I am woman

The song I am Woman by Helen Reddy was released the year before I was born, way back in 1971.

Listening to it today made me realise that its message and goals are still the same some 47 years later, which admittedly made me a little sad.

It seems that it’s only in the past few years that women in great numbers have started calling out the inappropriate behaviour and everyday sexualisation that up until then was normalised.

I’ve written about that before but the main difference today compared to the 1970s is that women don’t have to classify themselves as feminists to start speaking out en-masse when they’re catcalled while simply walking down the street or querying why they have to wear make-up or high heels to work because “that is what’s always been done.”

I guess movements take time to become more than just something a small proportion of the population are fighting for.

I am woman, hear me roar

In numbers too big to ignore

And I know too much to go back an’ pretend

But this blog isn’t really about things today, this blog is mostly about that song.

You see, my mum used to play it all the time when my big sis and I were kids.

Back in those days, it was on vinyl and played on the stereo we had in a lounge room that had fabulous paisley wall paper.

No doubt we all danced around listening to it while wearing flares – something I still do today I might add.

When you’re young, of course, you don’t recognise the significance of these moments, or of the lyrics that, almost like osmosis, are unknowingly becoming part of your psyche.

If I have to, I can do anything

I am strong

I am invincible

I am woman

Many years later, when I learned I had anxiety and panic attacks left me breathless and afraid, mum would play it for me again, this time on a CD, until our singing calmed me down.

Ditto, when my love-life was in turmoil, which was often back then.

I always felt how powerful the words of that song were when we sung them together, but I never understood how they would almost become a metaphor for my life until recently – perhaps like they were for her, too.

I am wise

But it’s wisdom born of pain

Yes, I’ve paid the price

But look how much I gained

Nearly 50 years on from its release, I Am Woman has rightly become an anthem and finally it seems that its words are turning into action but there is still a long way to go.

I guess change takes time – sometimes hundreds of years.

Every day we read about women from all backgrounds making a stand against sexual harassment in the workplace, in the gym, at the pub, or on public transport.

Yet, at the same time, a quick scan of news sites will tell the stories of women murdered by a stranger as they walked home from a comedy show or found dead in a suitcase after being killed by their ex-boyfriend.

In Australia, 10 women have been murdered by men since the start of this year – that’s more than one a week.

Detractors will say that women are perpetrators of violence, too, and that is true.

However, according to a 2018 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in six Australian women have been subjected, since the age of 15, to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner.

So, on International Women’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on how that song helped to change the course of my life, and about the good women and men who have long stood beside me.

And I’ve reflected on the now, and remembered those words that Helen sang so many years ago….

I am woman watch me grow

See me standing toe to toe

As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land

But I’m still an embryo

With a long, long way to go

Until I make my brother understand

Not a wedding kind of girl

Last week I went to look at a wedding venue nearly a year after I got engaged.

It was the first place I looked at, and it will be the last.

You see, it seems I may be the opposite of a bridezilla now the time has finally come for “me” to become “we”.

Now, not only did I forget to tell most people that I was in possession of an engagement ring for about six months, it seems that the actual business of getting married wasn’t high on my list of priorities either.

I haven’t even written about my betrothed much either, which is odd given I’ve devoted more column centimetres to my hair in the blog over the years than I have to the man that I agreed to marry.

Without getting all psycho-analytical about it (yes, I know that’s not the correct terminology), if I bothered to do some naval-gazing I guess the reason why is that no one wants to read about a relationship that is as smooth as an icy gelato on a hot summer’s day.

No writer wants to come across as content and relaxed – rather we are supposed to be tortured alcoholics who spend most of the time muttering alone in the dark.

Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t been that incarnation a few times in my life.

However, perhaps my paucity of ponderings about my lover is likely because I want to retain my supposed extroverted edginess, built up over many decades while I steadfastly remained single when everyone around me was not.

Traditional is never a word that has been used in the same sentence as me it seems.

For more than 45 years, I have been the bridesmaid, the witness, the usher, and the token single girl at a wonderment of weddings.

I’ve drunk all the free champagne, wreaked havoc on the dance floor to out-of-tune renditions of Michael Bolton and Madonna and made small talk with strangers who became friends for just one night.

Then, as the years rolled on by and I remained stoically single, I watched on as many of those unions started to fracture to the point that they could never be healed.

And, just as the number of singles in my sphere started to swell as divorce parties replaced nuptials, I was no longer one of them.

The thing is being single for more than four decades means that on the outside at least not much has changed.

A few months ago, I went to Vietnam on a whim after getting a cabin fever so unhelpful that my fiancé suggested it could only be cured by getting out of the house – and out of the country – for a while.

It’s funny, though, that on my return some people asked whether he was OK with me taking off with little notice when it was his idea to start off with.

You can see why I am marrying him.

