Ahab’s Men-o-Pause

Moby-Dick is a pretty darn masculine book. Written by a man, narrated by a man, featuring a man and his men who have gone fishin’ for an enormous sperm whale. The only women so far mentioned are Bildad’s sister, Charity, who packs the sailor’s lunches (“she would come on board with a jar of pickles”) and Mrs. Hosea Hussey, she of the Try Pots Inn who serves Ishmael and Queequeg chowder for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (“Clam or cod?”)

So it’s raining men, men, men all over the pages of Melville’s novel. But one character, indeed Captain Ahab himself, has distinctly female attributes. He seems just like a woman, especially a postmenopausal one. The Classics Slacker knows of what she speaks—if you get my drift.

First, let’s take a look at his face—something most women of a certain age do with increasing alarm. His is besieged with wrinkles. It becomes obvious that Ahab knows nothing about flattering lighting. He works under a heavy pewter lamp suspended by a chain over his head. “[It] for ever threw shifting gleams and shadows of lines upon his wrinkled brow, till it almost seemed that while he himself was marking out lines and courses on the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was also tracing lines and courses upon the deeply marked chart of his forehead.”

Ahab, the Classics Slacker has one word for you: Botox. Not only will it fill out your wrinkles, it is purported to alleviate migraine headaches, which you—and 27 million U.S. women—suffer from. Ahab’s symptoms include “blazing brain,” “insufferable anguish,” “clashing phrensies,” and a “mad mind.” Some migraines are relieved when the patient is exposed to fresh air, which in Ahab’s world is plentiful, thank goodness.

The wizened captain is also subject to bouts of insomnia, hot flashes, and night sweats. He goes to bed “long after midnight,” missing critical beauty sleep. And when at last he hits the pillow, he doesn’t exactly drift off into a restorative slumber. He’s up and down all night. Plagued by “exhausting and intolerably vivid dreams,” his body overheating with “flames and lightnings,” Ahab is forced from his hammock and bursts from his state room, “as though escaping from a bed that was on fire.” When he does manage to sleep, it is with “clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.” (And not a manicurist in sight.)

More evidence of Ahab’s latent womanliness: He’s as angry as rejected mistress stuck with a bad perm—like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. He had a nice pair of gams before Moby Dick spirited one away. Now he can’t find a decent pair of jeans that fit. He’s out for revenge and will not stop until he gets it. He has studied MD’s regular routes and knows the big guy’s usual haunts as well—“his casual stopping-places and ocean-inns”—where he likes to kick back with an India Whale Ale.

Ahab will track him down, and when he does, well, the Classics Slacker suspects it will end badly for them both. You never know what might happen when a man goes through menopause.