How The Flash Inspired My Perimenopausal Alter Ego
8:15PM on a Tuesday
Family bonding time. We’re all huddled in my bed watching The Flash on Netflix, a bowl of popcorn propped precariously between my younger son and husband’s thighs. I’m wrapped in a fuzzy sweater under the duvet even though it’s May. In three hours, I will look like Heat Miser doing a striptease when my hot flash hits, but right now I’m shivering and pissing off my older son by using him as a human heating pad for my ice-cold feet. And I want to punch Barry Allen.
Barry, AKA metahuman speedster extraordinaire The Flash, is such a whiny bitch. He needs to face the evil Reverse Flash in some bad acid trip called the Flashpoint or all his friends and what’s left of his family will die.
But. He’s. Too. Hot.
Barry’s friends are science-ing in a panic to literally chill Barry the fuck out and create a new superhero suit that can withstand the burden of saving the world.
Meanwhile, I get eyerolls when I ask my kids for a cup of tea.
I want whatever Caitlyn Snow, the brains-rivals-beauty character, quickly develops to stop Barry’s brain from cooking (looks down at my black cohosh tea with disdain). When Barry’s trusty sidekick/comic relief Cisco Ramon unveils the new suit like he’s a Price Is Right spokesmodel, my attention perks.
Space-age cooling polymer fabric that breathes even at 500 degrees? Nano-somethings that constantly sense and adjust temp? Special curved seams that won’t tear even at hyperspeed, or say, when I bend over to grab detergent off the lower shelf at Target? And those seams are slimming to boot! I bet it doesn’t chafe between the thighs. It’s like they knew exactly what my perimenopausal body needed.
It’s like someone knew.
Three hours later, and I’ve created an entire persona for my imaginary perimenopausal superhero writer.
Thinking on the episodes of the show, I notice a pattern of plots and character behavior that couldn’t have been written by Millennials cranking out hours of teen angst for the CW. Hidden within all the superhero cliché were metaphors about not recognizing this new body foisted upon you, needing a circle of friends you can count on when breast cancer or divorce hits, realizing your oh-so-helpful boss is actually an undermining ass who steals your work. I picture a female writer who’d fit right in with our TueNighters: in her late 40s juggling a career with two kids and plummeting estrogen. Trying to have it all and failing spectacularly most days. In sweaty Lycra.
11:30PM: Sweaty Betty, Super Writer, is Born
Three hours later, and I’ve created an entire persona for my imaginary perimenopausal superhero writer. I dub her Sweaty Betty, after my favorite crotch-sweat-wicking leggings company. I picture her in a terrific Anthropologie wrap sweater she keeps at her desk because it’s goddamned freezing. Until it’s not, and Betty’s grateful for the fridge-like temp when a hot flash flares just as a male writer interrupts her episode pitch for some mansplaining. Her red face is half estrogen drop, half fury.
I start empathy sweating.
But SB’s got this. I imagine her circumventing writer bros who want female characters to save the world in their bras. I bet she’s the one transformed Captain Cold from a one-dimensional macho villain into the groundbreaking gay TV icon who switched sides and got his own superhero spinoff. She’s been leaving sly Easter eggs for middle-aged female viewers –a “cold gun,’ perfect for those sudden hot flashes; vaults for meta humans in the basement that would be perfect for some me-time away from the kids; Jesse L. Martin and his soulful, understanding eyes as the Flash’s adoptive father. All while ignoring the trickle of sweat down her back.
In my feverish state, I fantasize that Betty is just biding time for her own DIABOLICAL PLAN: the first postmenopausal superhero. With hair character let go grey and sex appeal and reading glasses. Not someone’s mom, or some bigger superhero’s girlfriend. She’ll have her own origin story and own goals, maybe be transitioning her career. And she won’t need to carry tampons. Every actress of “a certain age” will be clamoring to play her. I wrestle out of my sweater, kick off the duvet and fall asleep dreaming of Helen Mirren in a costume designed by Stella McCartney, kicking ass and dropping verbal bombs in her plummy accent. Estrogen be damned.
I wake with my soggy hair in my mouth, heart racing in a nameless panic. Children could swim in the pool of sweat being caged by the elastic shelf bra of my cami.
But invisibility is one of the top five superpowers. Way more useful than x-ray vision.
My analogy has sped off toward its own ugly Flashpoint: While Barry feels the exhilaration of being more than human, these hot flashes are making me feel LESS. Less attractive, less of a woman. My female lifeforce is dwindling, draining; I am losing my superpowers. Hurtling toward being old and irrelevant.
I wonder if my writer surrogate is watching her commodity plummet in her industry as her estrogen did. Does Betty’s job safety lower at the same rate as the firmness of her skin? Is her desirability as a writer, her sexual attractiveness tied to her youth? Is Betty becoming invisible? Was *I*?
15 Minutes of Headspace Meditation Later
But invisibility is one of the top five superpowers. Way more useful than x-ray vision. You are granted access to spaces otherwise inaccessible, can infiltrate and thrive and conquer before anyone realizes. It is sneaky and resourceful. And you can use it only when you need it.
Sweaty Betty has taken hers and duped a room full of baby writers, and the executives who worship their youth, into making a perimenopausal muse out of a 23-year-old boy. She hid a subversive roar against the patriarchy inside a hit show for 14-year-old boys. Then casually swaggered her Everlane-shod self into the office kitchen for a cold Diet Coke to place between her boobs when no one’s looking. And I need to follow her lead.
I order a pair of Day Heels in Oxblood, then conk out.
The Ass-Crack of Dawn
6:55 a.m. school start time had to have been created by a supervillain. Inspired by Sweaty Betty and how she had Team Flash equip their hero to withstand all manner of attacks, I put on my own protective suit to face the moms at school drop-off: lip gloss, giant sunglasses, wrap sweater over my damp cami (don’t judge me), and a pair of Girlfriend Collective leggings – damn if those angled seams don’t make my ass look a little higher. I need to recommend these to my Team TueNight.
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