Songs for the Struggling Artist


Put Me in Your Show

Dear Fellow NYC Theatre Makers,

Please put me in a show. You may know me more as a writer or director but I’m also a performer. I can act, sing, puppeteer, play guitar and ukulele or whatever you need. I would carry a spear like nobody’s business. I could also be a movement coach or dramaturg. Just. You know….ask me.

I know that’s not how these things usually work. I’m usually on your side of the desk. But – I’m not wanting to get back onstage because I’m trying to be a professional actor again. I don’t want to get headshots taken. (The last time I got acting headshots done they were in black and white and mine was literally just my head. I was also 21.) I’m not trying to get an agent or be seen by Mr. Guffman. I know Guffman isn’t coming and I know what the market for 40 something women who specialize in classical theatre is like.

I literally just want to do a show because I am longing for community and doing shows is literally the only way I know how to get it. The bummer of NYC theatre is that we’re all taking this stuff so seriously, we can never just do a show. And I think I need to just do a show.

I need to be in a room with a group of people all trying to create something. I need to go somewhere regularly where people would notice if I didn’t show up. (This was Johann Hari’s definition of home which I heard on the Your Undivided Attention Podcast – the place where they’ll miss you when you’re not there.)

The reason I want to do YOUR show and not my own is that, as you may have noticed, the community that forms during a show does not tend to form around the leader. The leader holds the space for the rest of the community but often isn’t a full part of it. At least that’s how it goes when I make something. When I’m in charge, I’m both inside and outside the group. I just want to be inside for a minute and I don’t want to be in charge.

I’m writing this so you’ll think of me when you’re looking for someone to hold a spear or make plunking sounds on a ukulele while the actors cavort. I’m a pretty good performer – but I don’t need to play Hamlet right now. Bring me in to be your messenger. I just want to be invited to the cast party. There is literally nothing like the instant community that theatre can create and I am thirsty for it at the moment. I have tried book clubs and cultural societies. I learned how to crochet so I could go to knitting meet-ups but what I really need is theatre. Not because I need the applause (though if you read this post you know I love applause) but because I need the community.

We don’t do a great job of creating a citywide theatre community here in NYC. Literally the only time I felt a part of it was during Devoted & Disgruntled NYC – an event organized by an English company. But almost all theatre folk are great at creating quick communities within shows. So – put me in one, if you’ve got a slot.

And while you’re at it, I bet you could find a bunch of others like me. They are practiced professionals that don’t comb Backstage looking for their next big break because they’ve got lives and responsibilities, like jobs and kids and such. But they’d probably just like to do a show every once in a while without too much hassle. You probably aren’t thinking of them when you’re casting your thing because you haven’t seen them in a while. They’ve been writing their novel or taking care of their kids or grading papers or recording their audio book – not submitting their stuff through Actors Access. Ask them. You might get lucky.

And heck – I’m not really into starting a whole new thing or anything – but if you’re a theatre person and you feel like me, drop me a line and let me know. (Comment below if you want, or message me.) I feel like I could be a keeper of a list of people who just want to do a show or at the very least get together for some pretend cast parties. (Oh my god. I would totally do this. We could all pretend we just opened some show we didn’t do and celebrate as if we had. I’m seeing name tags given out at the door so you get given your role and then you can play at being the ASM all night long.) Jeez – there I go again, compulsively making up things I’d have to lead. Save me from myself! Put me in your show!

This headshot is literally the only one I have and it is older than most of the people auditioning in NYC right now. It was taken by the wondrous Caverly Morgan. I’m not taking another one. Just put me in your show, already.

 

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The Weird Perils of Surviving in the Arts

It WAS a magical show. It’s not that we didn’t have difficulties – it’s just that they were so minor in the face of the magic afoot. The cast was talented and smart and game. The design team was innovative and generous. The musicians were curious and supportive. The three of us who made it happen thought of ourselves as Charmed Ones – bringing forth good art magic. It was a charmed time, I think. And I don’t think I’m wrong about how good it actually was.

