At one point last week, my mother, my aunt and myself were all sitting together on the sofa, aunt and self taking it in turns to rub Mum’s feet and make tea, while the men went off and did Manly Things in the kitchen. Given that my mother had just had her lady parts surgically Dealt With, the conversation naturally turned to, well, gynaecology. And the following points were established:
- When they opened Mum up and looked, her dermoid cyst/teratoma/whateverthefuckyoucallthem was actually twisting again, and had she gone with her preferred more convenient October date for surgery, well, actually, she wouldn’t have got to October, and ambulances may well have been involved. So. I am glad I told her the sooner the better. *Buries face in hands. Shudders.*
- My mother is having an almighty fit of guilt for not taking me seriously when I, as a teenager, used to fall down clutching my abdomen and puking as my grapefruit-sized teratoma twisted and turned and pressed on my left ovary. Now that the same thing has happened to her, she feels dreadful for having been dismissive of my pain. I feel very conflicted about this. I certainly didn’t want her to ‘get’ it by the Severely Practical Method. I hate that she was in so much pain herself. I’d rather she never got it as long as she lived, if it spared her this. But Bitter McTwisted (who seems to be channelling Yoda’s bitchy cousin) curled her lip and muttered: ‘Hah! 18 years late, your sympathy is.’ And I can’t quite despise Bee McTee for it.
- My aunt attempted a competitive ‘well, my periods used to be really painful’ sally at this point. After some minutes’ elaboration, we agreed that anything a hot-water-bottle and a glass of wine could sort out wasn’t, after all, in the same league as The Puke-a-thon. After which, I gracefully ceded the Chief Sufferer Conch to my mother for a while, and Bitter McTwisted looked insufferably smug.
- Another thing that we established: all my maternal aunts – and there are a lot of them – were in their mid-fifties when they finally hit the menstrual buffers and binned the tampons for good. As was my grandmother (who had her last two children in her 40s). I am so screwed.
After this, the conversation turned to yoga, Chinese herbs, The Power of Vitamins, Shiatsu massage, ear-candles and Positive Thinking. I let the Positive Thinking Fairy run my share of this conversation. We both had to sit on Bitter McTwisted’s head for the duration, mind you. I am so over alternative ‘medicine’. My aunt, however, is very Woo, and my mother would be if only her beastly daughters would stop nagging her about science and evidence and randomised double-blind controlled trials. I was pretty Woo myself, in my eager wide-eyed youth. Eheu, I feel old and cynical. And right, of course, but mostly old and cynical.
(Also, another probably twenty years before I reach the menopause. I think I may have to faint now. And to think that for most women this would be a grand cause of celebration and relief. Life is such a random shit-bag like that).
Later on, my mother apologised to me all over again for being underwhelmed by my own ovarian cyst issues. And then apologised for never taking my painful and heavy periods particularly seriously either. And I squirmed and tried to change the subject. Years I’ve spent, waiting for my mother to acknowledge the fact that I was a most unfortunate woman and not a hypochondriac or malingerer. Years. And when she finally not only admits that she was wrong and unhelpful on the subject, but is profoundly sorry for having ever been so, I curl up like a salted slug and pretend to be deaf. I do not pretend to understand myself.