From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

The Day I Joined the Club

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

Father James Keller

When my fiancé, Kenny, and I arrived at the summer barbecue to celebrate our friend’s birthday, I knew we would have a good time. I knew the food would be great. What I didn’t know was that I would join a new club that day—the Hot Flash Club.

I’d been going through the early stages of menopause, quietly acknowledging that my periods had stopped and I was no longer a “woman of childbearing age.” It was fairly early in my life, since I was only forty-three years old, just like my mom had been.

I had also been quietly suffering through the red, flushed face, beads of sweat, and the feeling that a furnace had been lit inside my body. It wasn’t something I was proud of, and though I knew it was a common fact of life, I felt that I was alone in my circumstances.

And then, gathered in the home of the woman who was hosting our friend’s party, it all changed.

Donna came in from her barbecuing duties outside, hair disheveled, face red, sweat beaded on her forehead and upper lip. “Now that’s something every menopausal woman wants,” she laughed. “It’s no fun to stand over a barbecue on a July day while having a hot flash!”

A few men looked on, puzzled. Some of the younger women smiled politely. But me, I laughed loud and hard. I made eye contact with this woman and with a couple of other forty- and fifty-something women nearby. We all laughed together. We shared the same picture, an image, a feeling that no one else in the group could relate to. It felt good!

It was then that I realized that I’d joined a new club, so to speak. I was part of a new group of women that I would identify with for the rest of my life. I had bonded with younger women before, not ignoring women older than myself, but certainly not spending much time thinking about them either.

Suddenly, these older women were my women. To me, our club motto could be summed up with the phrase, “I’ve lived.” The goal of the club? To see what’s next, to see what the rest of our lives will bring.

Today I look at women in their forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond. I see where I am now and where I am headed. I realize that I am certainly not alone in my menopausal experience. I have a certain “I-know-something-you-don’t-know” feeling when I see women in their teens, twenties, and thirties. It is a “been there, done that” knowledge. Although I wouldn’t have missed the early years for anything, I don’t resent losing a portion of my youth.

But this is a new chapter, a new freedom. I still take care of myself, still talk with other women about clothes, men, and our careers. We have added talk about hair loss, vision changes, and what works best for aches and pains (not to mention those blasted hot flashes). The best thing is that nine times out of ten when I am talking to a fellow “club” member, we laugh about it. We know we can’t change menopause, and we also know that in a way we are lucky to be experiencing it.

Club membership is free. And a sense of humor is mandatory.

Valerie Porter

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