When you fly home for the holidays this year, you'll be in the company of crying babies, a friendly "this is your captain speaking" every now and then, and way too many Sky Mall magazines screaming at you to buy this. What you probably won't hear (even though they're both eyeing those pants) is friendly discussion among strangers about perimenopause and menopause (PM&M). Our culture has long-since associated menopause with aging, and we all want to be young forever. ABC's new series, Pan Am, follows a group of 1960s twenty-something stewardesses around the world during the Cold War, the Kennedy Administration and the Space Race, with all the social gender norms of the times.
Pan Am's first episode features talk about wearing girdles lest you get a demerit, pleasing the customers--whether that involves a wink or a night on the town -- and weekly weigh-ins. One of the show's first quotes is an explanation that Pan Am stewardesses are only employed until they're married or turn 30, reinforcing the widespread belief that single women over age 30 are washed up.
This isn't to say that the 1960s were stagnant with respect to women's empowerment. In fact, women have been progressing since the turn of the 20th century. 1920 saw women's suffrage; in 1940, 25 percent of women were working; in 1969, 43 percent of women were working and many of them were wives and mothers; in 1990, women rejected acid-washed jeans; and in 2008, a woman ran for president. Women have consistently pushed against those who said they "couldn't" and norms that deprived them of the power they deserved. We stand today on the edge of a new frontier -- the frontier of the discussion on PM&M!
Conversation about perimenopause and menopause is the key to breaking the stigma associated with both PM&M and aging. You don't necessarily have to lean over to the stranger sitting next to you in the window seat in order to get the ball rolling. All you have to do is talk about it with your mother, daughter or friends. Plus, now that the Internet works 25,000 miles above land, you can chat about it with whomever you want! Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT. Whether you're traveling alone or not, remember that you're never flying solo when it comes to PM&M. Consider this a new kind of mile high club.
As our foremothers have taught us, knowledge is power. Know the 34 symptoms and keep track of your body's patterns in a symptoms chart. Ask your doctor about the tests you should take, and help him determine your path to hormone happiness. The Cold War may not be quite over for you when your hot flashes make you wish you had bought this for your living room.
You deserve help and you deserve the best. Go get it! Bust open the conversation and let's break the taboo. As for being young forever, you are only as old as the age you want to be. Choose the one you want! And so, my fellow menopausal women, ask not what your menopause will do to you; ask what you can do for your menopause!
"E" is the pen name of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of "Shmirshky: the Pursuit of Hormone Happiness -- a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause, filled with crucial information and hilarious and heartfelt stories. It condenses a confusing, daunting medical topic into an easy-to-understand, purse-sized guide which can be used as a reference throughout your PM&M experience. Reading Shmirshky is like getting a big, comforting hug from a dear friend, who happens to know a lot about menopause!