From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Middle-Aged Blues

You can dance anywhere if you can dance in your mind, in your heart.

Jacques D’Amboise

I first noticed that Father Time and Mother Nature were creeping up behind me when I was about thirty-five years old. I began to see more highlights in my hair, compliments of Father Time rather than my hairdresser. I also began to see a change in my face. Gone was the glow of youth, and a sallow skin tone replaced my once peachy-pink complexion. I began to fight these frightening recognitions with more frequent trips to the hairdresser to camouflage my natural highlights and to the department store to buy jars of goo that would help diminish my washed-out skin tone.

Unfortunately, as Father Time and Mother Nature marched on, so did my problems. Slowly, things began to change. Things that made me realize I was getting old. Getting out of the shower one day and preparing to go to work resulted in an astonishing revelation; my once-perky breasts had now become an awning for my feet. And speaking of feet, where did they go? I only see them now when I’m lying down. And talking about lying down, guess where one’s sloping chest lands when you lie on your back? My underarms now have their own pillows!

Trips to the department store to expand my wardrobe revealed a clothing conspiracy against ample-size, forty-plus women. During one recent trip, I received a warm greeting from the salesclerk; she looked all of twelve years old and weighed all of six pounds. She asked if she could help me with my clothing selection.

“Who keeps putting size-fourteen tags on size-eight clothes?” was my first question. Miss Six Pounds responded that perhaps the clothes did not fit because of the cut or style. Who cut them? Barbie? I thought. Barbie and a number-two pencil are the only two things I know of that have a waist that small.

Miss Six Pounds graciously escorted me to the plus-size department and selected outfits that were big enough to cover a car. “Thank you, no!” I said. “I’m not a size eight, but I’m also not an Oldsmobile.”

Reminders of my middle-aged blues journey also surface when I make my yearly jaunt to see my gynecologist. A recent trip made me feel really ancient as I was greeted by another twelve-year-old who updated my file. Miss Twelve-Year-Old then escorted me to the examination room. I donned my paper gown and waited for my doctor to arrive.

“How are you, Karen? Having any problems?” he asked.

“Well, my monthly cycle is now semi-monthly. My PMS is worse, and my body temperature always seems to be at least 101 degrees.”

My doctor replied with a “Hmmmnnnnn” and looked at my records. “Karen, I see you are forty-eight years old now; you do realize that you have reached a time in your life where your body will be going through changes.”

“When will these changes stop?” I asked.

“Never,” the doctor responded, “you will just have to get used to them.”

“Isn’t there a pill, or vitamin, or herb or something I can take to feel better?”

“No, not really,” the doctor replied. “Vitamins and herbs won’t hurt you, but we really haven’t come up with a good solution for helping women at this particular crossroads in their lives.”

Dressed-up words that translated to: You’re old, sweetheart, deal with it! Why, did I suddenly feel like Helen Hayes? Crossroads? What crossroads? As the doctor exited, and I trashed their designer paper gown, smiling Miss Twelve-Year-Old reappeared with a prescription and free samples of Geritol and Metamucil.

“Here you are, ma’am, maybe these will make you feel better. Would you like me to stick these samples in your bag?”

Resisting the urge to tell her where to stick them, I bit my tongue, flashed my show-biz smile and responded with the affirmative.

Leaving the doctor’s office, I stopped at the cafe in his building to ponder my fate. I purchased a Diet Pepsi and discarded the Geritol and Metamucil. As I made my way to a table, I quickly glanced at the other customers in the cafe. No twelve-year-olds! No Barbies! Just regular folks sitting down eating and drinking. What fun!

These other customers provided me with a reprieve from feeling like a worn-out piece of elastic. I started to think about the good, the bad, and the ugly times of my life. Do I really want to be twelve years old again? I don’t think so! Do I really want to look like a number-two pencil? No, that might make it hard to figure out which way to put on my clothes. I realized that age really was irrelevant. It’s attitude that’s important.

Father Time and Mother Nature are going to keep marching regardless of how much I whine. I realized it was time to go find an eighteen-hour Playtex something-or-another to hoist up whatever is sloping toward my feet, put it on, and march along with Father Time and Mother Nature—enjoying the moments as they are given to me.

Karen Gaebelein

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