“Champ,” 2016 by Zoë Buckman. Exhibited at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, Arkansas as a part of the “The Future is Female” exhibition. Photo by KD.

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Menopause Spurs Thoughts of Death and Turkey

Excerpted from You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl: Observations on Life from the Shallow End of the Pool, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011. 


Right now, since you ask, I’m what is known as perimenopausal. “Peri,” some of you may know, is a Latin prefix meaning “SHUT YOUR FLIPPIN’ PIE HOLE.”

There’s a huge difference between perimenopause and menopause; chiefly, during perimenopause you only think about killing your husband three to four times a day. Kidding! I meant three to four times an hour.

Of course, many women in my situation try to learn as much as they can about this stage of life. Some even embrace and try to celebrate this phase, which can include insomnia, memory loss, night sweats, fatigue, and memory loss (ha!). I like to call these women crazy people.

Others, like me, occasionally try to find comfort by discussing these very personal issues with trusted women friends. Who, if you must know, leave a lot to be desired lately.

The biggest problem is that we women are competitive creatures. If you want to talk about your menopausal symptoms, your women-friends will just try to out-symptom you.

Me: “I feel like I’m losing my mind! I have these little electric currentlike hot flashes all over my body and it happens about a dozen times a day!”

BFF: “Oh, yeah? At least that’s better than forgetting everything like I do. The other day, I left my kid at the dry cleaners and took my husband’s shirts to see Up.


BFF: “Shut up!”

Me: “YOU shut up! (Cue wild mood swing out of no damn where.) I’m sorry. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!”

BFF: “OK, so that’s not needy at all.”

I can’t believe I was ever friends with Angie Romano. OK, sure I can. She’s the one who taught me how to look years younger in pictures. You know how when a bunch of women friends get together and get just a little sloppy drunk? A few of you even flirt inappropriately with the kinda cute Marine who has just asked you if you’re a veterinarian and when you say, “No, why?” he flexes his biceps and says, “Cuz my pythons are sick!”

In the heat of the moment, feeling younger and friskier, one of the posse whips out a camera and tells the waiter to, “Take our picture!” Well, Angie taught all of us how to put our arms around each other, right at the neck, and smile. So what? So this! See, each one of us reaches just under the hairline on the back of the neck and pulls like hell on the neck skin so we all look twenty-eight years old again!

Try it next time you’re having that ditzy, drunken photo taken. The one you’ll have to beg your teenager to e-mail your old high school classmates so they can marvel at how good your neck looks. You have to ask your teen to email it because you have no idea how to do it because you are old.

So, really, it’s hard to hate anyone who is wise enough to figure out how to make my horrendous pelican neck fat disappear for picture time.

Everyone my age likes to yak about menopause whenever we get together but I have a hard time talking or even thinking about my “females” because, let’s face it: That shit is gross. When my doctor told me one time that I had a uterine polyp, I threw up on his shoes.

Maybe because he’s a lot like a nerdy nine-year-old boy, TV’s famous Dr. Oz thrives on the gross woman stuff. Remember the time he made Oprah hold up a big lacy-looking piece of intestinal fat for all of us to admire?

“It’s called the O-mentum,” he said. And while I thought that was so like the wizard that’s Oz to try to kiss Oprah’s ass by naming an organ after her right there on the spot, turns out that’s the real name for it.

I looked up “omentum,” saw a close-up picture of one, and threw up on my own shoes.

A while back, I had a little trouble with the ol’ babymaker that led to a pretty significant case of anemia. And, no, you don’t lose weight when you’re severely anemic, which just pissed me off even more. Doesn’t blood weigh anything? It seemed that at least I’d drop a few pounds from not having any.

Duh-hubby responded to my illness appropriately. For about two days. And then, on Day Three, I heard him trudge, very slowly upstairs to our bedroom, where I was lying, surrounded by empty bottles of Lipton Diet Green Tea and Nilla Wafers boxes.

“I’m … sooooo … tired…,” he managed before flopping onto my bedspace.

Although I looked and felt as if the entire Cullen family had been over for dinner and I was the main course, I was expected to show sympathy for him?

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I asked with way more concern than I actually felt.

“I gave blood today and almost passed out,” he grumbled.

Now I am not proud of how poorly I reacted to this information. While it’s unspeakably noble to donate blood, I selfishly wanted at least one of us to be running around with normal amounts of the stuff in our veins.

