To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I've seen some stuff on the internet for a while, wherein men express confusion about women who appear to be angry but won't say why. So I feel moved to produce a public service announcement.

What to do if your woman looks ticked.

Here are the possibilities.

1 – She isn’t; her head hurts or she just has “a look on her face”.

2 – She is, but not at you. Something happened at work, or during the drive home, or she had a set-to with her mother or best friend over the phone. In that case,

A – you may be able to help her think through next steps, or let her vent. If you do let her vent, that can’t get to be a longlasting thing, or a frequent thing, b/c it’s unhealthy for her (she’s not solving her problem) and unpleasant for you. Or

B – you really can’t do anything about it except leave her alone until she gets over it. Possibly she can be distracted by a nice gesture - if you cook dinner when it's not your turn, or make a special trip to the store for her favorite candy bar - but you shouldn't get offended if she's not.

In neither case is it about you. But you can make it about you if you pick at her until she blows up – see “PMS” below.

3 – She is, and it is about you.

A – You know why she’s mad and you don’t intend to change your ways. In that case, keep your lip zipped. You don’t have to do everything someone else wants, but you don’t have the right to insist that they not mind when you don’t. BTW, a relationship can probably stand a handful of issues like this over the course of time, but too many signal incompatibility.

B – You know why she’s mad and you regret whatever-it-is. A brief “I’m sorry” is probably in order, but the most important thing is not to repeat the offense.

C – She’s ticked at you, but you have no idea why. She may not either, or she may suspect she’s being unreasonable but can’t help it - see “PMS” below. You can’t assume that she’s mad at you unless she says so, and you don’t want to see her unhappy or endure a bunch of sulking, so probably best to say something like “If you’re mad at me I assume you’ll tell me why” and then SHUT UP. Once again – you can’t police the other person’s feelings or the look on her face. But DON’T do this if you really know why she’s angry but you have no intention of complying with what she wants, unless you just want to pick a fight – and this is very bad for the relationship.

If it happens often that she's angry at you and you don't know why until you ask, there are two possibilities here.

i - She is not communicating effectively. Expecting you to just magically know what she wants. That's kind of immature but people do it. If that's the case you'll have to politely point out that you are not a mindreader.

ii - She is communicating but you are not listening. That is your problem and you have to solve it. I personally do not nag, at home or at work; I'll say something a couple of times and then I'll shut up, because if I'm not getting compliance, I never think that adding to the noise level the person I'm talking to is dealing with will get it for me. Women who do nag say they do it because their men are not listening. You can train a woman to do that (unless she's like me and refuses to) or cause her to feel angry and resentful by tuning her out. (Nagging, of course, trains a man or a child to ignore the first fourteen times the nagger says something and that increases unpleasantness for everyone.) I realize we women talk a lot sometimes and it's hard to extract the kernel of relevant information; news flash - y'all do that too. So make an effort. : )


A word about PMS. Okay, several.

If you’ve never had it, imagine that about once a month a person injects you with a psychoactive drug. It may make you cry about trivial things, or it may make you obsess about things that don’t really matter. You may even wake up in the night fretting about something that another time wouldn’t bother you at all, and you can’t turn it off. Or it may cause you to have free-floating anger that settles on the nearest target.

You have no control over the person who injects you; or what drug you get, how much, how long it lasts.

And you don't even know when he's doing it, you have to figure it out from your symptoms.

The most you can do is try to anticipate when it might happen, and then try very hard not to share your inevitable misery with the people around you.

I never understand when a man acts like a woman’s PMS is a personal affront to him. Like having it is not enough of a burden for her, without him giving her a hard time about it as well. Men, we are not having PMS at you, I promise. If we could skip it, God knows we would.

And we’re not making things up like our clothes not fitting. I have pants that I cannot wear those few days, as well as certain underwear. It’s not convenient and it’s not fun. Chocolate craving – that’s real too. When I have been off the pill, my cycle has been so irregular as to leave me totally guessing when to expect my visitor. Most of the time it’s about 3 weeks, but sometimes as long as 5. Frequently the first warning I get is that the idea of Hershey’s chocolate pops into my head and I have to get some. The brain-altering chemicals in it are very calming. Rum-and-cokes help tremendously too, I’ve found.

But here is the kicker. I have a theory and I can back it up with anecdotal evidence: women who are premenstrual emit pheromones that cause the men around them to act like total jackasses when they would not at any other time. (So maybe we are having PMS at you, but not the way you think.) It seems to be satisfying to a man at times, to pick at a woman who has PMS until he touches off a big ol’ fight. That’s happened to me (at work) even when I’ve known I was premenstrual and was trying very hard not to get provoked, and once again, the man doing it was usually a nice person. What happens then is that he goes away with some kind of catharsis, and feeling superior about how she’s just a crazy chick, leaving her totally unnerved and possibly in tears. DON’T DO THAT. That is a relationship killer. If you have any reason to believe that a woman is premenstrual, and she has a look on her face, and she tells you “nothing” or "I'm just in a bad mood" when you ask what’s wrong, find enough self control to take that at face value and stay out of her path until her body chemistry settles down. Especially if that woman is your true-love. It may not be as much fun as picking at her until she explodes, but it’s the kindest thing you can do.


Anonymous said...

Do you remember my telling you that I could swear that I and a certain male teacher at a certain school where I worked were in sync. It never failed that when I was struggling to maintain my sanity (read PMS) that this jackass would come up with some cockamamey something for me to do in that one-person office of over 500 students. I just got upset thinking about that and it has been over 30 years! Oh well.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Were you in sync, or were you doing that to him with your pheromones?

Keep your pheromones to yourself, woman!

Seriously, women get in sync with each other due to cycle-related pheromones; that is established fact. I don't know why we could not be affecting men as well.

Anonymous said...

He must have kept a calendar. I mean you could set your clock by him coming to the office to request something that was no way in my job description and throw a hissy if I didn't comply.

Nancy said...

Excellent. I'm bookmarking this.