You know, in all fairness, being female isn't too bad. I mean, people don't always expect you to be the strongest or fastest, and sometimes they might think you're dumb because you're of the fair persuasion. Of course, we wily women can sometimes use those assumptions to our advantage.
I'm just one sentence in, and already, I digress. Sorry.
I'm just gonna say it: It's fun being a girl. No kidding. I mean, yeah, when I was a kid, it's true that I wanted my male cousin's toys, but maybe that was because we were so close in age, it was like being twins. I'm sure we played together on many occasions due to that fact. But overall, especially now, girls have the best and brightest toys: Barbie! Build-A-Bear Workshop! all that Disney Princess shit!
Other things in a girl's life can be pretty sweet too. We get to dress up almost as much as we want. In fact, our moms generally encourage it. They want us to be pretty, femmy, frilly. Nobody pressures us to do anything but draw, color, paint, chase butterflies, and act goofy. It's a pretty good existence for those first ten years or so.
And then comes...womanhood. (And as Greta Garbo once said in Ninotchka, "Don't make an issue of my womanhood." I frankly don't know how you can't, but whatever.)
It starts off innocuously enough. Incredible as it may seem, after all I'd been taught in health class in grade school, I was looking forward to "becoming a woman," as they liked to term it when I was a kid. Oh my God, the innocence of those days! And to think I was jealous of my younger sister, who started her period at nine (mine didn't come till I was eleven and a half). Yeah, I got over that real quick, after a couple of monthly cycles introduced me to the concept of cramps. I didn't remember any of the literature explaining about them. Lovely.
Thereafter--sparing you, my gentle readers, from the gross details--I spent at least one day every month writhing in pain in bed; on the couch; on a cot in the school nurse's office. I'm sure I was as surly as the next female teenager, but I'm equally sure that much of it had to do with monthly symptoms such as mood swings and pain, pain, pain. This pattern continued, without a break, ruining countless school days, holidays, parties, ad nauseam.
Many years later, in my 20s, I lived in a house with three other ladies. One of them was about thirty, and she complained of her PMS by telling us, "I think my body is just saying, 'Oh my God, have a baby already!' " I'm inclined to agree with her on that. I was in such intense pain one month, that, as I told my OB/GYN, it felt like someone broke my spine and put it back together in the wrong order. He just shook his head at me, not knowing what to say. I don't blame him.
Men, as sympathetic as they may be (my own wonderful husband included), just don't get it. Bless them, they can't. It's beyond them to imagine being in pain on a regular basis, on a schedule in most cases, unless it involves strenuous physical activity. But we women struggle on every month, trying our best to ignore or overcome the pain. By the time I was in college, I'd been all the way up the pain med ladder, starting with Midol (aspirin--killed my stomach), to Tylenol (kinder to my poor stomach, but ineffective), and on to prescription Anaprox (now an OTC medication known as Aleve). Where the hell was the ibuprofen when I was sixteen and missing a day of school almost every month?
I did speak to my mom's OB/GYN, who of course suggested birth-control pills. The idea was that regulating my period might bring relief from the pain. (Yet another way in which male doctors are sympathetic, but still clueless.) I balked at the time--I couldn't see the point, since I barely had boyfriends then, let alone sex--and I'm still convinced that I must be the only woman my age who's never gone on the Pill. I must admit, there were probably a few months back then when even pregnancy seemed like a better alternative than what one of my aunts used to call "crampoons"--the kind of cramps that seem larger than your own body.
Fast-forward to me now: married twenty-plus years, with two daughters (one gets the crampoons; the other, not so much). Having had my kids so late, I'm now approaching menopause while they're still relatively young. It's not pretty for anybody at my house for many days in the month. Lately, my PMS has expanded itself to almost two weeks. Two weeks of bloat, stomach upset, mood swings, oops-did-I-just-say-that? moments; two weeks of insomnia, weird dreams, fatigue, hot flashes and lack of focus. Awesome.
I have Ambien to help me sleep, but I can only take it so often. I have Prozac to help improve my mood, but since anti-depressants could kill my liver, I try to use them only as a last resort.
It's not hard to be at the end of my rope when I'm on edge almost constantly. I sure won't miss my period when it's gone (she claims before her boobs fall), nor will I miss the goddamn PMS. But this transitional time makes me feel like my hormones are killing me--or will eventually kill someone in my house, anyway. And yet I love being a woman, being a mom, being a wife. I like my job; and I don't strictly mind the laundry, driving kids around, cooking, shopping, and all the million-and-one other things I do for everyone else on a daily basis. I'd just like to be able to do them without feeling like my hair is standing on end all the time. And I know everyone around me would appreciate it too.