“Sooooo.… tired,” he said again, pulling off his socks and pants, tossing his tie and shirt onto the floor, and crawling under the covers. My covers. My anemia-wracked covers.

“Can you hand me the remote?”


A few hours later, the NBA playoffs had worked their curative magic and Duh was feeling normal.

Me? I was still feeling as crappy as ever. If you’ve ever had anemia, you know exactly what I mean. Of course, because I come from a long line of hypochondriacs, I’d decided that I was dying. I’d written my last smart-ass words. This was it for me.

I told Duh that it was time to discuss my funeral, which I want to be huge and splashy, just like that one in that wonderful old movie classic, Imitation of Life, because that was the best funeral ever. Remember how there was a lavish funeral at the biggest church in New York featuring a gospel solo by Mahalia Jackson (who is, unfortunately, too dead to sing at my funeral but we could substitute Queen Latifah because after I saw her in Hairspray I knew she was up to the task). OK, so also in Imitation of Life, after the big, splashy funeral (at which you will wear a hat, assholes, this is my funeral we’re talking about, show a little respect) there is a parade in the streets with drummers drumming and pipers piping and the body rides along in a horse-drawn hearse and it proceeds through the entire city!

And everyone cries! Just buckets and barrels of tears and the best part is when the dead woman’s daughter flings herself onto the casket. I just love it when people do that at real funerals. It’s so raw and real, and if at least one person doesn’t fling herself or himself onto my casket and scream, “Noooo! Nooooo! Take me instead! Here! Here’s my omentum! I don’t need it anymore in this dark world without you!” I’m going to be completely pissed as I look down on all y’all losers. That’s right. I said “down.”

Maybe you don’t think about your funeral, but that’s how you end up with really crappy funerals where the whole thing lasts ten minutes and then somebody goes out for a bucket of Bojangles’ chicken.

You will never get the anemia-induced Imitation of Life funeral unless you plan it. I plan to call the (snicker) “pre-planning” experts at my local funeral home and tell them I want the Imitation of Life special and, if they don’t know what I’m talking about, they don’t get my bidness.

I come from a long line of worriers, so it’s not that bizarre that all this talk of anemia and menopause and omentums and such would lead to funeral planning.

The women in my family have always been chronic worriers. True story: My maternal grandmother once called the Atlanta airport to ask the pilot not to fly in a light rain because I was going to be a passenger on his plane that day. Oh yes she did.

She pleaded with the airline to spare the lives of her daughter and granddaughters, although, as memory serves, she didn’t mention anything about my daddy, which was probably because he was a Democrat.

We worry about things in our control (did I unplug the coffeemaker before work?) and completely out of our control (will we get brain cancer?).

A few years ago, I realized that my favorite childhood book had been The Three Sillies, which is a fabulous book about how outlandish fears and worries can get in the way of living a happy, authentic life. In the book, the three sillies are a husband, wife, and daughter, who weep when they imagine that one day the daughter will have a son, and he will go into the basement to fetch some ale, and an ax might fall from a beam and kill him. None of these things has happened, mind you; it’s the thought of all the awful things that could happen that makes them weep so long and hard.

I bought copies of The Three Sillies for Christmas presents for my sister and mother. I would’ve bought one for my grandmother but she had already passed by then, in her sleep, which was not how she envisioned her death, at the hands of an ax-wielding psychopath who would break into her house just after Johnny Carson went off the air.

We read selected portions of The Three Sillies in the same attentive, reverent manner that other families might read the Bible or Koran. After reminiscing for a few minutes, we realized all this talk of worry and death had worked up a real appetite. It was time to carve the turkey, which is Duh’s responsibility every year, after he’s bagged an extra five-hour midmorning nap.

As he sliced into the turkey breast, we leaned forward and our faces fell.

“It’s pink,” I whined.

“So?” asked Duh. “What’s the big deal? We can just put it back in the oven for a few minutes if you’re worried.”

“Great idea. That way the bacteria can really enjoy a growth spurt in that moist heat for a few more minutes. We’ll all be dead within the hour!”

The turkey was obviously riddled with botulism. What was Duh’s damn problem anyway?

So we did the only responsible thing: Tossed out the turkey and ate the side dishes. Better safe than hospitalized, where, we were fairly certain, we’d never get out without contracting a horrible staph infection. Possibly in our omentums.

Maybe that all sounds silly to you, but we didn’t want to take any chances. Go ahead and eat questionable turkey.

It’s your funeral.

But it won’t be nearly as awesome as mine. Bitches.