I sat opposite the optician, startled by her youth.
‘‘You had an eye test six months ago,’’ she informed me.
‘‘Yes, the girl who saw me told me to wait another six months before getting my new glasses. That would take me up to my two year check up time. She said there had been deterioration in one eye,’’ I replied.
‘‘Which one was it?’’ she asked.
‘‘The pregnant one,’’ I replied.
‘‘Which one is that then?’’ she asked in a slow and careful manner.
‘‘The one with blonde hair,’’ I sighed.
This examination was taking forever. Then I became aware of the strange look she was giving me and realised she meant which eye had deteriorated and not, as I thought, which girl had I seen before?
‘‘It’s the right one,’’ I muttered, too tired to explain to this young whippersnapper that since my hormones went into meltdown, I sometimes get the wrong end of the stick in conversations.
I spend a lot of time in a state of confusion these days. The onset of the perimenopause has led me into a sort of twilight zone where I exist in a mental fug. Even finding the right word lately has become a chore. I dread having to ask for anything in shops, as it turns into a game of Give Us a Clue. Yesterday I was trying to purchase two tubs of ice cream.
‘‘Could I have one vanilla and one eh…?’’ I completely lost the words. The man behind the counter began to try and guess.
‘‘No,’’ I replied.
‘‘Chocolate?’’ he queried.
‘‘No, the one with the bits in it,’’ I said.
‘‘Marshmallow?’’ prompted the man in the queue behind me.
‘‘No, it’s crunchy,’’ I said.
‘‘Pooh Bear?’’ shouted a man from the newsstand.
‘‘That’s it,’’ I said. Newsstand Man looked delighted he’d solved the flavour mystery.
‘‘And could I have a lucky dip please?’’ I asked foraging in my purse. Then mortification set in as I realised I’d asked for a not a lucky dip but instead something that rhymes with ‘kick’! I left with head hung in shame.
As if communication problems aren’t bad enough, I’m also in constant physical discomfort. I even ended up in casualty on Monday with chest pains and palpitations. After tests and a five hour wait, I saw a doctor, she too was inconceivably young. She ruled out a cardiac episode. My discomfort was put down to stress and hormones. I explained to her how my bosoms were so painful, I feared they might explode.
‘‘It’s like they are being given electric shocks,’’ I explained.
‘‘Is that normal?’’ I inquired.
‘‘Oh yes,’’ she nodded as she gave me a full and rather painful examination, ‘‘and you’ll find the pain will probably get worse as you transition into menopause. You may experience lumps too in that area. If the lumps are sore, that’s normal. It’s the lumps that aren’t painful that are the ones to worry about.’’
I sat there in casualty with my explosive bosoms, marvelling at how much life had changed since my oestrogen levels had taken a nose dive. I had no idea about the physical and mental symptoms changing hormonal patterns would bring, which include hot flushes, aching joints, palpitations and the mental fog that makes me fear I have early onset Alzheimer’s.
The menopause is still very much a taboo subject; some women even pretend they aren’t experiencing it. I don’t remember my mother ever discussing hers, nor did we receive an education on it at my all-girl school.
‘‘Gosh, it’s a nightmare this hormonal stuff!’’ I exclaimed to the doctor and nurse.
‘‘It’s like that Captain said, eh what was his name, Captain..?’’ I mused.
‘‘Pugwash?’’ offered the nurse.
‘‘Birdseye?’’ suggested the doctor.
‘‘No, Captain Kirk when he said ...’’ I grasped for the words.
‘‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it?’’ offered the nurse with a knowing smile. And I knew she was going through the dreaded ‘change’ too which made me feel better. It was as though I’d discovered a fellow member of a secret society.
‘‘Actually it was Mr Spock who said that,’’ the doctor concluded confidently.
And with that I was free to go. I jumped off the gurney and said my goodbyes.
‘‘Live long and prosper,’’ I bid them both, giving them a Vulcan hand salute. I walked out of the cubicle into the menopausal unknown, to boldly go where no man has gone before (lucky beggars!)