Back when middle-age still seemed to me a different country, a woman seated across from me on the crowded Madrid subway, pulled an oversized fan from her handbag, snapped it open, and started fanning herself with abandon. She noticed a little boy staring at her and shouted in a voice suited to singing jotas in a smoky bar:
“¡Ay, muchacho! ¡Es la menopausia!”
She may have added: No sabes la suerte que tienes—you don’t know how lucky you are. But that may just be my imagination speaking. These days, every time I visit the corner pharmacy to ask for something, anything, to help me with my own smorgasbord of menopausal indignities, the pharmacist on duty lowers her voice to a whisper when she comes to the word “menopause,” “Wechseljahre” in German. The Years of the Change.
I think that “acalorada,” that flushed stranger on the metro had it right. Sometimes you gotta shout it from the rooftops. Nobody has a problem talking about foot fungus—we even have a noble name for it in English, “Athlete’s Foot”. So why do we talk about menopause in whispers, or through a veil of ethereal visions of oh so gracefully ageing women standing in sunlit meadows with waves of gray hair framing almost wrinkle-free faces? I’m with that lady on the metro. Getting through menopause is a hero’s labor, and instead of a whisper deserves a battle cry:
¡Ay, muchacho! ¡ES LA MENOPAUSIA!
I paint and write and live mostly in a country of my own making. I've shown my work at cafés and galleries in the US, Spain, France and Germany. Among my children's books are El Loro Tico Tango (The Parrot Tico Tango), El Fandango de Lola (Lola's Fandango), both published by Barefoot Books, and the stories for the Tikitiklip Precolombino series of children's videos (Producciones Ojitos, Santiago de Chile).