AIDA AUSTIN: She was far too busy flirting to bother with a menopause

Never having had a menopause herself because she “had to have the whole blasted contraption whipped out at 40,” my mother is curious to hear about mine. “So,” she says on the phone, “how’s it going? Are you still boiling to death?”

“Either that or freezing,” I say. “Which is it right now?” my mother says.

“Freezing to death,” I say, “but that could all change in a second. My thermostat is now officially broken.” 

“I never knew women had thermostats,” my mother says.

“Neither did I until mine broke,” I say.

“Mind you,” she says, “I never knew women had the menopause either.” 

“Come on, Mum,” I say, “you must have had at least a vague idea.” 

“Very vague,” she says, “who on earth would have told me about it? I mean it’s not like nowadays, when there’s such a monumental deluge of information about everything that we’re all drowning in it.”

“I don’t know,” I say, “your mother might have mentioned it at some point.”

There is an astounded silence. “My mother?” she says. 

“Okay,” I say, “maybe not your mother…” “My mother had no experience of the menopause,” she says.

 “Well,” I say, “she must have talked about it to some extent for you to know even that much.”

“No,” my mother says, “like most of her generation, she didn’t talk about the menopause.”

“So how do you know she didn’t go through the menopause?” I say. 

“Because she wouldn’t have allowed it.” 

“Mum,” I say. “She wouldn’t have allowed it to happen,” my mother insists.

“It’s not a question of allowance,” I say. 

“My mother’s thermostat would have listened,” Mum says, “my mother would have spoken to it long before it got even the slightest notion of breaking down on her.

“She was far too busy flirting to bother with a menopause.” 

“I shall start flirting more,” I say.

“She was living in a a menage-a-trois at your age,” my mother says, “you won’t remember that but you must remember her at 70, dressing up in a tutu and taking up with Brian.” 

“I do,” I say. “I mean if she had a menopause,” my mother says, “and I’m not convinced she did, it certainly didn’t bother her and it obviously didn’t bother Brian either. Twenty-nine! And he proposed within a fortnight.”

“But if not your mother, then surely you had friends who went through it.” 

“Well they must have done,” my mother says “but I think we were all a bit more... robotic in those days. You just put your head down and got on with it.”

“Robotic” is an odd description,” I say.

“Looking back,” my mother says, “I think Sally had one. But she was already bi-polar, so it’s hard to say. She was always having disasters.” 

“I’m not having a disaster,” I say, “I’m just freezing.

“But Mum,” I say, “when you went in to have the hysterectomy you must have had some idea about…”

“I had no idea about anything,” Mum says, “all I remember is I was put on a ward with women who were having all sorts of things done to them to help them have babies.”

“But Dad must have known what the operation meant.”

“Dad had even less of an idea,” she says, “he just kept putting pretty pictures up.” “Where?” I say, “why?”

“At the end of the bed,” she says, “to cheer me up. When I was convalescing. A different one every day. So that I’d have something pretty to look at.”

“That’s nice,” I say. 

“So anyway,” she says, “what’s your thermostat doing right now?”

“Back to boiling,” I say.

“Pity my mother isn’t around to have a word with it,” she says.


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