Anyway – that was 18 years ago. A baby who was born on the day we started rehearsals is probably preparing to go to college. Time has passed. But for me, it still feels quite fresh. It is part of my artistic continuum– the first step on a long road – and therefore a still significant card in my deck. For most of the other people involved, it is a pleasant memory. It is a show they did in that (perhaps) brief period of making a go of theatre in New York at the dawn of the century. It has become a bit of nostalgia – something to tell their kids about.

Since that show in 2002, at least 18 children have been born to people involved in it. A few of them have remained in theatre but have moved to other parts of the country. As far as I know, I am the only one left of that 22 person team doing theatre in New York. And even I have scaled way back.

It’s become clear what a young person’s game theatre can be. The large majority of that magical team were young artists. We were mostly in our late 20s and we were all on fire. But without sustaining support, without sufficient opportunities to keep working, most people made the quite sensible choice to leave theatre or New York or both. I did not make that sensible choice and while I wouldn’t have, couldn’t have, done it any other way, I am running into some surprising new perils in sticking around this long.

For example, enough time has now passed that shows that I think of as contemporary are, for others, part of their crazy artistic long distant past. Shows that were and are the most important things I’ve ever done are now, to others, comparable to a fun party they went to a long time ago. It is a very weird feeling. I used to be surrounded by hordes of people who all seemed to believe that theatre was the most important thing in the world and over time, almost everyone has found other things that are the most important to them, while I remain.

I have so many conversations wherein people express surprise that I’m still at it. There is often a tone that sounds a little like, “You’re still playing with dolls?” If feels as if, to most people, theatre was a childish thing that they put away with all their other childhood toys and almost no one can believe I still have mine.

When I first started putting on shows, it was all fresh and new and I felt I had so much to learn and discover. I was pulling on so many threads and bits of training. I figured out how to work with our masks from books, learned Rasa Boxes from our Movement Director and threw in some training in Viewpoints I’d gotten a few years before. I didn’t have a method, per se, but I did know what I was after and tried anything and everything to get it.

Now – I am much clearer about my methods and techniques. All the things I’ve learned over the years have sort of coalesced into my own practice. I have acres more confidence in my ability to get a group of people where I want them to go. But all that hard won knowledge feels wasted due to the fact that I rarely have the will and/or energy to raise the necessary funds to make a show happen. I have had my theatrical heart broken a lot and it is hard to love again.

I can say, with a fair amount of confidence, that I would make an objectively better piece of theatre than I could 18 years ago. I know what I’m doing now in a way that I did not then. But what I had then was a kind of unbridled enthusiasm and positivity, as well as some delusional optimism. Turns out, that may be the more valuable commodity.

Let’s say you met a genie who told you he could give you either endless unbridled enthusiasm for your work OR highly evolved skill and knowledge – but you could not have both. Which would you choose?

In previous years, I’d have thought that skill and knowledge would be a better choice but having seen how things work, well…part of my hard won knowledge is the realization that unbridled enthusiasm tends to get people a lot further than skill. Take the genie’s first offer. With your enthusiasm, you can fundraise and hire someone with knowledge and skill.

In the not quite two decades since we put on that first magical show, I have made many things, taken many risks and put on a lot of shows. The company lost actors to other professions, other callings and other cities. Two of our regulars were lost to fatal illness. Things happen in 18 years. Births, deaths, art, all of it.

That first show eighteen years ago was connected to the cycles of the world. It was about Persephone and how she came to live in two places – the Underworld and the world above. Since we made it, there have been seven Spiderman movies and a couple of versions of a Spiderman musical. Given the way the world retreads the same stories again and again, it has not come as a surprise to me that a show based on the same mythical source material has become a hit show on Broadway. I’m sure there were many wonderful Persephone shows somewhere before ours ever came into being. It’s clear if you live long enough that you’ll see these sorts of things happen often. It’s probably never easy to watch the world embrace things that it ignored when you made them but maybe you get used to it the longer you keep at it.

