My red patent leather shoes.

I remember being 4 years old at a wedding reception feeling like a ladybird surrounded by giant, cheek pinching hands, ready to ruin my wings, and my mum saying that she needed to speak to someone but to stay right where I was, she’d “be right back”. There was a terrifying crushing in my chest that felt like a bad tummy ache; I fixed my eyes on my wonky reflection in my red patent leather shoes; my chin started to wobble. I had never had such an intense feeling before and never wanted to feel it again. It strangely disappeared when the familiar smell of my mum’s Estee Lauder Youth Dew wafted towards me and I was engulfed in a wave of relief. That sensation came back to me intermittently over the years as it would for any reserved individual, and it would leave me as it came, maybe not as rapidly each time, but the welcome hug of comfort would still be experienced at some point.

That same sensation came to me day, after day, after day, after day when I hit 45 and there wasn’t a whiff of Estee Lauder Youth Dew that would resolve it. Absolutely nothing would resolve it. Its shadow lurked in every corner, successfully wrapping its darkness around my throat; throwing its weight against my chest. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that feeling was anxiety and I was intensely experiencing one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause.

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Where do you hide your tampon?

In my pocket, up my sleeve, tucked in my waist band, even down my knicker line or in my bra are places that I have hidden a tampon in the past so that watching eyes didn’t know why I was going to the toilet! I’d nonchalantly stroll past the faces of those who probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway “nothing to see here, I’m absolutely not bleeding from my nether regions!”

I grew up in an age when periods were talked about in hushed tones and even then it was because you’d forgotten to bring a pad or a tampon and you had to ask a friend the mortifying question “do you have a spare tampon or pad?”  You never talked to friends about your periods. I mean yuck, why you would want to highlight the fact that several days a month, if the miracle egg that we have inside us is not fertilised, then the womb needs to shed its lining ready for the next egg release and that lining exits as blood via the vagina? Disgusting eh? Well that’s the thing, it’s not is it; it’s the awe-inspiring beauty of Mother Nature, yet society has encouraged girls to feel shame about this magnificence and boys to feel confusion or disgust through lack of education and therefore ignorance.

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Wot no menopause?

“Smith, stop shoving that…urm.. that..urm.. cotton wool up Scotson’s nose and pay attention will you!” was the kind of thing you’d hear during a sex education day at a mixed comprehensive high school in the 1980s. Smith would have nicked a packet of free Tampax given to the girls, exclaimed “ooh look a mouse!” and then would have proceeded to use his new toy to taunt the class swot in order to show his male prowess to the disinterested girls.

When I was growing up, back in the 80s, sex education was a fairly new phenomena; it was whispered male and female anatomical words; it was a very red-faced male science teacher explaining female reproductive organs; it was separating the giggling teens into the two genders where puberty was very briefly described and it was giving the girls free Tampax ready for Smith to steal them for his own entertainment. This was pretty much the extent of sex education at a mixed comp state school thus I gleaned most of my information from Just 17 teen magazine.

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An Open Letter to Perry

Dear Perry,

We’ve been together now for about 2 years although I know we’re both a little fuzzy on the start date. I can’t say it’s been a blast; we both know the first few months had many ups and downs, some might say a Space Mountain of a start, slowly chugging up the tracks and then hurtling at full throttle into the black hole of unfamiliarity.

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