Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Cowering Fella, Hidden Dragon


Hormones. They should really be called horn-moans, because they mostly make you either horny or moany, and let's face it, it could go either way. Most men would probably argue that unfortunately, the latter is more likely for us girls.

Whereas men generally seem to have the luxury of flatlining hormone levels, if there was an ECG-style monitor for our wildly fluctuating measurements I reckon the needle would be bouncing about all over the place, so frequent are the spikes and dips. The recordings would probably be off the top of the charts: "nurse, we're gonna need some bigger graph paper here..."

photo credit

If a man's hormones were measured in earthquake terms over the course of a month, the changes would be barely discernable on the Richter scale; those of the average PMT-ravaged female, on the other hand, could soar to ten on the seismograph at a moment's notice - and the resulting fallout could be every bit as damaging to inanimate objects as a quake of that magnitude. If you can sense the rumble of an imminent event coming from a furious female, it's time for hubbies everywhere to run for cover.

I know that positive thinking is absolutely vital to happiness, and I'm pretty good at applying The Secret to my life these days, but I reckon sometimes even the ever-cheerful Mary Poppins struggled when faced with agonising period pains and a crop circle of acne on her chin.

A bit like the British weather, whereby it's entirely possible to experience all four seasons in one day, thus a woman can experience the full spectrum of emotions in a matter of hours...or even minutes. The melting pot of feelings can go from gently simmering resentment to bubbling rage and back in the time it takes to boil your breakfast egg. Like an Alfa Romeo, I've been known to go 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, as the heady hormonal cocktail courses through my veins, temples bulging. I can be singing in the shower seconds later, quite innocently, as if nothing's happened.

Here's a typical day in the life of a hormonal woman's psyche:

4am - I am a lobster being lowered into a giant pan of boiling water. I scream as the searing heat touches my shell, pincers snapping together in terror, when.....arrrgggghhhh!


I'm not a lobster.

That was a horrific nightmare from which I've just jolted awake, dripping in sweat, courtesy of my soaring hormone levels. I catch a glimpse of Mother Nature chuckling from the doorway. Oh you hilarious little prankster, you, I think sarcastically as I wring my bedsheets out with a deep sigh. Time to lie awake for an hour now whilst my racing heart and dangerously high blood pressure revert to normal levels. Whatever "normal" is, when you're a menopausal mid-lifer.
Current mood: steaming.

6.30am - my alarm pierces the peace, heralding the start of a brand new day. Oh joy. Having laid awake conjuring up unlikely scenarios to worry about in my head for an hour or so after the nightmare, I finally fall into a deep, dreamless slumber....only to be rudely awoken by the alarm on my phone an hour later. I prise my bulging boiled-egg eyeballs back into their sockets and head for the shower.
Current mood: meh.

7am - having boiled myself alive in the shower, I'm now hanging my head out of the window, tongue lolling like a dog in a car, furiously trying to cool my red-raw face down enough to slap on my make-up so I don't frighten small children in the street.
Current mood: desperate.

8am - Make-up applied, I stand back and look critically at my reflection in the mirror. Hmm. I was aiming for a nice wide red smile like Ronald McDonald, but may have inadvertently recreated The Grimace instead. Or maybe The Grinch. When you work in a customer-facing role you need to be rocking a toothy grin at all times...even if it is painted on with the help of an indelible lip stain. Thank Christ for make-up, eh? No resting bitch faces here, just miiiles of smiiiles. I skip (yeah, right) off to the station, for another thrilling day at work.
Current mood : resigned.

8.30am - Starbucks: I witness a jaw-droppingly rude middle-aged female customer ("did she really just say that?") testing the barista's patience to the limit, and I give the poor girl a knowing look, commending her silently for displaying such remarkable restraint and resisting the urge to reach out and grab Ms Skinny Latte by the throat. Instead she simply smiles sweetly, gently singing Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" under her breath, presumably to drown out the sound of the demanding ("...and make it decaf!") diva's incessant whinging.

Having worked for twenty-plus years in retail, it's a finely-honed skill to be able to rise above the derogatory treatment we so often receive, as a result of being considered the lowest rung on the economic food chain; the single-celled amoeba of the working world. Ironically, lots of service industry staff are more intelligent than the people abusing them, but that's a topic for another day.

Whereas I may have once ran sobbing to the stockroom, now my outer shell is an impenetrable as that of a cockroach. It's my "give a shit forcefield" (unless I'm hormonal of course, in which case I may still have the occasional quivering upper lip). Clearly the customer in this case is being governed by her out-of-control hormones, which are causing her to publicly derail like a faulty high-speed train. Or maybe she's just a moody mare all the time. Whatever.

The thing about working in the retail industry, specifically beauty retail, where 90% of your clients are women is that they, too, are all caught in the evil clutches of Mother Nature and her hormone-tweaking high-jinks. As women we are generally able to recognise the signs of a fellow strung-out oestrogen slave and cut each other some slack accordingly, because if we didn't there'd be daily murders (or at least a fair amount of hair-pulling and hissy-fits).
Current mood: hangry (hungry/angry - dangerous combo).

