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Letters: Aug. 12, 2002

7 minute read

The Truth About Hormones

While I’m glad you devoted a lengthy article to hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) [MEDICINE, July 22], I’m saddened that some people characterize hormone replacement as a means for women to maintain their vanity rather than their health. Couldn’t HRT be described without using phrases like “youthful glow” and “dream of eternal youth”? Or am I the only woman in the world who is taking HRT in an attempt to increase my odds of living a healthy life instead of trying to be 29 forever? SARA SNYDER Ann Arbor, Mich.

To take or not to take hormones–is that really the question? I am one of the many women who “like the way they look and feel on the stuff.” Sooner or later, with or without HRT, we are all going to die of one thing or another. So what does it profit a woman to look like a scarecrow, feel like a bitch and live for 100 years? Life is too short to dance with an ugly woman. I’ll take the stuff and dance a little, thank you. MAY AKABOGU-COLLINS Vista, Calif.

The body’s store of estrogen wanes naturally for a reason: as women age, they don’t need the hormone anymore. We will all be grateful when the medical profession does us a big favor and just lets us be natural women. SUE MACDONALD Cincinnati, Ohio

I am a single 47-year-old woman who started hormone-replacement therapy last year because I was in menopausal agony. The hot flashes every 20 minutes, all day, night sweats and the feeling that nothing was smooth prompted me to see my doctor and begin HRT. I take half the recommended dose of Prempro, and I get along wonderfully. I am concerned about what the Women’s Health Initiative study has shown, but for now I will keep taking my little half a pill each day. SARAH J. HEARN Kinsley, Kans.

Maybe baby-boomer women should deal with hot flashes the way my generation did: put up and shut up. MARY L. STEWART Norwalk, Ohio

One of the women quoted in your story implied that she had been too trusting; others hinted that they had been betrayed by “sexist” physicians. Is that true? Up to the present time, the best evidence was that HRT is beneficial to most women. The truth is, we are on uncharted ground. Never before in history have so many women and men lived for so many years. Dilemmas exist today not because physicians have betrayed their patients but because patients and physicians alike are still learning about the many diseases that tend to occur beyond the age of 50. GEORGE RAYMOND TYNDALL, M.D. Los Angeles

I’m 56, and my advice for my menopausal sisters is that we must try to grow old as gracefully as our grandmothers did. Nothing is so aging as self-pity and desperation. Celebrate being alive, and do your best every day to make your life healthy and happy. LEONORE DVORKIN Denver

So women are reluctant to forgo the youthful benefits of hormones. I wonder how men would react if Viagra proved to be more harmful than helpful. JOAN MCINTOSH Norman, Okla.

–Our cover portrait of Miami photojournalist Susan Pierres elicited contradictory reactions, proving that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “Since most of the media treat older women as if they don’t exist, I was amazed and heartened to find a vibrant, beautiful 60-year-old on your cover,” wrote a California woman. “I’m framing this dazzling picture as something to live up to as I near Pierres’ age.” But another Golden State sister was less impressed, declaring that “Pierres has obviously overdosed on Miami sunshine.” A Minnesotan agreed. “Pierres needs to wear sunscreen and a hat, get a new hairdo and then have a more flattering photograph taken.”

Father of Us All?

Finding Toumai Man, the oldest hominid, in Chad [PALEONTOLOGY, July 22] fits in well with the theory of punctuated equilibrium developed by paleontologists Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould. [The theory explains why new species, rather than evolving gradually over millions of years, seem to suddenly appear in the fossil record, punctuating long periods of species stability, or equilibrium.] The Toumai fossil could have been a member of a peripherally isolated community that evolved into our oldest ancestors. You reported that several modern-looking hominids coexisted, and this also jibes with the introduction of members of an isolated community into the larger population. People derided the theory, calling it evolution by jerks. Gould’s famous retort was that the alternative theory is evolution by creeps. DAVID J. MELVIN Chester, N.J.

Although the Chad fossil find is indeed important, as a paleontologist I can assure you I am not scrambling to digest its implications. The traits that Toumai exhibits are what may be expected in a 7 million-year-old ape inhabiting woodlands whose origin predates the human-African ape divergence. The fossil record is far too complete for any one single ape fossil to jar the expectations of any serious paleontologist. ESTEBAN E. SARMIENTO Department of Vertebrate Biology American Museum of Natural History New York City

I found the discovery of Toumai quite interesting, as I have always enjoyed meeting new relatives, no matter how distant. Although this ancestor does not resemble any relatives that I’ve seen before, your artist’s rendition bears a striking resemblance to the storybook monkey Curious George, a childhood favorite. But where does the Man with the Yellow Hat fit into our family tree? JON HERSHEY Akron, Ohio

Musharraf on the Spot

People like Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf have only one thing on their mind: how to survive and stay in power, which Musharraf grabbed in a coup in 1999 [WORLD, July 22]. He nurtured the Taliban in his country until the very last minute. His change of course after Sept. 11 was out of compulsion, not conviction. He had no choice when President Bush gave him an ultimatum. He now depends on American support for his survival. How long will it take the U.S. to understand that with friends like Musharraf, it needs no enemies? AHMED I. FAROOQUE Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Crisis of Confidence

“Summer Of Mistrust,” about the loss of faith in corporate America [NATION, July 22], provided a welcome catharsis by capturing my feelings of anger and despair over the financial scandals. These scheming ceos are nothing less than economic terrorists. They have done more damage to our nation than al-Qaeda could ever have hoped for. RONALD J. LEVIN Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Every segment of U.S. society is crumbling around us. We can’t trust our politicians, we can’t trust our spiritual leaders, we can’t trust our economic leaders, and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Who will be the next to let us down? PAT CAVALLO Baldwinsville, N.Y.

As a small-time investor, I am appalled by what is happening in the stock market because of a few unscrupulous CEOs who lied and cheated. These scoundrels fear most the loss of their liberty and their personal riches. Confidence in our financial markets will be restored when ceos and directors are charged with their crimes, convicted, photographed in shackles and sent to real prison. Convicted executives must also be stripped of their ill-gotten gains. Retrieved monies should be used to reimburse loyal employees who suffered losses in their 401(k) and pension plans because of their bosses’ misdeeds. WILLIAM GOLDSTEIN Boca Raton, Fla.

Cinematic Curry

Bollywood movies, those Indian musical dramas with their unabashed displays of pure feeling, represent something that has been lost in American film [SHOW BUSINESS, July 22]. In the days of silent movies, lovers had to express what they felt in their hearts solely through their eyes and facial expressions. From the 1970s on, a no-acting-please mentality in film has cramped expression of the higher aspects of love. The displays of feeling and sometimes declamatory dramatic style in Indian films may make us squirm and snigger, but maybe we should question our own dysfunction. Perhaps Indian film can inspire us to create epic movies once again that point to the higher possibilities of human nature. JOHN MAXWELL TAYLOR Encinitas, Calif.

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