Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

I should have known I was in trouble last Thursday when that pop-up zit appeared on the edge of my lip out of nowhere. Up at 5AM to catch a flight north for work, I stared in disbelief at the mirror. Just when I thought the menopausal acne was behind me… But the road to menopause is full of surprises.

Acne. Mood swings. Bloating. Hot flashes. Mood swings. Exhaustion. Hot flashes.  

Yes, hot flashes can be surprising, as they come and go and change and morph throughout the years leading up to “official” menopause, defined as twelve consecutive months with no “monthly friend” (I’m on a six month roll right now – woo-hoo!!). Not only do hot flashes arrive unexpectedly, but they vary widely in intensity. I’ve had some big ones – rolling heat waves that start in my chest and roll upwards until my scalp was tingling.  I’m talking about strip-off-your-clothes-in-mid-winter major hot flashes (indoors and at home, of course). We’ll be watching television quietly at home, and suddenly I’m flinging off my sweater or sweatshirt in a panic. Poor Hubby barely raises an eyebrow anymore when I start peeling off my clothes. Then the hot flashes will subside for a while, with just the occasional night sweat. Mild night sweats have become fairly routine, but they’ve never been debilitating for me. 

I know I’ve been relatively lucky. I’ve heard stories of horrendous night sweats, where women wake up so drenched they have to change the sheets. Women who had to keep spare outfits in their offices to change into because a hot flash would ruin their clothes. But not me. My hot flashes are just the nuisance type. Annoying, but manageable. Kinda like me. And it was all under control.

After Thursday, I’m not so sure anymore…

It happened at the Charlotte, NC airport Thursday morning. I caught the 6AM puddle-jumper from home to Charlotte (a 50-minute flight) to connect with another flight north to my office, where I was due to attend an important meeting shortly after landing. I was wearing comfortable dress pants and a colorfully patterned, lightweight polyester knit top. I had a 3-hour layover, so there was no hurry as I strolled from one end of the airport to the other. I felt the hot flash begin, and I knew it was a strong one. I was not only hot, I was also very light-headed, felt faint, and my hands were shaking. I stopped, and I started to feel better. Wow. That was a good one. I figured I’d get something cold to drink and I’d be fine, as usual. I stopped by a little tourist shop along the way, mainly because it was extra cool in there. I strolled around a bit, not to buy anything, but just to enjoy the coolness for a minute.

An employee in the shop looked at me rather oddly, and instead of saying “good morning!” or “Can I help you?” he said “Is everything okay this morning, ma’am?” That struck me as an odd thing to say, and then I thought my mega hot flash must have made my face red. I told him I was fine, and decided I’d better go get that cold drink and sit down somewhere.

As I walked out of the shop, I felt something on the side of my face. I put my fingers up to my left temple, and discovered water was running down my face near my scalp. I was covered in sweat. I’m not talking about a soft dewy glow here. I am talking about big drops of water. Dripping down the side of my face. Good lord, the guy must have thought I was crying, or just…well…a crazy lady drenched in sweat at 8:00 AM. I grabbed a tissue and wiped my face. My scalp was sweating. My hair felt damp and limp. Whoa. This was no normal hot flash.

I grabbed a yogurt parfait and a cold drink, and got settled into a seat at a quiet gate. As I sat back against the chair, my back felt cold and clammy. I sat forward and my shirt was clinging to my back. Good grief – I was soaked! I put my hand back there, and sure enough, my shirt was not just damp – it was wet with sweat. The chair was wet. From me. Gross.

I analyzed my options, and wearing this shirt for the rest of the day was not one of them. I had to buy something. I was heading into a meeting less than an hour after landing, and I couldn’t go in wearing a bright t-shirt that said “North Carolina Rocks!” A golf shirt was not dress code compliant. Maybe I could get away with that some other time, but not now – not when I’m trying to convince my employer that I can be away from the home office and still maintain a high level of professionalism.

That left me with two stores: Lacoste (expensive) and Brooks Brothers (more expensive). Lacoste had a sale rack, but nothing on it would work – too clingy, too sheer, too heavy (being warm triggers hot flashes). Why spend $50 on a sale shirt that I know I’ll never wear?

So I went back to Brooks Brothers and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a very nice cotton pinstripe shirt with ¾ sleeves. Beautiful fabric. Lovely tailoring. Very professional. Looks great. It is easily the most expensive shirt I’ve ever purchased. The sales tax brought the total over 3 figures. For a shirt.

All because of a monster hot flash at a really bad time and place.

And that’s the story of my first sweat-through-my-clothes hot flash. I don’t need to have another one. Truly, I don’t. Once is enough.

But just in case, I’ll start keeping an extra dress shirt in my office (and in my carry-on when I’m traveling).  

Because I simply can’t afford any more hot flashes like that one.

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