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Let’s Put the “Hot” in Hot Flashes

A modest proposal for the menopausal

Jennie Young
Apr 17, 2018 · 6 min read
Photo by Asif Aman on Unsplash

To be clear, by “hot,” I don’t mean sexy. That’s ridiculous.

I mean hot in the sense of, umm… popular. Or… current.

Because here’s the thing: Women hide their menopausal hot flashes, as though temperature changes are inherently shameful. (Do you see how silly it sounds when I phrase it like that? What’s the big deal? Your temperature changed??!! OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!).

Flashback to 10 years ago: I am 37 when I first notice that I feel inexplicably hot all the time, day and night. I conduct a quick Google search and make an appointment to see my doctor.

When I get there, I notify my doctor that I’m sure I have hyperthyroidism. (I always research my ailments and their associated treatments online before going to the doctor — doctors love this!). I inform her that, due to my condition, I need a prescription for either radioactive iodine or Tapazole. I am willing to accept either, because I’m easy going.

The doctor looks a little skeptical, but she really can’t think of anything more likely than my self-diagnosis, so she tests me for hyperthyroidism, which it turns out I don’t have. She decides to test me for tuberculosis, which, for some reason, I find hilarious. I tell everyone I know that I probably have tuberculosis, mostly to watch their initial reaction followed by an immediate tendency to back away slowly.

I also do not have TB.

What I DO have, apparently, is The Menopause. The doctor calls to inform me, and I tell her she’s mistaken; I’m only 37. She agrees it’s unusual, but assures me that they’ve run multiple tests, and I am definitively in menopause. “Actually,” she says in a quieter voice, “the tests show that you’re postmenopausal.”

I’m POSTmenopausal?! “Umm… yes,” she says.

“Well, what are we going to do?!” I ask urgently, as though it’s a time-sensitive situation.

She recommends that I come in to talk with her about my “options.”

When I get to work the next morning, I immediately tell all of my colleagues that I have the menopause and am suffering from hot flashes. Three women immediately join me in my bitching, admitting that they haven’t slept well in years, that they’re constantly angry and feel disgusting, that they frequently run to the bathroom to splash cold water on their faces and wring out their camisoles.

I am livid. I work with these women every day!

“So, wait.” I say. “You’ve all been going through this for years and you HAVEN’T SAID ANYTHING TO ANYONE?!” I’m incredulous. Why, ON EARTH, would anyone be willing to suffer this hell in silence?

I’m certainly not going to. That’s nutballs.

If I have to put up with this, then I will force people to sympathize, one way or another.

I complain openly about my hot flashes for the rest of the day, sometimes even ADDING drama — making more of a show than necessary when fanning myself with a magazine, shoving other people out of the way as I race to the nearest exit, as though escaping a fire (which isn’t that far-fetched).

Pretty soon, my female colleagues start openly complaining as well, and I’m DELIGHTED. I feel as though I’ve single-handedly engineered a Very Important Feminist Revolution of some sort.

I spend the rest of that day searching Amazon for “hot flash relief” products. I have decided that no one can defensibly expect me to work today, after the news I’ve just received. I’ve already heard too many horror stories about hormone replacements and herbal cures, so I look for something more immediate, more mechanical.

The best thing I find is a product called “Pretty Cool Hot Flash Relief Instant Cold Pack,” which is basically a little ice-pack thingy whose icing capabilities are unleashed when you open its individual wrapping and “activate” it. The pack is about the size of a Big Mac, peach-colored, and decorated with an intricate mandala design. The product information suggests that I can “discreetly slip it into my bra” when I feel a hot flash coming on.

Aside from the fact that I’m still confused as to why we’re supposed to silently suppress these hot flashes, I’m trying to picture exactly how I would go about discreetly slipping something into my bra at a faculty meeting without anyone noticing. This sounds impossible, and yet also super funny, as I seriously consider attempting it.

I decide to hold off ordering the cold pack until I see the doctor, which happens the following day. I explain to her that I’m sick of not sleeping, sick of sweating through my clothes, sick of being trapped like a rat in some meeting where I have to sit still when I really just feel like peeling my own skin off.

She makes little sympathetic noises, and purposely turns away from the computer where she’s entering my information to face me; she wants me to know that she’s listening. She nods too many times and smiles in a super-sad way, and says, “I know. It’s embarrassing, isn’t it.”

“It’s what?” I say. “It sucks, because it’s uncomfortable. Because it’s hot,” I clarify. My doctor is nice, but she looks like she’s 12 years old. She’s like some millennial Doogie Howser type, and I don’t think she really gets it.

So, first the Amazon product’s suggestion of “discreetness,” and now the “I know, it’s so embarrassing.” Is there some sort of conspiracy to keep this whole deal under wraps? And if so, why? And what can we do about it?

She then tells me about this new form of hormone replacement therapy that’s supposed to be better than the older forms because — I honestly don’t know, I drifted off — but there’s just one thing she wants me to know about it because she knows I don’t eat meat and she’s not sure if this will bother me or not but it does contain horse urine.

I do a quick little internal dialogue with myself and decide that, while gross, eating horse urine doesn’t actually suggest any sort of harm to animals. Conversely, if they need horse urine to make this stuff then it seems to offer the horse some insurance because they need to keep it alive so that it keeps peeing. I highly doubt they get the horse to pee once and then kill it immediately.

I accept my horse urine cure and head immediately to the drugstore to get it filled. But for some reason, I can’t get myself to take it. I keep trying, but then I read the list of side effects, and I chicken out.

So for now I’m just sitting here sweating. And pissed off. And tired, because I spent all night tossing blankets on and off of myself.

Simultaneously, I remain entertained by my current options, which are:

  1. Stuff my bra with ice packs, DURING faculty meetings.
  2. Eat horse urine.
  3. Suffer silently.

Because I’ve decided none of these are feasible — the first two being even less feasible than the third — I am creating Option #4, which is to suffer, but LOUDLY.

And I want all my sisters to join me. Let’s make some noise about this hot flash thing. Let’s normalize it like carpal tunnel or restless leg syndrome. If we’re effective, we could at least lobby for legally mandated hot flash breaks (like smoking breaks, except we’re smoking hot all on our own, without tobacco!!).

For our legally mandated hot flash breaks, we are allowed to run out of the room at any time and from any place. There will be no questions asked, although people are allowed to sympathize and provide us with cold drinks.

Thank you for reading. If you need me, I’ll be in HR.

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