March 08, 2006

Periodgeist (and Other Spirits of the Womb)

WARNING: This post contains discussion of various girl-biology subjects. If this kind of thing icks you out, you might want to read something else and wait for tomorrow’s.

Now, I’ve been a little cranky lately. More than usual. A little irrational, a little weepy, a little bit overeating. Two days in a row I have been cut down with vicious, vein-throbbing headaches. No, I’m not pregnant. Neither am I experiencing the joy of the month, since I keep careful track of it (and ladies, you really should), and I am not yet due to receive my special week of woman-trauma.
Or so I thought.

SCENE: Beedoo’s apartment
TIME: Monday night

ME:
(calling from bathroom)
Hm. Interesting.

SUE:
What?

ME:
I have a period.

SUE:
Is this a new thing?

ME:
Well, yes, because it’s not my period. My period is in a week. I know it is, because I’m standing here, looking at my pills, and I have six of them left. I have somebody else’s period. Is it yours?

SUE:
No, mine isn’t for a week either, because SOMEBODY forced me to be on her personal cycle when she moved in.

ME:
You can’t win against the pills. You puny uterus bows to mine.

SUE:
My uterus is anything but puny. Yours is all drug-ridden.

ME:
I do not have Junkie Uterus! I have Steroid-Enhanced Ultra-Uterus, and it could whip your all-natural granola-eatin’ uterus in a fight any day.

SUE:
Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that.

For the men (or perhaps even women) who are unaware of this phenomenon, I shall elaborate: When women live together, their menstrual cycles will align. It’s true. If none of them are on birth control, their periods will all be within a few days of each other. My brothers know this, because there were times when we were young that it was not safe to be male in our house for about twelve straight days (I imagine they slept over at friends’ houses a lot, because they are both still alive today). If any girl is on birth control, the ones who are not will align with her pill cycle. And if, God forbid, two different girls are on two different pill cycles, the one natural uterus will not know where to turn and end up spinning in all directions a la Linda Blair’s head. We used to tease my little sister for being so neurotic and crying all the time, when really she was a forced-cycle victim. I hope she’s not screwed up for life.

So my Aunt’s cycle is synchronized with mine. I am the lead horse of our house’s menstrual flow. So why in the hell am I getting a little falsie-period a week ahead of time? We eventually decided that, when Sue’s old period was rudely shoved aside for mine, it became bitter, and before it died it laid a spiteful curse on my uterus. I have a Haunted Period. It makes sense, since I never had it before I moved, and it’s right when hers used to be. So now, whenever I’m just gearing up for the week of total hell, I have a mini-period before I’m even fully prepared. The bathroom even seems a little colder, and I swear I hear a baby crying at night. And the kitchen chairs were all stacked in a pyramid this morning… eerie.

The real kicker of the Ghost of Period Past means that I get my Goddess Belly a whole week early. For the uninitiated (hi, CD—are you still reading?), the Goddess Belly is what happens to women in the few days before the special week—what the Midol commercials call “bloating”. It’s not really so much of a bloat, but more of a swell; your stomach will poonch out just a bit, and your thighs and arm-flab expand slightly. The stomach is the most noticeable aspect, as the uterus ledge—the lower of the two sections of stomach fat that all women’s bellies inevitably divide themselves into—will lengthen and widen like freshly rolled dough, and almost sensually call attention to itself. It doesn’t matter if you are fat or skinny, the Goddess will still find you. I lost forty pounds and she’s still lurking inside, like Jeannie in her bottle, permanently booked for her every-third-Saturday show at the Beedoo Apollo. The only difference between then and now is that I currently take on more of a kneeling Aphrodite appearance, whereas it used to be more Venus of Willendorf. So for all of you killing yourselves with crunches, you can apparently change only the manifestation of your goddess, not lose her altogether. (The best we can hope for is Venus de Milo, but I don’t look that good any week of the year.)

The Belly doesn’t care that your pants aren’t fitting right, because if she had her way, you’d be draped in sarongs and jingly anklets, with virile men attending to your every physical need. She will stick out when you are having conversations with boys, proclaiming your fully functional status just in case he might want to father a few children later. She will try to sell you like a pimp, blissfully unaware that this is the time you are guaranteed to look your absolute worst. She makes you sassier, short-tempered, and easily flushed—in short, she pumps you full of estrogen. When you sit, she will fill your lap, knitting a little shawl and singing exotic, swanlike melodies. She is annoying the crap out of you.

Then there are the good times, like after work, when you put on your pajama pants and lounge on the couch watching Extreme Home Makeover, and the two of you cry together that the family that used to live in a moldy shoebox now gets to live in a mansion with a kitchen big enough for you to park your crappy Tempo in. You do all the things that bring the two of you closer, like eating ice cream and flipping through Martha Stewart’s Living with a cup of Darjeeling. You remember that you could always have fun together, but in a distant way; you’re still glad you only see her once a month, because any longer would incite a huge fight that would dull all the good memories. You don’t agree with her, but you know she means well, and is really just trying to look out for you.

And in a few days, when your period actually arrives, and you are fully unattractive, clinically insane, and wailing about your clothes and appearance, it will be a small comfort that the Goddess Belly will have retreated from whence she came, dormant again for another month.

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