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Category: Women Date: 03 Mar 02

Look out! She has PMS and she has a gun!

I feel treacherous by writing about PMS openly because women have had a history of being looked over, objectified as sex objects, patronized, passed over for jobs, for being weaker, softer, shorter, rounder, have mysterious atavistic monthly cycles linked to the moon, the ebb of the tide, contain life force equipment that produces children.


Like the king of Corinth in the Myth of Sisyphus who spent his whole time pushing an enormous ball up a hill only to have it roll down again, as a lifetime punishment, we continually push that ball up the hill – minimize curves, spray our hair, file obsessively, compartmentalize, become indispensably efficient, neutralize the feminine, to what we hope is the perfect androgynous state of a “professional”. But lipsticks and mascara smudge, silk shirts crumple, stockings rip, heels clatter, pins fall out, hair gets messed up. We start over.


Some among us, have got to the top by imitating men – being as aggressive, as cut-throat, as cut off from our inner selves. We may have, (in our eagerness to be accepted in the realm in which they have reigned virtually unchallenged decision makers and bosses) on occasion preferred to boil our heads than admit that we have been up all night with a sick child, or are doubling over with cramps.


We will never admit to exhaustion from juggling cooking with ideas, bottles with deadlines, and will move heaven and earth to be at work on time, project finished. Like every underclass we have to work harder to prove our worth.


But if there’s one cardinal rule we instinctively live by, it is never to mention Pre Menstrual Syndrome in front of men. Our PMS woes are restricted to women’s rooms because the lack of reason, irrationality it connotes, has and can be used as another weapon against us, to push us back into stereotypes suggesting our ineptitude and inferiority. It could justify the glass ceiling (women are better equipped to be secretaries than run companies).


The fact that we hold up so well, press on, bounce back, is a testimony of women’s sheer grit since many women suffer from gradations of PMS.


The text books confirm that with PMS, “women suffer physiological symptoms of a wide and varied nature that can leave them feeling on the edge and out of control.”


This includes the PMS triad of “irritability, lethargy and depression,” physical manifestations such as headaches and migraines, flu-like symptoms, recurrent yeast infections, food cravings and, “in more serious cases, seizure-like activity.”


Some doctors suggest it is hormonal related, dropping levels of progesterone or estrogen, or an imbalance in the ratio between the two hormones as a woman completes her monthly cycle.


Sufferers may also have some disruption of the neurotransmitters (that send messages or impulses through the nervous system and regulate hormones) in the brain. A 25 percent drop in endorphin levels (a neurotransmitter) in women that suffer PMS could temporarily affect learning, body temperature and memory.


But there has been a slight shift from old paradigms. As women did better in schools and universities than their male counterparts, successfully managed homes, jobs, children, men (the biggest babies) they grew confident. It dawned on many that they were survivors, bouncing back as they did from bad marriages, broken homes, divorce, domestic violence, simple everyday bullying, economic dependence to find a place in the world. As women found that against all odds many are able to single-handedly bring up balanced, healthy children, support dependents, engage with their communities, invest in friendships, take a risk or two for money or happiness, they began easing out of their straitjackets.


We realized, to our astonishment and delight that it was those very attributes that we’ve kept under cover - emotion mingling with reason, working with contradictions, using intuition, that made us prize workers.


Our employers called “multi-tasking”, “creative marketing”, “crisis management” but we knew it was part of what we’ve always been. As we grew bolder we became ourselves, laughed louder, wore fitted clothes without fearing that our brains would become automatically invisible.


We discovered something else. That PMS wasn’t a negative human trait but a fuel to our feminine mystique. Every month our hormones well up in us prising open our third eye. This third eye allows us to see the world with fresh eyes – we weep, it is true easily, at the memory of a beloved voice, or a shuffling old woman; we stop to look at a tree; we laugh uncontrollably, are ridiculous (what’s in that apple pie, pineapple?) and sublime (leave me to my Oreros) or shake with rage at a trifle. The world becomes transparent to us, raw, as opaque niceties peel off. Everything becomes interconnected, impossible and possible at once.


I dropped by a woman friend one evening in a state of PMS. As I was leaving, we looked at the sky: A mangle of textured shapes. Moving dark clouds in wooly clusters were thickly daubed and rimmed by luminous silver gray light. We watched the colossal full moon rise, shimmering gold, out of shadowy black undulating hills. Later it was a distant silver orb over the sea. At dawn it was blue on a gold sky. I wouldn’t give up PMS for anything. It gives women that third eye. Its quick on the draw, shot with pull of the moon and the eternal ebb and flow of the tide.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur