The signs were subtle at first — a wide-open window during a cold snap in January and the perpetual running of Sleepless in Seattle on the Hallmark channel. In hindsight, it is now clear. But at the time, I was simply oblivious. Then came the fireplace blazing 24/7 and extra comforters on the bed, all while the windows were wide open, and the loss of argument after argument on the marital front. The dots on the paper were starting to make sense. I am either off my game or I am going through menopause. Thanks to Google and womanshealth.gov, I now know the answer. I am officially emasculated for at least another year.
For you younger males out there, menopause is Greek for “stand well back,” and you may ask yourself when it is “your turn”: “What did I do to deserve this cruel fate?” The symptoms are apparently endless — migraines, mood swings, anxiety and depression, rapid heartbeat, memory loss, joint pain, breast tenderness or swelling, insomnia, and decreased libido to name but a few of the less irritating side effects. Believe me. Menopause is living hell, guys. Laundry and housework doesn’t get done. The sink is often full of dishes. Sometimes lunch and dinner is even late. Want a football snack at halftime? Forget about it. You will be forced to get up off the couch and fend for yourself. I know. I know. That wasn’t part of the “deal.”
And don’t expect any sympathy from other females. I tried every conceivable male ploy to no avail. If there was a crack in their ranks, I couldn’t find it. I may as well have been King Leonidas against Xerxes and the Persian Army at Thermopylae. I recognize a suicide mission when I see one. If you want to experience sexual intimacy ever again — even after menopause — I strongly suggest you simply keep your mouth shut.
And why? What did we do?
Well, I did that sobering research, too, by stepping back and looking at life through the eyes of the women in my life. The answer is “nothing.” I didn’t suffer through a lifetime of monthly cycles for the sake of procreation; I didn’t carry my children for nine months and then permanently alter my body to create life; I didn’t breastfeed in the middle of the night; and I didn’t sacrifice myself or my ambitions to the same extent to nurture the greatest gift of all — my family. Most everything in life that I hold dear, I owe to my wife and the mother of my daughters. Without them, I have nothing. I am nothing.
Some may say that menopause is an ironic reminder to be grateful. I suppose it is. But the reminder is needed and well deserved. Instead of grousing about a few extra pounds, graying hair, or worry wrinkles, I challenge myself to remember that those are wonderful badges of motherhood, not reason for criticism or tension in a relationship. I only have a family because the women in my life made sacrifices that I wonder if I could ever make if I was female. I shake my head in amazement. A mother’s capacity to love is a beautiful thing.
So as I run the gauntlet of menopause, I will pretend that I am at Disneyland on an E-ticket ride (yes, I am dating myself) and I promise to take my pound of flesh in humor. There will be a day of reckoning, dear. I may have to wait, but your time is coming. In my research, I learned that male menopause is real and I intend to milk the symptoms for all they are worth — like the urge to play golf to fight depression or the need to fly fish and smoke cigars to raise testosterone levels. Two can play this game.
Until then, however, I take this moment to thank all of you ladies out there on behalf of the male gender. We may not always show our gratefulness, but we are — especially if you pop us on the nose as a reminder. There’s nothing wrong with a nose reminder from time to time. Frankly, we expect it.
A belated Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there. You rock.