Guest Post: Instant Menopause and the Fighting Nun

A guest post from my friend Frances Wood, who writes that “she entered menopause earlier than most, and with a certain amount of Catholic drama…”

Imagine this…

You are 42 years old, recently diagnosed with a terrible disease, and you wake up one morning to find that all of your female parts are gone. As in Kaput! Over! Finished! Disappeared! You have a tight row of metal staples from navel to crotch that sort of looks like a zipper implanted into your skin. And while everybody around you is thrilled with the success of the surgery, all you can feel is…RAGE. Big time. Rage at anything, everything, everybody, from that first-year resident who woke you up at five a.m. because she has no life of her own, to that edge of a building outside your window that blocks all the sunlight. I mean, you HATE!

And one of the doctors is saying, “Hmm. Is there any chance she can have some HRT?”

That’s something for the whatever-committee to decide. In the meantime,  your anger spirals into the past and hooks onto the ONE PERSON who is the cause of all your misery: Sister Estelle Marie. Oh, yes! A true, wooden-ruler kind of nun who told you God is great and God is good, and oh, boy, do you have a thing or so to say to her!

So when the hospital chaplain stops by and asks, “Would you like to see a member of your faith?”, you say, “Get me a nun!” Because you want to fight! You want to fight with the god of your childhood, and who better represents him than Sister Estelle Marie?

They send you a nun. What you have forgotten – because, let’s face it, you’ve been a lapsed Catholic for decades – is that the religious have gone all new-agey. They don’t wear black habits anymore, or carry rulers, or even let you call them ‘Sister.’ This woman is not only stylish: she wants to be your friend; she wants to comfort you. Which entirely defeats your purpose. If this Karen, or whatever she wants you to call her, won’t let you fight back, then WHAT USE IS SHE?

A few weeks later you are still blaming Karen for having gone all nice – while, at the same time, trying to pull in that rage because you now know, with your slightly saner mind, that you are having an instant menopause, losing-all-your-hormones cold-turkey, sort of moment – when the UPS truck comes up your driveway and leaves a box on your doorstep. Your friend Joanne, a many-decades lapsed Baptist, has sent you exactly what you need. A fighting nun.

The Post’s Author:   Frances M. Wood is actually a very mild-mannered person who writes historical novels. You can meet her at

The Nun:  Frances writes that the Fighting Nun now “sits in my office and has my back.”

When Molly Was a Harvey Girl:  Frances Wood’s most recent novel has won many honors including Bank Street College of Education, Best Children’s Books of the Year 2011 and Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2011.

Booklist:  “The values of education, courage, and simplicity all come together in this delightful tale.”

Kirkus:  “…entertaining characters and a fast-paced plot will keep readers engaged.”


16 thoughts on “Guest Post: Instant Menopause and the Fighting Nun”

  1. I can only imagine your predicament since my own menopause came in dribs and drabs. Yours must have been a lollapalloza!! Thank you for making my own seem so tame and thank you for giving me a smile this morning. We should all have someone sitting near us, watching our back!

  2. Then there’s the Singing Nun, aka Sœur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with the song “Dominique”. I always liked that song. Her life’s story on Wikipedia is fascinating but ends in tragedy. Also the Flying Nun — Sally Field as Sister Bertrille — which I watched “religiously” at 13. Then of course there’s Sister Maria from The Sound of Music which everyone remembers, perhaps as (Sister) Mary Poppins. No rage or RAGE for any of these but no wooden rulers in sight either. Having grown up in a town with a Catholic school I can attest to the abuse many felt under their nun teachers.

    Are there others I’m forgetting?

    1. Cliff, my friend Jamie, who endured Sr. Estelle Marie with me for sixth and seventh grade catechism, says it is Sr. Estelle Marie who endured us. After all, we were junior high school girls with attitude. So, in all fairness, perhaps I have to admit that maybe we gave Sr. EM h-ll…

      1. Yep. We weren’t exactly ‘Almost Angels.’ Do you remember that film? Haley Mills and…Rosalind Russell as the Mother Superior? As much as we Catholics complain about our nuns, we do hold them in great respect. Wait, the film was called The Trouble With Angels. I think Haley ended up becoming a nun.

  3. The symptoms of menopause were much easier to endure than the wrath of some nuns…especially when they considered a sense of humor to be “disobedience”. And yes Sister Alphonsine, I did amount to something. Enjoyed the post! Keep fighting!

    1. I only knew nice nuns from the nursing home where we visited an aunt. She wasn’t Catholic but chose to go there because of the good words she heard about the nuns (and it was true and turned out to be a lovely place). But my friends who went to Catholic school always had fun stories to tell, and as a public school kid, I always kind of wanted to wear a uniform.

      Thanks for a great post, Frances. Regards to Sister Fighting Nun.

  4. this made me laugh! wouldn’t it be loverly if we could tell off all those who plagued us without regard for their feelings, propriety, and whether or not they are still alive? mebbe in heaven…
    my favorite nuns are in rumer godden’s “in this house of brede,” highly recommend it. oh, and frances, you are about as mild mannered as boadicea.
    ps. for more on women of a certain age, see

    1. I love Rumer Godden’s books – at least three are about nuns. And then there’s The Nun’s Story, which is also lovely. Boadicea? Wasn’t she a was a leader of armies back in pagan times? Fought the Romans and all of that? Never converted and not exactly an early saint, but…a friend has suggested that my fighting nun deserves the courtesty of a real name. Sr. Boadicea does have a nice ring to it.

      1. My favorite Rumer Godden is The Fairy Doll. I have my childhood copy. The youngest daughter would get into funks and hide behind the cedar chest. I was moody and loved that Elizabeth was too.

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