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Thoughts from Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 5.7.20
05 July 2020 @ 10:22

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain’* 

Life in Spain: What has changed this century? 

  • Culture: Spanish culture is far too big and complex a theme for me to make any other generalisation than one I’ve made several times over the years - it’s the best of the 6 I’ve lived in. Though I’ve always added the rider that this is the comment of someone who retired ‘early’. I’m not so sure I’d be anywhere near as happy to have worked here and experienced the negative aspects of Spanish culture that I’ve touched on from time to time. Anyway, here and here are a couple of posts from back when this blog was far more observational than it is these days.
  • Tomorrow - Prostitution . . .

Current Life in Spain: Living La Vida Loca . .   

  • These plastic bollards are ubiquitous in and around Pontevedra city:-

But wherever they are, they share one characteristic . . .  several of them are either listing or horizontal. In fact, I hit one in the underground carpark of Mercadona supermarket last night. Where, incidentally, an employee told me she’d never heard of vino de Jerez. So obviously couldn’t tell me where it was in the booze aisle. But I found it.

  • María’s Day 20 of her chronicle of our Adjusted Normal. The part(ies) continue. As per Omar Khyam: Tomorrow? Why, tomorrow I may be myself with yesterday’s seven thousand years.

The USA

  • Kanye West is to run for president. Well, after a stupid, narcissistic, crooked ‘celebrity’, why not a clown rapper, known best for his love of huge arses? Donald Trump, for example.
  • Meanwhile, US Covid deaths per million have reached 400 and will overtake France’s 458 within the next 2 weeks. Rising to 4th in the global ranks.

English/Spanish

  • Another 3 refranes:-  

- It never rains but pours: Al que no quiera(e) caldo, siete tazas.

- It makes no difference: Tanto monta, monta tanto.

- It’s a question of swings and roundabouts: Lo que se pierde en casa se gana en otra.

Finally . . 

  • Below is a fascinating article on the impact of hormones - and their cessation - on what were traditionally called ‘women’. No idea what the correct term is these days.
  • Last night’s supermoon (I think), rising and risen

THE ARTICLE

Caitlin Moran: Me, drugs and the peri-menopause: Goodbye, nice, jolly, happy Caitlin. Hello, angry Caitlin

When you’re dealing with the menopause, or perimenopause, it’s useful, I think, if you’ve “done some drugs” in your life. I know this runs counter to what is still, societally, our conception of the menopause – something that happened in 1962 to Ena Sharples, which she referenced only by mouthing “troubles down below” to Minnie Caldwell – but, as the acid house generation now begins its own voyage into ovarian cessation, I feel we are better equipped to deal with it, simply because of all the drugs we took.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a while. The last time I got spliffed up on some hash or weed, or dropped a wobbly egg (I think these are the terminologies; it’s been a long time), it was 1997 and still acceptable to wear bootcut jeans. But I can still remember what a comedown was like. The day after doing Ecstasy, when you can feel the drugs leaving your body, hour by hour, and the list of things that you felt inclined to do last night – dance, talk, laugh, jump off a wall because it was funny, kiss and hug people, shout, “I LOVE YOU!” at strangers, because, in that moment, you really do – gradually gets smaller and smaller, until you want to do none of those things any more

Now, all you want to do is curl up in a ball and concentrate on feeling terrible. You enter a phase of regret. Your synapses, having been bathed previously in lovely, warm, syrupy rushes of serotonin, have now run out of serotonin and all that’s left is cortisol and adrenaline. You might feel a bit angry. You definitely feel woeful. Why is everything so awful now? Have you wasted your entire weekend? Christ, everything feels so effortful. Why must there be a bad bit? Why does the world look so bleak? Everyone loved you when you were a happy, dancing lady. But no one wants to go near the sad, crying woman now. She keeps talking about how doomed the planet is. She’s no fun any more.

And, as with the payback for two days of Rhubarb & Custards, so with the payback for fertility. As I have realised with my ongoing reproductive shutdown, the main thing that’s happening is: you’re not on drugs any more. Since the age of 13, when my ovaries cranked into action, I have been regularly bathed in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. You can wikipedia what these hormones/drugs do – and their functions are many, varied and amazing – but now my body is essentially running out of them, I can tell you what their primary effect is. They make you a bit stoned and lovely. That’s my scientific analysis. The hormones of a fertile woman just make you… nicer. All those gendered clichés about women – that we’re kinder, gentler, more patient, more encouraging, more self-sacrificing – that’s because we’re kind of high on nature’s sexy Valium. We’re all a little bit off our actual tits. We’re pleasant company. You like hanging out with us.

When you are of childbearing age, it’s sensible that your hormones make you generally forgiving because small children are, quite regularly, terrible people, and keeping Mummy just a little bit tipsy and philosophical on shots of warm oestrogen prevents many, many children from being told, “Go to your room and don’t come out again until you’re 18.” And, as with dealing with the constant low-level ass-hattery of small children, so with being able to deal with the constant low-level ass-hattery of bad bosses, thoughtless partners, needy friends and society itself.

