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PMS Is Dead; Long Live MVD!

OK, enough. I am so done with all this talk about PMS and PMDD. About six or so months ago I finally figured out what it is--you know: those few days before your period starts, when you're grumpy and touchy and sensitive and irritable and your boobs swell up and you're tired and just canNOT be bothered.

I figured it out, I say, and I gave a name to it, and now that I know what it is, I'm about to tell you so you will know too. It's not premenstrual syndrome. It's not Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Say it together, now, my sisters: it's our Monthly Vacation from Denial.

That's right. MVD: Monthly Vacation from Denial. The days when we wake up to the utter horror of living in a patriarchy. When we wake up to the ravages wreaked on our bodies by pollution, preservatives, pesticides, and the general all-over stresses of urban living. (Do rural women get "PMS?")

It's on days like these that I'll find myself at work (I clean houses for money), and I'll be stacking up a client's magazines, and I'll come across the annual issue of Life's best photographs. Can't resist. I'll start leafing through it. And then I'll come to the photo of the skeletal, emaciated, starving preteen African boy, on all fours on the ground, looking up helplessly at the legs and feet of a man, who is striding away with a burlap bag dangling from one hand. And what does the caption read? This dressed adult male has just stolen a bag of rice from this near naked starving child, in the Sudan, where millions suffer from a famine that is not caused by nature, but by politics.

Since I'm enjoying my MVD, I do what any right-thinking human anywhere in the world should do, on any day of any month, when confronted with such an image: I sit right down and cry, good and hard, for 10 minutes or so. And for the next three or four hours, tears continue to run down my face, unstoppable. This is the beauty of the MVD: it reconnects us with all the things we try to force down and ignore all the other days of our lives.

The physical symptoms work in the same way, as a reminder that we are basically abusing our bodies (most of us, anyway) most days of our lives, with the food we eat, the cigarettes we smoke, the carbon monoxide we breathe deeply, the lack of sleep and overdose of stress, the lack of healthy exercise. Once a month our bodies sing out, like the canary in the coal mine, and remind us of our sins.

The ayurvedists believe that the reason women live longer than men is because we have this monthly opportunity to eliminate toxins from our bodies with the blood flowing out of our uteruses. Perhaps there is a psychological equivalent to this, and perhaps some day psychiatrists will catch on to and document the enormous mental health potential of being able to recognize and release at least some of the acute psychological pain of living in this evil world--and letting it flow out of our bodies, too, along with the blood.

The real trick, though, is for women to realize the potential for shattering everything evil in the world by simply tuning in to our monthly messenger--if we don't drug it into silence and submission with Sarafem first, that is. What it tells us more clearly and concisely and urgently than anything else is that our lives suck.

They do indeed suck. We have to put up with an endless stream of abuse from, well, men, my dears. Sorry, there's no other way to say it. Okay, we could call it "patriarchy," as opposed to "men," because after all, we all certainly do know one or two or maybe even ten nice male individuals. But the collective horror that their energy has wrought is undeniable, especially in those few days before our periods, when the blinds fall off and reality stands there in all his utterly horrible naked truth, erect phallus pointed straight at us. Is it any wonder we want to run screaming for the hills?

Still, just because our lives suck, doesn't mean our periods have to. Some women have changed the way their periods make them feel by changing the way they feel about their periods. As Inga Muscio puts it so eloquently in her book Cunt, "Suddenly, all the period propaganda shoved down my throat since that fateful day in sixth grade was far away and beyond ridiculous. Lo and behold, my period stopped hurting!" Check out her own thorough deconstruction of the whole pms-myth thing. Maybe you'll come up with a new way to navigate your powerful MVD, and a new way around those tired old roadblocks--the times someone makes a joke about PMS, or accuses you of being "on the rag" just because you express anger, or when you find yourself hating your beautiful blessed body just because it bleeds. Please, sisters, think of this.

--Sue Scharff

Back to article: The Defective and Doomed Female Body by Sue Scharff




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