Just Ask A Woman . . . About Menopause

Remember that ad campaign in the '80s for Oil of Olay? "I don't want to grow old gracefully. I intend to fight it every inch of the way."

I think that sums up the way this generation feels about menopause. Women are taking it to the streets, on everything from mugs to T-shirts to doormats that say "They're not hot flashes. I'm on my summer vacation."

There's a North American Menopause Society. There's a board game. There's a hit touring musical, (Imagine "Stayin' Awake" to the tune of "Saturday Night Fever"'s "Stayin' Alive.")

I always thought it wasn't a good idea to talk about politics, religion or sex, especially with co-workers, strangers, or well, just about anybody who wasn't a close friend.

So, you'd think that menopause was certainly taboo for dinnertime or watercooler chat. But with over 20 million women of menopausal age in the U.S., it's pretty hard to keep it private.

I've interviewed dozens of women who are going through what was once called (in hushed tones!) the "change of life." And I've learned that taking menopause out of the closet -- or the ladies room -- is one way to gain support and understanding of a natural, but challenging phase of life.

From the Red Hot Mamas national support group to websites like bikinisandbifocals.com to girlfriend Margarita nights, women are talking out loud, online and off, in an effort to commiserate and cope.

While many tease about ripping off jackets, running the air conditioner in the winter, or doing the covers on/covers off/covers on dance all night in bed, others feel a kind of emotional road rage thanks to mood swings and sleep deprivation.

Spouses and partners get the full brunt of the hormonal shifts, often laced with sarcastic humor. One woman told me, "My husband asked me 'What's for dinner?' and I answered, 'What do you mean by that?'" When confronted by her husband about her erratic moods, another woman retorted, "I haven't changed, I just don't have the ability to tolerate YOU any more!"

Not that menopause is an LOL affair, but women will admit that they've been grinning and bearing their way through so many trials over the course of their lives, they're literally warmed up for this one.

Sometimes kidding and commiserating with friends is the only way to cool it. But the good news is that mixed with the jokes is a real national conversation, that's putting a topic that was once taboo, center stage. With 20 percent of women in America in the menopause age range, it's time to face the facts of life. It's a change for the better.

So, while a little humor goes a long way toward managing menopause, there's still nothing like solid information, mutual support and some quality conversation with your doctor. Meanwhile, grab your favorite Red Hot Mama and give her a hug. Or take her to see "Menopause, the Musical" where hot flashes get standing ovations!