skin just means he gets the joy of looking at them. Not trying to be them. He’ll never look at his sagging boobs and wonder if he should risk his health and drain his bank account in order to wear a spaghetti strap tank top or strapless dress.

He’s at an age where “age” doesn’t close any doors. The first time age closed a door I was only in my thirties. A single parent, struggling financially, I thought the military reserves might be interesting and provide a second income. “To late” the recruiter said. I had just passed the age cutoff to enlist.  That affected me a lot for a while. It was shocking. For a long time I wondered what other opportunities I’d let pass by that I was now too old for.

He’s of a gender where the chances that he’ll be concerned about or competing with men near half his age for the affections and attention of the woman he loves are almost zero. The longing associated with young women will be totally different for him at 50 than it is for me at 50.

He’s at an age where so many things still matter to him and where he has the energy for them. He’ll get passionate about injustice. He’ll ponder discussions with his boss on his way home from work and wonder what it means to him and his future. He’ll work hard all day and have energy left over for friends and hobbies and children.

Here, in the middle of the pause that’s in the middle I’m asking myself “what am I too old for”? Or “what am I still young enough for?” Then I ask myself the real questions of the middle: “what do I actually care enough about to put my time and energy into?” “How do I want to spend the next part of my life?”


Sunday, November 24, 2013

I'm just learning how to do this blog thing. This picture was supposed to go with my first post. It's also my profile picture but is microscopic for some reason (something I might figure out how to change at some point). It's my favorite picture from my fiftieth birthday weekend with all our grown kids, their spouses significant others and two of our grown nieces. As my son in law says "It was epic"!

This picture means some things to me. To begin with... I turned FIFTY and there is photographic proof. Fifty feels good and I think it shows. It feels good from the inside out. Forty took more getting used to than fifty. Forty was a bigger transition. Forty was moving from "the hot chick" to the "woman who looks good for her age".  Something that by fifty I'm used to. Forty was when you thought you might be able to hang onto being young if you got a boob job (which I didn't) or Botox (which I did). Fifty is not that. Fifty is for me. Forty was still for other people.

I have an aunt who, in her youth, was ethereal beautiful. She got old young. In her fifties she let her teeth go bad, let her hair go gray, and wore outdated ill fitting clothing. It drove her ethereal beautiful daughter crazy. One morning over coffee at her daughters house she said to me "Carmen always wants me to fix my teeth and hair and wear nice clothes. I do not care about it. I do not want anyone looking at me. I do not want any men looking at me. Being old is being free". She decided this in her fifties.

I think the fifties will be decisive.