I watched the CEO strip off her jacket in the middle of a meeting like it was on fire. I was the external consultant, and I knew from the shade of red which her face had turned that she was in the midst of a hot flash.
Of course, everybody else at the table knew it as well.
I’m not sure why women’s physical issues have to manifest themselves visibly, but they do. From the first period when things leak to the development of breasts to pregnancy to the sweating that accompanies the shutdown of the reproductive system, every phase is out there for the world to see and judge.
It’s hard to empathize with a stage in life until you’ve experienced it, which is why menopause requires a village of women who are experiencing the same thing. Otherwise, menopause becomes just another joke.
My brother, sister and I used to think mom’s hot flashes were just hysterical. She had a fan in every room in the house. We tried hiding them once, but that didn’t work out well for anybody. We learned, quickly, that hot flashes were a little more serious than we thought.
But we didn’t get it. Most spouses don’t get it either.
If you’re hanging out with your husband, he probably won’t understand when you kick the trashcan and scream because you peeled the last cucumber for your salad and then proceeded, inexplicably, to throw it in the trashcan.
And, odds are, your pets won’t get it either. [quote button_text=”Tweet the Quote”]Recently, I confused my dog’s Beggin’ Strips with my breakfast, handing him my bacon while taking a bite of his strip.[/quote]
That was not a good experience for me, although the dog was thrilled and is no longer fooled by Beggin’ Strips.
Menopause brings all sorts of beautiful side-effects that are not easily resolved. For example, when you discuss the alarming expansion of your waist, those not going through menopause recommend diets and exercise. You try both, and nothing seems to stop the growth that matches the issue men have with their ears.
Just this morning I was laughing with my husband when I tried to button my pants. After days of dieting, of going to bed hungry and waking up hungry, I still couldn’t get the button and the hole to meet. My laughter quickly turned from a good time to something much more sinister.
“What the hell is wrong with my body?” I screamed. “I don’t care if it’s menopause, there are skinny menopausal women out there – I’ve seen them on television. Why am I turning into an apple?”
My husband tried to add a little humor to the already combustible situation. “Well, if it helps, I think you’re a Red Delicious apple,” he said with a smile.
“Is that a joke? Or some form of porn? What the hell do you mean by that? I can’t get these pants buttoned, and they’re my fat pants. This is pure bullshit.”
Finally, the button found the hole, and even though the rest of me formed a ridiculous muffin top I was happy. My mood turned, and I walked into the kitchen laughing again. My husband smiled the way that you might smile at your neighbor’s moody Rottweiler who has wandered into your yard.
While those not experiencing menopause are still important members of our village, we have to accept the fact that they don’t understand our situation. I remember being very judgmental of my menopausal mother when she suddenly decided to stop attending church. That was certainly her option, but since she was the minister’s wife it was a little awkward.
To try to maintain a semblance of sanity, women going through menopause should invite others like themselves into their village. But not the ones who seem to be really peppy about the whole experience. They are the same women who made you feel horrible when you complained about having small children.
They declare that menopause is the “ride of their lives.” I appreciate the positive attitude, but would like to question what other rides they have actually been on.
This is why I value my village — those of us who allow the cursing, understand the sweating, and find thick waists incredibly attractive. We listen to each other, and we nod knowingly. We are like Dorothy with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. We know that this journey would be so lonely without each other.
So, we link arms and skip down the yellow brick road. And, sometimes, we turn into the Wicked Witch of the West, but that’s okay. Because, ultimately and together, we will find out new things about our strength. We will tap our collective ruby slippers and find our way home.