The Authentic Eclectic

Perimenopause, puberty and a midlife crisis walk into a bar…

This is shaping up to be the worst joke in history.

A hand raising the middle finger, Trudi Bishop, Medium
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Picture this. It isn’t even 8am, breakfast has yet to be digested in the stomachs of those in the house, the good mornings were barely audible but the raised voices, the anger clearly is and is enough to bring the cat in. Meowing to tell us he doesn’t like it, stop arguing. No wonder he is partially deaf now.

Where do I start. There are four of us in this story. Maybe I should start with the cat. Perhaps he’s the punchline in all this, who knows. But as the title suggests, the house is shaping up to be a pretty shitty joke to be part of. So back to the cat.

If we were going by age, he is technically the patriarch of the family. He is around 80 in cat years. He is fully retired. Past puberty, past mid life crisis (his parkour days are well and truly behind him), not sure if he went through male menopause so that’s an open question. He has the health issues of an older gent, arthritic hips, hyperthyroidism and most recently a few issues in the no.2 end… like a lot of older gentlemen, he doesn’t drink enough water. He doesn’t get his 10,000 steps in each day and he is increasingly belligerent, doing what he wishes, when he wishes and not giving a toss because he’s lived a long life, and he has no one to answer to. To be fair, with the exception of the health issues, he does make growing old vaguely appealing.

But this isn’t about the cat. It is about the other three characters. So who’s next? Let’s go for the mid-life crisis. Hmm now this is a tricky one. This one is hitting both the adults in the house with different outcomes. Both are of “that age” when mid-life technically hits. One is bearing the burden of the sole income earner. Questions, self-doubt and disappointment in where the career has landed at this point in life is proving challenging to face.

In an ideal world, the earner would quit and cycle each day. Yes, this is my husband, he is a MAMIL (middle age man in lycra). To be fair to him, for the whole time I have known him he has cycled but it was only since turning 40 he became a MAMIL and quite an obsessed one at that. It isn’t just the bike, but all the gear, different helmets, shoes, tops, gloves for different cycling. On top of this there is the uploading of rides for Kudos, King of the Mountain, the planning of said rides, the bike maintenance, the bikes… the list goes on and on and on and…

Then it is the hours and hours on the bike. It started before we adopted our son. He would be gone for hours, almost entire Saturdays gone. When our son arrived, the resentment set in — on both sides. One longed to hang with his new dad and made it noticed through his anger and poor behaviour. The other, reduced his long bike rides to getting up earlier, “only riding for 2–3hrs”, needing the relief from the stress of the difficult child, needing to stay healthy, thinking he was compromising. Then there is me, in the middle, not having started my lovely perimenopausal journey (or so I thought). I’m placating, scolding for poor behaviour, distracting the boy. Resentment is seeping into me too. Questioning the long bike rides, making cutting remarks (this is new), resenting every bike related parcel arriving at the door.

So here we are, is this the mid life crisis? Yes. But now. Now there is a new hobby. The car restoration project. Oh the joys. Garage full to bursting with bikes, cars, beer brewing… the mid life crisis may be taking it to a whole new level. From a MAMIL to a man in blue overalls (MIBO?).

Now we have the endless tinkering. Car parts arriving. I’m told every Saturday this winter will be spent on a welding course. Excellent — another level of time not spent with our son to wade through. I can feel my eye twitching and my teeth clenching at the prospect. My resentment at this latest mid life crisis project is settling in nicely, festering in my brain as I recall the snide remarks as to why I shouldn’t bother spending money on studying for a new qualification, imaginging the arguments and difficulties my son will present later. Having to suck it up as the “I’m the sole earner” argument rolls out for the umpteenth time, this is my “me time, my brain down time”. All of which I understand.

But what I’ve never understood about the mid-life crisis (and I don’t dare speak its name…) is the sheer depth and full feet first mentality. A new ‘hobby’ does not seem to be something that is dabbled in, when you add it to this ‘time of life’, it becomes an all consuming obsession… until the next one.

It cannot be named a mid life crisis. It is just something the mid lifer is into now.(Apparently). Filling in an invisible gap in one’s life. Reassuring themselves ‘they’ve still got it”. Perhaps if the mid lifer had had a much more miss spent youth the crisis would not have settled in so well, embedded into the family psyche so deeply that it needs a room of its own.

Enough of the mid life crisis — it gets enough “me”time as it is.

Puberty. Oh happy days.

