Menopausal Whales

“The fact that only human women, some whales, and a Japanese aphid have a lifespan that is significantly longer than their fertility span has been an evolutionary mystery.” Carol Tavris, WSJ

Let me get this straight. Human women, a few species of whales, and a lady aphid: we are the only creatures on the planet that live a long time after we can’t have babies any more. 

Speaking of menopause, I want to see this Japanese aphid have a hot flash. I bet she lights up like a firefly. But I bet female whales are more likely to sit around with a glass of wine and talk to me about it — them being mammals like me. Now that I think about it, physicians should offer you a glass of wine when you start talking about middle-age issues, whether it’s menopause or prostate problems, or whatever it is that men talk about with their physicians. Men have this weird idea that these conversations stop at the door of the exam room while women know that you need to process this stuff with your sisters and girlfriends.

As for my ovaries, they’ve been done for a long time. The first time I tried to get pregnant, my ovaries were asleep. We poked them, and they said, “Oh, are we supposed to be doing something?” Thanks to some fertility drugs, they said, “Alright, fine. Here’s an egg.” Nine months later, my son was born. Two years after that, we poked the ovaries again, but they put out a CLOSED FOR BUSINESS sign and fell asleep. We gave up on my ovaries and adopted my daughter.

Fast-forward 15 years, and here I am talking about menopause with whales. I wonder what female whales do with the males in all those years when they don’t need their sperm anymore. I guess they still need male whales to reach jars off of high shelves and to mow the kelp. Not that the female whales can’t mow the kelp. But the male whales need to feel useful.

It’s hard for them when the wife says, “Don’t get frisky with me. I can’t give you any more babies. Besides, haven’t you heard of social distancing? Make yourself useful. Swim down to the drive-thru and get us a pizza before they completely close the restaurants. Anchovies on mine, please.”

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