From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Wrinkled Anticipation

Where there is great love, there are always wishes.

Willa Cather

I opened my eyes one wink at a time, stretched, rolled over, and stared at the body lying next to me.Was it breathing? I thought. I stared for a long time. Yes, its chest rose and fell in adagio. Sleeping Beauty was blissfully at rest and completely unaware of my desires. Silly me, why did I expect today to be any different?

Yawning away the last remnants of sleep as sunbeams glimmered into view, I prepared to embrace this special day to its fullest. I planned to start it off with Vivaldi’s Spring playing in the background while I ate breakfast in bed: eggs Benedict, a mimosa, an Italian pastry, and an espresso with anisette to top it off. Yum!Willing to risk the hot flashes that alcohol ignites these days, I salivated at the thought. Surely, my fifty-fifth birthday merited such celebratory self-indulgence!

I got up without making a sound, slid into my slippers, and wrestled into my robe. I refused to wash sleep’s patina off my face, reserving the right to return to bed later and doze away the warming sunshine. Ambling into my office, I switched on the computer. Maybe I shouldn’t give up hope, I thought. An animated e-card might await me with a birthday greeting and special itinerary for today. I hoped for any kind of acknowledgment, but received none.

A half hour later Sleeping Beauty sauntered into the office, looked at me for a long minute, groaned, stretched, and tottered off into the kitchen. Not even a happy birthday kiss. As usual, I prepared breakfast for both of us. I settled for cottage cheese with cinnamon and a cup of decaffeinated coffee, while the object of my affection ate cereal and drank plain tap water—but not very mannerly. Those slurping sounds and the cereal spilling onto the floor made me cringe more than usual today, but I tolerated it for love.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m much older than Sleeping Beauty, or that we moved in together after only one date—just a few days before Christmas, six weeks ago. The holiday wasn’t much fun, though. Sleeping Beauty took a spill while trying to scale a fence and spent Christmas Eve in the hospital under observation for a concussion. I played nursemaid on Christmas Day, doing all I could to make my patient comfortable; I put pillows and blankets on the sofa next to our Christmas tree and played Christmas carols in the background for ambience. My dizzied patient hugged me, kissed me, and made other loving gestures—but there was no package for me to unwrap. Don’t get me wrong; after twenty years without this kind of affection, those loving gestures were dear to me, but still, I felt a twinge of neglect. And then I felt guilty about feeling neglected. So, while I lavished gifts on my new squeeze, I pretended that the absence of a material expression of love didn’t bother me. That was the beginning of our affair—and the harbinger of my current plight.

I’m the kind of person who has to work hard at being carefree and spontaneous, and as you might expect, my new love is just the opposite. Sharing my life with Sleeping Beauty gives me a newfound freedom; we play a lot and do things on impulse. But I bear all responsibility for our lifestyle. I make many accommodations for Sleeping Beauty’s devil-may-care attitude, too, especially in sharing my home. I never expected to find things strewn all over, or to continually pick up and clean up after my love.

What compels me to make so many sacrifices for so little in return? It isn’t good looks—that long, pointy nose and those big ears are not your typical heart-throb attributes (although admirers of Cyrano de Bergerac and Clark Gable might disagree). Perhaps it’s those titillating feelings I get from those soft, wet kisses, long embraces and cuddling on the loveseat. Or maybe it’s the frolicking and playfulness that makes me feel like I did back in the days before arthritis barnacled my bones. Menopause didn’t shut everything down! Today is a good day to reflect. During this morning’s early hours, I crossed a threshold; I’m no kid anymore. Yet, despite the supposed wisdom of my age, I expected things to suddenly be different. Love can be blinding, even to the oldest and wisest among us.

We didn’t go back to bed. I felt the sunlight heat up and cool again as I fed and picked up after Sleeping Beauty between heavy petting sessions. Still, I wouldn’t let go of my fantasy that a surprise might be in store for me. All day, I expected flowers to arrive at any moment. I jumped every time a doorbell rang on a television show. I even fantasized that the card attached to the flowers would announce dinner reservations at a fine restaurant. I wanted to be Sleeping Beauty on my birthday—awakened by my Prince Charming into a life of doting, affection, and luxury!

When no sign of celebration manifested by early evening I bargained with myself. Why couldn’t I just be happy with love and affection? Why did I want more? When did I become so materialistic? I tried to convince myself that I should be happier.

As I accepted responsibility for my choices and tradeoffs, the noise in my head quieted. Then, just as I surrendered to the lackluster quality of the day, my fantasy came true! My husband came home from work with flowers and exquisite dinner plans!

I put Sleeping Beauty in her kennel. Menopausal women cannot live on puppy love alone.

Marilyn Haight

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