When do I get to have my mid-life crisis? Aren’t men supposed to have one? Let’s go down the checklist:
· Switch to bikini underwear? With my big ass? Granny panties are here to stay.
· Buy a red convertible? I bought a baby blue 1954 Hudson Jet Liner instead.
· Date a younger woman? I don’t even date younger men. Hell, I don’t even date.
· Start wearing spanks? There isn’t enough spandex and Lycra in Howard County, Maryland, to pull all this in.
Age has never been an issue for me, which is probably because I have acted like an old Jewish woman since I was seven years old. Therein lies the problem. Old Jewish women don’t have mid-life crises, they have menopause.
My mother’s menopause lasted forty years. She always made an excuse for her disagreeable behavior by saying women of a certain age are emotional. When she finally did reach menopause, it started with the hot flash from hell. Literally.
There she was, sitting in the ugly, brown Herculon recliner she bought from Hanes (one wasn’t enough; she bought two and only because my brother talked her into them), and her bouffant fell so fast, she looked like Cousin It!
Let the games begin.
Her physician, Dr. Kevorkian I believe, gave her these little brown pills we called her air conditioning pills. My mother loved her prescriptions. Whenever I sneezed, she would scream, “Take a pill!” I was so hopped up on Contac growing up that my prostate is now the size of a bowling ball (read any decongestant label). My Aunt Flossie, who also was known to partake of a prescription or two, would scream at her son, “Take a Dristan!” She always pronounced the s like a z, like Liza. It is a wonder she died a grandmother (think about it).
Harryette’s menopause went beyond hot flashes and emotional swings.
Mother, who was known for her style, suddenly started to dress – forgive me – like a wacked-out crack head. Nana, who was very stylish, had recently died, and of all the items in her wardrobe to keep, my mother held onto this beige cardigan that she would wear around the house all the time. My brother said she looked like a homeless woman who should be bending over picking up cigarette butts off the sidewalk.
The worst were the wigs. Since the hot flashes caused her hair to fall, rather than have one of Nana’s fabulous real hair Don’s Wigs of Newport News restyled (Nana, though she lived in DC, had all her wigs created by Don), she apparently went wig shopping at Nachman’s and came home with two curly afro wigs: one brunette and one blonde. Why do Jewish women always go blonde?
Mother always shopped cheap for everyone except herself, but suddenly started buying crap to wear. She once bought a brocade cape for $600 in the 1970s. She wore it once. Seriously, we were always one collection agency away from eviction, and she was dressed better than that struggling actress in that fabulous Manhattan apartment – you know, That Girl, Ann Marie!
At the height of the change in 1985, Mother went to a sisterhood function in her blonde afro wig, wearing a handkerchief dress. I am going to mention this next woman by name. Jackie Sigaloff, who owned the most exclusive dress shop in Newport News, La Vogue, where my mother worked before retiring, walked my mother around the room, showing people that she was wearing the latest fashion and totally hip.
I didn’t see her leave the house, but when she arrived home, I took one look at her in that Harpo Marx wig and Morticia Addams dress, and I thought she looked as if she escaped from Eastern State on a poultry truck. She then relayed the story of how Jackie made her walk around the room like a fashion model. I was mortified. I think that was the only time in my life I really did care what other people thought. If I were not twenty-two at the time, I would have been removed from the house by Child Protective Services.
I will never forgive Jackie Sigaloff, who was always a season ahead of everyone else, for doing that to my mother (we found out later she sold Mother that burial shroud dress). Jackie once wore a hat to Rosh ha-Shana services that was actually a large clock. And you think the royal grandchildren are out there!
By the time Mother’s menopause was over, she had graduated to the other side wearing black stretch pants and black tops with various sequined, lame, or iron on designs that doubled as bibs, along with black Reeboks and too much lipstick. One of her tops had thirty keys sewn on it. You have seen these women on any bus in Boca Raton. That is what a post-menopausal Jewess looks like.
What does my future hold? Since I look and act like Nana, maybe I will get lucky. I asked her how her menopause went. She said, and I quote, “One day, I had my period, and the next day I didn’t.” No mood swings, no hot flashes, and she never dressed like one of those old Jewish women eating dinner at 4:30 pm. Nana never even wore slacks, let alone stretch pants, and she made it to eighty-two and always impeccably dressed. If she had lived long enough to see my mother cross over to that stage in her seventies, it would have killed her.
Recently, I got a sign of the times ahead. There I was standing over one of the registers in my living room (they are on the floor in a mobile home), wearing a pair of baggy shorts and swearing the air conditioning was not blowing cold enough. My pubic hair was falling, and I just couldn’t cool off.
I called for HVAC service, and the guy came out, checked my system and told me it was all working very well. As a matter of fact, he said it was blowing colder than normal.
Well, that told me everything. I’m having hot flashes. I guess my menopause will be like Mother’s.
How long before I buy black stretch pants and a top with sequined butterflies on the front? As God is my witness, I will never wear a blonde afro wig.
If you are warm and wearing a wig, follow me, join my email list and buy my books: www.miltonstern.com.