I’d rather be a Phoenix


Puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, breast-feeding, and then The Pauses (peri and meno); all of these are life-changing. Men, on the other hand, get The Drop. Full stop. They’ll never know the wonder, the incredulity, the grudging capitulation, the inescapable connectedness with the rhythms of the moon, the cycle of reproduction. Poor bastards. But at each of these stages, so many of us apologise for our femaleness. We hide our bleeding (please God, make it a more palatable blue), say sorry when milk seeps through our work jacket, declaring, “I am an animal.” Why?


In Camille Paglia’s 1990 work, Sexual Personae, she states, “Woman was an idol of belly-magic. She seemed to swell and give birth by her own law. From the beginning of time, woman has seemed an uncanny being. Man honored but feared her.” Question: what do we do when we fear something? Answer: we subjugate. Over the years, that subjugation has been refined, repeated, refined, repeated, until everything that makes us biologically female is treated with awkwardness or shunned as vile. Not in all circles, of course. But the feeling is still out there. It’s Misogyny 101.


So, back to The Pause. That whispered thing, popularly representing the loss of a woman’s breeding capacity, her descent into crone-dom, irrelevance, invisibility. The language surrounding it is smothered in illness: causes, symptoms, effects, medicationa. Of the ‘dreaded’ hot flush, they cite ‘hormonal changes’, nodding sagely, smugly, at their worldly-wisyness but the truth is no one really knows why the heat rises. Not for sure. Google it if you don’t believe me. We excuse our beaded brows, absent ourselves from polite company until the moment passes and return when we are ‘decent’, i.e., sexless, professional. It’s not right. I don’t like it. I propose a new narrative.


When the heat wave comes, let’s not think, ‘Make it stop.’ That way lies less. Instead, let’s switch that sucker ‘round. Let’s think, ‘Oh. My. GOD. This is AMAZING.’ Grab the hand of whoever’s near you, bring it up to the nape of your neck, say without glimmer of shame, “Feel that! Can you BELIEVE I am capable of that?” Don’t timidly dab your forehead with a sad little tissue. Find a glorious fan made from opal-encrusted velvet – the colour of midnight, a metre long – and go Zsa-Zsa-darling on The Pause’s arse.


Inside us is a phoenix. Rising, bursting into flame, soaring up from the ashes of our youth, a thing of magnificence and strength. Your perspective, your wisdom, your true nature, forged in fire. Own it. You earned it.


Love Cheryl xx

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