Tag Archives: perimenopause

Nice, My Ass

Before the election — I think this is going to be my new way to mark time — I declared to a friend, “I’m tired of being nice, screw that. I’m not going to be mean, but I’m not going out of my way to be nice. I’m done.” It was in the context of having spent my life being the “nice” person for the worst possible reason: to get people’s approval. Nothing soothes the old insecurities like the slightly superior stance of, “Everyone likes me better than you because I’m nicer and you’re a nasty piece of work.” Plus, being nice means you can never blame me for anything. Of course, there is a price to be paid; dysfunctional, manipulative people eat nice people for breakfast, and before you know it you’re waiting in the getaway car while said manipulator is shoplifting for fun. The other price is that being nice is tiring, and of course, complete bullshit.

And then my perimenopause came along, and Anger swaggered in and kicked Nice to the curb and dumped a drink on her head. At first I thought it was a common symptom of perimenopause, but when I started to talk to my peri friends, I began to get a certain arched eyebrow look when I described how I wanted to pummel a woman for wearing a coat with an odd graphic design. Doesn’t everyone? They’d nod with sympathy and a splash of alarm and confess only to moodiness. Hmmmmm. Now let’s see, a lifetime of being “nice,” and my peri takes a wrong turn onto a rickety wooden bridge across a canyon and catches on fire. While it might take a literature professor to make sense of that whacky metaphor, it doesn’t take a postdoc in clinical psychology to figure out the anger part. It’s that annoying, yet necessary human tendency to make sure we never miss a developmental stage. If you were a teen having to take on adult responsibilities and you haven’t worked that out, your brain will encourage you to run around during midlife acting like a clubbing and drinking teenager. I admit there’s no hard data on this, but trust me, there’s no escaping. Sooner or later skipped stages come back to bite you in the ass.

At first the anger freaked me out because it was so random and seemed to come out of nowhere. Ha ha ha, that’s a good one, isn’t it? “Nowhere,” aka a lifetime of working too hard to be nice. Slowly I learned to notice it, let it be, and not let it get me booked for assault with a deadly coat. As my self-confidence took root, though, I felt something else: a profound sense of relief as I realized I didn’t need to be nice. I was cool just being me. Even better, I didn’t give a flip if people liked me or not.

And that’s how I came to tell my friend I was done with being nice. It felt good, it felt right. Except for my friends who are grandfathered in, if you want to gain access to my good graces, you’re going to have to earn it.

Then the election happened.

After the shock, fear, and desire to knock over a liquor store peaked and ebbed, I was left with the hard truth. Dammit, I have to be nice again. The angry haters are having a field day, and I want no part of that. Plus, I have a kid, so I have to be a good role model — it’s a real drag sometimes. But I slowly realized I don’t need to be nice, which would be useless anyway. What I need to be is kind.

Definitions: Nice  = pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory . What could be more useless and annoying? Kind = having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature. As the guard at Emerald City of Oz said, “That’s a horse of a different color!”

I’m done being pleasant and agreeable. Being generous and considerate is where it’s at for me now. So as the news of Trump’s transition team threatened to overwhelm me because I started to add up all the protests I was going to have to attend, I realized the true antidote was to be kind, right now. Rather than go home from work in my usual state of taking refuge in the anonymous urban environment and not notice anything or anyone, I could be kind. As it often seems to do for me, the universe gave me three encounters to practice.

The first was at Whole Foods. I put my package of stroopwaffles on the counter, divine thin waffle wafers hugging a filling of thin cinnamon caramel. The cashier was a woman of color, and she playfully put them behind her back, and said, “Ooooh these are so good! I’m keeping them for myself!” Usually, I just smile and nod, nicely, but it was much better this time to laugh and say sincerely, “I know, they are so good!” And I prevented myself from adding, they are even better warm from a street vendor in Amsterdam — she probably already knew that.

I left the store, crossed the street, and was approached by a slightly disheveled man of color carrying a small bag of possessions. He started talking in a soft voice, and I caught a few phrases, “new to the neighborhood” and “having a hard time.” Usually I walk by with a quick, “Sorry,” as I continue on my way. But I stopped, looked at him, and since he hadn’t yet articulated what he wanted, I asked, “Do you need help?”

“I need to eat!” I said “OK,” and handed him the first bill in my wallet, a $5. He thanked me and pulled me in for a hug. I believe I hugged him harder than he hugged me. We pulled away, and then we pressed our heads together.

