I’ve written before about some of the negative effects that the menopause can have on women. Today, I want to celebrate the good parts of midlife and show that women can still have a unique, alternative style and confidence as they get older. We can still be fab at 50!
Menopause is being talked about in the media quite regularly at the moment which is great, but the image portrayed is not quite so flattering. After seeing “midlife” being illustrated by a lady with a fan, Twitter account Behind the Woman started a campaign to “Change the Face of Menopause”.
Middle aged and menopausal women were encouraged to send in their own photos, and what happened next was wonderful. A selection of women, many of whom are struggling with menopausal symptoms, sent in their pics showing their vibrancy and lust for life.
Coming from an “alternative” lifestyle scene of live music and scootering, I decided to get my ladies together to show off the beauty and strength of this colourful bunch of women. Each and every one of them has enjoyed psychobilly, rockabilly, punk, ska and mod gigs and/or scooter rallies, from their teenage years to current day.
Below you will find 16 ladies at various stages of midlife – some in menopause, some having passed it and some approaching it, all trying different ways of coping with the symptoms.
They have various careers with several of them retraining to move on to new vocations, and others preferring to slow down a bit. Each woman still enjoys their own style and pastimes, and whilst menopause may be knocking our confidence in many ways, we are gaining it in other ways.
Read on to see how each lady is dealing with menopause or midlife. Let’s start off with the gorgeous Teresa, showing us how it’s done at 54.
ALI, SCOOTER GIRL AT 52
“I’ve been riding scooters since I was 16 and am still going strong at 52. We go to rallies around the country, attend local rideouts and meet up with like-minded scooter people.
In the 80s I dyed my hair purple, blue and pink but these days it’s more conventional; usually blonde but after a winter of chemotherapy it’s growing back brown. I’ll bleach it again just as soon as it’s strong enough.
I was peri-menopausal when I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Part of my treatment is the drug Tamoxifen, which has various side effects including an accelerated menopause. I could deal with all of it but it’s the night sweats which have the biggest impact to my quality of life. They hit me at around 3am like clockwork every night and I struggle to get back to sleep afterwards. If I’m really lucky then I’ll doze until 6.30 or so, but good nights are unusual and I’m more likely to be awake the whole time. I can’t remember when I last woke up after 7am!
What’s frustrating is that I can’t take many of the usual remedies for my menopausal symptoms as my cancer is hormone-receptive. My oncologist has given me the green light to take sage supplements, which I’ve just started. The only other treatment open to me is acupuncture which can apparently be extremely effective. I’m looking into where I can get this done locally, as I’m willing to try anything to get a good night’s sleep.
My cancer treatment has certainly not stopped me enjoying life, and as well as the scooter rallies we attend I’ve started paddle boarding on a local canal which is really picturesque. I seek out street art in places like Brighton and Portsmouth, and try to travel as much as I can.
You can read about my cancer diagnosis here and I strongly believe that positivity is a choice and being a glass half full kind of girl has carried me through the bad times in the past few months.”
JO, STILL LOVING ALTERNATIVE MUSIC AT 52
I’m still loving the same music that I did when I was a teenager, still going to gigs, and still dressing in jeans, band t-shirts and Dr Martens. I am partial to wearing a dress when it’s warmer, and of course, the menopause means that I can wear them far more often now on account of my increased body temperature. Every cloud and all that.
Menopause has unfortunately dumped a huge dose of social anxiety on me so I’ve not gone out so much lately. But when I do go to see certain bands, I still feel like I’m that 17 year old girl totally engrossed in the music at the front of the stage. I had great fun at the weekend going in a sidecar on a scooter rideout – something I haven’t done for many years.
I’ve been dying my hair bright colours since I was 17 and don’t have any intention of stopping now. It just wouldn’t feel like me. I do sometimes wonder if I look ridiculous with pink hair at my age, but then probably no more ridiculous that I have done all my life. I’m really not worried what others think, although I’ve never had a negative comment about it.
I’ve already written about my menopause here on Tea and Cake for the Soul, but will say that HRT has been a life changer for me, as has reducing the stress in my life. You’ve gotta do what works for you.
