My Mother Made Me Do It

This is the second piece from Gail Forrest we’re posting (First one can be found here). Gail talks about menopause from a fresh, and funny perspective (while remaining truthful).

“My Mother made me do it” and that’s how Gonepausal got started. Out of the blue she got the idea that I should write a “Dear Oprah” diary because she thinks I’m funny. I believe Oprah was on a diary kick at the time. “Mom that is crazy,” I would exclaim. 

Then it didn’t seem crazy or I was bored and then started to write. 

My “Dear Oprah” diary started out as a letter that reflected the bubble over my head which I thought was a funny place and on paper even funnier. Thankfully the blog revolution came into being and I abandoned Oprah and updated the diary to a blog. By the way, I had no idea what a blog was but it was hip. It sounded like something marshy on the English countryside or else a blob coming to eat the Earth, but regardless I wanted one. 

Gonepausal, Gail Forrest

Being internet illiterate, I had my fifteen year old nephew that directed me on how to start a blog and off I went. Coincidentally it was the same time my girlfriends and I believed we were going mad. Our memories were fading, our dewy complexions were suddenly sucked off our cheeks, our middles expanding, our lips shrinking, reading glasses were turning up in the fridge, car keys were in our hands one minute and gone the next, and we were talking on our cell phones while hysterical that the phone was missing. Could this be happening to all of us at once? And the most frustrating event of all was “why did I come in this room?”

What the hell was going on? What we didn’t know then but thankfully have found out was we were all starting our journey through menopause. This was a topic barely mentioned by any of our doctors or Mothers. I think there was a vow of silence on the subject. The sky was falling on me and all my friends. Then it came to me like a bolt of lightning the big Oprah “ah ha” moment, I had “gonepausal.” 

We all had. My blog got a name. It was an exciting realization but has proven a long journey as women do not want to admit they are going through menopause.  It is a cross to bear, not a road on which we have to travel. There is only one way out and that is through. I couldn’t get any of my friends to talk about it other than complaining they lost their 8th pair of reading glasses in the span of two weeks.  

The closest I got to talk from the menopause front was over hearing 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. They caught me eaves dropping, pulled me aside and gave me a secret glimpse into the future. I was in my early forties so their words seemed meaningless instead of prophetic. “Just wait until you reach menopause, you’ll have no interest in sex either,” Sandra smirked.  I distinctly remember thinking never! I was smug and impervious to their prediction. And that is all I ever heard about menopause.

For me the best way to negotiate this time of life was to write about it in a new way. I wanted to find the funny side and whole heartedly believed I could make women laugh as oppose to scream or cry about bodily and psychological changes. The aging process is a shock for any of us with mirrors. I determined if I wrote about covering all my mirrors or looking into them and not knowing who is looking back I could evoke camaraderie as well as laughter.

All the annoying things that happened to me during the course of the day as a middle-aged woman became writing fodder especially trying to internet date. I became the mid-life internet dating expert and blogged about being “The Queen of One Date” as well as how menopause puts the course in intercourse. The moment you realize the oestrogen that made sex in your forties a hot decade was gone. It seemed like it happened in one excruciating day. 

I wrote hundreds of blogs and could find humour in the worst moments like perusing the pharmacy aisles for Astro Glide and praying no one saw you. And you thought nothing could be worse than buying Tampax! Life changed in an instant. I wanted the writing to reach a wider audience as it’s lonely to go through menopause alone or unguided or just plain miserable. I thought a book was the answer.

My literary agent at the time Laurie Hawkins started up a small operation called “Allined Books” and we brainstormed the idea of taking the best of the blogs and putting them in book form. I ploughed my way through over 700 and picked the ones I thought the most relatable and funny. My idea was to open up the subject of menopause in a way women could safely attach themselves to and come out of hiding.

I expected when I wrote Gonepausal and plastered it all over social media there would be more of a groundswell. I wanted it to be a wake-up call to women that it is ok to be on the menopause spectrum and not ashamed or embarrassed. Let’s get out of the closet and find humour in commonality.  It will happen but slower than I believed or hoped.

I am still talking and writing the bubble over my head and recently have turned it into stand-up comedy thanks to training at Second City in Chicago.  I have found this a new way to get out there and be a woman truth teller. The truth is much funnier than fiction.  

Let’s make menopause the pause that refreshes and allows for new beginnings!