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American Women Let’s Get Out of the Menopause Closet

by Gail Forrest

A round of applause for the women of the U.K for saying the word
“menopause” out loud. I am impressed and in awe of the bold nature in which they are on the front lines of this inevitable bodily change. I love that they even address it as “the menopause” which gives it a royal ring. Here in the U.S. we are still in the closet on the subject, although it is slowly getting more attention. We love our celebrities and it was Gwyneth Paltrow who first came out of the menopause closet in this country and shouted to the news that she was peri-menopausal. This did not comfort me and appeared to make little or no impact on the subject. Finally, and more significantly Oprah mentioned being menopausal in the October issue of her “O” Magazine. Hurray! I hope it is her confession that erases the hush hush nature of the subject here.
“Breaking news” – menopause isn’t going away. My fear is women in the U.S. equate menopause with old age. We run from ageing here as fast as surgically or cosmetically possible.

Admittedly when it came to menopause my girlfriends and I were confused. We were never sure which of us was “peri” and which “pausal.” My doctor must have been confused also as he never warned me of what was ahead for my mind and body after age forty-five. He only told me I would have a dry lifeless complexion and weight would accumulate around my mid-section. I decided to get a new doctor. This should be an important topic in medical schools as the symptoms should not be confused with other medical issues in women and misdiagnosed or treated incorrectly.

My doctor must have been confused also as he never warned me of what was ahead for my mind and body after age forty-five.

I have noticed via Instagram postings that the U.K women are much more informed on the subject and talk honestly and at length about the problems they are having physically and emotionally. I was saddened to see how some women suffer terribly and are looking for support. Reaching out is important as realizing you are not alone on this journey is critical. The BBC and now workplaces in the U.K. are on the cutting edge of putting menopause in the public arena. It is happening here in the U.S. at a turtle’s pace but seems to be occurring.

The closest I got to tales from the menopause front was overhearing two of my clients at an art fair in New York City who were both in their late fifties laughing about their lack of a sex drive and interest in sex. They caught me eavesdropping, pulled me aside and gave me a glimpse into the future. I was in my early forties so their words seemed meaningless instead of prophetic. I distinctly remember thinking I would never lose my sex drive regardless of their words. I felt smug and impervious to their predictions. It was a moment I would always remember. That was all I ever heard from other women about menopause. My friends and I rarely discuss the topic or any of the symptoms: hot flushes, losing the tenth pair of reading glasses, finding car keys in the fridge, talking on the cell phone while madly searching for it, endless sleepless nights tossing and turning, forgetting names, passwords, and unexplainably crying one minute and laughing the next.

Help, let’s talk!

I was ambushed as menopause affects every woman. It caught up with me, regardless of my determination to be different. There was no escape, detour, magic potion or way to expedite the process. Here in the U.S. it was every woman for herself. My own mother never uttered a word on the subject. I think bodily changes were a forbidden subject to her generation. I had to wonder, did they all take a vow of silence?

Here in the U.S. it was every woman for herself. My own mother never uttered a word on the subject.

My clients were right, as my desire to have sex is #10 on my to-do list, right after vacuuming my car. I have kissed my dewy complexion goodbye because the loss of oestrogen sucked the youth right off my cheeks and put the “course” in intercourse. What the hell happened? I needed answers and a much better sense of humour. Therefore it is important to GET THE WORD OUT, so we are not lost, confused, anxious and feeling like we have taken a trip down the rabbit hole.

I was so bold as to ask my Mother one afternoon when we were out to lunch how she handled menopause. After complaining about the food, she put her fork down and quite casually said, “I went through menopause in one afternoon. Dessert?” Regardless of the humorous nature of that response, it is a serious subject. The more educated women are about it the better off we are. It is my hope that the women in the U.S. can be as open, honest, and verbal about menopause as the women are in the U.K. It is not a sign of old age, but a rite of passage! I wrote my book Gonepausal as a fun wake-up call for women. It is a humorous and cranky way of looking at this time of life. The medically-based books provide helpful information about our physical symptoms but if you can’t try and laugh about hot flushes, forgetfulness, lack of sex drive, dry lifeless skin tone, exhaustion, disappearing glasses, missing cell phone and generally feeling pissed off there’s no way to get through this, no matter how much scientific information you gather.

Let’s hang on, laugh when possible and take this ride together.