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Welcome to the Snake-Pit





Mom always said that if you're thrown in a snake-pit, you'll find out how sane you are. Well, she said something to that effect. She referred to a movie, The Snake-Pit, where a woman finds herself in an insane asylum, not knowing why or how she got there.

My mother had very pithy sayings with some very strange tastes. The only book she loved was "Dry Guillotine." I searched high and low for that book at least a decade. When I found and read it, a book about Devil's Island penal colony off La Rochelle, France, it made me wonder even more about my mother.



While writing this last paragraph, a weird coincidence hit me: my first semester in college was in La Rochelle, France. Wow! Too bad Mom and I never connected the dots back then!

At any rate, Mom had this ability to cut through a morass of stuff to clearly see what was going on. Which is a good thing while puzzling out why Daniel dropped me for Miryam or why the neighbor put his fist through our glass front door. It wasn't a good thing while watching tv or a thriller movie.

"Oh, I know the ending!" she cried after two minutes of viewing.

"Please, Mom, please don't tell me. I want to enjoy the show."

Mom had this demonic grin when she declared, "The butler did it!" or "This is how the tv show will end."

Invariably, she was right. Besides the predictable nature of most tv shows or movies, Mom was brought up in the entertainment industry.

Dad was worse. It took him 2 seconds to assess a plot, formerly a sit-com writer. But, boy, did he hate Mash! He would never join the family in the den to watch that show. Until, finally, he broke down. Standing in front of the tv, he shouted, "This show's a travesty! During World War 2, I was a medic. You didn't have DOCTORS to help these men! You had guys like me, with basic medical training and high school girls running around acting as nurses. More soldiers died bleeding out from a simple bullet wound than anything else."

We never watched Mash again.

He also killed "Seinfeld" for me. I saw only 3 shows with him and that was it. He explained, "Each episode is based on one joke. Predictable."

Tv shows and movies aside, one good thing I identified at this so-called post-menopausal age of 57, is that you still can surprise yourself. And the ol' dog can learn new tricks. Or not.

One example is that post-menopause is not what the media and our culture professes it to be. Most women look at menopause with dread, believing a chapter of their life is over.

Hell, no! Emphatically no!

I've had more sexcapades after menopause than before. Menopause frees women up from a thematic undercurrent which drives them from the first menstrual cycle: whether or not they can get pregnant. Liberated from that fear or joy, women can enjoy sex for sex's sake. In addition, without the bloating, pain, swollenness for  almost 2 weeks a month, our bodies remain the same. Hence, our so-called 'inhibitions' are released.

Another myth of menopause: the diminished libido. Actually, I kinda looked forward to that: mine's just as bad as when I was a teen-ager. The only difference is my tolerance of my sexual partner(s). I'd rather be a monastic monk self-flagellating than to bed some of the prime choices that come knocking at my door. At this age, I recognize that if I'm to continue sexing someone, I want there to be more of a connection. Otherwise, I can have better sex alone with the one I love.

Which brings me to the snake-pit reference Mom always made. Similar to mom, I'm fascinated by the deviance from normal. In my mother's case, she was intrigued by physical abnormalities, in particular, dwarves and midgets and her love of The Wizard of Oz.

This was due to her step-father. He was an entertainment lawyer. Besides representing Sam Levenson, a cousin, a Jewish keeping it in the family, he had in his roster of talent the organist at Radio City Music Hall and the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz.

Mom used to tell us stories of going backstage at Radio City Music Hall as a little girl while accompanying her step-father who visited his clients. "Underneath are incredible rooms, large rooms and a whole city of rooms," she waxed, wide-eyed with the naivite of a little girl.

She was most impressed by the Munchkin-land in Coney Island, Brooklyn. "They had their own town with little houses and furniture scaled down to their size," she said with the fondness of recounting childhood memories. "Every time my father visited, they invited me in a house and gave me milk and cookies." And then she added her coup de resistance. "They even had a farm of midget animals!"

Every year, she glued herself to the tv and watched Wizard of Oz in its entirety. Sometimes we joined her, sometimes not. For us kids knew Mom was going down memory lane of an innocent childhood where there was wonderment and kindness. Something she lost dealing with three kids, three feral dogs and a household of insanity.

Since my mother's death eleven years ago, I only had three dreams where she visited me. The first, she yelled at me for being lost in grief. The second, she asked me whether I had experienced an orgasm. The last, in May, I simply don't recall. I should've diarized that one. It was a jumble. But what's coalescing in my mind is a message to view life in wonder. Or my version of wonder; confusion, puzzlement and in awe of the bizarre nature of things.

To my surprise and joy, I discovered that even at this post-menopausal stage of my life despite my experiences of over five decades, I continue to learn something new every day. My latest lesson has been one of self-actualization: tossed in the snake-pit among new people I encountered over the past several months, I'm not as crazy as I thought I was.

For me, that's a biggie. Ok, yawn away!


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