As I walk through the valley of the shadow of blue ice-packs, I realize that buried deep somewhere beneath the lavender-scented, frozen bags lies a woman slightly resembling my mother, or the lovely woman I once recognized as mine. Currently experiencing a migraine headache caused by a result of a rush of hormones that shift faster and less predictability then the sharp turns of a New York cab driver, Mom is going through global warming firsthand. For my mother, Climate Change is not just a myth, as many right wing politicians have tried and failed to assure us. Fortunately, Al Gore's Academy Award winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" all but did away with any doubt that the globe is eating, and sooner or later we will be riding around space on a planet aflame. Yet, while I am sure my other is concerned about the rise of ocean temperatures throughout the world, she is far more busy dealing with an "inconvenient truth" of her own; "an inconvenient truth" about a phase of life where women would prefer water-boarding over ten years of endless, consistent night sweats, and the mental and emotional trauma that my father suffers as a result. This terribly inconvenient truth that anyone who steps within ten feet of my mother during a preemptive hormone strike or after a bout of excessive insomnia will face, is a frightening, dangerous, and downright torturous condition known as menopause.
My poor mothers' body temperature rises and falls like gas prices. At this point, the thermostat is practically shaped for her hands and fingers, the dial constantly shifting between sixty and eighty degrees. There have been times when my father waited for her to fall asleep, so that he could sneak out and adjust the thermostat to a temperature suitable for humans, only to turn around and see my mother, half-asleep and furious, her nightgown blowing under the air-conditioning vent creating the image of a very angry, incredibly upset ghost. My mother's own, personal climate change has nothing to do with clear-cutting, or the release of carbons, or the decline of the Ozone Layer. It has to do with good old-fashioned hormones. Apparently, when a woman turns forty, these hormones decide to get drunk and dance around inside of a woman's body like Mick Jagger soaring across a concert stage. Again, fluctuating body temperature, irritability, moodiness, IRRITABILTY; my mother is going through what the great scientists of our time have defined as menopause. Me, I'm no great scientist. Nor am I some inspired theologian. Call it menopause if you'd like. Call it aging. Blame it on global warming if you want. Yet, as far as I'm concerned, there is only one word that justifiably wraps up the experience my mother and her poor, supportive family has been going through during the last decade. The word, in short, is hell.
From crankiness to irritation to random aches and pains and fluctuations in body temperature and irritable bowel symptom and loss of appetite and extreme gain of appetite and nausea being just a few of the symptoms of menopause, I can't imagine what my poor mother must be going through. However, for me, her loving son (so long as she never reads this article), the mother I loved and cherished quickly evolved into a fire-breathing monster, the angry villain in a superhero comic book, simply if she can't find her TIVO remote (which usually is under a cushion right next to her, yet still my father's fault). They say there's a troop shortage due to our extended stay in Iraq. Again, neither a foreign policy hack, nor does my military expertise extends beyond watching SAVING PRIVATE RYAN nearly a thousand times, but I have a solution to this shortage. Catch my mom and her equally menopausal friends (imagine those gatherings) on an off day, and she'll serve up Bin Laden who will be begging for the death penalty. Be it a loss of appetite and therefore a drop in her blood sugar level; or be it my kind dad saying the wrong thing, like "good morning, you looked lovely";, or be it me, her loving, caring son not putting a coffee mug away, or leaving a plate of food out that I am still eating, well, even Will Smith on a 4th of July couldn't save the world from my mothers' preemptive menopausal strikes.
However, my perspective is beginning to change. I am writing this article for men, husbands, and sons, even adopted ones begging to go back to poverty-stricken, war-torn Africa rather than suffer through their new mothers' menopause years, as both a warning of things to come, and a survival guide as to how to make it through these tortuous years. I mean, yeah, my new perspective is all about making her feel better. Yeah.
Start with the word. Menopause. Break it down. Men. Oh. Pause. I think who ever defined It was trying to tell us something (hell, I bet there is a hidden message in a Da Vinci painting giving us clues how to make it through, and going even further, maybe Van Gogh yanked off his hear so as to not have to hear the complaining anymore), but my new theory, or point of view, is this: Men of the world, pause. Just for a moment. Just to regroup and decide how to best battle the demons unleashed from the woman you love during these fiery ten years. The first step is to identify that your mother, wife, sister, of girlfriend is really is going through menopause, and isn't simply a terrible woman. Hell, I've had a date cancelled because or a girl telling me her menopause was "acting up". She was twenty. If your mother is the sweetest, kindest, and most caring woman in the world who, over the past ten years has transformed from the heroic Beowulf to the evil, frightening Grendel, you must pause and take heed. She is, most definitely, suffering from the M word. In this case, the following are a few tips:
A. Stay the hell out of her way. I mean it. Move! A simple shoulder bump in the hallway can unleash an unexpected, emotionally bruising breakdown on how you dress like crap, oughta get a better job, and for chrissakes, meet a nice Jewish girl and settle down already. All from a simple shoulder bump. Think about it.
B. Fall asleep, stay asleep, and under no circumstances, shall you awaken in the middle of the night and go out to the living room to watch a little TV. If the woman has menopause, she will likely be suffering from insomnia as well. Unless you want to find yourself watching the ladies of "The View" yakking away, or worse, some late night, sexually graphic cable movie that came on after said mother or wife or sister finally conked out on the couch,, under no circumstances, shall you awaken in the middle of the night.
C. When commenting on how she looks, there is only one answer. Wonderful. Ignore the dark circles under her eyes. Don't stare at her wildly un-kempt bed-head hair for longer than a second, and unless you want to get beheaded, tell her it's okay that she has been wearing the same tattered nightgown now every single night for a good month and it is stained with tomato sauce from last weeks lasagna. You know what? Doesn't matter. She looks wonderful, or so you tell her, and your head stays firmly fastened to your neck.
D. Finally, and maybe most important, try to understand. Now, if you're a man reading this, than you share my frustration when the words "women" and "understand" fall into the same sentence, which is why I specified "try to". However, menopause is a truly brutal phase that all women go through, which serves as a cruel, physical reminder that she is getting older, and that with aging comes new conditions, abnormalities, overall unease, with only one guaranteed finish line. Try to understand. Try to stay the hell out of her way. Try to stay asleep, and tell her she looks wonderful. Do all this, and maybe the blow of menopause can be lessened for us. I mean, right. For her.
In conclusion, Climate Change is happening at a rapid rate. Whether your concern is for the survival of our planet or the physical comfort of your ice-pack covered mother or wife, take a pause, and just think how lucky we men are, not to have to go through periods, and child births, and menopause. Try not to think how unlucky we are for often being the unwilling victims of it. They should give out medals for those of us who survive. And, you know, yeah. For her, of course. For her too. God speed.
From Global Warming to My Mother's body temperature