July 31, 2000 -- Donald Smith hesitates outside the door of a basement
classroom at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in San Diego, Calif. He's 56, with
gray hair, but the anxious expression on his face makes him look like a school
kid who forgot his homework.
Before Smith has time to fake a stomach ache, Bruce Bekkar, MD, a Kaiser
obstetrician-gynecologist, persuades him to come on in. "You're in the
right place," says Bekkar, who teaches the class called "PMS, the
Menopause, and You."
You were so good all week. But then you snuck a doughnut ... and then
another. To get back on track quickly, start here.
There's that dreaded point in every diet — for me, it's after the first 10
pounds — when you start to slack off a little. You skip lunch one Saturday, and
later that night at a restaurant with your husband,...
This three-hour crash course for men about women's anatomy and health
concerns is believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States,
although Bekkar hopes it will become a trend. His premise is straightforward:
Teach men to understand why their wives or girlfriends may sometimes feel
crabby, bloated, or on fire. By doing so, relationships are saved, and often
grow stronger. Trouble brews, he says, when guys don't understand what their
wives or girlfriends are going through.
Soon, Smith is sitting in the classroom, surrounded by 13 other men, most of
whom look as uncomfortable as he does. They busy themselves reading handouts,
eyes glued to the printed materials. Bekkar, who has taught the classes monthly
for two years and always has a full house, warms them up quickly with his easy
lecture style, punctuated by jokes, jazzy slides, and a wit honed by his
stand-up stint at a San Diego comedy club. As he teaches the men, women attend
a similar class next door to discuss their own concerns about PMS and
menopause. Some of them are the girlfriends and wives of the guys in the
While most of the men are here because their partners asked them to come,
about a third came to the class even though their wives didn't. James, 50,
became concerned a few months ago when his wife Jan showed signs of unusual
behavior. Three times in six months she forgot to mail the credit card bill.
"Never in her life has this happened," he says. She was feeling
stressed-out and out of control. When his wife's friend suggested it could be
menopause, James decided to come and get educated.