The combination of hot flashes and cold feet is something most women will deal with in their lifetime. A parody of opposites, it is nonetheless almost a given for any woman going through pre-, mid- and post-menopause. I never thought I would be the one to throw covers to the wind and beg for a soft breeze to cross my heated body in the middle of winter. I never thought that tales of hot flashes would relate to me. I was always the one who sat curled in the corner of the sofa under a pile of blankets. The one who wore granny gowns to bed every night. And now my husband sleeps under three blankets and a comforter while I’m in a summer nightie with the windows wide open.
I have never been the most energetic of beings. Exercise programs consisted mostly of walking to the mailbox and back, or, on occasion, up and down the stairs to either bathrooms or bedrooms. But I have managed to keep in decent shape through the years. My mental state has always been fairly stable, too — no nervous breakdowns, no paranoia. My kids have turned out fairly normal, my dogs are well behaved (except when they get into the garbage), and my sex life was at least existent.
But now I cry at baby formula commercials and feel terrible when I see a flower crushed on a city sidewalk. I want the windows open all four seasons, and I’ve started cutting romantic love songs out of my musical play list. I guess that means I’m standing on the fence of menopause. No – let’s tell the truth. I’m waist deep in it. I’ve heard horror stories about women going through “the change”. They metamorphosed into ogres, witches and over-the-top “B” words. They never liked anything; they were crabby, vile creatures that turned the world upside down with their declining supply of estrogen. Is that going to me??
I’ve talked to many a woman who danced through this time of their lives, and I am happy to say there were few — if any — evil transformations of the sort. But that didn’t ease my anxiety much. I get hot flashes first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Suddenly I can’t wear my wedding ring because my hands are swollen and anything without an elastic waist is too tight. I can’t fall asleep at night, and when I do, it never lasts for more than an hour or two at a time. Spicy food has become inedible and certain rock and roll jams are intolerable. Could this be the same woman that blew out the speakers with Free Bird?
I am bummed that this phenomenon has hit me full force. I cannot wear any of my heavy-duty sweaters or eat spicy foods. My back aches and my hair feels like a cheap wig from Woolworths. I alternate between dry skin and oily pores. Headaches are a dime a dozen, only one of many body parts that ache and moan and whine away the hours. Is this the payback for a healthy libido? Is this what I get for surviving my youth?
Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy being a girl. I love playing dress up and going shopping and watching old black and white movies. I love to bake pineapple upside down cake and getting a manicure and painting the bathroom pink. But I don’t know how much longer I can sleep on top of the covers or drive with the windows open in December. I don’t know how much longer I can deal with anxiety attacks over the dishes in the sink or cry over dog food commercials or go without listening to It’s a Wonderful World by the Great Louie. My emotions are dancing on pins and needles, as well as my food cravings. (What do you want for dinner? Chinese — no, hot dogs — no, oatmeal — no, bananas!)
I never thought I’d be such a mess. And I never thought I would look forward to being on the other side of the virgin/mother/crone fence. While I admit I am not taking this aging thing gracefully, it will be a welcome day when my rings fit again and I can wear hoodies without fear of passing out from overheating. While I enjoy the idealistic renditions of middle age, I find it hard to reconnoiter them with reality. Since I cannot take a break or vacation every time my biological clock skips a beat, I will have to be content with sitting in front of a fan and keeping a stash of fudge in the back of the frig. This, too, shall pass, as the scholars say.
I just hope it doesn’t take too long. I really miss my hoodies ― and I’m running out of fudge.