» My Menopause Manifesto » Jill Shaw Ruddock

 

Every now and again, a women’s book comes along that promises to change our thinking forever. In the Sixties it was Helen GurleyBrown’s Sex and the Single Girl; in the early Seventies, Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch hit the spot, and later on, Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room got us all talking about why we put up with bad treatment from men.

Now it is the turn of Jill Shaw Ruddock to shake us all up and ask new questions about our lives. Her book, The Second Half of Your Life is about the menopause and after. At this point, you may yawn and say: oh no, not again. Haven’t there been a million books about the menopause and growing old gracefully (or disgracefully)? Why should I clutter up my shelves with yet one more? Well, you should certainly read this one. Because in common with all the best life-changing books, the author’s startling message transmits itself from the page with a kind of electricity.

The book’s main thrust is that we should welcome, rather than fear, the menopause. It is the gateway to a new era whereby we can be more confident, creative and healthy than ever before. No longer at the mercy of our hormones or pre-written scripts, we can, according to Jill, finally give birth to our unique selves.

Jill Shaw Ruddock

A small, dark, intense and loquacious American woman, this 55-year-old former investment banker says, ‘When I started to hit menopause at age 48, I had no idea

what was happening to me. Having been healthy and robust all my life, I was suddenly experiencing these distressing symptoms. I was suffering from insomnia, heart palpitations and hot sweats. For four years, it was as if a stranger was inhabiting my body. I no longer knew who I was.

‘I asked myself: was my life over as I knew it and did it have to be a downward spiral from now on? Because my brain seemed to belong to somebody else, I started to research brain chemistry and the ways in which hormones affect thoughts and feelings.

‘My conclusion, backed up by the latest medical and scientific research, was that after the sex hormones stop raging, we can finally become the person we always wanted to be. We can be more creative, take risks, become bolder – all because our brain chemistry has changed dramatically, and changed for the better. After the menopause, women actually become different people, owing to these profound chemical changes.

‘Before menopause, most women, however high flying, intelligent and successful, conform to a norm, which is: find a guy, get married, have children, create a nest, settle down. For thousands of years, the majority of women have done this, and still do, mainly because of sex-hormone activity. Feminism and education have made little difference to the pattern, and even many gay women want to find a partner and, if possible, have children.

‘Then the menopause happens, everything changes and women wonder: what now? In recent years, the change of life has been highly medicalised and there are all sorts of treatments and pills to help you get through and cope with the worst symptoms. And yes, there are many books about this.

 

‘But where, I asked myself, was the book that inspired you to give birth to yourself, to be self-productive instead of reproductive? As I couldn’t find it, I decided to write it myself. We have a lot more years left in us than ever our parents and grandparents did, and it’s up to us to make the most of them. As baby boomers, we have defined every decade since the Sixties and we can continue to do so, by redefining what it means to be older.’

As well as inspiration, Jill’s book contains much practical advice and in particular, she emphasises the ‘high-fives’, which are: exercise, staying connected to family and friends, cultivating a passion, finding a purpose greater than yourself, and eating well. Slim, vibrant and possessing the American love of the telling sound bite, Jill is her own best post-menopausal advertisement. She has a sobering chapter on obesity and the causes of obesity.

American food practices have a lot to answer for here, and as we know, what the US does today the rest of the world does tomorrow. Obesity is the greatest curse and health-destroyer of our times, and to combat later-life weight gain, Jill sings the praises of two sure-fire antidotes: regular, tough exercise and copious amounts of organic cider vinegar.

Hey, wait a minute – cider vinegar? Have we strayed into Barbara Cartland territory here?

Jill is unrepentant. ‘Yes,’ she says. ‘Don’t underestimate cider vinegar. It suppresses
hunger, speeds up metabolism and alkalises the system. I can’t recommend it highly
enough. Then exercise more or less does the rest, as it lifts depression, acts on the
mind as well as the body and keeps all body systems working. It is vital to do some exercise every single day.’ Having got your cider vinegar and exercise regime together,
everything else can follow, says Jill.

If you don’t have a particular passion, you can cultivate one. She found her own passion after leaving banking: working in the theatre. There is definitely something theatrical about her, so her love of greasepaint is perhaps not all that surprising. As for the rest of us, ‘You can start decorating, gardening, playing ping-pong or knitting – rediscover former interests that maybe you had to lay aside when running a home and bringing up a family. Because you no longer have that nesting instinct, you can find things to do that not only nourish you, but connect you to other people and don’t cost a lot of money.’

Ah, money. So where is all that to come from, to pay for all these extra, fun-filled years? Jill has a sensible, considered chapter on finances, going back to work, investing for your old age and the vital importance of taking care of your own money rather than entrusting it to some bloke. There are also chapters on divorce and separation, dating and finding a new love; all extremely relevant stuff as, apparently, 50 per cent of all divorces are now instigated by the over-50s. But you may also discover a renewed togetherness in a long marriage.

Jill says, ‘As we age, women lose oestrogen but have a lot of testosterone; whereas men lose testosterone and have more oestrogen in their bodies. This means that a 60-year-old couple will be more alike than at any previous time in their lives.

‘Women at this time of life want to get out and about, and often a man who has never lifted a saucepan before, becomes interested in cooking. Roles can change and be redefined.’

Married for 20 years to Paul, also in banking, Jill has two teenage daughters, the first born when she was 36. She came over from the US in 1983 for work and love, and is finding it both exciting and scary to be a sudden media celebrity. ‘I had to do a photoshoot and they were asking: which is my best side? I didn’t know I had a best side. It’s all very new to me, as a first-time author.’

A very lucky first-time author, one might think, to have a guaranteed bestseller on her hands – a second edition is already reprinting – but no doubt she will rise to the occasion as the media circus gathers momentum.

And watch out for sales of cider vinegar to hit the roof, too.
Source: The Lady – Jill Shaw Ruddock – My Menopause Manifesto

The Second Half Centre

St Charles Centre for Health and Wellbeing

Exmoor Street, North Kensington

London, W10 6DZ

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