In a previous post I promised I would do a series about the delightful personal minefield hell that is menopause and how it affects the sailing experience. I’m making good on that promise starting now. Let’s talk a bit about how The Menopause sneaks into your room in the night, waves its hands of dark magic over your supine body, and steals your spoken language skills.
So far it’s left my writing skills alone. It’s the quality of the spoken word that The Menopause has stolen from me and from so many other innocent women; quality that can make the difference between a coherent conversation where both parties understand the topic at hand and a one-sided jabber fest that leaves a companion confused, and sometimes, laughing. And not in a nice way. In a knee-slapping, ‘Oh MY GOD I can’t believe you just said that’ way.
You see The Menopause strikes at the language capacity of its victims from a number of directions: First, it strikes at the heart of the woman’s freedom of choice: Word Choice. When the woman opens herself to speaking, an entire phalanx of words is waiting to rush her brain and scatter, causing no end of confusion. It’s as though the overstuffed cabinet of words in the mind has suddenly burst open. Words tumble into the brain in what amounts to language chaos. This battle is destined to be lost. Sometimes keeping the mouth closed is the better part of valor.
If the woman wants to be able to say ‘Please hand me the orange next to the sink.’ , those words will all rush at her at once. If lucky, she will be able to say, ‘Please hand .. ornsk…’ at which point her children will laugh hysterically at her while she points frantically at the orange, unable to vocalize any further. This generally leads to running from the room, hot tears of shame falling to the hardwood floors.
Another gambit The Menopause uses is to cause entire phrases to get tangled up with each other and do a bit of verbal ‘wife’ swapping inside the head. When this happens new and inventive phrases with little to no meaning are introduced into the English language. It’s a little known fact that in menopause an organ known as the Verbam confusionum develops deep in the recesses of the brains of unsuspecting women. It is thought by some government scientists that this organ is actually planted in the human brain by alien beings. I tried to interview a few top notch researchers about this alleged discovery, but they all said if they told me about it, they’d have to kill me so I chose to discontinue the interviews. The research is carefully guarded in underground vaults in Washington D.C.
The effects of this type of attack are devastating because there is no way to stop the words from coming out of the mouth. One knows even before one says it that the phrase is completely ridiculous, but it cannot be helped. The phrase will be said because the Verbam confusionum disconnects the mouth’s control mechanisms. They’ve thought of everything!
For example: What happens when the unfortunate female is faced with choosing between the phrases ‘cat on a hot tin roof’ and ‘hot potato’? Round and round and round they go… DON’T SAY IT DON’T SAY IT DON’T SAY IT!……”cat on a potato”! ARRGGH! Another family joke is created in that very moment, never to be forgotten. Not ever. All I can say is they will get theirs some day and I hope I’m around to see it. Boy howdy, will I laugh!
You cannot predict the direction of attack. Either the words are all jumbled up in a tangled heap, spidery letters mangled together into unrecognizable forms, or there are simply no words at all. Where the words should be there is an endless, gaping void. I call these times ‘Estrogen Moments’. Here’s how that works: Say someone (a woman) wants to say, ‘Honey, please adjust the traveller.’ (Note this is a simple, everyday sailing request using language as common as dirt.) This is going to come out, ‘Honey, please move the…….the………the…….shi*! Whatever the f*** that thing is, move it over!’, accompanied by lots of hand waving, gesturing, and the occasional snarl.
But a smart woman doesn’t take this kind of crap laying down! There are defenses, oh yes! The wise woman will be on guard for moments like this and lie in wait for them. Then she can take a circuitous route through the old synapses and take The Menopause by surprise. It works like this: When The Menopause throws the Estrogen Moment her way, she quickly responds by visualizing the item, then neatly and efficiently naming the picture. Pretty smooth, huh? That’s called a COPING SKILL. When practiced regularly, there is only a slight pause in conversation and it is not noticeable to the novice.
Memorize this: Estrogen Moment -> Visualize the object or action -> Name the thing in your head -> Battle Won!!
Another defensive technique is what I call ‘Ignore It and It Will Go Away’. That’s my personal favorite technique when walking through the garden. Loyal readers will know that we have rather extensive gardens at the Little Cunning Plan house. I have literally thousands of plants, all with complicated Latin names. And I used to know all of them. They would simply roll off my tongue as I guided visitors through the gardens pointing out Hydrangea serrata ‘Ye No Amacha’ or Clerodendrum bungeii.
Nowadays when I take people through the garden and they ask me to name a plant for them, I will either make something up (all those Latin names sound alike anyhow) or tell them I need to wait for it to emerge from my “internal filing system”. That is code for ‘I’m going to completely ignore that question’. The word ‘ignore’ here means to clear the mind of anything related to the question. ‘Looking’ at the word by thinking about it or trying to remember it will end in complete failure. When you ignore it, The Menopause will give up and go away to bother someone else for awhile, just like a playground bully or an irritating sibling.
Two hours later I will be doing something completely different and I will suddenly shout, ‘bungeii’! It’s a satisfying feeling, regardless of what others think or their little attempts at finding humor in an otherwise perfectly acceptable word.
It’s easy to see how The Menopause would interfere with a wonderful day on the water. Imagine this scenario: We’re sailing on a lovely day, just looking for wildlife and suddenly I spot something in the water. It could be a seal, or a porpoise, or it could be a whale. The words rush into the brain at once and tumble around together as the Verbam confusionum kicks in. Round and round and round they go….Pointing excitedly I say, “Look, Mike! It’s a spale!” Another family joke is spawned. And they will never forget it. Not ever.