It’s time to talk about the menopause… and freedom at last | Eva Wiseman

An equalling out of sex hormones, a woman’s chance to explore her person-ness, the falling away of vanity… Eva detects a gleaming glamour

The menopause comes,” says Kristin Scott Thomas’s character in Fleabag, “and it is the most wonderful fucking thing in the world.” Despite a “crumbling” pelvic floor and a number of other horrors, she continues, “You’re free, no longer a slave, no longer a machine with parts. You’re just a person.” A moment here, to imagine anything better? Than being just a person? In the world? Bloodless and free?

Something has started to happen as my body hurls itself towards the end of its 30s – older women are talking to me about the menopause. I love these moments, when small torches are passed down, relay-like. I remember being in my earliest 20s, working in a shop with women who gleefully told me about the glory of turning 30, its secrets and relief. And then, when I was pregnant, older mothers would tell me about the complicated pleasures to come with eyes dry and wide. This is a similar thrill – it’s happened three times so far, complaints wrapped in reveries, about what you become when you become menopausal. An opinion piece by Lisa Selin Davis in the New York Times suggested that, much like the talk a parent gives their child about sex, “We need to have The Talk, but for 45-year-olds… We perimenopausal women need to talk to one another, and the rest of the world, about what’s happening.”

This is what I’m witnessing, the trickle down talk. I’m benefiting from ripples that come after an older woman has started the conversation elsewhere. And by the time it gets to me, peri-perimenopausal and hungry for information, it is rinsed of its horror and arrives like a gift. In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir wrote that a girl is a “human being before becoming a woman.” Their revelation, told quietly, is that a time comes when you can be both.

Of course, I write this from the simple side of the fence, and with hope, and I’m in a very nice mood because the sun’s out. But while there have been movements recently towards educating each other about bodies backfiring during menopause, about hot sweats, aphasia and insomnia, I can’t help but look past them, and see a sort of gleaming glamour there. I’m not alone. The fashion website Man Repeller identified a trend “inspired by the aesthetic of a middle-aged woman on a low-key beach vacation”. Linen blazers, open shirts, rolled-up trousers, big plastic jewellery. “Picture a 50-something woman who doesn’t care what other people think and just wants to be supremely comfortable.” They call it “menocore”, and I get it.

I absolutely get it. I get the aspirational image of a woman with no time for your frippering bullshit, your sheer leggings, your teetering heels, your sometime allergy to bread. She is interested in walking in valleys, slow-cooking, good conversation and these things only. This is fashion based on women who the fashion industry does not design for – women forgotten by brands. Rather than spending our long-saved cash on outfits inspired by a 23-year-old heiress to a yoga fortune, it makes far more sense to buy into a trend centred around ladies who have seen it all, and decided: swishy cardigan.

For every woman who has told me about their perimenopausal life, another younger woman has sighed to me that they can’t wait. There is the blood, of course, which promises, after a stuttering trick, to finally stop surprising you on days you’ve risked pale jeans and, for women plagued by good looks, an opportunity to choose invisibility over invitations out. There’s the sense that, with an equalling out of sex hormones, when biology no longer defines a body by its potential to reproduce, a woman will find further equality in her relationships, a chance to explore her person-ness. There’s the falling away of vanity that some women report, that biting girdle we’ve been encouraged to wear and, too, the falling away of anxiety around ambitions unmet. That restlessness.

People get happier as they get older – happiness through adulthood is U-shaped, falling in our 20s and 30s with a low in our 40s before steadily increasing again. This despite a redistribution of body hair and fat, a need to groan upon heaving oneself up from a low chair, a sleeplessness that persists even in the most expensive sheets. I have heard, now, about the sweat, the facial hair that grows like weeds, but also, that they come at an age when you are finally able to dismiss such things as unimportant in this, the grander scheme, where there are arguments to win and risottos to stir.

I can feel the rumblings of not caring whether strangers think I’m pretty, the realisation that there is no correct jeans style, the awareness that I can say no to emails asking me to explain myself, that my career will not turn into a pumpkin at midnight. I fully expect to be noisily put straight on the many realities of menopause within seconds of this column being published, but for now I will concentrate on the joys, and relief, and the rattle of my bracelets.

Email Eva at or follow her on Twitter@EvaWiseman


Eva Wiseman

The GuardianTramp

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