Archive | health

Perimenopause: Nature’s Way of Reminding Us that Adolescence Was Hell

The amazing Viola Davis was on Jimmy Kimmel the other day, talking about, among other things, the care-and-tending of an Afro, the dangers of an MRI, and menopause. Jimmy asked her how long menopause lasts, and Viola said—without missing a beat—that someone needed to tell her, because it had been going on for five or six years with no end in sight. Her interview reminded me of a piece I wrote a while back for You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth, edited by Leslie Marinelli, about life on the floodplain: the endless hell known as perimenopause, the swampy induction to the joy of menopause.  Here, slightly revised, is my paen to the peri.

 

God, I hated my period when I was in high school. It seems to me one of Nature’s cruelest jokes that just when my adolescent body was already subject to veritable tsunamis of emotion, ol’ Aunt Flo ushered in monthly waves of agita that left me wracked and sobbing on my bed at least once a month. Adding to my misery were the cramps that sent me to the school nurse, muttering shame-facedly about “that time” and asking to lie down in her dim, antiseptic-smelling office. And let’s not even mention that every month, like clockwork, one perfect zit would bloom on my chin, like Rudolph’s misplaced nose, gleaming like a beacon beyond the capacity of any concealer ever invented.

The moods, the tears, the zits, all functioned like storm clouds, letting me know that a storm was soon to descend – but like weather, Aunt Flo often took her sweet damn time to actually show up. Other girls my age clocked their periods like trains; a menses express that arrived and departed on regular schedule.

Not me. There’d I’d be, sitting in Earth Science, doodling the name of my latest crush in the margin of my notebook, and then I would have to scuttle out of the room to the bathroom, borrow a maxi-pad from the cool girls smoking in the last stall, then waddle back to class. I didn’t use a tampon until I was almost a senior in high school, for reasons I don’t fully understand–maybe  my  mom didn’t think it was “appropriate” or maybe I wasn’t ready to negotiate the intricacies of my own plumbing until the ripe old age of 17.

Eventually it all settled down and for decades, my lady plumbing has run pretty smoothly.

Until a few years ago.

I’d gone to my midwife, who served as my gynecologist, because I’d gotten worried about the intensity of my periods. Gushers, people. We’re talking entire boxes of super-plus-plus tampons being used up in three days; we’re talking lying awake in bed wondering how long it takes to hemorrhage to death.

“Nope,” said the midwife. “No death, just flooding.” I blinked. Flooding is now a medical term?

Yes, it is: “That’s a sign of perimenopause,” she said. “You might want to buy your tampons in bulk for a while.”

Say what?

No one told me that something happened before menopause. We had this conversation long before Gywneth decided we needed an “aspirational menopausal woman” (she is, apparently the only candidate in the category).

I figured that menopause would just be a few sweaty months and then voila, I’d emerge on the other side of The Change  with gleaming silver hair like Emmylou Harris and extra pocket money from never having to buy tampons again. I’d even thought about putting that tampon money in a jar and saving it up for a little me-splurge, the way people do when they’re trying to quit smoking.

My friends, perimenopause is like Mother Nature ‘s last joke. It’s the swampy marshland of menopause: frequently flooded, difficult to map, and hard to recognize until you’re in the middle of it.

Perimenopause means that your chronological age is maybe circling somewhere around 50ish but your body is behaving like it’s 15 again: hormones carousing through your body like teenagers on a drunken joy ride, causing you to hate husbands, children, careers, even the nice person who ushered you ahead in line at the coffee shop (perhaps afraid of the glower on your face). And it’s not one day of hormonal wackiness, oh no. It’s weeks. Those hormones have developed stamina by this point. They’ve moved in and are hanging out on the sofa of your psyche eating popcorn.

The only good thing is that unlike my teenage self who was sure the world was ending, I know that I should sleep early, go for a walk, and stay away from sharp objects lest I eviscerate my husband because he’s left his socks on the coffee table again. Not that I do these things, I just know that I should.

Perimenopause means you’re not yet a candidate for nicely regulated pharmaceutical hormones (which, probably, you don’t really want anyway because of the whole maybe-they-give-you­ cancer thing, and I’m not sure you want Goop’s zillion-dollar vitamins) so instead you’re subject to periods as erratic as they were when your body was first figuring it all out.