There’s a chapter in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic where she talks about ideas sort of floating around in the atmosphere and then gifting themselves to the person that is ready to receive them and bring them forth into the world. I have found this concept comforting and motivating. It has helped me welcome the crazy ideas that occur to me and justify my work on them. I think, “Well, that idea chose me to come through. It must be a good one and I have to honor it.” The part I have yet to be able to reconcile is the bit that comes later – after I’ve made the thing and after I’ve fulfilled the promise to the best of my ability – and then the idea goes and flies off to someone else, to go do it for a bigger audience.

I don’t think anyone could have warned me about some of the more unexpected perils of sticking out a life in the arts. No one could have prepared this particular road for me. The only things I could say to my younger self if I could time travel and give her advice are: Grab hold of that unbridled enthusiasm and ride it for all its worth. Catch hold of the ideas flying by and ride those, too.

But everyone will tell you that sort of thing. And honestly, that’s pretty much what I did. So…I don’t know. Merde?

I suppose my real hope is to speak to those, like me, who have been at it for a long while to just say – Yep. Of course it’s unsustainable. Yep. It’s weird in so many unexpected ways. Yep. I’m here too. We’re here and it’s weird.

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Be the Weirdo You Want to See in the World

Look – I’ve always been a LITTLE bit weird. I wore my tutu with pants and an engineer’s cap to school when I was a kid. (I might still wear this, given a chance.) I don’t care much for social conventions or fashion trends or behavioral controls. I’m sort of constitutionally an artist and a certain amount of difference discomfort is just a normal part of my life experience.

But recently, I’ve been feeling like I’m much weirder than I used to be. Or rather, I’m as weird as I’ve always been but I seem to seem weirder to the outside world.

I get a lot more quizzical looks than I used to. I get more heads turning in my direction if I make a sound. I feel like I’m weird everywhere I go. Even in weird New York, which has not historically, been worried about weirdos in its midst.

I’m not concerned about it for myself. I’m a comfortable-with-myself woman in my 40s, I don’t really worry about what most people think of me. But I am concerned about the weirdos behind me. I am concerned that if even my lowest level weirdness is drawing attention, the less comfortable weirdos, the young ones who are still finding themselves, will feel less and less comfortable becoming their full weird selves.

It feels like the world is bending toward a conformity that makes me very nervous. The current bent toward the collective sometimes means more policing of behavior, I think. People seem more inclined to try and fit in somewhere than to just rock who they are wherever they are. This may be a generational preference. Much of my generation would rather walk into the sun being 100% true to ourselves than conform to the crowd.

There are absolutely advantages to the group choice – but I worry about the loss of those sun-walkers. It feels like it makes the world less interesting, less vibrant, less alive.

It’s not just my feelings that are signaling that I am weird. I got a notice at the end of last year – a sum up of my listening on Spotify. They described me as 100% different. This tells me that the bulk of Spotify listeners are playing highly conventional tracks – that there are not nearly enough people venturing down the less traveled hallways there. Because, sure, I like to explore music from around the world and will happily venture into unknown musical territory but there are surely musicians with more adventurous tastes than me. At least I hope there are because I am really not that weird, musically. I don’t want to be a lonely weird music listener.

I’ll give you another example. I went to an author event. It was a big crowd and while the subject matter was intense, the author and interviewer were making jokes and being engaging humans. Being the human I am, I laughed at the jokes, gasped at the astounding facts and clucked at the reported bad behavior of some. But I was literally the only one making ANY sound. People turned to look at me. I was a sound-making weirdo laughing and responding instead of sitting in the silence of the rest of the room. I know I seemed like a weirdo in that room but to me the room was weird. Who just sits in silence while someone makes a joke? They’re just going to let them flail up there on the stage? A laugh after a joke is polite, especially if it’s genuine. (My clown training prevents me from laughing at theatre folk who aren’t actually funny but I will still laugh as a social lubricant in a social or lecture setting. Clown rules do not apply to the general public.)

