Wombos that bite

Telluride Daily Planet, Friday, October 22, 2010

I’ve just encountered the word “hormotional” for the first time and don’t know whether to laugh it off, throw my hands up, or throw the laptop and its Urban Dictionary across the room at the whole English language. Because in addition to loathing “wombos” (word combo = wombination = wombo = an ugly word describing an uglier trend of compound travesties like dramedy and backne and ginormous), I’m hormotional. Very hot. And very bothered.

And in just a few, surprise number of minutes, I’ll be very hot, and very bothered, again.

Because just when I was about to break out all my coziest sweaters sanctimoniously and smugly, hot flashes — after a “fantabulously” cool six-month hiatus — have returned. Hot flash, hot flash, hot flash. Anybody cringing at the unabashed use of terminology from the Female Lexicon?

OK, then, for the purposes of this discussion, I’m having triggered neuro-endocrine responses that corrupt my body’s normal thermoregulatory system. Sometimes 20 a day and three a night. Atypical thermoregulatory reactions. We’ll call them ATRs.

So here I am, standing in front of my sweater piles, eyes resting wistfully on the turtlenecks and tight pullovers. Beautiful, soft things meant to keep a person warm in the dead cold of winter. In a world without ATRs, that is. Now, evidently I’ll have to find my way back to the sweaters of Winter ‘09-10, the loose cardigans and cotton jobs and wooly bags with sleeves: garments that can be pulled off and on quickly in case of — Hold that thought! It might trigger an ATR. Yes, ATRs can be sparked through any variety of complex neuropsycho-biochemical responses. Or NBRs.

Other possible triggers besides thoughts? Oh, gosh, pretty much everything is a potential NBR: interesting foods and beverages, stray feelings, furrowed brows, sleep, waking up, anything hot (including the word itself), changing seasons, changing circumstances, change in general, weather, heating ducts, blow dryers, the moon, moodiness, claustrophobia, elements of surprise, the list goes on. To-do lists, there’s another one!

Conversely, however, and on the other end of the spectrum, ATRs simply trigger themselves. This is done via the inevitable biological arcing in the mid-life segment of the female of our species, in North America at least and not including indigenous cultures.

So, here’s what happens with a hot flash, just to clarify, for once and for all. One minute, you are walking down the aisle at the grocery store trying to figure out if the whole world is based on wheat especially now that you are trying to eliminate it from your diet … and then the next minute you feel your skin warming, as though you are being wrapped in a body-sized hand warmer. Where is the heat coming from? you wonder for the thousandth time, as if the question were freshly bewildering each go round. Where, from my core? My morphing prana? From brain cells exploding and then dying in a caloric puff?

While pondering this, sweat starts to form down your spinal column and on your sternum and the heat builds, swirling itself into tropical microclimates. You rip off your side bag, then your coat, and then you yank at your collar while looking around to see if anyone else is in standing near the Fritos. Which have no wheat and only three ingredients, corn, oil, and salt, which is why you believe in them, except in excess, which generally leads to water retention and/or guilt and eventually on to NBRs and ATRs.

You pull at your clothes, tenting them, feel the cooling breeze. Then, sweat, not knowing how else to behave, cools you. It makes you clammy, then it makes you cold. You forget about the Fritos, get your coat back on and then forget what you were doing in the store in the first place. Outside, the bracing air clears your head and for a moment — poised perfectly in the present — you are an empty vessel, neither here nor there biochemically and seemingly in a state of stasis. If you weren’t so panicked by the unruly and rebellious state of your body, you might use the moment to consider the beauty of the day.

Are there any questions?

Men should know that they are not exempt, by the way. It is estimated that 25 percent of males in the U.S. experience hot flashes as a side effect of Andropause or Male Irritability Syndrome. I wish it were more. Because imagine for a moment that all men were subject to such temperature fluctuations. We’d have invented a whole new spirituality based on body heat by now. We’d have given someone a Nobel Prize for discovering how ATRs, NBRs and the entire realm of mind-body connection work.

I guess for now we’re stuck with the fact that the average temperature on Venus is 900F and on Mars -55F. But it’s important to have compassion. Sympathy. Understanding for all homosapiens. Or is that hormosapiens? (Just kidding.) (Or am I?)

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