February 13, 2012

PMS for Dummies: A Survival Guide.

I got an email today from a friend saying,

“Wow, my girlfriend is uncharacteristically ‘off.’ I think she’s probably pre-menstrual, but that is not something that women like to hear—especially from men.”

He was so right, and I was flooded with sympathy. I mean, I know that when I am in the throws of PMS I can be a real bear. OK, fine, I am the Queen Bitch from Hell kicking asses and taking names.

So what’s a boy to do?

Let me divulge the finer points of what you must know about your woman as she devolves under the onslaught of hormones. (It’s entirely against the unwritten code among women to reveal it, but the truth is that we actually need you to know). Ready?

1. It’s not your fault.

I know, it’s heresy. We really want you to think that it’s your fault, and also that there is something that you can do about it. If you would just… (listen to me, do what I thought you were going to do, help a little more, not stay out so late…) then I wouldn’t be like this!

(not true)

I would be like this no matter how perfect, helpful or magnificent you are. In this state I will cringe when I hear a paperclip fall. Your leaving socks on the floor means that you do not now, nor have you ever, had the least bit of regard for me and is grounds for an execution.

2. I am spoiling for a fight.

Come on, at least you recognize this one. I am bitter, feeling like a victim, and I have had it! I actually want you to put a toe in the wrong place so that I can have this out. If you are walking on eggshells that is because you are accurately perceiving that your home has been transformed into a minefield.

Unfortunately, the news gets worse.

3. I am right.

Sorry, but this is actually what makes PMS so problematic. There are genuine seeds of truth in what I am accusing you of. In fact, some of whatever I am screaming about has been going un-heeded by both of us for far too long. Now these tiny seeds of dissatisfaction, untruths, and over-compromises are coming back to haunt us. It may not be your fault to have set it off, but the power and veracity of words long-unspoken will not be denied.

The trouble is that, in this context, it is unlikely you will be able to hear what I have to say. Know that this will enrage me further.

4. Trust yourself when you suspect that I am pre-menstrual.

You are virtually always right on this count, and you will see it coming long before I do.

5. Under no circumstances tell me that I am pre-menstrual.

This should be self-explanatory.

In case it isn’t, realize that if I were in the least bit open to hearing this it would be me who was telling you. Your trying to “enlighten me” on this point while I am in the throws of it is, at best, like telling a woman in labor that you “feel her pain.” At worst, it is like telling her that she is a crazy, sorry-assed bitch toward whom you can only muster pity while you thinly try to hide your condescension.

Either way, it will not go over well.

6. You can’t stay, you can’t get away, and you can’t help.

If you stay, I will suck you into engaging me until you either become as out of control as I am or you are forced to leave.

If you leave, I will accuse you of all sorts of unspeakable things: abandonment, cowardice, self-righteousness, idiocy, even of “not being a man” (yes, I will go there).

If you try to help, I will view you as patronizing and rip the entrails from your abdominal cavity. Just saying….

7. Save yourself.

Unless you are a saint who can stay open-hearted in any circumstance (in which case you aren’t reading this), your job is to bow out. And the sooner the better.

Very occasionally a woman can hear sincere love and feedback in this moment. Do not count on that.

You know when I am wild so immediately start looking for a way to get out. I will chase you as you leave with spears, throwing every hook I can think of to get you to reengage. I will even curse you as you dodge them.

Stay fast. Imagine me as a demonic Siren tempting you to a watery death, and as you inwardly bow—remembering the deep reverence that you otherwise have for me—keep your eyes on self-preservation and just get the hell out.

8. Forgive, forget, (and forgive some more).

The storm will pass, it always does. You know that you want to stay with me or you would have left already.

Think of it like this; I had a nightmare. Yes, of course, nightmares reflect some deeper realities of our psyche and may need to be sorted out, but fundamentally they are not real. Let this interlude pass like a summer rain storm.

Remember, it only lasts for, like, 12 hours to 3 days, (sorry…).

9. Remember the “Seeds of Truth.”

So, you have survived the storm, no blood was spilled, and your woman is still willing to go to bed with you—that’s good. Now I am going to ask for something Herculean; reopen the wound.

Your beloved just hurled out a lot of accusations and she is already beginning to question herself—especially since the eruption is freaking her out as much as it is you. If you bring attention to the issue before she raises it again you will earn her trust in a way that no other move can.

Right now she is at her most contrite—dumb-struck, in fact, that you are actually listening to her given what she has just put you through.

Try this: “Hey, Love, what you were talking about yesterday… is there more you want to say there?”

I know, it’s kind of like slitting your own throat. But, remember, the storm has passed and you are in pretty clear waters for another three and a half weeks. You kind of have a “pass” here. The sharks have been fed, and the clarity of her perceptions (sans progesterone) may actually be a boon to you now.

In fact, she may be so grateful that she actually bakes you a pie.

Epilogue: Why, oh why, does it have to be like this?

My theory is that women are actually designed, in part, to digest pain. In this moment we are like filters left unchanged for too long, screaming, “Clean me!”

When the tsunami of hormones rolls around, we are at the mercy of it as much as you are. We feel our own present and past pain, and even the “collective pain.” We become a vessel and a voice for every injustice, hurt, moment of shame, derision, abandonment, or injury. (We even feel yours). As we process this, we are doing our part to clean up the world of emotional toxins, past and present.

You could, like, thank us.

And even if my theory is wrong you have to admit that it’s a great working hypothesis. If everyone took this approach we would bring respect and care to ourselves, each other, and for this predictable (if relentless) process.

It’s kind of like I’m having your baby, except there’s no baby. Which really, if you think about it, could be a good thing.

(by Kristin Luce, prepared by Bob W.)

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