Some months my hormones rage. I tend to rage with them. It’s not every month, nor reliably on the 26th day or two days before I start bleeding. It just happens sometimes and at different intensities.
Last month, at about day five of my menstrual cycle I thought to myself, “Oh wow! Hey, I didn’t have PMS.” I mentioned it to Chris and he agreed that it really had been a smooth month.
We should have knocked on wood.
Now, you must understand that I am feeling a tremendous amount of pressure regarding some work issues. In fact, today marked a huge deadline that I had to seriously struggle to meet. (I’m writing this on two hours of sleep, a full day’s work, and an entire evening of princess-coddling and other pursuits.) In a very real sense, when Friday night arrived and the wave of hormone craziness hit, I was not in a very helpful position emotionally. Chris had been out (for all good reasons) on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and then again early Friday evening. He’d called and said goodnight to the princess on the phone and asked if it was okay if he went and had a beer with some friends before he came home. I said yes. It was okay, really.
That was before the hormone tidal wave. Two and a half hours after that fateful phone call, I was a quivery, angry, crying mass of rage because I hadn’t spent any time with him for the last three nights and he was out having a beer while I sat at home alone. Never mind that I had told him I needed to work. Never mind that I had told him I didn’t mind if he had a beer. Hadn’t he just done that a few days ago with the same people? [explanation: Actually, it was a week earlier with some of the same people and a good friend who now lives out of town but was in town visiting for the day.] I said a lot of other ungrateful, mean things in my head, too, that hopefully I will never let out of my mouth or my fingers in a moment of rage because none of them are true.
I will say that in some sense our extra-curricular activities last week were out of control, and I think I have a legitimate argument that we had neglected each other throughout the week – that my loneliness wasn’t exclusively linked to the pre-menstrual hormones. But this situation was by no means all Chris’s fault, though of course at the time he was solely responsible for the failings of world peace and every pursuit in the world of equal or less importance.
When the third hour hit, I called him up on his mobile. I hoped – hoped – he wouldn’t answer. Maybe there had been a fire and he was out on an engine somewhere or in the ER with a sick patient. But no, he answered. And I could hear the crowd in the bar in the background.
Any hope of staving off my hurt and fury was smashed. “Are you coming home soon?”
Cautiously, Chris said, “In a few minutes.” And then, “Are you upset?” I didn’t answer but I heard the background noise fade as he scrambled to go somewhere quieter. I didn’t need to answer, anyway. He knew the answer. “Never mind, I know you are.”
“I’m going to bed now,” I said, quite truthfully. I didn’t want to talk to him. I didn’t think it was wise to say anything because none of it would have been nice or fair.
“I’ll be home in a few minutes,” he promised.
“I’ll be in bed,” I said, and I meant it.
I was still crying when he came in the front door. He got down beside me on the bed and held me and we tried to talk. I doubt I made much sense. Finally, he said, “Do you want me to sleep on the couch?”
Never – never – in our relationship have I asked him not to sleep with me because I was upset. In fact, while illness or parenthood sometimes separates us at night, I consider it a matter of personal honor and emotional security that he sleeps beside me even if our bedtimes aren’t always the same. But I thought about it. In the end, though, selfishness prevailed. “How would that help?” I asked. “If you sleep on the couch, I’ll just lie awake in here and cry all night.”
He went to get ready for bed, came back and held me some more. Apologized. Didn’t try to excuse his behavior. Asked what he could do to make it up to me. He did all the right things, and it didn’t help one little bit.
“I don’t know,” I said, tears still running down my cheeks. “I just don’t know.”
I’ve never been a chocolates kind of girl. Spending money on gifts to apologize isn’t really an apology. Real regret means finding and implementing ways to not repeat the mistake, as we frequently try to explain to the princess in a simpler way. And really, I was able to deduce in the back of my muddled mind, what had he actually done wrong? What could he change? In reality, nothing.
Except, the next morning, I did ask him not to tell me he was having ‘a beer’ if what he really meant was that he was going to go and hang out with his buddies and chat for three hours, even if only one beer was actually consumed in the process. It’s not that I can’t extrapolate, but in these situations, it’s just best if I can take and believe in what is presented to me at its face value. I need to believe in Chris and in his honesty and in his words, and I don’t need to add doubt and faithlessness to my internal and unsubstantiated list of how I’ve failed as his spouse.
