I’m about to mark my first full year of menopause, and I’m happy to say, I’ve come through relatively unscathed. I don’t know that my family would agree, as I’m sure they feel a little battered and bruised, but I feel pretty okay so far. When we grew up, no one talked about menopause. Our mother told me nothing. She did ask me one day, “Wendy, do you remember that time I was kind of bitchy, in my 40s?”. I didn’t have the courage to say, but should have replied, “Um, that was menopause? I thought that’s how you always were”.
So here’s what I’d tell my children about this important stage of life:
- Hot flushes These are not fun and although I don’t feel like a furnace is burning its way from my inner core to the tips of my fingers, I do suddenly get the feeling of having run a marathon, with all the sweat that accompanies. I feel like my hair goes limp, I get beads of sweat on my upper lip, my arm pits start churning out moisture…there’s not a part of me that doesn’t feel in need of a cool shower. It’s inevitable that it happens when I’m wearing a silk blouse. It almost never happens when I’m wear gym clothes. It all makes sense now, why women our age wear tracksuits all the time. It’s not that we lose our fashion sense, it’s that we’re trying to protect our nicer clothing from rampaging hormones.
- Memory loss This is a big one for me, as I was very worried that I was falling into quick, irreversible dementia, until I realized this happens to a lot of women in menopause. Suddenly, words that used to trip off my….um…damn, what’s the word…oh yeah, TONGUE, get stuck along the way and I have to mime, ask what it’s called or let the sentence dangle in mid-air, hoping the person I’m speaking to picks up the thread and tells me the word I’m searching for. I was writing my phone number down for someone and suddenly couldn’t remember it – I knew if I could get the numbers started in my head, the rest would follow, but I just couldn’t do it. Memory loss doesn’t include my children and cats’ names; I’ve been messing those up for years.
- Good humour failure This one has been written about a lot lately, and I admit to having a good laugh at Donna Highfill’s post the other day about growling (to put it politely) at her husband. One night, I got so angry at the way my husband was eating his dinner, I actually started fantasizing about stabbing him with my fork. It was dreamlike…me sitting there, wondering if I should go for his offending hand, which would hurt and land him in hospital, or his throat, which would hurt a lot and land me in prison. I could almost see the thought bubbles above my head, and hear the appropriate orchestral music, as if I were in the middle of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. I came back to reality, looked at my son’s and husband’s faces and thought, “they have NO idea what I’m thinking, which is good, because if they did, they’d be backing away slowly and throwing away all dangerous kitchen implements”.
- My neck This is something I need to constantly be aware of. Unlike Nora Ephron, I don’t feel bad about my neck, but I’m certainly aware that it’s become a lot more wobbly of late. No matter that I have a youthful-looking face, my neck is giving the game away. For all my life, when I meet people they always make a comment along the lines of “oh, no, you can’t possibly have 3 children, you’re too young!”, or even my personal favourite, “that’s your daughter? I thought you were sisters”. I kid you not. I hear that less and less and I blame my neck for this. And my crow’s feet. And those weird wrinkles that are now showing up on the sides of my cheeks, for no good reason.
So, what can I do about all this? Not much, really. As comfortable as it might be, I refuse to wear Lululemon every day, so I have resigned myself to those sudden shocks of heat, wherever and whenever they occur. I’ve also learned to love the delicate cycle of my washing machine. Who knew silk can be machine-washed?
I’ve accepted that some words are getting misplaced in my vocabulary, but I know they’re out there, they’re just in hiding for the moment. If I ignore them, pretend I don’t notice they’re being difficult, then they’ll come back. I will welcome them with open, drat, what’s that word, the things that connect your hands to your shoulders. Arms. Yeah, that’s it.
My bad mood. That’s a tricky one, because I don’t want to blame menopause for it. You see, sometimes I do get pissed off for all the right reasons. Last thing I want is someone looking at me, head tilted to one side to show they understand (and pity) me, saying “oh, dear, Wendy, looks like Menopause is getting the best of you today, there there, you’ll be fine”. Sometimes, and yes, I’m talking to you, World, you do annoy me and I won’t be held back in showing my disapproval and outrage.
My neck. I suppose I could wear scarves for the rest of my life? Or I could just get on with things and not obsess about my neck. My wrinkles. My newly arrived love handles. My aching back. My gammy knees. My greying hair. My fading eyesight…
Your sister. The short one. Brownish hair? Freckles? You know who I mean.