Anyway – I walked away from that event feeling as though the world had changed in a way that has made me less welcome in it. It has become a world wherein I’m weird everywhere I go no. Not just because I wear asymmetrical dresses but because I bring all my human self with me wherever I go.

Those kinds of things seem to happen more and more and I don’t know what to do about it. Luckily, I am already comfortable with being different, with being weird – but I want to make space for all the other weirdos. I want to find a way to support those who want to laugh but feel silenced by the group. I want to live in a world with more fully human humans and a whole lot more weirdos.

BTW – the image they used for this is of Fatoumata Diawara whose music you should definitely listen to.

 

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Gen X Is a Mess?!?

Well, well, my fellow Gen X-ers. We have arrived. Again. The New York Times put out a style section spread on us and I tried not to pay attention to it because I was done, my Gen X siblings, I was done with weaving together the threads of all the Gen X articles I’d read and considered and so on. It came out a month ago but apparently I can’t leave it alone.

I read the New York Times piece. Sort of. What I actually did was scroll through it and skim the little paragraphs next to the pictures under the text obscuring “graffiti.” And I did click through to read one of the essays and some bits of others. This whole piece was easy to gloss over because there was really nothing there. It’s weird. Let me tell you. I have read so many articles about Gen X. Like, so MANY and this series in the New York Times was the most meaningless I’ve encountered. I’m including BuzzFeed listicles in that assessment. What I’m trying to say is that there was more depth in an “Are You a Gen X-er?” quiz than in the New York Times style section.

It feels like it was written by visitors from another planet who did some research on what was popular in America in the 80s and 90s and then called it “This Gen X mess.”

Listen – we can call ourselves and our stuff a mess if we want to but no one else is permitted to dismiss us this way. Also – where was this mess to which the headline referred? I did not see it explained anywhere. Is it because walkmen came out when we were kids? That seems to be the sort of thing the New York Times wanted to talk about. Walkmen. Strings around necks. A book called The Rules which gets its own essay – but which is a book no one I know actually read. Also featured: a musician “style icon” of Gen X-itude that neither I, nor my Gen X musician boyfriend ever heard of.
What version of Gen X is this?
Was there an alternate universe Gen X where all these things were important to us that I just missed?
Even the essay by a guy who seems to have been there is weirdly disconnected to my experience of Gen X-ery. And, like I said, due to my having written an 8 part series on Gen X, I have read a lot of diversity of Gen X experience. His essay felt as if it were written in an alternate universe wherein Alex P Keaton was not a fictional comedy character from TV’s Family Ties but a real life hero and the dominant cultural icon. It’s like his fan club president wrote this essay and is trying hard to convince the rest of us that Gen X had it so good, has it so good and is spending all our plentiful money on luxury goods.

That’s just not the Gen X I see. Or saw. Or ever saw. Unless it’s an Alex P. Keaton fantasy sequence on an alternate world Family Ties.

A Gen X friend of mine has a day job at the New York Times and told me that many of his cultural references and jokes fall flat due to his colleagues all being younger than him. It seems as if this might be true on the writing staff as well, if this Style section is any indication.

Gen X is not a mess. We may have once enjoyed a messy aesthetic on occasion. The stuff we really liked is not seemingly on the New York Times radar, actually, because the New York Times just went with what was selling well in the 80s and 90s. But Gen X wasn’t really buying, as far as I know.

I keep thinking of Keegan Michael Key on the Stephen Colbert show talking about how someone’s response to the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” gives them away as someone in their 40s. Like, literally. Across cliques and subgroups, I would wager that most of Gen X will lose their mind on the dance floor for “Blister in the Sun.” “Blister in the Sun,” my friends. Which did not even CHART. The song never charted. The album charted eventually but only ten years after it was released! I mean, we loved it but we didn’t buy it.

