MEN, don’t turn away. Listen up. I’ve got something for you.
Look, I know you must be bored to tears with us older birds droning on about the sodding menopause.
This week must have suffocated you.
Loads of celebs waving the menopause flag and bringing out books about how to beat it, battle it, embrace it and rile against it.
It’s like there is some kind of movement or uprising brewing.
It must be quite unnerving.
And I’m wondering where this puts you guys. How it affects you.
It must be nearly as bewildering for you to go through the female menopause, living it vicariously through the woman you love, as it is for us living with it.
I reckon you’ll be feeling confused and marginalised.
I feel partly to blame.
I kicked off one of the early discussions about this ghastly time of a woman’s life when, yuck, periods stop and we basically become barren.
That’s what the word means, after all — a pause in the monthly you-know-whats.
But just as I documented how I thought I had early-onset dementia at 46 — how I became forgetful, anxious and (more) irritable, had brain fog and struggled to sleep when it was all just the onset of The Change — I realise I had made it all about me.
Granted, it was happening to me but it was also happening to my now ex-husband.
I wasn’t terribly good at talking to him about it because I didn’t have a clue what was going on.
I was terrified, so I kept it to myself.
I’m presuming all he saw was his wife changing from a bubbly, organised, funny, generally good egg into a monster of irrationality, heap of exhaustion and moaning old Minnie.
All the while, I hated myself for who I had become — and if you hate yourself it’s hard to love anyone else.
We women may experience these horrendous symptoms, which can be so extreme they incapacitate us, alienate us from loved ones and make us as prickly as a cactus.
But for you blokes it must feel disconcerting.
It may be a cliché that men are rubbish at expressing themselves but even the bravest, most emotionally intelligent man might struggle when it comes to dealing with this situation.
I bet many of you are wondering what the hell happened to your wife or partner. Where did she go?
I have every sympathy.
There is every chance you might be experiencing the male menopause around the same time — the andropause.
You might also be suffering mood swings, irritability, difficulty sleeping, lower sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
Yet we’ve kind of forgotten about you.
We’re so focused on wading through the molasses that is our menopause, trying to reclaim our-selves, we are leaving you on the sidelines feeling ignored and excluded.
I FELT REALLY ALONE
Many of you might not want to get involved. I get that. But it’s important you do, to have your voice heard.
When my symptoms started, I didn’t know what was going on.
My now-ex has a good heart and the patience of a saint but just kept out of my way.
I felt I was drowning and his disengagement made me question why he wasn’t throwing me a lifebuoy
When he was diagnosed with gout many years ago, I googled remedies. I wanted to make his suffering less.
Yet what was happening to me was considered such a “normal” part of a woman’s journey — it’s not an illness, after all — that I felt he just left me to it. I felt really alone.
But for him it must have been terrifying to see me morph into this crazy, hitherto unknown version of me.
I’d never really looked at it that way until now — when I’m settled on HRT and my mood swings, brain fog and exhaustion have largely passed.
I’m still irrational, obvs.
That’s what makes me such an amazing member of the female race, right?
You’d be confused if we weren’t a bit bonkers and a bit ridiculous.
We like to keep that aspect of ourselves so you remember who we really are.
Joking aside, I hope we women do a better job of bringing you guys into the fold.
We want to hear your voices.
We want you to talk about it with us or with your mates down the pub over a packet of pork scratchings.
Menopause isn’t just something experienced by women. It’s lived by men, too.
Us old birds need to remember that.
Potty nipple ban just stinks
YOU know I’m not body-shy.
I’ve even inadvertently exposed a bit of nipple on my Insta without intending to – I’m just a sloppy photographer with a lack of attention to detail.
As far as I’m concerned, a nipple is a nipple.
Both men and women have them.
But on social media they are an outrage and an exception.
If you have a nip-slip you’ll have your knuckles rapped, get a warning or have your pic taken down if you so much as give a glimpse of an areola.
I get how it potentially will sexualise or provoke or entice, and the aim is to protect younger people.
