Menopause Journal: Is it a hot flash or global warming?

Hold on! I was a Beatles fan in the '60s. Later, wearing overalls, my hair in braids, I was in a demonstration with a placard proclaiming: "Farmers for Peas." I wasn't exactly a farmer. Then I got married, became pregnant twice and gave birth to two children. I remember my friend and I were nursing our babies and she said, "Who ever thought we'd be lactating mothers?"

And who ever thought I'd be divorced? Who thought I'd be a working, single mom? I didn't think children would grow up so fast. I never thought I'd gain 30 pounds in 30 years or turn 50 or learn to sail or need glasses. Most certainly I never thought about menopause.

I've ridden the waves of change and managed to survive the ones that crashed. And here we are, baby boomers bouncing into menopause of all things. I invite you to join me on this trip. Perhaps you or someone you know is about to take the menopausal journey or is already midstream. We may travel different ways, but we can compare notes. I'll be writing every couple of weeks. So join me as I try to determine whether menopause is misery, mystery or myth.

So far, it's a mystery to me. I might have had a hot flash. I was eating lunch with a friend and suddenly I got dizzy, as if I might faint, and my face felt hot and flushed. I felt a little queasy, but it went away. That was almost a year ago. Nothing like that has happened since. So, was it a hot flash or did I eat a jalapeño pepper? They (the anonymous "they") warn of night sweats.

I don't sweat at night, but I do seem more sensitive to temperature change. It's not only darkest, but coldest just before dawn. I've noticed that I prefer a lighter nightgown, whereas I used to freeze without flannel. But it could be an increase in body fat, not hot flashes, protecting me from cold Maine nights.

I wonder if these things would occur to me if I weren't at the age for "the change." The heating in my house has always been temperamental and uneven. I'm surprised the thermostat still works, it's been so frequently adjusted. And what about the impact of global warming and El Niño and La Niña? The hot flash is the hallmark of menopause, but there are many other possibilities. In fact, the advertised symptoms ? hot flashes, depression, mood swings, insomnia, confusion and weight gain ? can all be caused by something else. How can you tell which it is?

In my family we've blamed a number of our frailties on what we've dubbed the "Allen Gene." That gene causes tardiness, addiction to sweets, tooth decay, weight gain, cluttered environment, aimless wandering and repeated searches for misplaced keys, glasses, hairbrushes, important papers, numbers and parked cars. In some cases this has caused depression. So, when I'm searching for my car keys or my car, how do I know whether it's the "Allen Gene" or menopause? Am I totally dependent on my date book because I'm perimenopausal or because I have too much to remember? Have I gained weight because I'm at the age of "the change" or do I eat too much?