|"Something from the pharmaceutical cart?"|
"Hormones rock!" - an American friend who's almost French
"2/3 of the French women who are premenopausal are on hormone therapy." - woman pharmacist
"Stop hitting yourself over the head with a hammer!" - French doctor at the American Hospital
Even though the first two comments provided me with strong clues as to how the French feel about hormone therapy, I was still baffled by the emergency room doctor's response to my question about the need for iron supplements after a particularly long menstrual cycle. When I asked him to clarify, he demanded, "Why would you put a helmet on your head when you could simply stop hitting yourself with a hammer!" Talk about complicated analogies! Apparently, iron supplements would be completely unnecessary if I simply popped the right pill. Why would I let the possible risk of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer or blood clots stop me from doing the sensible thing?
Being more accustomed to the Swiss approach that encourages women to manage premenopausal symptoms with natural methods, like herbal remedies and acupuncture, before resorting to hormone therapy, I would have been caught completely off guard by the French philosophy if I hadn't just read the following on "Les Médicaments" in A Certain...Je Ne Sais Quoi: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting, and Shrugging like the French:
If you were suddenly transported into an unknown office and told to determine whether the office was in Britain or in France, all you would have to do would be to open the top desk drawer. If you found a newspaper, cycle light with a flat battery, some peppermints or a couple of digestive biscuits, you could be sure the office was British. If, on the other hand, you found at least two sorts of medicine, it would be clear that you were in France.
The French take a lot of médicaments - medicines - and they very often take them at lunchtime. And they don't do it discretely. If there are pills to be taken they will produce a selection of blister packs, ostentatiously pop out pills and capsules and then loudly swallow them. There is rarely any attempt to hide the name of the drug on the packaging. In any case, this would be a waste of time because you are always treated to some kind of explanation such as "Je dois prendre mes antibiotiques" - I have to take my antibiotics.
But if you want to look really French at mealtimes, taking a few antibiotics won't be enough. You have to produce a glass phial or two. Medicines in little glass tubes are relatively unknown in Britain. In France, they are everywhere. Assuming that you are having lunch with someone who is over forty, the chances of being treated to the glass phial show are high....
I guess that this penchant for popping pills partially explains why French women are the largest consumers of anti-depressants in Europe but does it also explain why French people have one of the longest life expectancy rates in the world? According to a CIA report, they're ranked #14, while Switzerland is #17, New Zealand #25, UK #30 and the USA #50. But what I really want to know is why the Aussies live so much longer than the rest of us. Is it the barbecues and beaches? They're ranked #9.