FaceOnFire: A Girl's Guide to Perimenopause

{August 7, 2013}   Go ahead. Explore my pelvis.

If  you think shopping for a bathing suit is humiliating, try this on for size.

You’re lying on a hospital examining table with a camera wand thingy stuck way up in your Lady Parts while the technician attempting to photograph the walls of your Va-Jay-Jay searches fruitlessly for a clear image.

Lots of scintillating conversation topics arise while someone is probing your Garden of Eden with a rod masquerading as a medical device. Like for instance, the weather. In Southern California, that can only go so far:

Girl With Wand [staring at ultrasound screen]: How’s the weather out there?

Me: Sunny and 72.

G.W.W.: Cool. Same as it was yesterday.

Awkward silence.

There was a time when lying prone while someone jiggled a device in your Hoo-Ha was actually a lot of fun. Especially if that someone was your boyfriend/partner/hubby/spouse/gigolo. This time, it was tedious and annoying:

[20 LONG minutes after the weather conversation]:

Me: Are you finding what you needed in there?

G.W.W. [mildly panicked]: Uh, I can’t seem to get a clear image [probes frantically].

Me:  Well, since this isn’t working, I would suggest it’s time for Plan B.

Plan B involved G.W.W. disclosing that we were using “an outdated machine.” And that there was a “newer machine” next door. Two minutes later, the bizarre tableau resumed in the adjacent room with a more modern machine, this time with a wand wrapped in plastic. Hmm…wonder why the first one had no protective covering?

[10 minutes into my coupling with said Newer Machine]:

Me: So, how long have you worked in healthcare?

G.W.W. [staring at ultrasound screen]: Six months.

Me [panicked but masking it well]: What did you do before?

G.W.W. [still staring at screen]: I was in sales.

Me: Pharmaceutical sales?

G.W.W. [looking at me sheepishly]: No, I sold tractors.

A vision of her in a John Deere trucker hat was all it took for me to want to wrestle the probe from her hands and self-administer the pelvic ultrasound.  She finished before I could do my best Mrs. Peel and somersault off the table, looking chic but tough wearing nothing but an open-backed hospital gown.

Two days later, I was in the doctor’s office with a bladder infection.

Shopping for bathing suits can be traumatic, no doubt about it. But I would argue that getting your Pleasure Palace photographed by a former tractor salesperson is right up there. So to speak.


{August 1, 2013}   A Menopause Bucket List

It was inevitable.

Last month I touched down in the Kingdom of Menopause. I arrived first class (natch!), a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in one hand, a bottle of herbal hot flash pills in the other.

So what’s a girl to do? Turns out, lots.  With love in my heart and three extra inches around my waist, I present you with my Menopause Bucket List:

1. Lose six pounds (that was a no-brainer).

2. Send out a search-and-rescue team to locate my long-lost libido.

3. Invent melt-proof foundation.

4. Find a creative use for that box of super-jumbo maxi pads in the bathroom cabinet.

4a. Teacup chihuahua daybeds?

5. Find a Kegel app. Anything I can do to avoid becoming Menopausal Pee Lady.

6. Start doing crossword puzzles to stave off Brain Fog Syndrome.

7. Shit. I forgot what number 7 was.

8. Wear a rubber band around my wrist and snap it each time I listen to smooth jazz.

8a. I haven’t yet listened to smooth jazz. That was just a preventive measure.

9. Never, ever publicly announce I’m having a hot flash. Ever.

10. Consider changing the name of this blog, as I’ve permanently vacated the Land of Perimenopause.

So there you have it, darlings. What’s on your Menopause Bucket List?

Knock on wood, my consulting business is going swimmingly well these days. But it’s of dubious reassurance to know that if it all went to pot, there’s a whole new career path I can embark upon: Bearded Lady.

