Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Estrogen does a remarkable variety of things, some of it related to the continuation of the species, and some of it out of pure obstrepery. It sets about to provision you, as a girl, with everything it thinks you need to become an adult woman, according to the evolution handbook, whether or not this is the manual you want to use. It is responsible for an increase in body fat, hair, uterine growth, and laundry. And it throws in some features you might not have anticipated.
There is a form of it that hangs around a little, called "estrone," but it doesn't get into as much mischief. Estrone is pretty specialized. All it really does is change the woman's brain chemistry so that she doesn't get all bent out of shape if she pees a little when she sneezes.
In fact the female brain goes through many changes after menopause, affecting the very thought process. The younger, estrogen-saturated female brain excels at taking different facts, experiences, and memories and building the connections among them such that coherent thought is possible. The post-menopausal brain, on the other hand, excels at what the researchers delicately refer to (because they are not sure whether to bark or roll over) as "global" thinking. The operative root here is "glob." The brain now has transitioned from a nimble, sparking deduction machine to an amorphous vessel of goo that is liable to resolve any problem with "or, I could make a sandwich."
In the well-adapted post-estrogen brain, the pathways to humiliation are subtly erased, allowing the aging woman to relinquish fashion, start three different sentences without finishing any of them, and smell a little like pee without suffering from mortification.
And if she lives alone, there are fewer witnesses.