Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
Part two of a three part series; interview with Pammie O'Bannon of Menopause the Musical"
“We help breakdown social barriers.”
For some women, menopause is just too difficult an experience; they believe that there is no possible way to find any humor amidst the horrible symptoms. O’Bannon notes that throughout the years, some women have to be dragged to shows by their friends. In the end, these initially reluctant women are generally glad that they went. “I have heard over and over from women who told us how they were dragged to the show by a friend and were rewarded in a very real way by leaving the theatre feeling a sense of relief.”
O’Bannon shares that her own menopausal experience was nothing like some of the stories she hears from other women. “For some women, menopause is a terrible time and they are too traumatized by what is happening to their minds and bodies. We never pretend that we are going to transform lives, but we do in a sense help break down social barriers. It’s very rewarding when women tell us that for the first time, they were able to laugh and they were able to feel a little hopeful.”
“Men do love it!” - “That’s you!”
What about the men? Yes, men do attend ‘Menopause the Musical’ in larger numbers than you might think. Granted many of them have been brought kicking and screaming by their wives or life partners. “At the beginning of the play, the men sit there pretty much with their arms crossed; men are firmly determined that they are going to have a miserable time. But throughout the show, men see that the women on stage are the women in their lives. We see them pointing out to their beloved spouses with a heartfelt ‘that’s you!’ as these men loosen up during the show.”
Men also get a chance to laugh since after all men are living with menopause. True, they cannot possibly understand what women are going through personally. But the men certainly witness their fair share of inexplicable behavior and are reminded of their own aging. Often we women are just as baffled by it all as the men are. Men can feel safe laughing with their women, and not at them, in an safe environment that says to us that we’re all getting older whether we like it or not and like it or not we are all in this together.
“It’s ok to be exactly who we are; it’s ok to be exactly what we are.”
‘Menopause the Musical’ set out to share a few laughs, but never really planned on having a hand in helping to change society’s attitudes towards menopause. Yet the play has accomplished much during a nearly decade long run which shows no signs in slowing down. “We hope our audience members come away with a feeling of acceptance and celebration of being a woman who is in menopause, not a menopausal woman. Women need to know that at any stage of live, we can lead vibrant and fulfilling lives. Look at how much we can contribute!”
O’Bannon’s personal and professional message is one of hope; that we can get through menopause and come out better than ever. Women no longer need to apologize about menopause, “It is ok to be exactly who we are; it’s ok to be exactly what we are.”
Attending a play will not magically ease menopausal suffering or completely erase any feelings associated with grieving for our youthful years. ‘Menopause the Musical’ aims to entertain us and get us laughing. But it does much more than that. With positive messages about menopause being few and far between, ‘Menopause the Musical’ is a most welcome change that puts some measure of control back into women’s lives. Compared to the corny jokes of the past where (mostly male) comedians bemoaned women and ‘the change’ this play gives women the opportunity for menopause, not women, as the chuckle target.