Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: Girl on Fire

When it gets below freezing in south Louisiana, we hunker down like a hurricane is coming and don’t plan to leave the house for days. We stock up on firewood and water, and we bring in plants and pets. We expect road closures and school closures, and no one—nope, no one—should be driving in the sleet and ice. A trip to the mailbox is a death sentence, and we wrap children up to play outside so tight they can barely bend an appendage, much less throw a ball. Cold weather can kill you if you live in the South. That’s the truth.

This was the state of affairs a few weeks ago, when a cold blast descended upon the city and sent people searching for Firestarter logs and wool socks. Pipes were wrapped, water dripped from faucets, and everyone got back to making a gumbo. Batten down the hatches. Call Elsa from Frozen, this winter has got to end.

But there were a select few who flung open the doors, stood in a tank top and shorts, and welcomed the frigid air with open arms. Icicles melted as soon as they neared the body on fire. Look closely. These scantily clad women with outstretched arms have a superpower that only hormones can master. These are my friends—women of a certain age—and we are all going through “the change.”

The term “hot flash” doesn’t do this phase of life justice. For one thing, it turns perfectly modest ladies into everyday strippers, ripping off as much clothing as quickly as possible when the heat hits. Yet there is nothing at all sexy about it. It’s a boiling heat, escaping from every pore it can find on the body—it’s not a good look. On another note, there is nothing “flash” about it. The heat stroke can go on endlessly, leaving you in a puddle of your own sweat, half naked on the floor.

Oh, and you are a middle-aged mom, so absolutely no one is going to save you. Or feel sorry for you. You are face down on the tile (it’s so nice and cold!) and the best you can get is that the family steps over you and makes their own sandwiches for dinner. The dog might lick your face out of curiosity.

And don’t get me started about the night sweats. You are miserable enough, drenched through your clothes, your sheets and your pillowcases, and somewhere in your bed there is a spouse complaining that you are a furnace. You consider searing him with your hot hand, and a part of your soul goes dark.

That’s when your friends come in. Girlfriends are absolutely necessary at every stage of life, and going through the stages of menopause is no different. The same women who talked you out of a locked bathroom while your young children slipped notes under the door and you cried in your hand towel will be the same women who will share their best water-wicking pajamas in an assortment of colors. They will send you a link to their cooling pad to sleep on at night. They will save your soul.

A recent girls’ dinner conversation turned from the sad state of affairs for our high schoolers who are missing some major milestones due to the pandemic, and turned back to the sad state of affairs of our own wellbeing. Collectively, we felt that coronavirus had stalled some of our typical health efforts because there were no events to look forward to, no goals to attain. But just when you feel completely at your worst, you look around at a table of strong women and realize: We are rock stars. We’ve made it through so much that is absolutely unprintable
between health, work, finance, relationships, children, and parent issues, and we are stronger together. We are not only survivors; we are girls on fire. 

So forget the superhero costumes of the Marvel Comics movies: The real superwoman is standing in a tank top and shorts in her backyard as the ice storm hits the city and quickly melts on her skin. Look closely, you might even know her.

The cold never bothered us anyway.