Why should pop stars take responsibility for unleashing our wrath onto the world?
During a recent appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, singer Rod Stewart opened up about how “it was awful” when he was diagnosed with menopause.
“For the first few weeks I was so miserable that I didn’t have the energy to turn the kettle on,” he shared. The fact that he was a famous 70-year-old rock star added to the feeling that he was in the public eye – for better or worse.
But the most difficult part about the change was the stigma he says he faced in his relationship, not just from other men but from his own. “I only noticed it when I was getting older, and it really hurt my wife,” he said. “She didn’t know what was happening to me.”
Stewart didn’t really have any friends to confide in, so he decided to reach out to a fellow music icon for advice. A chat with Elton John helped him find a coping mechanism. “I said to him, ‘How do you do it?’, and he said ‘I’ve just had it; I’ve had it for half a decade, and it has changed everything’. I thought, ‘If that’s how he’s done it, then maybe I can do it too!’”
A friend of Stewart’s recalled the moment he proposed the idea of men meeting to discuss menopause at a recent concert. While around 2,000 attended – Rod estimates a majority were men – he wanted to open the conversation up as a way to save a marriage.
“You walk into that room [and] you say to each other, ‘You need to listen to each other as much as you listen to me,’ or ‘How do you do it?’ or ‘How do you do it with your wife?’ He was only twenty, so he might as well know because he could fall back on, well, he probably knows better than I do what is right for him, and he’s got the resources, ‘We’ve got to talk about this’.”
According to Stewart, John refused to come along for the first time, but kept it in his mind to open the dialogue with friends once he had retired and was free to attend his own shows.
“No one had ever put it in writing before and said, ‘Look, this is what’s happening; it’s awful’ and shared it with each other, with lots of the ‘are-you-going-to-cook-your-five-year-old-daughter-a-dinner’ conversations…it’s not something that’s googled one day and something you go to find out a week later, but it’s actually being fucking talked about…I don’t think we needed it [open conversations like this] because we were dealing with it individually, but now, suddenly, it’s good to have,” he explained.
So, it seems that the modern era is finally embracing another taboo: talking about one’s menopause. But it’s not without its roadblocks: some men worry the help they might need may come with the baggage that comes with being a celebrity. “Is [this] something you should be having? Are you brave enough to do it? Can you possibly talk about it to your wife?”
Speaking to the Observer, 34-year-old actor Matt Smith echoed the thoughts of many who felt talking openly about menopause while famous put a lot of pressure on their partner. “If you become a public figure, then what do you do? How do you begin to make a normal life with a non-famous woman? I find [the narrative around menopause] alienating.”
John, however, is more optimistic. “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘You know, Rod’s not the only one going through this,’ and I said, ‘You’re absolutely right. Every man, it would seem, has got menopause.’ Women should be proud to have it as part of our lives,” he said.
And for Stewart, this entire experience has brought them even closer together. “The way I looked at it was, no matter what the women in the studio thought, my wife loved me. I didn’t care what they thought, because she loves me, and she cares for me and she’s the reason why I’m still here.”