Pause is the title of a essay by the poet Mary Ruefle about menopause. It is long and, in many ways not my experience. I never felt suicidal, wanting to kill myself “with a steaming hot turned-on iron.” Ruefle (hmmm… sounds like rueful?) writes in the third person, telling you what you will feel, with no small amount of conviction, which is why I feel the urge to disagree with her. However, this part sounds right to me, especially the italicized bit:
You have the desire to leave your husband or lover or partner, whatever.
No matter how stable or loving the arrangement, you want out.
You may decide to take up an insane and hopeless cause. You may decide to walk to Canada, or that it is high time you begin to collect old blue china, three thousand pieces of which will leave you bankrupt. Suddenly the solution to all problems lies in selling your grandmother’s gold watch or drinking your body weight in cider vinegar. A kind of wild forest blood runs in your veins.
This, and other behaviors, will horrify you. You will seek medical help because you are intelligent, and none of the help will help.
You will feel as if your life is over and you will be absolutely right about that, it is over.
No matter how attractive or unattractive you are, you have been used to having others look you over when you stood at the bus stop or at the chemist’s to buy tampons. They have looked you over to assess how attractive or unattractive you are, so no matter what the case, you were looked at. Those days are over; now others look straight through you, you are completely invisible to them, you have become a ghost.
I do feel invisible, which, Frances McDormand tells me is the best thing that will ever happen to me:
‘You become sexually invisible to both men and women. You gain the power of not giving a shit,’ McDormand says in a profile about her in the NY Times Sunday Magazine.
And I love Ruefle’s last lines, finally hopeful, and explaining why the pause exists in the first place:
You haven’t even begun. You must pause first, the way one must always pause before a great endeavor, if only to take a good breath.
Happy old age is coming on bare feet, bringing with it grace and gentle words, and ways which grim youth have never known.