“Menopause-related cognitive impairment does indeed affect about 60 percent of women…but the brain and mood effects are temporary, said Dr. Gail A. Greendale of UCLA. The postmenopausal brain, it seems, adjusts to having little or no estrogen on board.” — New York Times, 12/17/18:
This letter should come as no surprise to you. You know as well as I do that our relationship is coming to an end. You have told me in a thousand unspoken ways that you’re on your way out — the missed periods, for example, or the extra hair that clings to the shower drain. I can read the signs, E, and I know you’re leaving me for a younger woman.
This is where I’m supposed to beg you to stay, suggest we find a therapist, see if we can find our old spark, but I’m not feeling it anymore. I have wondered if maybe we could just take some pills together, get a maca butter massage… but then I gave some thought to the matter.
And I decided that you cannot dump me, Estrogen. Because I quit. You are dead to me.
Sure, there were good times. Those long, bareheaded rides on the backs of motorcycles, driven by man-children you cheekily convinced me were worth risking my life for. There was that time in a zocalo in Mexico where you prompted me to pressure the handsome drummer to reverse his vasectomy. No one can say we never had any fun.
But let’s face it, Estrogen, from the beginning you were inconsiderate and selfish. You were forever making me cry. You inflated my breasts until they were like twin balloons announcing a big sale. You came and went on your own schedule, so I could never really relax. You exacted a monthly toll of what, over a lifetime, has amounted to gallons of blood.
After all this bullying, is it any wonder I became insecure? You insisted that I must try to attract everyone, whispering to me that it was the only way I could fulfill the mission to reproduce. Each time I arrived at a classroom or a party or a rock show, you signaled my ovaries to scan the venue like Secret Service agents, speaking to each other through their earpieces:
AGENT OVARY 1: Left side of the stage, in front of the speaker. Tall, dark, sullen. Motorcycle boots.
AGENT OVARY 2: Copy.
AGENT OVARY 1: Alright, let’s move the subject to his right. Flip the hair.
AGENT OVARY 2: (Pauses) “Didn’t that give her a neck spasm last time?
AGENT OVARY 1: Can I get a hair flip, please?
Now that we’re parting, E, the distance between us reveals all the other ways you’ve insinuated yourself into my brain. For example, how I used to remember every human male who ever looked at me, storing him in some kind of Rolodex of desperation in case I ran out of other reproductive options? That was you — that was you helping me remember!
But now I can’t remember anything. Not the name of my best friend’s dog, not whether or not I’ve taken my vitamins, not my PIN number at the bank machine. Yesterday, I had to turn off the car radio so I could concentrate and summon the word “plagiarism.” I taught college for nine years and now I work as an editor, Estrogen — I know the word for stealing someone else’s words. But no, because you’re such a joker, you thought you’d just sneak off with that one. Very funny. But no more.
I can’t help but notice that the less I interact with you, the more confident I become. I find myself saying what I think far more often — so often, in fact, that my family and friends and spouse might like it if I said a bit less, but I don’t care. I can now walk into a crowded room without wondering who I need to seduce in order to perpetuate the species. I just… walk into a room. Imagine that, Estrogen? Walking into a room without a voice in your head or Secret Service agents in your ovaries.
I know it might be rough for a while. My friends tell me I’ll probably wake up sweating, or have trouble sleeping, or gain weight around the middle. That my family might worry about early onset dementia as I keep leaving the oven on. But I know over time I’m going to adjust to life without you, and that my mind will adapt to your absence and recommence with its former steel-trappiness. Even better, it will start remembering things more interesting than how thick my eyelashes used to be. It will retain full recipes for complicated pastries and tangoes for the accordion. It will spew forth the Latin names for plants (Lavendula Angustifolia) and the names of my spouse’s coworkers (Katherine, Olivia, Darryl, and Stephanie).
So, really, don’t worry about me. I am going to start studying the constellations, Estrogen. I’m going to wear a muumuu on vacations. I am going to rock a one-piece bathing suit with zero apologies, and I may or may not shave my legs. I see the future without you — and it looks bright.
Yours no longer,