Monday, April 4, 2011

The Vicious Cycle

Dear Uterus:
As we enter our time of warfare once more, I must speak for everyone else, yet again, in saying that you are the bane of everyone's existence. What are we going to do with you? If you keep acting like this, we're kicking you out for real this time. Just because you're in a bad mood doesn't mean you have to make our hormones dart around in this body like a roach infestation. We know what you're trying to do, and there will be no tiny humans in here, so you can stop it now.
No really. I'm not playing this time...we've had enough.
The Brain
C.E.O., The Body
Manager of Emotions 

P.S. You're a cunt

It all begins with a battle never to be won by us (because The Uterus is infinitely victorious). Like most epic conflicts, the battle begins with a valiant, yet grisly, puberty and ends with a warm and sweaty monster. Our mothers and grandmothers call it our “period” or our “time,” but I just refer to it as the Vicious Cycle, because that is what it is. I remember when my battle began, and no, I was not happy with it. I remember reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. My mother gave the book to me; I think she wanted me to read it so I would know what to expect. This girl really wanted her period, and couldn’t wait to begin her march into womanhood with her Uterus on her left shoulder. My Uterus sat in its cavernous quarters like Grendel, patiently awaiting the Vicious Cycle. I only semi-knew what was going to happen because of the honesty of my mother and no thanks to the awkwardness of health class.
Puberty is something that was not discussed in my southern county elementary school. Before sex education was even considered in school, my mother gave my brother and me a set of thin blue books that supposedly outlined puberty, reproduction and what it was like to experience extreme awkwardness. They had technical illustrations featuring the mysteries of boys and girls and also technical illustrations about the act of sex itself (which made sex look like an extremely boring chore that all grown ups had to go through), pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. My brother and I were both pretty embarrassed about the blue books, and we kept them in our small library that was in a long closet upstairs next to both of our rooms. We called it the Reading Rainbow Room, a place that we were sure Lavar Burton would hang out if it weren’t for those blue books. Meshed with my embarrassment was my curiosity, so I would often slip into the Reading Rainbow Room and grab the blue books that sat between Curious George and Dr. Seuss
I learned the shape of the uterus and its general use, and also the shape and function of the penis, a foreign creature with which I had no interest, really. What did it have to do with me, anyway? All I needed to know about was the uterus, and I thought it was pretty awesome by the time I thought I had it all figured out. By the time I reached fifth grade, it was time for the boys and girls to go to separate sex education classes, and boy was I ready! I knew what went where, I knew about menstruation and penises, urethras and fallopian tubes. What a cinch. 
I halfway expected something explicit to happen during sex education. I mean we’re talking about education about sex, here, people! Every other class that I had included segments of study, then experiments or videos. Then a test. There had to be at least some videos about sex that we could use, so that we could set aside for future research; it made sense to me at the time.
Sex education turned out to be a bust. We watched a National Geographic video about the mating rituals of harp seals. Following the mating rituals, the host of the show milked the lactating seals and tasted the milk-an incredibly perverse move, even to a 5th grader. All I remember about that day was the fact that harp seal milk apparently tasted like a rich, slightly fishy, buttery milkshake; pretty interesting information, yet useless according to my uterine research. After that yawn fest, I forgot, relatively, about sex education, abandoned the blue books and continued on normally. However, I always wondered one thing: if any one mammal fed exclusively on fish, would its milk also taste slightly of fish like marine mammals’?
Now let’s fast forward to three years later. The Vicious Cycle finally got me like The Nothing took Fantastica, sweeping away my girlhood in one day. It rendered my world of smiling stuffed animals and happy cotton panties to nothing more than overly emotional tears, ibuprofen and mattress-sized maxi pads. It took me aback, and I had to sit down and analyze the situation.  I had to come up with a way to live with this unfortunate womanly lifestyle. In most cases, the Vicious Cycle is pretty well planned out anyway. I had to come up with a plan in accordance to the plan of the Vicious Cycle. Over the next twelve years, I passively overanalyzed a beginning and end of the Cycle and how to deal with it with Defense Mechanisms, A Set Plan for Action and the Drugs Involved, Rations, Warning the Innocents and Reconstruction.
After an exceptionally brief biblical study of Adam and Eve, I decided that it was entirely Eve’s fault to begin with. As I mentioned in the previous essay, it was she who gave the Uterus its infinite power over me and enabled this pre-meditated pain and suffering. To deal with this issue, and to prevent walking around like I had a murder victim in my pants, I had to come up with a workable system-a defense mechanism, if you will- to prevent any embarrassing public accidents. I decided to be heavily clad with a line of defense: feminine hygiene products. Hygiene is very important when dealing with the Vicious Cycle because you can lose a battle when ill-equipped. 
I was told to keep my cycle secret to men, (again, thanks Eve...) and hygiene was the key to keeping that secret. Being secretively hygienic like this was, at first, like being in an all inclusive girls only club that sucked. I grew up wanting to BE a boy, initially, rolling around in the dirt and playing tag and football with the boys at recess. Being just as good as or better than them was super important to me. So the illusion that my period was a shame that our friend Eve bestowed, as opposed to a well-known truth to us all, was really annoying to me. This idea was totally against my tomboy mentality because I never wanted to be secretive or ashamed of anything about my body. But my mother, grandmother and aunts always told me to hold hygiene to high standards and to also keep “Sally” clean because dirty girls smell like fish. So, despite my love of tomboyish behavior, I was unquestionably obedient with this information because, seriously, who wants to walk around smelling like seal’s milk?
The pain that the Vicious Cycle and the Uterus unleash on my entire body can be debilitating. When I first started to bleed, it seemed like I had to go to the bathroom all day, and I was confused. I soon learned that they were cramps. *Side Note: Menstrual cramps, or the medical term Dysmenorrhea (ew), occur when the Uterus sheds it’s inner lining. More on that later* I concluded that in order to function like a normal human being, instead of wading through a swamp of immobility, one must have a supply of drugs. I always keep a nice, well-stocked medicine cabinet with things like Excedrin, Advil, Aleve, and off-brand ibuprofen. I am not tolerant of pain, and I am the first person to admit that fact. When I’m in an exceptional amount of pain and I take something to relieve it, I can literally feel my Uterus slow down like it fell into a vat of cement that is drying.
After years of learning how to be prepared, I started carrying my defense mechanisms with me at all times. I call it The Rag Bag, and it is full of things that are needed in the case of a surprise attack from the Vicious Cycle. It is a pretty brown leather clutch with colorful flowers on it. I suggest every girl obtain and supply their own Rag Bag. It is kind of like a bomb shelter; you keep everything you need inside just in case there is an emergency. 

