Let me start with the photo credit and comment on this: Photo courtesy of Gratisography / Ryan McGuire and copyright Free Range Stock (We love the artists who freely share their work through the public domain). I chose this photo because it just looks awesomely batshit crazy. This entry doesn’t even begin to touch on the emotional aspects of perimenopause or menopause… this is just about the irrational, batshit crazy physical stuff that plagues us women during this joyus time in life. WHHHHYYYY??!!!
I dare to be different. If someone had given me a “Lordy, Lordy, look who’s 40” anything four years ago, they might not be alive to read this. My 40th birthday cake was adorned with a pink sugar paste Chanel purse, pink Valentino shoes, and a fake tiara. I said it was likely the only way I was ever going to own any of the above items. The cake lovingly said, 40 is the new 20. According to this mantra, I am now a beautiful 24 years old.
I don’t necessarily want to get older, but I’m not screaming and kicking it away either. There is a certain freedom that comes with getting older – oh, you know the freedom of not caring one little shit about what others think? This is my fav.
I feel like I’m 24. But this physical getting older stuff aka perimenopause? It sucks.
When I was 32 – I might have looked 22 (one thing I’ve been graced with is good genes) – I started having hot flashes. Don’t believe me? I’ll put you in contact with the classes of students who watched me bizarrely throw open the window on a windy 10 degree day, and rip off my sweater down to my cami – which was drenched in sweat. One student would always comment, “Um, you’re too young for that, aren’t you?” Me, “Apparently not.”
When I turned 37, the continent of Africa appeared on my right cheek as a dark brown age spot, and it’s delicious island Madagascar appeared on my left upper cheekbone. It was so bad that a friend who hadn’t seen me in a while licked her finger and tried to clean off the dirt she thought was on my face. I can now say I have swapped spit with her.
The next few years brought periods that made me want my 14-year-old, 2-week-long periods back. It was like the floodgates of apocalyptic Hell had opened in my uterus, and aliens were screaming forth. I left work more than once with a jacket tied around my waist because it all happened so fast, and I couldn’t get to a bathroom quickly enough. Yeah. I walked through the halls of the high school in which I worked like I was doing the dreaded walk of shame in college – embarrassed and humiliated. While staying at a resort, I left something similar to a murder scene on the bed. I woke up the next morning, cried, and called housekeeping asking them if they wanted me to burn the sheets in the tub. After listening to my rather tearful story, the woman with a deeply husky smoker’s voice on the other end of the phone said, “Oh, honey, we’ve all been there. Leave them in a pile at the foot of the bed. That’s what bleach is made for.” I left her one of the best housekeeping tips ever.
Jean and I were talking the other day and I was commenting on how bizarre my periods had become – they go something like peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo, FLOODGATES of apocalyptic Hell for 12-24 hours, peek-a-boo, gone. Jean said she hadn’t even gotten hers this month, and then a pause, “Oh shit, what if I’m pregnant!? Ohmigod, WHAT IF I’M FUCKING PREGNANT!?,” she shouted.
Me: “Didn’t you have your tubes tied?”
Jean (panicky): “Yeah, when the twins were born.”
Me: “Honey, that was almost 20 years ago, there’s no way you’re pregnant.”
No one said our perimenopausal thoughts were rational. Or sane.
I started getting grey hairs when I was in my mid-20s, but they were few and far between. By 40, my hair looked something like the ashes you would remove from a fireplace the morning after a roaring fire. Highlighting was no longer making a difference, and my hairdresser finally said, “I don’t think you can avoid a complete dye job, unless…” Unless what? Unless I want to start to look older than my age? Charming.
Then came the hormonal shifts that made my dye job go from the shiny chocolate brown it started, to auburn, to blond, depending on what mood my hormones were in after any given hair dye cycle. I actually didn’t notice until someone commented on what beautiful red hair I had. Say what? When I went home and looked in the mirror, sho’ nuff’, in the sun, I had red hair. I knew it was bad when my hairdresser walked past me in the reception area and I overheard the following conversation:
Hairdresser: Where is my 1:00 appointment?
Receptionist: You just walked by her.
Hairdresser: No, I didn’t, the woman in the waiting area is blond, and my client is a brunette.
Me: Hey there… I guess I went blond.
We now laugh and suggest purple, just to see what would happen over the course of the next 6-8 weeks. I saw an older woman driving a lime green Volkswagen Beetle convertible the other day, and she looked blissfully happy with her lilac purple dye job. Maybe next time.
And the peeing. When did my bladder shrink to the size of a porcelain espresso cup? Unless I don’t drink anything after 6pm, I’m up at least once a night having to pee, and it’s like I’m a 2000 lb. racehorse. No, really. You cannot make this shit up.
While I’m up to pee, I’m usually changing my pjs because half the time they’re soaked in sweat. Some nights, I just can’t function, so as I walk out of the bathroom, I grab a towel, and sleep on that for the rest of the night. I’ll deal with the laundry reality in the morning.
If all of the above wasn’t enough, around 40, my skin revolted on me on the turn of a dime one day. I have olive skin. I have rarely burned my whole life, and it was midsummer, so I already had a decent tan; it didn’t phase me on this sunny day to hop on the riding mower. I came in to eat lunch, and realized my legs were beet red. Within the hour, I had huge welts all over my legs and I was packing my legs in ice packs and I was in borderline tears from the pain from the burn. This took almost 48 hours to go away and when the burn dissipated, the eczema crept in, and that took weeks to tame. I thought it a freak oddity, until it happened again. And again. So, with the flip of a switch, my skin had joined the hormonal revolt going on in my body. I was now something akin to allergic to the sun. And in the four years since, not much has changed. I have hospital bills to prove how violent the reaction can be in the sun when I think I’ve won the aging skin war.
I started working out with extreme regularity a year ago. I don’t diet – that is a four letter word. I eat healthy, good quality home-cooked meals low in fat and carbs, high in protein, blah, blah, blah. I also enjoy the random cupcake here and there. I don’t over-indulge, but I do not restrict. Every part of my body has responded to my workouts wonderfully. I have muscle definition in my arms, shoulders, butt, thighs, calves – yeah me! Notice I missed something? Yeah. My gut. It just sits there belly-laughing at me. I can almost hear its voice: Go ahead and give up that occasional cupcake, I’m not going anywhere. Eat only protein and fruit and veggies. I’m not going anywhere. Screw you middle-aged spread. I’ll keep my stock of chocolate cupcakes for just before the floodgates of hell open up – it’s not like you care. Or plan on leaving anytime soon.
I was once told the earlier you started perimenopausal symptoms, the longer you’d go through it. Charming. I’ll be the 65 year old, bloated, blond chick eating chocolate cupcakes in the corner, not giving a shit.