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Challenge: Life Changes

Hot Flashes: The Original Public Meltdown

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Well, thank goodness for Drew Barrymore. Who knew it would take the Firestarter to initiate a conversation about, well, the Firestarter? Actually, wait. That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Menopause? Perimenopause? Often filed away deep into the “We don’t talk about it” section along with periods, cramps, bloating, and other female wonders. If you’re wondering whether I just lost the entirety of my male audience, the answer is likely “YES,” or it would be if they didn’t have their ears covered with chants of “Lalalalalalala.”

Don’t worry fellas! We’ll get back to making sammiches in a minute! I want to strike the hormonal-iron while it’s hot!

As I have an odd habit of blurring the lines of appropriate vs not … my children, gym buddies, life-long friends, and the cashier at Target know way more about my own life stages than they (probably) want to. I do try to remind myself that my “Open Book” policy should be reserved for my blog or podcast.** I do try to remind myself that my “Open Book” is not for sharing with the fish guy who picks out my salmon at the Kroger.

I do try to remind myself of this. It just rarely sticks.

So yes, God Bless Drew Barrymore.

I’m sure she would have made a different choice, if given the option, of where to have her first hot flash. But by having it on national television, she gave merit to this joyful jaunt to the next new stop on the lady train. It certainly didn’t hurt to have Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler by her side walking her through it. Okay, it may have hurt Adam Sandler (if you’d like to know what a deer in headlights looks like, zoom in on his face the moment he realized a hot tamale was leaving the station. ).

If I’m being honest, I’d be tempted to go back in time to full-hot-flashdom if it meant that Jennifer Aniston would appear beside me, gently fanning the sweat from my forehead and unbuttoning my top just a touch.

I’ve actually been on a deliciously long break from hot flashes. I wish I had a roadmap that would clue me into my hormones’ direction so that I could gauge each day more appropriately. Lava Pit? Gotcha, layers. Drippy Day Off? Perfect, safe to wear make-up. I’d especially like some hints prior to bedtime. Will it be a seven-layer duvet night? Or a light sheet that will feel like a bearskin rug despite thirty-seven fans, wide-opened windows, and a cooling mat that I borrowed from my dog?

Even just a simple “long pajamas” or “shorts pajamas” blurb would be dandy. Please and thank you.

I am well aware that this break will not be forever and that, when the internal temperature boils over and out again through every pore, it will be with no warning and definitely at the most inconvenient moment. Nothing new there. I have sweated through the apron at the dentist’s office; I have had to take five while in a dressing room lest offered a request to launder my try-ons; I’ve yearned for an arctic blast while enjoying intimate dinners; I once sprouted a full-body sprinkler while walking through my favorite high-end purse store.

If that doesn’t scream “She’s casing the place,” I don’t know what does. (Dear King of Prussia Louis Vuitton: I really was on the hunt for a new crossbody. Perhaps your security team should be advised to stand down when a woman of a certain age begins sweating uncontrollably.)

And no, despite what many think, hot flashes are not about a spritz of sweat. They lean more towards high-powered sprinkles with nozzles that have jostled themselves and indiscriminately spray everything within a fifty-foot radius. For me, “the change” included all the hot ticket items: anxiety, irritability, day sweats, night sweats, bloating, brain fog, breakouts, pop-up periods, and lady bits that rivaled the arid deserts.

In summary, my husband had the best five years.

The funny thing about periods, cramps, bloating, and other female wonders is that we who host them are often chastised. Maybe “chastised” is too strong a word. Well, no, wait, maybe not. How often have you heard (or said), “She’s probably on the rag.” Dismissal of a whole person for something that she cannot control and are likely not enjoying seems a bit much, no? Also may not even be accurate, but, well, yeah. Still, I suppose it’s easier though than showing empathy or whipping out a Midol.

My teenage son came home from his co-ed soccer game last week with an exasperated addition to his post-game debrief. His team had lost so there were lots of lines meant to explain the hiccups, but this one – this one hit me. He said, “Plus, Heather showed up and told everyone she had her period. I mean, great, but did she have to announce it to everyone?”

I paused for a moment preparing a rather not-so-gentle response. I paused again and opted instead for a nod and an “Oh, man.” My son was not ready for my initial response. I will save that one for the days when he is deep into dating or even marriage.

What will I say? What did I want to say?

“GOOD FOR HEATHER FOR SHOWING UP ANYWAY. Good for her for showing up, for a running sport nonetheless, when she knew that any sudden movement would make her breasts feel as though they were being ripped from her body. Good for her for showing up even though her uterus felt like someone was trying to wring it out like a soaked towel. Good for her for showing up, knowing that she’d be wondering for 90 minutes straight whether her pad or tampon was slipping or, worse yet, whether it might simply fall out onto the playing field full of her classmates. Good for her for showing up to the pre-game huddle and proclaiming her DEDICATION to her team when she could as easily called in an ‘I overslept’ pass on playing. GOOD FOR HER.”

We are trying to raise our kids differently. We overshare about the things that our magical bodies do. We want fluids and pains and changing shapes to be casual in the same way that conversations regarding plans for the weekend are. Our kids aren’t always thrilled with this approach, according to their eye rolls. But on the flip side, they do not shy away when an “ew gross” moment looms.

Isn’t that so much better than brushing it under the carpet?

As for those hot flashes popularized by Drew, oh hello. Big fan. Of Drew, not the hot flashes. Drew, don’t throw that cardigan too far out of reach as it will be your lifeline when you reach the womanly wrap up: freezing.

That’s right, Drew. You will feel as though you are melting from the inside out and then, before you can recover, you will move to a cold that cannot be calmed. Your body? It’s as funny as you are and full of jokes.

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