That new fashion craze called The Hot Flash

It’s nature’s cruel trick that women don’t so much pass through rooms as they do through temperature zones

My mother used to wear a small sweater vest that her mother knit for her.

It was oatmeal-coloured, with tiny brass buttons that had a depression in them, and little bumps in the depressions. I would sit on her lap and put my tiny thumb into those tiny depressions, making my mother’s lap the most calming place in the world.

The vest would end up in various places around the house throughout my mother’s life. She’d take it on or off as needed, and I never understood the concept of trying to regulate your core temperature by leaving your clothes lying all over the house. She’d say it was because in England, where she grew up, houses were damp and cold; it was also the only thing she had that her mother had made her, which kept her warm in another way though I mostly recall her taking it on and off, and on and off.

Now I understand. I spent 50 years on a flight to the Menopausal Resort and Spa and the thermostat in my room is broken forever.

I don’t wear tiny sweater vests (though I still have my mother’s), but I have hooded sweatshirts everywhere. Right now, there is a pair of jeans in the living room and a pair of sweatpants in the rec room. It seems I don’t pass through rooms as much as temperature zones, and it might be the Caribbean in my living room one moment and the Arctic the next. Nobody else complains, so I know it’s just me. I shed clothes and need them again at random.

I’m actually lucky. By nature, I run cold. I’ve spent decades arguing with my sons about why we don’t really need the air conditioning going, until I discovered an 8-year-old Christopher lying in bed, ceiling fan on helicopter (that’s what they called it) and two additional stand fans directed at him. I put on the air conditioning. Just because I’m experiencing something different from you doesn’t mean I’m right, even if I do pay the bills.

I learned this lesson in time to preach it.

I sit on the back deck, working, and Mark the Cat thinks it would be great to curl up on my feet. It’s like sticking a thermometer in a mug of hot chocolate. Mark shifts a little to get more comfortable and I wonder how my mother handled all those warm little bodies snuggling on her lap as her temperature spiked and dropped. I didn’t understand why the freezer aisle at the grocery store was her favourite.

I stare at the neighbours’ pool, the aqua surface glistening through the fence. We used to beg my father for a pool, and he’d get all gruff and crabby and tell us pools were stupid and didn’t we know how lucky we were to have a cottage? I regret my mother never used her internal incinerator secret weapon to make him put in a pool. You may not be able to get a man to know what it feels like, but you can sure as hell make his life miserable while you go through it. (See also: labour.) Each time a hot flash hits, I Google how much it would cost to put a pool in. The problem is, I’m Googling in August, but I’m also Googling in February. And I can’t afford a pool.

I’ve devoted time to wondering why we’re designed to get flabby upper arms at the same time we most need sleeveless tops. I’ve considered when the driveway is covered with snow, I could probably just lie down on it and melt everything. I’m also aware that my mom lived through this without central air for years and years, though she didn’t complain as much as I do.

Maybe I should go find that sweater.

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One response to That new fashion craze called The Hot Flash

  1. Pat says:

    I remember when my Mom went through Menopause. We had a little black board in the kitchen and would list warnings on the “Miserality Index.” Scale of 1-10, one to eight usually not required.
    Mom would participate with a note, like: ” Not a good day, or Don’t mess with me.” She swam out the other side in good time and was her old self, with the aid of a nightly Scotch or Martini. She turned 97 last month, says she misses her Martini.

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