Old Crone Medicine Show
December 3, 2019 5:38 AM   Subscribe

The rise of the witchy, independent, beauty-redefining, problem-solving, post-reproductive woman has the potential to change the world. Hello patriarchal predations, we crones see you, and we will check you.
posted by drlith (18 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
As someone for whom Sarah Connor's body in T2 set some idealized bar in my brain, when I saw the trailer for the latest Terminator, I was like - it is indeed the age of the crone. If only everyone would catch up.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:25 AM on December 3, 2019 [9 favorites]

Sandra Tsing Loh, "The Bitch is Back" (SL The Atlantic).

I liked Ann Neumann's essay, and am torn between throwing dinner right out the goddamned window, and "ag[ing] well and justly." Thank you, drlith.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:59 AM on December 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

It's a good essay, except for the usual uneasy feeling I have reading such things that once again the description doesn't fit me. Being assigned female at birth has had so many severe side effects for me, but the majority are caused by societal oppression, not by physical symptoms. I didn't have many problems with perimenopause aside from vaginal dryness and some entertaining hot flashes, just as I didn't have many of the other, earlier features such as severe cramps or mood swings due to my cycle. My doctor did prescribe a vaginal cream (which I don't use) but didn't prescribe hormones. Most of the things that bother me now are features of being older in general.

But one thing that does ring true in the article is, as a friend and I discussed last night, that as we get older and post-menopausal, we sure are scary.
posted by Peach at 7:17 AM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hot flashes are annoying but not enough for me to take a drug over. However, lack of sex drive is horrible for me is and if HRT can help with that, I'm in. I get that society and Pharma aims to treat irritable, irrational middle aged women for selfish reasons but I'm not throwing that baby out.
posted by waving at 8:28 AM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I appreciate the spirit of articles like this. But, as I'm pushing perimenopause and fading out of public view, I don't want to be fighting or questing. I want to be loved. I want to be a human among other humans.

Still, wish in one hand,-- I suppose.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:05 AM on December 3, 2019 [19 favorites]

I was on board with half of the article, and am not sure what to think about the other half. I have found myself during perimenopause/menopause to be acting similarly to when I started antidepressants a million years ago. I am asserting myself, yes, but also being kind of an irrational asshole at times. And I don't think the answer is "embrace your irrational asshole - everybody else is an irrational asshole." I don't want a world of irrational assholes. I get the impulse to throw the dinner out the window, but I'd rather be back at the point where I can just tell someone else to make the dinner. Metaphorically speaking. My boyfriend makes the dinner.

I really do wish there were a better solution than the current HRT regimen that I recently started, I wish I didn't have to pay so much for my goddamn estrogen, I wish there were better resources and communication channels for women going through menopause. Hot flashes can be more than annoying, they can ruin your sleep and create a whole other level of crankiness/irrationality. I'm finding "vaginal dryness" to be a ridiculous euphemism for what I was going through and it's not just an inconvenience for your manbaby during PIV sex or whatever.

The woo that I am finding from "Menopause Barbie" on YouTube and the like is just terrible, and Dr. Jen Gunter shouldn't have to do all the heavy lifting as a voice of reason (and it would be great to have more than one rational professional viewpoint). I managed to find practical advice about how to deal with unpleasant progesterone side effects from a reddit group for trans women going through HRT, and I'm grateful for that. Why do cis women groups seem to get flooded with "try evening primrose oil!" comments? Why does my own doctor give me a sheet of paper with alternative therapies that are noted on the very same sheet of paper to be nothing better than placebos? I feel like the "embrace the crone inside" is tied too closely to this woo and my subsequent suffering.
posted by queensissy at 9:45 AM on December 3, 2019 [18 favorites]

A lot to chew on here, but I'm not sure there's much behind all those paragraphs than the thought that it's okay to be menopausal.

I totally recommend Sandra Tsing-Lo's essay, though.

