With apologies to Irving Berlin:
I’m havin’ a heat wave
A personal heat wave
My temperature’s tidal
I’ve gone homicidal
And I smell like a pit slave
Ah, the joys of menopause.
I began to experience hot flashes at the tender age of 42. At first I thought, “What the hell’s this?” but I’m a pretty well-read gal and I had a damned good idea what was going on. So I called my gynecologist, the ever-lovely and empathetic Judy. “Judes,” I said. “I think I’m having hot flashes.”
“Can’t be,” she said without missing a beat “You’re too young.”
Normally I love Judy to pieces, but this remark really pissed me off. Don’t you just love it when your doctor talks to you like you haven’t a clue what’s going on with the body you inhabit 24/7 and for however many years you’ve been around? No, I’m not a doctor. Yes, Judy knows a lot more about medicine than I do. But I’ve lived in this skin for a long time now and at this point my instincts are pretty good.
“Really?” I’m pretty certain my sarcasm quotient rose with that word. (Mood swings. Another symptom.) “Let me tell you what they feel like.”
When I was done describing the slow rise of heat that started at my toes and erupted through the top of my head like Vesuvius, there was silence at the other end of the line. Then, in something like bemusement, Judy said, “Wow. Those sure sound like hot flashes. You’d better come in to see me.”
So in I went. First, we had an exam. (It’s “we” only in that Judy was present on the easy end of things. I was the one with the speculum up my hootchie-coo.)
**********An aside here: Judy’s a great doctor (actually, she’s a nurse practitioner) and more often than not we end up laughing through the entire procedure (God bless her for that), but women don’t enjoy gynecological exams. How could we? There’s nothing fun about being spread-eagled, knees bent to opposite sides of the compass, perched on the edge of an (admittedly) cushioned table that’s digging into your butt, heels down and locked into metal stirrups like you’re about to compete in the freaking Grand National (that’s a world-famous national hunt horse race, in case you don’t know), a heat lamp aimed at your naked crotch? Thank God I’ve never had a doctor order me to “Spread ’em!” or “Open wide and say ah,” but I have heard “Oh, I’m sorry. The nurse forgot to warm the speculum.” WTF?!?!**********
After the exam, Judy explained a little about perimenopause (the tip of the hill before the big plunge). She seemed pleased that I’d already read up on a bit (I was determined to be well-informed and NOT have my mother’s menopause) and sent me off to have blood drawn to test for estrogen, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). She gave me a call the following week when she received the results of the blood-work.
“Hot-diggedy-damn, you’re perimenopausal.”
Great. Where’s my gun? I’m not going to shoot myself, I just want to be ready when I feel the need to climb the clock tower, like in about 30-freaking-seconds if you don’t stop sounding so CHEERFUL about this! (Women hate their own menopause, but they find the menopause of other women totally hysterical. Misery does, after all, love company.)
Judy, in what I’m sure she felt was a bit of helpful advice, assured me that the hot flashes and other symptoms (we won’t even get into vaginal dryness – OMFG) would depart around the five-to-eight year mark. Lying bitch. I’m at twelve years and counting, with no end in sight.
In truth, I’m not sure I’d mind so much if the damn thing would only regulate. Let’s face it — hot flashes and all the other stuff is annoying, but it beats a surprise visit from “Aunt Flo” with nary a pad or tampon in sight. (The Web informs me that Cockney slang for menstrual cycle is ‘George Michael.’ Wonder what he thinks about that?) I can go days without so much as a warm glow, then get one hot flash right after another. When all of this first began, I experienced a lot of night sweats. Then they went away. Hooray! Now, all of a sudden, the bastards are back. Used to be that I’d have almost no hot flashes during the winter months (when they would have helped cut down on our heating bill) and a total shit-load during the summer. (The more humid the weather, the worse the hot flashes.) This year, however, it’s been the opposite. Almost nothing this summer, but the past few weeks have been wretched with several a day, some of them lasting two minutes or more.
(Is that men I hear in the background? “Two minutes? What’s the big deal about two minutes? Quit your griping and suck up and deal.” Really? Come over here and say that to my face, pal, and we’ll talk about it while you’re sucking air after I pole-axe you in the diaphragm.)
See? I’ve got it all under control.