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Menopause is like adolescence, but less fun

I'm entering a second childhood.

That's not nearly as delightful as that might sound.

I am discovering that menopause is actually a lot like adolescence -- minus the fun. Each stage of life is marked by major hormonal shifts, which cause skin problems, hair growth and cognitive changes.

The difference is that adolescence is gearing up humans for reproduction and a lifetime of exciting possibilities. Menopause is more of a "winding down," as the body's reproductive center prepares for a "Going out of business so everything must go!" sale.

Here are just a few similarities I've found between adolescence and menopause:

Brain changes. People speak of the "teenage brain," which can be marked by lack of focus, absent-mindedness, heightened emotional responses and increased impulsivity. Neuroscientists attribute the teen brain to several factors, including hormones and the fact impulse-control centers in the brain develop last.

Likewise, there is the "menopause brain," which is also marked by lack of focus, decreased organizational skills, shorter attention spans and a tendency to drive to work with your coffee mug and purse still sitting on top of your car. Menopause brain can also trigger impulsive, ill-advised decisions, such as wearing halter tops to class reunions or signing up for Carnival "Sizzling Single Seniors" Party Cruises.

Temperature confusion. If you've ever watched a Phyllis Diller routine, you are well aware of the phenomenon of the middle-aged woman and the "hot flash." In strictly medical terms, a sudden, mysterious heat wave will rise up from the core of your being and engulf you in what feels like Satan's hot tub. You'll find yourself driving down the interstate in mid-January with your windows rolled down and your tongue wagging in the wind like a German shepherd. As nights bring poor sleep and flop sweat, you'll refuse to cover yourself with any blanket that's thicker than a Kleenex.

Anyone raising an adolescent will tell you that they have a very similar problem, even if the young person's motives aren't quite the same. Adolescents can routinely be spotted navigating winter weather sans coats, boots, hats or gloves. The point is to prove that they are too tough to be controlled by adult society, with its cowardly, outmoded and conformist notions that humans have to wear pants to avoid frostbite. They may be cold, but -- more importantly -- they are cool.

Skin problems. Many adolescents struggle with acne, which is typically caused by the tsunami of hormones that suddenly flood their bodies. Sadly, this means they have to struggle with blemishes at a time in their lives when they are especially conscious of appearance and how others perceive them.

Women with menopause may also struggle with pimples, which is caused by the body's relative increase in male hormones. Sadly, this means they will have to struggle with pimples at a time in their lives when they are also experiencing crow's feet, weight gain and facial hair that would qualify them for ZZ Top.

Or maybe, more accurately, SHE-Z Top.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com

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