This post is about PMS, so if that isn't your thing, skip this.
Ahhh, such a lovely aspect of being female. The period. A few mommy friends of mine have had their daughters notice their toilette activities with regard to the use of feminine products. There has been much discussion of what exactly to say to a three or four year old girl on the subject of "being a woman", because it's tricky. Too much information has them going to school and telling their friends about their mommy's bloody lady parts and too much secrecy leads to snooping and the resulting discovery that tampons do in fact disable entire plumbing systems in three seconds flat.
My earliest recollection of that sort of thing was in sixth grade. I certainly knew what it was from being in a family made up primarily of women. There was added curiosity after watching "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" where Jodie Foster refers to it as "the curse". I had no idea what she was talking about. We called it a period in our house and that was it. There was no feminine mystery surrounding it. It wasn't a big deal.
Apparently, it was practically a ceremonial ritual in the homes of my school friends. One afternoon we were at a swimming party and a great fuss was being made over a girl who couldn't go swimming. She didn't look sick, so I asked why she wasn't swimming. One of the girls replied in a slightly condescending tone, "because she can't?” The question mark confused me, and I asked again, "but why not?”This time three of the girls moved in on me and said emphatically “because she can't....." I was still really confused. I didn't really care that she wasn't swimming, but their cryptic response had me baffled. I asked again, and everyone groaned. The first girl yelled “BECAUSE SHE CAN'T!" and stormed off to the other side of the pool in frustration. Another girl murmured something about that time of the month and the light went on. Oh, really? Gee, that never stopped any of my female relatives from plunging into the ocean or going to aerobics or going camping. That’s what tampon commercials promised- pretty, dewy skinned women clad all in white riding a horse down the beach. I hadn't gotten mine yet, but we were not a self indulgent family in that regard. No one ever missed a day of school because of cramps. You took a Motrin and moved on.
This is not to say that we didn't have our share of drama. The days prior to the arrival of "Aunt Flo" were rife with murderous hormone induced rage. It was always unexpected, but it did explain the slamming doors and sudden disappearance of multiple pints of ice cream and entire bags of fun size candy bars.
Oncoming hormones feel like you are reluctantly riding in the front seat of the first car of a gigantic rickety rollercoaster, the feeling of nausea, dread and adrenaline explode inside your body all at once. Except the ride on the rollercoaster is voluntary and lasts three minutes. The premenstrual ride is mandatory for most and can last for two weeks. The remedies available are either too debilitating (I’m super bitchy not schizophrenic, okay?) Or simply don't affect the primary target- rage. Being prone to rage anyway, I feel it coming on like a bad acid trip, the slow drip of hostility toward everything and sensitivity to anything. My kid steps on my foot and it feels like a herd of elephants have decided to have a picnic on my pinky toe. I immediately become the Hulk, and it takes every ounce of my resolve not to throw her through a plate glass window. I don't, but I do yell "OW!!!" rather loudly and startle and frighten myself and everyone around me. With the rage comes the five extra pounds that preclude me from wearing any single digit size article of clothing in my possession. I destroy my closet trying to find something that is comfortable only to return to the same black sweat pants and black pullover sweater that I slept in. I also get the dropsies- where every single item I attempt to pick up with my hands gets dropped. Gallons of cranberry juice, raw eggs, a dust pan full of cat litter fragments, a peanut butter covered knife, a five dollar basket of organic blueberries( most of which roll underneath the refrigerator). It drives me wild. My unsuspecting husband often saunters in just after one of these dropping episodes and predictably grabs a handful of something dry and particularly crunchy to snack on. He stands there, innocently checking his phone messages while I swab the red juice spattered floor apoplectically with a roll of recycled paper towels. I pause long enough to hear the crunch crunch crunch of his chewing, and then wait for the sound of his hand digging in the box for more. I snuggle up to the perverse pleasure of exactly how irritating the sound is and swab a little more vigorously. I should spare him the inevitable outburst and simply explain that he needs to leave immediately or suffer the consequences, but it is usually too late. Seething and white lipped with eyes so narrowed that I can barely see the juice anymore, I fixate on the rhythm of the crunching and the digging, and we become a strange piece of performance art. He is the guileless bystander with a red bandana in his back pocket that is lazily waving in the afternoon breeze. I am the red eyed snorting bull in the dark recess of the shed that sees his red waving bandana as a purposefully thrown gauntlet, and I paw the ground, readying myself for the first thrust of my razor sharp horns...
I am startled from my reverie by the sound of his voice “what are you doing?" or one of the kids-"oh no! Mommy, what happened?” I pause, then acidly " I spilled some juicccccccce....!". The "c" sound is so sibilant that I am actually spitting all over my clean slightly pink floor. I try to stave off my imminent eruption by not saying any more, but they are on to me. My husband wants to know what's wrong. My kids want to know when I will be getting them more juice. No one offers to help. I ignore them until I can't stand it another second and then pull a Greta Garbo and leave them all standing in the kitchen in stunned silence. What I thought was a murmured”I vant to be alone" was actually a shrieked
" LEEEEAAAAVVVVEEE MMEEEEEE AAALOOOOOOONNNNNEEEE!!"
Luckily my family is fairly unflappable with this sort of thing. It generally doesn't faze them. They go draw and play "family", and I can assume that the part of "Mommy" will be an unpopular choice after my outburst.
I go upstairs wishing, for the only time in my life that I lived in a desert tribe where, right about now, I would be forced to go into the Red Tent for a week... I haven't read it, but evidently it is not the misogynistic banishment from the men folk that I assumed it to be. It is a place where women seek refuge during their time of the month and during childbirth. The tent is filled with love, support, camaraderie, and understanding. I have a feeling no one in the Red Tent is ever asked why they are being such a bitch, or told to go and bang their head into the wall. I have a feeling the ladies are drinking some herbal tea and playing Scrabble and having some laughs and watching "Terms of Endearment" ad nauseam. And I think the men folk they leave behind are probably happier for it.
I resurface about a week later having grunted, gnashed, pouted and eaten my way, like only a Wild Thing can, through another week long blessing from the Mother Nature that I am not pregnant. I am myself once again. It is a beautiful day, but I know the clouds will roll in again in another few weeks, and I will be waiting for them with several bottles of red wine and a jar of Motrin.