FaceOnFire: A Girl's Guide to Perimenopause

{April 29, 2010}   Anesthesia is Overrated

Okay, so I’m feeling a little ripped off. Yesterday was my Icky Surgical Procedure and I was all psyched for the euphoria that was supposed to take me to higher heights once they started pumping the Happy Juice into my i.v.

I’m convinced they slipped me some Happy Juice Lite, because all I can remember was being led to the surgery room by the nurse, getting situated onto the bed, and the anesthesiologist telling me that he was about to give me something to help me relax. After that, nothing. I was in the middle of an very serious dream involving two fedora-wearing, 1950s-era businessmen with bad teeth when I heard a voice saying, “OK, time to wake up.”

Looking down at me were the Hot Hot Husband and the recovery room nurse. Giddy happiness as I was being led to the op room? None. Carefree laughter and cajoling with the op room staff? Zilch. Channeling my inner flower child after all was said and done? Nada.  So, what happened? All I got out of the Hot Hot Husband today was that the op room nurse told him I regaled her with a brief account of a “former employer” and, in the spirit of camaraderie, warned her that “Sometimes you have to work with assholes.” She wholeheartedly agreed. But of course I don’t recall one syllable of this lively discussion on the hazards of working for someone else, because my brain was in an alternate universe at the time.

But on to the meat of the matter (SQUEAMISH READER ALERT: skip this paragraph if medical details make you feel lightheaded). True to her word, my doc took four glamour shots of the inside of my uterus. Two showed velvety-smooth, blushing pink walls. The other two each revealed a filmy white growth clinging to the rosy surface of the uterus. If the Hot Hot Husband heard my doc right (and if he’s not lying so as “not to worry me”), she didn’t seem at all concerned about the growths and simply extracted them, shipping the tissue off to the lab. Now I get to wait until May 11 to find out the test results. The cool thing is I get to skip a period this month, since the doc squeegeed the walls of my womb and it’s brand-spankin’ clean until the next cycle begins.

For now I’m evaluating the artistic merits of posting photos of my inner sanctum on the blog, or maybe even using the images on our holiday cards this year.  Full disclosure—that last one was my doc’s idea. You can see why I love her. But I’ve settled on making a vow to get more exercise and finally buying that BPA-free bottle to take with me to the gym.  The wisdom to be gleaned, Gentle Reader, is that tests for cancer make one stop and re-think past insults to the body and resolve to live a cleaner life going forward. In the immortal words of that most famously feisty of southern belles, “Tomorrow is another day.”


There was a time (to be specific, junior high school) when I felt about as beautiful as a Grimm’s fairy tale troll. As the class straight-A student, my 4.0 brain made me a complete zero when it came to male attention. Add to this a humiliating incident at the JC Penney beauty salon where a well-intentioned but hopelessly incompetent stylist gave me a near buzz-cut, when all I wanted was a Dorothy Hamill. Finish it off with a pair of oversized, prescription eyeglasses, circa 1979, and the result is  a nearsighted, androgynous beanpole.

Although by eighth grade my hair had grown out, I never recovered from the trauma of looking like an effeminate boy for a year and a half.

Junior high was the farthest thing from my mind on Monday when I got a Facebook message from a girl in my eighth-grade graduating class. The very next day, I found myself planning a 30-year reunion, and what a fitting distraction from the joys of counting down to my looming hysteroscopy.

Today I started rummaging through storage boxes searching for grade school photos to post on our Facebook alumni page. I unearthed the group graduation portrait, and three rows back on the left, I see myself: a radiant 14 year-old girl with long brown hair.

So we’re not going to get maudlin here. We may in fact get kind of catty. But before we go there, girlfriends, there’s a lesson to be learned.

And it goes like this: Close your eyes and think of the last time someone whipped out a camera, and you said, “No, my hair’s a mess.” “No! I look like a beached whale.” Or, “No, I hate having my picture taken!” Got that moment fresh in your mind? OK. Now hop into your mental time machine and do the same exercise, but now you’re looking for a similar instance from 10, 20, 30 years ago. Someone pointed a Polaroid, Rolliflex or instamatic camera your way, and  you reacted with a litany of reasons why you should not be photographed at that moment. Only this time, the person actually took your photo.

Still with me?  Now think back to what that photo from 10, 20 or 30 years ago looks like today. Not half bad, huh? You might even say you looked pretty darned cute. And what you thought was a bad hair day (or whatever the equivalent expression was back then) actually looks like you having a great time living life.

So the lesson, my lovelies, is that 30 or 40 years from now, if we’re lucky enough to become cute little apple doll-faced octogenarians, we will look at photos of ourselves from today (yes, today!) and think, “I looked pretty darned hot in my day.”

Which leads me to your mission, if you choose to accept it: The next time you find yourself nose-to-lens with a camera, smile broadly and revel in your beauty. Especially if you happen to be at your 30-year junior high school reunion.

I don’t know how your junior high “Birds and the Bees 101” experience went, but as a 13 year-old snickering through sex ed at St. Callistus School, somehow the nuns neglected to give me the down-lo on the annual ob/gyn exam.  After decades (literally) of putting the feet in the stirrups, I still can’t get used to the idea of an ice-cold tool being jammed into my lady parts.

