You recently released your first book, Who Stole My Spandex?: Life in the Hot Flash Lane. Tell us more about this collection of stories and what inspired you to write it…
Whenever I related a family story to friends or relatives about the strange antics occurring in my home, their first comment was usually, “Did you write it down? You have to share this!” I did record some of the funnier stories in a spiral notebook, but they remained neglected under my bed for years with a growing colony of dust bunnies. My parents and my sister were very supportive of my writing and urged me to put together a book, but I was too busy raising four children and running a business out of my home. I put off the project until eight years ago when I lost both my father and my sister unexpectedly. The best way to honor their memory was to complete the task I’d promised them. Spandex was written for them, and for my children, to help preserve the memories of our family for generations to come.
What are some of the midlife challenges you tackle head on in your book, and how can humor help us get through these?
I’ve addressed many of the symptoms of middle age, particularly those that occur during the menopausal years. Weight gain, fatigue, moodiness, depression, hot flashes, night sweats, erratic menstrual cycles, raging hormones (which are heightened when the coffee maker is empty), wrinkles, and saggy elephant skin, just to name a few, and how all of these symptoms affect our daily lives. But I add a humorous spin by concentrating on the positive side of getting older (you’re one step closer to getting all those great AARP discounts, to being able to retire, and to buy your dream RV to explore the countryside with your spouse. No more P.T.A. meetings or bake sales—just quality time with your partner and a nice glass or two of wine).
By making light of the challenges we face in midlife, Spandex is reminder that we’re in this phase together, and that life is too short to take too seriously. The stories I share create a sense of camaraderie among women in particular, and help them realize we’re all in this crazy midlife/menopause thing together. Humor is essential in helping lessen the severity of the situation. The way I see it, you have two choices; you can either laugh or cry about the aging process, and I prefer to laugh.
How is midlife also a time of opportunity for women?
Midlife is the perfect time for self-discovery since most of us are beyond the stage of raising younger children and having schedules dictated by carpools, band practice, and last minute science projects for school. We have more time now to ourselves to do all the fun things we put off when our children needed us 24/7. Even better, once we hit our mid fifties, we’re on the brink of having an empty nest and being able to enjoy retirement.
I also view middle age as a time of enlightenment because we become more in tune with what our bodies need at this stage (better supplements, more rest at night, and an active lifestyle to stay in shape). We spend less time worrying about our appearance and we’re kinder to ourselves, because we’ve come to the realization that it’s okay to not have the same figure or face that we did in our twenties. We accept ourselves for who we are, which is incredibly freeing, and we value the quality of life more now that the days are getting shorter.
We get to know your “wacky” family very well as we read your stories. How do they feel about your candor?
At first they were mortified by the personal stories I was making very public in my book—particularly those that dealt with bathroom mishaps and problems at school. But once they saw the positive feedback I was receiving and the belly laughs that their antics provided for my readers, they understood why I needed to share their stories with the world. Of course there are still a few more stories I’d love to tell, but I’m sworn to secrecy—because they can blackmail me at any moment with some unsavory tales of their own about me (and they have the cell phone photos to back it up).
You also get a little more serious in some of your stories. Was that a challenge?
I was absolutely terrified of sharing some of the more difficult moments of my life. I’m known as a humorist and comedy is what people expect when they read my blog, Menopausal Mother, and my book. But after my first year with the Menopausal Mother blog, I was accused of not being “real” in my writing, of hiding behind humor because I lacked the courage to open a vein and write something that was painfully personal. I accepted that challenge and shared the story of my infant son’s death.
I remember hitting the “publish” button on my blog after writing it, and then logging out as quickly as possible because I was too nervous to see the reaction of my readers. Several hours passed before I checked into my blog site, and I was astounded by the positive feedback. More importantly, I realized that my story had touched the hearts of many of my readers and helped other mothers who had been quietly dealing with their own grief. They were relieved to see that they were not alone, and several shared their stories of loss in the comment section of my blog. This alone moved me to tears and made me realize the power of the written word. From that point on, I started sharing more personal slices of my life in the hopes that I might be able to help others suffering from similar circumstances.
What are some of your favorite resources for women in midlife?
My biggest inspiration for midlife humor comes from Erma Bombeck. I’ve read every one of her books multiple times, especially when I’m in need of a good laugh. Two of my personal favorites are At Wit’s End and If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?
I also enjoy the writing of Jenna McCarthy (I’ve Still Got It…I Just Can’t Remember Where I Put It: Awkwardly True Tales from the Far Side of Forty), Jen Lancaster (I Regret Nothing: A Memoir), Gina Barreca (“If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?”: Questions and Thoughts for Loud, Smart Women in Turbulent Times), Elaine Ambrose (Midlife Cabernet: Life, Love & Laughter After Fifty), Jenny Lawson (Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things), and far too many other authors to name.
I also spend a lot of time reading the midlife humor blogs of several writer friends who always inspire me. Again, there are too many to mention here, but off the top of my head, I’d say the ones I read the most are the writers I’ve become closest to this past year. We all share a similar style of writing and the same, quirky sense of humor. Some of these writers would include: Vikki Claflin (Laugh Lines), Anne Bardsley (annebardsley.com), Kimberly Dalferes (The Middle-Aged Cheap Seats), Linda Roy (Elleroy Was Here), Parri Sontag (Her Royal Thighness), and Stacey Gustafson (staceygustafson.com).
Contact Marcia Kester Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marcia Kester Doyle is the international best selling author of the humor book,Who Stole My Spandex?: Life in the Hot Flash Lane and the voice behind the popular midlife blog, Menopausal Mother. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, The Huffington Post, Purple Clover, and Scary Mommy, among others. Marcia lives in sunny south Florida and is a married mother of four adult children, grandmother to one feisty granddaughter, and the owner of two mischievous pugs.