Late October

I’m having a tête-à-tête with G-. She and her husband are restoring a house in a picturesque little town in a good school district. G- has two charming and vibrant kids and she’s the coolest mom I know. She’s got the whole punk chic thing going on and she’s about five years younger than me, which probably makes her at least ten years younger than the rest of the moms in her town. G- has a new piercing. She is always tweaking her look and I don’t think she is doing it just for the aesthetic. I think part of her wants to mollify the Pottery Barn set. She is a fount of wisdom and not at all judgmental.

“Hey listen,” she says, “My husband was afraid to so much as speak to me when we were trying to conceive. I was mom-zilla.”

“Really?” I want to hear more. I am desperately fishing for her horror stories to make myself feel better.

“Oh sure, he’ll tell you himself.” She’s not biting. “You should check out some of the pregnancy web sites. They’ve got great forums and some of my friends have found a lot of support there. Oh, and why don’t you take a vacation?”

“If it was about vacations, we’d have a dozen kids by now.”

“Well, you’ve got to take it at the right time. Listen, take a trip, get pregnant, have the baby then go right back on the Pill,” she advises. “Best thing I did.”

While some women I know fret endlessly about the merits and demerits about the Pill, G- and I joyously embrace its efficacy. We marvel at the fact that powerful mood-altering hormones can be zipped up in a perfect little white spherical package. Over many a glass of wine we’ve discussed how every day millions of women are liberated by a pill. It’s amazing, really, when you think about it. The incredible control it gives a woman is remarkable. Truly a girl’s best friend. The reason I had a hard time stopping it is probably because it fits my control-freak streak.

But funny things happen when a woman stops taking the Pill.

Dr. S- told me that it’ll take about three months for my body to ‘normalize’. I’d been on the Pill for 15 years. Without me noticing until they were gone, my little white pill mitigated all the side effects of the monthly period. In fact, I had completely forgotten the randomness of periods B.P. — Before the Pill; the pain, the times I overmedicated on Midol only to find the pain still there but that I was high; the bloating, the swelling. At this point, my cycle was down to a perfectly scripted monthly act, never varying in the slightest. So it was no surprise that I took my first cycle A.P. for early pregnancy symptoms. Okay, so that was silly. But seriously, you don’t realize how great you have it until the Pill exits stage left.

Rage

I’m trying to be open to change and to be patient but I’m always surprised by a side-effect of my new A.P. life. I’ve realized that hormone control is the key to a happy life. A lot has been written about menopause; even with the recent refutation of HRT many women continue to choose hormones over going crazy. I’m not exaggerating: I lived through my mother’s onset of menopause. What strikes me as remarkable is the similarity between my mother’s uncontrollable fits of rage to my own irritable behaviour now. In fact, it’s a little disconcerting to think that without hormones — before and after baby-bearing years — women would be walking nightmares. Is the female sex truly more aggressive and domineering than popular myth makes us out to be?

I try out this question on E- one afternoon as we peruse the stalls at an arts and crafts fair. “Hey, do you think women are oppressed by hormone replacement? I mean, wouldn’t we be the lionesses — the predators — of the urban jungle if we had all that raging hormonal anger in us all the time, instead of regulating it?”

“What? Are you nuts?,” she asks. “Anyway, I’m not on the Pill and I’m not a predator.”

I bring up her treatment of the artistic director at her office but she shoes the idea aside. I’m not convinced so I tell her about my altercation with an older swimmer at the gym who had swum into my kicking legs. After first being nice (okay, through my teeth) said swimmer continued to think I intended to kick her (huh?) so my anger boiled over and although I kept it in, I was just seething, wishing I could kick what must be cataracts out of her head. I admit I do have a quick temper but lately I feel it’s out of control.

The husband would agree with that analysis. He has been the object of my delirious rants for the past two months. It’s a testament to him that we remain together despite episodes of what I call Unexplained Phenomena.

Despair

For instance, just before our Hallowe’en party, I was in the depths of despair. For about five days, I wallowed in melancholy. He was trying to make all sorts of decisions, but my answer to everything was a meek, Who cares? At work, I was on deadline but just couldn’t get the energy to give my undivided attention. I simply didn’t care — what did it matter anyway, I thought. In bed every night I brooded about my depression — it simply could not be explained. I had a husband that loved me, a good job, great friends — absolutely nothing was wrong. Which made me feel even worse.

On the fifth night, as I lay in bed, I offered the husband my diagnosis: “I think I’m clinically depressed.”

“You’re being melodramatic.” Cue my tears here. “Besides that would mean you’d be depressed for months and this is only a week.

“Everything makes me sad.” Tears are streaming down my face. “And I feel disconnected to everyone and everything. I’m starting to freak out about it. I can’t go on like this for another day,” I wail. “I know what severely depressed people feel like now. No wonder they  commit suicide! It’s unbearable.”

“Hooooold on a minute!” yells my husband. “What time of month is it?”

Ohmigod, I realize he’s probably right. Oddly enough, the next day I wake up with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Crazy, no? Later on, I note that this pattern repeats itself monthly. Really, it’s getting to be a bore.

Complexion SOS

Am I back in high school, or what? This is the third unexplained phenomenon. I just cannot believe that my sebaceous glands cannot control themselves without help from a little white pill. It’s mindboggling. In fact, it’s unacceptable in a 30-something year old woman! In my minds eye, I am stomping out those little oil producing glands, but anger is not going to help. I need to chill; the glands need to chill.

I’ve visited my dermatologist who must be the most laid back person on earth as he does not give a whit about my complaints. During a lunch hour, I scour the shelves at Duane Reade for some topical cream that might help. I load up on various brands of zit-zappers. On the way home, I stop at Sephora and consider new face washes. I’ve become a regular after-work fixture at this store. I think I’ve tried almost every line they carry.  Still trying.

The  husband jokes that I just need to get pregnant; that it will clear up my complexion fast. I’ll be glowing. Harrumph.

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