When is a joke not a joke?

You can’t joke about anything these days can you? Yes, that’s a joke and possibly not a very good one.

But you know, making jokes and taking jokes are and have always been completely different things.

Let’s talk about making jokes first. Sometimes it’s an absolute lifeline. Sometimes it’s a way of bringing up the subject of menopause without it being embarrassing or uncomfortable to ourselves and others.

Is it hot in here or just me?

That’s the classic. It’s universal and it’s useful. There’s just one problem with it — it’s so prevalent that the message that’s communicated is that menopause is all about hot flushes. And as we know, it isn’t. There are a host of other symptoms. Perimenopausal women need to recognise those other symptoms when they happen — and other people need a sense of what’s going on.

I’m not suggesting that we add “is it dry in here or is it just my vagina?” to the repertoire, but I wonder if it would make life easier if someone else did.

Can joking help?

Joking’s particularly useful if you are dealing with symptoms that affect your brain. It’s the best way of shucking off those moments when you lose your words, and not a bad way of recovering from a loss of temper.

And the great thing is that a smile and a laugh is actually really good for your brain as well as helping you connect with others.

In the classroom?

Whether you make that joke with your class will depend on their age, the ethos of the school and your personal way of dealing with the menopause.

With menopause starting to appear on the curriculum for secondary age kids you may find they make the joke for you. They may not make it adeptly and it’ll be part of your job to who them how to navigate that territory graciously. Even though your menopausal mood may not be at all gracious!

With colleagues?

Can clumsy menopausal jokes between staff be problem? If you’re a colleague or a manager trying to navigate this stuff, how do you steer around humour?

Firstly, be honest with your self — is the joke to ease their discomfort or yours?

Secondly ask whether that joke might be read as being dismissive. We’ve all spent many years having our perfectly valid concerns written off as ‘time of the month’ and most of us are not in the mood to have that happen with perimenopause or menopause.

My advice would be to take your cue from the menopausal person you are talking to. If they aren’t discussing it, a joke will not winkle it out — possibly quite the opposite, it may be the thing that makes that conversation harder. And we all have the right not to talk about menopause if that’s what we need — as much as it’s important that we can if we need to.

If your menopausal colleague is joking about it, sink into that humour but be aware they probably need your compassion as much as your wit.