Rag Bag Check List:

Pain Killers
Super Plus Tampons
Large Overnight Maxi Pads
A few dollars (just in case anything is missing)

The Uterus seems to develop tastes for things during the Vicious Cycle. Things that will ultimately hurt me in the long run by increasing the amount of water gain with salty snacks and upping the fatty food cravings by at least fifty percent. Chocolates, potato chips, cream cheese, cakes and ice cream are only a few on my list of things-that-should-not-be-eaten-at-the-same-time-but-I-do-anyways. In my years of observations on the Vicious Cycle, I admittedly find no way around this, and sometimes do not realize that I am succumbing to it. I will “unconsciously” pick up these things pre-Cycle and mysteriously have it in my hands during the run. I am normally paralyzed by want of sticky fingers, crunchy textures and chocolate milk mustaches—it’s dangerous self-medication.  However, it seems that consumption of these things seriously avert the attention of the Uterus, thus alleviating major pain.
Backing up the junk food beast that takes over my mind, I also tend to exercise more. A swift, one hour kickboxing class or a brisk run seem to make the Uterus tired and lulls it. Not to mention it helps get rid of all of those ridiculous calories that I shamelessly consume.
Many people assume that when women are moody, lashing out or screaming that we are being affected by the Vicious Cycle. So when we get angry about someone not flushing the toilet or when someone writes a bad review or when we “don’t feel like it,” whatever “it” may be, it is assumed, “Oh, she’s on the rag.” When that is true, others suffer on the Vicious Cycle’s behalf. When that is not true, it’s condescending (and others also suffer). It is a good idea to think about the innocents that do not know what is going on: the men, the children, friends, and the dog, but not the cat (they never care what you say to them, you just have to feed them). 
At fourteen, I never understood people’s negative reactions to my negative Uterus-influenced attitude. As I grew older, my bad attitude was no longer justifiable because everyone I knew was going through it in some form, and I couldn’t go around being constantly insupportable for a week. I had to find a way to let people, especially of the male persuasion, know that I was not in the market to be irritated. Instead of apologizing and hiding my condition, I decided to open up about it. For one, I stopped being embarrassed about getting feminine hygiene products at the store. In fact, I openly admit my condition by what I buy and no longer ask the clerk to double-bag my purchases. For example, while on a heated and urgent expedition for relief, I went to Le Petite Casino, a small and irritatingly more expensive version of a huge chain of French grocery stores up the street from my apartment. I was in no mood for shenanigans en Français, and I trudged into the grocery store. I picked up a variety of items: tampons, chocolate, milk, potato chips, maxi pads, chocolate, wine and chocolate and went up to the cashier. By what I purchased, I am admitting the following:
“I'm on my period. That being said, I just want you guys to know that it's okay. This is what happens to me every month. Whether you think it's God's punishment for what Eve got into in that garden, or whether you think the more logical, "Hey its reproduction, not snakes and apples," it’s seriously something that cannot and will not stop until menopause. You see, as a woman, I am highly reproductive. My body wants to make tiny humans so badly that it gives me hell every month. My body is an angry machine and it causes everything in my appearance to look disheveled. At least smile and say have a nice day without staring at me, my junk food or my tampons in utter fear and disgust. I hope you learned something from my reproductive genius, and have a nice, dry “I’m a guy” kind of day.”
From my long analysis of these things, I think that complete openness will help the innocents in their understanding of the situation.
The day that the Vicious Cycle and The Uterus move back into a dormant state is a day for celebration. There is a feeling of relief and comfort, comparable to getting a new puppy:  it’s nice to just hug the day and embrace the freedom. To recover from the damage done to Body (the variety of medication, all the junk food, possible inebriation, and the mental strain), walking is nice, a pleasant, healthy dinner and making up with the Innocents is in order. But no apologies