From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Red-Hot Mama

If you have a lemon, make lemonade.

Howard Gossage

Twenty years ago, my idea of being a “red-hot mama” would probably have included stiletto heels, a black lace bustier, and a twenty-foot boa—the kind with feathers, not a forked tongue. I picture myself strutting around a stage, doing a bit of a bump and grind, while giving the men my come-hither look.

In real life, I would never have cavorted around like an exotic dancer, even in the privacy of my own bedroom, let alone on a stage. I’m a lot more comfortable in flats than heels, my industrial-strength bras don’t have a lace ruffle in sight, and the only feathers I’m use to swinging are at the end of a duster. Still, it’s nice to have that sexy image of myself tucked away in a deep, dark corner of my mind.

Now that I’m having an intimate relationship with menopause, the words “red-hot mama” have an entirely different connotation. Forget the stilettos, bustier, and boa. Substitute memory loss, sweat, and support hose, and you’ll have a better idea of my real life. I’d like to say I’m not complaining, but I am. Loudly. And repeatedly. I may be entering menopause and the last large chunk of my life before I’m hauled off to do the bump and grind in the Great Hereafter, but I am not going quietly.

I don’t mind getting older and wiser on the journey of life, particularly the wiser part. I just don’t like the current stretch of road I’m on at the moment. But having chosen not to take the hormone detour, I’ve decided to tough it out along the scenic route. But I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to make the journey a little smoother. Make that a short sleeve. Better yet, sleeveless.

I’ve started using soy milk in my morning oatmeal, hoping my body has read the same articles that I have about Japanese women having an easier menopause, partly due to their higher consumption of soy products. Or was that sushi? Teriyaki? Wasabi? No, I’m pretty sure it was soy. Besides, putting hot, green paste-like wasabi on oatmeal would be more likely to start a fire than to put one out.

I joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, and work out three times, okay, twice a week because exercise is supposed to help with hot flashes. However, catching sight of myself in the mirror with a fire engine–red complexion and sweat pouring down my face is less than encouraging. I’ve had to reassure a number of people at my gym that I’m not having a heart attack. The staff keeps a close eye on me, and everyone at the front desk knows my name.

And I chug water by the bottle, hoping to drown those pesky free radicals that cause aging, while flushing the toxins out of my body. Darn. Why did I have to go and say the flush word? Just a minute while I answer nature’s call. The old bladder isn’t what it used to be either.

I’m back.

Where was I in my long list of complaints? There’s something else I wanted to say. Something about . . . got it. My memory. My once reliable memory has transformed from a steel trap to Swiss cheese. Not only does new information no longer enter my brain for more than ten seconds, but the old stuff is leaving—possibly looking for a cooler climate. Why I can no longer remember my phone number, but can still recite the formula for determining the circumference of a circle, I’ll never understand.

On the bright side, partial memory loss isn’t all bad. It’s nice to meet new people again—for the fourth or fifth time. And if you’re talking to me, you don’t have to worry if you’ve told me that story before. I’m not going to remember. Unfortunately, this is a two-way street, and I’ve been known to repeat the same story. Repeat the same story.

While I’m sitting in front of the fan with a cold compress on my chest and a chocolate brownie in my hand, I console myself with the thought that menopause is shorter than puberty. If I made it through the first, I can certainly make it through the second.

When I do hit the other side of menopause, watch out, world. I might go out and buy myself some stilettos. I just hope I can fit my orthopedic insoles in them.

Harriet Cooper

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