I have recently found a whole new wellspring of empathy for men. Hard to believe, yes I know, but I actually feel badly when I see them dealing with something so foreign to them as “PMS.” Or for you European readers, “PMT.”
A good friend of mine had the fortune (or misfortune?) to grow up the only brother of three older sisters. While he turned into a man strong in his own right, he is so in tune with women on so many other levels, it is a bit frightening. Most men panic at those three little letters; you can see their eyes darting left and right and the light sheen of sweat suddenly appear on their upper lip… it’s fight or flight at its best! You can actually see and hear their mouth go dry and the smell the gears turning as they rack their brains trying to come up with the right answer to any of the loaded questions that seem to just beg to fly out of our mouths at those hormonal times. Not him. He had it perfectly under control, with no sense of capitulation, nor arrogance, when he smiled knowingly, empathetically, and touched your shoulder – lightly, as he knew how sensitive to touch we are – and said, “I love you.” And you knew he really meant it, wasn’t just saying it to allay your anger, fear, sadness, or any of the other emotions that come flying at you. Or even to get himself out of the bear’s den. He just knew, and he meant it. Then he would go about his own work, not ignoring you, but leaving you alone like you wanted (or did you?). It was uncanny. There was no comeback for that.
I’ve recently started living with someone, and it’s been well over five years since I’ve even had a roommate. As the tell-tale mood swing started to happen, I was like a werewolf frantically trying to hide from the full moon. “If I don’t SEE the moon, perhaps I won’t change!” It didn’t matter; I became withdrawn, sulky, prone to crying jags. I could be in denial all I wanted; I was in the throes of a really good bout of PMS. The bad thing is I’m so in love with this man that the thought of barking at him and hurting him makes me want to overdose on Nyquil and wake up in a week so he doesn’t have to bear the brunt. It’s really exhausting not to be sarcastic! He says the most innocuous things, like, “Oh, wow, Shannon Doherty is really pretty!” while watching re-runs of “SO Graham Norton” on TV and I want to dive over the coffee table and slap his eyes out of his head. How DARE you look at her!! Just because I’m bloated and pimply, is that any reason to be so CRUEL? How COULD you!
Well, thank goodness I’m able to reign myself in and manage a polite, “hmmm” to his off-the-cuff remark. He has no idea. And it’s so funny, I’m angry, emotional, “don’t touch me!” but the thing I really want is for you to just hold me, even though I can’t stand the touch right now. And a special thanks to all those helpful people who say, “drinking 8 glasses of water daily may help with the symptoms of PMS.” Wow. Thank you. Such pithy platitudes from the wrapper of a Kotex pad. “Get more exercise” and “eat more fruits and vegetables at this time” are such a hoot to hear too. Hmmm… OK, great, thank you very much. Let me tell you how it is, shall I? I KNOW that the frickin’ fruits and vegetables would be better for me than the Kettle Chips and Hershey’s Special Dark. I do! Can you not understand that’s like asking a heroin addict going through withdrawals and needing a fix so badly, to shoot up with powdered sugar and expect the same results? I’m sitting here staring at a luscious, ripe nectarine on my desk, and all my thoughts are just running back to the rippled, crunchy salty spicy WHAM of the potato chips I want. I can taste it now – the salt, the starch, that satisfying CRUNCH as it’s masticated on my back teeth – I can feel my anxiety level decrease, my mood elevate, my eyes glaze over as my blood sugar rises and the she-wolf retreats back to my subconscious, till the next time.
Men, let me bring you in on a little secret. This shit is real. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. We’re not drama queens trying to get attention or do it on purpose to punish you, or anything of the like. You know those times when you’re so exhausted that lying down on your bed, and sleep is almost upon you, you can feel its tendrils tugging at your subconscious, and then you shake your whole body, like you were falling and wake up? That’s what it’s like, awake. I’m just blissfully going along my day, and the bottom falls out of it. I feel 180 degrees differently than I did just a few minutes ago. That in itself is enough to depress me even more – the fact that I can be a hostage to my hormones as badly as you can. And I can’t do a thing about it.
If I want a bowl of ice cream, or a chocolate bar, or whatever my crazy mind is telling me would make me feel better, for the love of Mike (and George, and Bob, and Harry), don’t tell me I don’t need it, or that a walk would be better for me. You’re singing to the choir. Deep down, I know that’s true, but come on, better chocolate than your balls retreating up into your body in defense of my bloodcurdling, laser-tinged stare and stony silence that would follow your innocent little quip. If you love me, tell me you’re going on a walk and would love my company. That is going to have more success than anything you might throw out there.