Diane Payne, author of this week’s Voices in Verse selection, "Foreign Concept," discusses menopause with a perceptive — and provocative — eye for detail. Payne teaches creative writing at the University of Arkansas-Monticello and is the author of the memoir "Burning Tulips." Her work has appeared in numerous magazines. She lives in a dry town, deep in the Delta, with her teenage daughter and several dogs and cats.

Foreign Concept

It seems like everything has changed during this long long stretch of unintentional celibacy. During a friend’s

menopause party, where women hung tampons and other womanly, and not-so-womanly things on old Christmas trees,

to be burned later that night as part of the Epiphany Change Celebration, I hung up my old diaphragm, knowing it’d be toxic to burn, and

toxic to use again. I told the women stories about making old lovers figure out how to install it as part of my quest to Feminism,

Sisterhood, but in truth it was more a contribution to Big Frustration. While cutting pieces of cloth from our favorite garments, to be made into

a special skirt for friend celebrating "The Change," I listened to women talk about men’s sagging balls, and even though

I am well aware of my sagging breasts, and the effects of "gravity," as they called it, though I know better about

what has really brought these breasts down, somehow I never imagined it happened to men also. That’s how long it’s been

since I’ve been with a man. So long, I remember them as being way too fit, almost inhuman in how they weren’t showing

any signs of aging, while I lamented the days when I loved to be naked, eager to show off my fit body. Everything is changing.

The week of Christmas, I seemed to have gone through menopause. No period surfaced, just a week of sweating in bed. My fifteen-year-old

daughter was with me at the vitamin store while I looked for a hot flash cure. When she saw the supplements boasting a miraculous remedy, she yelled,

"There’s the menopause pills!" and I tried to pretend I didn’t know her, while the male clerk looked at me smugly, and my daughter once again pointed out

the menopause pills, then burst into laughter while I humbly selected a few bottles of this and that, acting as if they were bottles of Vitamin C, D, E, nothing more,

nothing less. Two nights later, the sweats ended, just like the nights with lovers seemed to end so quickly, with such little warning. I always thought there would be more

lovers, just like with the hot flashes, the periods, and for some reason, I even believed my breasts would always be perky, the same way the men

must have wondered what happened to their testicles, the aging testicles I haven’t even seen, adding another dimension to the meaning of foreign,

to the realm of change, to the additional possibilities associated with aging.

– Diane Payne

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