In Flash Count Diary, Darcey Steinke presents her perspective on various aspects of menopause. It’s one woman’s experience, and thus, a memoir. And yet, it’s so much more. There’s science, social commentary, and some thoughts on medical methods. But if you’re looking for a “how-to make menopause easy book,” this isn’t directly it. Still, I came away feeling empowered.
As the subtitle says, the book is really about “Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life.” Vindication, meaning justification against censure. Steinke refuses to accept the prevalent, negative patriarchal perspective of menopause. I couldn’t agree more. Menopause is a natural part of life, despite the denigrating attitudes of men in adjacent fields. And, let’s face it, in our bedrooms.
Steinke bares her soul, honestly recounting thoughts, emotions, and Google searches from her sleepless nights. She searches for details on how other mammal species manage post-menopausal life. Her extensive exploration of the matriarchal aspects of killer whales is fascinating and poignant.
My favorite chapters
In contrast, she rails against the “anti-aging” treatments presented by the male medical establishment. Fundamentally, she realizes, these treatments are for the comfort and benefit of men. They are not designed to make life better for the women whose bodies they seek to “improve.” So be prepared for discussions of hormones, vaginal atrophy, and post-menopausal sex. Steinke allows her raw feelings about her own body to show. By extension, she gives readers the chance to examine their own changing body image.
I especially liked the frank discussion of changes in how Steinke, and post-menopausal women in general, express their femininity. She compares this time period to that liminal space before and just after puberty, when a young woman must find her new self. So, a post-menopausal woman has a similar opportunity. In one time period, a girl becomes fully a part of her gender. And in the second, women experience an un-gendering. In her effort to understand, Steinke compares and contrasts this experience with the transgender process of transitioning from female to male.
Flash Count Diary is less about the author’s own hot flashes, and more about society’s attitude towards menopause. She examines the aging woman in art, literature, and culture through the ages.
When I search online for books about menopause, I find advice and medical information from folks like Ann Louise Gittleman and Christiane Northrop, MD. And these books have a place, both in general and on my own bookshelf. But there are few memoirs about individual experiences with menopause. By few, I mean I found two. Even though 50-51% of the world’s population is female.
With that in mind, Flash Count Diary inhabits a unique space on the bookshelf. But Darcey Steinke isn’t writing about an uncommon experience. She’s writing about one that every single woman goes through, should she be blessed to live four or five decades. If you are a woman so blessed, I encourage you to give this book a shot. You may not be entranced with killer whales, but you will have experienced plenty that the author writes about.
I loved this book. There are moments where Steinke reaches into my heart of hearts and says, “I’m with you.” Others, not so much. As a woman who’s had a relatively easy time of “the change,” I could nonetheless relate to most or all of the author’s more challenging experiences.
Amazingly, as I read this book, a Kindle book struck my fancy. I plan to read it soon, since it concerns a woman who finds that her childhood magical skills return after she reaches menopause. Sounds like a perfect pair to this book!
I received this book in a giveaway on Goodreads, with no requirement of a review. All opinions here are my honest impressions of the book. Thanks to the author and publisher for the opportunity!