Come in, make yourself at home. I’ve been putting this one off. It’s on menopause – the last taboo.
What was that? Oh, you’re off. Shut the door on the way out then.
Is there anyone left? A few souls fanning yourselves with a copy of SAGA magazine who want to hear about this, I think, and everyone else has hurried off clearing their throats and looking uncomfortable.
You see, I’ve broken the rule. And the rule isn’t about talking about menopause (and it’s wicked harbinger perimenopause) – it’s ok to do that in general and disparaging terms. No, the rule is about fessing up to it.
So, here goes. I’m 48 and I’m perimenopausal.
But the thing is, as the average age of menopause in the UK is 51 and that’s the point when periods stop altogether and perimenopause is said to average four years (but ranges from 12 years to 12 months) then, statistically, every other woman I know is caught in the hormonal swamp too.
It also means Kylie, Liz Hurley, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman have joined the club. (You’ll know them these days because they’re in the papers under a heading along the lines of ‘it’s amazing how she doesn’t look like a total minger At Her Age’ in a bikini and everything.)
So why aren’t we all talking about it? After all, it’s something we all go through and there’s hardly any other common experience we don’t discuss however icky.
For the record, symptoms include hot flushes, sleeplessness, mood swings, depression, cramps, needing to pee a lot, weight gain and changes in menstruation. And probably a whole heap of others. For some they are grim and need treatment while for others they are nothing more of a pain in the arse than PMT. (Which neatly segues into the experience.)
Even the internet, usually a great source for those too mortified to raise the topic at book group, doesn’t help much. A Google search for menopause delivers, in equal measure, twinkly-eyed grey heads and miserable looking cows with their hands to their furrowed brows. Not helpful and not much to do with me (though, it’s true, I can be a miserable cow but that’s without the aid of my hormones).
Either that, or the whole thing is the same kind of mean misogynistic joke as PMT, explaining away unpalatably behaviour as women in the grip of something they can’t control – poor lambs – not women who are unpalatably expressing opinions about something they have good reason to be fucked off about.
Is it still so unacceptable for women to be ageing that we can’t admit to an unavoidable sign of it, despite the legion benefits that discussion would bring? Are we scared that once we admit to nearing the “change” that all our magical powers of perkiness will vanish like snow in a puddle? Will we be seen as wizened and past it (whatever it might be) just because we are no longer good for breeding.
I’d say that perkiness is a much over-rated superpower. I’d far rather have wisdom and be comfortable in my somewhat-lined skin. But I’d also like to be able to talk about it without feeling like I’ve let the side down and revealed some very unsavoury secrets.
PS There are things you can do or take to make the symptoms less bothersome, visit online shops like Chemist Direct if you can’t face your GP or local pharmacy. (Though either will be more than happy to advise and assist.)