Maybe I’m just remembering the indie parts but I keep thinking of a line from ani difranco’s song that goes,

“Generally my generation wouldn’t be caught dead working for the man and generally I agree with them. Trouble is you got to have yourself an alternate plan.”

I feel this sums up the Gen X-ers I know fairly accurately. It’s not Gen X that’s a mess. It’s the system, man. The system is a mess. We’ve been saying it for years now. We’re fine. If you want to understand us, the (former) Kids in America, maybe ask us what we think is a mess. We’ll tell you.

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Excuse me, Ma’am

The man in an oxford shirt came up behind me at the narrow passage of the café and did not stop moving as he said, “Excuse me, ma’am” and walked on, scrolling through his phone.

I muttered, “Don’t you ma’am me,” after he passed but what I really wanted to do was set him on fire with my magical fire-shooting ability.

I know the offense was minor and he probably only called me ma’am because there’s no feminine equivalent to sir and even though it sounds like “Outta my way, old lady” to me, he thinks he’s being respectful and at least he didn’t say, “Move, bitch,” and I should be grateful for even an attempt at politeness. But maybe if I combusted enough people for calling me ma’am, we could finally find a respectful word for women instead of limping by with miss and ma’am and madam since forever. Sometimes it takes a little fire.

I want a fire shooting power or a spontaneous combustion ability or to just truly access my dragon self and be able to gobble up those that displease me. I am so weary of conceding and getting out of the way and I don’t want to make a mess but I do want to obliterate my enemies.

The thing is, though, even if I woke up with such a superpower tomorrow, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t use it. If I got a skein, like the women in Naomi Alderman’s extraordinary book, The Power, I don’t think I’d go on a mad electrocuting spree. I think I would probably keep it to myself – but I sure would feel a lot better knowing I could do it.

If I had, in my back pocket, the power to vanquish a world of enemies, I might be a little more apt to speak my mind at a meeting or on the street or in the passageways of small cafes where boys feel they own the throughways. I might not mutter, “Don’t you ma’am me.” I might say it loud. I might let it resonate and hang dangerously over the air, as the power danced around my fingertips. And we could all feel the electricity I was keeping in store, what energy I was using to NOT combust someone.

My anger had abated somewhat after the fetid air of the Kavanaugh hearings cleared a little – or maybe my anger just went underground these last few months. Eventually, it seemed, I did not long to combust every man I saw. But the recent spate of attacks on reproductive justice have begun to once again stir the dragon I have within and I am longing to actually be as dangerous as I feel. Don’t ma’am me. You might not mean anything by it. But I’m not sure what I’ll do. You just better hope my magic hasn’t grown in yet.

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Thoughts on Defiance
November 16, 2018, 1:31 am
Filed under: age, feminism, resistance | Tags: , , , , ,

He poked his head out of his apartment as I waited for the elevator. He then came out with his dog and followed me into the elevator. I already felt stalked. In the elevator, he seemed to be a giant, taking up twice as much space as me and the young man who had been on the elevator when I got in.

The tall man with his dog was instantly aggressive. He wanted to know if I’d come from the apartment next door to him. I had. Just that was enough to send this guy on a rant. He said the people in that apartment banged their cabinets day and night and he was furious about it. I told him I just worked there and knew nothing of cabinets but I didn’t think it was them. I mean, that apartment is inhabited by two infirm elderly people neither of whom can reliably go out on their own. There’s no way they’re hammering.

But this guy was convinced. And livid. At me, too. Just because I’d come from there. He was pretty terrifying, to tell you the truth. Particularly in an enclosed space.

His manner was terrifying, his logic absurd but the thing that blew me away was something he said: “That woman. She’s so defiant.”

