From puberty to menopause in the blink of an eye
No one tells you what going from puberty to menopause means. It’s as if it’s some kind of secret, each part only to be told, at the given time.
School lessons came long after strange things began to happen and then they seemed far removed from my reality. Despite all the facts and fits of giggles, I was left utterly confused. I learnt so much more on the streets; innocent talk uncovering the truth that I was not alone.
Imagine waking one morning and finding that a single hair has sprouted, down there. You stare, then pull it, ouch it’s attached, and then searching the rest of your body discover that there’s a few under your arms too. Mmm, what to do?
Later, playing in the garden, I can see me proudly lifting my arms to show off my new dark hairs. ‘Do you have any?’ I ask. My friends pull off their tops to check, nothing; I was alone. Then feeling braver I pulled up my skirt, slipping my knickers to one side to show them my single triumphant, curly hair.
My friends and I discuss these hairs fascinated. Soon boredom sets in and we get back to our other childish games. In a short space of time, the hairs slowly accumulated, no longer a mystery, they just became a fact of life. They were soon joined by hard lumps on my chest.
When I prodded said lumps, they hurt. Again, another fascinating time as I sat and stared somewhat bemused at how my normally flat body had two grown small mounds. The buds hurt; my brother seemed to know this and would often punch me in the chest. My revenge is, as a girls want, is to tell on him and then cry a lot. That was never my normal way; I was strong and tough but something odd was happening and I couldn’t stop myself.
Mum took us both to the doctor who explained that I was growing breasts. Hooray, I think, no more tennis balls. My brother gets reprimanded off for hitting me and told more kindly why he mustn’t do it. My brother surprisingly obeys. They took a long time to grow bigger. I wanted a bra, not that there was much to put in one. I even tried the pencil test, which I failed. Eventually, mum took me shopping; 30AA announced the shop assistant who measured my womanly bits. I chose two Berlei bras, white with little blue flowers; I was so proud.
Once home, I headed to the playing field and showed off my new possessions visible through my tight white T-shirt. Dad, who was living away in some place that the RAF had sent him, had missed this momentous occasion, but soon added his special comments on his return.
My lovely bras were drying on the radiator while I was in the chair reading. The door opened and this man who I hadn’t seen for a year filled the room. Without stopping to say hello he reached over to the radiator and announced ‘whose molehills do these belong to?’ Ashamed and red faced I ran from the room, my pride crushed. Mum must have told him off, but I never felt that same about my lumps again.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I was shortly told about something called periods and given a packet of things to use when these arrived. I put the package and pink belt in my drawer and waited. Despite knowing that ‘they’ would be coming, I was a little shocked to get home from school where I to discover blood. I sat on my bed and thought long and hard about what this could be. There wasn’t any doubt it was ‘them’, they had come.
I calmly took the packet from my drawer and opened it up. Yuk! I worked out how to attach the hefty pad to the belt. I put it on and sat quietly on the bed and waited for my mum. After a short while, doubt set in and I was certain that this wasn’t a period and it must be something else. I quickly removed the lumpy object, folded it back up, popped it in the packet and put it all back away.
When mum eventually came home, I took her to one side to tell her of my discovery and to ask if this was it. Once confirmed, I sadly returned to the drawer to replace the uncomfortable wedge. Disappointed to learn that this would indeed be a regular occurrence.
Nothing can prepare you for the disgust you feel as your body betrays you. Soon I knew how to tell it was coming, stabbing pain in my side cruelly warned me. At school, I had to tell the teacher why I couldn’t swim or play games. I certainly didn’t want anyone to see the pink belt.
Curious for other options, I then discovered there was something called Tampax, These marvels were neat and placed out of sight. I did wonder how if you haven’t had a baby how they could fit in there. My mum keen to help gave me a packet of the magic things, explained what to do and sent me off to try. 10 failed attempts later I resigned myself, to the fact that womanhood and all its paraphernalia was here to stay.
Motherhood didn’t visit me. I was pleased, never wanting children and never really knowing why. Looking back there is a possibility that I was infertile because accidents never resulted in anything. There was a tiny blip at forty and a half, but as soon as the madness came, it left. Delighted I carried on with my life.
Some 35 years after the pink belt incident, mother nature had another little surprise up her sleeve. This time, my body would betray me in other ways. Unfeasibly hot at night; legs were thrown out of the bed, shortly followed by legs back in. Quick hot flashes which could stop a board meeting dead, caused much hilarity at my expense. Rivers of salty brine cascading through the channel from my breasts to my navel. Who doesn’t love a wet patch? Sleepless nights and the endless search for the cure to end all that ails the older women.
Peri menopause taught me that good food equalled less hormonal drift and so I changed my diet and triumphantly forced the demon peri men-o-pause from my life. As suddenly as she came unbidden and unwelcome, she was gone. A faint memory and all that stuff done with.