Graying hair, growing gut? Don't you worry about it

The Baltimore Sun

Here's something to look forward to: The older we get, the more eligible we are to participate in clinical trials. These helpful research studies frequently include free evaluations, medications and follow-up visits.

You really can't open a newspaper without seeing an advertisement for one of these programs. They make us acutely aware of the fact that a lot of stuff could be seriously wrong with us. We might be on a fast track to a highly undesirable condition! And yet, these recruitment ads often feature a benignly phrased question as a headline.

"Are you over forty with high cholesterol?"

"Do you suffer from mood swings?"

"Do you think I Love Lucy reruns are just as funny as Scrubs?"

Just making sure you are paying attention with that last one.

At any rate, these programs usually do not entice me to register; but maybe that's because I haven't ever quite fit the symptoms checklist.

Now, if I were to come across the following headline, it would be a different story: "Do you need to check the school directory before attending community functions in order to remember the names of your children's friends' parents?"

Sign me up! At least I'll be participating with a bunch of people who won't expect me to know their names. Every week, we'll all get together and be perfectly content with the generic, elongated "Heyyyyy!" followed by "How ya doin'?"

At any rate, my philosophy is this: We are all on a fast track to the ultimate undesirable condition -- lets call it "the big D." And that doesn't stand for "denial" of the fact that our time here is finite. So we should basically try to cram in as much joy as we can, and if we derive joy from participating in research studies that benefit the scientific community, well, so be it.

It was with this mindset that I turned the pages of the newspaper last week, and was taken aback to see this study ad headline: "Seeking Overweight Postmenopausal Women."

Pardon me, but this is supposed to attract subjects? Well, raise your hand, everybody out there who's fat and cranky! Step forward if you're short-tempered and prematurely grey! And let's hear from those of you who have brittle bones and are perpetually irritated!

Face it -- it would take a lot of guts to respond to that ad. I'm not in the subject group -- yet -- but I can see how it might be just around the bend for me. I tried to imagine the exchange if I called the number.

Receptionist: "Hello, University Research, can I help you?"

Me: "Hello! I'm Janet Gilbert, and, um..."

Receptionist: "How can I help you?"

Me: "Well, I'm responding to your ad..."

Receptionist: "We run a number of ads..."

Me: "Look, I'm past menopause, OK? So I'm fine with cutting out the chit-chat, but the thing is, I've put a little extra weight on, and I'm not feeling too good about myself right now. So try to be a little patient, will you?"

Receptionist: "I'll put you through to the Overweight Postmenopausal Women Study." Click.

The study offers three months of yoga training and nutrition classes. Clearly, I would need that, as a minimum, to recover from the stress of the phone call just to sign up.

Something about the combination of the words "overweight" and "postmenopausal," in an ad designed to attract me as a customer really irks me. Is this what's ahead? Apparently my years of determination to stay on the sunny side of life cannot prevent me from the final detour, the single road that leads to the Golden Girls.

So who's with me? Let's charge ahead, in spite of our increased girth and decreased youthful hormones. A legion of us, more courageous than Mel Gibson in the final scene of Braveheart, facing the unknown with our multiple chins up.

Study that, baby.

Contact Janet at

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