Opinion – Menopause – Grace Dent – www.theguardian.com
I’m angry, sore, and bloated. Is this the menopause? The more I read, the less I know…
I enjoyed last week’s news about a surgical breakthrough that could potentially delay menopause, mainly as it was good to hear the whole confusing, eternally awkward thing discussed for once. The Great Reckoning is no doubt heading towards me soon, now that I’m 45 – and I have been taking tips from some curious sources.
“I see Meg Mathews is twaddling on about her dry fanjo again,” one of my best friends said, WhatsApping me screengrabs of a blog about the menopause written by Noel Gallagher’s ex-missus in which she details the arid folds of her nether district. Actually, not so arid now; she’s been moisturising it, like you would your face. Stand easy, Britain: she’s back in the game.
But who dares speak of midlife dry vaginas? (For the record, my own is a textbook example of verdant renewal and spark. The Eden Project could open a tearoom beside it.) I am, however, incredibly angry lately. And sore of boob, and I sometimes resemble Homer Simpson in side profile, due to bloat. This may be a symptom of brewing seismic change, but also may not. Who really knows? No one does.
The more a woman reads on the subject, the less she understands; the far from exhaustive list of potential menopause symptoms reads like a “reason for incarceration” list from a late Elizabethan asylum. Belly swell? Retinal migraine? Moist knee backs? Constipation? Ear buzz? Eye flicker? Groinal itch? Righteous anger? Sexual loucheness? Roaring atrophy? Beard-growth? Too sleepy? Never sleepy? None of the above, some of the above. See your GP for advice, in two weeks’ time, for seven minutes. He or she has had 45 minutes of fanjo training, five years ago. Or maybe don’t bother. It will be over at some point in the next 20 years. Chin up!
Mathews’s website (MegsMenopause) is a tonic. Her podcast features a collection of interviews with the type of fanjo specialists you’d get to see if you paid top dollar and visited a Harley Street clinic with a Nespresso machine in the waiting room. There are in-depth breakdowns of her tubes, her sex drive, her mood swings and the ongoing pushback from her Primrose Hill mates over taking part in this whole project. Let’s face it, I am chomping at the bit to know what is going on with Kate Moss’s cycle. And All Saints. As of now, only Mathews is front-bottoming up.
“Y’know something,” I typed back to my friend, “Meg Mathews does not give a stuff. And I love it.” I actually typed something much ruder than “stuff”, because I swear a lot these days, while wondering about my period. I swore at an idiot in the street who kerb‑crawled me last Friday. Man, he picked the wrong woman there. I swear at the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are determined to “witness” me twice-weekly.
I read that many of us swearing women end up on antidepressants rather than HRT, except that the former doesn’t work and the latter does very well, but comes with an increased risk of cancer – though how increased is subject to intense global debate. I read that there’s no point in contraception, not at this stage – it could cause blood clots or worse – but, also at the same time you must never stop contraception or you’ll end up like Cherie Blair, who was too embarrassed to take it to Balmoral and gave birth at 45. I read that it’s time to lie down more, but also that it’s vital to keep moving – and why are you not weight training? I read that the trick is to drink gallons of water, take black cohosh – no, none of those, in fact the trick is to ignore it. I read all these things, but I don’t discuss them with my friends, because, as I say, I am perfectly fine down there. I’m very much menstrual, darling!
If women do begin “delaying” menopause – the new procedure involves snipping off bits of ovarian tissue, freezing cells and then reinserting them – it will not be for fertility purposes, but to avoid this tedious, draining, open-ended confusion. These women will be saying no to those years between 38 and 60, when nothing and everything might be about your grumbling womb.