He’s talking about an elderly woman who can barely walk. Defiant, he said. She’s defiant. And defiance is a very interesting word to use in this situation. Because it suggests that he expects to be treated with subservience and obedience, that he thinks of himself as someone in power, with authority and this woman has dared to defy him. She has refused to obey. He has told her to stop banging the cabinets (something she is definitely not doing, by the way) and she not only pays him no mind but she doesn’t respect (what he thinks should be) his authority. He is probably twenty years her junior but because he is a man, he thinks she is defiant.

I am very interested in defiance – on who is seen as defiant and who uses the word in relation to others. For example, despite decades of experience in teaching, I don’t think I ever once called a student “defiant” – no matter how much of a pain in the ass they were being. It would simply never have occurred to me. I think defiance lives in direct relationship to obedience and my worldview is such that I do not particularly believe obedience is owed to anyone. (I’m a big questioner of authority, as you might have worked out by now if you’re a regular reader of the blog.) Defiance basically means that someone has failed to be obedient to someone who demands it. The man in the elevator expected obedience from his neighbor (simply due to her gender, I assume) and his fury at being denied this obedience was such that he could not contain it and he spilled it in every possible direction. I think he thought to himself, when he saw me: “Ah, a woman younger than me. Since I can’t get that older woman to obey me, I bet I can make this one obey.”

Sorry Charlie. You have no authority over me. And also you met a witch in the elevator and now you are nothing but a pile of ash.

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The Change, the Phone Booth and a Sense of Doom

On my 40th birthday, I was struck with a sudden and horrifying sense of fatalism. I figured I’d over-absorbed the cultural preference for young women, that I’d over-attached my sense of self-worth to my youth, even though I thought I knew better. I figured that the reason I felt like I was turning 80 instead of 40 was because I’d skipped the mandated mother stage and just went straight from maiden to crone.

Then, recently, on a podcast, the guest mentioned that “a sense of impending doom” was a very common experience for women going through what used to be euphemistically called The Change.

Now – a lot of us have a sense of impending doom these days, what with the political landscape looking like it’s auditioning for a post-apocalyptic B movie, but my sense of impending doom hit even before the actual impending doom. So I suspect it’s partly the hormones shifting in a changing body.

About two years ago, out of the blue, I began to get headaches. Weird ones. According to the docs – it’s migraines. And they have been debilitating, disabling and pretty much took over the last two years of my life. I saw four different neurologists and headache specialists. Not one of them suggested that this sudden late onset of chronic migraine might be a result of perimenopause. Not one. It took the mother of a friend telling me about her migraines ending after menopause and suggesting mine could be the start of that for me to put the possible pieces together. Do I know for sure that this migraine situation is perimenopause? Nope. That’s not really a thing that’s knowable.

You know why? Because despite the fact that every (cis) woman who lives long enough will go through it, there’s no real medical conversation about it. Despite the fact that there are very real, very serious, very debilitating experiences for many women in the middle of that transformation, no one seems to be addressing it. So many women my age and older have been struggling all on their own with this or that symptom, while there may be a common explanation for our pain or our sense of doom or discomfort.

Perimenopause is the process that leads to menopause – menopause being the definitive end of the menstrual cycle. And of course, this kind of reverse puberty, is a perfectly natural organic process. But just because it’s natural and organic, doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble and that we shouldn’t understand what’s happening. Childbirth is also perfectly natural and organic but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand all of its phases and aspects. Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble.

And I have run into trouble. Many of my friends have also run into trouble. And I find myself pretty furious about how little the medical establishment has to say about it.

In this same time period, my doctor insisted on my getting a mammogram. Just because I am 44 and now’s the time when they give them. There’s quite a bit of controversy about the efficacy of all this breast screening – quite a few people have suggested that it may do more harm than good. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family and there was no reason to suspect anything wrong but my gynecologist said she couldn’t give me the medication that might help with the hormone migraine situation without one.

