Germaine Greer is at her best when enraged. This is a book that any woman can appreciate, no matter what stage of life she’s in, even if just glimpsing the climacteric over the horizon as I am. Doctors pressing HRT onto older women are idiotic, the male gaze falling away is not to be missed, joy is to be found in this later cycle of life where the focus can be on oneself and not on caring for those around us. Greer castigates physicians for their feeble attempts, saying how extraordinary it is that we don’t know ANYTHING about menopause: we don’t know what is happening, why it happens, we can’t tell if it’s about to happen, is happening, or is over, we don’t know why there are symptoms for some women while others have none, we don’t know what’s related to just plain aging or why sleeping is disturbed or what a hot flush is.
Some of Greer’s rage is pure poetry:
Psychiatrists have no option but to blame people for their own suffering; admitting that unhappiness might be justified would undermine the entire rationale of medicating the mind. There can be no suggestion that feeling tired and disillusioned at fifty might be the appropriate response and that convincing yourself that you are happy and fulfilled might be self-deluding to the point of insanity. “Bringing up” children is not necessarily enjoyable; our children are not necessarily nice people and if they are it is not something we can congratulate ourselves upon.
I read this over many months, but the part freshest in my mind is the end wherein she winds up telling women to embrace themselves, care not a fig for the opinion of others, “become more abundantly” the old woman. Oh, we ruin things for the boys at the pub with our presence? So much the better. “Why not wear an invisible T-shirt that says ‘A glance from my eye can make your beer turn rancid’?” Indeed.