From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Burn Baby Burn

If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.

Alfred Nobel

I missed the sexual revolution and the Age of Aquarius by about a decade, but I’ve made up for it by doing everything else too early. Now, at the age of forty-something, I found myself launched into an odd form of time warp; my daughters think me old, but I feel too young to be “middle-aged,” whatever that is.

Sometime just after fire was invented and before Kotex had wings, and long before my cousin and I received “the talk,” the two of us discovered my mother’s box of tampons under the bathroom sink. When we inquired as to their use, my auntie and mother informed us that they were firecrackers. “Put those things back where you found them!” Big mistake telling two kids something was off-limits; try as we may, we just couldn’t light these strange little firecrackers. But we did manage to ignite a large, but easily contained, brush fire in the backyard.

The years passed, as they tend to do. I graduated early and started college at sixteen years of age, married at eighteen, and conceived my children early. Also at a young age, I had an aggressive and chronic case of endometriosis. I endured two laparoscopic surgeries, which were unsuccessful attempts to burn off the diseased tissue. After my third child was born, I was given two choices: 1) lifelong pain and possibly chemotherapy, or 2) a hysterectomy. I chose the latter, as it seemed less messy and painful in the long run. Besides, I rather liked my hair.

When I inquired about keeping my removed uterus and ovaries so I could give them a proper funeral, my gynecologist laughed, then he recited numerous regulations concerning the proper disposal of bio-hazardous materials. Great, I thought. My womb was hazardous material! I wondered what he would have called my meatloaf, but that’s another cremation story. Still, I felt that losing my uterus and ovaries was the death of an era, and I wanted to properly mourn their passage. It took only a few weeks to recuperate from the surgery, but the feeling that I needed a ceremony of sorts to say goodbye to a part of me did not fade as quickly as the incision.

Now to tell this story correctly, it must be noted that our family has a large campfire pit in the backyard. We regularly roast hot dogs and marshmallows around the fire and occasionally light off a round or two of fireworks.

In a postmenopausal hot flash, I thought back tomy childhood, then I glanced over at the fire pit. I knew what I had to do to memorialize my hysterectomy—I would have a party for my remaining boxes of feminine protection, a private, invitation-only wake for my little pals that had outlived their usefulness. Yeah, I could have given them to my friends, but there are just some things you don’t give as leftovers, namely my meatloaf or a half-used box of panty liners!

You just gotta love my husband—he’s such an overgrown Boy Scout. Realizing this was a special occasion, he built the perfect stack of kindling over the center of the pit, then tossed on a few logs, finally dousing it all with lots of lighter fluid. I then threw in all of my feminine paper products. Acting a touch odd, my husband was seemingly over-excited to fire her up! But I made him wait, as I needed to set the mood, and did so with “Disco Inferno,” which blasted out of my tape deck (yes, I said tape deck—not CD player, not record player—give me a break).

Alas, the stage was set. We took our seats around the pit.

I lit the honorary match and tossed it in.


Lord have mercy and ear plugs! Surprised, I stood straight up and had a sudden overwhelming need to cover my heart. I heard a twenty-one gun salute!

No . . . more like a hundred-and-one . . .

No, make that a small string of five hundred firecrackers, three bottle rockets, and one small roman candle. It suddenly dawned on me that’s where my big Boy Scout had stashed the Fourth of July goodies. He was all smiles by my shocked reaction.

Things were exciting enough until the neighborhood dogs started barking and howling. Our kindly neighbor man sprinted right over (imagine Mr. Rogers wearing a pair of Nikes and baggy sweats, and you’ve got a visual on him) to see what the trouble was about, just in time to witness a winged panty liner launched into a blaze of glory. It landed right at his feet.

Lava-red with the sheer embarrassment of my spectacular ceremony, all I could manage to say to him as I exhaled and tried not to laugh was, “Gee, I guess they really do fly.”

Although I never got to attend a Dead concert or burn my bra, I thoroughly enjoy the flashbacks of my life, and it’s been cool, man, it’s been really cool.

Jacqueline Michels

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