ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Playing the menopause card won’t help women
During a supper last week, a 49-year-old woman spoke about her fear of the menopause. ‘Please, please,’ she wailed, ‘tell me it’s not true that I’ll never want sex again.’
Myself and another woman assured her that this grim scenario was not the case, but her anxiety about this unavoidable stage in life isn’t helped by the endless talk of how debilitating the menopause can be.
The Government is currently holding out against adding it to the list of ‘protected characteristics’ in the Equality Act, for which you cannot be sacked.
I fear that with women kicking up a fuss about menopause, we are creating a new doubt in employers’ minds about another period of time in a woman’s working life that she might not be relied upon to turn up present and correct.
The argument that doing so could lead to inequalities for men is not first and foremost in my mind.
But the fact that we are in danger of making the period of time when women are desirable employees ever briefer most certainly is.
Despite the long battle to improve maternity rights, women can lose maternity pay simply because they become pregnant again soon after having given birth.
Certainly, though, we have come a long way from the days when I started work, when women could be asked in interviews if they were thinking of having a child.
But even though the question isn’t asked now, it is a thought that goes through prospective employers’ minds.
Are they going to lose you possibly for a year shortly after signing you up?
Now I fear that with women kicking up a fuss about menopause, we are creating a new doubt in employers’ minds about another period of time in a woman’s working life that she might not be relied upon to turn up present and correct.
Menopause is a physical transition in the body. Yes, it may mean we have disturbed sleep, get overheated, experience lapses in memory and feel irrationally irritable.
Some women suffer to greater or lesser degrees, but the last thing we need is a climate of uncertainty around whether older women are healthy enough to do their jobs.
Rare is the middle-aged man, depressed by his loss of virility and flooded by intimations of his own mortality, who doesn’t experience some of these, and other, problems as his testosterone diminishes.
But nobody says they are ill – and it doesn’t prevent them from getting the desirable non-executive jobs in their 50s and 60s that are so rarely given to women.
Look, for example, at the chairs of our arts institutions, such as the National Gallery, V&A, National Portrait Gallery, the Tate and the National Theatre.
Not a woman among them, apart from the fragrant Dame Mary Archer at the Science Museum. Or the chairs of retailers such as Ocado, Next, Morrisons, Currys and M&S.
Where are the women overseeing the boardroom agenda? We need to bang the drum for older women who have experience, contacts and quite possibly time, now their children are grown.
If people persist in highlighting the possible deficiencies of women of menopausal age, rather than giving women a helping hand, we are kicking the ladder out from under our feet.
I still light up at the sight of matches
Visiting the newly renovated Groucho Club, I was thrilled to find books of matches with the club’s duck logo liberally placed around the rooms. So civilised.
I had a real moment of match-nostalgia, remembering how lovely it was to collect attractive matches from different places.
Unfortunately, matches have gone the same way as postcards, now an endangered species. An email pinging its way into the computer is not the same.
Indeed, I have taken matters into my own hand and started to ask friends and family to send me postcards from their travels. Though, there’s the risk they will get stuck in a Royal Mail depot.
A glamorous life is now gathering dust
Sorting out some files, I came across a charming letter from Princess Diana refusing my request to become a guest editor of an issue of Vogue – a role that Meghan would go on to take in 2019.
I’m not a huge hoarder, but I have kept interesting memorabilia over the years: a bounty of letters, photographs, invitations. What should I do with them? Currently they are stuffed randomly in box files where they no doubt sit and wait for me to die, when my son will have a quick look and decide to chuck them out.
I realise it makes sense to save him the trouble and for me to take a deep breath and get rid of them now, but I very much doubt I’ll ever make that decision. Instead, with all the files, photo albums and diaries, my home will increasingly look like a big, dusty archive.
Old-school delight of a drip-fed drama
Like the rest of the television-watching world, I’m gripped by Happy Valley.
It’s very difficult to nail down what makes this crime series so extraordinary. Yes, Sarah Lancashire’s performance as the exhausted, retiring cop is transfixing, and James Norton remains the most attractively creepy serial murderer on the box.
The script, too, balances emotional tensions with a multi-levelled, pacy narrative. But there’s possibly another factor. We can watch it only in the old-fashioned way of one episode at a time. Knowing that you can’t binge on all six episodes makes one appreciate every second, aware that it’s a full week until we can get our next fix.
In a time when you can perfectly easily gulp down a whole series in one day, the tantalisingly strung-out experience adds to the compelling brilliance of the drama.
After years of slopping around in trainers, I’m all for the return to heels. But do they have to be quite as hideous as the clumpy, inelegant styles appearing on the feet of celebs such as Amanda Holden, above, and Emily In Paris’s Lily Collins?
Are Amanda’s heels the height of fashion?
After years of slopping around in trainers, I’m all for the return to heels.
But do they have to be quite as hideous as the clumpy, inelegant styles appearing on the feet of celebs such as Amanda Holden, above, and Emily In Paris’s Lily Collins?
These ugly platforms, that give the wearer spindly legs, remind me of the Spice Girls style of the 1990s.
And who ever thought that was a look that stood a chance of bouncing back?
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