There is a reason most middle-aged women don’t ride on galloping horses, jump on trampolines, or finish a set of jumping jacks during exercise class. We wet our pants. Throw in a simple sneeze and it’s all over, literally.
Even after years of faithfully doing Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, we remain a bit fearful of spontaneous activities that require bladder control. We wouldn’t dare wear white pants to jump rope with our grandkids, and lifting a sack of potatoes could ruin a good day at the market. For the two bored and bewildered men who may be reading, a Kegel exercise involves stopping and starting urination. Tighter pelvic muscles help in other areas, too, but we’ll discuss that another time.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 35 percent of American middle-aged women experience urinary incontinence. That’s more than 10 million people you should avoid sitting next to at a comedy show.
Most comedy clubs have easy access to the women’s bathrooms because we love to laugh without needing to wear Depends. I’ve seen live shows by comediennes Rita Radner, Joan Rivers, and Stacy Dymalski. After the performances the women in the audience stampede to the restrooms like herds of wildebeests, ever ready to fall over the cliff of death rather than suffer the total humiliation of wet pants. We diligently face the issue now, before we’re spending our last days in some care facility where we won’t give a damn anymore.
As I discussed in my book Menopause Sucks, the reasons for bladder control problems include pregnancy and childbirth, urinary tract infections, disease, some medications, injuries, and yep, old age. Doctors recommend several remedies: cut back on caffeine because it acts as a diuretic, always carry protective pads, schedule regular restroom breaks, consider hormone creams, try biofeedback techniques, use a support device, or ask about the 300 surgical options available to treat incontinence. There is always the Chinese therapy involving vaginal weights which gives a whole new meaning to the term Chinese Take-out. Finally, talk with other women who are successfully dealing with the issue. Prompt a lively discussion at your next society luncheon by asking, “Do you wet your pants every time you sneeze, cough, or laugh?”
We’ve all read articles about amazing middle-aged ballerinas and gymnasts who still can run and jump like manic gazelles, but they probably never gave natural birth to anyone larger than two pounds. My children came with a force so powerful it should have been studied by NASA. And those industrial-sized cherubs altered every surrounding organ in their quest to leave my body. Even after female surgery I still don’t trust a good belly laugh without checking for the nearest exit.
On a recent vacation in Mexico, my adorable husband Studley surprised me with an excursion to ride horses on the beach along the Pacific Ocean. He’s heard my legendary stories of riding in the Gooding County Fair and Rodeo, and he knows I was a gallant barrel racer. His eyes positively glowed when he told me about the impending ride. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it had been more than 25 years since I last rode a horse, and wouldn’t new jewelry be just as exciting?
We arrived for our ride and were handed huge lead-lined goblets of beer from a battered keg marked Cerveza Pacifico. Our horses eyed us with despair but we quaffed our beers and wrangled onto the saddles. The first hour was fun as we galloped along the beach with our singing guide. Then my body realized it had endured all the fun it needed. By the second hour of trotting and galloping in the saddle, my bladder declared mutiny. I had to go NOW!
A few scraggly bushes offered the only privacy, and I had a real Charley horse in my leg. I knew that if I got down there was only a 20 percent change I’d ever get back up on the horse. So I meditated and practiced the Kegel exercises as Studley and the crazy caballero hooped and hollered on their rides. My horse was clearly irritated and commenced to relieve himself regularly, as if to mock my dire situation.
After what seemed like two weeks, we finally returned to the corrals. Both men had to help me down and I waddled to the nearest fly-infested relief station as my horse eagerly trotted away. I’m sure the horses gather at the end of the day to commiserate about their riders.
“I suffered through a total jerk today. He kept kicking my sides to make me gallop and you know how my bursitis is acting up these days.”
“Well, I carried a soggy sissy who was afraid to let me run freely.”
“Some day we’ll blow this gig and settle down on some lush farm in Kentucky.”
I truly appreciate my husband’s loving gesture, but I’ve hinted that for our next adventure we could attend a romantic musical at a fancy place with plush velour seats, a selection of fine wines, and several clean bathrooms reserved for women over 45. I hear a boisterous chorus shouting, “Amen, Sister!”
Today’s blog is fueled by a 2012 Caracter Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina. We enjoyed this inexpensive wine on our vacation. It tasted better than the flat beer from the battered keg.