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A review of “Hot and Bothered” by Jancee Dunn, a book about menopause.


On Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, approximately six weeks after what proved to be my final period, I started crying for no knowable reason. I could not stop. For the next three months, I was incapacitated by all that sobbing. I also suffered relentless insomnia and joint pain so bad that it kept me from writing.

I met each night pacing the halls of my house, touching familiar things in the hope they’d make me familiar to myself. I met each day praying for a few hours — even a few minutes — of sanity-restoring sleep.

These symptoms were exacerbated by a cavalcade of sleep and psych meds, whose side effects dragged me to the edge of suicidal ideation, until a fancy shrink, to whom I paid $500 out of pocket, put me on the right drugs.

If what happened to me then was happening to me now, I’d gratefully turn to “Hot and Bothered: What No One Tells You About Menopause and How to Feel Like Yourself Again,” by Jancee Dunn. The best-selling author of “How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids” and a former staff reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, Dunn has written a helpful handbook with menopause-related perspectives and facts, including statistics that explain why medical professionals know so little about it.

“A 2013 survey found that less than one in five ob-gyn residents received any formal menopause training,” she writes, and “three-quarters of the [menopausal] women who sought medical attention for their medical symptoms get no treatment at all … only 18 percent said they felt ‘very informed’ about what to expect in menopause and perimenopause.”

The book’s cleverly named chapters (“Your Smokin’ Hot New Body,” “50, Shades of Gray”) are organized around symptoms and packed with anecdotes and rah-rah one-liners that our grandmothers might have embroidered on footstool cushions: “I love women who are in midlife; they do not screw around.” “Menopause is not a disease! It’s a life stage. You may be postmenopausal for fully half your life.”

The book’s expert interviews and data address perspectives often historically absent from this type of reporting, including the impact of racism and race. Dunn cites a 2022 study, for example, that reveals huge symptom disparities among ethnic groups.

Chinese and Japanese women experience the shortest duration of hot flashes, while “Black women’s hot flashes start earlier, have more severe side-effects, are less likely to receive hormone therapy, and last longest.” Dunn says that “the Black participants in [the study] were born between 1944 and 1954, and thus grew up in a US society shaped by structural, or institutional racism … [resulting in] differential access to goods, services, and opportunities, a major contributor to health disparities.”

It took a while, by which I mean a decade, but menopause (and the maturity that aging brings) eventually revealed welcome upsides, including the well-earned right to put my own needs front and center. Dunn reports on those significant and widely experienced benefits: “That exhilarating feeling of coming into your own” and “the freedom from ‘the disease to please.’”

Dunn’s well-researched, womanist point of view is powerful, if somewhat inconsistent. She rightly derides U.S. health professionals’ lack of menopause training but also argues against a medicalized approach.

She writes approvingly of the many doctors and scientists she interviewed: “If these experts had their way, every woman would have a medical team to help her navigate menopause,” then vows, “as this is not the world in which we currently live, I am going to assemble this team for you. The days of suffering in silence are over.”

That’s a big promise, one that Dunn hopes her book will keep. “My most fervent wish,” she concludes, “is that when people realize they are entering this natural, normal life stage, they don’t react with alarm or confusion, but with a shrug.”

Aspiring to “a shrug” in response to menopause’s many daunting symptoms — from plummeting libido to loss of bone density; from extreme fatigue to panic disorder — seems to downplay the very promise of the book’s somewhat misleading subtitle.

Fifteen years postmenopause, I haven’t felt like my premenopausal self again. Nor do I hope to. Now that I’ve settled into this more seasoned, serene version of myself, I’m grateful for the blend of physical, experiential and spiritual factors that have brought me to where I’ve landed. As Dunn writes on the last page of her skillfully reported, well-intentioned book, quoting Alice Walker, menopause (and, even more so, IMHO, postmenopause) is “a time of extremely high power and shapeshifting.”

A woman of any age would do well to take Dunn’s closing advice. “Learn everything you can about menopause, share your experience with others, seek treatment if you need it, and refrain from freaking out.”

Meredith Maran is a journalist, critic and the author of “The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention,” among other books.

Hot and Bothered: What No One Tells You About Menopause and How to Feel Like Yourself Again

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