When I was just out of college, my first job was in PR, working for Premarin. My job was organizing women's lectures on osteoporosis where the GYN who gave the talks would inevitably get to HRT and how - for some women (at least they were honest enough to say that) - it could work wonders.

Now I'm perimenopausal, and before I turned 50 I was diagnosed with osteopenia and the endocrinologist said that getting it so young, and before menopause, is really rare (yay me). And all those lectures are still in the back of my head. I don't see myself feeling the need for more estrogen or that I need "fixing", but if it could actually help with my various perimenopausal symptoms and the bone loss, it sure is tempting. And at the same time, as long as I'm still getting occasional periods, I still catch myself hoping that this month my secondary infertility will end and I'll be one of those surprise moms at 50. As much disruption as I know that would cause, I still don't see motherhood as the unbearable burden that takes all your fucks that both writers describe it as. But maybe that comes when the ovaries finally give out.

YMMV, I guess.
posted by Mchelly at 9:49 AM on December 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

I thought the research linking HRT to breast cancer was pretty conclusive at this point -- here's a recent meta-analysis from the Lancet, e.g. HRT was identified as a likely driver of observed excess breast cancer deaths in Marin County CA and Long Island NY, and breast cancer rates in both locations have fallen as HRT use has fallen.
posted by PandaMomentum at 10:05 AM on December 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I happily entered menopause 4-5 years ago. My periods before menopause were awful, unpredictable, painful, surrounded by depression, and ridiculous food cravings. Menopause has been very freeing. I did not experience many of the symptoms and those that I have are mild--"warm flashes" rather than the awful sweating, sleep disrupting versions that my friends have experienced. I am unpartnered by choice and am enjoying entering my 60s. I'm surrounded by much younger folks at work, but I enjoy surprising them with my awareness of current trends, memes, etc. (mostly thanks to all of you here). I just got to show off my google-fu (again using tricks I learned here) to find a technical word for a graph our boss wanted (Spectrogram) quicker than they could (using TinEye among other things). Of course, I could take it as an insult that they don't expect me to have that sort of knowledge, but the other benefit of my age is that I really don't care what they think and am mostly amused. I certainly experience the prejudice against women of my age, but have learned to value my "invisibility" as well. As I've said before, it helps that I am in a government job with Union protections and know that I will be leaving when I want, on my terms and not because my boss thinks I'm too old.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:49 AM on December 3, 2019 [18 favorites]

Yes, yes, Big Pharma and all, but this just reads like another screed shaming women for their medical choices. Depressed? You don't need drugs. Executive functioning issues? You don't need drugs. Chin up and suffer, ladies!

Taking HRT doesn't make a woman a tool of the patriarchy. Aside from relieving menopause symptoms, estrogen is essential for brain health. Female estrogen deficiency is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's. I trust that women can weigh the risks and benefits on their own, given their own circumstances. But for some women, myself included, HRT isn't a choice so much as it is a necessity and that's ok.
posted by Ruki at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2019 [17 favorites]

I thought the research linking HRT to breast cancer was pretty conclusive at this point

I though so as well, but then I listened to a Peter Attia podcast with Avrum Bluming and Carol Tavris that really changed my mind on the subject of HRT for perimenopausal and menopausal women. The whole podcast is worth listening to, but here's an in-depth summary of Bluming's and Tavris's book on the benefits of HRT if you don't have time.
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:09 PM on December 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Female squirrels die when they stop ovulating - so I am quite happy being a human with perimenopause. In fact, my major source of irritation is that menopause is still to come.

My attitude is that the state of menopause is a state of grace, and eminently desirable. HRT basically delays the onset of menopause and I was stunned to learn that my (now deceased) mother-in-law was still on HRT and having periods in her 70s. There is a process, which can be uncomfortable to go through, but worth it for the wonderful outcome, as far as I am concerned. Why not go through with it while you are younger instead of putting it off?

