Recognising the menopause and what not to do about it

Men often ask me how they can:

a) recognise that their wives/partners are in the throes of menopause (aka change of life) and

b) What they can do about it.

Actually, that’s a lie. Not one man has ever asked me about it – probably because they see the red mist descend behind my eyes. No, they don’t ask because they are too scared, even though, as I am quick to point out, I am a just a pussycat; I scratch, I hiss and can’t be trusted on the luxury chenille three-piece suite.

It’s not a problem, anyhow. I don’t need a man to ask me what to do in order to tell him what to do.

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In compiling my list of dos and don’ts I would add that I can only speak with any authority about my own menopause. Mine is not the definitive one (except for me); other menopauses may vary.

For example, I am told some women don’t even notice it has happened, whereas, on a cautionary note, I was recently told of a woman who stopped using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) at the age of 80 and promptly started suffering common symptoms of menopause. So menfolk: Be aware, be alert, be prepared. You might want to pack an overnight bag.

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Here are some of my symptoms:

Night sweats: Waking up in the night covered in a thin sheen of cold perspiration over a pulsatingly hot body. The sensation, one imagines, would be something akin to defrosting yourself in a microwave oven.

Hot flushes: A creeping or sudden flush of heat that most often affects exposed parts of the body – face, chest, neck. It is most likely to strike when you are highly visible at a drinks party, while public speaking, being interviewed for a new job, in a top-level meeting.

Ascending waistline: Mine moved north, nestled under my bosom for a while and then disappeared completely.

Panic attacks: These are irrational episodes of paranoia often involving incidents from childhood. While you know very well it’s not sensible, you cannot dispel the anxiety.

Fading libido: Something that seemed utterly impossible when you were in your teens, 20s, 30s and even your 40s, comes to pass. When you see a really good looking man, you no longer get that tell-tale flutter. I knew it was crumbling around me when I saw the Armani underpants advert and worried the men might catch a chill.

Alcohol intolerance: Red wine used to be a pleasing refuge from the stress of the world but now unsettles me, digestively speaking. I still dream of an amusing little Gamay.

Unpredictability: You can be looking forward to going out to a party right up to the minute you should be leaving and then suddenly not want to go at all.

“What’s wrong, why don’t you want to go?”

“Someone might talk to me.”

“Surely, you want people to talk to you?”


“But you always love parties.”

“No I don’t. I hate them.”

An irrational craving for comfortable clothes: I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me 20 years ago that I would love wide, flat shoes, that make me look like a member of a 60s’ commune and big ol’ knickers that ruck under my bra strap. I am also beginning to find myself strangely attracted to velour lounge wear. You can occasionally see small clusters of women stroking it in M&S (on the hanger, not on a person).

Forgetfulness: I can’t remember what I was going to say here...

If you recognise any of these signs in the woman you love it is possible she is experiencing menopause. On the other hand, it may simply be that she is becoming a crabby old crone. Not everything can be explained by hormones.

So we move on to what can be done to help; as if there was anything. Well, for what it’s worth here are my top 10 dos and don’ts... mostly don’ts.

1. Do NOT pat her hand affectionately and ask if it’s her time of month (see Dante’s Inferno)

2. Do NOT tell her that Charmaine at work has been through menopause and it was a breeze, she didn’t even put on weight. If you do feel moved to mention it, do not under any circumstances turn your back on your partner.

3. When she asks you to put the milk in the tumble dryer do NOT correct her. She knows what she means and so do you.

4. Do NOT tell her to “chill”. (See Dante’s Purgatorio)

5. Do NOT smile and say it’s a pity she can’t drink but not to worry. After all, it’s worked out rather well because she can take over all designated-driver duties.

6. Having seen her wistfully stroking velour lounge wear – do NOT buy it for her as a Christmas present.

7. DO suggest romantic weekends away... to her, I mean!

8. Do NOT announce in a loud voice: “It’s all right, she’s only having one of her hot flushes, aren’t you, darling?” when she turns puce in Marks and Spencer. (See DIY: Decorating the Spare Bedroom as a Bachelor Pad)

9. DO humour her when she watches a full afternoon of Angela Lansbury starring in back-to-back episodes of Murder She Wrote on Alibi Channel.

10. And finally, for the most vital, life-affirming tip of them all... damn, I’ve forgotten what it is.

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