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Midlife is about more than menopause. (If only it came with the millinery!)
Menopause for the Apocalypse? How to channel the Gilded Rage! A few thoughts on the Minimum Viable Utopia... 😂
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Fellow Empresses, How the hell are you?
Greetings from the Polycrisis… yes, menopause is a huge part of what we deal with in midlife, and seems to usher in a tempestuous tea party of symptoms, indignities, transformations, and heroic journeys that impact nearly every aspect of our lives.
Little did we know, the earth AND our vaginas would be undergoing a simultaneous climate apocalypse.
Yet, menopause itself is technically only one day. The one-year anniversary since one’s last menses. Still, it impacts everything from career to sex to sleep to gut to hair to skin to bone density to brain to breasts to mood to money to creativity to connection to legacy to the big existential WHY. And how is it that we’re now expected to exist on a diet of aromatically infused foam? All of this might lead you to ask... Oh, sh*t! Have I become my own hobby?
And it also comes with a cavalcade of crackpot wellness ploys you never thought possible. From Kardashian-sponsored gummies to make you feel bad about the taste of your vag (when it already deserves a goddamn Michelin Star) to an Alexa-based AI coach for your bespoke menopausal change management strategy. Okay, maybe not just yet. But don’t think it’s not already in alpha somewhere. It is.
You probably never imagined you’d have to think so much about the prospect of coughing, peeing, and farting all in the same instance because our mothers never talked about this phenom. Maybe if we just took midlife one step, one product, one concern at a time—it could be made more manageable. As Mona Eltahawy noted in her brilliant essay The Menopause Multiverse, peri/menopause can feel exactly like the film Everything Everywhere All at Once. The point is we are ALL Michelle Yeoh in this scenario and we have the scientific, human, narrative, empathetic, and organizational resources to do better by midlife women—if we tackle things strategically.
So, one of the concerns that came up this past week in the various comments was where and how to live as we age.
Prompted by a Guardian piece I’d shared on an unlikely feminist utopia in London, a number of you brought up your fears and desires about this issue.
Here's what you said: (I’m leading with your desires because well… you had fabulous ones.)
“Airy, and light, but easy to heat—with green energy.”
“ADA accessible in case my mobility changes over time.”
“A kind of Momune, but without actual motherhood ever required.”
“Privacy when you need it with community when you need it.”
“Walkable, close to groceries, the farmer’s market, coffee, books, and yoga.”
“Possibly a movie theater?”
“A park with walking trails you won’t bite the dust on.”
“Not too much hiking, lol.”
“Maybe near the sea?”
“Groceries where YOU pick out the “right” avocados and then they deliver them if things are too heavy... because Instacart always gets it wrong. They have no discernment when it comes to produce. Lol.”
“Healthcare, shots, and prescriptions that come to you when you need them, but not in a way that pesters you?”
“A community-first approach to ethics—do no harm, mutually aiding, environmentally friendly, disinterested from corporate developers.”
“Fashion designers and other artists in residence who come to stay for a bit. Please have Emilia Wickstead come as I’d wear her dresses to the community potlucks!”
So, I’d gotten to thinking and stumbled upon this Substack...
And while there are dying French, Spanish, and Italian villages that will practically give you a castle for free if you promise to rewire, replumb, and remodel it... THIS IS A BIG PROJECT for an oldster like myself. Not to mention, castles can be hella drafty in the winter and more than a stone’s throw from the requested amenities.
So, then I got to thinking about the designers and thinkers I love in this world—like Jony Ive, formerly head of design at Apple. Here’s what he’s been working on in the way of housing…
Aren’t they kind of gorgeous in their own simple way?
So, I thought maybe some land by a decent body of water and a number of these might be a thing to do for midlife women on their own, funded by a grant from Melinda French Gates’s Pivotal Ventures, or some other like-minded organization.
The idea would be that each woman's life and creative process should unfold in its own way, with its own particular wrinkles and lucky breaks and semi-devastating dips—which, in turn, helps them break away from the idea that there are any universal right and wrong directions for a creative, mission-driven life. A place to immerse oneself in one’s own unfolding without the stress of housing or community insecurity. Also a remedy for the epidemic of loneliness as women age.
If the Dutch, the Brits, and the French are managing it, surely we could figure something out. It probably sounds farfetched, but when you think about how there’s so much disused BLM land around the country, one begins to wonder… Thoughts?
In the meantime, another thing occurred to me. We’re always going on about the Empress Age and the Empress as an empowered archetype. I thought it might be wise to acquaint you with a few.
Meet Empress Matilda, 1102-1167, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, daughter of King Henry I and mother of King Henry II. (Also, muse to Game of Thrones author, George R. R. Martin.)
From a letter to Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury (credit: Daniel Lavery for this rare gem):
...I am writing to sow peace, not to tell you what I think of your ridiculous behavior.
I am sending archdeacon Lawrence to talk to you, because I don’t want to talk to you if you’re going to say outrageous or terrible things. Then he can tell me what you think about my son (who you may also remember is your king, along with everybody English, etc.) and what you might like me to say to my son the king about you.
One more thing: If you think you’re getting out of this without demonstrating a little abjection you have got another thing coming. Talk to Lawrence; I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to speak directly with royalty any longer, at least not until someone has been able to reassure me that you have learned how to do it properly.
Don’t you just love that “You have got another thing coming.” existed in usage by a woman toward a man (the archbishop of Canterbury, no less) back in the 12th century? That’s an empress for you.
Yours in Grandeur & Deep Sh*t,
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