I am not a guy (at least the last time I checked), so there are lots of guy things I am not qualified to talk about. But I have been married to a guy for 25 years, so there are few things I have observed up close and personal.
In my marital odyssey, and in general dealings with humans of the testosterone variety, I have discovered that women aren’t the only ones with PMS. Now, hang on there before you roll your eyes and think I have come completely unhinged. I am not saying men are experiencing bouts of unexplained crying, an overwhelming desire to read Helen Steiner Rice greeting cards, or chocolate binges. Unless they have a secret stash of Russell Stover in the man cave and aren’t talking. And I have yet to find anything remotely resembling feminine products in the shaving cream drawer. One time I found moist towelettes, but those don’t count.
What I have observed is that while ladies suffer through PMS, men must deal with FME: the Fragile Male Ego. Oh yes, there you go again, dude, rolling your eyes. Don’t you know denial of FME is the first sign of FME? If you are a lady reading this, you already possess the mystic Understanding How Dudes Understand Hubris or “Uh Duh” in sisterhood shorthand. Yes ladies, we KNOW: FME is very much alive and well and is the masculine equivalent of PMS.
Hey: I am not saying women’s egos don’t rear their pretty, little coiffed heads. You bet they do. What woman wants the real answer to, “Does this outfit make me look fat?” or “Am I prettier than your first girlfriend?” More importantly, what self-preserving male would actually answer that?
So, then this is not a male-bashing rant but a completely unscientific attempt to explain why men do the things they do. Inquiring minds want to know. Because so much quirky female behavior is chalked up to PMS, I figure there must surely be a male counterpart. Otherwise the universe would be completely off-balance and the earth would kilter off axis. I am happy to do my part to keep the galaxy aligned.
Denial the Adonis days are done
Women like to say their jeans are tight because of bloating. Or the baby fat hasn’t completely melted yet. Mmmm, hmmm. We happily throw our slightly less than perfect bodies under the PMS bus. Maybe the bus will flatten out a few pounds. But men also use FME to gloss over the ravages of time. They aren’t fat: they are husky. They don’t have a beer-belly: they have table muscle. For them, nothing has changed from their glory days as hunky college Adonis gods. FME has magically taken the mirror image and reduced it by 20 percent, 30 percent, 40! Pick your magic number. (Imagine how rich you would be if you could replace every mirror in women’s dressing rooms with this magic mirror. Gives a new meaning to “Mirror, Mirror.” But I digress).
What else besides FME could possibly account for the persistent wearing of speedos when the wretched things should be outlawed as soon as a man turns 25, or gets married? Whichever comes first.
I have girlfriend whose husband was running late to work and couldn’t find his new belt. When she told him to use his old belt he could not admit it no longer fit. Instead he said it “didn’t work anymore.”
This man and I must share some DNA strands or a cross-gender telepathy because I too have often lamented about my closet full of non-working garments.
Constant Affirmation Constantly
Women in the vice grip of PMS will be set off by any little word, however innocuous or well-intentioned.
“Honey, let’s eat out tonight.”
“What? You don’t like my cooking? All these years and you never told me you don’t like my cooking? It’s because of your mother right? You always liked her cooking better than mine.”
“Um, no, I just felt like Big Bubba’s Ribs tonight and thought you might like a night off.”
“What? You think I can’t run the house anymore? Are you saying I am old and washed up? It’s because I dye my gray hairs, right?”
Well, FME also gives men a slightly skewed take on things.Men like their women to acknowledge their efforts with burst of enthusiasm usually reserved for record-setting Olympic feats.
“Wow, honey you really nailed that nail. I mean, it is so straight and perfectly dimpled into that wood. I have never seen such a great nail striking job ever. Tim Allen has nothing on you.”
Don’t believe me? Next time your man does some manly thing around the house just shrug your shoulders and say, “Eh, you did the best you could.” FME simply can’t handle this, and one of two things will happen: a sullen angry withdrawal will prevail or a blow-by-blow account to prove to you how incredibly difficult it is to glue down that loose wallpaper. Oh no: paper gone wild!
The absence of 24/7/365 constant affirmation can be considered grounds for divorce. Once I didn’t tell my husband what a fantastic job he had done hosing down the driveway. Boy, oh boy was I the Wife-from-Hell who had better contact a lawyer and starting thinking about where I was going to live out my retirement years. Alone. Happily, the situation was resolved by the fulfilling of another FME requirement that I can’t get into here because this is a G-rated blog. Besides, we all know that particular FME requirement cannot possibly be covered in one post.
They are always right
Because this follows on the heels of Constant Affirmation, I am casting this in a positive light as opposed to saying “They never admit they are wrong.”
Men are never wrong. They simply didn’t have all the information. Or they weren’t in the loop. They will get back to you later on that. Or they were just testing you to see if you caught the mistake. If you did, then this is actually a benefit to you as the mental dexterity in finding the mistake they were testing you with keeps dementia at bay. You are so lucky to have such a thoughtful spouse. Or boss. It doesn’t matter what their relationship is to you. You only need to remember that they are always right. Don’t worry if you forget they are always right because part of their always being right is reminding you they are always right. It’s a package deal like PB & J or Ken and Barbie.
A curious euphemism has become standard FME lingo in our culture. People don’t lie anymore or get the facts wrong. They just “misspoke.” I am pretty sure this handy little phrase was coined by a man in the throes of FME when he had to admit he was wrong without admitting he was wrong. It’s a win-win situation. He doesn’t have to admit he was wrong and the little woman can still give him Constant Affirmation without qualms. Only a brilliant man who is never wrong could have thought of such a clever way to get off the hook. Men have the answer to everything! Aren’t they just wonderful? (See, I just slipped in a Constant Affirmation there. Points for me).
The Never-ending Story
While PMS is certainly a drag, it does have one huge advantage over FME. I am talking winner-take-all huge.
In a glorious blaze of estrogen-starved menopause, PMS will meet its doom. Liberation! Freedom! Hello Again Normal Self. Hello again size 6 jeans (okay, maybe not).
But FME? It is the never-ending story.
It stays with a guy like Camellia on Prince Charles. It never goes away. How do we know this? Well, have you ever seen two old people who have been married forever? She is usually a sweet old doll, happy in her post PMS world, accepting the limits of her body, aging gracefully, and embracing her mortality. The grandkids adore her. Him? He’s a cranky old coot: still refusing to ask for directions and getting lost. He still thinks he can take down those “young punks” with a good left-hook. The grandkids hide from him. And the sure-fire give away that he is in the tyrant grip of FME? He will be the 80-year old in speedos at the beach.
Yup. FME. For sure.