From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Raging Hormones, Raging Tears!

An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.

Agatha Christie

So, okay, I’ve never been a beauty, nor have I acquired fame or fortune. Still, in the back of my mind was always the thought that any or all of these were possible if I wanted them badly enough. And I had plenty of time. That was until I looked into the mirror last week and saw someone else looking back at me. Whose body was that anyway? I said to myself.

At age fifteen, I promised myself I’d never be fat, so the lady in the mirror could not possibly be me. She had two chins and cheeks that could hold a melon in each. The eyes used to be vivid green but were now faded, and the color was not quite discernable. How and when did all this happen? Why am I only now seeing it? I started to cry. Two hours later I was still crying when my husband, James, came home for lunch.

In a concerned and slightly worried voice he asked, “Honey, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

I cried harder as I tried to speak and couldn’t. Finally, I managed to blurt out, “I don’t know. I just can’t stop.” The tears came faster and the sobs were more pathetic and louder than before.

James stood there looking helpless for a moment, then he came to me and attempted to give me a hug. I stepped back to avoid his reach as I spoke brokenly, “No, I don’t deserve . . . sob, sob . . . a hug. How could you even . . . sob . . . bare to look at me, much less hug me? I’m so fat . . . sob . . . ugly . . . and . . . sob . . . and . . . sob . . . OLD!” I then covered my face with my hands, ran into the bathroom, and locked the door.

I could hear my husband in the kitchen preparing his own lunch as I continued to cry. Twice he came to the door to check on me. “Chris, I love you and neither of us are spring chickens, you know. We’ve been married for thirty-six years. You’ve given birth to three children. You’ve earned your pounds and wrinkles, and I love them all. Come on now and cheer up. You have a lot to be happy about,” he said.

I bellowed, “Go away! I just want to cry!” I let out a few gut-wrenching wails for good measure.

I heard James hesitate, then he spoke softly through the closed door and through my torrential downpour of tears. “I’m leaving now, but remember that I love you and things will look different tomorrow. I’ll call and check on you in a while. Are you sure there’s nothing I can do to make you feel better?”

Now I was angry. Don’t ask me why I was angry when James was being so sweet. I didn’t know why—I just was! “Not unless you want to exchange bodies with me,” I said. “And believe me, you wouldn’t dare. You don’t have to go through all of these horrid and dehumanizing changes. You are a man! You couldn’t understand in a million years how I feel. Just go and let me cry!”

James replied, “I love you, and cry all you want, but you’ll still be a woman and I’ll still be a man—your man, the one you chose to spend your life with—for better or for worse.”

He walked away mumbling something to himself about hormones and life’s biggest challenge. I looked at my red splotchy face and my puffy, swollen eyes and detested what I saw reflected in the mirror even more than before. “I hate you. Who are you, anyway? I can’t be this person!” I yelled at the mirror. And so it went for the better part of the day.

The phone rang several times, but I didn’t even look at the caller ID screen to see who was calling. My head had begun to pound, and my nose was so stuffy I could barely breathe. I crawled into a little ball on the sofa and cried some more. The phone continued to ring. Finally, in exasperation, I picked it up and bellowed, “Hello?”

The caller said, “Sorry, wrong number,” and hung up.

I held the receiver in my hand as I examined in my mind the sound of that familiar voice. Sorry, wrong number? I then realized it was James.

I began to laugh. Why it struck me as funny is anyone’s guess. But I laughed and laughed until I was exhausted.

After reflecting upon my thirty-six years of marriage and the ups and downs James and I have experienced together, I felt my heart swell with love and admiration for this man. He was utterly unshakeable and so dependable— and he loved me.

Picking up the phone, I dialed my husband’s cell phone number. “Hello, this is James,” he answered.

In my softest and most loving voice, I said into the receiver, “I, Christine, take thee James to be my lawfully wedded husband. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, ’til . . .”

His strong voice interrupted, “. . . in hormones and changes, till death do us part. I love you, Chris. Put on your sexiest nightshirt. I’m on my way home.”

I heard the click, and my heart was so full of love, appreciation, and yes, acceptance. I’m not the same girl he married, that was a fact. But I am the same person, and he still loves me.

“Oh God, what I wouldn’t give to have that black sexy nightgown I wore on our anniversary trip a few years ago,” I mumbled, as I pulled two nightshirts from my drawer. I pondered my choices. One nightshirt depicted a housewife wearing a robe, slippers, and curlers in her hair. She held an empty cup in her hand, and the words read: “Just pour the coffee and back away slowly!” The kids had given me this one for Mother’s Day. They all know I’m not a morning person.

The other nightshirt depicted a husband and wife in bed with the alarm clock blaring, but the wife is leaning toward the husband with a smile. The shirt reads, “Go ahead . . . make me late for work.” Which one will it be?

Glancing at the clock, I decided there was time for me to rush to the department store two blocks away before James could get home. As I recalled, they had a great selection of lingerie. Maybe something in black? I grabbed my purse and keys as I hurried out the door. Before backing the car from the garage I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror—swollen eyes, a blotchy face, but a grateful heart. Giggling at the absurdity of it all, I wondered, Do they even make sexy black nighties in extra large?

Christine M. Smith

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