JENNY, GIGGING AND GLAM AT 51
“In my 22nd year, I thought 50 was ancient and that ladies of that age spent all their time being grandmothers and had no style! I hadn’t even heard of the menopause!
But here I am in my 50’s and although slightly wider and wiser I’m loving it!!!
I’ve retired, gone back to work after getting bored, moved house twice in the last 3 years all whilst dealing with MS, depression, cancer and other illnesses in my family and knowing that menopause is looming. But all I’m gonna say is, bring it on, I’m still having a ball!!!
ALISON, 51 YEAR OLD PSYCHOBILLY/ROCKABILLY
“My name is Alison or Ali or Al. I’ve been called a few other things too! I’m 51 years old, married with boy/girl twins who will be 26 soon.
I have suffered with endometriosis all my adult life. I was told, like most young women, it would get better after having children. It didn’t! After having the twins my GP put me on the Depo Provera injection which was amazing. No more periods for 12 years. Unfortunately, this was just making a whole lot of trouble!
In 2005 I was so poorly my mum called an ambulance and I was rushed to hospital. It took 4 days to discover I had ovarian cysts, one the size of a tennis ball, but that’s not all! The consultant thought it could all be removed with keyhole surgery but when the camera went in they discovered my right fallopian tube was so twisted due to the cyst, it had cut off the blood supply and I had gangrene! Thankfully I recovered well but I still had the endometriosis.
After years of trying other treatments, including micro ablation with no success finally, at the age of 41, I had a hysterectomy. They left my ovaries to save me going into early menopause but in 2016 I felt a pain I recognised, and a scan confirmed I had another huge cyst, this time on my left side.
Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t go quite so well. The cyst had attached to my bowel and I had a lot of scar tissue. They had wanted to remove both ovaries but the one on the right was atrophied (wasted) and they couldn’t get to it. Recovery took a lot longer than my hysterectomy and a lot more painful.
My boss and work colleagues were not very sympathetic, long story short I decided to leave the job I had been doing for 10! At first I felt relieved but as time went on I began to feel really down and pretty useless. After years of working in retail and customer service I couldn’t get a job!
Thankfully it all worked out for the best. I am now an Assistant Healthcare Scientist in the Pathology dept assay my local hospital analysing bloods for foetal medicine. I’m doing a job I love with a great team of people and for only 3 days a week which is perfect as I can’t believe how tired I feel all the time since the menopause hit!
I don’t feel like “me” anymore. It started with my losing my temper. I’ve always been the most calm, cheerful person. Definitely a cup half full person. But sometimes things would happen and I could feel an uncontrollable rage building inside me. I would get so angry.
Then the hot flushes started. Not just getting hot, but like a pilot light had ignited inside me and literally a WHOOSH of heat travelling right through my whole body, making all my skin flush.
Then the crying, for no apparent reason and the weight I had worked so hard to lose gradually creeping back on.
I’ve never suffered with depression but I felt so sad and just not me anymore.
I tried a few different herbal things like Sage and Black Cohash but they did nothing for me. My GP gave me something for the hot flushes but they gave me such a dry mouth, my tongue cracked so I stopped taking them. To be honest, he wasn’t very supportive so I was never offered HRT, maybe I should have pushed harder.
It’s taken roughly 4 years and things have settled down. I feel calmer and the flushes have stopped but I still don’t feel like “me”. Maybe this is just the new me now. Older, wiser, a bit fat and achy, but still with pink hair, tattoos and a love of rockabilly and psychobilly! I still love travelling, meeting new people going to gigs (although not as many as I would like) I suppose thinking about it I still feel 18 on the inside but just a grown up and more sober version.
CHERYL, PUNK LOVING CAKE MAKER, 52
“I’m 52. My interests include going to psychobilly & punk gigs, making cakes, and eating them! I’m not really bothered by the fact that I’m over 50 in itself. However, I am starting to feel my age with all the aches and creaky joints.
The worst thing about the menopause for me is the tiredness and forgetfulness. The forgetfulness was actually really worrying me as my dad died a couple of years ago from dementia.
