What are your hobbies?
1) Going to school! I’ll study anything.
2) Learning languages, specifically by going to a language school for a semi-immersion program (I can conduct my life in English, French, and Spanish). I studied Mandarin while living in Malaysia … but I can’t communicate at all in that language.
3) Singing classical music in a choir. Symphony choirs are the best fit for me.
4) Playing the piano
5) Reading … but only when I’m on a cardio machine (treadmill, elliptical, stair master)
7) Working out
8) Writing articles about living abroad
9) Crafting the collection of articles about living abroad into a book for each year
10) Playing Scrabble
11) Putting together jigsaw puzzles
12) Spending quality social time with my friends
13) And, of course, teaching (but I guess you’d call that more of a passion, along with performing surgery)
What other degrees do you have?
I’m a nerd. I believe that the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know. I love being a student and can’t stay away from school. When I was practicing medicine full time, I’d sit in Labor and Delivery for long periods of time waiting to deliver babies. I realized I could be using that time to accomplish something, so I enrolled in business school part time and earned an MBA on the weekends over a two-year period of time. Before I finished that, I decided law school would be fun, so I took the LSAT and enrolled in law school part time. I finished law school in four years.
I’ve never practiced law because I don’t like the delayed gratification involved. And I’m much too honest to be a good lawyer. I never intended to have any other profession than the one I already had. Of course, I never intended to leave that one, either.
So, I have an M.B.A and a law degree in addition to my medical degree.
When we lived in France, I went to French school for four hours a day for a year. And when we lived in Spain, I went to Spanish school. I look for a school no matter where I live, and no matter what the subject.
What about your exercise regimen?
I’m a gym rat. I go to the gym first thing every morning. It’s a lifeline for my arthritis, a stress reducer for life, and a “bar” for my social interactions. Because we move to a different country each year and don’t know a soul when we first arrive, the gym serves as a place where I meet other health-oriented people and make friends.
Of course, because of my arthritis, I can’t do the kind of exercise that most people do. I never do anything that involves impact. I don’t lift heavy weights. And I don’t move quickly. I do a lot of balance and flexibility exercises, including yoga. I make up a lot of my exercises, and I enjoy the physical creativity entailed in creating new exercises. I’ll be doing some exercise videos to show you some of my moves.
Do you follow a special diet?
I do! I’m vegan. But not for the typical reasons.
When I was 16, I did research at Tulane Medical School over the summer. I was curious about veganism, so I decided to try it for two weeks. Before that, I’d eat one T-bone steak and have a second! But I felt so much better on a vegan diet that I never went back to eating animal products. So, I’ve been vegan for over 40 years!
I don’t have any problem dining with meat eaters, and I’ll even cook and serve meat to others (not that I’m much of a cook). And I do wear fur from time to time (especially when it’s really cold), because cold and my arthritis do not agree.
I tell carnivores, “You eat your meat; I wear mine.”
I don’t judge other people’s diets, and I don’t think being vegetarian or vegan is for everyone. Each person should find the diet that works best for him or her.
Why are you no longer practicing medicine?
I knew I wanted to be a surgeon when I was five years old. And it’s all I ever wanted. I didn’t care about marriage or having children, or any of the things most people care about. I’ve always been a huge nerd.
I structured my entire life around my goal of becoming a surgeon. I made straight As, received a scholarship to Rice University, and then went to Baylor College of Medicine, both in Houston, Texas. From there, I did my residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, also at Baylor College of Medicine, and after that started my practice there.
I had my dream life. I was happy.
My practice was extremely successful, and I prided myself on taking the time to explain things to my patients in a language they could understand. Life couldn’t have been better.
Then, when I was 41, I was diagnosed with a painful form of osteoarthritis in my hands, spine, hips, knees, and toes. Within a year of my diagnosis, my body let me know that there was no way I could continue doing the surgical procedures or living the lifestyle I loved.
In July 2001, I sold my solo practice and retired.
It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Still is.
My Menopause Barbie video tutorial series is my way of doing what I love in a manner that agrees with my arthritis. If these tutorials help you, I’ll feel that the tragedy of my retirement hasn’t obliterated my ability to do at least some of what matters to me the most … take care of my patients.
