‘Well you don’t drink and you don’t smoke but you are clearly overweight so that puts you in this risk category’
I am at the doctors and she is showing me a laminated chart to illustrate my increased risk of breast cancer if I take H.R.T. I don’t want to take Hormone Replacement Therapy, its made from the urine of pregnant horses. Who on earth decided that rubbing that on your arm would rebalance your hormones? One of the prescribed H.R.Ts is called Premarin. PREgnant MAres urINe. Christ on a bike!
My menopause has felt like being put on an island of mood swings, a compelling urge to eat doughnuts and punch people. I had a fairly easy ride for the first year, but the last few months has seen my symptoms increase to the point where it feels as though I have descended down a long waterslide into a pool of hot flushes, irritability, forgetfulness, disturbed sleep, anxiety and an overwhelming feeling of ‘old’.
I remember, when my kids were little, joking “..and then the kids will leave home and I’ll be left with the menopause! Thanks Mother Nature!” How we laughed…
Apparently the average age for women to have the menopause in Sheffield is 52. Tick! Bang on target. It happens to half the population, and yet as far as I can see, remains as invisible as childbirth, periods and thigh chaffing. Ew, people don’t want to know about that ‘stuff.’ And yet it happens to women. Every day. All the time.
References to the menopause can be traced back to a brief mention by Aristotle. It was named by a man, a French doctor in 1821: La Menepausie. I wonder what a woman would have called it?
I once read a book called The Red Tent , a biblical novel about menstrual tents and huts where women would go during their periods. Not far off reality when you consider that many religions worldwide prohibit certain physical activities in menstruating women; cooking, intimacy, attending places of worship even requiring women to live separately until it’s all over!
I have been feeling lonely in my menopause journey. I want Germaine Greer to come and scoop me up and tell me that it is not the end of my glory days, but the beginning of a new adventure in my life. One, that doesn’t involve contraception or 5 days out of every month craving mini eggs. Spending all my Boots loyalty points on sanitary protection that depicts menstruation as blue and an ability to still play tennis in white shorts. I want me and Germaine to go for coffee and portuguese tarts, and discuss how women over 50 are invisible in a world where youth and beauty are prized.
Almost half a modern women’s lifestyle lies beyond the transition, yet nothing in her education or her conditioning has prepared her for her new role
Germaine Greer ‘The Change’
There are very few positive representations of women over 50, let alone the menopause. Madonna is scorned and berated by the sneering media for wearing inappropriate clothes for her age. As the vile Piers Morgan said ‘You can’t be 58 and dancing around like that. Put it away!’ as he pretended to be sick in a bucket. It seems that its more acceptable to slip into the background, to morph into Hyacinth Bouquet and start buying housecoats from the catalogues that come through the door once you reach 50. The New York Times described Madonna as living her 50’s with a ‘lack of dignity’.
In a powerful speech at she said:
And finally, do not age, because age is a sin. You will be criticised, you will be vilified, and you will definitely not be played on the radio…
Recently, French author Yann Moix stated that he was incapable of loving a woman aged 50 or over:
I prefer younger women’s bodies, that’s all. End of. The body of a 25-year old woman is extraordinairy. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinairy at all..
I was obviously distraught that I had crossed the threshold whereby I had a chance with Mr Moix, I mean, what a catch! He will be sad and alone one day.
Every wrinkle, stretch mark, saggy bit should be a badge of honour, a testament to a life of accomplishments and experiences. I am never going to look like I did when I was 21 and looked at myself every day and threw judgement at myself for how I looked. I will never be as thin as I was when I used to berate myself for being fat. As when I lost two stone at weightwatchers and still felt huge, even when i got to my goal of wearing a silver bikini on my 40th birthday in Ibiza. An abusive ex who put me on diets because I was ‘fat and disgusting’ when I was a size 12, taught me a valuable lesson. You can never be happy unless you love yourself. At some point, for the love of god, there has to be an epiphany moment. A moment when you look at yourself in the mirror and think ‘ You know what, you’re abit of alright you are’. I want to tell my daughter how beautiful she is and to celebrate that gorgeous body she is in, but the media/social media is telling her she will not be any of that until she has reached new heights of unachievable, airbrushed, insta-perfection. Women can’t win. I don’t know the answer. If I did, I wouldn’t be listening to an audio book about how to deal with the menopause because i am desperate for answers. I wouldn’t be wondering if I am too old to wear trainers.
I will carry on. Sleeping with the window open even though it’s minus 3. Waking up to an expanding girth. Looking for my glasses in the car for ten minutes when they are on my head. Making noises when I get out of bed or stand up. Finding the odd extra hair where once there was none, finding some joy in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, and constantly searching for positive over 50 role models, and I do have some; a good friend, Debbie Harry, Dolly Parton, Cher, Michelle Pfiefer, Helen Mirren, Salma Hayek .. but what I want is to enter this next phase of life as a new adventure, into which I shall not be subjected to ageism and constructs of society but be a better, stronger version of myself. I shall be glittering and fabulous and gather my menopausal sisters together and we shall throw our evening primrose oil and black cohosh at the patriarchy…now where’s my glasses……