The Care and Feeding of the Menopausal Woman in Your Life

The care and feeding of the menopausal woman in your life can be a little like white-water rafting: We are an incredibly exciting group to run with, but if you're not careful, you'll be swimming upstream in a fast current or sucked into a swirling vortex. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

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Photo by Gracia Lam
  • Planning any get-together that includes food can be tricky if you're dealing with someone who has just discovered that eating a cashew can cause a change in pant size. If you're at a restaurant, you may experience the horror of witnessing the first time your hormonally challenged friend eyes a menu, brow furrowed, as if she's trying to crack the Enigma code and has to ask to borrow the restaurant's "readers."
  • Instead of indulging, why not suggest catching up on a hike? Nothing too strenuous—maybe a short trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, which for a woman of a certain age is a great way to work off a cucumber salad.
  • If you're purchasing a gift for a friend just entering menopause, skip the scarf. The scarf is the gateway garment to the turtleneck, and your friend might think you're sending the message that she's getting a gobbler. Someone very considerately just gave me a key chain that barks when you clap for it. Considering that I've been misplacing my keys five times a day since turning 40, I would like to take out stock in this company. It should be noted that if you're buying for someone over 50, go ahead and send those scarves. Having simplified my wardrobe to the point where I basically leave my house looking like a plainclothes detective, I rely on scarves to add a dash of color and flair.
  • There's that schoolhouse saying "Sticks and stones might break my bones, but names can never harm me." Remember that? As someone who recently broke her ankle on the tennis court, I think I'm qualified to say that sticks and stones are problematic, but names can hurt, too—and it's a good idea to think about what you call your golden gal pal. Here's a phrase I've recently retired: "old friend." I now refer to my BFF from elementary school as my "long-time" friend Kimberly, to much appreciation.
  • Here's another thing to avoid: breaking into peals of laughter if your tech-challenged quinquagenarian pulls out a flip phone or a BlackBerry. Remember—you're dealing with someone who might have fond memories of the busy signal or a typewriter or both.
  • This actually happened to me. My teenage son was kind enough to offer, after I agreed to pay him, to shoot a video for my latest book. As he focused my phone's camera, he said, "Mom, you look just like Grandma." If your mother, your girlfriend, your officemate, or even your grandmother looks like a grandma, just don't say it out loud. Here's the thing: We know this already!
  • Lastly, remember that those of you who are getting a front-row seat to menopausal madness might be called upon to be the voice of reason. My younger neighbor talked me out of getting the words ‘Under New Management’ tattooed just below my C-section scar in a less-than-rational moment before I consulted my gynecologist about vaginal lubricants. So make sure you're taking good care of yourself. We need you!

Annabelle Gurwitch is an actress and a New York Times bestselling author. Her most recent book is I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories From the Edge of 50, now out in paperback.