Lying on cold bathroom tiles? Welcome to the menopause

Hilary Fannin: She’s tumbled in turmeric root, flung herself into fish oil and knitted herself a flattering pair of flax-seed bed-socks

 

I think the cat may be menopausal. She’s not sleeping well. I found her the other night, sprawled across the kitchen chair, looking at the fat moon through the smudged patio doors.

“I always thought I could be someone, you know?” she whispered, blowing minty cigarette smoke at the ceiling and sloshing her Horlick’s around in her tooth mug. “I mean, is this it? Is this all there is?”

Mainly, though, she’s been attacking toilet rolls. Her toilet-paper disdain is reaching dizzying new heights, has become almost pathological. I suspect her chagrin may, in part, be due to the manufacturer emblazoning a puppy on the packaging. She’s really getting her teeth into the sport; her strategy of isolating and attacking individual rolls is proving highly effective and extremely costly. Cleaning up after her leaves me feeling full of impotent rage.

Anyway, I was on my knees, picking confetti-like shards out of the carpet, when my phone rang. A friend was calling to see if I wanted to go out for a glass of cider vinegar and a handful of organic almonds.

I told her the cat was menopausal and that I wasn’t going anywhere until I’d cleared the snow from the runway – sorry, I mean landing. 

Mentioning the words “cat” and “menopause” in the same sentence was a mistake. My friend genuinely is menopausal, deeply menopausal. Doused in menopause, if that’s a term. 

In the interest of transparency, I should say I suspect, so far, that I’ve gotten away pretty lightly on the old change-of-life front. In fact, I should probably put my liver-spotted hand up and say that I’m not entirely sure if I can yet distinguish menopausal symptoms from those of a mild hangover. 

My friend, however, can. Unhappily for her, she seems to have spent the past couple of years prostrate on her bathroom floor, hugging the tiles. This is a largely nocturnal practice, occasionally enjoyed by women of a certain age. (This doesn’t mean that menopausal women develop a blistering passion for ceramics or a quivering need for a line of grout; it’s just, my friend explained, that the tiles are cold and she is hot.) 

She works with the public, and I’m not making light of her vicious and unpredictable experience of hot flushes (well, I am actually, and it will surely come back to haunt me), but she has had to flee her desk in the middle of the working day, she told me, to peg herself on to a washing line and dry off in a stiff breeze. 

She’s been to the doctor and tried various alternative therapies, including swallowing fields of red clover and acreages of ginseng and terraces of evening oil of primrose. She’s tumbled in turmeric root, flung herself into fish oil and knitted herself a flattering pair of flax-seed bed-socks. And while medication has helped, she’s still hitting the tiles, lying there in one long night sweat, watching the sun come up through the frosted glass.

“Your cat is not menopausal,” she hissed. “Your cat is bored!”

“Actually, I was reading about the menopause,” I told her. “Apparently, you should be listening to your body.”  

“I am listening to my body,” my friend said in a low and somewhat threatening manner. “My body is telling me to float over drought-afflicted areas and precipitate. At this point, I could single-handedly irrigate Andalusia.”

Only that morning, I told my friend, I’d received the spring edition of a friendly newsletter in my inbox. Sent from an organisation dispensing support and advice to women as they navigate the shark-infested waters of hormonal change, the editorial reminded readers that spring can spark joy and growth. The menopause was a time for reappraisal, it continued, a time to sort out priorities and make the rest of our lives “fabulous and enjoyable”. Look at your life, the piece suggested, at your home and family, your work, your aspirations, and ask whether you are living a comfortable, sustainable life.

My friend had hung up, possibly to gargle a bit of black cohosh and have a nap. 

“Am I living a comfortable, sustainable life?” I asked myself, on my aching knees with a bin bag and a handful of torn tissue.

“Is this sustainable?” I asked, as the apparently bored cat stalked past and miaowed her dinner order at me: mangled rabbit with aubergine, as it happens.

I felt a sudden hot flush of hostility. 

She better gird her furry loins. There’s going to be a few changes around here.

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