As the months have sped by since he proposed in our courtyard surrounded by the sunflowers that he planted me, I’ve realised that I was never a wedding kind of girl.

I’ve never dreamed about a big ceremony or a special kind of dress.

A friend even had to take the reins recently when I admitted I had no preferences when it came to dress designs let alone sleeve types or fabrics. Friends indeed.

Even though this year has been ridiculously frantic as I co-launched a business (you may have noticed the significant reduction in these blogs as a byproduct), I think I’ve used that as a bit of an excuse to not organise a wedding that I never dreamed about being in.

That said, I can’t wait for the wedding, I just have zero interest in organising it.

Now, just because I’m not a wedding type of girl, that doesn’t mean I never thought I’d get married.

I did, even if many people thought I wouldn’t, or considered I was just being too picky or had become too independent or too successful.

I’ll just leave those viewpoints right there.

I’ve always believed in love and was prepared to wait for as long as necessary.

So, now that I’ve recognised that I’m not a very “weddingy” type of girl, I’ve come up with a cunning plan that will see me marry the man who accepts me just as I am next year.

She’s one of my best friends from high school…. and she just happens to be a wedding planner, so I don’t have to be.

Why menopause is not for pussies

As I searched my fiancé’s home for evidence of an affair that didn’t exist, it never crossed my mind that my thinking might be a little, well, off.

He was shifting from his house to mine after asking me to marry him a few weeks before.

We’d only been dating for six months, but when you know you know – or so I’d been told over the years and never believed it until the same thing miraculously happened to me.

But as I helped to clean his house, I became more and more suspicious.

Everywhere I turned I expected to find some evidence to prove that this man who I had agreed to marry wasn’t all that he seemed.

I even spent a few minutes hysterically explaining (and channeling Samantha from the Sex and City movie – the good one) that I was not the type of woman who cleaned other people’s houses.

As someone who has had a fairly even temperament most of my adult life – I’m generally glass 95 per cent-full most days – the fact that I was behaving rather strangely was not at all on my radar.

It wasn’t until later that night when I had time to reflect that I’d been a bit of a psycho that I wondered out loud about it.

“Do you think it’s my hormones?” I pondered.

My fiancé, whose temperament is uber laid-back, just smiled at me and simply said, “Probably babe. That’s why I didn’t react.”

At the time, his steadfast (or so I thought) refusal to engage in my clearly “logical” line of thinking had made me even more skeptical about his true nature.

But, unbeknownst to me, he clearly understood something that I did not…

His fiancé had temporarily turned into a crazy woman and he had decided to ignore the more alarmist aspects of my behaviour rather than inflame the situation more than I was already doing all by myself.

You see, it’s not like I didn’t know I was going through menopause, because I got told the Big M was on the horizon when I was in my late 30s.

The thing was my doctor and I decided to pretend it wasn’t happening, so I remained on those little contraceptive pills for a few more years.

Looking back, and certainly in the past year or two, it’s clear those little hormone masqueraders weren’t working as well as they used too.

That can be the only reason to explain some of my odd behaviour, including thinking I’d fallen in love with a dude I met on holiday – and then being some maniacal version of heartbroken for the best part of year.

Or the time that I ran out of my front door like a mad woman intent on berating a couple of frightened electricians who had dared to turn off the power because of a dangerous electrical fault.

Oh, dear me…

So, by the time I was 45, it was clear – whether I was perimenopausal or not – that I probably didn’t need to keep taking a pill a day to keep the babies away.

I threw them in the bin, but over the course of the next few weeks and months everything started to change – and not for the better.

My mood, obviously, was all over the place and I developed something lovely that we liked to call “neck sweat”.

I also put on about eight kilograms and my bum, almost overnight, was nowhere near as perky as once it was.

Then there was the problem with my waterworks that lasted for three months while a plethora of doctors diagnosed everything from an inflamed urethra to the fact that I had fractured my spine at some stage (which was news to me).

As it turned out, it seems that even menopausal women can still get a UTI from too much shagging with their beloved.

Of course, all of these changes and misdiagnoses did not a happy woman make but I can’t blame my vanity on my abysmal behaviour.

That was menopause plain and simple.

Within a few days of my creepy cleaning episode, I realised that I didn’t want to spend the next five, 10 or 15 years coming across as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, so I went to see a specialist.

Not long after, with some much-needed assistance, I didn’t think that my fiancé was having an affair or even that he was the devil incarnate.

I also didn’t need him to mop my neck with his t-shirt anymore, which we were both quite happy about.

Apart from another less than honourable episode, which not very strangely happened after I’d forgotten to take the second dose of my magic natural medicine every day for about a month and drank too much wine to boot, most days it feels like my head is on reasonably straight.

If, some days, my brain starts to tell me things that just aren’t there, at least I now have the foresight to (mostly) keep my mouth shut until it passes.

And that is why menopause is not for pussies – and it’s sometimes not much fun for the people who love them either.