Dear College Students with Middle-Aged Female Professors:

If your middle-aged, female college professor profusely sweats when it’s -10 F degrees outside, wiping her brow like she’s mid-match with Serena Williams, she’s probably having a hot flash. Here’s how these work. Her stupid ovaries are slowing and/or stopping their production of estrogen, a female hormone that makes all kinds of wonderful things happen. They’ve had enough, they’re retiring, and couldn’t give two shits what kind of desolation they leave behind because they’re assholes. In other words, they’re like rich old parents who decide to travel the world, spend your inheritance, and forget you have a birthday.

In the absence of estrogen, not only do middle-aged women experience hot flashes, but their skin, which had hitherto belied their age, now wrinkles on a weekly basis. This is particularly true around the eyes, giving your middle-aged female professor (MAFP) a hang-dog look of perpetual exhaustion. Your MAFP will look on your glowing, youthful faces and not feel a sliver of envy. She had her time and wouldn’t trade in her wisdom and experience to go back to that era of her life for all the money in the world. Still, she would prefer if her ass stopped expanding like the universe.

What she’s not too keen on is how the hair on her head is not just graying, but whitening, while other hairs grow profusely in places she never desired to posses them, in brown and sometimes white strands. Use your imagination of where I’m talking about. Furthermore, she now gains weight by looking at food, when before, her overactive metabolism kept her slim regardless of how much she ate. All this visible evidence of aging and mortality is something your MAFP is trying to get used to, in the midst of building a career in a profession that like so many others values youth.

What you’re not seeing is the aura that precedes the actual hot flash/instantaneous profuse sweating. It’s like your MAFP suddenly realized she locked her baby in the car on a scalding hot summer day. Except she doesn’t have a baby. That doesn’t make this minute-long bodily reaction feel any less real because here’s what your MAFP does when she has it: her mind associates it with something actual. For example, the aura occurs, she feels freaked out, and suddenly believes teaching is terrifying. Wha? Since when? Your MAFP’s body is trying to bullshit her. She knows this, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like the absolute truth.

On top of this, the aura/hot flash one-two punch prefers to pop up at inopportune moments, like important meetings or when standing in front of a class lecturing. When your MAFP falls off her train of thought, give her a moment, she’ll quickly hop back on to drop some brilliant composition knowledge on your asses.

If your MAFP seems a little cranky when you ask her your seventh question pertaining to the syllabus, whose answer can be found in said document if you chose to read it with any attention, know this: during this phase of her life, your MAFP is operating in a state of perpetual sleep deprivation thanks to the hot flashes and night sweats, which could teach the CIA a thing or two about effective interrogation practices. Here’s what a typical night attempting to sleep looks like for an MAFP locked in battle with menopause: I’m hot (kick off blankets). Two minutes later: I’m cold — where are the blankets? Two minutes later: I’m hot (kick off blankets). Two minutes later: I’m cold — where are the blankets? Repeat for the next several hours.

Lack of sleep can lead to any number of awesome things, such as death. Or, at the very least, premature dementia, crankiness, fogginess of thought, which, as you can imagine, do not enhance your MAFP’s intellectual endeavors. And low libido, not that you need to know that about your MAFP, but there it is. Does the loss of sleep lead to weight gain, which in turn causes your professor to feel undesirable? Hell to the yes. It’s a tangle of intertwined nonsense akin to a pile of snakes having sex.

There is no cure for menopause because men don’t experience it. There is only postponing its inevitable arrival through taking synthetic estrogen. Some middle-aged women have a brief relationship with it, those lucky biatches, and quickly move on to what must be a glorious post-menopausal existence, filled with unicorns, rainbows, and blissful nights of unbroken sleep. Others suffer with it for years and years. Nine and still counting, to be precise. Unfortunately, hormone replacement therapy isn’t a good option if your MAFP has a family history of estrogen-receptive breast cancer. And over-the-counter remedies in the form of teas and supplements are as effective as taking aspirin to cure cancer.

And yet, despite all this daily turmoil and discomfort, this quotidian confrontation with her advancing age, your MAFP is still getting shit done. Prepping for class and teaching you everything she knows about writing. Grading your papers and giving you specific feedback to improve them. Giving a damn about your education, even when you don’t. She’s doing her own writing, when she etches out the time, submitting it, even applying to dozens of other jobs. This is on top of keeping her family, home, and marriage running as best she can.

Remember this when you see your MAFP sweating. She’s not a novice or nervous — she’s menopausal. So give her a break. She could use it. And so could you — one day.