***Warning*** Icky subject matter, strong language, and general irritability. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Last summer my eye doctor leveled the phrase, “women your age” at me when I went in for my check up. I had been having problems reading my medication bottles and other small print and I figured it was time to consider some reading glasses. I hate to admit I am getting that old, but sometimes you just have to face facts.
The phrase came up when she was asking me what kind of vision problems I was having and she nodded knowingly and said, “Yes, these are common problems for women your age.” She is 30. Maybe. Not that there’s anything wrong with that mind you, but honestly what does she know about “women my age?”
I almost retorted with, “You know, women my age long ago lost that need to please and the politeness filter that goes with it which gives impression that we are somewhat unstable and will snap for no reason, dearie. You might want to rethink that saying.”
Instead, I just smiled and said, “You know, women my age hate that phrase.” (Because women my age have also learned a self-control we were noticeably lacking in our youth. Or maybe I just find amusement in politely smiling through someone else’s discomfort.)
The young doctor made it through the eye exam relatively unscathed and I got my glasses so that I can see, but those three words have stuck with me
I find them especially relevant today, as I sit here trying to write while battling cramps and planning a trip to the drug store to restock my supply of feminine products.
Many years ago, my periods began slowing down and occurring less and less frequently. My doctors mentioned several times that my excessive weight can cause that to happen prematurely. For years, I have had only one or two cycles a year. Conversely, the nurse at the gastric by-pass surgeon’s office told me that sometimes when women lose a lot of weight, their periods start up again. She also warned that when that happens, women can become quite fertile and get pregnant easily. (I wrote about this before here.)
Now, THAT is a phrase that can freak out a woman my age. Not that I am in jeopardy of getting pregnant right now. Single, straight, willing men of my age are sadly in short supply. But Holy Mother of God, I’m not prepared for that.
Let’s start with some basic facts. I am 47. I’m no longer a young woman, but I’m not quite an old woman yet. Nearly there, certainly, but not quite yet. At 47, it’s not inconceivable (see what I did there?) that I would continue to menstruate or possibly get pregnant, but it’s also not something I really want to think about anymore. Ten years ago, I might have been thrilled at the possibility, but at 47 I’m kind of mad and freaked out that I still have to think about this.
I’ve heard rumors that eventually, this comes to an end, but I have not seen any evidence of this so-called menopause yet. I am beginning to think it is something doctors just made up. I keep waiting for it to come to an end, but every few months, BAM! I am struck down with painful cramps, bloating, wild mood swings, messiness, and general miserableness. Oh let’s not forget the constipation. That’s a nice little ancillary benefit. More pain and discomfort on top of already being pissed off.
My sister and I had a discussion about this earlier this am. She has a history of endometriosis. She recently had a pretty serious surgery to remove the endometriosis from her insides. This was her third such surgery. During a previous one, they removed an ovary. During this most recent surgery, they removed half of her remaining ovary. She was so angry. “Why didn’t you just take the whole thing? Or do you just want to make sure I come back for another surgery?”
Their reasoning was they left it in, just in case. (Three other really irritating words, btw.) She is still trying to figure out what they meant by that. She and her husband have made it clear that children are not an option for them. I will not go into details out of respect for their privacy, but her getting pregnant is not possible. She made that clear to her doctors. She’s also three years younger than me and not really any more prepared to have children than I am. Furthermore, she never wanted to have any. She never considered having children an option.
She assumes that the doctors left it just in case she wanted to continue having periods every month. Of course, they told her that her cycles would probably stop. “They lied,” she informed me this morning. To which I replied, “Fucking men!”
Seriously though, there has to be a better way for women my age to navigate this issue. The worst part, since my gastric by-pass I cannot even eat the comfort foods that helped me through this in the past. I cannot have sugary foods, so chocolate is not really an option. I mean, I can have a chocolate protein shake, but that’s not really the same as the chocolate croissant the girl at the table next to me is eating. I cannot have fried food, so General Tso’s chicken, fried chicken, or a large plate of gravy fries are out. I cannot have starchy food, so no mashed potatoes and a hot turkey sandwich smothered in gravy. How is any of this fair? I have cramps and I cannot even enjoy some creature comforts? (Did I mention irritability?)
So, here I sit at my favorite new coffee shop trying to write my way through the misery hoping that and a large cappuccino with cinnamon will get me through to menopause.