Woolly hats off to Emma Thompson for her witty menopause comment made recently in New York at The National Board of Reviews Gala. Her joke that she was glad to have the hot flashes of menopause to keep her warm in the freezing conditions was not only funny, but also an open admission of experiencing something that women still fear and try to hide.
I imagine I wasn't the only woman in her fifties to chuckle at it. It is refreshing to hear a woman mention the dreaded 'M' word openly and to laugh at one of symptoms. Indeed, it is not just Ms. Thompson who is prepared to talk about it, as more women these days are beginning to discuss the menopause rather than mumble about "women's problems."
Facebook forums and light-hearted blogs all encourage women to chat about and share menopause experiences. It is no longer considered a taboo subject. Women in the UK are becoming, like our Transatlantic cousins, more open about it.
When overcome in a local shop by a flash that forced me remove my coat and cardigan with alacrity and propel my hands in front of my hot face like mini rotator blades, the assistant confided that she too was having similar symptoms. She revealed that on an outing to a restaurant with her husband and friends, she felt that familiar and sudden rise in temperature. She whipped off the jumper she was wearing and sat back, wafting the menu gently in front of her face, assuming no one had noticed. Her friends opposite stared in surprise. Her husband leant over and in hushed tones pointed out that in her haste to cool off, she had managed to peel off her blouse along with her jumper and was now sitting in just her bra.
I share my experiences openly with other women, and like to make a joke of it. It makes other women laugh and share their own amusing stories. We have much in common. We can relate to the fact that we now have to sleep with no blankets and the window wide open at night, while our unhappy spouses complain they are freezing. We would, if we could, like to sleep in the fridge. We, too, know what it is like to be up on Facebook at 2 a.m. playing Scrabble with Mary from New Zealand because we can't sleep thanks to insomnia. We understand that one minute we'll be whistling to a song on the radio, the next sobbing into the tea towel, for no apparent reason. We recognize the fact that our loved ones hide the knives and run from the room when they see that 'look' in our eyes.
Although menopause can be traumatic for many, there is still a case to laugh at certain episodes and situations resulting from it. There is plenty of material to be found on the Internet in particular with light-hearted cartoons, amusing websites such as Minnie Pauz and funny videos such as SweetPeas take on MC Hammer's hit, "You Can't Touch This" called, rather appropriately for women whose libido has now vanished, "Don't Touch Me!"
Americans are far more accepting of the 'change' and comediennes like Kathy Dice include a large section on the menopause for her audience in her gigs. "Menopause the Musical" has been running successfully in the States and has been enjoyed and laughed at by thousands of American menopausal women. It was not so successful in the UK but maybe now, given our healthier approach to this subject, could enjoy a revival.
There is a significant bonus in laughing at the menopause. Laughter not only gives you an internal workout, it produces mood-enhancing hormones, which in turn reduces stress that in turn may reduce some of the symptoms of menopause.
Menopause should not be something to be feared. We should be aware of what is happening to our bodies and educate ourselves about it. We can make changes to our diets and lifestyles that will significantly reduce menopause symptoms and ultimately, when we transit this stage of our lives, there is much to look forward to: increased levels of energy, no anxieties surrounding periods and no more PMS symptoms like migraine headaches. Take heart and plan your future after menopause because you might suddenly discover a rush of energy that will propel you in an unexpected direction. You might decide to take up a wild activity like pole dancing, drumming or riding a Harley Davidson through Europe. It's not as crazy as you may think. Others have done these things and more.
So, the next time you have to change your underwear after a sneeze or forget the name of your eldest child, don't worry about. Have a giggle instead then go and share your experience with friends.
Follow Carol E Wyer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/carolewyer