P.M.S, or how to become a Potential Murder Suspect.

Being a girl is not easy. That’s what I explained to Little My this morning, as she blinked though the tears and asked me why she is suddenly swinging between crying and getting angry all the time for no reason. I held my daughter in my arms and tried to break the news as gently as I could: Herr Hormone and his henchmen had taken control of her emotional control panel, rewired it and taken over the management of all behavioural procedures in a subversive, pre-pubescent putsch.

English: Behemoth , roller coaster at Canada's...

Fasten your seatbelts: welcome to the hormonal roller-coaster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you know the difference between female hormones and a fairground ride? The answer is that there is no difference at all: they both make you loop the loop and climb to vertiginous heights of exhilaration before plunging into the depths of doom and gloom, leaving you with nausea and a headache.

Men are blissfully ignorant of how it feels to wake up craving chocolate cake and hating the world with the combined malevolence of all three witches in Macbeth. When your Significant Other Half makes the mistake of asking for a matching pair of socks, your eyes pop out of your head, your mouth opens, and out tumbles your outrage at being taken for the family skivvy, closely followed by the age-old comment that he’s a big boy now, that you are not his mother and he can sort his own flaming socks out. You then inform him that he can start his quest for independence by pouring his own coffee, then immediately feel guilty, ask for a cuddle and bawl into his armpit as you plead for chocolate-covered doughnuts and back rubs. Welcome to the hormonal roller-coaster that the medical world coyly refers to as PMS.

all aboaaarrrdd the pms express

Necessary PMS medication stored in adequate pill box (Photo credit: McBeth)

I would love men to get a turn at being a woman. Just for a couple of cycles. Boys, even without being subjected to the multiple “joys” of pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding such as being kicked in the bladder all night, crapping a watermelon and having breasts like twin udders, it’d be a real eye-opener for you. Afterwards, you would maybe hesitate to come up with that inter-generational male classic of attributing everything we say that you don’t happen to like to our hormones. For example, when we blow a gasket because you have “invested” the equivalent of a week’s food supply in the purchase of a plant for the garden “because it was cheap”, it cannot be brushed off using your very unscientific “theory of menstruality”. This implies that we would have been thrilled to bits and kissed you fore and aft for your great initiative at any other moment in our cycle. No, guys;  it really does mean that we are angry and we don’t agree. Period. (Sorry for the tasteless pun. I couldn’t resist it.)

Yes, I’m sure you would enjoy being a girl for a month. You could discover the harsh reality of living with boobs: blancmange-like parasites with minds of their own that inflate and deflate in tempo with Herr Hormone’s whims. They start an irreversible migration south just when we girls can enjoy having them as a feminine asset rather than a refuelling pod or airbag for our offspring (further information about boobs can be obtained from a previous post entitled “Nesting and Migration in the lesser spotted boob“).

English: An assortment of spanner wrenches and...

Possible contents of an OB-Gyn’s tool  kit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

Then there’s the necessary, sine qua non experience of the check-up at what my favourite author Kathy Lette aptly describes as « the cervix station ». Go ahead, guys, test it out. You will discover that there is nothing quite so unnerving as a complete stranger brightly enquiring what you what you do for a living as he peers hopefully into your depths like Indiana Jones checking out a dank, bottomless cave on his quest for the holy grail.

That’s why I have always found myself a female Ob-Gyn. At least, I have done since an unfortunate first experience as a young woman (a long time ago, as you no doubt suspect). I went through the Yellow Pages and hunted down the oldest French christian name in the list, convinced that pre-retired specialists would be totally blasé about seeing half-naked women.  I took an appointment with the presumably ancient and wrinkly Emile, and sailed confidently into the surgery to find an eager, young and square-jawed Grey’s Anatomy-style doctor who had obviously just graduated from medical school. Lesson learned: never judge a book by it’s cover.

I will leave you with this helpful spoof information film to help men deal with PMS.  I apologise to my parents for my choice of subject – I can’t help it. It’s no doubt because of my hormones…..

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Why do men have nipples?

We all know that fathers are only generally asked one question on a regular basis:

« Where’s Mum? »

It’s more complicated for mums. We get to answer practical questions, but also have the difficult role of being the Oracle for what I term “the biggies”. These include beauties such as  “Why does the sun rise?”, “How long does it take to become a skeleton after you die?”, “Why is the sky blue whereas space is black?”, “What happens if you keep your eyes open when you sneeze?” or “Why does poo smell bad?” Questions are fired at us throughout the day, sometimes requiring hours of reflection and research before we can give the right answer, and often meaning that we’re awake for hours wondering why on earth we’d never thought about the question in hand, whilst our offspring snore blissfully in their beds. Here is a typical day’s line-up of the most common questions. Please feel free to complete with your own personal favourites:

« When » (….. is Dad getting home/are you going to buy me a …..)?

« What » (…… are we having for dinner)?

« Where » (….. is my favourite t-shirt, I left it on the floor behind my bed last week and it’s disappeared)?

« How » (…… come he got to finish the pot of chocolate spread and not me? He ate it all on purpose so I can’t have any, life sucks, nobody understands me and I’m going to overdose on Fanta then run away to a good home….).

« Who » ( …. put my jeans in the washing machine, they were still clean, I’d only been wearing them for ten days) ?

My all-time favourite, however, has always been « WHY ? » This one has always given me multiple opportunities for a laugh, a cry or a moment of philosophic contemplation.

« Why do men have nipples? » my daughter demanded at the breakfast table yesterday. I put down my piece of baguette and grinned at her. I was relieved: at least she hadn’t asked why men had a brain. The question could have been justified given the behaviour of the males in our brood on occasions.

At the grand old age of almost ten, she is in the starting blocks for puberty, and female hormones have already begun their stealthy, insidious attack on her mood and her physique. Questions about certain parts of her anatomy and why everyone is physically different are becoming quite a regular event.

It was a very good question, why do men have nipples? It’s not as if they need them for anything in particular, and I am surprised that Mother Nature didn’t get rid of them over the course of evolution. When P.F appeared with his coffee, I asked. “Dunno”, said our resident scientific boffin, ripping a chunk off his croissant and dunking it unceremoniously into his coffee.

I blinked. “I beg your pardon? Pull the other one, you’re a biologist. Come on, give us the low-down on redundant human accessories. Remember Little Red Riding Hood? The wolf had ears to hear you with, eyes to see, a nose to smell …. well, you know! Surely everything was put there for some reason; look at the appendix! Not useful for anything much now apart from being a potential time bomb that can send you to A&E, but it must have been put there for something! Even the belly button had a role to play once upon an umbilical cord ago!”

My daughter stifled a laugh and smirked. “So, Papa?” she insisted, but to no avail. Her genitor was absorbed by the amount of coffee his croissant could retain without falling into his cup.

“I can’t see how they can be of any use to men, but I’m sure that if you grab them and twist them around, like you do on the kitchen radio, your Dad will stay tuned in to all the recent events in his family”, I reassured her.

In the meanwhile, I’m still no closer to finding out why men have nipples….. Anyone got any bright ideas?