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Tammy Swift, Published November 08 2013

Swift: When wacky ‘Over the Hill’ punch lines hit you in the gut

I used to think all those things said about menopause were sort of exaggerated. Wasn’t talk of “hot flashes” simply fodder for Maxine cartoons? Weren’t “night sweats” and “mood changes” the wacky punch lines for “Over the Hill” gifts at the party store?

And then slowly, insidiously everything started to change. My body and brain conspired to turn on me. It was as if my womb were preparing for a giant going-out-of-business sale.

The first changes were superficial. My hair, once musk ox-thick, started to thin. Age spots – the price for using iodine and baby oil as my “sun protection” three decades ago – appeared. And when did I start looking like a late-stage Marianne Faithfull?

But it hasn’t ended there. My knees pop when I descend stairs. After my last visit to the eye doctor, I thought the optometry field would need to invent octofocals. I can no longer wear cute, little Toms or flats; now I need to worry about plantar fasciitis and arch support.

Notoriously cold-blooded, I used to go to bed swaddled as if participating in the Iditarod. I would then sleep for eight or nine hours straight. Now I am waking up at 4 a.m. with my covers kicked off and my sheets drenched in sweat. And judging by the number of my female friends who are also on Facebook in the middle of the night, I am not alone. Perhaps we all need to start a book club that begins at 4 a.m. and meets in someone’s unheated garage.

Overall, however, the worst problem has been the brain fog. My gray matter seems much less reliable. Now I know why they call it “mental-pause.” I can’t seem to absorb new information as quickly. My memory is awful. Where did I put my purse-sized fan for my next hot flash? Heck, where did I put my purse? Did I leave it in the car? Where did I park my car?

Of course, the only answer to these baffling new changes is to control what I can. Because I am a good Westernized consumer, this means I can only do one thing: try to find the answer by spending more money. Obviously, the issue isn’t that time is marching forward like an unstoppable robot of inevitable destruction. My real problem is an alarming lack of probiotic-black cohosh-krill oil-glucoso-creatine. (I now know why my mother carries a Volkswagen-sized trunk of supplements whenever she visits.)

My medicine chest has begun to fill up with strange new products. Fiber. A mouth guard. Aspercreme. An inordinate amount of stuff for my feet.

Likewise, my beauty products have become more costly and serious-sounding, taking on an almost medicinal quality. Wrinkle Triage 1000. Clinical Youth Resuscitation. Emergency Age-Spot Intervention.

Of course, in my stony, old heart of hearts, I know this won’t really help. Not to get all Disney about it, but aging is just part of the “Circle of Life.” I need to learn to flow with it and to accept the changes. Rather than panic, I must keep my cool.

Well, maybe later, after I open a window.

Is it hot in here?

Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at tswiftsletten@gmail.com