He said, “God bless you. If you need anything, I can help you.” Ah, but you already have, mister.

I got off the train and as I was walking to my car, a brown-skinned boy, maybe 10 or 11 called to me, “Do you have the time?”

“It’s almost six,” I said, and then I remembered how my son and the younguns prefer the exact digital time, so I corrected myself. “It’s 5:55.”

“Good!” he said, “I have to be home by 6!”

“Can you make it?”

“Yes!” he said as he ran off in the direction of his house. And I stood and watched him and appreciated in that moment that he wasn’t afraid to ask a stranger for the time, nor was he afraid to make his way home in the dark.

So far, so good. only 1,489 days to go.

The Mother of All Aches and Pains

We all have aches and pains from time to time, except maybe people in their 20s who spend a lot of time drinking and ignoring their bodies without consequence, and we all hate them for it, except when we remember we pissed off people the same way in our 20s. It’s the circle of life coming to bite us in the ass.

Throughout our life, our period’s aches and pains change, but mostly they are variations on theme: sometimes you get more cramps than usual or less (ha ha, I’m just messing’ with ya, that never happens). Maybe you get a new headache or your mood swings around a little more like a drunken boxer in a ring, rather than a 1940s swing coat, but mostly it’s just a new pattern settling in. You complain to your friends for a few months, and then forget it was any different until the next shift.

All that goes on for 35 years, give or take. I heard about perimenopause, but I thought it was more of the same variations. But let me tell you, 12 years into perimenopause, I can safely say that experience does diddly to prepare you for the slow creep and then onslaught of bizarre symptoms of perimenopause. I mean this shit is wacky. Sure there are the symptoms everyone talks about and make it into the one-woman Broadway shows. Things like hot flashes that feel like Satan has decided to start a fire inside you, and I’m not talking about fiery passion. More like the fires of hell that don’t give a damn that you might be in a work meeting or on a date, or just generally trying to be a normal person.

Mood swings are also a popular topic people like to parody. I’d like to be able to say that our mood swings are directly related to all the other weird hormonal shit that’s happening to us, but the truth is, it’s random. I wanted to rip a woman to shreds with my bare hands simply because she was wearing a coat with an unusual geometric pattern. I think it was what sharks feel when they taste blood. Lucky for her and me I’d been having these bouts for a while, so when I saw her and wanted to pummel her to the ground, I understood it was only perimenopause. I shrugged my shoulders, let her be, and regaled my coworkers with my humorous insanity and we laughed about it.

But all of you who make fun of us should know that’s the tip of the iceberg of what we’re dealing with. If feels like our hormones are running amuck like drunken teenagers without a curfew, and that shit gets old really, really fast. Here are bunch of other lesser known symptoms:

Every once in a while my heart feels like it beats inward instead of out. It’s just a few beats but it’s annoyingly weird. My friend gets random tingling in her arm, and, no, she isn’t having a heart attack. She checked the first time it happened. I’ve gotten a weird thing in my hip socket where one day I’m perfectly fine, then the next day if I turn sharply right while I’m walking, my leg suddenly collapses. That’s super fun, let me tell you. I only fell once, and then I learned to catch myself before it happened. After a few days it disappears. And that’s the really annoying part. Most of these things come and go, and with each new thing, you get super worried because it always seem to resemble a serious illness. If you freak out, and get an urgent appointment with  your doctor, you soon realize you’re not dying. You’re not even close. Your doctor will ask you questions that describe a serious illness, and you hear words like “uncontrollable bleeding,”  “incapacitating pain,” and “excessive or no bowel movements.” You sit there with your perplexing, yet comparatively harmless afflictions, and sound like a big symptom loser.

“Well, doc, when I make a sharp turn to the right, my right leg tends to give out, but I can walk fine if I’m careful, and then it goes away after a few days.” And then she looks at me with raised eyebrows as if to say, “Are we done here? I need to attend to people with real medical issues.” At that point, I start to wish I did have full-on symptoms so she would be sympathetic and give me something. Of course anyone having the full on symptoms, say sitting in a pool of sweat at work, will want to pummel me as if I were wearing a stupid coat, which I’m not. I’m just wearing stupid.

Other symptoms include getting a nice ax-embedded-in-the-side-of-my-head kind of migraine. For a while it was a sign that my period would come the next day, so that was actually kind of useful, until peri realized she was getting too predictable, and I started to get a headache during and after my period. Thanks, bitch.

