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Male Menopause or, Androgyny Makes the Big Time

by Naomi Cavalier

Until the last few decades, women had menopause all tied up. One had to be born female to reach this questionably grand climacteric. A priori, there was menstruation before there was menopause. Males simply didnt have the equipment to do this (why they would want to is beyond me).

Well, it turns out they dont need the equipment, they can 'experience' menopause without the anatomical apparatus.

During the sixties and seventies when traditional conventions were turned upside down and words such as meaningful and sharing assumed cosmic significance,  men were encouraged to be more like women: emotional, nurturing, expressive. True, they were still stuck with making babies instead of having them, but short of that there was much about being feminine that promised to make men more complete human beings. Professor Higgins question in My Fair Lady, Why cant a woman be more like a man? became Why cant a man be more like a woman?. Crying and expressing feelings, formerly macho no-nos, became signs of wholeness rather than weakness. Fear of compromising heterosexuality faded in the glow of completeness. And support groups, deeply into sharing, sprang up to encourage this move into what once might have been called ninnydom.
      As androgyny gained ground, sexual differences blurred. Ovaries were no longer the sine qua non of menopause. Men interested in sharing the change  had but to endure a midlife crisis or a good dose of middle age angst and they were in. Menopause had made room for daddy. And it looks like hes there to stay.
      Of course, I live in California where strange permutations in human behavior often originate and last longer than elsewhere; for example aged hippies still wander around Berkeley, legendary scene of a hippie horde during the Viet Nam war, as if they didnt know what time it was. So Im not surprised that the phenomenon of male menopause has been accepted here. But my friend on the East coast described her wandering middle-aged husband as experiencing a midlife crisis or male menopause (both synonyms, perhaps, for wandering middle-aged husbands) so I know the condition is at least bicoastal.
     This revelation that biology isnt necessarily destiny is underscored in  books such as  "The Grey Itch" and "How to Survive Male Menopause" that are there to help men in their middle years (and even beyond) make the quantum leap toward androgyny. Which, as it turns out, isnt easy.  Men of a certain age often get the equivalent of hot flashes just asking themselves typical male menopausal questions such as, Am I too old to attract young girls? Is this all there is? Who am I?.  Questions that leave men existentially battered. This season of discontent is especially hard on married men whose wives start to remind them of balls and chains with wrinkles. Gauguin, the artist who fled to Tahiti, begins to look better and better and not because of his paintings. Marriage becomes a DMZ (dangerous menopausal zone).  These restless husbands start to act out...or as we used to say...play around. At an age when a person is entitled to a little rest, theyre questing, testing, proving, worrying. It must be exhausting. But now,  at least they know why. Male menopause has got them where it hurts.
      Gee whiz, fellas, what can an older woman say but there, there.  I wish it could be welcome to the club but the nature of your change makes ours seem like a blessed event especially with the help of estrogen for those who want it and the joy of empty nests for those lucky enough to have them (dare I say it, to us menopause can be the pause that refreshes).  Finally free of the monthly demands of our bodies and freer than weve been of the demands of others, we have time to tend our own gardens. Were more comfortable in our flesh (maybe because theres more of it) than we were in our youth and are inclined to settle for who we are rather than getting worked up about who we arent. Thanks to diet and exercise, we look good and feel good (before I go overboard, lets face it, the word good takes on a certain elasticity with age).  No longer concerned about pregnancy, sexually we may be better than ever.
      Fellas, isnt it enough to make you wish you actually had  hormonal tides so they could cease already?  Dont you sometimes wonder if androgyny went too far when it encouraged equal time for menopause? Of if it was a mistake to take the word men in menopause seriously. Would it help if we put wo  in front of men?
      Well cuz, maybe, just maybe, if you behave, next time around your reward will be to come back as a woman.

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