P is for Period
And paranoia. And psychosis.
Personally, I never gave much credence to the idea of hormones making women act crazy. But I must admit, I didn’t pay much attention. Looking back, I have to say I was a tad crazier at certain points of my cycles than at others. Only after having mapped it out over years and years, keeping track of periods and ovulations and such, did I recognize the patterns. I could predict with amazing accuracy the exact days I would be feeling good about myself.
And when menopause hit, I was free! Free from hormonal waves ranging from insecurity to overconfidence, free from spending money on feminine hygiene products, free from a monthly abstinence of not only sex but also swimming and a hundred other things I used to avoid during menses.
The thing I enjoyed the most, though, was the freedom from caring what others thought. I no longer put any weight into what the other Moms at the elementary school thought of me. Moms whose attentions I wished I could attract were no more attractive to me than those of the 6th graders pouring out the school doors. I was no longer offended when I smiled at other parents and they didn’t smile back. I stopped and talked to people I’d seen for years but never spoken to because I wasn’t afraid of rejection anymore. Blank stares were shrugged off. My feelings could not be hurt.
Not that I didn’t have feelings – I surely did. But they were reserved for my family only. I possessed a self-confidence which comes from being secure in the knowledge that you are loved and needed at home. Outside the home, nothing mattered anymore. And I liked it!
Then BAM! Aunt Flo reared her ugly head and everything went to shit…
One month ago, the week after I finished my last book and a few days before I published it, the damned thing came back. WTF, I said aloud. I decided everything was fine, my body was just expressing the release of all that pent-up stuff from writing the book. It would be a one-off and would pass quickly.
The month that followed was the worst I’d had in years. The emotional ups and downs, the insecurity, the inexplicable rage, the impatience, the sadness. It all rushed back in through flood gates I thought were closed and locked. Goddamnit!
So when I threw a party to celebrate the launch of my book, I told myself it didn’t matter if people came. I lied. I did care. Had it been two months prior, and no period had arrived, I wouldn’t have cared. But now, with hormones ruling my emotions, I cared.
I had invited over 70 people to the casual bbq in our back yard. I cleaned for 2 days before it, got up early to bake buns for it, and bought a bundle of alcohol in case people wanted to indulge at 3 in the afternoon.
“How many people have RSVPed?” asked my 11 year old.
“Only two,” I replied, “but I left it open so people might just pop in.”
She guffawed. No, it was more like a cackle. Loud and shitty. “Only two people!” she laughed at me.
“Yes, but it doesn’t matter if anyone shows up. If no one comes, we’ll just have our own party! It’ll be fun!” I said with more bravado than I actually felt. Inside, I was worried. What if no one came?
As it turned out, only 7 of the more than 70 people invited attended the soiree. It was a small party but it was nice to catch up with those who made it. At the time, I didn’t notice who wasn’t there, I concentrated on those who were. But afterward, as I cleaned up, I was disheartened. I was hurt in a way I didn’t think I could be.
I put on a brave face and told my kids, “it was small but all the important people were there.” Then I smiled at them lovingly and continued with the cleanup. I wanted them to think I didn’t care, because I’ve always told them not to care what others think. It’s not the size of the party that counts, it’s the quality of the friends who DO show up that matters.
The next day, after they had left for school, I put on my sweat pants, grabbed a blanket, and curled up on the couch in a pity-party which would last the whole day. I oscillated from sad to angry to hurt to defiant and back to sad. I told myself I didn’t care and I scolded myself for caring and I searched for answers as to why I would give a flying fuck.
I admitted to myself that I was sorely disappointed some of my closest allies had not made the effort. Were they really my friends? Did I really matter that little to them? It’s not that they couldn’t be there, it’s that they chose not to come. Literally. Two texted regrets before the party, one texted the next day. The other 62 have not replied.
When I inevitably ran into many of them the following week, how was I going to react? What was I going to say when I saw people I had invited? Those first few days I didn’t have the strength to deal with it, so I didn’t walk the kids to school and I sent my husband to pick them up. I avoided our neighbourhood shops. I didn’t reply to emails or messages, not that there were many.
Once I regained my composure, I started to rebuild the walls. I changed a party invitation from YES to NO, disappointing a friend who was turning 50. I told her I needed to get ready for a family event the following day and needed to put my family’s needs ahead of my own. She had to understand, because she’d skipped my party for the same reason. I still haven’t decided if I was just being vindictive because she easily could’ve made my party but didn’t bother. I actually finished preparations for my event by 7:30 so could easily still have shown up for a drink. But I didn’t. Because I was hurt.
Over the course of the following weekend, I ran into three of what I thought were good friends. No one mentioned the party. I didn’t mention it either, but by then I had gotten over it.
I’ve run into a dozen others and they’ve asked brightly, “How was your book launch party?”
I smiled, looked at them wide-eyed and said with equal enthusiasm, “It was shitty! Only 7 of the 70 people I invited showed up!” Turns out it wasn’t enthusiasm, it was sarcasm. Oops!
Invariably, they’ve tilted their heads to the side, scrunched their noses and said sadly, “oh, that’s too bad.”
I shrugged and changed the subject. If they felt bad, I didn’t care. There was no point in feeling guilty for not wanting to go to a party. But rest assured, they would not be invited to another. They won’t be put in that awkward position again!
I am trying very hard to remember how my pre-menstrual self would’ve handled this. Maybe that menopausal woman wouldn’t have bothered to throw a party, or maybe she would’ve bounced back from it quicker with renewed self-confidence. I’ll never know.
Why am I sharing this with everyone? Shouldn’t I be embarrassed that my party was a bust? Aw, y’all know me better than that! I am sharing my pain in case someone else is feeling the shame of a failed party, to let them know they are not alone and life goes on. I started building a protective wall, but it didn’t get very high and now I’m writing this in an effort to tear away those bricks. We keep hearing it’s okay to fail, but fuck if it doesn’t hurt like a sonofabitch!
Had I not been ovulating at the exact time of the party, I probably wouldn’t have stewed over the whole thing. Stupid periods…
I want my menopause (and sanity) back! I’m crossing my fingers this is the last time I have to shed my uterine lining. *sigh*