I am also deeply sceptical that HRT has any benefit in preventing dementia - most of the older women that I have encountered with dementia had HRT.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 3:40 PM on December 3, 2019

Thanks, Mchelly, for that article link. I need to message her that I’m currently working on just the books she’s looking for! Wait until she reads about The Chosen One awaking from her sleep with a hot flash just in time to...well, no spoilers. But it’s in the works.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2019

HRT basically delays the onset of menopause

It does not.

Why not go through with it [menopause] while you are younger instead of putting it off?

Everyone does do that. Taking hormones doesn't give you a new basket of eggs. and female biology isn't like an oral epic, where we all tell our favorite stories and the spooky-scary ones the audience likes the most are the ones that survive in the canon.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:39 PM on December 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Good for menopause: acupuncture and chinese herbs.
Now if acupuncturists would only charge 'people's prices' instead of western med's profit from pain paradigm.
posted by Mesaverdian at 3:51 PM on December 4, 2019

Thanks for this FPP. I have a million thoughts about it and may be adding more comments on specific issues, but for today I want to write something positive. I think we are at a time where attitudes are changing rapidly and confusingly.

Personally I am post-menopause, and I am happy with my new life, though there are many problems to deal with. The article made me think that my menopause symptoms and my shame about them were part of the huge crisis I went through some years ago, losing my dream job and other stuff.

But I have noticed something has changed a lot from when I was young. When I was a student, older women in my profession and at university were routinely ridiculed, ignored and diminished. There were succesfull women, but there was always backtalk about them. Always. I can't remember a single elder woman who was respected on her merits. Young people today don't do that. Just yesterday, I was caught in traffic and late for a class I share with two male colleagues. When I entered the room, I overheard students saying: mumimor is here, we can start now. They didn't want to start without me. I say very little in that class, my colleagues are very busy. I'm fat and I don't wear makeup. Back in the day, the roles would have been reversed.

But it's not just me: a much older friend, who also has a severe mental health issue, is a highly valued leader in our local union where most of the other activists are under 40. Another friend was thrown out of her business because they had a rule about leaving at 70, then she started a new, succesfull business with two men under 30. At work, I asked two students if they knew a third colleague, also 70+ and an immigrant, and one said to the other, "it's that really smart older woman".
All of this makes me smile every day.

So things are changing, a lot. But just as in politics, there is a lot of push-back. While many of the younger men and women have a new mindset, middle aged and older men are desperate and act desperately. These last weeks I have been dealing with a very bad case of workplace bullying which in my view was entirely driven by male anxiety. It has been horrible in many ways, not least that the reports we were given by the victims were downplayed not only by the bully, but also by several men who I'd thought would know better. But the good news is that the bully did not prevail.
It's going to take some time to recalibrate, but I fully expect that in 6 months, everyone will accept that this behaviour is as weird and unacceptable as smoking in a plane.

About HRT: I have the BRCA gene and a very high cancer risk already, so I have never even remotely considered HRT. Now that I am on the other side, what I most regret about menopause is not being open with myself or my surroundings about what was happening, out of shame and fear. My mother, stepmother and grandmother were all about pretending nothing happened. I'm going to tell my daughters to go in there happily. I'm not for or against medication, we are all very different. But there is a lot of life and joy and experience after 51,5 years of life (on average, 54 in my case), and I want my girls to look forward to it.
posted by mumimor at 4:11 PM on December 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

From the Cochrane Library


"Women with intolerable menopausal symptoms may wish to weigh the benefits of symptom relief ...

HT is not indicated for primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease or dementia, nor for prevention of deterioration of cognitive function in postmenopausal women"
- so not so much "oral epic"
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 2:42 AM on December 10, 2019

Our findings add to an emerging literature suggesting that midlife hormonal changes may leave a lasting trace on cognition.

tl;dr Surgical menopause and menopause occurring before the age of 47 carry increased risk of dementia. Long term HRT decreases that risk.

I went into surgical menopause at the age of 39. As I said, HRT is medically necessary for me. And that's still ok.
posted by Ruki at 12:47 PM on December 10, 2019

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