It’s wonderful that there are so many voices talking about the menopause – but (you knew it was coming) can you relate to them all?
Too often I worry that middle-class voices are being heard over others: the same faces given prime airtime and the well-pronounced accents on Radio 4 or the BBC.
It feels as if there is lots of focus on women who casually say: “I asked my gynaecologist about this the other day…” and not enough on those of us struggling to get an appointment with our regular GP, never mind have our own gynaecologist.
Which is why I love Harriet Powell’s book The Menopause Monologues and regularly flick through it. It’s real experiences about the menopause as experienced by the woman next to you in the bus queue. Everyday women, with no agenda and nothing to publicise.
Ironically, after my mini-rant above, The Menopause Monologues came about after Harriet listened to The Change on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. They were discussing the menopause and Harriet, who was going through it at the time, was struck by how many women had stories to tell but couldn’t.
“I realised there is still huge shame around the menopause and I wanted to break that taboo,” she says.
It was then she came up with the idea of The Menopause Monologues, calling on friends and friends of friends to share their stories and break the taboo that keeps so many of us suffering in silence.
The result is a collection of honest experiences from women – and some men – talking about what it’s really like to be menopausal. As well as hot flushes and sleepless nights, it delves into subjects such as your libido dying or the emotional overload.
Subjects you talk about with your best friend over a bottle of wine and come away feeling all is well with the world.
Advice includes talking (60 per cent said communication with partners, friends and doctors really helped); using natural vaginal lubricant (20 per cent said vaginal dryness had made sex painful) and re-discovering the joy of cardigans (20 per cent said layers were useful during hot flushes). I hope they’re long cardies, that’s all I say…
It’s not all doom and gloom and there are many moments that will have you laughing – hey, we’re women; we’re used to making light of menopause! And there are tales from those out on the other side and feel happier (and sexier) than ever before.
Ultimately, you will come away feeling less alone and a little more informed.
Plus you can have your say, too. Harriet, who is is a children’s writer by trade – she wrote the acclaimed The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43, under her maiden name Harriet Goodwin – is planning the next in the series and looking for more women to participate. And men, too.
Here, Harriet tells us more about how The Menopause Monologue began and how you can join in the next one…
What is The Menopause Monologues?
It’s a collection of real-life experiences of the menopause by real women (and a few men!). It’s funny, sad, moving – and refreshingly honest.
Why did you decide to collect women’s stories?
In January 2018, I was driving to a work event when Woman’s Hour came on. The programme had teamed up with Radio Sheffield to do a whole week on the menopause and on that first morning, the presenters were taking a flood of calls from women wanting to tell their “stories”.
Within minutes I was in tears and had to pull over. I couldn’t believe how the subject was still shrouded in so much shame and secrecy.
An idea took hold and that evening I began to email friends – and friends of friends – asking them to send me their own personal experiences of the menopause.
The project quickly snowballed and I decided to include a few men’s “takes” as well – after all, many men experience menopause second-hand and need to know how to support their partners.
It was really important to me that the “stories” in The Menopause Monologues were those of ordinary, everyday women, not celebrities. I feel that the current obsession with all things celebrity is one of the aspects contributing to poor mental health in the UK. We all need to open up more and show our vulnerability. We also need not to be judged.
What was the reaction to it?
Almost everyone was really keen to send me their stories. Only one person refused, saying that she “didn’t want to be reminded that she was nearly dead”. Oh well!
What’s your own Menopause Monologue?
I am “Lara” in the first book! (Oooooooh! Going to re-read that right now – 50Sense)
What’s your menopause story? Let me know in the comments below.
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