From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause


So this is post-hysterectomy. The little pain I’ve had, erased by a few doses of Darvocet. I guess it’s the avalanche of post-surgical emotions. Not even close to thundering down the slopes of my heart. One of these days, I’ll stroll down the feminine hygiene aisle and blissfully pass by tampons and pads while chanting “Free at last, free at last.”

And the best news of all: Though the doctor swept my body clean of its uterus, he left two healthy ovaries intact—the lifeboats keeping me from sinking into instant menopause. Does it get any better than this? Now that I’ve tallied everything right about my life and have comfortably settled into my parents’ townhouse to recuperate, I’ve started to feel like a new woman.

That is, until I see my “sister.”

Walking around the basement in my sweats, I see the old Frigidaire refrigerator humming away in the furnace room. The rounded corners, the plump, white body—how familiar she is. My parents purchased her when I was three months old, so I’ve come to think of her as a sister.

The Frigidaire and I share many good memories of the fifties and sixties.

And therein lies the reason for the unexpected dip in mood. I had overlooked my age during my tally of all things right. Seeing the fridge reminds me that we’ve logged fifty years together—half a century.

Goodbye, new-woman feeling.

Okay, so the anesthetic and two days in the hospital have disconnected me from reality, but somewhere I’ve lost fifty years. Where’s that younger face, that carefree sprint past this fridge and out the door to roller skate or ride bikes? Where are the sharp eyes, the supple skin? I have bifocals now (thank God for progressive lenses). Skin puckers on my elbows and is slowly gathering under my eyes, and graying eyebrows are met with the precision tug of tweezers.

But that’s not the worst. Long before surgery, I added perimenopause to my vocabulary—a single word that explained multiple oddities in body and behavior. It was like a seismic mood shift that registered 7.5 on the Richter scale, with aftershocks rumbling in slow traffic, long lines, and wherever else I declared people idiots. Insomnia stabbed me awake at odd hours of the night, and I dragged through the next day. My memory spent less and less time remembering why I’d entered a room. My menstrual cycles, once so predictable, alternated between barely there to an overflowing floodgate. When they entered a collision course with fibroid tumors, a hysterectomy was scheduled to stop the monthly madness.

So here I am with the Frigidaire. The gains in recuperation don’t seem as great now as I huddle in two ovarian lifeboats. I can float for only so long before they give out, and then I will go into the inevitable: night sweats and hot flashes and weight gain. I’ll fan myself till my arms ache and wear sleeveless blouses on twenty-degree days. I’ll throw the covers off the bed during the night, gasping for cool air as I soak the sheets. I’ll squeeze into clothes that fit so well now, or wear sweats the rest of my life. And somewhere in all the mayhem, the band will be reverently playing “Nearer My God to Thee.”

How lucky this Frigidaire is. She’s an appliance, not a human being. Her bodily changes are nicks in the handle, smudges on the enamel, and a freezer door sealed with three-inch frost. But, I must admit, she endures without complaint. She hums along, refusing to be defeated by what she can’t control.

That helps me. Menopause, I conclude, is inevitable; sinking isn’t. Myriad women have gone through it, so I can survive. Like a midlife Molly Brown, I’ll sit in the lifeboats as long as they’ll hold. I’ll grab the oars and row into the unknown.

Yes, I’m fifty and heading for “the change,” and I should make the most of it. If my sister can do it, so can I.

Sherri Langton

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