trinity church nyc -jshd 08-
She was only 42 when she started missing her period and at first we thought she was pregnant. It turned out to be an end to possibilities rather than a beginning. In the middle of dinner, Mom tore her clothes off and sat there, in just a bra and panties, glistening with sweat. Then the clothes went back on. Then off. Clothes on/Clothes off. It’s how we still refer to that period of her life. At 79, she still gets the hot flashes. Have I thanked you for that little genetic tidbit Moms?
And now it’s my turn. I thought I was past this. I thought I was tougher than this, tougher than she was. But here I am. Clothes on. Clothes off. I work with twentysomethings who must think I have malaria. I’m in the middle of a meeting or a presentation and it hits and sweat is pouring. (pouring. do you hear me?), down my face. I have no sad thoughts about the loss of reproductive possibilities. I made a surgical decision at 30 and really, with the life I had at that time, it was the only choice. And I knew menopause was coming, I knew about the hot flashes, but Mom, you didn’t prepare me for the rest of it.
I’d been coloring my hair since I was 13, just to break up the monotony of looking at the same face every day. It’s been blonde, brown, red, black & several hues not found in nature. So, I didn’t really notice when it started, but now the whole front is white (with the exception of a recently added turquoise curl) and I like it. It’s lower maintainence, I tell myself. And it got me a senior citizens discount. I hate the assumption, the presumption and I didn’t ask, but the pubescent cashier at C-Town takes 10% off my total on Wednesdays. I’ve been known to drop a hint and ask anyone, anywhere, “Isn’t today senior citizens discount day?”. I asked at the gym the other day. I have no shame when it comes to getting 10% off. 10%, that’s not nothing.
My white hair has gotten me seats on the subway. I was deeply offended the first time someone younger offered me her seat. I am a rock n’ roll chicklet I wanted to scream at her. I ran wild in the streets I want to say, I don’t need your damned seat missy. But fuck it, I do want to sit down, so I say thank you and take it.
The list of “additives” to my day used to consist of things you had to buy in dark alleys, from disreputable doctors or through holes in the doors of abandoned buildings. Now I gorge myself on Black Cohosh, Magnesium Glycinate, Melatonin, Calcium Glucarate, L-Theanine, Red Clover, Red Raspberry, the list is endless and none of them is one bit of fun let me tell you that.
Along with the steamy moments and the white hair, menopause smacked me upside the head with the weight gain and the weepy. I hate weepy women. Now I am one. I’m a weepy, sweaty white-haired woman with a faux-beer gut.
Sometimes on the street, I feel Invisible. Particularly when passing one of the pretty girls. I realized recently, it’s not so much that they’re pretty, but that they’re young. I look at pictures of me in my twenties and see that I was pretty. I had no idea.
I have a new brother, Mark, my first sibling. We adopted each other a few years ago. He tells me the truth even when I don’t really want to hear it, he said I’ve started referring to myself as old. I’m 50 fer chrissakes. Okay, fiddy-one, but still.
It’s true. I’ve been doing that. I’ve been letting that slide like it was all okay.
My 79 year old Moms has an 87 year old boyfriend. Often when I call she’s either out of breath from doing the jitterbug and the lindy with him around the apartment, or I hear Frank Sinatra in the background and I know he’s got the lights down low and he’s making his move. Have I thanked you for that bit of genetic flotsam Moms? Because, really, I mean it, thank you for that one, for the wake up call.
Not for one more second will I go gently into that good night. I’m more cougar than crone. No amount of goddess enlightenment crapola is ever going to get me to embrace “crone”. Pet Shop Boy (so named for where I found him, stocking cans of cat food at my local pet food store. when he started working at the butchers, I refrained from renaming him Sausage Boy, though, considering our relationship, it would have been perfectly appropriate) called this week and told me he missed me. He will be 23 this week. In this last month Sable Starr, Marilyn Chambers and Bea Arthur have all passed away. That pubescent cashier may not know who they were, but I do. I have a bit of each of them inside me, and Maude is spending way too mucg time picking my wardrobe.
I’m taking control back. Yesterday, on the subway, a very loud, rather annoying teenage girl – and yes I’ve reached that age where pretty much all teenagers are annoying – she looked at me and said to her friend “Oh, I like that lady bag” pointing at my faux leopard print tote. I suppressed the urge to correct her English and smiled to myself.
How’m I doin? I’m not jitterbugging, but I ain’t dead yet, baby, I ain’t dead yet.