The hot flushes are annoying and uncomfortable, especially at gigs. I don’t take HRT, mainly because of the cancer scares surrounding it, but am going to look into it a bit more following something I saw on tv the other morning.
A lady said she had been worried that she had dementia, but it was just the menopause and had improved greatly after taking HRT. ”
JULIE, PARTY GIRL AT 50 SOMETHING
“l was quite shy and quiet and blonde in my teens. At 50 something I’m still colouring my hair but have not quite grown up. Menopause has been quite kind to me just night sweats and bone problems but I’m still out there watching bands, drinking too much, dancing and having fun with my friends so l count myself lucky.”
SARAH, SUPER STYLISH AT 47
This is me – stern faced hotel room selfie – just before friends’ wedding celebrations in Vegas in April this year. I would say that a vintage look (1930s-1950s for me) is certainly something that evolves over time. And that’s a good thing as it’s a great time frame of fashion to experiment with in terms of style.
The origins of the way I dress definitely begin with Psychobilly many many years ago. In the past 10 years or so I fell back into it with remarkable ease. As time has gone by my wardrobe is now 90% vintage repro, 9% Vintage, the other 1% is the high street imitating vintage repro (the Primark Gods have shown their benevolence recently).
In the past couple of years I’ve been delving more into 1940s fashion, so less circle skirts more wide legged trousers (but always capris!). I like the simplicity of the era from the cut of the clothes to the colours – Katherine Hepburn is a definite inspiration.
As I approach 48, the menopause has been on my mind – but it’s because so many of my friends talk about symptoms they have and I don’t necessarily feel any different. It’s a bit like being the girl at school who hasn’t started their periods yet.
So I’m not really sure how I feel about it, to be honest. I would hope that it won’t impact on anything that I do – until asked the question by Jo it hadn’t occurred to me that it may even be a possibility!
The one thing I would say that I’m very aware of is weight gain, especially in recent years, and that’s something that I’m sort of half heartedly working at (losing it, not gaining more).
I do wonder if symptoms of the menopause can be mitigated by healthier lifestyle choices. I’m sure there’s a mountain of research out there that confirms/denies this! It’s probably sensible to try and live as healthily as possible in any case. So after the 5 mile walk I’ve just done, I’m off to make an aloe vera, chia seed smoothie and do some research about injecting my face with my own blood.
Here I’m wearing a Lady V sarong dress, the shoes and bag (green rattan clutch) are Collectif. Hair is not by me and was styled by girls from the Heads Will Roll Salon in LV.”
LEO, PSYCHOBILLY GIG GOER, 50+
“I’m struggling with the perimenopause symptoms and trying to keep on top of it all. I have good days and bad days.
Inside, I’m still the young girl loving life a party animal, life and soul of any occasion. Outside, I’m looking frumpy with unwanted weight gain, wrinkles, etc. Inside me, still wants to party till dawn. Outside me, needs to be in bed by 10pm!
Still loving life, gigs and psychobilly but I have to learn to pace myself .”
VANESSA, MUSIC LOVING SCOOTER GIRL, 48
“Nightsweats, mood swings, over emotional, still loving life though, trying to do it naturally!!”
LAURA, 51 BANK MANAGER BY DAY, GIG GOER BY NIGHT
Laura is probably the most profilic gig goer and music supporter that I know. Along with her husband Richard, she’s still out there several times a week supporting the bands and buying plenty of band t-shirts.
I’ve witnessed Laura blossom over the years, both in looks and confidence. I have to say she looks younger now that when I first met her about ten years ago.
“So far, I think I’ve got off quite lightly. I have a few days of hot flushes, every now and then, but they tend to be focused on my arms, which are usually the coldest part of my body, so I won’t complain!
I’m hoping my hot flushes don’t get worse! I guess I’ve still got quite a few years of this to go, but so far I’ve managed to stay away from the doctors and HRT. I hope it stays that way! I kind of like having less periods now, but hate the irregularity and the not knowing of ‘when’!
