Written by JoJo Smith

Health

A marvellous menopause

The I-don’t-give-a-fuck-ness of the menopause was the best thing that ever happened to JoJo Smith and it could be for you too.

Freedom written on a beachLast week I performed at a Women’s Day Comedy show in Bangkok. There were four of us on the bill. I was way older than any of them and most of the audience. Like them, the comedy scene there is young and the topics two of the women discussed took me back. They talked about periods. A lot.

That’s not a criticism. I defend the right of anyone to talk about anything – as long as the pay-off is good enough to make the setup worthwhile. I mention it because I used to have periods and the jokes reminded me I haven’t had one for 10 years now. I’m one of those ‘early menopause’ women you hear about.

I began perimenopause around 41. I didn’t know because nobody talked about it. A discussion about THE menopause was rare, let alone mentioning three or four years leading up to it when you just think you’re losing your mind. Which, in a way, you are as your hormones begin to go haywire.

According to my female doctor, I had to go 12 months without a period to be officially in menopause. I had a false start, going a whole nine months without one. Then, out of nowhere like a night bus to Brixton, one appeared. Then another. Then nothing again, first for 12 months then forever.

My GP was disinclined to put me on HRT. In those days it was believed it could cause breast cancer and, other than the night sweats and some insanity, I wasn’t having too many symptoms. To be honest, the insanity wasn’t entirely a new thing so, you know, just a bit sweaty really.

She also said, “You’re single, so even when you get the mood swings you’ve got nobody to fight with.” Oh boy! (Here’s a note to all medical practitioners, never EVER underestimate the power of a menopausal woman to have a row! With anyone, anywhere, at any bloody time she chooses.)

“I’d never been that desperate to have a child, but suddenly realising that it was no longer MY choice hurt a bit. I also lost my sex drive: to some that might be a terrible thing, for me it’s been liberating.”

I stood up to bullies of all kinds, with absolutely no fear. When a local youth refused to pay his bus fare and the driver refused to move, I didn’t sit and tut like the 40-odd others on the bus, like I would’ve done even six months before. Oh no! I stood up, walked to the front of the bus, looked the young man in the eye and told him to pay his “fucking fare, or get off the fucking bus as we all had lives we needed to get on with and his fuckery was preventing that.”

Even the toughest of OGs knows not to fuck with the craziness of a menopausal woman and this guy just apologised to me and stepped off the bus, enabling us to get on with our day.

Of course, had this been the US I’d probably be running for President off the back of such an outburst, but this was London, specifically London Transport, and nobody even dared look me in the eye.

That was a huge turning point for me. Throughout my entire life up until then I’d been unable to express anger outwardly. I punished myself for everything that ever happened. Suddenly I was free to call a cunt a cunt. That strength is one of the things I’m most grateful for.

There were downsides. I’d never been that desperate to have a child, but suddenly realising that it was no longer MY choice hurt a bit. I also lost my sex drive: to some that might be a terrible thing, for me it’s been liberating. My theory is we all have a lifetime’s quota of cock (maybe pussy too, I can’t speak for my lesbitarian friends) and I more than met mine when I had functioning ovaries.

My worst gift from the Menopause Fairy was lupus which, I’m told, is a fairly rare side-effect. But even on days when I’m so exhausted I can barely move, or my joints are swollen and refuse to work, I wouldn’t go back. Ever.

The fearlessness, the ‘I-don’t-give-a-fuck-ness’ of being a post-menopausal woman is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.

Nowadays, I travel around the world, on my own, walking in areas not recommended for women to walk and I’m safe because I’m invisible. The worst thing that happened to me on a bus in India was that no man got up and offered ‘Aunty’ a seat.

So, don’t fear the menopause, sisters. I can’t even pretend that your experiences will be anything like mine, but it will be a new chapter. Whether that’s an exciting chapter or a dull one is up to you.

@MissJoJoSmith

The menopause had Jane Hill reaching for the fleece of despair. Find out why here.

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Written by JoJo Smith

In the 20-odd years JoJo Smith has been making people laugh, she's performed all over the world. Before comedy stole her heart she was a journalist, interviewing everyone from The Sex Pistols to the late, great Bill Hicks.