The Long Say

Bringing back the long-form essay before it’s too late.

The Men’s Survival Guide to PMS

A note from the author:

I’m not the first to get on a box and extol the plus and minuses of being a woman, although perhaps the first to giggle at the word ‘box’ while doing so. Perhaps there’s nothing new to add to this forum. Comedically, I’m all for periods becoming the new airline peanuts. Let this then be the bookend, the final reference, an entirely serious look into the proper etiquette surrounding an effluvium of hormones, and how not to get wet. (snort!)

You may think of it as a myth. A figure shrouded in mist that only bearded zealots insist they have seen firsthand. You may be among the believers. You may have been told that it doesn’t exist.

Firstly: It does exist. It’s as natural as gravity, and just as hard to ignore.

However, it is not what you think. Most importantly, it is not how the commercials would have you believe. It exists in much the same way as Santa Claus: based on real events, but evolved into an entirely new concept that barely resembles the reality. PMS bears as much resemblance to its media-enhanced counterpart as Taco Bell resembles Mexican food. I offer a PSA to dispel the myths, assert the truths, and help men and women alike make it through to the end with relationships, feelings, and limbs intact.

Remain calm.
Contrary to popular belief, women do not become infantilized or less intelligent during this time. Rather, their senses are heightened, making any stimulus multiplied to a power of ten. It’s as if you gave a lizard an injection expecting to knock it unconscious, and instead endowed it with superpowers. Tiptoeing may seem like the best option, but it may be perceived as condescension (see below), and you may be cleaved with a gaze. Most women are aware of this ability, and like Midas, find it more of a burden than a gift. Please remember that our voices will not always emit a sonic boom, that we do love it when you touch our boobs. But not today. Today you must stay behind the gate and cautiously watch as the engines ignite.

Act normally.
This is not the time to bring something up, as responses may vary. New business should be put on hold unless it’s emergent.

Do not ask her if she is “on her period” or “has PMS.”
Oh, the double-standard. That prickling and ever-present side effect of feminism, you little scamp. These terms, while perfectly serviceable among women, sound like you’re asking if she’s got an imaginary friend. I suggest the scientific and neutral phrase, “Do you think you might be ovulating?” This does two things: one, it uses the word “think,” acknowledges that you could be wrong, but you are concerned, and you value her opinion. Two, the use of the word “ovulate” shows that you are aware of things that Go On in the lady parts, and are hip to when this kind of freakout occurs (as opposed to the incorrect “on her period,” which is usually when the craziness is all over). Showing you have knowledge of the bits that lie beyond the six inches you normally experience will not only be appreciated, but also distinguish you as One of those Sensitive Men Who Seem to Get Laid a Lot.

Wait for the low.
There will be tense moments. After all, this ‘roid rage is mandatory for every person born with a uterus. Imagine if your mother cooked your favorite meal, and then you told her you weren’t hungry. And she’d been cooking for three weeks. Your lady’s body has been throwing hormones into a jar, knitting onesies in its brain stem for a month, preparing for a pregnancy whether the brain was on board with it or not. As body freaks out, the brain is along for the ride, not knowing why it’s so upset. Some women cry, some women throw things, some women cry while throwing things—it’s not funny, it’s biology. On the upside, it usually only lasts minutes at a time, and once stillness has returned to the pond we are usually satisfied your eyebrows were not blown off. She will again become human. Wait it out.

It is OK to bolt.
We don’t even want to be here, but we don’t have that choice. If you need to nip out to the video store, we’ll spend the time doing nutty things you would probably make fun of us for later, like we do when you’re drunk. We will, however, mark you down for attending the period, where you presence and support are much appreciated. Skip this wedding; we’ll see you at the reception.

Avoid condescension.
It’s much easier than avoiding bullets. Seriously, think first.

This should see you clear through the gate. If the above advice fails you, just remember: it is harder for her than it is for you. Much like the natural event that a period avoids.

Filed under: Essay

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