My blogging art-sister Sonia Boué, a new twitter follower @cabformrsmutton and I have found ourselves discussing the taboo of menstruation and menopause (maybe because we are “women of a certain age”?)
We all know the mechanics of it, so those of you who find such things distasteful (why?? eh? eh?) need not panic just yet. I have a while to go before I would feel that comfortable discussing such things. But it is considered distasteful, uncomfortable and so on. I was brought up to think such things are very private. And actually the last thing I want is people knowing the derelict state of my womanly body, for fear they will use it against me. My forgetfulness, clumsiness, a propensity for walking into door jambs because suddenly I can’t figure out where my body is in relation to them, my inability to parallel park one week out of four, will all be used as an excuse for men to put up my car insurance and so on.
I love the “Mrs Mutton” label… but I have an excuse for dressing in the way I do. I’m not flashing my cleavage in a desperate last ditch attempt to catch myself a young man (or an old one – I already have one of those). It is because I cannot bear to be clothed around my upper chest and neck region, that being where the heat gathers and renders my skin itchy, red, scratchy, sweaty and I feel as if I might suffocate. Not for me any more the silky scarf or the artsy fucking fartsy chunky necklace… now dreadful items of torture. My hair has been chopped short too, for the first time in about forty years, for added temperature fluctuation benefits.
I have never been a girly girl, or a feminine sort of woman. This is possibly because my body image has always been a bit rubbish. I was always the biggest girl in primary school. I was the one who started periods first. I am the woman it seems to me, who is the last to finish them too. Have I not given enough? I felt embarrassed, fat, frumpy. So I decided that (also having been advised by my wonderful mother never to wear shoes you can’t run away in!) I should be the girl in the boiler suit (albeit home-dyed pink) and the doc marten’s (winter) or converse (summer), the baggy shirt and the long jumper… and I’m still doing it to a certain extent now. Except, in the last three years or so I have started wearing dresses again …I haven’t worn dresses for about thirty years! I find myself saying “Look! I’ve bought some girl shoes!” (although, still the sort I could run away in, if my knees weren’t shot to hell).
So what is this all about then? Having looked at and listened to other women, and invented all those stories for “nine women” it occurs to me there’s a lot going on. I’m fatter than I’ve ever been probably, and wrinklier, and my hair is getting greyer by the week. But what I find is I have accepted, at last, at the age of 54, that how I look now is better than I will ever look again. I can’t wait to be slimmer in order to start living my life. I can’t wait for the spots to go. I can’t wait for the miracle pseudo-scientific cream to get rid of the wrinkles. This is as good as it gets. I live life now, or be miserable and regretful and might as well die now.
I have a lot to do. I have a lot to say, make, write, and I’d better do it now then. Acceptance is sexy. Acceptance and confidence go hand-in-hand. Confidence is sexy. If I want to do something, I just bloody do it. I am excited by life, my work, the people I meet and talk to online and in the real world. At least, I am when I’m not being miserable and anti-social and hot and sticky. That’s cyclical too.
I have a theory that women are closer to the rest of the world and other people because of this cyclical nature of their lives. We are tied to the planet in ways men can never understand. When this messy, inconvenient, expensive lark that is menstruation is finally over, I will not bemoan the lack of blood in my life. I will however, miss that tie to my sisters. I suspect I might grieve, not for my lost youth, because as I have stated, my youth was a self-conscious embarrassment a lot of the time: I might grieve for that lost link to the other women, and the movement of the world beneath my feet.
The art that I make reflects the woman that I am. It reflects the woman that my mother was. Of course the art that I make is feminist and feminine.
At the moment, I am making work that is almost about death, but not quite. It is still about women. So maybe it is about the menopause. About grief before death. I’d better get a move on then.