Pauline McLynn: Having myself a menopausal little Christmas

As if coping with surprising facial hair, hot flushes and mood swings wasn’t bad enough, then the festive season twinkles into view. It’s time to channel the rage

Oh holy fright: Pauline McLynn, in her festive onesie, prepares for the season that’s in it. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Oh holy fright: Pauline McLynn, in her festive onesie, prepares for the season that’s in it. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


This article is read by Pauline McLynn as part of The Women's Podcast Christmas episode

‘Have yourself a furry little Christmas” is an idea that has recently been knocking about my addled head. There are two reasons for this – one is that I don’t much care for the festive season and the other is the menopause.

I have been going through the Change for a few years now, as is the wont of the women in my family (more specifically my mother, who blamed her menopause for everything for a good 20 years, surely a medical record), and Christmas seems to happen every year, whether I want it to or not. I am fed up being stalked by both, so this year I am fighting back.

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I used to think that menopause as a title had a patriarchal derivation and therefore was yet another thing to blame men for, but it turns out that’s not the case. It seems it’s the Greeks we need to point at while tutting. Pausis is from the Greek, meaning cessation, and men, meaning month – an end to the monthlies, really, and that should be a cause for great cheer, as should Christmas, so I am applying that principle to my survival tactics. And in honour of those ancient Greeks I feel there should be high drama worthy of one of their old, wailing tragedies.

No one warns you of the full horrors of the Change. Yes, we will all have seen some poor woman have a hot flash – sadly not a drunken reveal of chesticles to loud whoops of enjoyment from an accompanying crowd, but rather a blotchy sufferer drenched by a sudden and cruel temperature rise and in need of a change of clothes. We are aware that such misfortune can befall a menopausist. So why did no one ever warn of hair sprouting from random and unwelcome parts? This is the furry part of my “merry” Christmas. I refer to the moustache that is trying to gain purchase on my upper lip. Too often during Movember I was congratulated for my charitable efforts.

Now that we are in December, everyone wants to know why I haven’t shaved the blasted thing off – er, I have! Incidentally, the rest of my hair, the stuff I want to grow thick and luxurious, is thinning at a chronic rate and I will never have to make the decision to have my more intimate bits waxed ever again. (Too much information? Well, someone’s got to say it.)

Smells like menopausal spirit
Being menopausal is a lot like being a teenager – spots, flaky skin, rashes, blushing, body odour, weight gain, mood swings, crippling embarrassment, sudden and utter rages. The difference is that teens usually have a parent or two to look after them and to blame for all of life’s iniquities (including never having asked to be born). We menopausists often no longer have parents to berate with such logic and argument, or if we do they are busy being retired and serene and full of “you made your bed now lie on it” (after changing your sheets, rank with night sweats).

While I’m on night times, why are dreams so vivid during the Change and so very, very mundane? I dreamed that I cleaned my house recently (a thing I would never dream of doing in real life) and I woke exhausted and bored out of my mind – to add to the insult of drenched sheets and an acne-ridden face.

And that’s before we get to gravity. I have been pulled at by that lad for more than 50 years now, and enough is enough. It is no one’s friend, barring that it keeps us from floating off into space, I suppose. From the cradle it tries to pull us back into the ground or, let’s be honest, the grave. And along the way it tugs mercilessly at all our bits, sagging the boobage, the bum, anything dangly. My chins have all fallen foul of gravity and it has left my mouth with a slight downturn, as if I am disappointed in life. Well, I’m disappointed with gravity, I’m not thrilled with my menopause and I don’t like Christmas either.

So what to do?

In my opinion, avoidance is the path of least resistance when it comes to the festives. In order to be allowed to hide away successfully, I advise ringing all friends in danger of offering you hospitality and going straight to their mailboxes to leave long, rambling messages of love and longing. Be sure to slur your words too. They won’t want you in person in their home. Job done.

Bouts of folly
Take to the onesie, be it festive or otherwise. Then you can sleep wherever you sit or fall, any time of day or night, and descend into your own filth without anyone passing judgment, because you will at least look dressed. There will be the odd satisfying moment of catching a whiff of your naughty self as you move about and the odour wafts above the neckline (a bit like enjoying a fart trapped under your duvet). Let yourself go.

If you must leave the house and commune with others, embrace all that your menopause has to offer and use it to your advantage to torture people. For example, when the festive sweats hit, start taking your clothes off. Grab someone else’s hand and use it as a fan to cool yourself. Steal their cold drink, especially if it contains fizz. Start every conversation loudly with “is it just me or . . .” and fill everyone in on the horror you are presently living.

If you haven’t shaved or plucked your upper lip, let them admire your tache. Ask if your nose is getting hairier too (it probably is). If you can get seated next to someone you have taken against (even unfairly), waft your arms like a bird flapping its wings and let them have a blast of the rank hormonal armpit action that you know will put them off their roast spuds.

But be careful not to engage with fellow menopausists, because that can get competitive and exhausting – a whole other season’s worth of trouble. Make sure to have a major mood swing at least once during any outing and shed bucketloads of tears if things are rolling that way. Indulge yourself.

Above all, remember that Christmas and your menopause will pass, so enjoy yourself in the most disgraceful way possible. After all, it’s just a natural pain-in-the-butt progression into another section of life, and freedom from the beast that is your hormonal self. I’m off to stock up on HRT and gin. Happy festive sweats to you all and a furry merry Christmas.

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