Graphic details aside, today’s ob/gyn field trip caught me off guard, as my doctor (an amazingly bright and enviably fit woman) got the Pensive Furrowed Brow as I described my perimenopausal symptoms. The clincher—two periods occurring within less than 21 days of each other.

To cut to the chase, I will have to undergo a yucky exam with a frightful name that slipped my mind the second I found out I’d have to be put under for the adventure.  What scares the crap out of me is not that a camera will be launched into my uterus, or that tissue will be scraped from the walls, or even that the test is to determine if my frequent periods are the result of some kind of cancer. Nope, what frightens me more than Madonna’s beef-jerky arms is the fact that I’ll have to undergo general anesthesia (more on that in a later post).

So I did what any level-headed, centered 44 year-old woman would do. I went and got my first professional spray tan. I headed on down to my friendly neighborhood Massage Spot, and 15 minutes and $48 later, I emerged a bronzed Beach Babe with a little brown menopot.

For those of you who plan on indulging your inner St. Tropez Tan Girl, two stories from the trenches: 1. The spray comes on like an Arctic cold front, so be prepared to grit your teeth and bear it. 2. The tanning specialist recommended I not wear my bra until after I shower tomorrow morning, so if you’re at all self-conscious about letting the girls go free ‘n’ natural, don’t plan on running errands after your session.

Tonight I’m packing for a long-overdue weekend in Palm Springs with the Hot, Hot Husband. The forecast: I’ll be so busy reveling in my glowing goddess glory that the aforementioned Yucky Exam will be but a minuscule spot on an otherwise sun-bathed horizon.

Ah, Buenos Aires…

The Paris of South America. The land where tango was born.  A city of smolderingly sexy soccer players.

I had the pleasure of visiting last fall on the tail end of a business trip, and what a whirlwind of activity in one short weekend. I shopped, I saw, I conked out. I even tried my hand at tango, thanks to my cousin’s infinite patience and ability to refrain from falling down laughing at my pathetic attempts to look sinewy, svelte and seductive.

How does this all tie in to perimenopause, you ask? Aside from being the source of the oh-so-cool wallpaper on my Twitter site (@PeriWonderful), Buenos Aires is where, for the first time, I drank maté, an herbal tea which is the national drink of choice.

Which brings me to the first of what will surely be many Perimenopause Recipes du Jour. Today’s is quick and easy, and you don’t have to be a foodie to whip this one up. The best news is I’ve been drinking one cup a day for the past five days and by golly, my night sweats have diminished considerably. So without further ado, I present to you my Maté Soy Latte. You Spanish speakers can have some fun with the title.

Maté Soy Latte (serves 1)

One bag of Explorer’s Bounty Argentinean Maté tea*

Boiling hot water

1/4 cup of soy milk

Honey to taste

Steep tea bag for three to five minutes in a large mug 3/4 full with just-boiled water. If desired, add honey to taste and stir. Add soy milk, stir. Enjoy, or as they say in Buenos Aires, buen provecho!

*Once again, I do not receive royalties, cash, gift certificates or hot Argentinean soccer players from Explorer’s Bounty for the privilege of mentioning them on this blog.  I only name them because it was the only brand of maté available at my local grocery store. You can find loose leaf maté in specialty tea stores or online.

With apologies to the Kings of Leon regarding this entry’s title, despite soy lattes and questionably high doses of vitamin E, I continue to experience hot, hot heat in the middle of the night, and I lament to inform you that said heat is in no way related to my hot, hot husband.

So as the clock struck midnight, I found myself alone on the divan (it’s really more of an oversized armchair, but I love the word ‘divan’) with my laptop, compiling what will be the first of many Menopause Playlists. I tried to include tunes to accommodate all musical tastes, but as you’ll soon discover, I am an unapologetic disciple of 80s alt/progressive music, with a healthy dose of punk sprinkled in, laced with a smattering of current alternative bands (Kings of Leon, rejoice! You have one perimenopausal fan in a sea of GenYers). So fear not, gentle fifty-something readers, I will do my best to select songs that will bring a smile to your lips, or an angry scowl if the theme is “Mood Music for Mood Swings.”

For now, I present to you my first Menopause Playlist, with the theme “Hot Tunes for Hot Flashes.”  The songs are in no particular order, and all are available on iTunes, should you be so inclined. By the way, iTunes and the artists listed below do not send me freebies, cash, jewel-encrusted tiaras or any other form of compensation or payment for mentioning them in my blog. Damn them!


Sex on Fire (Kings of Leon)

Burning Up (Madonna)

You Dropped a Bomb on Me (Gap Band)

Fire (Pointer Sisters)

Hot, Hot, Hot (Buster Poindexter)

Heatwave (Martha and the Vandellas)

Lava (B-52s)

The Heat is On (Glenn Frey)

Atomic (Blondie)

Burn for You (INXS)

Burning Down the House (Talking Heads)

Caliente (Eartha KItt)

Volcano (Jimmy Buffett)

Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil)

Red Hot Mama (Parliament)

Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash)

Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis)

Burning Love (Elvis Presley)

Fever (Peggy Lee)

Hot Stuff (Donna Summer)

Fire (Jimi Hendrix)

et cetera