I had a request to repost my article from a 2014 Book Fun Magazine column I did. I hope you will enjoy it!
GOD’S WAY OF SHOWING HIS HUMOR
I watch the beige woman across the terminal tugging at the neckline of her dull-colored turtleneck. She is focused on her Bible, a silent witness. Her face flushes and burns, like a match that has been struck on cement. The woman is about fifty-five with listless red hair and clothing the color of scorched grass. Everything about her seems to blend in with the crowd, except for the fact that she continues to tug and tug at the turtleneck until in one swift move she jumps from the seat, gathers her luggage and bolts toward the restroom. No one seems to notice her but me.
Curious, I follow her, entering the stall next to the one she occupies. As I skulk next to her, I can see she has torn everything from her body, as under the stall her clothes are piled on her bare feet. I hear her gulp deep breathes as though she is hyperventilating. I hear the toilet paper roll going around and around, and long strands of tissue being torn from the holder. Finally, more concerned than nosy, I ask, “Are you okay?”
“I…I’m, okay. Hot flash. I should’ve never worn this thing,” she says. “You’d think I’d know by now. I hate getting old!”
I waste the next few minutes waiting for her to emerge, pretending to wash my hands, fluff my hair, and apply my lipstick. I have to lean in close to the mirror, as my readers are in my carry-on bag, and I don’t want to dig them out. All of a sudden, I see what looks like a six-inch hair protruding from my chin. I screw my face into a knot and quickly rummage through my bag for my spectacles. I put them on and look again, not believing that I have left the house, kissed my husband goodbye, checked in at the familiar United ticket counter where I encounter the same gate agents every other day, spent an hour at the Red Carpet Club, and gabbed with at least a half a dozen people, and no one has mentioned that I have a six-inch, black, pig tail looking hair protruding from the end of my face!
I pluck at it furiously, looking for other hairs that might be waiting to spring forth on my face. The woman emerges from the stall just in time to see my eyes bugging, and my head swinging side-to-side as though it’s on hinges. She gives me that knowing look. Her turtleneck is gone, replaced by a bright pink T-shirt. She drops the turtleneck in the trash, walks over to the mirror where she checks her own chin for hair. We exchange smiles, nod, both knowing that we are part of an ever-growing secret society. We are menopausal.
I can’t give the exact start date of my body change, as it springs on a woman like a hungry wolf. I only know it’s a part of life that’s been forced on me, one that I never asked for, nor wanted to receive. I was dieting. I was exercising. I followed all of the “beauty book” instructions so the change-of-life might linger longer outside my door. I knew it would arrive, “someday,” and that it would make plans for a long visit. But I saw “someday” as “just before I die,” not during my most vibrant hours!
I am in my early fifties and asleep the cold evening it arrives. I’m dreaming. All of a sudden, my skin feels like a roaring fire, and I burst into flames. I fling the blankets back and scream, “Hot! Hot!” My poor husband wakes up to see me drenched, and sweating, and is terrified to ask if he was involved in any way in the making of this fiasco. His face is fearful as he tries to comfort me from a distance.
“Honey, are you okay?”
I tell him to shut up. It’s just too hot for covers. He looks at me strangely, then flops backward again, lying like a flattened pancake under the extra stack of covers.
“Honey, turn on the fan,” his muffled voice says, trying to fix the situation.
“I don’t need the fan. I just need you to turn down the blessed furnace,” I retort.
“Honey, it’s set at 60. It’s only 22 degrees outside. I can’t turn it down any lower. ”
“60, my foot. You had to have changed it. It is not 60 degrees in here.”
“I’ll check. Can I get you something?” he says, padding off to the thermostat again. A bat, I think.
I wait until I am assured he has checked the thermostat another three times, open the window, and finally drop back onto the bed, worn from the experience. He moves closer to the opposite edge of the bed in some knowing fashion, clutching his pillow like he knows he’s going to die. By my hands.
This scene begins to reoccur sporadically. My husband asks if it might be wise for me to see a doctor. Maybe there is some medication that will help. The thought goes through my head that the medication would do him more good than me. I resist. My husband begins to ask more frequently, “When are you traveling again, dear?”
Other changes take place. I forget things. No, not where I live, or that I have a job, just little things. Like where are my keys? My purse? My car? Did I have a car? I feel the frustration building, but cannot control what is happening.
My clothes feel tighter. I have no energy one moment, and can run a marathon the next. Strangers offer advice. Magazines offer advice. Girlfriends offer advice. Doctors offer advice. My husband does not. He is unsure if I am the “new” wife or the “old” wife, and makes no move to help unless I can be identified. At times, I believe he is conspiring with this phenomenon. He eases in the door at night, listening for my moves. If I have music blaring, am cooking or writing, he shouts out, “I’m home, Honey” and we share wonderful evenings of bliss. If he hears silence, he sneaks back outside, climbs in his car and calls me from the neighbors.
He knows I am feeling like every piece of my womanhood is disappearing, shriveling up and blowing away like tumbleweed. He thinks I don’t know that he goes to the neighborhoods to cackle with the other men who are there for the same reason. Wives in menopause. He thinks he can wait me out. He prays he can.
All of a sudden, the moods smooth out. It might have been the day I traded all my turtlenecks for bright colored tops that gave me space to breathe. My chest falls lower now, anchoring on my waistline. It’s gone anyway, the waist I mean. It’s chased my hips clear to my thighs, which now lie like Goodyear’s tires just above my kneecaps. My kneecaps are dimpled with cottage cheese and haven’t seen the light of a candle, let alone the sun, in years. Everything about me is pure white. I can’t wear the color in public because small children point at me in the airport and scream, “Mommy, a ghost!” If I sit in the sun my complexion turns pasty and dry, sort of a Sonoma Desert sunrise, ruddy with a tint of red. I come to realize I am a cactus, dry, with protrusions that sprout without warning, then rot and drop off without reason.
I did not want this visitor, menopause. I’ve tried to block its entrance to my life with moisturizers, exercise, diets, and advice. But it came anyway, pockets full of trashy gifts and discouragement. I still resist, ingesting the vitamins that keep away the acceptance of this time of my life. I tell myself I’m not old. I’m not finished. I’ve got places to be and things to do!
Standing beside the beige woman in the rest room at the airport, I look at her one final time. She is brushing back glorious red hair strewn with threads of gray. Her cheeks are flushed. She is not young, but she is beautiful in the way that God’s wisdom gives beauty. We say goodbye and I watch her walk back to her chair noting how everyone seems to notice her confident walk, her smile.
I look once more in the mirror. I realize I like what I see. I’m changing for the good, and I’ve accomplished far more in my life than I ever set out to do, all because of God’s grace. I finally understand this unwanted visitor—menopause—arrives and I cannot send her away. I pray, thanking God for this season of my life, realizing it is yet another gift from His hands. I know he sees me plucking that stray hair on my chin and I am grateful He takes joy in laughing along with me. Another unexpected blessing!