After you hit your mid-to-late forties, there are certain things you cannot survive without, and many of these items come from your local pharmacy. I’m already on a first-name basis with everyone who works at my drugstore, and judging by the contents in my cart, they know exactly what ails me. There are no secrets there; the pharmacist knows if I have callused feet, achy muscles, or a dry mouth. The clerks also know what’s up when I’m standing in line with a box of tampons, a bottle of aspirin, and a party pack size of potato chips meant to feed a family of six (when they’re really just for me—no, I’m not sharing). So don’t be embarrassed if your cart full of medicines looks like you’re stocking up for a drug deal. Instead, tell the check-out clerk that you’re hosting a party in the geriatric wing of the hospital.

Here are 15 essential items every woman needs to survive the midlife years:

1. Reading Glasses. Face it; you’ve been squinting at text messages and emails for quite a while now and find it nearly impossible to read instruction manuals like the one that came with your Ikea wall unit. It’s time to buy a pair (or three, because you will misplace them everywhere you go) of glasses. While they won’t help you construct an 856-piece wall unit, they will help you decipher legit emails from the spammy ones that offer a free trial on medication for erectile dysfunction.

2. Heating Pad. You might have overdone it in yoga class while trying to prove that you can contort yourself into the “tripod headstand lotus legs pose” like the millennials around you. Is it any wonder why your back hurts? Time to put your pride aside and buy the heating pad.

3. Makeup. A little mascara and lip gloss go a long way to enhance your appearance. However, what you REALLY need is a decent foundation and undereye concealer. Why? Because once you reach your 49th birthday, weird age spots will speckle your face like a Dalmation’s skin, not to mention the dark circles that will ring your eyes from perimenopausal fatigue. If you choose to stay au natural, don’t be surprised if you’re mistaken for a Panda Bear in a cheetah print coat.

4. Hair Dye: It started out as one lone, grey hair at the top of your head. But suddenly, those greys turned white and multiplied faster than a hamster in heat. Before you knew it, your entire head looked like a cotton swab. The big question is whether or not to go blonde, brunette, or lilac.

5. Feminine Hygiene Pads: Two things are happening with your body at this age; irregular periods and a leaky bladder. The menses will appear at the most inopportune moments—like when you’re chaperoning your middle schooler’s camping trip in the middle of nowhere. And your bladder will take its revenge every time you laugh, cough, sneeze, or jump on a trampoline.

6. Lotion: Your skin naturally loses collagen as you age, becoming as dry and scaly as an armadillo’s shell. To prevent your skin from looking like a potato left in the microwave for too long, you’ll need a barrage of special creams to treat wrinkles, dry patches, forehead furrows, spider veins, and, yes, even the cracked heels of your feet.

7. Pain Relievers & Anti-inflammatories: Sometime between the age of 45 and 55, it becomes a little more challenging to get out of bed in the morning. You’ll experience odd muscle stiffness, lower back aches, and mysterious joint pain, even though you did nothing more strenuous the night before than flip over in your sleep. So the next time your grandkids ask you to participate in a wild game of Twister, pop some anti-inflammatory meds and join the fun!

8. Chafing Relief Powder: There are tender areas of skin on your body that will turn as raw and red as a side of roast beef when you jog, ride a bike, or walk to the corner store (especially when it’s 95 degrees outside). These chafed patches appear in the groin, thighs, underarms, and breasts when friction occurs between folds of skin in tight fabric. Sometimes it might feel as if someone lit a match under your bum. Still, you can easily remedy the situation by liberally coating your body with chafing relief powder. When you’re done, your bathroom may look like an exploded snow globe, but it’ll be worth it the next time you wear tight denim shorts at a summer barbeque.

9. Fiber Supplements: Speaking of explosions, your body tends to store more fat at this age, and with this bodily hoarding comes constipation. Like your frequent mood swings, your bowels also become irritable and may require a little plumbing job in the form of fiber pills to get things moving.

10. Lubricants: Remember when you were a kid sliding down a long slide and your bare legs stuck to the hot, dry metal? The same will happen if you attempt intimacy with your partner and forget to use a lubricant.

11. Multivitamins: Some of your giddyap-and-go might be gone at this stage of life. That horse has already left the stables, and now you always feel exhausted. In that case, you should consider a daily dose of vitamins instead of getting an intravenous feed installed from your coffee pot to your arm.

12. Extra Strength Deodorant: All those shifting hormones are wreaking havoc on your body. With the “change of life” comes a change of bodily smells. You might notice a pungent odor when you sweat that smells a lot like your high school gym locker room did during P.E. Do yourself (and everyone standing near you) a favor and buy the extra strength deodorant.

13. Lip Balm: Just like the rest of your skin, your lips are also drying up, especially if you sleep under multiple fans while experiencing night sweats. You’ll need to keep your lips moisturized with a balm, or else they will shed like a snake’s skin when he’s sloughing off parasites.

14. Wet Wipes: Spontaneous bursts of body heat (also known as hot flashes) will cause the makeup you carefully applied to run in rivulets down your face. Keep a packet of wet wipes in your purse for melting makeup emergencies—unless you don’t mind sporting black-ringed eyes like a panda bear.

15. Chocolate. Science has proven what women have already known for centuries—that chocolate triggers endorphins that provide feelings of pleasure and happiness. It’s comfort food at its finest that effectively reduces stress and depression—something every female needs during her perimenopausal years. So ignore the calorie count in that Snickers Bar and consider the chocolate a supplement to supplement your other supplements!

Author Bio: Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of Who Stole My Spandex? Life In The Hot Flash Lane and the voice behind the midlife blog, Menopausal Mother. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Independent, U.S.A. Today/Reviewed, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, AARP, Woman’s Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, and many others. You can find her at http://www. marciakesterdoyle.com 

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