It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to one of the nicest, game for a laugh women I've ever met. This is Jennifer Kennedy who writes a hugely popular and hilarious blog all about midlife and the menopause. But why is she ready for a bracing swim I hear you cry?
Well, I first stumbled across Jennifer when one of her blog posts about the trials and tribulations of open water swimming popped up on my Facebook feed and I couldn't stop laughing. The post has since been shared thousands of times. It was so funny in fact, that I messaged Jennifer and asked if I could feature it on my Dear Hormones podcast and also to see if she'd be willing to be one of my 40. SHE SAID YES TO BOTH! I then tentatively asked if she'd consider posing in a vintage swimming hat down at the lake in my local park fully expecting her to tell me to eff off. But of course she didn't because, as previously stated, she's one of the nicest women ever.
So here she is! Jen actually talks at length about the benefits of a DryRobe in the original blog post (well, the benefits of wearing one in a beer garden at any rate) and my original plan was to photograph her wearing that. We did actually start off with the DryRobe as you'll see below but when she volunteered to strip down to just the towel, well, I couldn't have been more delighted.
Jen has very kindly answered a few questions for me, and boy does she have some words of wisdom for you all.
This project is all about celebrating women over 40 - what would you say are the best things about being the age you are now?
Well - in a nutshell - it is better than the alternative! I am 52 now and getting to this age is a privilege that has been denied to several of my friends and family. People talk of a mid-life crisis but to me it is a mid-life celebration. It's like life has taken me by the hand, looked me in the eye and said 'ok - we aren't messing about any more - time to enjoy every minute and stop caring about doing the 'right' thing.
If you could go back and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't fear failure. And don't keep waiting for the 'perfect time' to do something you want to do. It is better to fail at something you are passionate about (I had three rejections for my first book) than succeed at something you don't give a stuff about. It means you are on the right path even if it is a bit rough just now.
Your blog is hilarious and resonates with so many women, what prompted you to start writing it and what kind of feedback have you had?
I just started writing it for some friends - more as a bit of a laugh than anything. There was so much doom and gloom about the menopause - I wanted to read something funny. There has been a lot of research done recently that combining humour with taboo topics can make them easier to talk about. I remember getting to 100 followers and thinking WOW. I now have 42 thousand followers and love reading all their comments and feedback. The personal messages are great - I get loads from family members who say they read it together and laugh and roll their eyes. I get feedback that it is relateable and readable and therefore helps all the significant others of menopausal women understand what is going on.
Here's Jen in the infamous DryRobe made famous in her blog about open water swimming.
Menopausal symptoms can be pretty scary at first, what kind of symptoms have you been having and did you know what was going on when it all began?
I initially thought I had tourrettes - I was telling so many people to F*** off. I really had the rage inside me - it was like the incredible hulk going from 0-60 in about 3 seconds. The emotional turmoil really was the worst. Crying one minute. Raging the next. Despondent the next. In Scotland we often have four seasons in one day - it wasn't unusual to have four extreme emotions in just one hour! I was described as Snarky (mix of sarky and narky) on many occasions.. I had no idea what was happening as I just thought menopause was stopping your periods - I did a fist pump when the doctor told me what it was - I was so relieved.
So many women still seem to shy away from the idea of being menopausal (perhaps in denial), why do you think this is and what can we do to change it?
I think many women don't fully understand the menopause and if they do they don't want to address the fact they are getting older. High profile celebrities such as Davina and Mariella Frostrup speaking out makes such a difference for menopausal women everywhere. We can change it by being honest - with family/with friends/with colleagues - the more we talk about it and make it normal - the easier it will be for future generations.
Funniest menopause related moment?
When I was stopped in work by a polite woman telling me I had a pair of tweezers stuck to my crotch! I was wearing a lady magnet (an expensive magnet you attach to your pants that supposedly alleveiates the symptoms). I had been tweezing my chin in a traffic jam and dropped the tweezers as I drove on! Those magnets are strong!
Sum yourself up in 3 words
Quirky; Complex; Positive
Jen says to develop a 'f*ck-it list' and start working through it.
What’s the key to surviving midlife?
Enjoy it - develop a 'f***it list and start working through it. Maybe you always wanted a fancy sports car but settled for a sensible family car. Maybe you want your belly button pierced. Maybe a tattoo. Maybe you want to head to Greece and write poetry on the beach. This time is yours so see it as the next fabulous chapter of life. We only live once - but if we do it right - once is enough!
You wrote a brilliant post about open water swimming and the menopause - did it help with the symptoms? Will you be going again?
Well.... I live in Scotland and it is totally freezing all year round. So I will do it again - but possibly in warmer waters. Anyone want to buy a wetsuit?
You can hear Jen's open water swimming post on my Dear Hormones podcast, she's featured in S2: Ep2.
You can follow Jennifer's blog on www.facebook.com/menopausalwoman - or search 'Is It Just Me' in the app. Her book, Martha Gets the Menopause, is hilarious and available here - Martha Gets the Menopause | Etsy - the perfect stocking filler!