Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Yeah, I know. But actually, it is, really. How it is today is how it will be right till the end. Because I’m officially “post-menopausal”.
If you think that sentence is difficult to read – massively over-sharing, not the kind of thing people want to talk about – you should see how difficult it is to write. Not because being post-menopausal is much different from being menopausal. But because it’s barely OK talking about your periods. We’re only just getting our heads round ads for incontinence pads on TV. This menopause talk is taking taboo-smashing TOO FAR. Post menopausal? Are you dead? If you’re not, at least have the courtesy to keep the noise down.
What is post-menopausal? Basically, it means I haven’t had a period for a year – I’m out the other side of my fertile life, which has been going since I was 15. That’s 36 years of periods (with time off for two babies). Through this year, I’ve packed the same box of Tampax over and again; they’re now so well-travelled they’re writing up their gap year for the Independent. I might pack them one more time, commemoratively.
Life on the other side
I’m not just on the other side of being fertile, I’m also out the other side of my menopause. It’s been fabulous, thanks, a bit hot. The thing that makes me sad is that I’ve missed the opportunity to live-blog it, but I know that someone somewhere will be doing that for theirs. I think the best and worst thing to know I got from a friend who, having seen me (cough) ‘interact’ with my children, sent me an article on how your nurturing hormones disappear with menopause. It was such a relief to have “not giving a shit” medically sanctioned: “I’m so sorry darling, I’d love to help you look for your phone, but I have no nurturing hormones so I literally couldn’t care less.”
Are you still reading? Well done, I know it’s difficult. I’m not even being patronising or sarcastic, it IS. It’s way too personal, private even – yet of course as guaranteed as ageing itself. But who wants to think about things ending, when things are mid-flow? (Hmm, flow, nice.) When I was 21 my dad died and I viewed my mum, age 51, as an old widow woman. Then, age 24 I drove the tour van round Europe for a punk band called Poison Girls, fronted by Vi Subversa, who was in her early forties. So old, I thought, but such an amazing woman; ten years younger than my mum, but a political and cultural planet apart. Age is a fucker, I concluded; you can’t trust that it will mean anything about a person, only the number of years they’ve been alive. Now I’m 51, and I’m post-menopausal, so what are you going to conclude about me? What am I going to conclude about me?
Menopausal role models
So I’m standing, with all that fertility behind me, looking over the next bit. It’s not a cliff, that’s tiringly dramatic – it’s a plain. A dusty plain, but as we’ve already established, I don’t give a shit, I ain’t gonna dust it. I’m casting around, seeing who’s out here on the plain with me. Can’t see a soul. Can think of some women my age but don’t know the state of their wombs. It’s not something anyone ever discusses beyond the odd, “Are you warm? Can we open a window?” In Clapham, where I live, it’s impossible to ask another woman if they “have the decorators in”, because the answer is always yes. (Plus I’m not generally drawn to a euphemism.)
So I’m out here on my euphemistic dusty plain without many visible role models. I bet Susan Sarandon is post-menopausal, I think to myself. I bet she was menopausal when she kicked thingy out, I bet he was too needy. But it’s not exactly enlightening, this twilight world of guesswork and supposition and I bet.
Am I a post-menopausal cliché?
Without role models, I run the danger of being susceptible to old fashioned cliché. But I don’t FEEL whatever cliché “post-menopausal” is meant to bring to mind. Bitter, twisted, over-aggressive, uncaring, dried up shrieky. Except, I do. But – ha ha HA – my very clever trick has been to be that way ALL ALONG, so it’s not such a life change. I recommend it. If you set your goal to be bitter and twisted by the time you’re 35, fifteen-odd years later you can segue seamlessly into the menopause and out again with nary a blip on your emotional timeline. For the same reason, I’ve been doing sudoku and ordering comfort shoes from the Sunday Express magazine for years.
What am I going to do with my left-over tampons, though? As I finish my periods, my girl child starts hers. Even though I’m without the nurturing hormones, something tells me that a handed-down bag of unused Tampax might not be the “welcome to womanhood” gift that a blossoming teenager needs. But I’m not completely without empathy. I’ll free-cycle them.