A few years ago I was having lunch with mom, when I recognized our server. She was about my age, and I couldn’t place her. She could have been a distant relation or someone I see every day in some other context.
She gave us our bill, and I saw her signature in big balloon letters. “Chrystal,” with a cartoon smiley face. I remembered who she was.
“Did you go to grade school over here? Over at Franklin?” I asked, bobbing my head toward the window. “I think we were in, like, second grade together.”
She tucked some hair behind her ear and looked at me, then snapped her fingers and pointed.
“That’s where … I thought. Yeah, I remember you,” she said.
“Beth,” I said, putting out my hand, but she slapped her thigh instead of taking it.
“You were that girl who ate paste,” she said.
Hmm. Not sure what kind of impression I was going for with my choice of snack, but apparently it was a lasting one.
I remembered that short conversation with Chrystal this week. I had mentioned to Mike something about having my annual exam, where my Doctor had the audacity to ask about signs of perimenopause.
Not that those symptoms have anything to do with a craving for craft glue, mind you. Then again, maybe they do. I have yet to look them up.
The doctor thing reminded Mike of an interview he’d heard on NPR with a woman who went through what sounded like the mother of all mid-life crises, with all the associated hormone fluctuations, hot flashes, and sleep deprivation.
The author, Sandra Tsing Loh, said she went a little bonkers, took up an affair with her work colleague, left her husband, and destroyed plenty of other relationships along the way.
I tried to listen to the interview myself, but somehow the woman’s voice made me want to throw my computer, so I’m left with reporting Mike’s account for the sake of the point I’m trying to make.
Tsing Loh said something about how women, from adolescence through the completion of menstruation, are in the clutches of hormones that turn them into nurturers; more sedate, passive and … meh, something to do with species survival and not eating your offspring. Her point was that our preadolescent and post-menopausal selves are our true, nonconforming, give-not-one-shit-in-the-world identities.
If that’s truly the case, and I’m staring down the barrel of perimeno-me, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Even in my so-called nurturing years, I’ve been cranky, sarcastic, caustic, impatient, uncouth, and self-centered. And that’s the me filtered by estrogen.
We should all just take cover.
There are a number of bloggers who write about the horrors of The Change, the Big M, the mid-life screaming meemees, the roiling hormone storm, the hymen hijinks (just made that one up. I know it doesn’t make sense, but alliteration is my thing). I don’t plan to be one of them. I have yet to spend a nanosecond looking up any symptoms or signs, so if commiserating on that aspect of life is your cup of tea, you’ll have to keep looking. I’ll just stick to oversharing every other thing you never asked about.
My doctor says I don’t need to worry just yet, anyway.
Mom says the whole thing just happened to her pretty much without her noticing, which is the sort of scenario I like best, so I’m just going to go with it. I can do that. After all, I’m a Virgo, but I decided long ago that I’m feeling more of a Leo thing going on. I’m going to do the same thing with this menopause thing.
The alternative is imagining a future where I’m harder for people around here to get along with than I am now. That would suck, because I’m surrounded by really nice people whose happiness matters to me.
I try to remember what kind of person I was before the onset of menses, but all I recall is a quiet girl who liked Star Trek and didn’t have any girlfriends who wanted to pretend the monkey bars were the USS Enterprise …
And who apparently was hungry for her school supplies.
Don’t go changing. Not before you vote, anyway.
Photo by: Ant Jackson