Thursday, October 31, 2013

Be a Halloween Crone, not a Menopausal Witch by Margaret Ullrich

A few years ago I wrote essays and stories and read them on the CKUW radio program '2000 & Counting - Older and Wiser'.  Sometimes the essays were about aging.  
This was the essay I wrote for Halloween 2001. 
If I were writing it now, I would have added: 
As Katy Perry sang:
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar!!! 

         Happy Halloween!  I can't believe how fast this year went.  According to the news, the kids want to dress up as firemen and policemen instead of as ghosts and witches.  Well, traditional things are still with us, it's just more likely that the Moms of the trick or treaters are using them.  Harriet Nelson and Beaver's Mom, Mrs. Cleaver, didn't have the choices we have now.

         Back in the fifties, my parents, being good postwar immigrants, sent me to a parochial school.  They didn't object to the American melting pot.  They just wanted the good sisters to keep me from melting too quickly.  

        The sisters taught basic Catholicism and they had extra rules to protect girls from the spawn of Satan, better known as Catholic boys.  Rules like: never wear patent leather shoes because boys could see under our dresses.  

       And they really worried about what we put into our mouths.  We were told to eat a thick peanut butter sandwich and drink 4 ounces of oil - crisco, olive, whatever - before going to a party.  The sticky goo would keep us fat and sober.  And, at the party, we were to watch the soda being poured from a freshly opened bottle.  If we put our soda down, for any reason, whatsoever, we must never, never, ever pick up the same glass.  We never knew what some wise guy might put in there.  So warned, we went out to date and mate.  
        Those rules stuck.  You could always spot a Catholic girl.  There was the scent of peanut butter that Revlon's Intimate couldn't quite mask.  And there'd be a dozen barely sipped paper cups littering the table.  Cool we weren't, but we knew how to keep ourselves healthy.

        Or so we thought. 
        Now we're middle aged and facing menopause.  THE CHANGE.

        Okay.  We went through a change once before.  There were two options.  Either pad or tampon.  

        So here we are again facing a change and two options.  We can either remember Sister telling us to offer up our sufferings for the poor souls in Purgatory or we can wimp out and go on estrogen replacement therapy.

        Or so we thought. 

        We've got another choice our Moms didn't have.  No kidding.  Go to any book store or library and you'll find a growing section called Women's Health / Spirituality.  It's a wild mix of basic vitamin information, more exotic herbal remedies, ancient Goddess religions and Native American Spirituality.  

        You'll find titles like: Making Sense of Menopause, The Silent Passage, Menopause Naturally, Natural Menopause, Midlife Meditations for Women, Venus after 40, Woman at the Edge of Two Worlds, Moonlore Myths and Folklore, Finding Your Own Spiritual Path, and A Wisewoman's Guide to Spells. 

        Get the picture?  It's an easy slippery slope from staying healthy to getting the power to rule the world.  We're becoming Crones... women who hold their wise blood... shamans... the final phase of the moon.  Uh, huh. 

        Some of the information is handy.  Have vaginal dryness?  Can you say vitamin E capsule?  No, don't swallow it.  We're not talking about a sore throat.  That's right - you've guessed it.  Trust me, after you've inserted vitamin E and gotten your groove back, the gloves'll come off and you'll be eager to try other ancient herbal remedies.

        And there are dozens of them.  You don't have to go digging by the light of the moon in your neighbor's garden or Assiniboine Park.  There are dried herbs, powders, pills, lotions and potions available at every pharmacy and supermarket.  You can collect air miles or points, as you battle time's march across your face.

        Back to those books... Lynn V. Andrews is a popular women's Health/Spirituality author who writes about ceremonies from the Sisterhood of the Shield.  These aren't exactly tribal customs and traditions with a long, uh, tradition.   There are fun filled ceremonies with handy hints for creating your own.  All you need is candles, incence and snacks.  Invite the neighbors over.  It's more fun than a Tupperware party. 

        Ladies, Halloween is our time.  The crone or hag traditionally makes her appearance at Samhain, the original name for Halloween.  

        Remember how invisible middle aged women are?  Trust me.  If you stand buck naked and howl at the full moon, everyone will notice you.

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