When I started this blog I promised to share some of the few works I’ve submitted for publication that were rejected—and explain why I think the work wasn’t accepted.
So, it is with a certain amount of embarrassment that I’m fulfilling that promise here.
Before I submitted an essay to More magazine online that they accepted and posted (“After Burnout, a New Career Helping Writers“), I submitted “Hot Flashes and the Fashionable Woman,” below. More rejected it.
If you’d like to take a crack at the probable reasons it was rejected, go ahead. I’ll tell you my guesses in my next post.
Hot Flashes and the Fashionable Woman
You’re seated in a meeting when a mystifying mustache of moisture settles above your upper lip. Everyone is staring at the sudden splotches you feel blooming on your throat. A strange warmth skulks downwards, dampening your cleavage. Your heart begins to pound even though your boss hasn’t yet asked why you didn’t complete the reports she assigned you. You’re hot, which is odd, since you were the one who just groused that the room was too cold. Well, you’re having a hot flash, and it can’t be helped. What can be helped is how you handle it, particularly when it comes to what you wear. Menopause presents challenges to the middle-aged fashionista that require a whole new wardrobe accompanied by behavioral modifications designed to preserve her sang froid.
As a hot flash sufferer for more years that I care to remember, I want to offer some tips on how to remain fashionable, in spite of a strong desire to strip off (to cool off) in a meeting with a suspicious IRS auditor, or on arriving at a restaurant for your first date with the only older man you’ve met who’s not interested in women the same age as his daughter.
It’s important to know what a hot flash is so you know if you’re having one, or are just flushed from lying to your boss about those reports. Simply put, they are just another of the discomforts (think menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth) the universe sends to plague women, or at least slow us down. These scourges attack “women of a certain age,” that is, anywhere in the vicinity of 50 years old. According to power-surge.com, 75% of American menopausal and peri-menopausal women experience hot flashes. For some, the palpitating warmth spreads over their bodies one time, then thankfully, never again. Most women have to endure them for approximately six months. The truly unfortunate are dogged by them for a decade or more; I suspect some still have them during mahjong games at the senior center, or, heaven forfend, while receiving extreme unction on their death beds. So, they can span from a one-time event to the rest of your life, notwithstanding what unsympathetic doctors might tell you. (If your doctor is male, he might mumble something unintelligible that will sound to you like, “Suck it up. I’ve got patients with real problems to treat.” Don’t take it personally; his wife has hot flashes and he has no idea what to say to her, either.)
The upper chest and neck are the hot flash’s prime targets, but no part of your person is safe. They are particularly pernicious on cool, damp and hot, humid days.
Based on my extensive experience, as well as discussions with other hot flash victims, here’s my advice for remaining stylish, even when sweating bullets. Here’s what to wear/avoid.
Ditch your tights and pantyhose, though my husband’s cousin, Angela, who’s suffered from intense hot flashes for 15 years, still wears them.
Ditto turtlenecks. I only wear them when I’m outdoors in a blizzard with my jacket open to allow the snow to blow directly onto my broiling chest. Angela (see above) feels funnel-neck tops are okay. They’re not.
Forget about long, clingy sleeves, unless you want to be discovered yanking scissors out of your desk drawer and slitting your clothes as you ask a job applicant if she’s good at multitasking.
Buy twin sets. Cardigans with sleeveless tanks make attractive ensembles for the hot flash-prone, especially if the cardigan has short or three/quarter length sleeves.
If you must wear a jacket, make it a long tunic without closures. Buttons and zippers will only slow you down if you need to flap that jacket open quickly. You’ll not only feel cool, but the way the backs of some tunics sway when you walk will make you look sexy.
Don only low cut, sleeveless nightclothes. There’s something called “night sweats,” a term for hot flashes that attack you when it’s dark outside and you happen to be horizontal. Those are the ones that feel as if someone has placed a pillow loaded with lead over your face.
Wear tank tops—even in winter. You’ll thank me for this advice next December. It’s okay if some are lined or have boatnecks or princess necks; wear those on the sub-zero days. For all other seasons (and those weird mid-January days when the temperature in New England unaccountably rises to forty-five degrees, but feels like eighty-five degrees), if you’re having a hot flash, wear thin scoop neck tanks. In fact, don’t even put them away in the fall. Remember, hot flashes seek out your upper body like a stealth missile.
Skirts, dresses, and shorts keep you coolest in the summer. If you must wear pants, only wide legged ones will do. You want to attract a draft wherever you can.
Feature cotton and linen in your summer wardrobe, although, in all fairness, some clothes made of the lighter synthetics are okay, as long as they are loose fitting—say, six sizes too large for you.
Now, a fashionable woman must conceal her hot flashes with aplomb, so here’s some advice for managing those pesky public situations should a marauding hot flash find you when you’re in a meeting with colleagues, your child’s teacher, or that IRS investigator.
Select a seat as far away from other humans as possible. You don’t want their normal body heat triggering your extreme body heat. (Although, here’s an interesting medical claim: Even in the midst of the worst hot flash, your body temperature will be whatever’s normal for you, somewhere around 98.6 degrees, or even several degrees lower!)
Delicately dab your mouth (to soak up the perspiration that’s beading on your upper lip), as you would after eating. Put your head in your hands, as though you’ve just heard something upsetting, to surreptitiously mop the sweat on your hairline.
And always, always arm yourself with a large iced drink. When a hot flash threatens, grip your glass with both hands as if someone’s trying to snatch it away from you. This really works.
Finally, don’t be ashamed to open your windows, or run your fan or even your air conditioner on “high” in the middle of winter. Those who share a bed with a middle-aged woman get used to it. My husband has.