Saturday 29 October 2016

The Middlepause: On Turning 50 by Marina Benjamin

The big five-oh is fast approaching and books like this now have a curious appeal.

Suddenly finding yourself experiencing perimenopausal symptoms and not knowing what to do with them can be rather startling if not frightening at times.

Considering how much medical knowledge we have about pretty much every other aspect of our physical lives, I am surprised by how much myth and mystery still surrounds menopause and it's various stages.

Fortunately, the baby boomers have never done anything quietly or on the sly, which is good for us Gen X-er's that follow along. As the boomers have hit each stage of life, they have brought it kicking and screaming into the public eye, thrown money at it and done everything possible to conquer it, fix it or normalise it.

Books like The Middlepause are popping up everywhere as boomer women embrace menopause and want everyone to know about it.

Personal stories about individual experiences are an important part of the normalisation process - they help us to see that everyone has their own story, their own way of going through menopause and that they are all perfectly valid. Menopause is not a prescribed process with specific signs and symptoms that everyone follows. Every woman's experience will be different and that is normal.

Part of the reason why you pick up a book like this, though, is to be reassured that you are normal when you feel far from it! You want to know that there is some common ground, some regular, formulaic way of getting through this phase of your life.

I confess that I was hoping for practical information when I picked up this book, but after the first few chapters about hormones, Benjamin veered off into stories about books, movies and her particular family situation. Which may have been interesting if I knew who she was (I don't), or if my situation reflected hers (she had an emergency hysterectomy). But it doesn't.

Like Benjamin was, I am expecting that 'gradual transition' of menopause, when 'age will have crept up on you the way fine lines do.'

I empathised with Benjamin's sudden descent into menopause after her operation and this book could be helpful for others who have found themselves in a similar position.

But I was looking for more of the stuff around peri-menopause, more insights that could help one to realise that you are not alone when you feel,
'the sort of mood swings and rounadbouts not encountered since adolescence, but when experienced in maturity they lead to a volatile and vertiginous flirt with extremity, skirt with madness...the whole thing is like some fairground House of Horrors experience.'
Comments like that are comforting when  you've just had one of the weirdest weeks of your life where everything feels like it's on a knife edge and you seriously wonder if you're going crazy.

I was looking for answers and what I found here was someone else wondering what on earth was going on for her and searching for answers.

This is a very personal account of one women's experience with ageing which highlights that we all go through these phases in our own unique ways. And that's perfectly okay.


  1. Anonymous29/10/16

    Great review on your quest for knowledge of life after 50.
    When you're my age....50 seems nostalgic!
    Remember: you can never have enought black turtle neck sweaters ...and
    stock up on creamy 'expensive' body lotion. You must pamper yourself!
    greetings, a babyboomer.

    1. Too hot in Sydney for turtlenecks. But scarves will do the trick just as nicely!!

  2. A friend of mine refers happily to the White Trouser Years, when finally you can wear such things without The Fear. Of course, there's a way to go of confusing symptoms and weirdities before then, but I'm kind of keeping my eyes on the horizon. Sorry if that's TMI, by the way - it just makes me giggle.

    1. We have to keep on laughing otherwise we might go mad!!

      I love the idea of the White Trouser Years, but I've always had trouble keeping white clothes white - whatever part of the body they cover! Whenever I wear a white t-shirt I always find some black dirt or oil or soot to rub up against!!


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