We got the memo about old age not being for sissies a long time ago. But if you’re female and in your early twenties, that’s a tough call, too. Make sure you’re suitably over-qualified, Insta-perfect, clean-shaven, high-achieving but not out-earning your male partner… and oh, keep a keen eye on your fertility, too.
What, you thought you had nothing to worry about until you hit 35?
Haven’t you heard? There’s something new to add to your to-do list: keeping cronehood firmly at bay. Now’s the time to start thinking about harvesting a prime slice of your wonderful, dewy-fresh ovaries. Extend fertility, delay the menopause! The earlier the better girls. Don’t waste those golden eggs.
That’s the offer from ProFaM, the fertility company marketing ovarian tissue cryopreservation to women in their mid 20s. Insure yourself against the ravages of declining fertility and the onset of the dreaded ‘change’ through a simple operation.
Suddenly, with just a slice of your ovary for a mere £8,000, you have the possibility of a child in later life, or the menopause at a time of your choosing. But like… well when, exactly? I can see that a baby at 48 might be just about doable. (My sister had a son, naturally, at 44. He’s a great joy, but she’d never say it was easy.) Choosing to wrangle a teenager in your mid- to late-sixties, really? Not so much a generation gap, more a gaping chasm. On the other end of the spectrum, my 17-year-old is in her bedroom right now, probably idling an hour or two away on her phone – maybe I should whip her off to a clinic without delay? After all, it’s a mother’s duty to protect her offspring, and who’d want to inflict the menopause and all its indignities on a child when there’s an alternative?
And please, can someone tell me when’s the “right” time to indulge in a little late-life menopause? When I’m 75 I want to be doing a little Covid-free cruising up the Danube with my mates swigging gin, not sweating my way through Pilates trying to loosen up my achy joints. So when is the right moment to have the menopause?
And this is worth saying too – we don’t hear it very often: the menopause isn’t that bad. Many women have no symptoms at all. Some have a few, but they are so busy dealing with other life challenges they barely notice. I sometimes think we’ve replaced the absurd taboo around the menopause with a rush to catastrophize it at every turn. Yes, it can be crap. You may have peculiar sleep patterns. You sometimes suffer brain fog. I cannot have more than one-and-a-half alcoholic drinks without risking an absurd hangover the next day (I test this regularly). But I’m still functioning. I’ve even got better at some things. I’m 56, not 106. I’m not just lying down with my shawl on, clacking my dentures, reading the Daily Express and waiting for bloody Pointless. (Sorry Richard.)
I’d be the last person to deny women any treatment that could enhance the quality of their life by improving their health, or increase their chances of having the children they dream of. And for some women, a company like ProFaM can offer that. But one day we will all have to confront our own mortality. We will have to confront that our bodies decay – and no juice diet, no skin cream, no ovary-slice-freezing will stop that.
And let’s not forget another crucial point: for all the talk of wrinkle prevention products and batty old dears, women still outlive men. We’re better at it than them. I mean, has anybody ever met an old chap? Or even a middle-aged one? They, like us, have their issues. Perhaps somewhere, in a secret Wimmin’s lab, an ace feminist scientist is coming up with a cure for Middle-Aged Man Syndrome. You never know – it might even involve slicing something off and freezing it.