I I’m sitting on the road in Primrose Hill during a global pandemic when Meg Mathews starts talking loudly to me about her vaginal atrophy. Okay, we’re at a cafe table but, due to the aforementioned plague, the tables have been allowed to stretch into the main thoroughfare, which is half closed to traffic, and Mathews explains how menopause closed its own private road. . “I first realized when I was wearing my workout leggings and they weren’t new, but they were starting to get irritated,” she says, before describing the laser part of her treatment. “Vaginal rejuvenation”.
At this point, a voice from the sidewalk shouts “Meg!” and I can’t help but turn around, just in case it’s Kate Moss who has been screaming since 1997, but it’s not Kate Moss, it’s a sweet old lady in a raincoat with a little dog. “You look good, Meg,” she says, and they chatter politely until Meg can get rid of her neighbor and get back to business with her collapsing genitals. Menopause is Meg’s new topic you see – Britpop’s former first lady, once married to Noel Gallagher, now has a book, website, and products to launch, all under the Meg’s Menopause brand. Its mission is to get rid of our hormonal shame and shame.
“People put collagen on their faces, but what they don’t realize is that menopause can make their vagina lips really thin,” the 54-year-old continues, sipping herbal tea, dressed in ‘an elegant black tracksuit. big gold jewelry and with finger tattoos. It is an aesthetic that could be described as Goop crossed with EastEnders. “The girls at my hair removal center told me they could spot a menopausal vagina, or an unused vagina, a mile away,” she writes in her next book. The new hot. They just aren’t quite as plump, apparently, as well as dry, and she checked that out with her gynecologist who said, yes, flat fannies are definitely a thing.
It wasn’t just the physical symptoms of menopause that affected Mathews as she went through it – and there were enough of them, as she had perimenopausal symptoms, such as night sweats, from age. 40 years old – but there were also psychological disorders.
“It was so dark for me, I was in a really dark place,” she explains. Her divorce was long overdue, and it was “very good”, she said (by which I think she means terrible but old story), and she lived with their daughter Anaïs, “the love of my life ”, and had a nice boyfriend, too. “But I mostly had mental health issues with my own – the lack of estrogen made you very anxious and I was very overwhelmed with life. Now I was a person who just got up and walked out without giving a damn. All of a sudden I was the most worried – I mean I had always been a worrier in some ways, but never like that.
Mathews came back from vacation in California and just felt “really low, but low low, like I didn’t really know what hit me.” I went to the doctor and burst into tears, and received antidepressants ”. She would take Anaïs to school, then come home, curl up in bed and “scroll down Facebook looking at everyone’s perfect life.” (Celebrities – they’re like us!) It went on for three months. Her boyfriend was trying to get her out, but Mathews canceled and cried, sometimes wondering if she had dementia.
Did you think, this must be my life falling apart – were you making up a story to go with it?
“I was going, oh my gosh my colorful ’90s caught up with me. My mom always said they would. I thought I just broke my nervous system or… ”
Do you mean party, drink and drugs?
She is hesitating.
“Just, yeah, my colorful ’90s, I like to say. Better to say – everyone knows, they all smile when I say it, you know. It’s not like it’s not there. I am a recovering alcoholic. So I went to an AA meeting and basically shared how I was feeling. That’s what we do, talk to other addicts, it’s a support system. When I left, this woman hit me on the shoulder and she said, “I think you’re postmenopausal” and I was like… ”(She makes a dismayed face.)
You’re like, that’s not what I came for.
“No! And then I thought, ‘Ooh cheeky cow’, you know, oh my God! You know what I mean? I just had a vision of my grandma with a little stick and hair. gray, very frail, hunched over, you know, I thought, whoa, I wasn’t feeling well. Anyway, when I got home, I couldn’t even drive my car. Too fearful. My world had just become very small and the antidepressants didn’t work because I wasn’t really depressed.
So began Mathews’ long and detailed journey of trying to understand menopause, researching everything from estrogen receptors to shamanic healing in an effort to get to the bottom of it. When she puts the bit between her teeth, she is clearly running with it, and she has such a nasty glint in her eyes that you suddenly understand how everything in her social circle came about. They were clearly all guided by that glow – I don’t know why they needed the medicine.
In The new hot, a textbook with nuances of memoir about it, she describes the “ravenous sexual appetite” she had when she was younger and how adventurous she was before menopause tried to steal her libido. She came back, apparently, plus she advises masturbation (four times a week) as well as vibrators (you have to test them at the end of your nose!) And lubricant (which transformed her life – in fact she created a “lotion movement” itself). This is an extremely readable book which I have to say I found rather useful, although not all of her advice is backed by doctors, such as the fact that she launched a vaginal flushing.
“They say you should just wash it off with water, but I’m like, well I’m sorry after doing a 5k run, and if I wanna have sex, you know?” So I did the lowest pH balance and there is some rose water and marshmallow root, and I made up all the ingredients myself. It has its products stored in various chains. “The boots bought them for 435 stores – they approached me and just said you’re so right about the welfare of women.”
Her own bathroom at home always seems to be filled with her daughter’s friends getting ready, which has led to her wanting to make sure her menopausal products looked good on the shelf as well. The two of them posted an Instagram video of Anaïs comically rolling their eyes at her mother “talking about menopause again” – the addiction between them is clear.
Mathews grew up in Suffolk, with working class parents who managed to send her to private school, which might explain why she is somewhat difficult to place in the British class system. (She says she used to fake a Cockney accent.) Obsessed with fashion, she hitchhiked in London and “lived on the streets, I lived in squats, I lived with my bags and j had garbage bags. I just went from squat to squat, never knew where I was going to sleep, ”she says. She didn’t have her own room for two years. (In the past, she has spoken about how much money she wasted on drugs when she was rich, and suggested that she didn’t keep a good grip on her divorce settlement, having to sell her big house for a much more modest.)
Her career began as a cashier in a branch of Joseph, the upscale clothing store, but she had been appointed manager within six months. At 21, she was running her own fashion PR company, representing brands such as Naf Naf ‘and I did all of Neal Street. [in Covent Garden]. Then there was the music. “I mean, I handled Betty Boo, I did it all, you know. Long before I met Noel, I had my own music management company, I did remixes – not me, but I managed remix people. Made Ice Cube. Ice T got its only top 20 in the UK! But all this is forgotten. I say something about how the media has disrespected women in the past and she raises an eyebrow. “Don’t even… I can’t.”
She’s not the self-pitying type, and it’s not the past, it’s our brave new future. The one where Gwyneth Paltrow started talking about menopause, and Angelina Jolie and the panelists on Cowardly women, also. Mathews seems utterly delighted that he has suddenly become the zeitgeist among many high profile figures. I thought she might be annoyed that they all encountered the same thing, but she wants to meet them, lobby governments with them, educate the world. “Michelle Obama did her menopause podcast a month ago, and it made headlines around the world. You know, she’s talking about Obama in the White House and the women around him who were all going through menopause, and I was like, “Yeah! Say it! Go over there!”
They are powerful women – not a gray, stooped grandmother in sight -. Menopause has turned out not to be a topic for older people, as she once feared, but a topic women in their 40s need to talk about. “The only hill I’m on,” she said, with that wicked glow that lit her eyes again, “is Primrose.
The New Hot: Taking Menopause with Attitude and Style by Meg Mathews is published by Vermilion for £ 16.99. Order it for £ 14.78 from guardianbookshop.com