Things I know about my mom without having to ask: her coffee order, the way she likes her G&T (heavy on the gin, thanks for asking), the facial expression she pulls when she wants to leave a conversation and the number of times she needs to say bye to me before she finally hangs up (four on a good day). One thing I don’t know? When she started menopause.
My mum and I are close. We talk almost every day. But, until recently, I didn’t even know she had gone through menopause. In fact, I didn’t think about menopause at all. It was something that happened to old women. Sure, it would happen to my mum and to me, I supposed, at some point, but that wouldn’t be for ages. Years. Possibly decades. And when it happened, I imagined it would be a relatively straightforward thing. No more periods, obvs. Maybe a hot flush or two. But mainly: no more periods. End of story. I could not have been more wrong.
Hear “menopause” and most of us think of this stereotype: a cross woman with a cold facecloth applied to her face or fanning herself furiously to cool off. We think of women no longer interested in sex or who suddenly sprout chin hairs sturdier than Donald Trump’s ego. What we don’t think about, usually, is the reality: that menopause is one of the single biggest events in a menstruating female’s life. It is a hugely significant change that can begin years before your last period and have ramificatio