The Hot Topic: How a Vogue Editor does menopause
Ignorance is bliss but knowledge is power. If you know what is happening to you, or what is going to happen to you, it might make menopause less of an affront. That's Christa D'Souza's advice in her brilliant new book on menopause. We've captured our favourite bits below....
Christa D’Souza has a knack of nailing it. Like when she first used “1661” – coining the modern phenomenon of a woman who, thanks to modern grooming advances, religious exercise and ageless fashion taste, looks 16 from behind and 61 from front. She has made a career out of pithy journalism that manages, among other subjects, to capture the 1st world plight of middle-aged girls who refuse to grow up with grace.
So when D’Souza decides to write a book about her recent adventures in menopause, you know it will be frank and wryly funny.
Her gripes with menopause are many: having to say goodbye to wine o’clock and her waist, the simultaneous sprouting of back fat and nose hair, the arrival of hardcore insomnia and hot flushes and the sudden departure of sexual desire.
D’Souza’s no pushover – she had her own bout with breast cancer Grade 1 around 8 years ago, and was treated with radiotherapy “a mere verruca compared to the experiences of so many of my poor friends have had with the disease”. So she seems genuinely puzzled at the ferocity of her symptoms, and her reaction to them. She looks to her mother's and sister’s experience of menopause for answers. Both capable, no-fuss, adventurous women, they found themselves unraveled by menopause, both summarizing their symptoms in one word: debilitating.
D’Souza explores all options, consulting best in field menopause specialists in the USA and Europe, about the pros and cons of HRT versus just taking care of oneself better. Even in medical minds, there’s a wide range of opinion as to what’s best for women and plenty of dissent about whether HRT and breast cancer history can ever be compatible.
The Hot Topic: A Life Changing Look at the Change of Life is choc-full of anecdotes from women from all walks – those who embrace crone-hood to those who want to sip forever at the fountain of youth, those who opt for HRT and those who take the natural route, those who have an easy time with menopause and those who are almost derailed by it. There’s something in there for everyone.
On weight gain:
“My pants felt like they had somehow become “friendlier” (as we used to call it at school when they crawled up your behind). So, weirdly, did all my shoes. Though I was basically the same size, my upper body felt, what’s the word: moosier? And I found myself having to unhook my bras a notch, tucking fewer things in, wearing baggier tops, without realizing it. I was beginning to dress like my mother.” My body, after years of toeing the line when I told it to, obediently shrinking when I put myself on the paleo diet or 5:2 or whatever, suddenly had a mind of its own, almost like when I was pregnant.”
(She confirms, that indeed, when we hit our 50s we need around 65% of the calories we needed in our twenties, thanks to our basal metabolic rate slowing down with age.)
On younger women
"There is a part of me which rather resents younger women, women in their thirties and forties, who have reached that sweet spot in their lives (and, like me at that age) couldn’t be less interested in the subject of menopause. I want to shake my fist at them and tell them “It’ll come to you soon enough”. But then there is another part of me that is excited for them, excited for me, for what is to come. “
On the wisdom of hindsight
“ What are the take home messages? Someone asked me recently: If I had my druthers, would I have “done” menopause differently? Well maybe I would have stuck my head in the sand less and prepped more. Given up drink earlier. Bought the bigger sized jeans. Gotten the grown up hair cut. Approached it like my friend and yoga teacher, Nadia, who at 43 doesn’t feel really there yet, but who is determined not to get “ caught short” when it happens. I admire her prophylactic strategy and her steadfast refusal to see menopause in a negative light.”
And finally, on acceptance: “True Bliss is to get over ourselves.”
About Christa D’Souza
Christa D'Souza has written for publications such as the Guardian, Daily Mail, the Times, the Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, and the Evening Standard, and is currently contributing editor of British Vogue. In her articles, she often probes body issues such as ageing, weight-control, diet, cosmetic surgery, and her own battle with cancer. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.