This wasn’t fun when I experienced it first hand. In fact if there had been a way to skip puberty and the teenage years I would have quite happily done so. Now I get to “enjoy” puberty (or the beginnings…) from front row.

So close to the wrestling ring I can smell the sweat. Sometimes too close. An arm stretches out between the ropes, tagging me to join the fighter in the ring for a round or two. Mostly I just want to ‘tap out’ of the whole game. Other times my wrestling alter ego, ‘Mood-swing Mama’, jumps on in, arms swinging. Often bringing in her identical twin, ‘Obstinate Ovary’, to ensure victory. Doggedly fighting on until Puberty ‘taps out’ and leaves the ring. It’s a long and brutal wrestle.

When the wrestling season is over. Walking on egg shell season begins. Walking on LEGO was torturous enough (literally). What fresh hell is this?

Every morning could be as Forrest Gump famously said, “ Like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. Except in the case of a box of Puberty, all the chocolates are the crappy ones left at the bottom of all the other Christmas gift boxes. It is only after some desperate scrabbling around do you occasionally find a hidden gem — in my case the dark, liquid caramel, all goodness and sweet in one little bite. All the other days it is the Turkish delights or the weird tasting lemon or orange cremes you find, you bite in with a bit of hope — the sweet appealing looking chocolate draws you in, only to take a bite to be left with a bittersweet taste in your mouth full of regret.

Perimenopause appears to have moved in (uninvited) for the foreseeable future. It is one of those guests you hadn’t actually invited to the party but had heard about it on the grapevine and turned up anyway. They arrive earlier than expected. You know, while you’re still running around the house like a blue arsed fly trying to finish off snacks, hiding the house debris and feebly trying to make yourself half presentable to be able to present a semi human to the expected guests arriving soon. This uninvited, early, but nonetheless expected arrival, hangs around your kitchen leaner, a silent awkward presence, making the air heavy.

Squeezing into your party clothes, the unwelcoming warmth of Perimenopause bloats itself into your dress, forcing you to change into a free flowing sack to allow for freedom of airflow and a beachball stomach to hopefully hide away until bedtime. Timecheck. Guests will be arriving soon. Beachball squeezes heavily down on your once gold standard bladder forcing you to the bathroom for what feels like the fiftieth time in ten minutes.

On it goes. The party might be over, invited guests gone home but as you head to bed, settling your weary head to the pillow, there she is again — Perimenopause. Not only did you not invite her to the party, you most definitely did not invite them for a sleep over! She conspires with your poor excuse for a bladder. Forcing you out of what admittedly is a fairly rubbish slumber to toss and turn in bed before admitting defeat and heading bleary eyed to the loo — again...and again…and again…

The following morning, rolling out of bed, knackered from too many rounds with the bladder, you force yourself to look in the mirror. There in front of you a few little gifts from the unwelcome guest — middle age pimples have popped up on the chin, more grey hairs sprout from your hairline, bags big enough for a gap year holiday sit under your eyes.

Dragging your sorry state for a human being into have breakfast. You survey the beginnings of carnage on the bench as your husband is busy getting himself ready for work. Next in bursts Puberty. Scowling. Angry at the world. For what? For having to wake up, having to get dressed, maybe missing seeing dad before he heads off, for only having three Weetbix instead of four, for having to breathe, because the sky is blue? It’s a mystery.

“NO!” is the stock answer to any requests of Puberty. This is not received well…Especially after Perimenopause has been for the unwelcome sleepover. “Moody Mama” will arrive, spitting out dragon fire rage at all who come in her path. A rapid fire tennis match starts. Insults, demands hit back and forth rising in volume and speed. Mid-life crisis, unwilling to be an umpire in this pointless match, storms out, throwing his own bomb in the court as he departs once again for work.

The sudden change brings silence to the room. Then it is time for Puberty to head off. Calm fills the heavy air.

Perimenopause finds herself splayed out on the floor, exhausted, tears rolling down her cheeks, unsure why or how she got there. “I really must get on with my day”, she thinks to herself.

But she is not sure where to begin. Her brain is as foggy as Victorian London streets in winter. She needs another minute or two.

And so this is how the joke is shaping up.

Perimenopause, Puberty and a Mid-life crisis walk into a bar…

Punchline TBC — all ideas welcome.

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Trudi Bishop

Trudi Bishop

Kiwi by birth but not always by nature. Spent most of my adult life in the UK. I’ve landed back in NZ, a stranger in a familiar land. Trying to figure this out.