(original post-date: March 17, 2010)
The first symptom of menopause came early to me.
I was not quite 39 when I started having hot flashes. And while they were tremendously uncomfortable, I gradually learned how to deal with them. It’s about dressing in layers. It’s about getting ahead of the surge.
By my mid-40’s, I was nonplussed by my body’s unique sense of seasons, and I had no qualms about making public adjustments. Onlookers be damned, I’m going to take this jacket off and put it back on as many times as I please.
The next symptom presented itself as what I call “word issues.” While I rarely had challenges at the keyboard, I would find myself frequently stumped in live conversation. I’d be in the middle of a statement, and I’d feel compelled to stop.
“The next word,” I would say to my listener, “is an adjective. It has three syllables, and several R’s…”
A few more years passed and another manifestation of menopause became apparent: insomnia. Now, I must admit that for me, this symptom is a bit hard to detect. Fact of the matter is, I am relentlessly nocturnal. (I have been since I was a kid.) Particularly when I am on a creative jag, my productivity soars when everyone else is sound asleep.
For right-brain activity, I love the nine-to-five shift that begins after most people have had dinner. BUT, if I would rather sleep during the nighttime hours, I deeply resent my inability to do so.
(Moreover, as I watch late-night television, which features countless commercials for sleep aids, I apply that resentment to the ad copy. I don’t know which of the drugs boasts enabling one “to sleep in a non-habit-forming way,” but whenever I hear that line, I absolutely want to scream. I already sleep in a non-habit-forming way!)
Speaking of wanting to scream, this is where it’s become dicey. A couple of years ago, when I was dealing “only” with the hot flashes, the word losses, and the insomnia, I thought I was doing okay with menopause. I figured those symptoms were my cross to bear, and I was glad that no one else was suffering.
But then, SHE returned. The PMS bitch. The woman with absolutely no patience for anything.
I have a favorite anecdote that best describes the PMS bitch. It comes (as so many favorite anecdotes do) from my years as a waitress. Okay, so picture this: I’m working my station at my midtown Manhattan lunch place. It’s the informal, burger-in-a-basket type of restaurant, and the day in question is one of the month’s majority of days – which is to say, I am not in need of an exorcist. I pleasantly approach the party of four who are sitting in one of my booths. I deliver the four burger baskets, and one of the gentlemen looks up to catch my eye.
“Could I have a slice of raw onion?” he asks.
“Absolutely,” I reply, smiling. “I wouldn’t think of enjoying a burger without a raw onion!”
I then skip merrily to the kitchen where I retrieve the succulent garnish, and I deliver it to him quickly and cheerfully.
Okay. Same scenario on one of two days during that same month:
I pissily approach the booth where four obnoxious, irritating people are taking up space in my station. I slam their burgers down in front of them.
One of the jerks looks up at me and asks for a raw onion.
I sneer at him, make an abrupt about-face, and stomp back to the kitchen. En route, I mutter, “Fucking asshole should have asked for the onion when he ordered the burger.”
Notice the difference? (I realize it’s subtle; feel free to read those paragraphs a second time…)
Needless to say, I never liked that hormonal so-and-so who used to possess my body and spirit on a monthly basis for anywhere between 24 and 48 hours. But at least I knew when to expect her, and I knew that she would leave fairly shortly. I also knew that she wasn’t me, and that I could control – to a degree – how much she interacted with others.
That bitch is still not me, but she has become the fourth manifestation of menopause. The problem now is that she has absolutely no schedule. Soy as I might*, I cannot control or anticipate her arrival. She just shows up (most recently, in Rite Aid, when I was trying to find cotton balls).
The good news, I guess, is that she doesn’t seem to stay for very long. For that matter, I sometimes go an entire two months without a visit from the hormonal hellion.
But still… I don’t like her, and I am so over this stuff!
My sister once theorized that all these menopausal issues prove that God is a man. Her reasoning? A woman would not do this to another woman.
I don’t know… it might depend on that woman’s “time of the month.”
But I shouldn’t imply that I’m at odds with my sister’s sense of feminism. In fact, I share it. In fact, I have my own theory around the same general subject area. I believe that if men had periods, tampons would not only be free, they’d be delivered. And by now, the boys in charge undoubtedly would have found a “cure” for menopause.
*Yes, I meant to say “Soy.”