But huge, humble respect to all the wonderful medical tattooists who took to dressing themselves up as giant nipples to protest outside Facebook HQ against its ban of their online nipple images.
I’m a huge fan of tattoos, as you probably know, but the work these guys do by inking nipples on to cancer survivors post-surgery is just beautiful.
It must be a sanity saver for many of those patients.
It takes extraordinary skill to create these inkings and the point of the artists putting the images on Facebook is not to titillate or provoke but merely to show cancer sufferers and survivors what is possible after surgery.
I champion them and hope the censorship of nipples, at least in this context, is halted and the tattoos are regarded for what they are.
Time to ABBA bit of fun
ABBA getting back together in a virtual, new-world way makes my heart swell.
As a child who grew up in Sweden, I vividly recall them winning the Eurovision song Contest in Brighton in 1974 – I was seven and was over-whelmed.
It was like watching magic happen before my eyes.
Of course, I was in love with Anni-Frid (or Frida) because she had long, brown hair, which was far more appealing than the blonde hair that covered every other woman’s and girl’s head in Sweden.
The fact they were two married couples only added to their allure.
I didn’t understand all their lyrics in English, of course, but much of their early stuff was in Swedish and they became part of my identity and the identity of my proud country.
At some stage – maybe the Nineties or Noughties – Abba became a bit of a joke in England.
It was embarrassing to admit you liked them and had their records at a time when music had moved on so much.
But I was always proud.
Anyone who tittered at the thought of an Abba tune was simply lying to themselves, in my opinion.
The band have never, ever died in my heart, in my head or on the dance floor.
True icons. The songwriting and lyrics are second to none.
Reflecting on their words as an adult made me truly appreciate the depths of their emotion and talent.
I couldn’t be happier that they have new music out – they’re clearly not done yet.
But I also worry that it won’t measure up to my memories and all those theme tunes that have accompanied my life.
If I know anything about Benny and Bjorn, though, I know their standards are ridiculously high – and to them, and me, age is just a number.
Welcome back. My heroes.
Bojo with his disco mojo
IT is perhaps a rarity for people to jump to the defence of MP Michael Gove – so he had better enjoy it while it lasts.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was seen “grooving” to techno music in an Aberdeen nightclub at the weekend.
His “shapes” could only be described as a bloke on weed drowning very slowly in a vat of ignorant bliss.
It reminded me of the time BoJo took me to Ministry Of Sound – it was a Christmas party for his newspaper at the time – so I could teach him to dance.
Again, it was a vision of a middle-aged man experiencing some kind of medical emergency.
But he owned the dancefloor, did our now-PM.
Gove’s dancing immediately led to a debate about whether the over-40s deserve a place on the dancefloor or should, according to 22-year-old singer Tallia Storm, be banned from clubs.
Playful as that idea might seem, I take offence.
I’m the same age as Gove, at 54, and nothing apart from my dog and rum brings me as much pleasure as dancing.
It may be that, like the minister, I’m uncoordinated, have reluctant hips and unwilling limbs.
It may be that, much as I try, I cannot for love nor money follow any kind of dance routine and am castigated by the Ungratefuls for being so useless.
It may be that I will never feature on TikTok and never win any award for shaking my booty.
But moving to music is one of life’s gifts.
I look at dancers with admiration and watch Strictly with dedication, as it brings me delight and satisfaction in equal measure.
Perhaps because I’m so rubbish at dancing.
Having said that, with rum running through my veins, I am the greatest.
I regularly have dance nights at home, when I throw caution to the wind and attempt to represent songs and lyrics through the motions of my body.
And all I hear from my peers is how much they miss going dancing.
How they now miss discos and nightclubs because, mostly, we stop going past a certain age.
Many of us get so caught up in the routines of life – with kids and domesticity – that we forget to cut loose and be fancy-free.
So, no, you young ’uns don’t rule the dancefloor.
There is nothing us “oldies” love more than throwing some undignified shapes around.
As for Michael Gove . . . respect, man.
Though next time lose the shirt and jacket and get a rum down ya.
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