So, there I was in a women’s imaging center, getting my boobs squished in a machine and then called back the next day to have them squished another way because of “asymmetries” and then be sonogrammed and pushed around with a sonogram wand and after all that stress, it turned out my breasts were fine. As we thought.

So here I am, having a completely unnecessary set of procedures that are uncomfortable, stressful, anxiety producing and time consuming – while the thing that is actually wrong, that is actually causing chaos in my body, goes completely unaddressed.

And sisters, I got really fucking pissed about it. I suddenly felt like – oh, this goddamn medicalized world is like a Hollywood adolescent boy – obsessed with boobs and vaginas (-we’ve been pried open by speculums from an early age-) but not particularly concerned with what is actually going on inside the person. The fact that we have this insane assemblyline for mammography and no understanding or plan for perimenopause is ridiculous. Yes – breast cancer screening is important. I get it. But not every woman gets breast cancer (gratefully!) And almost EVERY SINGLE (cis) woman will go through perimenopause. That’s half the adult population.

And before it (maybe) kicked in for me, I knew next to nothing about it. And I’m a pretty reasonably informed woman.

I knew about hot flashes. That was about the extent of it. Which you know – it’s okay. I’m allowed to not know things – but I get the sense that that’s all a lot of doctors know about menopause as well.

Here’s the thing – aside from compulsory mammogram and pelvic exams – women’s health is dramatically under examined. For the majority of modern medicine’s history, men have been seen as the norm and women as the deviation. In clinical trials of many things, only men were studied and the results were applied to women. And one of the extraordinarily infuriating facts about this is that women were excluded from such things because we have a menstrual cycle. So rather than study the hormones or the varieties of the menstrual cycle – science and medicine have mostly just told women to go ask our mothers. (An actual thing a doctor said to a woman asking about menopause.)

In treating my (possible) perimenopause symptoms, I’ve seen four neurologists, several physical therapists, two opthamologists, two behavioral optometrists, tried antidepressants, anti-convulsants and endless triptans. The first thing in two years to make a real dramatic difference is a low dose of estrogen. I mean…here is modern medicine looking at everything but the source, everything but perimenopause.

No one wants to talk about perimenopause or menopause. It is incredibly taboo. Initially, I suspect the more medically accurate language was supposed to help us make it less so. Like the movement to use anatomically correct language for our genitals, calling menopause menopause was once thought to be a way to liberate us from the stigma. But I don’t think it has.

So, I’m liking “The Change” – even if it sounds a little old fashioned. It is a good descriptor for what I’m experiencing. It makes me feel like a superhero in mid-transformation. I’m Peter Parker in the process of getting bitten by that radioactive spider. It doesn’t necessarily feel good during the transformation itself but once I come through it, I fully expect to be a more powerful superhero on the other side of it.

And since no one can tell me whether or not the change I’m in the middle of is actually perimenopause – since there is no medically precise definition of this moment for me – The Change is actually a more accurate description of what is happening to me. It’s certainly A Change if not The Change. And a lot of my friends are also going through A Change. A transformation. We’re going into a phone booth – like the one Clark Kent changes into Superman into. Maybe since we don’t really use phone booths anymore, we could co-opt the word. Like, when I explain what’s been going on with me these last few years, I could just say, “Well, I’ve been in the phone booth.”

Because, while these headaches suck, a lot, while it has been no fun in this phone booth, I will say that the benefits of this transformation are not bad. Pretty much everything that drove me crazy about myself in my 20s has faded. In my youth, I was constantly beating myself up for being too nice, for putting up with things that I didn’t like, for not saying what I thought. And I have, as I have entered the phone booth, grown much bolder, much less concerned about others, less fearful and much more direct and clear. It’s everything I wished I could be twenty years ago. The phone booth has these terrible health side effects but it has given me the super power of transforming myself into the person I wanted to be and never thought possible.

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