So there I was a few years ago, in that swampy peri-land, hanging out on the sidelines of my son’s soccer practice, half-watching the scrimmage and half-reading my email, when…yep, there it was. Aunt Flo had come to soccer practice. There were 45 minutes of practice left, I was without tampons, and there was nowhere nearby that I could drive to for supplies and make it back in time. The sidelines were mom-less; there were no cool girls smoking in the bathroom who might bail me out. In fact, there was no bathroom, only a slightly glorified port-a-potty.

And that’s why, just as sometimes happened in high school, I became the woman standing (very still) on the sidelines, a wad of toilet paper in her pants, wondering when the joy of womanhood would stop giving.

Maybe, however, the swamps of perimenopause are designed to make us grateful when we finally reach the stable sweaty ground of menopause. Menopause, I figure, is just our bodies off-gassing what’s left of our youth; perimenopause is nature’s way of reminding you that youth was hell.

 

Continue Reading · 1 on February 1, 2019 in aging, Feminism, Gender, health

Crowned

rootcanalSo my front tooth broke off about a month ago. That tooth is a crown that I have had for more than a decade, and perhaps it was due for a break, but the timing was terrible. (Question: is there ever a good time to break a tooth?)  The tooth–a front tooth–broke off about three hours before I was supposed to leave for the airport for our fifteen-hour flight to New York from Abu Dhabi, which meant that I spent my traveling time tight-lipped, answering questions pretty much in closed-mouth monosyllables to avoid frightening people with my crone-like mouth.

Got to New York, got myself to the dentist, got myself a temporary crown and spent the next month sort of feeling that different tooth the way you do when there’s something not quite right in your mouth. A tongue fidget, really.

For those of you with uncrowned teeth, the process of being crowned is not as pleasant as, say, the phrase “coronation” might imply. Far better to become the ruler of a small country than to find yourself in the dentist’s chair with approximately six people plunging their hands into your mouth.

Why do dentists and their assistants insist on talking to you while you’re splayed out in their chair, your mouth full of assorted non-mouth objects and next to you a tray of gadgets that in another context would be outlawed by the Geneva Convention?

“How does this feel?”

“Unnhunh…”

“Doing okay?”

“Unnnhunnnh” (which means, roughly translated, are you effing serious am I doing okay as you plunge a needle into my gum so you can do the “build up” of the nubbin tooth under the temporary crown? Yep, yep, doing just fine, thanks, unnnghaggh).

I got my crown at the American Dental Center here in Abu Dhabi, which is not to be confused with the British, the German, the French, or the Dubai. Who knew that teeth were such a nationalist preoccupation? At the American Dental center, I was seen to by a crackerjack group of Filipina women, most of whom I think are trained as dentists in the Philippines but who cannot get the full licensing here, and by a cheerfully expert Argentinian dentist. Not one US citizen stuck their hands in my mouth.

The procedure didn’t really hurt (or not much), but the noises emerging from one’s mouth during these sorts of things can be difficult to bear. The whirrings and grindings and clippings and tappings (they literally hammered out the temporary crown) – all those sounds should happen in someone’s workroom, not my mouth. But the resultant permanent crown is a thing of beauty. Not a perfect thing of beauty because then it wouldn’t match my other teeth, but it’s a pretty perfect match. The specialist who builds teeth uses this handy dandy template:

teethIt’s like paint chips. But with teeth. The tooth artist held different tooth samples next to the teeth in my mouth while he and the dentist conferred, sounding a bit like they were playing “Battleship:” apparently my tooth is D2, A2, and a bit of B1.

I am now the proud owner of D2A2B1, which matches my other teeth so perfectly you’d never know it was a fake (or so I tell myself). It’s nice to have my teeth all back where they belong but I have some questions. Do the tooth sample trays look the same, regardless  of which nation’s dentist you see? Does the British dentist offer up big Prince Charles choppers and the French dentist proffer nicotine stains? And where, oh where, does one study to become a tooth artist?

Continue Reading · on February 5, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, health, UAE

UAE Bans Super Size Soda…you’re welcome

The other day The National ran an article about various health-care reforms being suggested by the UAE government.  Among those reforms are—wait for it—a proposed restriction on portion sizes for fizzy drinks.  Yes. That’s right: Mayor Bloomberg’s despised soda ban may be about to take hold here in the UAE.  Now, I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I’ll just say that last summer, I wrote this column for The National, in which I said, among other things:

The fact that so many people suck down giant-sized soft drinks may be a significant factor in some of the health problems that have become prevalent in the UAE in recent years. In those supersized soft drinks, you will find more than 75 grams of sugar and up to 400 calories. And before diet soft drinkers pat themselves on the back, scientists have shown that artificial sweeteners lead to elevated glucose levels, which the liver then converts to body fat.