Yesterday I discovered a disproportionately long hair on my chin, due north of the thick, Don Draper-caliber beard hair that has plagued the tip of my chin for a good 10 years. A beard hair that has survived numerous electrolysis treatments and vigorous tweezing, leading me to believe that no hair removal treatment known to womankind will ever destroy whatever circus sideshow aspirations I may someday be forced to adopt.

There was a time when the single, wiry black hair on my chin was fodder for a good laugh. It so happens that a former roommate (and current BFF) managed to grow one too, in the exact same spot. We envisioned a distant future in the same retirement community, where we would charm the dentures off of the single gents with our chin-hair growing contests. It was funny when there was only one hair, but now I have two. And I’m not laughing.

Maybe it’s hormones, maybe it’s the hair thinning treatment I started last month (see previous blog post). Whichever way you slice it, it all boils down to perimenopause.

Yes, girlfriends. To add insult to the injury of thinning hair on my scalp, I now have the potential to propel Justin Bieber into a prepubescent Envy Hissy Fit at the thought that my beard may be growing in thicker than his.

Where did I go wrong? What karmic faux pas did I commit to deserve such a hirsute fate? I suppose DNA might have a role. My ethnic makeup puts me at the cross-section of cultures that boast mustachioed, hairy-armed women. But just as I began celebrating the recent hormone-induced loss of the downy layer of forearm  hair that I’d been dutifully Jolen-bleaching since seventh grade, a robust crop took root on my face.

For purposes of full disclosure, I have been bleaching – with equal abandon – my Frida Kahlo mustache to the point that I go through a home bleaching kit about once every three months. Not a task I relish, and sometimes I shirk my duties. It’s those mornings when I apply the makeup and face powder and realize that I have a five o’clock shadow on my upper lip – at 7 in the morning – that I sigh, wash off the makeup and whip out the bleaching kit.

I’m beginning to worry that perimenopausal hair loss is a bit like liposuction. You may lose the belly fat through the wonders of plastic surgery, but in six months’ time you’ll have an ass the size of Texas. Me, I’m worried that as the hair on my head makes a rebound (that scalp treatment shampoo and serum seems to be working!), one day I’ll wake up looking like Chewbacca.

What’s a girl to do? I’m open to your suggestions. For now, I think I’ll torment the petal-cheeked Justin Bieber with anonymous Twitter taunts.

{October 3, 2011}   Hair Today, Bald Tomorrow

Last night I sneezed, and about 100 hairs fell off my head. This morning in the shower, another 300 met a sad, waterlogged fate – a sorry, tangled mass wrapped around the drain cover. It occurred to me as I was blow drying what remained that if I continue at this rate, I’ll be a dead ringer for Mr. Clean by the time I’m 49.

Of all the perimenopausal indignities I’ve suffered so far, from the weight gain to the mood swings to the still-traumatic super-absorbent tampon fiasco, nothing tops thinning hair and the impending Sinéad O’Connor “Pope Picture-Tearing Phase” look. The weight gain is under control, thanks to my sadistic personal trainer. Mood swings, I am discovering, can be fun! As for the tampon ordeal, a recent trip to my neighborhood CVS led to the earth-shattering discovery that they make extra-super-absorbency tampons that double as kitchen sponges. Yesssss!!!

Hair loss, on the other hand, makes me want to go green. Green with envy, that is. Lately I find myself fantasizing about getting Kim Kardashian in a headlock and taking the pruning shears to her disgustingly lustrous, obscenely luxuriant mane.

My own crowning glory began as a pixie cut, then moved to pigtails. Sixth grade saw me with a tragic Dorothy Hamill wedge that, paired with my beanpole frame and Super Fly coke-bottle glasses, rendered me androgynous for a year. As the 1970s waned, so did my first perm, which gave way to flippy Farrah Fawcett wings. In high school, I cut my own hair – an angled bob that complemented my beret and 80s thrift-store aesthetic. Junior year of college found me crying in a strip mall parking lot after an encounter with an Eastern European stylist who pretended she understood my request for Kelly-Mc-Gillis-in-Top-Gun waves left me with Michael-Jackson-at-age-six kinks.

