Thursday, July 23, 2009

When PMS is a Laughing Matter

WARNING: If you only read the first part of this blog, you will never want to go near me again. If you’re going to start it, please just indulge me and read all the way to the end.

She wandered quietly through the forest, humming to herself. Every now and then she skipped merrily with joy and laughed out loud for no good reason at all, just because she could. Little did Little Red Riding Hood know, someone was watching who was not so amused.
An hour later, when she emerged from the woods, her hood in tatters and deep scratches across her face that barely missed her eyes, the poor girl swore she had seen a wolf. Why, asked the kindly pudgy official? Why, because there were fangs, and teeth, and growling, and a very large – water filled, almost like it was bloated – body.
The official – we will call him Mr. Man – looked at the girl for a moment, then glanced at the calendar. [Camera focuses in on the date. It is circled in red and there is a full moon. Suddenly those really cliché three notes present in every horror movie are played: DUM DUM DUUUUUUUM.]
Mr. Man takes the little girl by the hand and leads her to another room, where he dresses her wounds and gives her a lollipop. He assigns one of his deputies to take her to her grandmother’s house, and on their merrily way they go.
Then Mr. Man picks up the phone and calls his own house. The phone rings and rings and rings…until suddenly something picks it up, snarls, and there is the sound of glass breaking as the phone is hurled across the room, through the window with the lace curtains, and out into the street. There is the sound of a truck braking, then a dial tone. Mr. Man replaces the receiver, mops his forehead, swallows numerous times, and tries not to cry. It’s true: PMS is back.
Mr. Man picks up the phone and dials a different number.
“Hello, Chinese takeout? I’d like to order one of all of your combos for delivery…yes, all 20…no, just leave them at the front door…don’t knock.”

Once, in college, I spent an entire walk home from class thinking about how exactly to warn my roommates that I was likely to tear their heads off if they so much as sneezed in my presence. In my note on the white board, I imagined, I would write something like, “Dearest Friends: I am not feeling my best today. Should I rip your head off just to watch the blood spurt from your neck, please just pick it up silently and back away slowly. Sincerely, your loving roommate.”

I had a boyfriend who told me that his ex was capable of tearing bumpers off of cars when she was under the dreaded influence of the PMS Monster. At the time I thought this was very unfair and insensitive of him…until about two weeks later when I, too, found myself ripping the bumpers off of cars in the dead of night just so I could cut my teeth on the metal.

I was at a comedy show in New York where a comic admitted that he knew when his girlfriend was under the influence of PMS because he would find her feeding on a deer carcass in the corner like a Velociraptor.

We can say that this is the stuff of legends, and that women don’t actually suffer from the symptoms of PMS. We can insist that it is a myth, like so many other myths, like the centaur or the biological clock or whatever. Say what you wish, but I am here to tell you that some of us – some women that you know – sometimes want to fucking kill you.

I am not aiming that statement at men, because it is not just men that I want to kill. Sometimes, I want to kill anything that wants to make noise/emit odor, good or bad/exist in my presence. Sometimes an automated email with words of encouragement will set me off; sometimes the absence of correspondence from friends will do it. Sometimes, there’s no actual reason; I just want to tear something apart.

Much like Sirius in Harry Potter (cause hey, who doesn’t have Harry Potter on the brain this week?) I scurry to hide myself somewhere where I can’t hurt anyone when I feel PMS coming on. I wall myself up in a room filled with whatever my heart desires – sappy romance movies, the Terminator films, Scarface and stuffed animals – and take turns laughing maniacally or crying inconsolably over absolutely nothing at all.

I’m going to admit something here: I’m a feminist (as if anyone might have wondered, but there it is). I believe in equal rights for men and women. I believe that we are all created equal, but I do not believe that we are the same beasts as men. Men have their own set of issues that I frequently complain about, make fun of and generally demean. If you need a dose of that side of me, feel free to ask and I’ll come up with something funny and frightening for that subject, too. For now, though, I am going to turn the tables myself and let everyone know that PMS is not a myth, people, and it’s not something to treat lightly, either. At the same time, it’s part of anyone’s life – anyone who has to deal with women on a fairly regular basis, anyway – and therefore it should be made fun of. Contradiction in terms? Of course! Who isn’t? All I’m saying here is that sometimes the only release you can get from anger is laughter. And while I may have started this blog about to tear something apart, I am now reading back over it and chuckling to myself. Such is the power of laughter; it can be as healing as the power of prayer to a true believer.

I know a lot of people that are going through a lot more than I am at the moment. My life is blissfully simple, and exactly as I designed it: I write, I read about writing, I read to write better, I go swimming in a freezing cold river, and I weed the garden in the evenings to unwind. For some reason, even that perfection doesn’t always make me happy. Some days I wake up a little angry, or cranky, or restless. Somehow, though, if I can make myself laugh it makes me feel better. I realize that there are all sorts of scientific reasons for this, but for now I’m going to forgo all those and just say that it’s hard to laugh when you don’t think something’s funny. On the flip side, it’s hard to be angry when you’re laughing.

When I worked for a newspaper in Mexico, I used to send out funny emails to all my friends about all the stuff that was happening to me. At the same time, I sent serious reports where I poured my heart out to the director of the program back in the States. If you had only ever read those mass emails, you never would have known how unhappy I was working at the newspaper, something that the director himself pointed out to me, since he received both. The funny thing was that I never felt near as miserable after I wrote one of those emails, or read one back to myself. I think perhaps that should have been my clue that writing was my release and that I need it to feel better, whether it’s through making others laugh at my expense (or with me, if you prefer I state it that way) or by pouring my feelings into these strange characters laid down on a blank surface. The point is, writing has become a lot more to me than just a means to an end: it is simply the means to survive.

I have been reading a book on writing by one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood. In the introduction, she gives a page and a half of reasons that writers have given for writing, everything from putting shoes on their children’s feet to “showing the bastards,” whoever they may be. The one that holds truest for me, of all these reasons, as ridiculous as it sounds, is “Because I knew I had to keep writing or else I would die.” I’m not sure the writer who thought this meant it in the literal sense (pun intended here, I suppose) but I mean it in more of the symbolic or spiritual sense: without my writing, be it to myself or to someone else, my soul would wither into a crispy leaf that is found half rotten under the melted snow in spring.

Some part of me has to remember not to take life so seriously, and the easiest way for me to do so is to make fun of my most serious emotions. Every stage of life is fleeting; are emotions not the same? If we could simply laugh off all those really serious moments, would they cease to matter so much? I can’t say I’ve proven it yet, but that’s what I’m aiming for. So thank you for indulging me, dear reader, and letting me try to make you laugh as I ease myself off the ledge of self-importance.
And yes, maybe I am saying that the cure to PMS is laughter. Just be sure to deliver the joke from across the room, with an escape route in mind.

Love and PMS kisses

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