It’s not just TV shows like Fleabag where women are finally breaking the silent code around menopause. In books and films women are dishing on the joys and challenges of middle-age hot flush life.
Blood red takes on a whole new meaning after meno.
Aaaand the Broad is back after a few weeks away for school holidays and a bit of time to regroup after a hectic and discombobulating year. Dear Reader, what a strange, disturbing and unusual this year has been. I hope you and your loved ones are staying well and coping as best you can with the challenges of this year.
Now it may have something to do with the Broad recently celebrating a milestone birthday (half-century, I’m looking at you) but the Facebook and Instagram algo-gremlins (the Golum-like creatures controlling the social algorithms and therefore our thought patterns and voting preferences) seem to be inserting more menopause-related posts into the feed all of a sudden.
Following a bunch of 50-something style and lifestyle bloggers the subject of menopause comes up a lot. Plus, let’s be honest here, the Broad’s own night sweats and hot flushes have turned her mind to the topic too. So it seemed only fitting to address matters meno in the written form. So I give you hot flush fiction*. Now the fellas among my readers, don’t avert your eyes. Your friends, partners, colleagues and many others you may encounter in your day could be experiencing menopause so read on. Plus the male menopause even gets a mention. *May not actually mention all that much fiction.
For those facing it, The Broad isn’t going to tell you menopause is the beginning of the end of your life. Nor is she going to tell you to dance naked in the moonlight, but feel free to do that if you want to. For some women, it’s a few months of being uncomfortable and the welcome end to monthly cycles. For others, it’s an uncomfortable experience that can be unsettling and take time and care to stabilise within. On the medical front, there’s good information available on sites like Jean Hailes that can be useful for anyone wanting reliable medical and lifestyle advice. So onto the books and an admission first up that they’re not exactly fiction.
On The Middlepause
In The Middlepause editor and journalist Marina Benjamin takes a pause at the half-century to consider the experience of getting on in age but continuing to get with life. Benjamin asks what it means to be ageing in a culture both obsessed with youth and afraid of dying. She turns to literature and philosophy for inspiration, as she assesses the opportunities and challenges of attending to ailing parents, parenting a teenager and hew own health challenges and reconfigures her sense of self as woman, mother, daughter and citizen. Marina Benjamin has also puled together a wonderful collection of books about middle age from a range of writers include Simone de Beauvoir, Colette and contempt authors like Jennifer Egan and even a book on male menopause.
When is a flash a flush?
I say flush, you say flash. Let’s call the whole things off. What is menopause and why is it so often defined by hot flushes, also known as hot flashes, in women? Darcey Steinke, author of Suicide Blonde, started from this question as her own menopause hit with a flash of heat and sweat. In Flash Cound Diary, Steinke examines why menopause has been a silent experience for women. She asks why it’s been treated as either an illness that needed to be medicated or an affliction to suffer through in alone, but with little understanding of what menopause means from a physiological experience to an emotional and psychological experience.
No sleep till old age
Ada Calhoun, who wrote Why We Can’t Sleep, on women’s middle-life sleeping trouble, has compiled a varied list of 15 books. The list is something like dispatches from the mid-point which speak on the varying experiences of this phase of life.
Journalist and former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Red magazines, Sam Baker shares her experiences of life after 40 in The Shift. Her book delivers insightful advice and guidances on dealing with menopause, sex, rage, work and culture while cultivating self-knowledge and power.
Who said anything about wisdom?
Older and Wider is English comedian Jenny Eclair’s account of menopause and her “incandescent’ rage” that’s part-memoir and part-punchline.
Bringing diversity to the menopause conversation
Don’t mention the crone
Once the old crone, women are reclaiming the power of midlife and the joy and liberation of being free from groundhog reproductive cycles. Menopause as empowerment is a good message to have and there’s a lot to be said for being period-free as these articles in The Atlantic and The New Yorker will tell you.
And finally once you’re through, you’ll need to books that speak to the post-menopause life and here The Paris Review asks where are all the novel about this phase of life. Imagine if men went through it – there’d be an MBA in it and a medal for getting there.
If you like your life-changing phases with a dose of popular fiction, then The Hot Flash Club might be worth a look. It’s like The Babysitters Club all grown up with four female friends going through ‘the change’ in a midlife ‘coming of age’ story.
It’s no laughing matter – or is it?
On screen, I Got Life! Is a film about a 50-year-old woman who is still in full life mode and this Guardian article talks to the filmmakers about making stories on women at this point in their life.