Yesterday Kate was visiting, here in Holyoke. I told her that I had been thinking about writing a blog post about hot flashes, but had been hesitating because after all the blog, being related to sailing, has a pretty substantial male readership, and it seemed like thoughts related to hot flashes could seem non-inclusive – or something. She asked, “Do you know any man who has hot flashes?” To which I answered, well, one, who was having hormone treatments for prostate cancer. And then we both thought, well, bingo – we’re all getting older, and some of the men who I don’t even know about might be having the same experience. So here you all go: thoughts on hot flashes.

The reason I have anything to say about this at all is because it in fact relates to sailing, and living aboard in cold weather. Of course now I’m on shore, but it was true before I came home, both last year and this. Besides, it’s helpful at home in the cold weather also, like for sitting outside with Kate in the blustery fall.

Hot flashes are one of my best friends. This is partly because I spent a lot of years being consistently cold. Now in my 50s, for the last two or three years it’s finally easy to get warm! You just do things that you know trigger hot flashes – eat foods that fire them up, and then when cold, either temporarily wear some extra clothing, or drink a few sips of a hot drink, and bingo, instant sweats!

This works while sailing – or even better, in a snug berth that you know you have to get out of shortly. You pile on an extra blanket, maybe fleece over your head, and next thing you know jumping out in that nippy cabin looks really appealing. If you postpone too long, the flash goes away, but the good news is that they’re cyclical, so if you wait another few minutes, the next one comes right down the track. It’s just a matter of jumping onto the warm conditions bus at the right moment. Getting out of a cozy berth to start the charcoal heater – or to get up and go sailing – has gotten a lot easier.

I’m not quite sure why it’s a good idea to write this up and put it in a post, except for that I think it’s really, really funny. You have to get used to sweats, and nowadays I’ve resigned myself to a certain amount of damp clothing. But contrary to all that backwoods training about never letting yourself sweat when you’re winter camping, it doesn’t seem to be the end of the world. Maybe that’s because the next hot flash will just warm you right back up! Nowadays I’m really trying to tune into the ability that my body has to do this – I’d like to preserve this capability, preferably a little more at will. One woman I know is now 86 years old, and her hot flashes never stopped – this could be me! Because I like them so much.

So for all those who are worried about getting old enough to have hot flashes, or are looking for a bright side to the utter unpleasantness and distress of a nasty diagnosis and treatment, I’d offer you this: hot flashes come in really handy for sailing when the weather gets chilly. Some foods trigger them (different for each person, I expect) and refraining from those foods can make the flashes go away. Personally, whenever the weather starts getting chilly I’m reaching for the crackers and the beef stew. If I’m really serious, it’s break out the chocolate. What could be better than the ticket to warmth being to eat more of my favorite foods…

Next time I’ll write a bit about the charcoal stove, which has also been really helpful for keeping warm.