As an adult, I’ve had highlights and lowlights. Teased bangs (Hey, it was the 90s! Don’t act like you didn’t do it, too).  Updos for parties. Pink streaks for concerts. The Rachel was my last celebrity hairstyle and lasted a good two years longer than it should have. Then came a sort of Dark Ages, where my hair simply…existed.  No color, no fancy treatments, no distinctive cuts. In fact, I could go a whole year and not have a trim.

Which brings us back to today. The Hot Hot Husband professes to love my hair au naturel, and he means it sincerely.

But what’s a girl to do when the hair on her head begins a mass exodus to the bathroom floor, the kitchen counter, and every surface inside the car? Four words: Go to the mall.

Determined to find a solution to my ever-thinning strands, I begin at a kiosk strategically located across from A Popular, Overrated National Lingerie Chain. The kiosk, staffed by a bubbly young Asian woman with an enviably thick head of hair, sells…hair. That’s right. Disembodied ponytails of every hair color dangle lifelessly from racks, a macabre chuck wagon of wig pieces and falls. The salesgirl smiles encouragingly, eager to make her first sale of the day. I smile tightly, eager to hide my Texas Chainsaw Massacre flashback. The thought of attaching someone’s lopped-off pelt to the top of my cranium leaves me with a sudden desire to collapse on the nearest bench and put my head between my knees.

Undaunted, my next stop is a beauty supply store. Here I ask a magenta-maned twentysomething for hair-thickening shampoo recommendations. She proceeds to walk down the aisle, scanning bottles for the word ‘thickening’ and pointing to her findings triumphantly. This gets old after about her third victory, and I don’t have the heart to tell her I actually learned how to read some time ago, so I thank her and wander the aisles on my own.

I emerge $72 poorer, with a shampoo, conditioner and serum that promise to “nurture healthy hair growth.” Stay tuned for an update. In the meantime, I think today is the perfect day to break in my Missoni for Target hat.

{September 8, 2011}   Say No to Granny Jeans

Dammit, it’s happened twice. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.

I’m talking about going to a department store, asking a wisp of a 20-something salesgirl for help finding (insert clothing item here), and being shown the most godawful, matronly, downright HIDEOUS (insert clothing item here) in the entire store.

What gives? Do I really look like I could have such abominable taste in clothing? Or worse, do I really look that…old?

The first time it happened was early in the summer, and I was searching for a one-piece bathing suit. I know, I know. I haven’t actively looked for a one-piece since age 29 when I joined a new gym and wanted something practical to be able to wear while swimming laps in the pool. Okay, so I never actually swam laps, but the swimsuit was darned cute and it had built-in underwire bra cups that made my girls look swimmingly perky.

But I digress. Early this summer I was feeling dumpy and doughy, pasty and pudgy. This after two and a half years of less-than-frequent special guest appearances at said gym. The Hot Hot Husband and I were headed for a little weekend R&R in Palm Springs, and I was ashamed to appear poolside in a bikini, so I dragged my low self-esteem to A Big-Name Department Store that Started in the Pacific Northwest and hoped for the best.

Instead, I got a well-intentioned salesgirl who ushered me into a cavernous fitting room with Saw III-caliber lighting, and who reappeared a couple of minutes later hauling 10 one-piece swimsuits so AARP that I’m sure even Margaret Thatcher would have been offended.

But putting on my Pollyanna hat, every cloud has a silver lining, and this cloud sent me storming to the gym to sign up for personal training.

Three months later, at the same Unnamed Department Store, I’m searching for a Cute Top à la Audrey Hepburn in Two For the Road. A ballet-neck, three-quarter sleeve navy blue t-shirt that’s form-fitting, timeless and totally Euro. This time, a thirty-something sales clerk intercepts me on the sales floor and asks if I need help.

