Deja Vu tugged at my memory as I tried to figure out what my ob/gyn was implying. “There comes a time in every woman’s life when she should expect some bodily changes, as well as personality changes like mood swings and irritability.”

What on earth is he getting at? Hmm. He gave a similar speech when I was about 12 and he was preparing me for…oh, my word! He couldn’t possibly be suggesting…

“Oh, I’m way too young for that, Doctor,” I insisted. “I haven’t noticed anything like that. I’m perfectly normal. Normal and youthful. One could even say vibrant and vigorous. What? No, I don’t think I want you to ask my husband if he’s noticed any changes in my temperament. Let’s leave him out of this.”

In retrospect, perhaps I should have told the doctor about Maxine. Maxine is what I’ve named the voice in my head which began speaking to me a few months earlier, right about the time Aunt Flo decided she’d worn out her welcome. No one else hears Maxine, of course.

I first became aware of Maxine when she began waking me in the night, coaxing me to raid the refrigerator. “Denise,”she’d whisper in my ear, “There’s a carton of ice cream in the freezer calling your name.” For some reason Maxine never hears anything calling my name from the fridge’s crisper drawer, which in my house we refer to as the rotter drawer, because it’s where healthy produce bought with good intentions goes to die a lonely and forgotten death.

Maxine is very insistent in her quest for nocturnal substenance, particularly chocolate. If all the chocolate treats are gone (Let’s face it. You know they are, and you know what happened to them.), she’s been known to force me to eat spoonsful of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder right out of the can, causing me to cough up enough chocolate dust to warrant a smog alert for my neighborhood.

When Maxine felt she’d gained complete control of my eating habits, she began a compaign to alter my personality by making me bad-tempered.

While cruising down the highway one day, I saw in my rear view mirror a rapidly approaching vehicle darting through traffic, tailgating, weaving in and out of lanes as if the rural road were the Indy 500. As he flew by and then cut in front of me with only inches to spare, Maxine (the voice in my post-Aunt Flo head) told me to give him a vulgar hand gesture.

Being a person who is by nature cheerful and non-combative, I was only vaguely familiar with that common gesture, but I did my best.

“Not that finger!” snorted Maxine. That’s the signal for ‘A-number-1.”

“Oops, sorry, Maxine. How about this one?” I asked as I flashed a different digit at the offending driver.

“No, no, that’s the ring finger! You want to insult him, not marry him!”

Desperately I fumbled through my entire repertoire of finger combinations in my quest for the appropriately offensive signal. Maxine bacame increasingly irritable to the point of rudeness.

“Not those two fingers, moron! That’s the ‘V for victory’ sign. Not that either; it’s the peace sign. Oh, for crying out loud, that’s the surfers ‘hang 10’ sign! Are you an idiot? It’s the second finger! Forget it. He’s gone now. You’re hopeless.”

Maxine must have been angrier than I thought, because she knew just how to exact revenge. Knowing how I hate to be too hot, she began to cause repeated waves of sweat-drenching heat to sweep over me, particularly at night.

I don’t suppose my ob/gyn was right, I wondered as I stood at the open refrigerator door in my nightgown, drenched in sweat and eating a lemon meringue pie (we were out of chocolate again) with a large spoon right out of the pie shell in the fridge’s dim light. Nah, this is all Maxine’s fault. That bitch!

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