Chances are that you, like so many of us in the '90s, are growing older. If so, you'll want to pay close attention to an alarming issue that has been raised by alert reader Jeri Lawrenz, who lives in Lodi, Wis. (actual civic slogan: "Home of Susie the Duck").

Jeri sent in a brief item from the Wisconsin State Journal, which states:

"Baby boomers, menopause approaches. There are more than 35 million women over age 50 in this country, and that number is expected to top 50 million by 2010, when more women will be experiencing menopause than at any time in history."

Most of us, upon reading this item, would probably have made some remark such as "Huh," then moved on to something that seemed more newsworthy, such as the lengthy feature on Madonna that all U.S. newspapers are required by law to print every day. But Jeri Lawrenz is not "most of us." She took the time to discuss this item with her husband, Leon, who had an alarming thought. As Jeri explains it:

"Leon's concern is: Somewhere between now and 2010, when all these women (including myself) begin having 'hot flashes,' what effect this will have on global warming, melting the polar ice cap, the greenhouse effect, etc. He doesn't think they should print these little 'news' items without further explanation or facts. Perhaps you can research this article and put my husband's mind at ease."

It just so happens that the main reason I got into the newspaper business, aside from the fact that the dress code permits -- even encourages -- mayonnaise stains, is that I like to do in-depth research. Sparing no expense, I began my investigation by contacting Doris, the office manager where I work, who knows everything. Doris immediately confirmed that menopause could cause global warming. She said that she, personally, became so warm on occasion that she could have converted either polar ice cap to steam.

This seemed fairly conclusive, but with a story of this magnitude, top journalists such as myself and Bob Woodward like to have two reliable sources. So I called my wife and explained Leon's theory to her, and she explained it to the man who is fixing up our bedroom closets, and he said, quote, "My wife is going through it now, and believe me it's not pretty."

So we seem to have an overwhelming load of evidence pointing to the conclusion that hot flashes emitted by millions of baby boom women entering menopause will indeed cause the polar ice caps to melt by the year 2010. This must be true, because you're reading it in a newspaper. Also it just occurred to me that there will be increasing amounts of chemicals in the atmosphere caused by millions of baby boom men using epoxy-based hair spray to hold their few remaining hairs in place over their expanding bald spots, which have already reached the same combined total acreage as Wyoming.

So we are forced to conclude that the Earth is at peril. You should write to your elected representatives and demand that congressional hearings be held by the Senate Special Subcommittee on Hormone Concerns, chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy. If enough of us are willing to "get involved," this issue could wind up costing millions of tax dollars, including a large federal grant for Leon.

And while we're talking about aging, I'd like to address the topic of: How to Pay Compliments as the General Population Gets Older. Our role model here is a man named Ray who works in my office. Recently, a very attractive writer named Marjorie, who's 50 but looks like she's in her 30s, came into the office after a long absence, and Ray, in a sincere effort to let her know how good she looked, said, quote: "Marjorie! Have you had plastic surgery?"

Marjorie was so flattered that she was unable to speak for several minutes. And no wonder. In analyzing Ray's thoughtful compliment, we can see that it is nearly perfect, the only possible flaw being the part that comes after "Marjorie!" Ray probably would have been wiser to substitute another ending. For example, he could have said:

"Marjorie! The capital of Kansas is Topeka!"

Or: "Marjorie! Certain squids attain a length of 230 feet!"

Of course men like to be flattered, too. A good example of a thoughtful compliment for an aging male is: "Bob! You did a nice job of evenly spacing your 17 strands of hair across the top of your head!"

Yes, sensitivity will be the key as we all continue to grow older at an increasingly high rate of speed. Sensitivity, awareness and understanding. And powerful air conditioning. *

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