Years ago, I had an interim job "writing" for a popular weekly magazine that specialized in celebrity stories and remarkable tales of ordinary folks who did extraordinary things. I put writing in quotes because the magazine had achieved its success by turning all of its copy into something rather like Yoplait — sweet, smooth, processed beyond recall — and achieving that end was not a simple matter.
As a staff writer, I would get a story from a reporter in the field who had actually interviewed the person being profiled. These were not merely notes — these were polished first drafts, with a lede and a kicker and all the stuff you would expect in a magazine story. It was my job to take the reporter's perfectly good story and rewrite it so another editor above me could rewrite it for another editor, so by the time it was published it was a) unrecognizable and b) much like every other story in the magazine in style and tone.
On the night that my stories closed, I had to stay to make sure the top editor for that issue had been given one last chance to rewrite "my" already-rewritten story — there wasn't really any reason for me to be there, but it was protocol and often meant dinner at my desk while waiting for the capo to return from a Knicks game, a Broadway show or a four-martini dinner. The golden age of magazines, some say.
I began to notice that the editor directly above me stayed on those nights, too, often spending the night at one of the company's corporate apartments rather than driving home to Jersey. "You don't have to stick around," I told him one night. "No sense in both of us ruining our evening."
"What's to ruin?" he said. He was a bearded Jewish basketball fan who actually watched soap operas for fun. "My wife is going through menopause and my daughter is entering puberty. So I'm actually just fine staying here."
It took me a few years to understand, but by the time my wife was going through The Change and our daughter was in early adolescence, I recalled his words — and sometimes longed for a corporate apartment. There was a lot of emotion and the occasional door slamming — though generally not on my wife's part. That was where the resemblance to French farce ended. I was aware that both of these enormous life events involved changes in hormone levels, but only one of the two females in the house was thinking about sex — at least, thinking of it with any longing.
I grew accustomed to my wife peeling her clothes off at unexpected times, due to hot flashes. Sometimes we would be out with some of her friends who were also going through menopause and all the women would start taking their clothes off. It reminded me of "Bedazzled" (1967) in which the hapless Dudley Moore, granted seven wishes, was always wishing for different scenarios in which he could be with his love (Eleanor Bron), but Peter Cook's Satan always foiled him: Moore wished that he and Bron would be crazy for each other — but in the devil's version she was married to someone else. Moore wanted them to be pure in their love, and isolated from the world and its temptations — and Satan turned them both into nuns.
I wished for my wife and her friends to strip for me, and …
Anyway, she's on the other side of that now, thank goodness, and our daughter is slowly getting over her adolescence. (A little too slowly for my taste.) Now all the crazy is inside my head.