I was sitting on a wall at four years old when I heard my mother mention ‘the change’ to Granny. Of course I hadn’t the faintest idea what they were talking about but the conversation wasn’t for young ears – I knew by their intonation; words uttered in ventriloquy followed by a knowing nod. When I asked what they were talking about, they said that they’d tell me when I was older.
I’m writing about something that, until recently has been reserved for the covert whisperings of older women. On the island, the demographic leans heavily towards an older population who might not see the need for open discussion on such personal affairs. Certainly with the post-war generation there was an understandable ‘put up and shut up’ attitude. How could anyone complain about such things when compared with the horrors of war? Add that to the Victorian era hangover and you have a recipe for suffering in silence.
For the purposes of this article, I am assuming that menopausal women are those with female hormones and that their partners are the those without – i.e. men. The whole LGBTQIA world might have my guts for garters otherwise.
We have seen a rise in adverts for personal products for the mature lady – a bold move – and whether or not such things require more discretion is a matter of opinion. On the other hand, the subject of the menopause shouldn’t remain a secret, it should be shouted from the rooftops!
So who is suffering and from what?
Whether it is early onset, due to a medical condition or just the natural process of time, some common symptoms of menopause will affect most women at some point.
I would hazard a guess that the symptom of hot flushes is no secret. Bless all pioneering women out there who, in efforts to be modern and transparent, openly fan themselves to cool down – their coquettishly fluttering hands waving a signal to all saying, ‘I’m not going to put up and shut up anymore!’ (but I must look feminine because time is about to rob me of my fertility). Society dictates that they are nearing the ‘past it’ stage of life. So how do you keep your husband’s interest when a shiny, young waitress brushes past to serve the drinks? You fan yourself in public, that’s what you do. You let him know that you know so he needs to man up and be by your side as you go through this most natural thing.
He may not think that his wife/partner is in her prime but she is at a point in her life when she knows what she wants and what she will no longer stand for. This is where partners of said women ought to be given a great deal of leeway. The hormonal changes can lead a lady to become mouthy, opinionated and (at long last) self-assured. This can be unfamiliar territory and partners cannot be expected to understand this change without good communication and a general knowledge about the subject.
HAZARD WARNING: Husbands and partners, do not assume that your woman’s words are mere hysterical rantings to be boxed up into the hormone cupboard with the old monthly filings. Granted, this new found voice may be presented to you in extreme ways, (heard over crashing plates or mumbling sobs) but hear, if you can, what is being said. Some truth is trying to get out – truth that may be generations old. Listen – perhaps from behind the settee – but listen nonetheless.
Mental Health is ‘all the rage’, if you’ll pardon the pun, but there is simply not enough discussion about how the menopause effects the mental health of a woman and those around her; feelings of extreme anger; deep, deep loneliness and memory loss.
And let us not forget about memory loss! Oh yes! A side effect that does not get much press but ‘the lesser-spotted’ forgetfulness does happen. This needs to be shared with the wider world. Why it doesn’t appear in the symptoms list, is beyond me. Dear lady, you have not suddenly become ‘stupid’. Your body is merely reacting to hormonal changes! So how do you deal with that? Write everything down. Become memo-tastic. If you’re still at work – communicate with your colleagues about what you are going through.
And to all you young bucks out there, who have encountered a forgetful ‘fool’ of a middle-aged manager, step back for a minute. She can run the company standing on her head – she just forgets to tell you this.
Physical changes in the woman’s body can make getting close up and personal with her partner somewhat uncomfortable – too irritable, too frustrated, too hot, too dry…to name but a few. Ladies – imagine how he feels; how helpless, how surplus, how frustrated, how sad.
So it may be necessary to step back from your relationship. Why? Because you are changing and with all change comes upheaval. That upheaval does not just impact you but those close to you. You need to regain balance. Get your mind, body and spirit aligned. Alternative therapies are good. You need space to wriggle out of your chrysalis and although your partner should be there to help you take your first wobbly steps, he also needs a handshake, an introduction to the new you.
To women who need time to adjust to the changed you – a pause.
To men who attempt to understand what their woman is going through – an applause.
Oh…and mothers please tell your daughters.