I am hot. I am so hot that when I walk into a restaurant people stop to marvel at my hotness. Their eyes take in the rivulets of sweat seductively inching their way down my décolletage. My cheeks are ruddy with a sensual glow. I glisten with with droplets of sexy on my brow. I take a cocktail napkin, proffered by a handsome waiter staring longingly at my dewy countenance, and delicately dab at the moisture collecting on the back of my neck. The spell of onlookers is broken by my louder-than-need-be query, “IS IT HOT IN HERE OR IS IT JUST ME?” And then I realize that the stares aren’t because I’m hot, but because I’m HOT. I see their furrowed brows and perplexed expressions as they wonder how a person exerting exactly zero energy can produce such a copious amount of sweat. I am not hot after all. My brain readjusts to the news flash: flop sweat isn’t sexy.
A “hot flash” should mean a good-looking guy opening up his trench coat, but it really means a woman of a certain age being overcome by a heat so intense that it could only be produced by the surface of the sun. Of course this happens without warning, often in public. I’m trying really hard not to lament this bizarre and unfortunate fact of aging, but it’s hard to ignore raging cases of swamp butt. (Don’t pretend you don’t know what this is.) It’s hard to ignore the night sweats that make you awaken to drenched sheets and pillows. (Not to be confused with the George Clooney dreams.)
If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I don’t fret about aging. But there’s this physical aspect, called The Change, that takes your body hostage, regardless of how young you feel or behave. And for the record, The Change is a stupid euphemism. The Change is what you get after The Cash Purchase. Let’s call it what it is: menopause. The men all pause, all right, to wonder why there is a pool of sweat at your feet big enough to fish in.
Actually, I don’t even know if I’m going through menopause yet. It could be peri-menopause, the period of time leading up to menopause. Peri-menopause is medical speak for “erratic and disturbing bodily changes designed to make you feel insane.” Menopause and her wacky sister, peri, arrive much as your first period did: unbidden and without recourse. So you deal with it, because you have to. You buy mattress-sized maxi pads, pop hormone pills, and pull your shirt up in front of every air conditioner you encounter. If you do the latter in a seductive way, you can pretend you’re hot, flashing a little skin to innocent bystanders cooing something very sexy such as, “My antiperspirant isn’t working.”
I encounter many women who lament the onset of menopause. They see it as an end-of-life harbinger, the loss of womanhood. That’s crazy talk. Womanhood is not defined by menstruation nor the ability to bear children, but by strength and accomplishment, by empathy and wisdom, and by the ability to notice a new haircut. I am not boo-hooing the approach of menopause, I am eager for it. Because on the other side of it is freedom! A life without bloating, cramps, and uncontrollable weeping jags while watching The Biggest Loser and eating potato chips awaits you. Menopause is not the end of your life as a woman, it’s the beginning of your life as a new woman. You will be Woman 2.0. Woman 2.0 never has super plus tampons accidentally jump out of her purse at the check-out counter. And she never, ever has to go to a meeting looking as though she’s just emerged from a swimming pool.
I plan to get through these decidedly unpleasant aspects of these “pauses” with dignity. By dignity I mean finding creative excuses for all the sweat like “I just walked across the Mojave!” or “I accidentally fell asleep in a volcano.”
I will await the day that I am not HOT, and long for the days when I was just hot.