Don’t get me started with my periods. They have gotten longer and always show up early, unless they come late. I’ve yet to even get to the point where I skip some months (usually the sign that you are getting close to the finish line), and  I’m 51 for fuck’s sake.

Also don’t talk to me about how much I spend on supplies–it’s obscene. I was with a group of four women, all the same age–two of us still had our periods and two didn’t. The two who finished had, of course, just stocked up on tampons and napkins. We thought we could start a charity that could take the supplies of women who finally finish and re-distribute them among those of us who are still going strong. I know I could really use that tampon money for my kid’s college tuition.

And did I mention I’m 51? I should be done with this stuff by now–is it any wonder I want to pummel people? But maybe I shouldn’t be so eager to quit. I recently saw my two older sisters. One finally stopped, but then she gained 10 pounds doing nothing differently. My other sister is sputtering and was telling me about her thinning hair. Her period comes anywhere from every three days to every three weeks. What fresh hell is this??

So go ahead, make fun of us and have a good laugh. But do so at your peril. I may not like the coat you’re wearing.

It’s a Blonde Line Between Love and Hate

Sorry I’m so late…I’m on vacation and in low gear, plus, I kind of worked today. Anyway, no excuses, here’s this week’s post…Because I’m a white, raving liberal, I tend to give non-white, non-majority people the benefit of the doubt. But, ugh, majority white people? You’re going down. My perimenopause-induced, random anger likes to flare up at all kinds of white people, but today, I hate fake blondes.

Recently, I got off the train and as I was walking to work, I found myself stuck behind a group of youngish women walking four abreast on the sidewalk. They weren’t lollygagging, but they weren’t going at a get-to-work pace either. More like, “Oh, I’m on vacation, and I don’t give a rip how fast or slow I walk in front of you slobs who are going to work.”

You know the type.

I wanted to tell them, I don’t know how they walk wherever you’re from girlies, but that’s not how we do things here in Boston. Partly it’s because the sidewalks are hardly big enough for two people. But it’s also a personal space thing. We’re Bostonians. On sidewalks, we steer clear of others. We don’t touch or brush and we don’t walk four abreast. It simply isn’t done.

But there was no way for me to get around them, so I decided to quietly judge them instead. Oh my. Where do I begin?

First I noticed they all had similarly long, fake blonde hair with enough roots showing to start a goddamn botanical garden. Their hair reminded me of a declaration my friend Mike and I made the previous Sunday while dancing. There we were, swaying and jumping with the sea of dancing men, when a couple of girly women with long blonde hair stood on the dance floor, not on the edge, but on the dance floor, and one had a drink in her hand. Mike often laments, “Why, why, why do people dance with drinks in their hand?” Because they are amateurs, and Mike and I are there to dance, so don’t blame us if one of our cool little moves knocks your drink out of your hand. It’s a dance floor. If you want to stand around with a drink in your hand, go to where ever it is they do that. In any event, Mike did his cool little spin and sure enough he knocked girlie blonde #1’s drink from her hand. She glared at him, and Mike and I shrugged, kept dancing, and declared blondes should be banned from the club, unless it’s a wig and the blonde is in drag.

So as I was nursing a good dose of blonde hate, I next noticed they were all wearing short shorts — slightly different styles, but all the same length. So that gave me the opening to judge their bare legs of various levels of fitness, ranging from none to almost some, and colors, ranging from very white to translucent white. What a bunch of fake blonde losers. And how dare they come to Boston and obstruct my commute?

Finally, the sidewalk opened up enough for me to pass them. Hallelujah! I was about two steps in front, and could finally hear what they were actually talking about. Just as I was wondering what sort of vacuous conversation they would be having, I nearly tripped when my brain, clouded with nasty thoughts, finally registered what I was hearing.

They had British accents.

And instantly I was flooded with love for all four of those fake blonde ladies, as they hail from the land of drawing room dramas, bad teeth, afternoon tea, and the Queen. I’m a hopeless anglofile. As I pondered the ridiculousness of my reactions, I resolved to meditate more. Or send my myself to my room, or at least try to just think about unicorns and rainbows rather than be a judgmental, hypocritical witch, as fun as that can be.

