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Menopause and T. S. Eliot Jan Shoemaker I first mistook menopause for my disappointment with T. S. EUot. I had expected to come through taU grass to sudden transfiguring views, as he surely did, whüe I was reading his biography (taU grass being the obstacles and screens that Ufe threw up to perplex us both). I believed that the man who had written, "And the end of aU our exploring / WiU be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time" (EUot, 59) might know a thing or two, ultimately, about human destiny, about God. He did not, I learned—no more than the rest of us, anyway. In the end he settled into the Roman CathoUc Church, because its hard and fast rules—backed up by an infaUible pope, to boot—ran to his taste. By the time I'd figured that out I was so fed up with his rough, infrequent sex, and his genteel malaise, and his loyalist sympathies that I dismissed him as a whiner and a snob and a pervert and cried next to my bed for two days. My husband found this reaction to Uterature . . . unusual. During those two days—those two days that I spent crying over T. S. EUot—it was raining and raining in the Philippines, and on the third day a five-story pile ofsodden garbage feU onto a smaU "viUage" ofhuts at its base caUed "The Promised Land."That dump outside Manila buried hundreds of people. I read about this avalanche in the paper on the third morning, when I'd stopped crying about T S. EUot long enough to butter my toast, and the amplitude of my howUng rose to a new pitch. It wasn't bad enough that poets could not interpret the world, that they gave up the struggle for meaning and joined the common camp; the world was uninterpretable. People Uved in garbage and they died in it, too. I felt I could barely breathe for the weight on my chest but I managed to weep through the night. I got up once to change my nightgown—I was soaked through with sweat. 50 Jan Shoemaker51 On the fourth day I did two wise things. First, I went to the doctor. It had begun to occur to me in rare lucid moments that crying over the faithand -sex Ufe ofa dead poet I had not known personaUy might be considered as faUing outside the parameters ofnormal emotional experience. And while there is not one damn thing that is excusable about a world in which people die under tons of garbage, I did not recaU actuaUy breaking down over Chernobyl. Even with clouds ofradiation wafting over Eastern Europe like deadly poUen, I had managed to get into my car and drive to work every morning. I could stfll comb my hair and read to my kids. This was different . So, though I sat there sobbing on the examining table, waiting for my bright young doctor to come in, a word that carried a bit of hope had slipped into my thoughts then crossed its legs Uke the Buddha and hunkered down inside my brain—estrogen. I was forty-five, after aU. Estrogen. My doctor is young but not too young—she is thirty-ish and married to a welder, which I Uke, because it makes her seem more working-class, like me. She watched me cry with her gentle eyes and listened as I explained about T. S. Eliot and the garbage. "He didn't even touch his wife on their honeymoon!" I sobbed. "And then it rained on the garbage . . ." She let me run on, then consoled me in her soft, matter-of-fact voice. "Your symptoms," she said, "are classic. We can fix this." She asked me a few questions and made notes on my chart. No, I didn't smoke, absolutely did not smoke. Drank a Uttle, not too often. EventuaUy I left her office with an ounce of hope and a prescription for estrogen, which I had fflled at a pharmacy in the same building before I got into my car. Then I went to see my...


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