For You – A little taste of what menopause is like

10 Jan For You – A little taste of what menopause is like

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 24.1.22


I like these humid days in summer when everything feels soggy and your limbs stick together with sweat, when your internal engine seems overheated, your fingers are too fat for your jewellery and somebody made your pants too tight.

“Like” is perhaps not the correct word – I “admire the democracy” of days such as these because it gives everyone a little a taste of what menopause is like.

It is certainly the major way menopause has presented itself in my life over this past decade. A rush of damp heat that rises up my body – surprise! – as though I am blushing from the feet up. Waking in the night because I am on fire and the bed is a swamp, so I throw the covers off and hang a leg over the side and seconds later I am freezing. Feeling heavy and bloated, and always with the pants suddenly too tight.

Back when we used to travel to foreign parts, I would smile to myself as the plane door opened in somewhere like Rarotonga or Bangkok and a wall of hot, wet air would slap each passenger in the face, and they would either be delighted or overwhelmed by it, and then everyone would walk into the arrivals hall and be hit by a wall of freezing aircon and there’d be grumbling and I’d think quite loudly, “There you go, that’s menopause, except that menopause lasts for years. Maybe give your mum a call and tell her you’re sorry for not cutting her some slack when she was in her fifties.”

It is, of course, a different experience for everyone – which we are discovering now that we’re talking about it. My mother, thank goodness, shared her experience with me so I knew what was likely when my turn came – hot flushes and interrupted sleep were definitely our thing.

Having a relatively easy time of menopause (my reward, I like to think, for suffering through years of excruciating periods) gave me space to look for and find the upsides. I have been able to talk myself into thinking of hot flushes as “power surges” driving me on to do the next thing. My mother encouraged me to think of this bit of life as my prime – parenting over, harnessing this wild energy for work and creativity and intellectual curiosity.

I’ve gifted myself cotton and silk (more affordable once you stop buying school uniforms and tampons) so my skin can breathe, especially at night. And there’s the joy of liberation from the male gaze. Sure, being this invisible means it can take too long to get served in shops but otherwise what bliss to move about the world without total strangers providing commentary on what you’re wearing, how they rate you, or what they might want you to do for them next.

I hear that my mother and I got off lightly. There is a plethora of menopausal symptoms, many of which are debilitating. There seems to be an equal and opposite lack of research into the causes, effects and solutions.

But changes (see what I did there) are afoot. From where I sit now – almost out the other side – it looks like we are breaking the last taboo about what life is like for people with uteruses. I witnessed the moment in history when puberty and menstruation were brought out into the open, and I like being here for this chat about our next change of life.