The first time I heard my gal pal, Deirdre, refer to her menstrual cycle as “Ladies Holiday,” my Inner Cynic ducked her head out from the boulder she’d been hiding under in my otherwise sunshiny heart, peeling with a frightful laugh she spat out, “Ladies Holiday? BaaaHaa HaaHaa Haaaa! That’s no trip I’d ever wanna take, least of all with you!” Yes, I was jeered by my Inner Cynic, she doesn’t usually harass anyone as harshly as she does me. I have to admit, the devil inside was right, I couldn’t imagine that I would ever refer to my menstrual cycle as a Ladies Holiday.
Ever since my period got into it’s full horrid swing in my early teens, it has been less of a holiday and much more like the climatic final scenes of a Hitchcock film or the entire 129 minutes of the Joan Crawford biopic, Mommie Dearest. Whichever image gives you the most horror, that’s how it was for me and I can see why some people simply call it a “period,” for I can look throughout my life as a menstruating woman and see distinct periods of time that have been forever marked by my actions and reactions during menstruation.
No, for me, “Ladies Holiday” was a much better description for pregnancy. While I have known plenty of women who have reacted to pregnancy with a mixture of excitement and terror at the thought of nine whole months spent growing the thing and the impending doom of sore hips and swollen feet etc., I found my first three pregnancies to be a refreshing holiday from the crazies of menstruation, from adult acne, from emotional outbursts and all of the other lovelies that have accompanied my feminine cycle. Historically, I have felt my very best during pregnancy, not that I didn’t suffer from many of the same aches and pains as any other woman, but in many ways pregnancy was my ultimate and glorious Ladies Holiday.
Maybe by pregnancy number four my luck had run out, or more realistically it was that this pregnancy was occurring after the age of 30, but my most recent pregnancy was different than the others. Gone were the clear skinned days of yore, gone was the relishing of my sexy pregnant curvaceousness, gone was the holiday away from hormonal Crazy Town. Pregnancy #4 was like an all-inclusive 9 month pass into the most wild amusement park of emotion and mental instability you can imagine. OK, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but I am writing this while in the throws of menstruation so bare with me. I actually had many wonderful moments, just as with my previous pregnancies… moments of pure joy even. But I cried rivers, I had the worst morning sickness in my history, sore breasts, cramping, complications, emotional upheaval, nothing like I’d had with my previous three. Anyway, you get the picture, it was different… it was like having my period all the time.
I blame the fact that a good part of our first year together coincided with this pregnancy for my partner having bestowed upon me the nickname The Twister, I’ll admit it was well earned. During that 9-month-long visit to the not-so-amusing amusement park of hormonal hell, I was a ride unto myself. As The Twister, I could take anything that my dear Fella’ might say and twist it, turn it, and finally whip it back around with the force of The Zipper swinging treacherously down, or The Scrambler turning suddenly frontwards and then back again. Somehow I didn’t make the man crazy, just very dizzy, very tired, and maybe a bit nauseous at times.
When my daughter was finally born and I had traveled through the sometimes dark and dreary world of the postpartum period, I was excited for my Fella’ to finally get a feel for the actual, real me – you know, the Me that didn’t have daily inner washings of hormones. Somehow, I had completely failed to consider that my period would eventually start again and that the roller-coaster ride of the female menstrual cycle would be a part of our lives until I reached menopause (I can’t even imagine what that will do to me!). In any case, being a breastfeeding mom, I thought I had a good year before my period would start again. I imagined myself frolicking in the glorious meadows of absent menses and empty uterus. But no. My period returned within the first few months of little one’s life and here I am again – One Crazy Bitch – or if you prefer a less maniacal and villainous term, The Twister.
A few nights ago The Twister reared her ugly head again. After a lovely evening sitting by the fire with my Fella’, the kids having been in bed for hours and my darling man and I having just read our first wonderful pages of a book together in an effort to both read more and spend more quality time together, I found The Twister bubbling up from the evil inferno I call my menstruating uterus. My partner had made some comment, an innocuous one really, but it was a comment that I disagreed with. The thing that makes it all worse is that I have a total inferiority complex, especially when it comes to my smarts and especially when conversing with someone as smart and quick witted as my Fella’. Hence, I felt the need to call upon the twisty witch within. As women we know that menstruation doesn’t exactly cause us to get upset about things that we normally wouldn’t, but rather it causes us to react in a larger way, as the things that bother us become magnified by the influx of hormones at “that time of the month.” The tale continues here, although I disagreed with my partner’s comment I was feeling frustrated by my inability to form the argument which supported my opposing opinion, leading to, well, me feeling stupid. He hates that word. I felt “unintelligent.” How did I express my angst, my self-loathing, my totally internal-struggle-that-had-very-little-if-anything-at-all-to-do-with-him? I twisted it, of course.
“You just think I’m stupid!” I accused, like a pouting child. His response was not to acknowledge such a ridiculous statement, especially one that includes one of his least favorite words, but rather to respond with a calm and positive statement.
“We are both who we are, each with our own strengths and weaknesses, I love you exactly as you are.”
WELL!!! I’ll tell you I just knew exactly what he meant by that!
“You see? I knew it! You do think I’m stupid,” I exclaimed, wagging my finger at him both accusingly and as if to say GOTCHA!, then I proceeded to flesh out my theory for him. “Notice how you never said the words ‘no, I don’t think you’re stupid’? Notice how you just meandered around the words with all your Mr.Rogers-esque self-esteem boosting rhetoric? I noticed! You just can’t bare to say the words, you just can’t bare to say that you don’t think I’m stupid, because you really DO think I’m stupid. Instead you just say that you love me as I am which is basically just another way of saying that yes, you think I’m stupid, but you love me anyway. Gaaaah!”
Yup. I said all that. I’m a twister. I twisted it.
Ladies, I know at least some of you have been there. I know at least some of you are just now uncovering your eyes after reading that, cringing empathetically. I know that some of you are falling out of your chairs laughing, because yes, you have been there. I know that I am not alone and that, my dears, is the bright side.
I consider myself to be on a journey. I do believe there is something sacred about womanhood, including our feminine cycles. This belief is another reason why I have always enjoyed pregnancy so much, the entire process of creating, carrying and birthing life is something that I feel both in awe of and privileged to have been able to experience so many times. I am learning now to love all aspects of my womanhood, even the crazies of menstruation. “Ladies Holiday?” Sure. It could be that.
Now that I’ve acknowledged and accepted my PMS induced alter ego, what shall I do? A resolution! I resolve, no longer to get stuck on things that bother me about myself, my womanhood, my life. My journey is about learning how to be on this wild ride of womanhood with a bit more… grace? Perhaps. Mostly, though, I want to travel through life with more self-acceptance, self-assurance, and an ability to move forward through all experiences with growth, light and yes, maybe even grace.
GUEST BLOGGER: Tamar Jacobs
Tamar Jacobs is co-founder and a contributing writer for the women’s lifestyle blog Ladies Holiday and its foodie sister site Aliment. Tamar’s work through Blooming Lotus, her own small business, includes teaching yoga and Pilates classes as well as working as a Birth Doula. Tamar lives with her partner and best friend, Nick, near Eastern Massachusetts where they are raising four wily rascals (a.k.a. Children.) In her spare time, Tamar writes, blog stalks, reads, and explores her artistic side through photography, fiber arts, clay, and sketch.