Menopause is a singularly unifying experience for all women. It transcends social, cultural, economic, language, and other barriers to bring us together in a flash. Literally. Case in point: I climb aboard the Budget van at LAX to ride to the rental car lot. Our driver is a gorgeous fiftyish African-American woman with heroically long fingernails and beaded tresses. She looks really good (for her age.) As I embark, she asks me if the van’s temperature is too cold. In fact, it is nearly arctic – and feels just fabulous to me. Before I can voice my opinion, however, she eyes me critically. "Oh, I don’t need to ask you." she told me in full voice. "I know you understand how it is. I’m hot all the time these days, so I have to check to see if I’m freezing my poor passengers with the A/C cranked up so high."
We bond emotionally, instantly, recognizing each other as fellow changelings. My husband follows me to the front, content to observe our cameraderie. He doesn’t mind the cold; he’s had to live with the human furnace lately. Three other passengers in their 70’s mumble that they are fine and sit in the rear of the bus. She shares immediately, "I could not figure out what was wrong with me! I was hot, sweating all night. It was awful. My mom told me ‘honey, you’re just goin’ through the Change.’ Well, I never expected this! What do you do for it? And how long is it going to go on?" HRT wasn’t an option she wanted to consider, at least not yet. I tell her about natural progesterone cream. "It will save your sanity by letting you sleep." She writes down the recommendation while continuing to drive down Sepulveda Boulevard, seemingly steering with her knees. She roars with laughter when my husband chimed in "It saved MY sanity! I have to live with her." She shows me a cute little fan that she wore on a string around her neck, and I have to get out my pen and notepad. Horror stories are swapped. We discuss clothing and herbs and trade tricks (eg. sticking one’s head in the freezer for a few minutes, during the worst of a flash). Bras? "Can’t wear ’em no more. Just can’t stand ’em" she says. I lifted my shirt up high to show my pink cami top, proclaiming "You have to get these – to wear as your bottom layer, so you can strip down and still be decent." "Got ’em! In every color!", she rejoined.
We are menopausal goddess sisters. Are we different? Sure. She’s a city girl. I live rurally. She works with the public and I am a solitary entrepreneur. She’s African-American and I’m Caucasian. But we are both women going through the biggest life transition we’ve ever encountered. And we can’t help talking to each other about it. We embrace like family at the rental lot admonishing one another to ‘Stay cool’. As we step off the van, the lone woman in the trio at the back smiles and nods at both of us. Her male companions simply look shell-shocked.