A guest post from writer Meg Tipper:
I knew what a hot flash looked like from the time I was a teenager. My Mom would flush red, fan herself, strip off clothing, throw windows open, and say, “Not again!” on a regular basis.
So, when at fifty, I started to get those sudden rushes of heat that plunged me into a sweat, I just rolled my eyes and prepared myself to weather yet another genetic gift from my mother.
What I was not prepared for was the awkwardness of managing menopause while teaching and directing the Writing Center at a boys’ school. My high school age boys were, for the most part, fully developed physically, but they were still hovering at cave man in their maturity levels. They also had a keen ability to exploit any weakness, particularly in the female faculty. I tried my best to retain a cool and unruffled façade while teaching through a hot flash, but one day I discovered that I had not been very successful.
It was the start of the school year and time to remind the full high school student body and faculty, gathered for assembly, about the benefits of having a Writing Center at our school. For several years, we had organized this informational assembly through a series of humorous skits put on by the Improvisation Club. I was in the audience, enjoying the entertainment and patting myself on the back for how successfully this tactic communicated our Writing Center’s purpose without being boring.
The next skit began with one of my favorite students, Simon Landau, swishing onto the stage in black pants and shirt, neck open, with a scarf draped around his neck, my signature uniform. I laughed; Simon was playing me! He raised his voice an octave and politely invited the “client” to have a seat in his imaginary Writing Center on stage, offering him something to drink, asking good “getting to know you” questions. Ah, I thought, Simon’s being too good; something’s coming.
They settled down together at the table and the client began to ask questions about his paper, but Simon was clearly distracted, looking around and loosening the scarf from his neck. He stood up, looked at the client and asked, “Don’t you think it’s hot in here?” The baffled client said no, but Simon proceeded to mime opening the window, sticking his head out and fanning himself.
Meanwhile, I sank into my seat, and the audience of over four hundred boys and men were first chuckling, then laughing, and all craning their heads to look at me. What could I do but laugh with them? Simon was funny, really funny, and he had nailed me to a T.
Most boys and men don’t talk much about personal things, especially not in a school or work setting and especially not with a woman, but in this moment I realized something special. No one was laughing at me. They were laughing at Simon and at me laughing at Simon, and it was all good. There was a little bond that was formed at that assembly out of them being men and my being in menopause!
Meg Tipper is retired after over thirty years as a teacher at almost all levels of education. Her last teaching job was as an English teacher and Writing Center Director at Gilman School in Baltimore. She has published articles, stories, poems, and personal essays and is currently a regular contributor and columnist for Catonsville.Patch.com. Meg lives in Catonsville with her partner, Jim Himel. They travel frequently and work on their old home and garden; they also run a tree farm.
Meg’s first book, Standing at the Edge: A Year of Days After Sudden Death (Apprentice House, 2010) chronicles her journey after the sudden death of her 22 year old daughter, Maggie. Her son, Stephen Feiss, teaches math and coaches soccer at Winooski High School in Winooski, Vermont.
Standing at the Edge: Proceeds from the sale of Standing at the Edge go to the Maggie Feiss Fund of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF). For more information, go to the Standing at the Edge website. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com.
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