From Buxom Blonde to Menopausal Matron

For years I was a natural buxom blonde. Natural in that my boobs are big without any intervention and my hair is blonde at source. In the past I suppose I had a reasonably nice curvy figure (although having three kids by 21 left their mark) and as I got older I used to dye my dulling dark blonde hair lighter to try to re-capture that youthful brightness. For the longest time I looked young for my age, too, so people would see me and judge accordingly. In many people’s eyes big boobs plus blonde hair equals bimbo – vacuous, dumb, shallow, whatever the particular stereotype du jour.

It used to be quite fun to see the look on people’s faces when I surprised them with the reality that I’m actually quite smart – I gained a first class honours degree at 40. Or parents would say to me in a patronising, parental tone ‘Wait til you have kids, then you’ll see!’ and I’d point out I already had kids, I’d been a mum since I was 18. My voluptuous soft curves often belied my underlying physical strength – beneath my layer of fatty tissue I also have well-built muscle. On initial acquaintance for various reasons I often simply wasn’t the person people assumed I was, and for many years that social dissonance almost became part of my identity – I was often able to use the stereotype to my advantage.

But as time passed it bothered me more and more to so easily be dismissed by others as irrelevant in a snap judgement just because of how I looked. It stopped being fun and instead I found it increasingly frustrating. In my late forties I stopped dying my hair and deliberately lost that ‘blonde bombshell’ look I’d kept for so long. And now I’m in my late fifties my once-shapely figure is more menopausal matronly than sexy hourglass, my dark blonde hair is greying and it seems the old stereotype no longer applies. So am I taken more seriously now? Nope, not a bit of it – it seems I’m still routinely dismissed as an irrelevance in society at large, but now it’s because of my advancing age rather than being a buxom blonde! 🙂

Weekly Prompt: Advantages

PS After publishing this post, it was brought to my attention that it would be a suitable answer for this week’s Fandango’s Provocative Question, which asks:

What impression do you think you give when you first meet someone?

So I’m cheating and using my post to answer this challenge, too! 🙂

Difference

Since going through menopause I’ve noticed a definite difference in the way perfumes smell on my skin. Old faithful fragrances find themselves out of favour these days as hormonal changes alter my ageing senses and shift my own subtle secretions so that what once smelled sweet now tends to sour slightly on my skin, musty and mouldering.

For too long I’ve been lamenting what I’ve lost instead of wondering what I might have gained by these new nuances of self. So perhaps I need a difference in my approach to match the new menopausal me? Forget the past and find new fragrances that fit my new life phase… Maybe even something bolder to suit my older years… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Difference

Scents and Scents-ability

I don’t ever remember either of my grandmothers wearing any kind of perfume at all. My dad’s mum was a farmer’s wife and had no opportunity for anything more fragrant than scented soap to get rid of the everyday smells of the farm from her person. And my mum’s mum was born with no sense of smell at all so the whole point of perfume was entirely lost on her.

My mum always kept her sparing use of scent strictly for special occasions, so for mum the rarity of wearing perfume went hand in glove with the rarity of wearing make-up and jewellery and fancy clothes. Her favourite perfume was L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci, a rich, strong childhood smell I associate even today with lipstick and powder and fur coats and heels – because I grew up in a time where women still wore fur to dress up.

L’Air du Temps is a ‘modern’ perfume, first introduced in 1948, with a traditional spicy/ woody/ floral scent, and although it suited mum well enough it smells awful on my skin so I never felt the desire to steal a sneaky spray or follow in her fragrance footsteps. If anything, it put me off – too over-bearing and cloying, but it was the one-and-only example I had. So I find it strange that someone who grew up with truly minimal interaction with perfume should have developed such an intense personal relationship with it in adulthood.

Fragrance fascinates me, the way the initial heady top-notes in that first sharp haze give way to the softer mid-range heart-notes that in turn surrender to the deeper base-notes, and then the final dry-down. It amazes me how fragrances can smell so different on different people – and how even the same fragrance can smell so different on first application than when it finally fully settles on the skin’s surface, blending with body temperature and body oils. And how some scents seem to cling close for hours while others evidently evaporate into thin air after only the briefest of bonding.

