Mama has been warning me about this event for a while, since I turned 40 as a matter of fact.
“Just you wait,” she’d say. “You’re going to go through a lot of changes.”
She loved reminding me of it when I complained I had gained weight and it wasn’t coming off as quickly as it had in my thirties.
“That happens,” she stated, with a smug little “I told you so” tone to her voice.
I don’t feel like it’s time for the change to hit, but perhaps it has.
It’s not like I got a phone call from some Menopause Alert System, letting me know what was about to happen. Nor did I get to choose a more convenient time.
Mama chose to go through her change during my Senior year of high school.
I never knew from one day to the next which of the Seven Faces of Jean I was going to get.
One morning, she was yelling at me about something I had no control over -- I can’t remember what it was, just the fact that I didn’t know why she was angry.
My first response was to ask her if she was out of cigarettes.
She wasn’t but how dare I ask that.
The next day, she was crying as she wrote a check to an animal rescue fund that had sent her a fundraising letter. She showed me the baby seals and told me the horrors she had just read about, which truthfully made me cry, too.
Then, she was pulling me out of one of my friend’s cars and telling me I was grounded until I was 27.
“You knew where I was going! I told you!” I said as she dragged me towards the door.
Apparently, hormonal changes give you superhuman strength as a mother.
She paused mid-drag to yank me up. “I forgot. And you should remember that.”
I had to remember that she forgot?
I walked on eggshells, scared to draw the wrath of the Crazy Redhead.
“What’s wrong with Mama?” I asked, running to Granny for safety and protection. Granny was bigger and meaner; I was actually worried Mama was morphing into her.
“The change,” Granny said.
“When will she be done changing?”
“Who knows. Maybe a few years.”
I’m not sure when things leveled off, but one day she seemed normal again, or at least normal for her.
I told her it was alarming and scary.
Mama, for the most part, had no recollection of her behavior.
“How do you not know how you acted?” I asked.
Before Mama could respond, Granny interjected.
“Lil ‘Un, let me tell you something. When you go through the change, you ain’t in control over nothing. You hear me. Nothing. It’s like your hormones take over and possess you. You are meaner and irrational -- there ain’t no logic at all. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“That you’ve been going through this change for 18 years?”
She grunted at me. “No, you hateful little thing. Just you wait. You’ll see.”
That was Granny’s biggest threat: “You’ll see.”
Well, here I am, 40 years later and I’m seeing.
However, my change reality is far different from Mamas or Granny’s.
Neither of them had hot flashes.
Or at least Granny didn’t know she was having one. She fussed about the electric bill about 99 percent of the time, so she refused to turn on the air even when we were probably as done as a steak at the Sizzler.
As I was talking to Lamar one day, his face suddenly looked concerned. “Are you okay?” he interrupted.
“Your face just went red and you’re kinda...sweaty. I’ve never seen you sweat before.”
Well, of course not. I am not going to do anything to exert myself to break a sweat. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t like to exercise; I never feel un-sweaty.
“I do feel kinda warm all of a sudden.”
He felt my forehead, but since he’s a man, it was more like he palmed my face.
“You feel clammy.”
“Thanks, you know how to make a gal feel good about herself.”
It wasn’t a fever but a flash, and it eventually went away, but just like exercise, I felt icky even though it was winter. If only these things burned calories, I wouldn’t worry about hormonal weight gain.
I’d also be back in my skinny jeans.
And then one day, at the height of the pandemic, swathed in a mask in the grocery store, I broke out in a sweaty hot flash. The cashier immediately froze in horror.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
I nodded. I didn’t feel okay. I felt like a gas station hot dog on that little rotating warmer.
“Are you sure? You don’t look okay.”
I nodded again, trying to fan myself with my hand. “It’s just a hot flash.”
The lady bagging my groceries stopped and looked at me. “Oh, honey, I feel for you. Those things are awful.”
“Yeah, they are.”
I’ve not been able to sleep normally, waking up several times, feeling like it’s 300 degrees. Summer -- and it’s just started -- has gotten off to a fabulously sweaty start.
I’m as irritable as usual though, but I have zero energy to stay angry for long.
In the middle of a hot flash at the post office, the clerk asked me if I had gotten to the point where it was the all-over-heating sensation.
“Where you feel like an electric stove eye heating from your feet up to your head, and it just gets hotter, like you’re ready to start frying something.”
“Not yet,” I said.
“But I’m glad I’ve got that to look forward to.”