Smokey the Bear: Menopause Gladness

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The other day, when Cliff and I were furniture shopping, I studied the adorable young saleswoman helping us. She didn’t seem as lively as the last time we met with her. “Maybe she has cramps,” I said to myself. “Poor thing.”

Cramps are tricky because women are reluctant to announce they have them, and most women look just fine. No crutches or poison ivy splotches or sneezing to announce the malady. Megan just seemed what my friend Judy calls “droopy.”

When you’re finished having periods, you mostly forget about them. Every now and then, I think: wow, women all around me are still having periods. Then my mind floats back to the cramps I once had, the flooding incidents as menopause sunk in, the girlhood days of worrying about periods at the pool or beach. Phew. Been there. Done that.

And that brings me to my Smokey the Bear story.

We go to the North Carolina State Fair every near. I mean EVERY year (or Cliff gets droopy). But the most dramatic year was the year my cramps took me by surprise (about 2009 or so). I couldn’t get the pain med into me fast enough. I passed out right under the giant Smokey the Bear.

Cliff caught me and got me over to a nearby log. When I opened my eyes, I looked into his face and thought: He’s still such a cute man.

My cramps passed about twenty minutes later, which put me in a festive mood as we walked from the onion ring booth to the milking demonstration to the state’s largest pumpkin.

“That was so romantic,” I said a few times, my arm looped around his. “You caught me just like a man catches his leading lady in an old time movie.”

“Barbara, ” Cliff finally replied, “That was NOT romantic. I thought you’d had a stroke. For a few seconds, I was terrified  you were dead.”

That’s the good thing about cramps. They don’t kill you, but every time I see Smokey, I’m glad those days are over.

And I’m glad Cliff was scared that ALL MY DAYS might have been over. Shows he’s in this for the long haul.

I get why he was worried. While this close-to-menopausal woman didn’t look like a glamorous starlet fainting on the silver screen, I’m a heck of a lot of fun at the North Carolina State Fair.

For those of you who are finished, do you think about periods anymore? For those of you still having them, what do you look forward to the most when those days are over?

Speaking of periods, a friend sent me links to two articles about periods. This one discusses work policy and periods. The times they are a changin’. And this one debunks the idea that women who live together find their cycles synchronizing. 

20 responses »

  1. I am going to the state fair here next week and I am pretty sure Smokey is there too but not as big. I will think about your swoon! Yikes I never had cramps that severe and I am glad they are over. Advil was my friend when with my friend.

  2. I’ve always LOVED Smokey the Bear! My son loved him when he was little and we always felt he was sort of our protector. I had horrible cramps when I was young in the 50s and 60s and no real pain medication for them. And always worrying about leakage when I played sports – pads were like thick pieces of cotton batting – not nearly absorbent enough!

    • Cliff’s dad was a forest fire ranger, so Smokey is very dear to us.

      I would LOVE for you to write us a post about periods years ago. Kind of a gritty topic but I bet you’re up for the task. AND I bet you’ve got some fun sculpture ladies whose photos we could include in the post.

  3. I had the Mirena for 5 years between kids #2 and #3, and no periods at all! I loved not having to worry about them, or what missing one might mean. I have never had much cramps, and mine haven’t been a huge nuisance other than postpartum. But it will be nice to stop thinking about what day of the month they fall on around other plans again!

    • Gosh I had no idea the Mirena worked that well period-wise. Great you don’t have cramps. My mom never had a single cramp and was really taken back when I did. I have one daughter how had a bit of trouble and one daughter with horrific ones. When she threw up in high school from cramps, I said, sure, to the pill.

    • Did you see the story of the Chinese swimmer in Rio who said she didn’t swim her best because she’d just gotten her period? It caused a sensation in China because discussing such a topic in public is taboo.

  4. Love the Smokey swoon, and I think it is a romantic memory! My cramps were horrific too, even with the pill. I remember walking past the feminine products isle at the grocery store and feeling a little sad when I realized I didn’t need to shop. The feeling caught me by surprise, however, never missed the cramps and flooding events!

  5. This is such an interesting post (and, I absolutely love the romantic in you, Barbara!!)

    Periods. Well, I thought that the heavier periods (flooding) that could encompass menopause was what was happening to me. But, it wasn’t as I mentioned in an earlier post – so I hope all reading out there will be careful to make sure that the heavy bleeding as one enters menopause isn’t something else. In my case, a very large fibroid (okay, a radiologist had said the size of a football? “Oh come on,” is what I had thought. Be real, please, a “football”? (I certainly couldn’t see that from the outside)! But, this “fibroid football” had somehow tapped into an artery and was indeed imminently life-threatening!

    Periods. Wow, did “the pill” ever get rid of them (except minor inconvenience) nicely for me! But, when I went back to “natural, sans pill” what a terrible experience of cramps! Maybe a bit like you had mentioned, Barbara, in terms of pain. Although, I had never actually fainted (just lay there wriggling in pain for hours . . .for about a week)!

    Periods. In high school, I wanted them to get me out “gym”!! If it was our period, we could get an excuse, and sit out on the sides in the bleachers! I relished in relief watching my classmates suit up and do swimming exercises! Could never master the crawl and rhythmic breathing (drowning wet torture)! Happily watched everyone else swim while I clutched my gym-saving excuse in hand!

    Periods. Never happier than when I had my first one, and knew I was “normal”! Mine came at age 13, but so many of my friends had already had theirs.

    Post Script: Periods. Thought I had the worst one of my life in Puerto Vallarta on honeymoon. In agonizing pain, I turned to my new husband as we watched the cliff divers plunge into the sea, and said, “These are definitely the worst menstrual pains I have ever had in my life!!”
    Turns out they weren’t menstrual pains at all! But, they were something at least on par or worse!–the sometimes named “Montezuma’s Revenge” (traveler’s diarrhea)! Judging from the ladies room’s flooded stalls, I wasn’t the only one!

    • I am terribly embarrassed that I end up writing so much! I guess your posts just really inspire me! I will keep my posts much shorter from now on! But one final comment is probably apropos: I don’t miss periods!!!

    • Phyllis, LOVE your comments. Always, always, give us your wonderful stories and insights.

      Bad on cramps on honeymoon. Hope it didn’t ruin the whole trip.

      That’s some fibroid story. Love to have you write it up for a post. Would be good info.

      And can you imagine girls getting out of gym class now? Was kind of fun though…

  6. Droopy is a good word! And no more periods for me but I still get droopy….
    I remember when you fainted. That must have been so scary. Good reminder to be mindful of other women and there state of affairs……they could be having terrible cramps. Mine were awful and so I should be more empathetic!

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