Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hot Flashes

     When I was in middle school and heard my mother and her friends discussing hot flashes, I thought it was something scandalous. The word "hot flash" implied many things to me when I was young. A flash of great heat caused by what? Sex? Anger? Fever from the flu? In my hormonal thirteen-year-old mind, I was convinced that it meant flashes of heated sex. Is it any wonder that I cringed whenever I heard these older women discussing their hot flashes?                                                                                                       
     By the time I was in my early twenties, I had a vague idea of what hot flashes were, but I believed that it was only a problem that concerned women who were older than dinosaurs. These were the same women who clustered under ceiling fans at parties and who swiped all the dinner napkins off the table to mop their sweaty brows. Surely this would NEVER happen to me.
     Fast foward thirty years when my electric bills started soaring through the roof. The kids complained so much about the sub-zero temperature of the house that they finally had to don heavy wool sweaters to keep their teeth from chattering at the dinner table.
     "What do you mean it's cold in the house?" I asked while fanning my face with two hands. "It feels like the damn Sahara Desert in here!" I was certain that the earth had moved closer to the sun, or that it had everything to do with global warming and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I turned fifty.
     I remember my very first hot flash. I was clearing off the dishes from dinner when I felt a hot, prickly sensation creep up the base of my neck. The heat spread down my arms and legs and left my hands feeling clammy. I ran over to the nearest air conditioning vent and waved my hand over it. "Honey, come quick!" I shouted. "Somebody broke the air conditioner!" My husband assured me the house was quite cool. Impossible! I checked the thermostat, even tapped on the glass a few times in disbelief. Seventy-five degrees? It had to be incorrect. It felt more like ninety-five.
     And just like that, the hot sensations left my body and once again I felt cool, calm and collected. Except that there were beads of perspiration across my forehead and upper lip. What the hell? I figured it had to be some kind of weird body malfunction and went about my business.
     For several months I experienced unpredictable bursts of heat that sometimes occurred during inappropriate times, but I was in denial, convinced that the whole world had gone mad when it came to indoor cooling systems. I refused to become one of those women who carry a large roll of paper towels stuffed into a purse the size of a suitcase.
     The nights were even worse, and sleep was nearly impossible. Sheets on, sheets off. Freezing one moment, soaking the sheets the next. Even my dreams became weird. Instead of dreaming about hot guys, I was dreaming about hot fudge sundaes.
     At a recent party, I realized I could no longer ignore the signs that I was indeed experiencing menopausal hot flashes. Just like all those dinosaurs in my mother's living room so very long ago.
     After two (or was it three?) glasses of Pinot Grigio, I began to perspire as though someone had turned the sun up a notch, all those bright rays searing through my skin. I tried discreetly to manuever my sweaty body under the wobbly ceiling fan but somebody beat me to it...a woman swiping her brow with a thick layer of paper towels. I recognized the tell-tale signs of a female in the throes of a hot flash---flushed cheeks, limp shirt sticking to her skin, moisture trickling down her temples, eyeliner melting down eyelids, causing the classic "startled raccoon" look, and the rapid waving of a paper plate in front of her face.
     I had met a kindred spirit.
     The woman informed me that wine increased the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, which explained why she wasn't drinking anything stronger than a tumbler of ice water at a raucous party. Right then I should have set my wine glass down, marched into the kitchen and wedged my head into the freezer until the hot flash disappeared. That would have been the smart thing to do, but I wasn't feeling very smart. Instead, I rummaged around the kitchen cabinets until I found a fishbowl-sized glass and emptied half a bottle of wine into it. At least I compensated by loading the rest of the goblet with ice. Raising my glass, I toasted my new friends hot flash, hot temper and hot fudge sundae. Cheers to middle-aged mamas!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First menopausal moment

     The dictionary defines menopause as "The period of cessation of menstruation, occurring usually between the ages of 45 and 50. Also called "change of life."
     The problem with this definition is that it doesn't define the meaning of "change of life." No one tells you how long menopause lasts---doctors politely tell you that if you're experiencing some of the symptoms, you are merely pre-menopausal. Nor do they tell you how long this period of hell can last.
     My so-called symptoms started a week after my 40th birthday when I woke five pounds heavier. No, I did not binge on Krispy Kreme donuts or Papa John's pizza. I ate normally and excercised regularly, but over the years the weight kept piling on.
     There were other little signs of a mid-life invasion: waking more frequently at night to pee, body aches, irregular periods, constipation, fatigue and general crabbiness (just ask my family).
     Rather than calling it a "change of life" (this sounds like a gentle transition from one happy place to another, which it is NOT ), the experts should call it the SUCKY PHASE of your life that you just have to tough out until you're too old to notice or care.
     Who came up with the name menopause in the first place? Men? They have nothing to do with this---except maybe the part about dealing with their wife's rapid hormone changes. Sort of like living with a Jekyl and Hyde spouse.  Men-o-pause is not a happy word like barrel-o-beer or bucket-o-shrimp. Men do not "pause" for anything. This awful phase in life should be called "womenopause", because every woman deserves a big pause from life  when they are going through these symptoms. If younger women can get away with irratic behavior due to PMSing, then we older women deserve a break for sudden, verbal outbursts and tears, high electric bills (is it warm in here or is the earth suddenly closer to the sun?) and a monthly budget blown on diet aids and gym memberships.
     What about increased dental bills? The doctors didn't warn me about that when they told me I was premenopausal. The surfaces of my teeth began eroding in my early forties. Don't get me wrong---I have nice teeth (thanks mom and dad for all that dental work in the 1970's) and am religious about their upkeep. But sometime in my forties, things in my mouth started going South. Next thing I knew, I needed crowns, gum work, a few root canals and God forbid, a mouth guard. Now there's something for my husband to see every night. Nothing like going to bed with a linebacker. I always thought I was the lone wolf sporting a clear appliance across my teeth after the sun went down. But lo and behold, there are others out there who share my pain. Middle-aged women going through menopause and the stress of everyday life. We suppress the hormones raging inside us by clamping our jaws tight, thus causing teeth to crack. We even grind our teeth in our sleep, which wears down the enamel. Dentist see it in middle-aged women all of the time, which explains why there are so many female linebackers crawling into bed each night next to befuddled husbands.
     This is our way of life. Welcome to menopause!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...