Garth A. Rattray
The ageing male goes through a transition period that can be very tumultuous for him and for anyone close to him. Changes inside his mind and body sometimes coerce him into making drastic changes to his life and environment.
Women go through menopause because their dominant sex hormone, oestrogen, falls off noticeably and precipitates several unpleasant symptoms, including hot flashes (also called hot flushes), night sweats, vaginal dryness, reduction or loss of sexual desire, moodiness, hair loss and a host of other rather uncomfortable and sometimes potentially serious maladies.
Many people are not aware that, to a greater or lesser extent, men also fall victim to changes caused by ebbing levels of their dominant sex hormone, testosterone, as they age. Some men actually experience hot flashes and night sweats. Other things that happen include reduced power of erections, reduced interest in several things, loss of muscle mass, depressed mood, fatigue and so on.
Evidently, men sometimes panic when they start to become aware of the changes that their bodies are making. So, the word 'Penopause' was coined. Penopause is a contrived condition that a few of us use in jest to explain some of the more severe changes that some men go through. It is worse than midlife crisis.
Females are accustomed to bodily changes. They experience menarche (the beginning of their periods at puberty), the monthly hormonal fluctuations, monthly menses, sometimes pregnancies and, of course, menopause. However, when men begin to feel the slightest stirrings of the beginning of the end of their youthful vigour and all its attendant benefits, warning sirens go off and many take evasive action in a vain effort to elude or outrun approaching indolence and senility.
'go down fighting'
I am not going to vilify, castigate or even criticise the men who end up making major and serious changes to their lives during this very trying period, because different men handle this time differently. Some accept it as an inevitable and natural process. Others go into denial and continue as if nothing is happening. But, some consciously wage all-out war and alter their lives as they vow to "go down fighting" or to have a last hurrah.
Penopause may manifest as innocuous changes like becoming more outgoing, acquiring a vehicle or a hobby to provide a thrill, or changing a profession to repel boredom. But many undertake major changes to their lives at a very intimate level.
Intimacy problems are compounded by existing home situations. The older a man becomes, the more he needs feminine intervention to stave off creeping and insidious sexual decline. Unfortunately, his partner/spouse/wife is not usually aware of his increasing need for affectionate tactile and emotional support. Younger men are easily (sexually) aroused by just about anything. But after many years of sexual activity and because of declining physical conditioning and testosterone levels, older men need overt displays of interest and direct stimulation for sexual arousal. Consequently, some end up seeking the sexual excitement that they crave (sometimes to resurrect youthful vitality) from a novel (new/different) female.
The novel female is usually quite a bit younger (to resuscitate youthful feelings). And/or she has a profound (economic, physical or emotional) need that facilitates the penopausal male's impulse to be her personal alpha male. Resurrected and revitalised by the effects of the novel female's attention to his sexual and emotional needs, the penopausal male is sometimes swept away helplessly by the raging emotional changes surging within him. Some abandon their former lives and undertake a quest to explore themselves anew.
The potential effects of such actions can be severely disruptive and heart-rending. Levelheadedness, knowledge, introspection and understanding on both sides can mitigate the harmful sequelae of penopause.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com