Interviewer: Can I say right off that you don’t look old enough to be writing about menopause?
Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant: (blushing) Thank you. Actually, it’s all the sweating… it’s a natural moisturizer. Why spend thousands of dollars on something you make for free during a good hot flash?
I: I hear you once had an electrical problem due to a hot flash?
LAJ-B: Yes. I was speaking at the Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Conference in Dayton, Ohio and I had a lapel microphone on. Those things have two pieces â€“ the microphone and the box that picks up the wireless signals. I had the box attached to the waistband of my skirt and suddenly the power went off in the room. I’m pretty sure I shorted out the sound system which took down the whole power grid. I left town immediately just in case.
I: Your new book is Not Guilty by Reason of Menopause (Ten Speed Press, 2008). It’s very funny. And it has pictures.
LAJ-B: I know, those are great, aren’t they? I don’t even have to use my reading glasses to see them.
I: What was your goal in writing this book?
LAJ-B: To avoid getting a real job. No, I mean, to help menopausal women and the people they live with get some real laughs at something that is absolutely natural and happens to 52% of the population at some point in their lives, but there can be this tendency to freak out about it. And I wanted them to laugh and not feel worse about themselves later. You can giggle at a joke about how your neck is so baggy you use it to parasail, but later you won’t be able to look in the mirror. There are no neck jokes in this book. No varicose vein jokes, none about bat wings… all the things that make women feel worse instead of better.
I: I’ve read that you think laughter can actually be used as an anti-aging ingredient.
LAJ-B: Yep. It does so many positive things for you. Laughing circulates blood to all your organs and your skin is your largest organ. Laughing is a great way to have healthier, more youthful skin all over your body. It also helps tone most major muscles, except, I’ve found, your triceps. For those you need to laugh while lifting weights. Which is definitely more fun than just lifting weights alone. Not to mention that women who laugh enjoy themselves more and finding joy in life makes you younger. I myself am only three as we speak.
I: Did you have any qualms about writing about menopause? Doesn’t the word still scare some people?
LAJ-B: Mostly male people. Teenage boys and twenty-something men especially. You want to get a young man to let you have a parking space, just yell “I’m menopausal” out the window. If that doesn’t work, yell “Vasectomy.” Those two things together, you’ve pretty much got all the power.
But menopause has come out of the closet in a big way in the past decade or so. Women carry fans in the purses and they whip them out whenever their thermostats get turned up from the inside. We dress in layers and strip off our clothes in public. There are chat rooms and blogs where you can talk about all kinds of things that your mother would have been embarrassed to admit were a problem. Dr. Christiane Northrup had a special on menopause on PBS. Oprah’s talked about it. So it’s cool to be menopausal these days. As long as there’s an air conditioner blowing.
I: Back to the book. It’s the kind of thing that would make a great girlfriend book, right?.
LAJ-B: Absolutely. It’s funny and has great photos. Many of them from the 50s and 60s, which are the decades many of us menopausal women grew up in. And the book is easy to read. I don’t know a single menopausal woman who has time to sit down and read War & Peace. Or even the instruction manual for, well, anything. We’ve got jobs to do, kids to embarrass, global warming to solve… Women want something fun and funny that fits into our multi-tasking lifestyle.
I: Speaking of funny, do you have any other menopause stories you’d like to share?
LAJ-B: Oh sure, why not? There was this one time I was hired by Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson to teach a few workshops. In exchange, I got to have some massages and a few health care visits with their wonderful team of doctors and nurses. At one point, I was sitting in an exam room wearing one of those fine backless gowns and the doctor came in with my chart. He glanced up at me for a moment and said, “49 (my age at the time), you hide it well.” So naturally, I felt pretty proud of myself. I threw my shoulders back and sat up straight and raised my eyebrows just slightly to give me that Botox look. Then he asked me to hop up off the table so he could check my spine. And I hopped. And so did that roll of paper they use on the table. During the time we’d been chatting, I had two hot flashes and the paper had semi-permanently adhered to my rear end. So in hopping, I managed to yank the roll of paper completely off the table. It flew across the room and almost hit the doctor in the nose. So much for passing for thirty-something.
Then there was the time I was interviewing a guest on my then-radio show. I got so hot, I couldn’t think, so I unzipped my outer sweater. What I didn’t realize for a few seconds was the outer sweater was already unzipped and I had unzipped the blouse beneath it (I scour Goodwill for blouses with zippers so I can get in and out quickly. That’s my little secret. Victoria has hers, but mine’s better.). Before the guest can see that I’m flashing him, I turn around to zip up. Only then do I realize I’ve just flashed the news guy in the studio behind me. I think he said something about “keeping everyone abreast” of what was going on in the news.
It’s all funny. My life would be so boring without menopause to keep me â€“ and the people around me â€“ entertained.
I: Now I wish I was menopausal.
LAJ-B: Don’t worry, you’ll get there soon enough. And just think how much more you’ll have to laugh at.
I: Thanks Leigh Anne, I’ll look forward to that. Meanwhile, we can all buy a copy of your book where?
LAJ-B: At major booksellers everywhere, including online. But don’t just buy one copy or your menopausal women friends will be jealous. And you don’t want to make a mood-swinging woman jealous!