I think we were tentative the next morning. He went with the princess and I without complaint to the large weekend open-air marketplace in Orange County, though he told me was coming down with a cold. After only a couple of hours of wandering around, he told me he was ready to go. I agreed, and again I continued to hold back the negative and catty thoughts running through my head, primarily…
If you’re so sick, why didn’t you come home early last night to rest? You knew we had plans to get up early. And If you’re so sick, why are you planning to go out as soon as we get home to do fire department crap? See what I mean? It didn’t make a bit of difference whether his reasoning or his behavior was completely legitimate. He wasn’t going to be able to do anything right.
So several hours later, when he informed me – after being out all afternoon – that he was driving the engine to the big awards banquet that evening instead of taking me, I was right back where I was Friday night. Pissed. Crying. Frustrated. Angry. “How am I to get there?” I asked, leaving out the additional since the man I thought was my date doesn’t think I’m important enough to take with him! I said a number of additional not-nice things in my head, too.
Chris arranged for me to have a ride. And when that person didn’t show up, he arranged for me to have another one. And during the banquet, he stayed right with me and held my hand and made sure I sat down when the mixed drink I ordered at the bar was about four times as strong as I expected.
All I could think about was me. Poor me. Neglected me. Sorry for myself me. How typical that my husband has the highest response rate me. All these other women must have some secret for getting their spouses to stay home in the evenings with them and why doesn’t he want to spend time with me, me.
By that time, Chris had won an award. I think I said congratulations. I might have said it. I don’t think I really felt like I wanted to congratulate him. I wanted to strangle him. In any event, fifty other people said congratulations, and he sat down. The next award given, the man comes up to the microphone and breaks into an extended speech about how wonderful and supportive his wife has been and how lucky he is and how he couldn’t have done it without her, etc. etc.
All of it was true, his wife is fantastic.
All I could think about was that this man knew – he was my ride that didn’t show and for good reasons – Chris had an unhappy, selfish, and temperamental wife. He was saying those things to spite me, to make me feel guilty, not because they were true. And I did feel guilty. Awfully guilty. But not guilty enough to break down in public.
Once again, I shoved it all to the back of my mind and got on with the evening.
At 11, I felt it coming back and asked Chris to take me home, which he did. He asked me if he could go back to the party. I agreed, shut up the house, checked that the babysitter was asleep in the family room, fiddled around trying to act normal, and finally got into bed with my MP3 player and some noise canceling headphones.
I turned the music up loud and got in the calm, hour-long, quiet cry I’d been needing for days. And despite the tears in my eyes, I actually felt much better. Happier. Sleepy.
Sunday morning was long. Church has become something less than a worship experience for both Chris and I. Every week it turns into a contest of how stressful it can be and how many tasks we are scheduled and expected to accomplish on Sunday morning. And Chris already felt terrible. He still had the oncoming cold growing in his chest, head and sinuses. Still, he went to church with me without complaint.
By the time we got home, I really needed a few minutes alone but my brother had called so we were chatting on the mobile phone while we transferred from car to house. I kept talking, the princess was playing for a moment, and Chris disappeared. But when I got off the phone ten minutes later he hadn’t returned, and the princess needed a playmate.
Turns out, he’d gotten in bed and was napping.
The hormone rage came on gradually. The princess and I did a number of things together, but none of them what I had planned. And I kept my temper, my tears, and pretty much every little urge to lash out under control. It’s easier with the princess, although her energy level can be quite trying even on a regular non-PMS day.
Two and a half hours after Chris went to bed, I told myself I was going to calmly go in our room and nicely ask him whether he had intended to take a nap or wanted to stay in bed the rest of the day. I wanted to know as a point of information, so that I knew not to disturb him, and we hadn’t discussed it before I found him undressed and essentially passed out earlier. And if it was a nap, he needed to think about forcing himself out of bed, since evening was quickly approaching.
Except when I tried to ask him, the princess came barreling in and climbed on top of him. My question came out all wrong and it sounded like an accusation instead of a request for clarification. And when I started to walk around the bed to retrieve the princess from where she was smothering her daddy, I stubbed my toe on one of the 6 laundry baskets spread around the room full of laundry waiting to be folded and put away.
“I think your nap’s over,” I snapped as I tried to feel my toe again.
