The following is a public service announcement: Don’t. Touch. Me.
I am having a hot flash.
Get away. Really.
It all began with a hormonal teaser called “perimenopause,” which progressed during several months until my body decided to completely freak out, like a grounded adolescent on a Friday night. My cycles got weird and I developed symptoms like mood swings and hot flashes – dear Lord, I had hot flashes – to which my sweet gynecologist just nodded her head and smiled. Easy for her to be all loving and understanding. I mean, I didn’t note any big sweat beads pouring down her young face.
Then, on the day I finally placed the newest, most effective kind of tampons, pads, personal wipes and tiny foiled chocolates neatly and decoratively in my bathroom, glove compartment, pocketbook, and a secret hiding place at the local coffee shop, my periods stopped.
For me, menopause started with my mother. That’s right. I looked to her for all things womanly. Maybe I should have been more cautious. After all, Mom’s entire sex education to me was three words: “Don’t do it.” It was years and a beautiful baby daughter later before I realized she wasn’t referring to plucking facial hair.
This is what she told me about menopause:
“It was nothing. A few hot flashes. Once I realized what they were, they felt wonderful.”
Please read that again. Then tell me why I should believe anything that seemingly nice woman ever told me.
So, like the whole sex-ed thing, I started my own research.
What I read made menopause sound like something of a holiday.
“It’s freeing. Relax! Enjoy this new phase of womanhood and sexuality, with no worry of pregnancy.” That’s supposed to be comforting? My maternal instinct is stronger than ever. Some day I’m going to get hauled in to a police station for baby-gawking at the mall.
I’m bathing in a pool of my own sweat, even in winter, frozen drops of sweat beneath my clothing, and I’m supposed to feel sexy and happy that I can no longer do what has most fulfilled me as a woman? (I mean giving birth and raising children, not the frozen drops thing.)
“It’s a time to explore new hobbies and interests, salsa dancing, vegetarian cooking, a journaling workshop…”
Look, I’m not a shy 13-year-old entering a new high school. Learn the complexities of a new hobby? I’m just trying to figure out where I put my phone. Oh. It’s in my hand. (“… could be some memory loss …”)
“Your appetite will decrease. You will need fewer calories … blah blah blah … healthy diet …” Shut up and GIMME CAKE. NOW.
My wonderful husband Ted doesn’t seem to get it.
“I’m so hot,” I say to him.
He winks at me.
“Not that way!” I scream.
“Oh, Sweetie,” he says lovingly, and he reaches out to rub my back.
Me: “Get. Off.”
“Oh. Hmmm. OK. Hey, can you close the window, please?” he asks.
Later, in the car, I open the windows and turn on the AC all at once. A minute later, I am roasting.
Me: “DID I TELL YOU TO CLOSE THE WINDOWS??? THE AC IS NOT HIGH ENOUGH YET. I’M HOT!”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that menopause starts with “men,” do you?
Did I mention I’m hot? Holy crap I’m hot.
The plastic bag in my car that used to hold a nice, warm sweater now holds an entire change of clothing, blow dryer, cornstarch and a towel.
Hot? I haven’t cooked a meal past 10 a.m. since March of 2013.
I change my underwear and shirt more times a day than I changed my breastfed infants.
At any given moment, I’m in my own personal sauna, fully dressed. And that, Mom, feels wonderful?
“You’ll get dry,” whispered one of my women friends, and I won’t tell you exactly where she pointed but let’s just say it wasn’t at my stunning, flushed face. Let me get this straight. Dry “down there,” but soaking wet everywhere else. Nice touch, Mother Nature.
And “… some memory loss …”? You know what I have no trouble remembering? The days of dry clothing.
If Mom were here today, I’d tell her what I learned about both menopause and sex ed: It’s no big deal.
As long as no one touches you.