Same routine, different cavernous fitting room, same scary slasher-movie lighting. I wait with anticipation, my back to the circus funhouse of a mirror. In walks Helpful Sales Clerk Girl, with an armful of the most geriatric selection of tops this side of the senior center canasta club. I give her some points for getting the color right (I mean, how can you fuck up navy blue?). But the fabrics, Hazel, the fabrics! Polyester, jersey (and not the Diane Von Furstenberg kind), and for Pete’s sake, fleece! And the styles? Four words: Golden Girls, circa 1981.

With all due respect to Betty, Rue, Maud and Estelle, I look NOTHING like a Golden Girl. I mean, c’mon. I’m only 45! So fast forward to this past Labor Day weekend at the flagship store of the aforementioned Temple of Retail Therapy. Thanks to my sadistic personal trainer, I am now the proud bearer of a smaller waistline, a tighter ass, and a still-shrinking PeriMenoPooch. I’m in the store looking for a pair of dark-wash jeans, preferably tight-fitting, to replace the tired, fading Seven for All Mankind jeans that I’ve been sporting for the last 10 years.

Straight from the airport and wearing my time-worn Seven jeans, I’m on a quest. This time, I get a tag team of two sales clerks, one a trainee. As chipper and darn-glad-to-be-of-service as ever (this is, after all, the flagship store), they ask if they can help me find something. I tell them dark wash jeans. They sized me up and said, “We have some higher-waist jeans over here…”

Before she/they could finish her/their sentence, I mustered a stern look, held a finger up and said, “Do NOT show me granny jeans.” This triggered a relaxation response in the two girls. They shed the finishing school posture, let out a simultaneous breath and erupted into conspiratorial giggles. Back to the Cavernous-Fitting-Room-with-the-Hostel V-Mood-Lighting I went.

Trying not to get my hopes up, I waited patiently for the girls to bring me a plethora of jeans to try. They showed up with six different pairs, and the fitting frenzy began.

Like my wedding dress, the first pair I tried on was a winner. Nervously standing in front of the communal mirror, the Hot Hot Husband had given his approval but quickly got the Don’t-Make-Me-Bitch-Slap-You look in his eyes when I asked him if the pants made my thighs look like sausages. Before he could react, Team Salesgirl walked in and I asked if I should go a size up. Immediately, they let out a simultaneous “Nooooo!” and looked at me the same way you’d look at a three-year-old about to light a plush toy on fire.

So the moral of the story is simply this: Age does not dictate what we should and should not wear, as long as it fits well and we feel damned hot in it. Not Personal Summer hot. I’m talkin’ Smoking Hot hot.

I’d love to hear about your retail experiences and what you do to dress with confidence. You never know – your story could help a sister out there who’s waging her own war against the Geriatric Fashion Pushers!

{August 8, 2011}   Hormone-bitchy

One day you’re just breezing along, shrugging off people’s annoying behavior, and another day you rip a sales clerk a new one. Hormones, or inborn bitchiness? You decide.

Let me begin by saying I’m proud of the newly cultivated self-restraint I’ve demonstrated over the past several months, as evidenced by my refraining from telling the imperious Italian professor you met in my last post exactly what I thought of him and his self-important master’s program.

But a few weeks later, my patience was depleted at Macy’s as I waited to pay for a $15 necklace, a normally speedy transaction that turned into  a 20-minute ordeal. The necklace, all seven tangly strands of it, was an attempt to deaden the pain of having bled through and completely ruining my favorite navy blue pantsuit (see previous blog post for the full story – it’s not for the faint of heart). Unlike all of my BFFs, I was born without a shopping gene, so for me, looking for a new suit feels a lot like getting a tooth pulled. A necklace, on the other hand, is a piece of cake. Unless, that is, your cashier is a sullen, bitter, middle-aged woman in charcoal polyester pants. For you armchair psychologists out there who may be crying ‘Projection!’, let me be clear that I have never worn – nor would I ever be caught dead in – charcoal polyester pants.

