This is a PSA for all my female friends who have not yet reached menopause. There is some shit they haven’t told you. Remember how there was shit they never told you about birthin’ babies? Well there is more shit they left out. And babies are optional – menopause ain’t!   PSA1

I am sure we all know about the “classic” symptoms – hot flashes, mood swings, and the dreaded “dryness”. I know that women suffer horribly from these and they are no small things. BUT THERE ARE OTHER THINGS. I have experienced only minor hot flashes out of the above list and yet my “other things” are serious enough that I am using hormones!

Disclaimer: I have had an IUD for 14 years and haven’t had a period since six months after the first one was inserted. When all this started, there was no way to determine that I was perimenopausal, let alone menopausal, without a specific blood test. So guessing menopause was the cause was not an easy leap. I finally had that blood test last Friday!

First non-common symptom: I got urinary tract infections, a lot of them. As in every six weeks for a year and a half until we figured this out. It was AWFUL. This was not your typical dryness-caused-irritation = infection type of thing. There was no dryness, which is why it took so long to suss out. Turns out that the loss of estrogen can cause the cells of the bladder lining to shrink which allows the naturally occurring bacteria in urine to sneak by and get to the bladder wall which gets infected almost instantly (hence the need for a LINING.) And ouch.

Second non-common symptom: Pain. Not painful sex as I think we’ve heard about on TV ads, but just pain. Like there is a sunburn all up in there. All the time. This is apparently because without estrogen the skin on the inside can become thin and inflamed. This is not a case of “just use lube during sex” because it’s all the other hours of the day that hurt. A topical estrogen cream was finally prescribed when this symptom popped up, finally guessing that menopause might be involved. It solved both issues.

Third non-common symptom: A shrinking uterus. I don’t think that this would go noticed by many people, but for me it caused acute pain that was confused first as a urinary tract infection, and then as a kidney stone. Turns out it was my uterus contracting around my IUD and trying to squeeze it out and summarily being poked from the inside by said IUD. Hence the need to finally have that blood test to determine if I really was in menopause and have that thing yanked out! Wouldn’t have discovered the Amazing Shrinking Uterus if I hadn’t gotten an ultrasound to determine if I had a kidney stone though….. Yikes.

That’s all for now. I suppose, since I am on the path of odd menopausal ailments I could run into some more. I’ll let you know. I tell you, this aging thing is not for sissies. Even when you are healthy it bites! So stay healthy, eat well, move more, see your doctor regularly. It all helps.

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So He Put a Ring on It

Engaged, affianced, betrothed – things we are not.
Going steady, hooked, matched, pinned, pledged – also things I won’t claim.
Committed, intended, spoken for – much better.
But I’ll go with the archaic definition of plighted – “pledge or promise solemnly one’s faith or loyalty.”

You see, Jim and I have decided that we want to wear rings to symbolize our commitment to each other.

weddingme

Deciding to do this was different than being a twenty-something “surprised” with a proposal. We talked about it and what it would mean to us. We discussed what kind of rings we wanted. I definitely wanted something that would not be confused with an engagement ring or a cocktail ring. But since it would be the only “relationship-identifying” ring I got, I wanted it to be a little fancier than a plain gold band. The amethyst ring that we settled on meets this criteria and suits me perfectly. Jim’s ring is kind of special too. To begin with, it’s not metal; it’s made of silicone. This ring was originally designed for people in the military and those who work with electricity. It’s made to easily compress (essential when lifting heavy weights as he does,) break under stress, and not be conductive. Additionally, he wears it on his right hand because as a violinist, wearing a ring on his left hand impedes his playing.

I am over the moon that Jim wants to wear a ring and as of now, he has worn a ring for me longer than my ex-husband did. Sounds not quite right, doesn’t it? As it was, my ex came home from our honeymoon, took off his ring, and never put it on again. His reasoning was that as a police officer, the integrity of his finger was potentially in jeopardy with a ring on it. That is actually a valid argument (Jim’s ring breaks under tension for precisely this reason.) However, my ex was a street cop for a total of three years since joining the force in 1993. All other positions he held were desk jobs. One could argue that I should have asked that he wear his wedding band again, but there are A LOT of things I should have done…..

So why aren’t we engaged? That word and several others carry with it the implication that an actual marriage will follow. And that is not the plan. I know there are people, typically older, typically with at least one failed marriage behind them, who become “long-term engaged”. They never set a date, they never talk about a wedding, but they feel they have legitimized their relationship by “being engaged.” That doesn’t feel authentic to me. I’m not saying these people are being duplicitous, just that for me it would feel inappropriate and dishonest. Because in fact, the two of us not only have no current plans to marry, we may never marry. There are very real legal and financial reasons that bar us from joining officially now and those reasons may continue indefinitely. Then there is my overwhelming desire to avoid having anyone EVER say to me “Well, third time’s the charm!” I am SO not looking for platitudes. My current happiness is hard won and I don’t want it trivialized by the fact that I am wearing a ring for the third time. In our short (yes I consider three and a half years to be very short) relationship, we have faced some significant hurdles and difficulties. We have worked through many a concern to get where we are. We have sorted through more hard issues and discussed their implications than I thought one could have at this stage.  I think this is a good thing and it bodes well for the future of our “un-marriage”.  Add to all this the notion that joining one’s debts, finances, homes, and families when one is over 50 is no mean feat and the prospect of marriage becomes even more complicated.

Suffice to say, I am happy with the current arrangement. Without the use of a judge’s chambers or a house of worship, we have placed upon our relationship a greater permanence that I welcome. And we avoided the cost of a wedding – that’s a win in anyone’s book!