It really hurt – a lot. I bit my lower lip and left the room, went into the bathroom, shut the door and started to cry. I didn’t yell at anyone, curse, or stomp my feet, but I did want to. And then the princess came in to worsen the spiral effect. “Mama hurt with a boo-boo,” she says. “Mama, you okay?”
I was still biting my lower lip and I wanted to curse and cry. “A---, please go back to Daddy,” I asked, but she wouldn’t. And wouldn’t. And didn’t want to when Daddy came and got her. And didn’t want to go in Mama and Daddy’s room with Daddy. She wanted Mama.
I wanted to be alone. I cried and cried and cried.
And then I got up and went back into the bedroom, where Chris and the princess were now in bed together watching a Caillou cartoon. I like things – our house – nice and orderly, but there were six pairs of shoes strung out over the floor amid the plethora of laundry baskets and they all had to go. I dropped mine in the shoe drawer and took aim with Chris’s. Yes, I did throw them, but it was a controlled throwing in the direction of the closet.
Not the best example was I for a pre-schooler who believes the throwing of balls in the house is a delightful pastime.
And then I started to fold a shirt.
“What are you doing?” Chris asked abruptly. He told me later that at this point he had already decided I needed to be paddled.
“I need to fold the laundry,” I explained. Despite any attempts to explain this calmly, my response came out much more like a seething shut-up-and-leave-me-alone kind of statement.
Chris snapped right back. “Why don't you just go in the other room!” he barked.
He tells me that he intended for me to go and settle down and that he wanted to do something nice for me and fold it all. I didn’t take it that way at all.
I went. I sobbed. I ranted. I cried. I let the tears run down my face and drip onto my shirt. I was too proud to go back and tell him that I needed his support and helpfulness to conquer my bitchiness.
Eventually he came to check on me. “How are you feeling?” he asked, after he explained about how he wanted to help me by folding the laundry, a task he knows I hate and during which I could be working – something he can’t do for me.
I felt a little better. Not great. Instead, I said, “Am I getting paddled tonight?” I just asked.
“The only question remaining,” he replied, “Is what paddle I will use.” He paused, turned and shut the door to the kitchen. “In fact, I think it’s best you got a little one right now, to think about.”
“The baby!” I pleaded.
“Is happily engaged with Caillou, behind the baby gate, fifty feet away and there’s a closed door between us,” he answered. And even though I don’t ever remember standing up from my desk chair, suddenly I was over his thigh on the couch and he was smacking me through my pants.
The paddle came after the princess was asleep – a black one with holes drilled in it and rounded off. My bottom was bare, I was over his thigh with my face in the mattresses and after some minutes of this I pleaded for a pillow to yell and scream into.
The paddling was followed Chris – eager and aroused – providing some much needed attention to the rest of my body. “I know that was punishment,” he grunted at one point, “But I enjoyed the hell out of it.”
I was still floating from the third orgasm and didn’t care even one iota if he’d enjoyed it or not.
I hoped that the paddling was the end of it, but Monday struck me at full power again. This time I was better prepared. I had made three CDs of my favorite music and turned them up loud in the car on the way to a meeting. I had caffeine and was prepared to drink it. And I got through it, even though I cried while I was driving and singing at the top of my lungs.
I tripped and fell in Chris’s office early Tuesday morning, while carrying the princess and all of our stuff through his office to the car. The princess, thankfully, landed in Daddy’s desk chair and had a tremendously enjoyable time doing so. Mama was not quite so happy. I put the princess in the car, returned to the office and expended my anger by picking up all the stuff on the floor and piling it carelessly on his couch.
After the hormones settled into their natural rhythm, I realized with some surprise that I finally felt normal. Normal. It is, I think, a lovely feeling. I haven’t felt angry since. I haven’t wanted to rage since. I haven’t said hateful things in my head or to anyone else since.
I realized I had better confess about the three-minute cleaning spree before he saw it and I had to explain.
I called Chris and told him what happened. When he came home later, he looked in his office and said, “Wow. You really did have a tantrum.” I let that pass. And then he added, “You bent my certificate.”
“If that’s the only thing that got damaged,” I said mildly, “You should be thankful.”
Tuesday evening at dinner I said to Chris that my hormone craziness had passed. “Aren’t you relieved?” I teased.
I think he thought it was a trick question. “Am I allowed to say thank goodness?” he asked.
I wanted to laugh…