Sometimes a hot flush is about more than just a dodgy thermostat…
Why is it so damn hot in here? At Linate airport, the queue for temperature checks is growing. It’s February 2020, just before Italy locks down its first coronavirus hotspots. Outside, snow is falling on Milan, and yet I – always the coldest person in the room, always the one in a vest until May – am boiling. But it’s not Covid-19 that’s my problem.
I join the growing queue in front of the man in the hazmat suit, but the closer I get to the threat of his thermometer, the hotter I feel. Soon my head is on fire. My face is scarlet. There’s a trickle of sweat running from my hairline down between my shoulder blades and puddling under my bra strap. Someone has stoked the furnace in my solar plexus and it won’t go out.
I need to get to the city centre for an appointment. They can’t put me back on a plane because my thermostat’s out of whack.
I get to the head of the queue. “Ho un po’ caldo,” I whisper to Hazmat Guy, who’s standing well over the requisite two metres away from me.
Oh God, he can’t hear.
I try it a bit louder. “I’m a little hot,” I hiss.
“Signora, I can’t hear you.”
“I’M HAVING A HOT FLUSH,” I bellow, loud enough for the whole of Lombardy to hear.
There’s laughter all around. He points the thermo-gun at my head and surprisingly, my temperature is normal. So I laugh, too, but in truth I’m mortified. This is not who I am. When did I become this middle-aged meno-frump who has to stick her head in the fridge to cool down? Who thinks twice about wearing leather trousers? Who no longer merits an un-PC wolf-whistle from a passing builder?
Because it’s not just about the hot flushes – it’s about ego, too. My menopause story is only just beginning and, thanks to the miracle of HRT, the sweats have now abated, but I’m left with a bigger battle: one of identity. Who am I if I’m no longer young and juicy?
I used to laugh at my mother when she told me she still felt 27 in her head. Now I know exactly what she meant. I’m only 52 – only! – but my friends’ kids look at me as though I’m as old as Methuselah. One commented recently that my clothes were “quite cool – for an older person”. And I railed when my GP suggested I might like to try some sweat-wicking underwear to help with my temperature control.
My friend Sophie hit the nail on the head: “I want my oestrogen back!” she wailed. I want that too – but I also want those around me to realise that women in their 50s aren’t past it. We’re not dried up or over the hill. We’re at our best. I don’t want to be 27 again – it was an awful year. But I still want to be… seen.
That’s why resources like MegsMenopause.com are so valuable. It’s a place to share our experiences – whether that’s talking about lube, lacy knickers (good underwear never fails to perk you up) or self-image – and to laugh. Lord knows, we could all do with a bit of that right now.