But back to our story. She was behind the fine jewelry counter helping two older British ladies as I approached. She looked up at me and said nothing, so I waited, thinking she’d be finished with the two women soon enough. I stood and watched her fuss over the two ladies, oozing charm and charisma. It’s possible my laser-stare caused a few hairs to stand on her neck, at which point she looked at me and said, “I’ll be with you in a few minutes.”

Once the English matriarchs left, the clerk started leisurely organizing staplers, pens and other department store bric-a-brac around her cash register, absently punching a few buttons on the machine and of course never once acknowledging my presence or making any attempt at Sales Clerk Cheery Chit-chat. To say that my patience was wearing thin at this point is a gross understatement. When she finally decided the time was right to ring up my sale, she scanned the price tag, literally tossed the necklace into a tiny plastic bag, and uttered, “Will this be on your Macy’s charge?”  All in less than one minute.

Oh, what hell she hath unleashed. For the first time since I was three, I raised my voice in public. It went something like this: “IT TOOK ME 10 MINUTES TO UNTANGLE THAT NECKLACE, THEN I WAITED – PATIENTLY, I MIGHT ADD – ANOTHER 10 MINUTES FOR YOU TO DECIDE TO RING ME UP, AND YOU JUST THROW IT IN A PLASTIC BAG?? THE LEAST YOU COULD DO IS WRAP THAT THING IN TISSUE PAPER!!!” This accompanied, of course, by my world-famous Stink-Eye Special.

In a nanosecond, she  went from Tammy Turtle into warp-speed mode, grabbing frantically for wrapping materials underneath the counter. A tiny tornado of tissue paper, boxes, ribbon and cotton flew over the counter, and in five seconds flat, my necklace was triple-tissue-wrapped and immobilized in a cotton-lined, taped box.

The moral of the story, girlfriends, is that as fraught with annoyance as perimenopause can be, you – yes, you – can harness those hormonal mood swings to inspire others to be the best that they can be.

If you’re wondering about the necklace, let’s just say I wore it once and decided it looked exactly like a $15 necklace should look – tacky. So today I’m headed back to a different Macy’s to return it – and to coax my self-restraint out of hibernation.

Lady Gaga has her Little Monsters, I have my Little Demons. Actually, ‘Little Demons’ is a fancy term for ‘I Gotta Get a Handle on This Time Management Thing and Post a New Blog Entry.”

And now, Girlfriends, in easy-to-digest bullet points, the 411 since my last post about a successful (albeit icky) D&C procedure:

  • On Labor Day weekend last year, the Hot Hot Husband and I traveled north to the Emerald City (a.k.a. Seattle) to visit the step-grandkids, stepson and step-daughter-in-law (say that 10 times fast). In my haste to pack, I left behind the 10 or so vitamin and herbal supplements I normally take.
  • After five days sans inositol, multi-vitamins, ginko biloba, pine bark extract (reputed to diminish night sweats and hot flashes), turmeric, alpha lipoic acid (to counter the effects of aging), Omega-5 oil, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin E, I did a Cher and turned back time. That is, no more night sweats.
  • I couldn’t believe it!
  • I even experimented when we got home and took various combinations of vitamins. The night sweats and hot flashes returned.
  • And now for the legal disclaimer: The following is not intended to be medical advice and is not backed by scientific evidence; I’m merely sharing my own personal experience, which, obviously, may not be anything like your own personal experience, since you’re you and I’m me. So now that we’ve got that squared away…
  • I narrowed it down to the inositol, which is a distant cousin of the B-complex vitamins (Google it and ye shall see.). Once I banished the inositol, the night sweats stopped.
  • So the moral of the story, gentle reader, is that sometimes just leaving things well enough alone may be the best strategy.

Okay, now that we’re caught up to the present, I’ll stop with the bullet points.

