Sunday, October 01, 2006

Oh Those 'Mones

Ramblings from my attic #106

I read a second review of Louann Brizendine’s The Female Brain (see last Sunday’s Post Style section) and would love to say to the men in our lives, “Ah Ha! That explains it!” “It” being the inevitable chasm in communication between even the most loving of couples, as in “Honey, you just don’t get it!”

Brizendine’s book posits that we all begin in the womb with a female brain, then testosterone washes through the male brain, killing some of his empathetic cells while boosting and growing his aggressive and sex drive cells. Well, duh! My apologies to my male audience of three: Andrew, Doc & Dave (coincidence that their initials together are A.D.D.? I think not!) I admit I do squirm when her theories also lay out nakedly hormonal explanations for female inclinations and behavior.

Except for one. Apparently, the estrogen retreat of menopause gives back feelings of independence that it stole during decades of soaking the female brain and inducing tendencies to nurture. According to Brizendine in David Brook’s review, “Women initiate 65 percent of divorces after age 50.” A friends’ friend may be on to something when she labeled that decade in a woman’s life the “f____ you fifties!”.

I’ve gone full circle. Though I’m a little disappointed to discover that my mid-life contentment and strength may not be the work of exercise, experience and wisdom, but instead a result of estrogen’s ebb; in my late teens and twenties I rebelled against every characteristic attributed to women’s hormonal fluxes. They were labels of weakness, insults. Don’t mind her…she’s on the rag. What’s the matter with you…is it your time of the month? Women were considered unpredictable, emotional and unreliable (due to pregnancies and child-care issues).

We have a show up in the gallery this month and next (see Washington Post Saturday, Sept. 30th, Style Section, Page 2, Gallery) that features work by Inga Frick, a Washington D.C. artist, photographer and educator who is as intriguing as her art. Intense and exacting with an artist’s acute sensibilities, her tall angular frame is crowned by soft, short salt-and-pepper curls. Her works range from large to giant and incorporate digital photography, painting and collage (collage as you may have never seen it before). Before reading about Brizendine’s theories, I looked at these dark, complex pieces as disquieting reminders of life’s ever changing demands on the soul. Now I see evolving washes of testosterone and estrogen, my viewing colored by my musings on Brizendine’s theories. I think Inga’s work captures life’s unpredictability on canvas in confusing layers as women are similarly entangled in the conflicting layers of biological heritage, ambition, family and societal demands.