The only bit that I don’t like is the middle age spread, I’m definitely losing my waistline, feel like I have a big bloated belly all the time, and am finding the half stone I’ve put on very hard to lose. I’m sad that I can’t fit into some of my favourite skirts anymore! ”
ANGELA 44, PREMATURE MENOPAUSE, MATURE STUDENT
Angela, is another gig going, tattoo loving, coloured haired psychobilly. Not one to be slowed down by menopause, mature student and mum of 3, Angela is a great supporter of her music scene and has also put on gigs with husband Alex.
“I’m 44 but am an early starter! It’s a bit of a family thing. My mum had her menopause in her early 40’s and both my sister and gran had hysterectomies in their 30s!
I’m not taking anything, I use my diet to try to control symptoms (I’m a secret old hippy!) I cut out all dairy four years ago which has helped with all manner of things, and when I struggle with flushes and sleep problems I juice fast and it calms down for a bit.
I am studying at university in Winchester. I’m hoping to go on to do a masters when I finish my degree and then a conversion to qualify as a lecturer.”
GWEN, EARLY MENOPAUSE BEFORE 50
“I’m not 50 yet but as you know I was hurled into the menopause early following chemo for breast cancer in 2013.”
“About 6 months ago I started HRT. It’s certainly helped with the hot flushes but I’m still getting night sweats, but not quite as bad as pre HRT. I’m struggling with the memory thing though. As an uber organised person, I find forgetting stuff quite distressing.
I’m finding great comfort with my beautiful mermaids that I swim with on a weekly basis all year on the Solent. A lot of us are going through the big M. One of our catchphrases when we decide to take on a slightly bonkers swim or triathlon is ‘For the sake of my dry vagina …’ It certainly gets a few odd looks from people but always makes us laugh and reminds us we can achieve anything we set our minds too.
Having just qualified as an open water swimming coach, I’m working on a really exciting research project on the benefits of open water swimming on mental well being. I believe that cold water/open water swimming has a positive impact on the menopause symptoms too, generating a real sense of well being that lasts long after getting out of the sea and warming up!
I’m planning a full Ironman in 2020 to mark my 50th year!”
NO SLACKS SHANNAH, 51
“I’m 51 and still refuse to grow up – menopause doesn’t mean we’re old and past it; I’m not exactly revelling in the changes, but there’s no way I’m going all ‘beige slacks and Saga holidays’!”
SUZANNE,AKA MOTHER PUNK, SINGER, 59
“The menopause … something I’d heard about and feared when I was younger. I’d heard such awful tales of us women getting to a certain age and everything falling apart. Hot sweats, being grouchy, going off sex and feeling at the bottom of the heap.
At the age of 53, I started to get pains in my legs, hips and back. Blood tests revealed I had osteoporosis and was entering the dreaded menopause. I thought “oh no this is the end of my fun life of performing (singing) and roller blading.”
Strangely I got no other symptoms at all and sailed through it like a breeze. It hasn’t stopped me doing anything, apart from roller blading as I’m frightened I might fall and break something with my brittle bones.
For the past five months, I have been on HRT for the simple reason it protects bone density and everything else I was prescribed for osteoporosis made me sick. Calcium tablets made my hair fall out in clumps, so I’ve had to result to hair extensions. The good news is since stopping the calcium tablets it’s growing back.
I remember my poor mother having hot flushes and feeling sick and I can’t believe I’ve got away with none of these problems. Luckily my mum hasn’t got osteoporosis so I suppose we all suffer in different ways.
Anyone else who is having problems don’t hold back from going to your GP for help. It’s not something that can’t be treated. There are lots of things that can help. If you feel drab and past it pamper yourself. Age is just a number and you can still look lovely. I’ll be sixty in October and I’m not ready for my rocking chair just yet.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed my celebration of middle aged women. I would like to thank each and every one of these gorgeous ladies for being brave enough to be featured and tell their stories, And of course, thanks to @behindthewoman1 for starting the campaign in the first place.
Please do seek medical advice if you are suffering. Read as much as you can about menopause, and chat with other women about it. If you can have a laugh about it, all the better.
Womanhood is a tough old journey at times, but take a minute to look at what you’ve achieved.
It would be wonderful if you’d share this post and leave a comment to show support for these lovely ladies, or tell us about your own experiences.
Thanks for reading.