DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: OK, this is embarrassing. I am missing a finger, so I like to make love with the lights off, so it doesn't look like "the claw" is landing on a my girlfriend's perfect breast. In the dark at my house -- and I mean the blacked-out bedroom I have constructed for myself -- you can see almost nothing and that's the way I like it. She told me this is unnatural and a little creepy and she wants candlelight, at least. I spent the night at her place for the first time and she wouldn't put out the lights. She wanted to see everything. She said she was fine with it, but I suspect she wasn't and she is distancing herself over my horrible hand. It doesn't bother her in the day time, but I think sex is something different. -- Freaking Out, St. Vital
Dear Freaking: It takes time to get used to new things and you need to help her make friends with the hand you refer to as "the claw." If she's OK with the hand in the light, she may be more comfortable with it than you think. Look at your hand closely with her, tell her about how you lost it, show sympathy and love towards that hand and she will catch the positive feelings. Calling it "the claw" and hiding it in the dark when you are having sex has the makings of a horror movie. Don't bring that onto yourself and onto your girlfriend, as it is making her skittish. Every person's body is different and we all have something about ourselves we don't like physically, so this is yours to deal with and you need to deal with it kindly.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: As a woman of 51, I would like to state that I am having a terrible time with the side effects of menopause. I need help and nothing helps. This has made me a terrible bedmate, as I am hot and cold all night. I am sweating at work, and it's so embarrassing for customers to see me sweating like a pig when I'm trying to sell them a major appliance. I look desperate and that's not appealing. My husband has asked me to sleep in the spare room until this is over. What do you think of this? It scares me. -- Not My Fault, Westwood
Dear Not My Fault: Don't move out of the bedroom -- it means goodbye cuddling and intimate chatting and less impetus for sex. This could be bad news for your marriage, and it will make you feel angry and resentful to be expelled from your bed. Menopause can go on for much longer than a year and hot flashes can happen to different degrees for a decade after, for some people. You need to stay close but your symptoms also need to be addressed with the help of a professional. If you drench the sheets with sweat in the night, sleep on two or three towels. When you soak one, you throw it off the bed without getting up and disturbing anyone's sleep. Some people also use a fan right by their side of the bed. When a hot flash starts, they reach over and hit the fan. Keep the bedroom temperature cool and wear light clothing made of natural fibres such as cotton. Other people swear by menopause tea sold at places like Hollow Reed on Corydon -- drink a pot over one day and some people are flash-free for several days. Don't like tea? Menosense capsules sold at health stores and can be a big help. Adding soy and ground flax to your diet can also be helpful. If things are still problematic, you could talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of using prescription hormones.
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