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Midlife women feel like screaming

And I know why

Rachel, unable to stop screaming, in Fleishman Is In Trouble

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There’s a scene in Fleishman Is In Trouble (all episodes now on Disney+ in the UK), where Rachel (played by Claire Danes), too tense for massage, aromatherapy, a facial or anything remotely touchy feely, is persuaded to try scream therapy. To begin with she's blocked. She quite literally has no voice, the one she once had having been silenced over years of keeping it in. So much so she can barely let out a squeak. But once the scream breaks forth and she starts, she can’t stop. She screams out her exhaustion and her frustration. She screams for her fortysomething self, exhausted from endless 18-hour days spent trying to bail the Atlantic with a sieve. She screams for her younger self, who lost the capacity for joy in the face of an endless battle to fit in. She screams and screams and screams: at society for selling her a pup, at her complacent (ex) husband who’s waltzed through life protected by his cloak of privilege, without ever having to try, at herself for buying into the whole ridiculous sham. And above all, she screams because she is all out of spoons. She is a battery on 8% (why is it always 8%?),  a tank on empty. She, like so many other women around her age, is done.

When Fleishman first came out in the States three months ago, New York Magazine ran a piece called The ‘Fleishman Is in Trouble’ Effect (Opens in a new window) about all the “New York moms” who were over identifying with Rachel and the narrator Libby (effectively two sides of the over-achieving, running-up-the-down-escalator coin). The piece went viral, in large part because the internet loves to call out the sound of tiny violins. And let’s face it, in this case, you could argue, “the internet” has a point. Having to kill yourself working to afford to pay for exorbitant school fees, two nannies and the right sort of second home in the right Hamptons zip code are the most first world of first world problems. (Or the most Manhattan of Manhattan problems, since Manhattan is as first world as it gets.)

However, I couldn’t get that screaming scene out of my head. When I watched it, I'm not kidding, my head went fuzzy. When I turned the TV off and went to bed I couldn't shake the sensation that something had been lost. Because let’s face it who doesn’t want to scream the place down? 

There was a time, not so long ago, in my late 40s, when if I had started screaming I don’t know how I would have stopped. I don't know if I could  have stopped. Out of exhaustion at doing, doing, doing all the time and trying to be all the things to all the people (a feeling I’m sure is exacerbated by being yelled at on the internet every time you do something it perceives as wrong, which is a particular hazard if you make your living producing content of any kind). Out of frustration at decades of mansplaining and manspreading and manterrupting and continually smashing my head on the glass/class ceiling and endless micro-aggressions and and and... Out of trying and trying and ultimately failing to have a face that fits, to feel like you belong. And out of decades of keeping that all pent up inside. (And I'm a cis white woman, so, you know, God knows how much worse it feels if you're not.)

To quote the goddess Carrie Fisher, "resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die". Anger is not quite resentment, of course. But  it seems to me that sitting on decades of unexpressed anger has a similar effect. It’s just hanging there, stewing, waiting to be let out. And, when it isn’t, it curdles, rotting our insides.

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