1pm - lunchtime. Now if there's one thing guaranteed to perk up a progesterone-pumped bird, it's food, specifically chocolate. We can make light work of a family-sized bar of Dairy Milk, and still find space for a Costa (Costa Fortune) Hot Chocolate with whipped cream. Well, I can anyway (even if my teeth are practically melting before my very eyes with sugar-induced decay). Chocolate is my kryptonite. I eat it in the same way Popeye eats his spinach - flip-top head and sling it in from a great height (although it tends to instantly make my thighs bulge, as opposed to the biceps as in Popeye's case). Oh well, needs must.
Current mood: ecstatic.

5.30pm -  Having made it through the day selling my socks off and keeping my (mostly) lovely customers happy with lotions, potions and wrinkle-smoothing serums, I give myself a mental high five. The delectable products will soothe those fellow hormonally-challenged women, thus affording them the strength and confidence required to fight another day. I'm performing a much-needed service to the sisterhood.
Current mood: content.

5.45pm - I arrive at the station in a good mood, having hit my sales target at work....which immediately dissipates as I see the crowds and it dawns on me that the trains are, once again, up the spout. I clench my fists as the red mist descends and my pupils flash crimson. I don't need this, I'm knackered. It's tiring being so goddamn nice, day in, day out, isn't it?

I want to throw my head back and roar like a lion, but instead I settle for a subtle foot-stamp, grit my teeth and do my best to stay calm. Commuting is not good for the blood pressure; I can feel my arteries hardening as we speak. I wedge a Twirl sideways in my mouth to stop me passing on my "feedback" to the blameless platform staff out of sheer frustration.
Current mood: raging bull.

7.15pm - I finally collapse through the door, shattered. Andy spots the Moody Troll Who Lives Under The Bridge expression and cracks on with the dinner. Oh he's a keeper alright. Food once again sorts me out (along with a fistful of Hormone Replacement Therapy tablets which are like crack to a prematurely menopausal old goat like myself) and I'm back coasting in second gear as opposed to revving a written-off car (that Alfa Romeo, perhaps?) against a wall in 5th. Aaaaand relax!

I resist the urge to crack open a bottle (ok, barrel) of Sauvignon, as the resulting pounding headache will probably set the recurring lobster dream off again. The insomnia is bad enough as it is, without waking up at 2am with a mouth as dry as Ghandi's raving flip flop. Peeling my tongue off the roof of my mouth before I can start moaning again is too much like hard work, so I stick to tea tonight.
Current mood: flatlining food coma.

8pm - my oldest gal pals are wittering away on the group Whatsapp like little chirpy sparrows, which always lifts my spirits. We share our news, slag off numpties on CBB and plan our next night out. There may be the odd hormonal rant thrown in occasionally but no-one's judging. God, I love those birds.
Current mood: grateful.

10pm - time to hit the hay in an attempt to restore harmony to my wired mind and battered body, before those pesky hormones start going haywire at 3am once more....
Current mood: like, so over it.

This great Allan Sanders illustration sums up PMT perfectly

There. You see what I mean? If my mood and hormone levels were plotted on a graph they'd probably resemble The Rockies. I know I'm not alone. It's not hard to spot those poor beggars in the grip of pre-menstrual tension. They're the ones breathing fire for a start. Boyfriends up and down the land know to perform a timid Riverdance on eggshells once a month for fear of waking the sleeping dragons within their beloved.

Even a usually placid woman, ordinarily the embodiment of good manners and self-control, can transform into Godzilla once Aunt Flo decides to pay her a visit. I've seen ordinarily meek-and-mild types foam at the mouth like a rabid badger over the tiniest thing once the old ovaries get all out of kilter.

My sister and I often laugh about the time she literally ripped the clothes from her own back, Incredible Hulk-style, when throwing a tantrum as a twenty-something because she couldn't find anything to wear. Literally tore the arms off her blouse in teeth-clenched fury whilst getting ready one stressful morning at our parents' house. Now that was a sight to behold. I'm cracking up now at the memory, much to the bemusement of my fellow commuters as I travel, alone, to work. The murderous look on her face was so special that when we caught each other's eye in the wardrobe mirror we just dissolved into hysterical laughter. Which at least diffused the ridiculous situation.

You'd think, in this day and age, someone would have invented something that would have put paid to all this, this unpleasantness; being held hostage each month, a hormone-loaded gun to our heads, as we play Russian roulette with our relationships, not to mention our sanity. If men had to suffer such indignity time and again, year in, year out, you can bet your Always Ultra they'd have come up with a fitting solution decades ago...

Oh well girls, what can we do, eh? You just gotta bumble your way through those few tough days each month in a state of low-level irritation, doing your best not to draw attention to yourself, or commit any crimes punishable by the law until the irrational rage passes.

If you sense a scene from The Exorcist is about to unfold as you become possessed by the evil endocrine spirits, it's probably best to lock yourself in the bathroom and slowly count to ten until the venom-spitting, head-spinning frenzy leaves you.

And then, in your fifties, the hormonal soup runs dry and the canteen shuts up shop. The crimson tsunami suddenly retreats....and you're finally free. You listen for the voice of the evil Mr Hyde, but no - only Dr Jeckyll remains. A wonderful sense of peace washes over you. You hear the birds singing, smell the delicate flowers in bloom. The sun shines more brightly.

Only then, you look around...and wonder where the hell everyone's gone...

photo credit

This article has also appeared at Niume.

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