If New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way, however, “soda belly” might become a thing of the past – and I think that the UAE might consider following his lead. Mr Bloomberg has proposed a ban on selling more than 16-ounce (0.45 litres) cups of soft drinks, which most nutritionists would consider as two servings. Cinemas, sports arenas and restaurants are among those that would be affected by the ban. While it’s true that you could buy two cups of soft drinks for yourself to get around the rule, I’m betting most people won’t. After all, when you’re carrying the tub of popcorn plus the packet of liquorice, it’s hard to juggle two cups.

New Yorkers, who always love a fight, are furious about Mr Bloomberg’s proposal, just as they were when he proposed a ban on smoking in public places (the bill passed); on the use of transfats in restaurants (the bill passed); and his law requiring fast-food chain restaurants to post the calorie count of their menu items (that bill passed too).

 

Okay, I suppose it’s possible that the Sheikhs aren’t reading my column but I’m still going to take some credit for their decision.  True, in the States, various courts have said that such a ban is unconstitutional but I’m not sure that can happen here. Here, what the government wants, the government gets. That means you’re probably not going to be able to get a Big Gulp here for very much longer.  And that, I think, is a very good thing.

 

Big-Gulp-Drink

 

 

Continue Reading · on December 11, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, health, NYC, Politics, The National, UAE

in which I share a cup with Gwyneth Paltrow

I have a Very Big Birthday coming up in  two months.  REALLY BIG.

As if to celebrate that fact, my body has started to disintegrate. I have this twingey thing in my knee, and then there’s that little hitch in my hip, and my neck sounds like there are cornflakes in it. Plus I have a shoulder thing.  I don’t know if years of waitressing, back in the twentieth century, have finally exacted their toll, or if I hurt myself doing something stupid, like exercising, but my shoulder has been out of whack for almost a year.

I went to an orthopedist and we did the whole healing-by-technology thing: MRI, Xray, electro-stim.  The shoulder got better . . . but it didn’t get fixed.  But now, with that big birthday looming in front of me, I decided that dammit, I don’t want to take a crunchy stiff shoulder into my next half century, so I went to an acupuncturist.

I’ve never been to an acupuncturist before, not out of any sense of doubt but because I am a freaking coward and so why would I deliberately choose to have someone stick needles into my flesh?

I walked into the office and saw these on the little table:

cups

Well, I thought to myself, I’m here for the needles. Not the glass cup flambé.

Wrong. Before I could say “gwyneth paltrow,” the doctor had a wad of flaming cotton waving way too close to my hair, thank you very much. Like a magician, she waved the flame, then did a press, twist, and pop with about ten little glass jars, all along my shoulder and collarbone.  “Thousands of years old, this cupping practice,” she said. “Dries out humidity in the muscle. But don’t worry,” – press, twist, pop – “I’m not doing it for long enough to leave marks.”

"Anchorman The Legend of Ron Burgundy"- New York Premiere - Outside Arrivals

Humidity in the muscles? Sounds dangerously close to the Elizabethean idea of each body being composed of four humors (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic), but I didn’t want to argue with someone holding fire so close to my head.

Then the needles came out. I expected needles in my right shoulder because that’s the shoulder with the problem.

Wrong again.

The needles were carefully stuck along my eyebrows, on both sides.

And as for those people who told me “don’t worry, the needles don’t hurt” … wrong again.

Ouch. And ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch.  One ouch per needle stuck along my eye socket. I could see the needles in my peripheral vision, waving slightly, like whiskers or oddly placed tentacles. It’s not a look I recommend.

Those needles went out and another set went in on my left knee and left calf, which are still really marked up from the horrible fall I took this summer.  The doctor tsk-tsked at my injuries. “You are very active,” she said. I think perhaps she meant that I should cease and desist from all forms of exercise, advice that I’d be glad to take except then my incipient insomnia would come roaring back, I’d stop sleeping, become even grumpier with my children than I already am, take up drinking in order to help myself sleep, give myself a headache, and the entire grumpy cycle would start again.  So I will have to keep exercising in order to prevent verbal child-abuse and alcoholism.

