I’ve been having hot flashes lately. They’re waking me up at night with a sudden jolt of wasabi that renders me instantly moist, slick as a frog from scalp to toe. It happens so fast I don’t notice it starting, suddenly it’s just there on my skin, the largest organ in my body. Damp me. I’m 67. The voice in my head says this menopause is complete. Over. I’ve moved on with my life, transcended my hormones, escaped the clutches of my lady parts. But, no. There’s an untamed creature swimming in me and she likes the humidity. I drag my laptop into bed to see what Dr. Google has to say.
Now I’m wide awake in the blue light. The search results are disappointing. I want to find a 20-year study of 10,000 women between the ages of 40 and 80 that could tell me what’s normal, what’s to be expected, and what solutions are available to mitigate the symptoms and side effects of menopause. But no such study exists. The rabbit hole of women’s medicine beckons, but I give up on science and turn to the arts. My search on “great works of literature about menopause” is equally disappointing. Why can’t I find my 67-year-old self in the literary canon of my time?
By now my hot flash has evaporated, in its place existential anxiety and a thin gruel of adrenaline. I want a story where I see myself in the characters and their lives, a story I can relate to even if it took place two hundred years ago, an epic tale of aging women reaching the pinnacle of power as their hormones go wildly wrong, whiskers sprout, they fight sweat stains and embarrassing pee breaks, their egos bruise easily because they’ve idealized their youth, a subversive fat accumulates around them, and in the heat of battle they realize their superpower is wisdom and resilience, not sex. But my search turns up no such book. The literary canon of menopause has yet to be written.
By the wee hours of the morning I’m a bug-eyed info junkie searching obsessively for one comforting byte of content. Then I stumble on Flash Fiction, a recently evolved literary genre of pithy assemblage that invites the reader to fill in the details with their own imagination. Often a Flash Fiction story will be only a page or two of text. Sometimes Flash Fiction is only six words, a micro-story. For example, this famous six-word epic:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
I think, yes! This is what I’ve been missing, a new literary genre perfect for illuminating the exotic experience of menopause — the body changes that create the behavior changes that change the way we think — and I begin to write Hot Flash Fiction.
Wild mood swing traps unsuspecting man.
Dinner party ruined by sweaty woman.
Couple begins talking after sex fails.
Invisible woman disappears in brain fog.
Brazilian man invents miracle menopause cure.
Rotund woman buys size six wardrobe.
Rotund woman sells size six wardrobe.
Menopause year three, found my keys.