But that’s what this is, right? Realizing how we can all be walking, talking, very nice judging machines, who are making snap judgments based on nothing more than a bad day of perimenopause hormones or a distaste of fake blondes. Many years ago, I was a grad student in a writing program, and I wanted to try out teaching. They gave us two semesters of freshman comp. God help those poor kids. Let’s hope all the money they were paying was well spent on the other teachers in their later years. The second semester was themed multiculturalism, and even as I write it now, I don’t think people even call it that any more. Christ, I feel old. Anyway, we had a couple of training session so we wouldn’t completely  traumatize those freshman. I remember one of my fellow teachers having this realization while we were trying to figure out interesting ways to teach mostly white kids about multiculturalism. She had caught herself in a moment of frustration waiting in a long line, saying something to herself that was not nice about the ethnicity of the person in front of her who was not moving up as quickly as she would have liked. And then she realized a lot of the shit we say about other people can be boiled down to “Get out of my way.” That always stayed with me, and I remembered it after my little hissy fit with the fake blondes who were in my way, but then ended up being something I love, goddamn it.

So next time I’m behind a guy with an annoying man bun or one of those huge, overly manicured beards (sorry dude, I’m still not kissing you, that’s nasty) and slicked back hair, I’ll just take a deep breath and try to remember they are not really in my way, and if all else fails, I’ll pretend they’re  British.


Photo credit:  Get your own bad dye job here.

Me and My Super Freak…Acne Again

I wrote this post last year, and since I’ve had acne on my chin for two solid months, I thought it would be fun to complain about it again. Plus, now I. Am. For. Ty. Nine. Years, Old. 49. This is bullshit, just sayin’.

Last night there were two suspicious red areas on my chin. This morning I have three raised acne bumps and one hurts like hell and looks like it means business. Big deal, you say. I. Am. For. Ty. Eight. Years. Old. 48. More than two scores. Nearly a half century. Almost half a Ben Franklin. I have slowly made peace with fact that this is a time of transition. Perimenopause, life assessment, aging parents, raising a teen, facing old emotional baggage. And on a good day, I can spin much of this into an almost noble undertaking, as if I’ve chosen personal growth, rather than getting dragged to it kicking and screaming by Mother Nature. But acne? Really? There is no spinning that. It sucked when I had it as a teen and it sucks now. Do you know what’s even more mortifying? I have a bathroom cabinet full of acne products, and only one belongs to my teen-aged son.

But it’s more than that. Not only was I not told about this possibility, I was told the opposite by the dermatologist who treated my scar-inducing cystic acne when I was 20. He said I’d have beautiful skin at 50. I guess he assumed the excessive oil production causing the acne would have declined  by 1) the passage of time and 2) the drug I was taking, Accutane*, which cuts down oil gland production. His prediction meant very little to me at the time — at 20, I could hardly imagine being 25, never mind 50. But over time I came to depend on the promised beautiful skin. As I got into full-on perimenopause and my hormones were acting like drunken citizens during Prohibition, I clung to the fact that at least I wouldn’t have to deal with acne. Maybe my body was sweating randomly and plaguing me with odd aches and pains, but dammit I was going to have amazing skin!

I should have realized to not take his predictions too seriously. He also confidently and inaccurately predicted I would only need two Accutane treatments. “Hardly anyone has needed two, and no one has needed three.” To be fair, Accutane came out in 1979 and I took it first in 1984. Probably no one knew how many treatments it should take, especially for my super freak acne.

But here I am all this time later with acne that isn’t quite Accutane worthy, but is more than just a dainty “blemish” — a stupid word if ever there was one. I never thought I would actually be able to say a positive thing about having acne as a teen, but as severe as mine was, at least plenty of kids had some kind of acne, and it’s an expected teen thing. Now I get to go to work meetings and try to be professional with a bunch of angry red bumps on my chin—or on my nose or in my ear if I’m super lucky! That’s wicked fun, let me tell you. I almost envy the women who are sweating and ripping off their suit jackets. I happen to work with a lot of people in that age group, so it’s not as freakish as if you worked in say, a start-up with 20-somethings. Although, now that I think about it, they might have some acne. I should definitely check that out as a career move. At least until get my fabulous skin at 60.

*I just want to acknowledge Accutane has since become a generic drug and has had come controversy around side effects: severe birth defects and suicidal depression. I had a positive experience with it. My doctor told me flat out, “If you get pregnant on this drug, your child will have deformities and may not even have a head.” I was scared into compliance, and it did not affect my son who was born a number of years after I stopped taking it. And as far as depression, it was the really bad acne that was depressing me, and when it cleared up (after three tries), I was a new woman. Well, at least until now.

Photo credit: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-chinny-chin-chins-5/