What kind of jewelry do you wear?
Michal Negrin, pretty exclusively.
Who’s your favorite clothes designer?
Michal Negrin in general, but I don’t really have a clothes line that I wear exclusively. I don’t wear any of the famous name brands.
Where do you buy your clothes?
Ugh! Wherever I can find them. My style isn’t easy to find, so I just pick up pieces here and there when I spot them. France and Monaco have more of my style than anywhere else I’ve lived.
Often, I come across a really great garment tucked away on a clothing rack, on sale … because no one wants it (but me, of course). I get a lot of really great deals.
I don’t “go shopping.” I leave my discoveries to fate.
There are a couple of websites and catalogue companies that are right up my alley, and I check them from time to time. My favorite catalogue company is Victorian Trading Company. I especially like their Hopeless Romantic line.
Another favorite is Michal Negrin. I love her jewelry because it’s so dainty and pretty. And her clothes are lovely. The Michal Negrin look isn’t for everyone, and I like that!
I love to sew, so I make some garments and embellish others.
What’s with the Victorian vintage clothing you wear?
When I had my 50th birthday, I decided that it was time to rethink my wardrobe. I didn’t want to look like a post-menopausal woman, and it wasn’t like menopause was anything new for me. I’d been menopausal since the age of 34.
Still, I think it’s a time to consider changing our look a bit.
So, given the fact that I’ve always been a clothes freak, and I’ve always been very girly, I chose a feminine, dainty look. I wanted to show less skin and refrain from trying to look “sexy.” My solution was to wear the things I’ve always loved most … lacy, frilly, pretty things. And I think the Victorian vintage look is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
I also like being unique. I’ve never been a conformist, so my style of clothing now is no more in keeping with what everyone else wears than it ever was.
Comfort was also important to me. I find my soft, light garments a lot more comfortable than jeans and belts.
My wardrobe is 100% Victorian vintage. I don’t own a single pair of pants (except the Lululemons I wear during long flights). I wear leggings with a lacy dress every day. There’s really nothing special about my garments. They aren’t expensive and I haven’t a single designer item.
Since I hate the sun, I always wear a long coat, a hat, and gloves. I look like a bee-keeper.
What skin products do you use?
People ask me how I take care of my skin all the time. It’s an awkward question because I know they’re expecting me to tell them about some magical remedy. But the truth is I do very little for my skin.
I wash my face after my morning workout every day. And that’s the only time I wash it. Since I don’t wear makeup, I’m just too lazy at night to wash it a second time. (I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this.)
I use the product line Obagi at times. But I commonly use Cetaphil that I buy from the drug store.
That’s about it. Pretty anticlimactic, isn’t it!
Is that your real hair?
God yes! Do you think I’d buy something that looks like this? It’s naturally curly, and every hairdresser’s nightmare.
Every time I see another woman with curly hair, I ask her, “So, when did you stop fighting your hair?” That results in gales of laughter for both of us. You see, all women with curly hair have the same story: We spend about half our lives fighting our hair until, one day, we realize it’s a fight we’ll never win and we give up.
Curly hair is a completely different animal. And caring for it is a completely different process. I only wash it twice a week. I don’t even own a brush. (How in the world would I ever get a brush through it? It would get stuck like Velcro and I’d have to cut it out of my hair!) I have one very wide tooth comb that I only use in the shower when there’s conditioner in my hair. I put in loads of conditioner and leave it in. That’s it … my entire hair-care plan.
I don’t color my hair, comb my hair, or straighten my hair. Mostly, I neglect it. I had the ends trimmed for the first time in December 2015 … my first hair salon appointment in 25 years! Like I said, I’m a hairdresser’s nightmare.
Are you menopausal yourself?
Yes. I am an example of premature surgical menopause. I had my ovaries removed when I was 34. That means I’ve been menopausal since 1994.
How old are you, Menopause Barbie?
57, born in April 1959. Actually, I was born one month after the Mattel delivered the Barbie Doll to the world. Strange, isn’t it!