Linda has a demanding job involving a great deal of world travel and some really advanced analytical skills. She grew up wanting to be an orchestral conductor but wound up conducting purchasing on a grand scale for international restaurant chains.
She’s a professional through and through. Just as when I go to museums I often spend more time looking at the way items are labeled than at the exhibition, Linda looks at a menu and worries about the financial health of the restaurant. She knows exactly how they could do a better job and save money at the same time. She’s had petulant chefs call her a bean-counter when she told them that ordering pre-cut filets would be more economical than cutting their own but, ultimately, she’s helped them find a better way over and over again.
My name is Linda. I’m 61, and I’m a project manager for an American-based international hotel group.
When I was in high school my ambition was to be an orchestra conductor– that’s what I used to dream about, but then the summer after I graduated I became pregnant, and at the same time my parents were divorced and money for college dried up. I went to one semester of college, got married, had my daughter, and that was the end of my formal education.
When I was growing up outside Philadelphia, I wasn’t around many older women on a regular basis, except for my paternal grandmother; my other grandmother and a great aunt lived in Connecticut. None of them were talking about menopause, and nobody else discussed it with me either.
I began thinking about menopause in my early-40s, when I started missing my periods. I had a family doctor and an OB/GYN that I’d go to if I had any questions, and they prescribed Prempro hormone-replacement therapy, and I thought this would get me through menopause and that would be it. But that wasn’t the case—taking hormones merely delays menopause, and you still end up having to go through it. I tried several times to get myself off hormones—I took them for eight years, until I was 56 or 57—and even though I had mixed feelings, they were such a lifeline because I was in bad shape then, and they made a huge difference. When I first started, studies were beginning to emerge indicating that hormones could increase your risk of breast cancer, but I was willing to take that chance, both because I wasn’t in any specifically defined risk group, and because I couldn’t have kept my job if I hadn’t stayed on the therapy. I worked at a company that had over three hundred employees, and most of the women there were twenty years younger than me, so I had to meet a certain kind of social criteria. I’ve worked from home now for the past two years. The job I had before this was one where I was hired for my experience—my age wasn’t an issue, and I was viewed differently because I didn’t have to pretend or act as if I were young anymore.
Once I realized I was simply delaying things by taking hormones, I though I might as well just get it over with– even though in the beginning stages I felt like I was on a roller coaster and had hot flashes and other symptoms. During my early years of menopause I was single, and then later I lived with a man for five years, and I don’t think my emotional instability was an issue one way or another before or during that relationship. Certainly it’s one of the reasons I wanted to manage my symptoms, but it wasn’t what ended the relationship. There are no changes in my life over that time to now that I would ascribe directly to menopause, rather I think it’s the progression of experiences you have as you age. Overall, I really don’t conceive of menopause as being negative.
I’m in one of the first generations of women who are post-post-menopausal— even only seventy-five or a hundred years ago women went through it and then died, and so we never had a definitive picture of how it was going to be.
I’m in one of the first generations of women who are post-post-menopausal— even only seventy-five or a hundred years ago women went through it and then died, and so we never had a definitive picture of how it was going to be. When I mentioned it to my mother, her response was that it was no big deal, and she didn’t have much more to say than that. And my friends tended to be younger, and as I said I didn’t have older women around me to talk to about it. I feel as though it’s something you have to get through, similar to having your period inasmuch as it’s an experience you have no option to decline; as brutal as it was, I felt as if I was always managing things around it. I would taper down and stagger my doses of hormones until I thought perhaps I could stop, and then all of a sudden, after four or five days, my symptoms would come rushing back like getting hit by a truck. I was always trying to outsmart it, but looking back I should have just dealt with the cards I had and taken the pills and not worried about it, because today the thinking has changed. And I’d heard about bio-identical hormones—there were doctors and chemists who would formulate something like that to help with menopause, but that was $600 fifteen or twenty years ago, which was a mortgage payment, and I was happy to have the therapy I was on.
Naturally there are physical changes—I still color my hair, I feel like I have good skin even though it’s not the same—but I think some women have even more dramatic changes. It’s been hard to manage my weight, and I’ve had depression over the years, for which I’ve seen a therapist. Twenty years ago I was offered a job in Scottsdale and I said no way—I need plumping and moisture, I’m sticking with Florida!
For me having a history with a practitioner that I have confidence in is the best thing.
If I had any advice for other women going through menopause it would be better living through chemistry. Based on my own experience I think I might have explored bio-identical and estrogen, but I was already on hormone replacement therapy before I even found out about any of that. You don’t want to do both, and I think there are natural remedies that are effective, and I would have explored those as well. I was lucky in my circumstances– when I moved to Florida over twenty years ago, I had an internist who retired and another doctor bought his offices, and they utilized nurse practitioners. It’s there I came under the care of a nurse practitioner who was twenty-five years younger than me, but a smart cookie, and she knew me– when I would tell her what was up with me she got it, certainly more than my trying to go to a stranger. I think having a woman doctor can be okay, but it can also go against you, because some I’ve known are too caught up in being self-identified as women doctors, to the detriment of their patients. For me having a history with a practitioner that I have confidence in is the best thing. Going online, yes, that can be helpful too, but sometimes there’s so much conflicting information that I often avoid doing it, I prefer to stick with one clinical practice over time. When I got older I didn’t go to an OB/GYN, I just used my family doctor, who did women’s health, and it was big-picture and that whole rapport worked very well.
One way I’ve changed is that I used to really be into sexual relationships from the time I was around 18—the way I viewed myself was in a sexual relationship with a man. But my last relationship ended a number of years ago and I have no interest in being in another one. Not that I wouldn’t be, but I couldn’t care less about sex in such a big way—I don’t find it abhorrent, and I joke that it would be nice to have sex, but it wouldn’t be any better than having somebody to go out to dinner or go to the movies with. I never thought I would be like that—and I’m not even sure why I am like that– but it’s the biggest change in me from when I was younger to now. For all practical purposes and in a very broad sense I was prostituting myself—financial support and a father figure for my daughter, sexual intimacy, the whole thing.
When I moved back here a year-and-a-half ago my biggest goal was to have female friends. I’ve never had that before—I’ve never gotten into a car with three other women and gone to water aerobics, those kinds of activities that when you’re doing them seem so natural. I worked long hours, and had my daughter when I was young and all my friends were going to college—I was always out of sync. My relocation goals didn’t include being in a relationship with a man, because I think it would represent a distraction from the rest of my life. I like being flexible to do what I want, at the last minute to have dinner with my daughter, or do anything without having to worry about what another person likes or thinks or wants to do. That is huge, and it sometimes makes me laugh. I have a sister who is five years younger than me. We’ve talked about menopause, but she didn’t have the issues that I had, and her professional life was unlike mine. She worked mostly with women in a very self-expressed company that did training for people in corporations, so everyone always knew what was going on with her. The workplace culture she was in encouraged her to say things like, well, I had a fight with my husband, or I’m worried about my kids—she openly discussed her personal life to get it out to her colleagues so she could be freer with the people she was training, so things were very different for her. She didn’t have the issues that I had, she lived in a world where even only five years later things were opening up in different ways for women, and I hope that’s the kind of progress we’ll continue to see.