Here’s the thing: when a needle goes into my left calf? It sends stabbing pains up and down my leg.  “Yes, that’s an old injury you have,” said the doctor, noticing my white-knuckled clutch on the edge of the table. “It’s going to take a while for the pain to go away.”

Oh goody.

I wish I could say that after my session with needles and cups, which  sounds more like I went to a tarot reading than a doctor,  I went off to play three sets of tennis with no problem.

Not exactly.  The shoulder feels better but still makes a whole variety of odd noises as I move; clearly it’s going to be a while before I’m ready to challenge Nadal on the court (like, um, never).

In the meantime, though, I’m feeling quite goop-y in my use of alternative medicine and have a strange desire to re-name my children after pieces of fruit and old testament prophets.  I think maybe the needles along my eye socket went into my frontal lobe.

 

Continue Reading · on November 8, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, aging, exercise, health, NaBloPoMo, pop culture

vaginas

so. vaginas.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “oh good lord, here comes a post about the idiot in Michigan …”

But this post is not that post. You can write that post in your head: just say “vaginavaginavaginavaginavagina” and then make a donation to Planned Parenthood or your friendly local women’s health clinic (although of course “local,” at this point, might mean anywhere in a three hundred mile radius) or to the Michigan legislator who thought it would be all right to talk like an adult in the company of other adults. Silly woman. She should have just talked about “her lady bits” and then everything would be fine.

No. I’m not writing that post. But I am thinking a lot about vaginas. Which is actually unusual for me, because although I own a vagina, I don’t really think about it that much.

I’m thinking about all the ways in which vaginas have been in the news lately – and that the impetuses (impetusii?) of these news stories are seldom, themselves, the owners of a hoochie.

The battle over Planned Parenthood funding? Started by non-vagina owning persons.

The constant fight to erode (or erase) access to safe, professional abortions? Championed by vagina-less people.

The endless iterations of mommy wars, which look on the surface to be all about vaginas? Fostered and publicized by vaginas absentas.

What is it about “down there” that causes vagina-less folk to want to police it, regulate it, tell it how to behave (and how not to)?

Is it that you can’t really see a vagina? Is it that most of it is all, you know, mysterious and tucked in, and thus needs constant vigilance lest it – what – run away? Have vagina owners, unbeknownst to me, been clamoring for help at the local sheriff’s office: “help! help! my vagina ran away and I can’t find it anywhere! she’s off somewhere, gambling away the rent money!”

I mean, is that what we’re dealing with?  Vagina-less people are so concerned about what an untrammeled vagina might do that they want to put up a veritable thicket of laws and policies to prevent vaginas from vagina-ing all about the town? Is the idea to create a sort of legislative chastity belt for vaginas?

What’s the worst thing that could happen, do you think, if vaginas were left alone, to sort of vagina around in their natural habitat? Would they breed wildly, out of control, like what happened when people stopped shooting deer in New Jersey and now you can’t even grow a goddamn tomato in the backyard without all the deer for forty miles doing the tomato happy dance and bam there go your hopes for a nice little red sauce?

Is that it? Are the vagina-less attempting to erect these pieces of vagina-repellent legislation to keep herds of vaginas away from the tomato gardens of privilege and power?

What would happen if all the vaginas got together? Would they have a vaginabellion? Are we talking hoochie biker gangs rampaging through the halls of power, terrorizing the non-vagina’ed?

Think about it. Have we ever seen what a vagina can do when she puts her mind to it? I’m thinking that after about Elizabeth I, the answer is pretty much…no. And of course Liz I kept her vagina firmly on the throne by claiming that her hoochie was virgin territory, which is not a game that the hoochies I know are willing to play.

Word on the street these days is that vaginas are getting really irritated by all this scratchy legislative underwear. And an aggravated hoochie makes Liz I look like June Cleaver.

If I were vagina-less, I’d be spending less time thinking about how to legislate that which I don’t have and start paying attention to what I do have, so that when the vaginalution comes, I don’t lose it all.

File:Elizabeth I (Armada Portrait).jpg

 image source

 

 

i’m linking up with all the people at yeah write – some vagina’d, some not – and you should probably go over there and visit. you never can tell what will happen on the grid: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll maybe even get to look at some cartoons. click over to the challenge grid, and then the hangout grid, and then come back to the challenge grid and vote for your five faves.

 
read to be read at yeahwrite.me

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Continue Reading · on June 25, 2012 in Feminism, Gender, health, Politics, ranting

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