Is there any further intro necessary? Everyone understands the He Says, She Says debates and jokes regarding PMS. There’s nothing interesting we could possibly add. Or is there?
I once dated someone who frequently called me a b-i-t-c-h. And not in a joking way. It irritated me so much that after we broke up (thank God) and once I started dating my husband, I filled him in on my issues with referring to me as a b-i-t-c-h in any sense of the word. Thankfully, he understood and he has actually never called me one in the 8 years we’ve been together since I told him, even if I maybe possibly deserved it.
The truth is, however, that I can definitely exhibit b-i-t-c-h-like characteristics from time to time. And when I say time to time, I mean when I PMS. On the other hand, I can also exhibit utter craziness, extreme happiness, and uncalled for sympathy for myself or any sad story featured on Oprah during this time.
It’s not an excuse and I always take full responsibility for my pre-menstrual bi-polarity. I have even come to pay better attention to my moodiness during “that time of the month,” though I almost always fail miserably at getting through those days without an outburst of some sort.
Take for instance, today. I went to the podiatrist for an issue I’ve been having with my foot. On the way to the doctor, I convinced myself I needed a minor surgery to remedy the painful problem. I will say, my family practice doctor was the one who put the initial minor surgery idea in my head, so she gets some of the craziness credit.
Anywho, as I sat in my little sterile room on the little tissue covered seat waiting for the doctor, I prepped myself for a longer lunch hour than expected due to my forthcoming surgery. When Dr. Lowe arrived, however, he said my foot would heal just fine on its own if I gave it another 3-6 months, despite already living with my issue for 3 years.
In a matter of 5 minutes, I went from shocked, to angry, to downright depressed that everything I had anticipated happening to cure my problem was no longer going to occur. So I leave. And I hop in my car. And I quickly dial my poor husband in the middle of his work day and rant, trying as best I can to hold back tears.
“But the jerk wouldn’t even do anything! He just gave me a little round band aid!” I cried.
“Well, he’s a doctor. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. And if you don’t heal up, I’m sure you can go back in a few months and talk with him again. No big deal.” came my husband’s reply.
“But you don’t understand! I can’t LIVE LIKE THIS!” I wailed.
“Hello?!?” I whine.
“I’m still here,” says my husband, “but I can’t seem say anything about it that won’t upset you so I’m just going to listen.” (Note, at this point I can hear the clicking of his keyboard as he returns to work while I continue to cry).
I hang up and feel sorry for myself. And then I start hating my job. And then I start hating Salt Lake and our house and think the world is coming to an end. I need a nap to quell my tantrum, but I head back to work for another 4 hours and stew.
Come 5 pm, I’m a new person, happy as a clam, on my way home to my husband who more than likely thinks, “Am I going to have to live like this forever?”
Once home, I pour myself a glass of wine and stare blankly at the TV playing reruns of The View and start to recall the events of my day. And I realize I’m a big baby. And that never in a million years if I wasn’t PMS-ing would I have left the doctor’s office crying like I’d just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. All that emotion over a 10 minute appointment that left me drained and my husband thinking he’d married a deranged Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde cloaked in the body of a smoking hot woman (c’mon, let me boost my own morale after my rough day).
So what am I trying to get at amongst all this rambling? To be honest, I don’t really know. I think this is more me venting than anything. Or perhaps it’s a confusing admission to the fact that I actually have to work very hard for one week out of every month to control my emotions so people don’t mistake me for a schizophrenic. In any event, the whole issue could be resolved if someone could come up with a simple remedy, a pill of some sort – preferably with Vicadin-like side affects – to put an end to the mixed emotions that seem to strike us women from time to time. Until then, I’ll stick with my Chardonnay, chocolate covered cherries, and husband who won’t call me a b-i-t-c-h even if I maybe possibly deserve it.
Premenstrual Syndrome has been studied and written about extensively. I am not smart enough to add anything of worth to its discussion. PMS has also been the focus of countless jokes and alternative forms of entertainment. I am not dumb enough to throw my hat into the humor ring that is Aunt Flo’s casa. I do know, however, something about IMS. There is a recent movement advocating Irritable Male Syndrome, which is defined as involving hormonal, physiological and chemical changes in men. And when I say that I do know something about IMS, I in fact mean that I know absolutely nothing about it. That is, I know nothing about it outside of my own experience as a male and the experiences of males I know.