I just love the way perfume makes me feel good in myself, for me it’s intoxicating, a perfect mood-enhancer. Sometimes I prefer something a bit sweeter, at other times something a bit fresher. Sometimes something fun and feminine, at other times something more sensual and sexy. I find I don’t stick to one recognisable signature scent, but own several similar perfumes that I love to mix and match depending on my mood and the time of year and how formal or informal my day ahead may be. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t spritz on a little scent on my pulse points, whatever I’m doing.

Over many years’ experimentation I’ve found that as a general rule lighter florals work best for me, usually blended with cool citrus or warm fruity notes, whereas most heavier oriental woody notes just smell somehow ‘wrong’ on my skin. However it seems hitting menopause has caused a slight alteration in the way perfume reacts chemically with my skin. Some things that smelled really good on me before now smell a little… off. So I’m back to experimenting with a few new smells again in the hope that maybe I can find myself some new favourites for the future.

One thing’s for sure, the right perfume will always have the ability to soothe my senses… Ooh, it feels so good to smell good 🙂

Meh-nopause

Let me start by saying – my blog, my experience, my opinion, so I understand that other mature women will probably have very different ideas on the topic. In fact I know I might feel very differently about menopause myself in a year or so, once I get more used to it – but right now this is how I feel about it all.

Right now I’m finding that menopause feels meh. And when I say ‘menopause’ I don’t mean that whole extreme peri-menopause period which felt a bit like puberty in reverse – all dramatic hormonal upheaval and irregular bleeding and mood swings and hot flushes and night sweats forever and a day. I mean the what comes after that, the ‘pause’ bit.

Without a doubt peri-menopause was difficult enough to deal with in that I found the long-term erratic disruption of my natural, familiar bodily rhythms both physically and emotionally draining. Because for me, forty-odd years of monthly menstrual cycles only ever interrupted by three straightforward pregnancies didn’t go at all gently into that good night, but most definitely raged and then raged some more against the eventual dying of the light!

It was certainly a tough time, which coincided with several other tough times in life, and emotional upheaval was the name of the game for a good few years until my now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t hormone levels finally gave up the ghost for good, and at the end of last summer we marked the end of that extended period of life turmoil by selling up and moving to where we live now. So now here we are, happily living in the house we intend to make our forever home, able to settle down properly at last.

And then only a few months later coronavirus came, and now here we are in lockdown… And lockdown feels meh too. So for now, for me, the combination of getting to grips with the realities of menopause and the too-much-time-on-my-own-to-think closed-in-ness of lockdown means life feels altogether a bit too meh for my liking right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love that we live here, and I love that all the practical upheaval of difficult stuff is over at last.

I love that I don’t have a diary punctuated periodically by coded symbols indicating bouts of bodily bleeding. I love the money I save in not regularly having to buy sanitary products any more. I love no longer having unsightly hormonal skin breakouts every month. And I really love that I don’t feel like a screaming banshee on steroids anymore, or end up dissolving into floods of tears every five minutes or so for no reason at all, just because my huffy hormones are in a strop.

So no more up-and-down-in-mood menstrual cycles for me, and no more all-over-the-place peri-menopausal symptoms either. Instead I’m simply left with the interminable flatness of menopause, made all the more noticable right now by the interminable flatness of life in lockdown where every day for me feels like groundhog day. I spent so long wishing for a peaceful life, inside and out, and it feels like now I have it, I don’t actually know what to do with it.

I know I’ll get used to it eventually, the flatness, and no doubt in time I’ll find it liberating to be free of the stormy upheavals of hormonal fluctation. I’m sure I’ll come to love the internal peace that such a flat calm brings to the previously undulating turbulance caused by the natural ebb and flow of female life. But right now, for me menopause feels meh, and there’s nothing I can do to make it feel better but wait until it does… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Mature