I am still very much PeriWonderful. That is to say, I have not had a period in three months, so things they’re still a-changin’. I continue finding myself in the pesky predicament of synapses suddenly doing a cease-fire as I spew forth a Tourette’s-like tirade of profanity trying to find the word for ‘toaster.’ And my midsection? Well, let’s just say that yesterday as I was hopping into my Seven for All Mankind jeans, for the first time in my life, my flesh jiggled. Talk about a Jell-O surprise. I didn’t cry. I dropped and did 25. Sit-ups, that is.

So the road to Fitness at 45 (yep, I had a birthday while I was busy not blogging) begins this Wednesday. You Nice Catholic Girls out there may note that Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. And this Nice Catholic Girl is not so much giving something up but taking something on. I am taking on a low-glycemic index diet (it worked wonders by the time my 30-year junior high school reunion rolled around last October – more on that in an upcoming post) and…drumroll….dusting the cobwebs off my gym membership and actually using it.

Can she do it? I think I can. And I hear that thinking you can is the first step.

If you want to join me in my 40-day journey to jettison the jiggle, I’d love to hear from you.


Preventive medicine is a beautiful thing, as is an overly-cautious OB/GYN. Yes, gentle reader, after submitting to a hysteroscopy and D&C, my lady parts are free of gynecological cancer.

And now for the hard part: During the two weeks between the procedure and learning the results, yours truly did some serious soul searching and made a few vows along the way. Here are some of them:

1. Drastically reduce my consumption of saturated fats (Read: cut [out] the cheese)

2. Bump up the veggie intake

3. Only consume organic, humanely-raised, antibiotic and hormone-free chicken or beef (Note: this was more the result of squirming through the film, “Food, Inc.”)

4. Reduce stress by renewing my yoga practice

5. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, six days a week

You’ll be pleased to know I’ve passionately embraced vows 1 through 4. It’s 5 that I just can’t seem to consummate.

Once upon a time–12 years ago to be precise–I was rockin’ a hard body on the beaches of Southern California, Miami and Brazil. Those toned thighs and tight abs did not come easy. I was working out four days a week with a personal trainer, and the other three days I was logging some major mileage on the treadmill.

And then I met the Hot, Hot Husband.

Before you accuse me of blaming someone else for my sloth, hear me out. The very weekend we had our first date, I ran 12 miles in a marathon training program, much to the chagrin of my doctor, who had advised me to stop running as I was beginning to develop lower back pain. That weekend marked the demise of my inner marathoner.

But that wasn’t all. Prior to life with the Hot, Hot Husband, I was a salad-for-dinner kind of gal, and while my fridge was always stocked with cheese, I probably indulged once every couple of days. All this changed once the Hot, Hot Husband and I began dating, moved in together and married. Weekdays, we would have a pre-dinner wine and cheese hour where we caught up on the day’s events and wound down from our respective long  and tedious workdays. Weekends found us at one of hundreds of fabulous local restaurants, indulging in cheese plates, Grand Marnier souffles, truffle risotto, bottles of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and obscene amounts of butter.

To be clear, I am not complaining. I wouldn’t trade my life with the Hot, Hot Husband for anything in the world. Well, maybe a wild night with David Beckham, but even that’s questionable as I hear he’s not exactly a scintillating conversationalist. All that aside, I take full responsibility for the dramatic shift in my eating habits.

To cut to the chase, over the course of the next 12 years I gave up running, took it up again as a stress reliever while working at a shitty job, overdid it (the job was supremely shitty, trust me), and ended up with plantar fasciitis. So for the past two years, I have sporadically stop-started various exercise routines, and my weight gain was turbo-charged in the past six months thanks to perimenopause.

Where that leaves me, dear reader, is writing this blog entry as a public declaration that today, May 12, 2010, marks the first day of my commitment to get a minimum of 30 minutes a day of exercise, six days a week.

So I hate to write and run, but I really do have to run. To the gym.

{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.

et cetera