From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

I’m Melting!

“What are you doing in the freezer, Mama?”

“Cooling off.”

Lisa laughed. “You look ridiculous!”

I pulled my head out of the freezer for a moment to study my daughter.

“Who cares? At least I’m not disintegrating. You want to know what’s ridiculous? I’ll tell you. It’s the dream I had last night. I was never more grateful to wake up in my life.”

Lisa plopped down on the kitchen chair, with Bronwyn on her lap. Bronwyn is my two-year-old granddaughter. “So tell me.”

“I was in a store, and the annual Christmas bash was only one hour away, when, all of a sudden, I felt a hot flash coming on!”

“Oh, no.” Lisa was well informed on the woes of my menopause. She giggled.

“Oh, yes. Do you know what it feels like to have your body temperature rise a hundred degrees per second?”

“No. But I’m sure I’ll find out someday.”

“You can bank on that.”

“So what did you do?” she asked, egging me on.

“At first, zilch,” I replied. “My carefully applied makeup melted, and I had nothing left but raccoon eyes and a shiny face that looked like it was dipped in a vat of Crisco. And not only that, it felt like my scalp was burning and my hair had caught fire. Thankfully, a pool of sweat put the fire out. I panicked because I knew I wouldn’t have time to reapply my makeup and go to the hairdresser for a fresh shampoo and blowout, let alone run to the boutique to buy a new silk suit before the party. You know how fragile silk is. So I did the only thing I could think of. I began to peel off my clothes.”

“Good grief, Mama, you did what?”

“I began to peel off my clothes.” Now I was the one who was laughing, along with Bronwyn. She loved my dramatics, a by-product of my spending so much time on the stage. “You should have seen the looks on the faces around me.”

“I can imagine,” Lisa said, totally scandalized.

“But it wasn’t so much that I stripped myself naked that embarrassed me,” I added, watching her horrified face turning interesting shades of red, “but rather the fact that I hadn’t kept up my figure. There really was no excuse.”

Lisa put her hands over Bronwyn’s ears. Bronwyn smiled at me. She was a little nudist.

“The point,” I said with all the unpredictable practicality of menopause, “is that I soon forgot my embarrassment in the blessed relief that I got from the store’s air conditioning system. I could have stayed in that store all day. I seriously thought of not going to the party so I could do just that.”

Lisa looked like she wanted to put her hands over her ears. But she couldn’t. They were still on Bronwyn’s. Bronwyn continued to smile at me. The darling, she was very comfortable in her skin, and if I didn’t love her so much, I would’ve envied her.

“I cannot believe you did such a thing!” Lisa cried, appalled.

“Oh, for goodness sake, honey,” I said, “It was just a dream.” I shut the freezer door. I felt much better. But my hair felt crispy. “I need to buy more ice cream.”

“It’s at my house. You said you were on a diet and the best place to leave it was in my freezer.”

The other thing that bothered me about mental pause, er . . . menopause . . . were my frequent memory lapses. “But Lisa, honey,” I defended myself, “your house is thousands of miles away. Are you telling me I have to get on a plane in order to get some ice cream?”

“Well, you are watching your figure,” she said reasonably. “You want to be skinny.”

As if that’s ever going to happen again in my lifetime, I thought. Oh, the sweet change of life—I wanted to rip its head off! Still, old dreams die hard. I still had my favorite skinny pants on a shelf where I could walk by them every day and salivate over them. I refused to give them up; I still fantasized I would wear them again someday, even if they were horribly out-of-date. Of course, Lisa wouldn’t go anywhere I went when I wore them. But I was confident Bronwyn would. They would be back in style by then—for a teenager. Maybe we could go to the gym together.

Lisa looked at the travel brochures I had piled on the table. “Where are you going on vacation this year?” she asked.

“This year? Alaska. It’s cold there. No beaches in the winter, no bikinis, lots of men. Did you know that men far outnumber women in Alaska?”

“You’re married!” Again Lisa was horrified.

“I know!” I replied without batting an eyelash. “But do you realize how much good it does for an old broad’s ego to think she can still elicit an admiring eye from the opposite sex, especially when she hasn’t done anything to warrant it? That’s a lot easier to do when she’s bundled under a cloud of fur.”

“You’re impossible!” Lisa leapt up and, balancing Bronwyn on her hip, made for the freezer.

I stood aside, guardedly. “Just you wait; someday you’ll be like me. In mental pause.”

“Like you? Mama, I would never run around a store naked! Or go to Alaska to wink at men.” Lisa stuck her head in the freezer. “I’m checking to make sure you don’t have any ice cream in here.”

The ice cream was hidden. Well hidden, behind all the diet items. Wisdom, albeit a sneaky sort of wisdom, is something else that Lisa would gain in time—besides weight when the estrogen receptors of the female brain are not supplied.

Janet Hall

“She’s supposedly looking for the fishsticks.”

Reprinted by permission of Ralph Gregory. © 2006 Ralph Gregory.

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