DANNY: I’ve got a craving for macaroni and cheese, sushi, and Swedish fish. I want to jog for miles, or maybe I’ll just lay on the couch in some oversized sweatpants. I’m abysmally sad and lonely and couldn’t tell you whyyet very happy and the world is my oyster. Yes, I’m currently in the throes of PMS, that regular occurrence when women are at the mercy of their own bodies.
I can just hear you boys now: “It’s gross. Why do you women have to talk about that stuff?” Frankly, it has to be done, because the extent of most men’s comprehension of menstruation is saying, “Hey, are you on your period or something?” anytime we display a passionate emotion. You must be educated so you can understand, or feel sympathetic...or just get the hell out of the way.
I’m not going to go into the biological or scientific explanation of the whole thing, although it wouldn’t hurt you boys to know. Most girls got that speech during “The Film”which we watched in fifth grade while the boys were sent out to recess in blissful ignorance. And I resent that. Women only get three good weeks out of four to be regular humans, while boys never have to know the shame of standing in the grocery-store checkout line with a shopping cart empty except for tampons, chocolate-covered pretzels, and Advil. They never have to decide between plastic or cardboard applicators; slim, regular, super, or super plus; deodorant or non-scented. They never have to feel like someone is playing tug of war with their intestines and tap-dancing on their heads at the same time, all the while trying in vain to disguise the Vesuvian pimple that has erupted smack in the middle of their foreheads.
Nor do boys have to ride the emotional roller coaster. Is it not enough to be in physical misery that I have to be insane in the head too? This is no lie. I put more minutes on my cell phone when “Uncle Red and Aunt Flo” are in town than any other time of the month. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat outside my workplace in my car ranting to an unsuspecting friend about absolutely nothing of consequence. And I can’t stop myself.
I hit a particularly low point not too long ago. I was feeling crampy and decided to try to rollerblade it out. On the way to the park, my friend Denise called me from the side of the road, where she was waiting for someone to come and jump-start her car. Before she could get “So, how are you?” out of her mouth, I went off on some crazy tangent about how I was fat and ugly and no one was ever going to want to date me. (Not that I need a man, but it would be nice to have one.) It’s never going to happen, I told her. I’m going to be lonely forever, and I’m missing my sexual prime. So in the midst of my diatribe, I hear her car start and realize the whole time she’s been calming me, she’s been running down the street, pushing her car, with her cell phone cradled between her ear and her shoulder. Now, that’s a woman who understands.
What do men have to go through that’s even remotely similar to this? Nothing. One little bellyache, and you boys are reduced to whimpering babies. I bet if men did have periods, they’d either find an immediate cure or turn it into something fabulous. Tampons would be status symbols, not something to hide in the back of your bathroom closet. And every box would come with a chocolate bar and a bag of potato chips. The bloated look would be in, featured in all the hot magazines. Maxi pads would be mounted and hung over the mantles of America. I can just imagine the conversations:
“Did you hear about my cramps last month, Bob? The pain had me doubled over for days. I tell you, I could not stand up straight.”
“That’s nothing, Joe. Two weeks ago I smeared Ragu on my French toast and cried when I finished the crossword.”
On second thought, maybe it’s better for women to shoulder this burden. You guys would just be insufferable.
BEN: I can’t believe we gave you people the right to vote. What in the hell were we thinking? By your own admission, you lose all control of your gray matter and abandon all rational thought during this biological process. What if it strikes you on election day?! That would mean at least, oh, 12 to 15 percent of all women of voting age could be menstruating on Nov. 7. That percentage could make a huge difference! Good God, we could end up with George W. Bush for president! Or, even worse, Al Gore!
It’s comforting to know that women think their behavior during “the curse” is just as strange as we do. I realize that you think about the way you’re acting and shake your heads in amazement later, but just try to imagine what we’re dealing with. One day, we’re relating to this perfectly engaging, reasonable person; the next day, we’re confronted with a wildly erratic creature who is one moment deconstructing every mistake we’ve made, then begging to cuddle the next. Perhaps the Native Americans had a good thing going back in the old days, when women were sequestered in a tent for three or four days till the whole thing had passed. Maybe, if we took a more modern approach to this idea, it would be a fair trade-off: You gals get the burden of ovulation and childbirth, and in exchange you automatically get three sick days every month at work. I wouldn’t argue with that.
But no man should ever complain. Or no woman, for that matter. Because unless you’re trying to have kids, this unpleasant little monthly event can be a big sigh of relief every time it comes. At the same time, you’ve got to excuse us tripods for being a little timid about it when it does arrive. Remember that no matter how hard we try, we just can’t imagine what it’s like to have this happen. All I know is that if I woke up one morning and blood was oozing from my crotch, I would totally freak out. I admit it: I’m a big wuss.
Actually, I’m not that squeamish about menstruation. When I was a kid, I got caught investigating my mother’s tampons. I was young, I was bored, and I was fooling around in her stuff. Jumping upon this as a perfect sex-ed moment, she took it out and ran water over it while she explained to me its purpose. I’m not really sure if I heard her, because once that thing started expanding, I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seenlike one of those foam blow-up animals you get in a box of cereal. Of course, I’ve learned since that women don’t think it’s particularly all that neat. One thing I did learn that day, though, was that there definitely is a difference between being a boy and being a girl. And sometimes you have to wonder if a lot of men ever figure that out. In our little bubble of ignorance, we like to forget that there’s a whole different set of biological rules going on when we’re dealing with the opposite sex.
When Danny says things would be different if men had to go through this, she’s absolutely right. We expect you to handle everything and just deal with it like nothing’s going on, but we sure as hell wouldn’t act that way ourselves. So be aware, guys. When she unexpectedly rips your head off for nothing, just smile. Don’t think “bitch” and argue with her. More than likely, she knows she’s being weird and will make it up to you later. And another thing: Tampons and maxipads should be free. Nobody should be forced to pay for something she has no control over and wouldn’t deal with if she had the choice. They should be handed out at the gynecologist’s office, like that free toothbrush you get at the end of a dental cleaning.
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