Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Menopause Chronicles...first entry

Let me introduce myself. I’m Lee, short for Ileanna Helene Snow. I think my mother named me Ileanna Helene because Snow was such a short, plain, simple, last name. I’ve had to deal with Ileanna all my life. No one knows how to spell it. No one knows what it means, (it means bright and it’s Greek). However, the best way to deal with a weird first name is to adopt a nickname, so I call myself “Lee”…short, sweet and androgynous. As a professional, my secretary can leave a message saying “Dr. Lee Snow has called, please call in the morning,” and let the folks on the other end of the paper trail try to figure out if I’m a woman or man, and if the doctor stands for MD or Ph.D. or something else. This is good.

I’m 60 years old. I’m a working university professor, wife, mother and friend. I’m relatively well traveled, have lived in strange and exotic places and experienced a pretty good life. This book however is only going to take you through the last 15 years of it. It’s a chronicle of what it’s like to survive menopause with most of your family, friends and sanity intact, and maybe even parts of your body. I don’t know if there is a happy ending to this opus, in fact I don’t know what the ending will be like right now. But until then, let me give you some of the detail about what it’s like to go through fifteen years of menopause. Yes, you read that right, 15 long, funny, sad, horrible, happy and freeing years of menopause.

I’m a university professor. It seems like I’ve taught all of my life, but I’ve only been a teacher for 38 years having started when I was 22. I have a good education. My first degree is in History which led to a five years teaching elementary school. That’s where I discovered that kids do not know how to read. It was time to work on an advanced degree in Reading to see if I could help a few kids along the way. I earned my MA knowing more about how kids read, but still seeking more information about how they learn so I could be a more effective teacher.

While all that was happening, I met a college professor who has been the love of my life. After we married, I discovered that I was just as smart as him. If he could get a doctorate, then I could do it to. All I needed was the time to do it. When an opportunity came along, I took it and earned a Ph.D. in Psychology in less than three years.

I have the usual number of children, two, twin boys. Sometimes I feel a bit outnumbered with all that testosterone poisoning in the house. I can usually make my opinion heard, after all I’m vocal, articulate and the MOM. The latter has to account for something.

As a professor and a social scientist, I’ve been curious about how things work. I’ve studied how reading works. I’ve studied how children learn and grow. I’ve studied my own two marvels too. So, it only makes sense that I’ve tried to study how this amazing female body works especially when it’s sell by date has past. That’s why I’m writing this book. To gain a bit more insight into the problem and to convey a message to all women that what you are feeling is probably normal…and some of the time, it sucks. It will be a combination of the true to life stuff that has happened to me as well as the research that says most of this “stuff” is normal. It’s what you can expect if you are somewhere between 40 and 45 and what is going to happen to your body for the next 15 to 20 years. I cannot tell you from personal experience what will happen after that, I’m only 60…there might be a senior citizen chronicle in the future…but first I have to get this one done.

Some of you might wonder about my family. I said I had twins. It was a good way to get two kids for the price of one. I only needed one pregnancy, which was definitely enough to reach my goal. I had the twins soon after we married, so it seems like they have been with us forever.

I’m a working mother, which as someone said, is an oxymoron. What mother isn’t a “working mom?” Because we have had the pleasure of flexible schedules, day care was not an insurmountable problem. We arranged our schedules to meet the schedules of the boys. We also made use of neighbors, friends, relatives and sitters to help us when necessary. All of us have done that. The boys have names, but for the purposes of this book, they are red son and blue son. When they were little it was hard to tell them apart, so I dressed one in red and other in blue. The nicknames just sort of stuck. If someone calls one of them by their real name, I have to think about it…who are they talking about?

My husband has a name too, but this is not a book about men or husbands or sons or brothers or uncles. It’s about women and menopause. So, all the male characters in the book, even though they are as real as can be, have no names…they just have titles such as husband, red son, blue son, brother-in-law, father, etc. You get the idea.

One more thing. I’m one of the early baby boomers, born right after World War II ended. We wanted everything and part of that was birth control, keeping our maiden name, a new house with 2 bathrooms, bedrooms for each of our kids, good education, the works. I don’t know if I “got” everything, but I tried hard to get what I could. Hence, after a jillion years of marriage, I’m still SNOW…I never wanted to take another name, even though I’ve been entitled to use one for more than half of my life. Red son and blue son are perfectly happy about the fact that their mom has a life that does not completely revolve around them. They did have their own bedrooms and they did not have to share the bathroom with their parents.

This chronicle starts when I’m 42. I’m a relatively handsome woman, 5’8” 130 pounds, size 10. My hair is still the original color and my eyes are a clear blue. I’ve been this size and weight since I was 22. I’ve never been on a serious diet. I have 2 children who are well balanced and seem to not have any major traumas in their life. They might even turn out to be productive citizens. At least that is the hope. We’ve done our best to make sure they are started off on the right foot and they have a good education. I’ve just been promoted to full professor. It’s hard to get better than that. Then the tables start to turn.

The first little sign that something is happening is a wrinkle. Actually it’s more like a frown line. I’ve always been a thoughtful individual, some could say worrisome…and I’ve got that little line on my forehead that indicates this. But at 42, I notice that the line does not go away anymore. It’s there to stay. When did it become glued on my forehead? I’ve never worried about frowning in the past…but the line…it’s there. It screams at me every morning when I look in the mirror. I try creams, ointments, lotions and rubbing and the line does not get any better and it won’t go away. It just stays there. I cannot cover the line with hair as then I would not be able to see. What to do? Then the reality sinks in..this is the first of many lines. My face, which my husband describes as cute, not pretty, might be getting some character. I always thought it had character before…does it really need any more? Since the line did not ask me for permission to stay, it stayed all on it’s own, maybe I had better face the fact that I’m not 30 anymore. Darn is one word that comes to mind… Shoot, I’m not as elastic as I was. Gees…Lee…you’re 42, you have a line on your forehead. Wake up and smell the roses girl…you’re getting older.

This sucks!

No comments: