©Viga Boland

36D40DcoverMy mood was none too good that morning but I chose to ignore it. That was a mistake. I should have known this was a bad time to start emptying the closet of old clothes. But the alternative of sitting in front of the computer screen wasting time on Facebook was even less appealing. “Better busy than bored” was my approach to life and I’d always found getting busy when in a bad mood was good therapy.  And Lord knows, these days, thanks to menopause, I seemed to be in a bad mood more often than not.

Who could blame me? Last night had been one of the worst yet: up five times ripping off my nightie as hot sweat saturated the bed sheets, only to freeze ten minutes later as I crawled back onto the still damp bed. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if it only happened once a night, but three times? Give me a break!

So, this particular morning, I figured the one way to ignore my fatigue and fix my mood was to get busy on that closet.  Like I said, big mistake!

For one, the walk-in closet was dusty. I began sneezing the minute I started pulling those rags off the hangers.  A lot of the clothing was my mom’s, the things I couldn’t quite get rid of when she’d passed away four years prior. I brushed the shoulders of one of her suits. It was white with dust. My fault. Menopause was making me lazy. I sneezed again. Was increased sensitivity to everything from dust to criticism another thing I could blame on menopause? My irritation was increasing. I apologized silently to mom, wherever she was, for letting things get this bad. But hey, she’d gone through menopause too. She’d understand.

Mom had some lovely dresses, many of them brand-new, never worn. She’d gone a bit silly during menopause too, constantly buying herself new things to make herself feel better about the fact that her wardrobe wasn’t comfortable any more, especially slacks. She liked them when she tried them on in the shop, and a week later at home, she complained they were too tight.

“It’s your fault!” She’d said to me with all the crankiness she could summon to make her point. “Stop buying those darn donuts!”

“You don’t have to eat them, mom!” I’d shoot back, as we both reached for another donut.

She’d hang the slacks up in disgust and, a week later, go out and buy another pair one size larger. I swore I’d never let myself get like that. I watched that closet get fuller and fuller as she got bigger and bigger. When I’d told her she needed to get rid of them or stop buying more, she’d suggested I might need them one day so why throw out unworn clothes? I’d look at her, then stretch out the pants at the elasticized waistline, and state firmly:  “Not a chance mom! I’ll never let myself get THAT big!” She’d just look at me and smile knowingly.

Now, as I looked at one piece after another it did seem a shame to just throw out or give away her nice clothes.  They wouldn’t fit me now but maybe indeed I’d grow into some of them eventually. I’d sensed my clothing getting a little tighter lately but had stopped stepping on the scale each morning. Who needs bad news at the beginning of the day?

I thought, okay, I’ll try on a few things to help me decide if it should stay or go. That’s when my bad mood suddenly became a lot worse! I had always seen mom as being so much bigger than I was…you know, bigger boobs, bigger belly, bigger butt. Well, guess what? My boobs, belly and butt now matched hers! Her clothes fit me just fine! That was the last thing I needed right now. I plunged into a mosh pit of self-loathing!

I filled up three garbage bags, refusing to keep most of her stuff for myself, nice as it was. She had really been into floral prints: this incredible hulk could certainly do without those. In disgust, I perused the other hangers in the closet and spied a few of my own clothes. None of it was THAT old…a year at most. Surely those would still fit!

My heart racing, I reached for one hanger, then another.  I tugged at pants and wrestled with zippers! My arms couldn’t get through my favorite long-sleeved dresses! The sleeves felt like one of those bands that slowly squeezes your arm to bursting when you’re checking your blood-pressure.  I forced my way into some of the stretchy pants. I turned sideways and walked over to the mirror. A pregnant woman with gray hair stared back at me with a scowl on her face. Pregnant? I wish that was the reason!  No, I was simply fat! My bruised ego was deflating faster than I could think. Into the garbage bag it all went, one miserable piece after another.

In a final desperate effort to salvage just a bit of my self-esteem, I reached for an evening dress I’d worn in a local stage production less than two years earlier. It was black velvet on the bottom with a nice sparkly top. I remembered all the compliments I’d received about how lovely I looked. How attractive I’d felt then! Surely this would still fit!

I pulled the dress over my head and as I tugged to get it over those mammoth boobs, I got stuck! I couldn’t pull it down and I couldn’t pull it off! I stood there in the closet with this dress half on and half off not knowing whether to scream or cry. How had I come to this!

“Honey, are you in here?”

Oh no! It was my husband. He mustn’t see me like this. Now I really wanted to die but I wouldn’t be that lucky.  He poked his head inside the closet door. What a sight I must have been stuck half in and half out of that dress, unable to move and ready to cry.

“What on earth are you doing?” He asked, an amused smile on his face. “Is that one of Victoria’s dresses?” Victoria was my 25 year-old daughter.

“I’m stuck dammit!” I yelled, bursting into tears, “And no, it’s not Victoria’s dress! It’s mine! Don’t you recognize it? I wore it in that show last year!” Men! The tears spilled down my face as John asked,

“Do you need some help with that Love?” I almost hated him for staying so calm when I was falling apart.

Of course, he thought the whole thing was hilarious as he struggled to pull the dress back over my head without ripping it.  But seeing I was REALLY upset, he said nice things like “You still look good to me old girl … ”

That was sweet of him, but it didn’t help. I was inconsolable. As he helped me extricate myself from the damn dress, all I could think about was that other girl, the one he’d married 40 years earlier, the one whose pert 36B’s were now 40D’s and starting to sag like over-ripe cantaloupes above a watermelon belly! Where had that other girl gone? Menopause had sent her packing!

Like I said, I really shouldn’t have tackled that job when I was in a bad mood to start with. At least reading Facebook posts by other fat, menopausal ladies complaining about hot flashes and gaining weight would have been some comfort. Misery does love company, doesn’t it.

©Viga Boland

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