My friend Janice says going through menopause is just going back to the person you were before puberty.
It’s a nice idea. I think most of us have fond memories of the time before bras and maxi pads. Of course, the bras get more important every day but the idea of being free to wear light colours every day, if the spirit moves me, is a nice one. I like the idea of not having cramps or headaches or bloating or unfettered rage.
I loved being 10 years old. I had all the freedom I needed, I had mastered diving from a diving board, I didn’t know it was possible to be self conscious in a bathing suit, and I had a fabulous red 10-speed bike. I remember being perfectly content and having no interest in turning 11.
But before I was 10, there was a year when it seemed I couldn’t stay upright. I don’t know how old I was, 8 maybe, but I remember falling constantly. One minute I was running, the next I was watching the pavement rise up to meet my face. I had enough scabs on my elbows and knees and so much road burn on my palms that summer a call should have been made to the Guinness Book of World Records people.
I’d rather not go back to that version of myself but I fear it’s where I’m headed. Lately, I’ve had a habit of wiping out, especially on stairs.
This past weekend I fell down the very hard stairs at a sports complex. One minute I was walking the next minute I was thumping down on my heinie, my right leg stretched out behind me as if I were practicing the splits. Had I had the wherewithal to raise my hands to the sky and smile broadly I think the bystanders at the bottom would have applauded.
That’s not how it went. My head was thrown back and I remember some vague flashes of ceiling lights, my arms were over my head but also thumping down the stairs.
I remember thinking, “What’s happening?” then “I’m falling,” then, “Ow,” then “where the hell is my leg going?” then, “I need to stop,” and finally “I’m not stopping, just give into it.”
I tried to relax and went down the last few steps like a big piece of putty in a red coat.
I lay there at the bottom like a slug. My right leg still three stairs higher up than the rest of me.
Tony stood in front of me and leaned over me to ask if I was OK. I tried to tell him I needed to get my leg down but couldn’t get the words out. So I just stared back and yanked at my leg until it was below me instead of above me. I felt as though I might vomit or faint for a minute so I sat on the wet step and waited.
As I sat there, an older woman and her middle-aged daughter made a big fuss about having to reach over me to get to the railing to climb the stairs.
If it wasn’t so painful I might have been embarrassed. Or maybe, because I’ve left anything resembling dignity behind in so many places since puberty I’m less prone to mortification.
If I am to look on the bright side, maybe we do get back to some version of our young selves only we get to go back with the wisdom and attitude only middle age can give us.
But if my future involves going back to my past, I better drink a lot of milk.