PMS Escape

Historical Feature Article: Health and Humor

This is an article I wrote for The Weekly Planet when I worked as an intern. It was published in the December 18-24, 1997, issue.

PMS is Here to Stay

In the words of my mom, and the many moms who went before her, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

This was the thought I had when I first heard about PMS Escape, the latest in a number of products claiming to erase one’s Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). It is a dietary supplement not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

At first this detail alarmed me, but after the pain started to settle in, I decided that I would take anything- alcohol, drugs, even an untested dietary supplement- to ease my suffering. After all, modern women like myself don’t have the luxury of staying home or retreating to a lodge to stay, uninterrupted, until our time of the month is up. We need drugs to tame that not-so-groovy feeling.

Some men are quick to say that PMS is a bad thing because it causes the women in their lives to become cranky and irrational. I say that this is not a bad thing, since this hormonal convergence brings to our attention things we would usually ignore or dismiss, and enables us to deal with them aggressively (and sometimes, unfathomably). Since women in general are encouraged to be complacent, PMS rights this wrong.

Women’s anger seems to come from nowhere during this time, but it’s the intense, stored-up product of a month’s worth of experiences, good and bad. We seem to get more irritated with everyday things, such as ringing telephones, the process of driving to work and, especially, dealing with men.

On an ovulation high, we might lovingly attend to our significant beau, hang upon his every word while massaging his feet. But during the iron-deficient PMS experience, the sight of a blathering man talking self-importantly and wiggling his toes purposefully might fill us with loathing. We might think to ourselves, “Who the hell does this guy think he is, demanding anything from me? Does he really think I care about his stupid job or his stupid life? I shouldn’t even listen to him- when does he ever listen to me? Besides, he’s a man, and men are almost completely responsible for domestic violence, environmental degradation, the government and its ridiculous policies. I can’t believe I have anything to do with anyone like him…”

This, or something like it, is what we are thinking when we survey the men in our company with critical eyes. If a retreat is not made, a battle may ensue. But is this how it has to be?

This is what I’m thinking when I decide to try the vitamin supplement. Is there something I can do to overcome this monthly sentence? Questions about its safety run through my head. Will this cause my heart to stop and my hair to fall out? Will it help curb the urge to call up my old boyfriend? Will it make me popular at school or work? Most importantly, will it make the stabbing pain in my back go away?

The clouds on the packaging calmed my fears. Then I read the outside of the box, where it said that one serving of PMS relief contained fewer calories than a baked potato. How condescending! As a woman, I’m not going to worry about the amount of calories I’m consuming when I’m trying to elevate my quality of life. But since I was on a mission, I ingested the fruity drink, popped an aspirin, and headed for bed.

When I awoke the next morning, I noticed a change. The stabbing pain was gone! So was my assertiveness. The special vitamin blend had placed me in a state of false happiness, suppressing the usual rage. I could recognize annoying situations, such as bad drivers on the interstate, but my will to honk had fled. At work, aggravating situations caused little or no reaction in me- perhaps a good thing. But as the drug wore off I began to feel more like myself. I became more alert, energetic, expressive, for better or worse. It occurred to me that I really didn’t need to take a PMS reliever, although it might make the people around me happy if I did. But did I really need to be concerned with that?

If I’m going to sedate myself voluntarily, it will be for good reason. I know that there is no escape from PMS, and if there was, my mom would have told me about it a long time ago. There are vitamins and herbs we can take, and remedies like PMS Escape that we can buy at any drug store that can ease the symptoms, but there is no way to get away from it for good.

Ours is a culture in love with escapism: escape of reality, escape of sobriety, escape of conscience. PMS presents the ultimate challenge, because it’s here to stay.