Now I am not trying to juxtapose PMS to this male counterpart. Again, I am neither smart enough nor dumb enough to be able to successfully make such a comparison. I am, however, advocating that a change of irritability and sensitivity in men may be caused by a chemical change in our bodies for which I have absolutely no scientific data to support. (But there are those much wiser than I that have done studies claiming scientific evidence of IMS). And for what reason, you ask, would I be advocating such a thing? Us men are supposed to be tough and brawny! We aren’t supposed to have feelings. And we certainly aren’t supposed to show them. Ever! Without exception! I get it. I get what it means to be tough and unwavering. (Just ask my wife, she’ll tell you exactly how much I can be a stubborn ass). No, really, I do get it. I have completed athletic competitions with a broken finger, a broken collarbone, a foot fracture, a broken nose, a wrist fracture, and separate concussions. I get what manly means to our culture.
The odd thing to me, though, is that despite all this, I have never met a man that doesn’t have feelings. Not once. I grew up with sports. In all my years watching, coaching and playing sports, I have yet to meet one single male that doesn’t have feelings. Isn’t that odd? Not a single one. In fact, one of my best buddies has a father who is the prototypical man’s man. My buddy’s old man is tall–at least 6’3”–and big–at least 240 and strong. He is the definition of a lumberjack. He built a log cabin on his farm just for the hell of it. He cut down the trees on his own land and built the damn cabin with his own two hands. The thing is a work of beauty. Like I said, he is a man’s man. But even he has feelings. I have had conversations with him about happiness he has experienced in his life and pains he has encountered. I gave him a big hug on the day he gave his daughter away and listened to him talk with a tear in his eye about how much he loved his daughter and his son. Every man has feelings. The secret is out. So I’d like to propose that we stop this charade that we men don’t have feelings. I have yet to meet a man who doesn’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want every male to start emoting everywhere. (And no, I am not saying that women emote everywhere. Many of the strongest people I know are women). If you’re a male and see me on the street, this is not an open invitation to begin engaging me in a conversation regarding the contents of your feelings. I have my own. What this is, however, is a call for men to stop pretending they don’t have them. Life is a beautiful thing that requires more than a hardened shell of a heart tolerating each day. I wish I could write the words to help you understand what I mean, but instead of causing you to suffer through my poorly written prose, I’ll offer a quote. Why re-invent the wheel, right? As the late Jim Valvano said less than two months before he lost a year-long bout against cancer,
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
Laugh. Think. And Cry. That’s a good day. Can we agree men? Can we all agree that being manly does not mean we don’t have feelings?
All right. Now that I have convinced you, it’s now time for me to lose you again. Women, us men have just agreed that we have feelings. What I now ask in return is that you understand that we have occurrences of chemical and physiological changes known as IMS. As long as us men recognize that we have feelings, we ask that you recognize that sometimes those feelings are caused by changes in our chemical makeup. There are days when I come home and kindly entreat my wife to be nice. “It was one of those days,” I say. “I’m just in one of those moods.” I recognize that I’m not quite right and I hope that my wife will respect that. After I am castigated a number of times and I react, you know what response I finally receive? “Oh stop being so sensitive.” Could you imagine the fecal storm I would receive if this incident was reversed. I shudder thinking about it.
This isn’t just me being a large minge either. I have a good friend who played high school football in Seattle for four years and then played four years of collegiate rugby. I’ve heard him grouse that women want him to show feelings, and then when he does they complain that he’s too sensitive. I have a buddy that has worked construction for years and wonders why his wife doesn’t understand that some days there are comments that hit home harder than other days. An Air Force pilot that says there are times when he needs to be quiet and keep to himself. A Police Officer that says some days he’s more depressed than others. A hunter that talks about unforeseen times when he has more anxiety and a higher stress level. A doctor that exhorts there are days when his mood swings quicker than Joe Mauer’s bat. (And no, I have not made up any of these individuals). These men aren’t referring to seemingly behavioral and emotional changes that occur because of a particularly sound reason. These men realize, as we inconsiderately say too often, that there are times when their moods and emotions swing irrationally.
Now I am not advocating the opportunity for us men to be angry, boorish, and imperceptive. I am not asking for allowances for men to be ferine. We do far too much of that as it is. (And by we I mainly refer to my own behavior). I am advocating, however, that there are hormonal, chemical, and physiological changes in men that cause us to have different moods. These changes may occur isochronously, but I believe them to be very real. So I propose as supposedly inimical genders that we all agree to this. Us men will admit that we have feelings. We will be more open to hear about them and maybe, just maybe, share them. While you women admit IMS is real. And if we both start to recognize these things, maybe we’ll all start to understand each other just a little bit better.