An exploration of Menopause as a Boundary Phenomenon.


For years now, and especially as I age, I have been compelled by the idea of edges. Boundaries. Something different obtains there, something that differentiates them from whatever they demarcate. They are privileged areas, faerie-tale areas. Think, for example of silhouettes -treetops, say, against an evening sky; they are nothing but edges: intricately crocheted patterns, filaments of black against the dying pale blue background, they are trees and yet, strangely, they are not quite…

Edges are unique. They are where whatever was, is no more, but has not yet become other. It is a magic zone where the last remnant of something is defined, a demarcation that is at the same time inside and outside and yet really neither. Skin, which both contains what we are, and yet joins us to a place that we are not is a boundary; at what point, however does it cease to belong to the body? The surface -an area whose microscopic crevasses are deeply probed, caressed, and profoundly affected by molecules of outside? Or should there be a thin, arbitrary neutral zone where we allow that the skin has jurisdiction, though not strictly speaking, contiguity? A skin by virtue of proximity, not conquest; clothes whose owner is beyond dispute because they are being worn.

So boundaries are special: areas where ownership is not so much in dispute as definitionally obscure; where distal examination on either side is uncontested, and yet what constitutes the actual delineation of one or the other, nominally problematic. And functionally ambiguous, as well… Light, temperature, texture, authority -all are idiosyncratic, recalcitrant in the immediate vicinity.

We are constantly traveling through edges, aren’t we? Journeying from day into night, sleep to wakefulness, wondering to comprehending -these are some of the more obvious ones. Short term edges, if you will. But there are others less apparent as margins, that evolve more slowly, and whose fringes are so spread out we even categorize them differently: infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age… And yet, although their edges are also ill defined, they are equally magical and puzzling.

Take Menopause, as an example. It is a special edge: a junction -a phase-change, even. It is a bookmark between two Magisteria as different from each other as water and ice… But , menopause is a process rather than a boundary, it could be argued. A transition. There are no definitive edges to be contested, no uncontentiously delimitable state that precedes it, no clearly identifiable, and universally unique one that follows… no post hoc ergo propter hoc… Hence the vague, exculpatory and all inclusive concept of the Perimenopause –a concept that doesn’t so much explain, as encompass anything in the vicinity. Ambiguous. Nebulous, even. Ahh, but could this be an Edge description where the aforementioned boundary conditions obtain? A not-so-magic interregnum?

And yet, is that fair? Is any attempt to describe it thus, merely academic dissimulation?  Like a useless PhD thesis that is ultimately filed in the dark recesses of some seldom-visited library after its initial defence? Well, to start with, it seems to me that even if considered as an experiential phenomenon alone, examining the Menopause as if it were a boundary phenomenon has validity. And profit. The transition is palpable, the remembered state -that solidity away from the edge- different from the soon-to-come conditions temporally distal to the margin… So there is a vague and ill-defined border area that is clearly, if only subjectively differentiable from the rest: the pre and post menopause…

But, so what? Is there some relevance to describing the menopausal transition as an edge? Is there a believable and important justification for such equivocation? Remember that a boundary is a unique and special area, a marker as necessary for successful progression as a stop sign at a busy intersection. It is a biological divide that signals the need for reallocation of available resources. Unlike the almost imperceptible passage from childhood into adulthood, recognizable only in retrospect, and perhaps only by others, Menopause is a state, whose margins, although blurred, are acknowledgeable. Discernible. And borders that are distinguishable, even unwelcome, prompt reassessment. Reflection -albeit as if through a glass darkly.

As much as we may wish to deny it, we all change over time. It creeps up on us; the reflection in a mirror only revises the face of others, seldom our own. And yet the acknowledgement of Time and its passage is fundamental to growth -our own and theirs. Successful adaptation requires preparation, thoughtful anticipation. It is prudent to hesitate and plan the route before entering a forest.  And although from a distance it seems obvious where to stop, on nearing the trees, the boundary (again a border) seems less clear. Fortunately, unlike men, for women at least, there is a sign. An advantage: an Edge…

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