Moonlight lovingly edged the ancient cobblestones. It wasn’t a square or plaza – nothing so grand. Osteria No. 8 (or maybe it was Osteria No. 7 or Osteria No. 21 – I don’t remember anymore) had its outside seating in a wide place in the street. Rome passed along beyond the low planters, but the pace was leisurely – just right for an Italian summer after sundown

We were having dinner at a place we just happened across after a day of tourism. The waiter set a large, shallow bowl before me; almost a broad dish. It was filled with heaven. A broth, fragrant with fresh herbs. Pliant, compliant potatoes, cubed and fetching. Beans – blameless and curved. Fresh carrots. Onions, sweet and nearly translucent. The occasional coquettish and winking noodle.

“Minestrone,” he said with a shrug that said both “nothing – air – merely the bare minimum for life’s survival” as well as “others may have fallen from the pure path but we hold to the old ways here at Osteria No. 8. Spoon up the glory and feel your life’s essence restored. Here is a reason to rise each morning; something to give your soul to – something worth dying for.”

I’ve never forgotten that simple, extraordinary soup…

…so when I tell you I know how good soup CAN smell, please believe me.

That’s not how I smell.

No one talks much about menopause. Sure, you finally put paid to the messiness of menstruation, and that’s a bonus. The underwear takes a decided turn for the better. And we’re all taught to fear hot flashes.

But no one told me that the change in my hormones would alter the way my sweat smells.

I keep smelling soup when I work out. Not ethereal, ambrosial Roman minestrone – no. I’m talking about the tinny, salty odor of cheap canned soup. Condensed, so the smell is strong and assertive.


It turns out that’s ME smelling like a bad chicken noodle soup.

My pits still smell like the primate house at the zoo, and my crotch still has that secret hot scent when I get an unplanned whiff (which sometimes happens; those trainers at Body Dynamics sometimes get me in strange positions where I’m confronted, astonishingly, with my own Lycra-clad genitalia).

It’s the rest of me that smells different.

“Jeez,” said Barbara as she was putting me through bird-dogs. (Hands and knees; now reach out, fore and aft, with one hand and the opposite leg. Don’t let your hip dip. Don’t arch your back.) “It smells like soup back here again.”

“It’s ME!” I collapsed to the mat (which smelled a great deal better than I did). “Menopause has made me smell like bad chicken noodle!”

There aren’t many things you can say to a trainer with Barbara’s experience and knowledge, but I think I really did startle her with that one. “What?”

I explained that my body chemistry had shifted WITHOUT MY PERMISSION and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. This made her laugh – but I still don’t know how to handle this. I can put deodorant on the primate house, and I can keep the nether regions clean. But what am I supposed to do when the skin over my chest exudes the smell of cheap soup until I hie me to the showers??

And if I ate a better quality of minestrone – say, if I moved to Rome and ate exclusively at the various osterias – could I improve the quality of my personal fragrance?!?

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And wouldn’t it be a delicious experiment to try?



Let’s be clear – it’s important: That title isn’t “WOO-choink” – it’s definitely “WUH-choink.” Can you hear it?

It’s the sound I make when I walk around my house. “Wu-choink,” I say, “wu-choink, wu-choink, wu-choink.”

I am, of course, providing the soundtrack to my glutes grabbing my femur and pulling it back. Now that Barbara and Chip and Grace and Gwynn at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA have done the impossible (only took three solid years) and turned my glutes on.

So now I mutter “wu-choink” as I walk. Unless I’m on the stairs, going down. Then I say “brraaa-aa-aa-ack?” Because I’m a lot less sure that my glutes can actually do that… despite the fact that I’ve been going down stairs for 59 years now.

(Well, maybe 58. How old are babies when they start going downstairs? I mean upright; not the bump-ba-dump method on the butt. I have a child and I remember when such milestones were important to me, but the actual date is gone now.)

Now that I think of it, I seem to have a permanent soundtrack going in my mind, helping me graduate from bump-ba-dump to thud-thud-thud to brraa-a-ack. Next up on my body playlist: Woosh! The sound of glutes gracefully lowering this body from one step to the next. No “falling with style” here – I shall slip effortlessly down the steps as if on rails, my toned and obedient butt muscles at last working as they are supposed to.

Soon. I’m sure of it.

It’s a good thing I live alone. I think this constant verbalization (not to mention the fact that I now keep my hands UNDER where I thought my butt stopped so I can feel the muscle connect to the thigh) would drive anyone else mad.

I was lying in my bed yesterday. (A brief round of intestinal distress made sleepytime a requirement; it wasn’t MY idea to sleep for 48 hours straight with brief but action-packed forays to the potty.) When I lie on my back with my knees up, I can feel a long, scary-hard muscle running down the back of my thigh.

I’m pretty sure that’s a hamstring… but I think it’s suddenly popped up like tensile steel because of wu-choink, wu-choink, wu-choink.

(No, not the noise – I mean the awareness of the glute’s role in ambilocamotion, duh, which deserves, nay – REQUIRES, that I make that noise as I prowl around the house at a pace just slightly faster than a wedding march.)

And if the hamstrings are suddenly waking up… is it possible that the hip flexors might one day soon be able to take a vacation in Tahiti? Lie on a beach in a hammock and drink fruity beverages adorned with cocktail umbrellas?

Come to think of it – you know what it sounds like when you rock gently in a hammock? That’s right. Wu-choink… wu-choink… wu-choink…

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This is not a picture of my ass. This is about a third the size of my ass. But this is how my ass is beginning to FEEL. Oh, Lordy.