It starts with a WHOOSH like an unseasonal arctic wind. You grab that ratty cardigan that’s always within reach. You can’t wiggle into it quick enough. It’s eighty-five degrees, but you’re shivering. Your heart sinks, your smile turns upside down. You know what’s coming. O, the dread. Before your arm is in the second sleeve your body begins to turn into your own private rainforest. You are Jeff Goldblum in THE FLY. You tremble. And…it’s here! Ice turns to fire. Is it malaria? The tsunami of sweat starts at the top of your head. Gravity drags rivulets of perspiration through your scalp and down your forehead. Your face turns from a semi-life-like flesh-tone to CGI pink neon. Wetness drips down your face. Splat. That book you were reading looks like it fell it the toilet. Lucky you learned that waterproof mascara keeps you from looking like a cheap hooker after a sixteen-hour shift.
There’s a flash flood in your cleavage and puddles in your armpits. Is it dengue fever? Scarlet fever? Yellow fever? You don’t have a fever. You’re not dying. You’re not even sick. You’re having a hot flash. You rip tissues out of the box: one, two, three, four, five, six. Dab, dab, dab, blot, blot, blot; dab, blot dab, blot. You’re moist. You’re a mess. You blame it on the weather. On the halogen lights. On the broken thermostat. But it’s you that’s broken. YOU. And that flash is called a flash because it’s gone as fast as it came. Like a stealth graffiti artist it sneaks in, tags you with a gallon of sweat, then disappears. But it will be back. O, yes. It WILL be back.
You will have approximately fifteen to fifty more hot flashes in the next twenty-four hours and for the next fifteen years. You will donate your collection of gorgeous wool sweaters to GOODWILL. You will never wear wool again. And no turtlenecks until you’re at least seventy years old. Cheer up, Dearie. It could be worse: you could have 5,000 hot flashes a day for the next 1,000 years. I’m being silly. This hormone hell won’t last forever it will only seem like eternity.
I’m an adult female woman person. I have three children and pets and a job. I have a mortgage and pay taxes and still get my period every month along with the cable bill, electric bill, gas bill and phone bill. I have insurance for health, cars, property and my life. I know how to drive an SUV and use a computer. Now I’m crying for no reason! And I have pimples! I haven’t had a pimple since the 80s. And what the hell is that? A pine needle is sticking out of my chin. It’s… it’s… a hair! WTF????
Calm down. Take a breath. It’s not menopause. You’re only forty-three. It’s peri-menopause. Shut up. Just shut up! You’re not done. You can still get pregnant. It’s a fact. So what if your oldest child is leaving for college? Google, Google, research, research. You will take Black Cohosh. Done. Phew. Homeopathic is the way to go. No chemicals. Pharmaceuticals are poison. Relief is a bottle of Black Cohosh away. Sweats-Be-Gone! A month later, Black Cohosh: go fuck yourself. Black Cohosh is like a capsule full of nutmeg. Supplement scam. You’re Old Faithful. Why is it so humid? There’s zero humidity. It’s you. You cry at ATM machines. You yell at telemarketers. Your SPANX feel like a haz-mat suit. You walk-around with a fistful of Kleenex. Dabbing, always dabbing. You look crazy. You use that Flamenco fan you bought in Madrid. Ole. Fan, fan, fan. You’re getting carpal tunnel from fanning. You’re a peri-menopausal Willy Water Bug.
Tomatoes! You read an article that swears that fresh tomatoes stop hot flashes. Fat red tomatoes! Eat them. Eat a dozen a day. You hate tomatoes. And you’re flashing and growing a beard. Pluck. Pluck. Pluck. What’s with the fucking hair on your chinny-chin-chin? And the zits? You’re using Clearasil again for the first time since tenth grade. Pluck. Pluck. Pluck. Weep, sweat, pluck, dab, blot, fan. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
You are a greasy, sweaty, steamy mess. Your hair is no longer a ‘do. It no longer has a style. You pull it back, up and high in an industrial clamp – you’re ready for the next Category five hurricane that’s headed for your head. You wear cotton T-shirts under everything and wear nothing when you go to bed. You wonder if they still make dress shields. Your grandma used to use dress shields. SON-OF-A-BITCH MAKE IT STOP!
Every morning your sheets are damp. You haven’t peed in bed. You know this for a fact because you haven’t slept. You flashed the night away, naked. You’re exhausted. You’re cranky. You wish you’d been born a boy. You give-up coffee, red wine, Indian food. This Equatorial rollercoaster of blood, sweat, tears, whiskers and pimples is the cruelest hoax Mother Nature has ever played. When you cry, it’s like your eyeballs are having their own mini-sub-hot flashes.
The doctor! You have a doctor! God bless your fabulous, darling doctor. She is a genius. She went to medical school and became a doctor. She will fix this (minus the chin hairs; laser hair removal will fix that. And the pimples; a dermatologist will fix that).
Dr. Darling knows your misery. She has a chart full of misery with your name on it. She prescribes a little patch that looks like a tiny square of Scotch tape. Your insurance doesn’t cover it. Of course it doesn’t. You don’t care. It’s a cure! You’ll sell a kidney for a cure. It’s called The Vivelle Dot! How great is that? Even its name is adorable – it should be the fourth Power Puff Girl. Sorry horrible hormones, you nasty bastards. You let me down and I am replacing you with The Vivelle Dot.
Alas, still no wool sweaters, no turtlenecks (maybe when I’m seventy?), no silk shirts or scarves – it’s cotton, cotton, cotton my life is all about cotton. The touch, the feel – it’s the fabric of my life until this nightmare is over. The Vivelle Dot works! It’s a miracle! Thank you, darling doctor. Thank you, V.D. (that’s its nickname)!
It has been a year. I’m occasionally schvitzy and my hair, when I wear it down, feels like a Navajo blanket – but it’s great in the winter, I don’t need a hat. And it’s like wearing a pashmina when a room is a balmy 46 degrees. What a relief! No more unwanted facial hair (which seems redundant when you’re a woman because other than eyebrows isn’t all facial hair “unwanted?”). My skin is glowing and pimple (and for now, wrinkle) free.
These are happy days. My fabulous forties. I put the Flamenco fan away. It’s a souvenir, again, not a necessity. I won’t chance it and wear SPANX. Belly fat: come to Mama. Most of the time I sweat when it’s appropriate. On my terms. I glisten, instead of looking like a hairy, zitty, blubbering flood victim. And I could still, if I wanted to, get pregnant. I guess. It’s not too late. Besides, this is only peri-menopause. This is just the coming attraction, the teaser, the appetizer. I must prepare for the real deal; the main course. The full-length feature. Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. Like all the time.