Ah, everyone’s trying their best, you will think, as your ovaries pump out those feel-good hormones. I’m sure things will get better, in time. I’ll just calmly fold up and put away all these tiny socks and booties and put on a pie, and by the time I’ve finished, I’m sure the world will be smashing.

However, as your perimenopause gathers pace, you experience what I can only describe as increasing sobriety. The hormones disappear and you don’t feel drunk any more. A fertile woman’s life is Friday night, 8pm. A peri or menopausal woman’s life feels like Sunday morning, 11am.

Suddenly, the poor behaviour of other adults comes sharply into focus, as you deal with your hormonal hangover. You don’t have any “lady forgiveness” left in the tank. You don’t continue to presume that things will “just get better, in time” because you’re now in your forties, or fifties, and can see they haven’t. You’vechanged, massively. Your body’s turning into an entirely new thing, but the things that felt unjust when you were 17 are still here at 45 and you start to realise the monolithic things you’re up against. The pay gap. The career slip involved in having children. The second shift. Emotional labour. Sandwich caring. The gender imbalance in politics and business.

You’re still trying to feel proud of your decision to spend your years keeping the house nice, supporting others, baking and cleaning and feeding and smoothing over difficult situations, but you’re starting to realise there’s no medal for all of this. No one was keeping count. You can’t cash in any aspect of those thousands of hours in exchange for social status, increased job prospects, shares or early retirement – the things the men in your peer group are starting to enjoy.

Like someone in the midst of a regretful and anxious hangover, you start to ask yourself: have I made a fool of myself? Have I wasted my time? While I was drunk, did I… did I make a mistake? Would I have led the life I did if I’d been… clean? You start to feel fearful that you have made unwise decisions. And scared people get angry. Menopausal women, now suddenly sober, get angry.

Of course, this is the cliché of the suddenly furious menopausal battleaxe, that somehow the menopause has “made her angry”.

No. It’s that the menopause has stopped her being so blithe and forgiving. It’s uncovered her actual personality and thoughts, underneath all the hormones. This is a very important distinction.

Female anger (and rage) is fascinating. Because it is largely absent in young women, it’s presumed that it’s unfemale, something women will never do. If an older woman gets angry, people often react as if there’s something temporarily wrong with her – “Calm down, dear”; “Someone’s having a moment”; “Is the HRT wearing off?” – rather than realising the truth, that this is who she is now. Older women, as the months and years go on and their hormones dwindle ever more, settle in to their newfound anger and realise it will be a permanent part of who they are now.

Men, of course, not having been bathed in oestrogen, have had their anger all their lives and so are used to it. For a menopausal woman, though, it’s a new experience. At first, we struggle to deal with it. It’s almost like being a teenager, but in your late forties. You are suddenly dealing with massive waves of negative emotion on a scale you’ve never experienced before and you can be a little ungracious as you learn to handle it. For those around you, it’s disconcerting to find a previously placid woman suddenly raging about shit she was fine with two years ago and demanding change. These can be years of great upheaval in nuclear families: teenage children whispering, “Mum’s turned into a total bitch,” husbands distressed by their wives suddenly shouting about equality and feminism and “everything being different from now on”.

You don’t want to run a household any more. You don’t want to be endlessly encouraging, loving and kind. Who, when sober, does? You meet up with your coven of similarly menopausal friends, all of you stoking each other’s fires of outrage and talking about how you will spend the next 30 years of your life, not in service to others any more, not doing the invisible work that is taken for granted. You are, as you head slowly towards your pension, rebelling.

Yes, you are having a midlife crisis. Yes, all of this is underpinned by a growing awareness of mortality, of being more than halfway to the grave.

If I finished this column here, it might end on a slightly discordant note. Without context, it looks, just a little, like middle-aged women regretting their previous 20 or 30 years and wanting to start again. But what we have to remember is that men have midlife crises too – and what do they do, around this age? What do we observe as normal for men? Well, their midlife crisis is either to relive their adolescence again – the motorbike, the tattoo – or to have their thirties and forties again by remarrying a younger, still oestrogen-drunk woman, having a second family and posting things on Instagram like, “It’s sweeter the second time around.” Men don’t have a distinct, separate third act. Largely unchanging in their hormonal set-up from birth to grave, they tend either to repeat the first or second act again.

Women, however, unable to repeat their second act because their fertility has ended, have to work out a new third act. Physically and emotionally, we are something else and so our third acts tend to see the formation of entirely new lives. We get into hillwalking. We found charities. We start meditating. We garden. We get PhDs. We learn to tango. We start our own businesses. We get involved in campaigning. We buy a lot of wind chimes and put them up in the garden, despite the fact the neighbours hate them.

What we do, in fact, looks a lot like what people who’ve successfully completed rehab do.

Please don’t get me wrong. We feel protective and loving towards all those young women out there who are still high on oestrogen. There is no looking down on them, because we were, inescapably, them and, in time, they will be, inescapably, us. But this third act – angry when we need to be, sober, new – feels like there’s no comedown at the end of it.

In fact, if it were possible, I’d sell it to you, outside clubs, for £20 a pop.

 

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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