Google "Benefits of Menopause," and you'll get 8,570,000 possible links. Over 8.5 million articles written on how menopause makes us stronger, sexier, more confident and more at peace with our bodies and our sexuality. Not to mention the exhilarating freedom from periods, bloating, cramping, PMS and the constant worry about pregnancy, however slim the chance.
What they don't tell you in those same posts is that all that zen is achieved after menopause is over. It's the prize at the end of a rather bumpy ride, during which you'll start questioning whether you'll ever be sexy again. Or if you'll ever care.
Like most women, I like feeling attractive, sexy, desirable. I've spent more money than I probably should've towards that goal over the years, and although yoga pants and no makeup are my norm, I do clean up fairly well (which admittedly takes longer with each passing year). I have a tiny, but persistent, inner hot chick that still likes stilettos, little black dresses, and the appreciative looks from Hubs at my efforts. Menopause crashed my hotness with a thud heard in three states.
Suddenly I was more "Ma'am" than MILF. Men stopped whistling at me from the street and started helping me through the crosswalk. People no longer commented "You look so much like your mother" and started assuming we were sisters. One unfortunate store owner in town asked me if I was my son's grandmother. (As soon as I figure out how to hide the body, he's going to die.)
In retrospect, I'm amazed that Hubs made it through my menopausal years. He married a reasonably confident, arguably normal woman, and woke up one day to an overheated, moody, questionably sane female sobbing uncontrollably over the sudden appearance of cankles. My MILF was gone. How menopause killed it:
1. Hot flashes. We were out at our favorite romantic restaurant, and instead of the coy flirting of our early years ("Gee, Big Guy, is it hot in here or is it just you?"), it became "Is it hot in here or what? I'm hot. Is anybody else hot??" Repeated requests to the uncooperative waiter to turn the thermostat down finally ended with a screeching "Can't you turn the freaking heat down?!? It's TOO FRIGGIN' HOT IN HERE." Hubs dragged my sweaty body out of the restaurant, and we haven't been back since.
2. Metabolism changes. Actually, mine didn't change. It stopped. Weight maintenance was now limited to one Fruit Loop and a Diet Coke per day.
Weight loss required colonic cleansing and fasting. And if you like wine, no carbs for you. Ever. Carbs plus wine make you blow up like a puffer fish, so you have to choose. I haven't had a carb since 2009.
3. Fatigue. I was tired all the time. Bedtime went from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., effectively eliminating boogie nights on the dance floor, since it's virtually impossible to find a band that starts at 5:30.
4. Night sweats. Yeah, nothing turns a man on more than being whacked on the arm at 2 a.m., to "Get up" because we have to change the cold, wet sheets. Again. After the first six months, we both got used to just tossing beach towels over the sheets and crawling back into bed. Take that, sex life.
5. Day sweats. I quit going to the gym after realizing my clothes would be soaked, with visible sweat pouring down between my boobs and my butt crack, and I'd only been on the treadmill for 3 minutes. It took me longer to wipe down the machine than it did to work out.
6. Incontinence. I'd laugh. A little squirt. I'd sneeze. Another little squirt. The actual need to pee? Now I'd be clenching my kegels while I waddle-ran to the nearest bathroom, praying there wasn't a line and fully prepared to bust into the men's room if necessary. By the end of the evening, I smelled like Eau de Pee, sitting in wet undies, and wondering what the hell had happened to my life. Hubs, not surprisingly, was still not turned on.
7. Mood swings. Some days, Hubs would come home to find me sobbing over yet-another Hallmark commercial about the son returning home at Christmas to his adoring little sister and happy, teary-eyed parents. Other days, any and all comments directed at me, from anyone in the room, on any subject, were met with "What the hell is wrong with you??" accompanied, when the stupidity-level warranted it, by a smack up 'long side the head. Hubs claimed later that every day was a crap shoot.
8. Physical changes. Under-arm twaddle, boobs headed towards my knees and hips widening, irrevocably eliminated anything sleeveless or low-cut from my closet and would forevermore require military-grade underwear. Menopause underwear is designed to git 'er done, by pushing, lifting and shoving defiant and migrating body parts back into their original shape and place. We no longer care about lace edging or cute bows. We need Kevlar underwire and the Spanx company on speed-dial.
9. Body heat. More consistent than hot flashes, I was basically just hot all. the. time. We had the front door open year-round, and unless it was raining, I had the top down on my car. In December. I turned the house heat completely off every night and opened all the windows. Hubs repeatedly complained that he couldn't perform in a meat locker. I reminded him once that it's a bad chef who blames his utensils, but apparently he didn't get my humor. Nobody got any that night.
10. Hunger. Suffice it to say that I was always hungry. And somehow, I have no recollection of craving carrots. I do remember threatening to bludgeon Hubs to death one night for eating the last of my Milk Duds. To this day, he's never eaten another Dud.
11. Evening conversations tended more towards chronic menopausal-induced IBS than our mutual plans for our next vacation through the wine country. Hubs, who's never seen me pee (not once in 15 years) because I want to maintain a modicum of mystery in our marriage, looked a bit stunned one night when I bent over and hiked up the back of my dress, asking "When I bend over like this, can you see cellulite on the backs of my legs?" He laughed so hard, he fell off his chair, but was smart enough to leave that question untouched.
Now, at the end of the tunnel, I'm approaching inner peace. But it was a humbling and often mortifying ride. And occasionally, when I'm doing my morning prayers and meditation, my thoughts will free-fall back to those years and I'll ask God, "Really?? REALLY??"
I'm still waiting for a response.
Earlier on Huff/Post50: