We open on a crowded pharmacy. Think… gray, flickering fluorescent shampoo aisles, a line of twenty-odd restless customers all staring down at their phones, the 80s band Air Supply crooning mournfully overhead “I’m all out of love. I’m so lost without you…” right as the pimply checkout guy announces over the PA system, “ALISA JONES, your VAGINAL ATROPHY cream is ready for pickup!”
Good God! Did that pastey little twat just call me a dried-up old c*nt in front of all these people?
OK, think fast, Jonesy, best to take this in the other direction, so I say to no one/everyone in particular, “Yep! That’s me, at 43, my virginity is back with a vengeance… And this time, NO is her final answer,” which elicits a few hearty guffaws. “Thanks…” I squint at the checkout guy’s name tag, “Thanks so much, Brian.” And I take the goods.
It’s not like it was any better earlier at the OB/GYN. With my regular out on maternity leave, I was stuck with her backup, an elderly gentleman physician who is about as dusty as my va-jay-jay.
So there I am, feet in the stirrups, and he’s not saying a word. I could have explained things over the phone. So, I finally say it: “Look, it’s basically the Sahara down there. Lawrence of Arabia could come trotting out at any time…”
He chuckles. Still says nothing.
"Except, he’d have to be quite a pint-sized Lawrence as my vagina feels like it’s shrunk to the size of a Polly Pocket pencil skirt." But Dr. Blah-Blah-Blah doesn’t even know who Polly Pocket is.
“Is intercourse painful?” he asks. And I realize, they really can’t just say “sex" can they?
“Oh, no one’s getting in there… Not without a superyacht full of KY. Yeah, it’s pretty ouchy. But given I’m also having torrential night sweats, non-stop hormonal acne, and hot flashes, I’m not exactly at my most alluring?”
“Well, it’s just menopause,” he says unhelpfully. "I’ll prescribe something." I hear the snap of the latex gloves coming off. "You can get dressed.” And that was it.
Which is how I ended up in the pharmacy admitting to a room full of people that my virginity was back to the soundtrack of an 80s power ballad. But what really makes me mad is that this whole mortifying situation could have been avoided.
After doing some digging online and reading other women’s stories, I learned that most OB/GYN’s have less than four hours of training in treating peri/menopause symptoms during their entire time in medical school. It’s no wonder he’d had so little to say!
I stumbled upon specialist women’s peri/menopause healthcare provider Winona. Within a few minutes, I completed their questionnaire; the next day I took part in a telemedicine appointment with an actual doctor where I was able to ask all of my questions about common symptoms, potential medication interactions, allergies, etc. Together, we came up with a plan, and then within three days I had my treatment pack — which included the very same vag cream I’d been publicly shamed for, arriving discreetly on my doorstep — no dismissive doctors, no lines to wait in, and, best of all, NO humiliating pharmacy confessions required.
Within three weeks, things down there were pretty much back to normal, i.e., temperate conditions. No more agonizingly dry Sahara! And the Polly Pockets pencil skirt situation definitely had a little more give now. I did a quick check-in appointment with the Winona doctor to adjust my dosage slightly and that cleared up my stubborn hormonal acne. It was like… suddenly, I was a functioning person again, lol.
To be clear, I still go to my original woman OB/GYN whom I love and have been with for years for all my regular visits. But for the perimenopause treatment, the best part was I didn’t have to go back to the pharmacy. I set up an auto-refill plan, and it was one less thing to worry about as I figure out this next big phase of my life and realize that it’s not the end. If anything, I feel like I’m just getting started.
Alisa Kennedy Jones is the mom of two daughters, an author, a screenwriter, and EIC of The Empress, a cultish weekly newsletter dedicated to obsessively curating a less hellish peri/menopause for women everywhere and heads the Wise AF campaign. Her next book THE EMPRESS AGE: Awakening Women’s Wisdom at Midlife to Live Rule Your Best Life is due out in 2024.