Whether you have a menstrual cycle or just love someone who does, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). According to some estimates, as many as 85 percent of menstruating people experience some PMS symptoms, ranging from cramping and cravings to bloating and mood swings. For some women, PMS is a minor irritation. For others, it’s downright debilitating. But if there’s one thing all those with PMS have in common, it’s that we really don’t appreciate anyone (that means you, partners, friends, colleagues, and mothers) minimizing, criticizing, or laughing at our symptoms. So, if you’d like to stay on our good side, here are eight completely useless comments about PMS we never want to hear again. Love, every woman ever.
1. “Ew, gross! No one wants to hear about that!”
If a woman happens to mention that she’s having PMS (perhaps by way of explaining why she’s clutching her stomach in pain), most men — even nice men — react with a look of disgusted horror. (Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.) This attitude, that the menstrual cycle is some kind of shameful secret that should be locked up deep inside without a key, is grotesquely unfair. And archaic. Seriously? It’s 2017. If a woman tells you something about her period, it’s because she’s asking for a little understanding, not launching an attack on a man’s delicate sensibilities. Furthermore, it’s pretty maddening to live in a society that was built on penis and fart jokes but recoils at any mention of the big, scary period. Get over it.
2. “You're being irrational/emotional.”
This is one is tricky, because every woman with PMS knows that it does do a number on our ability to behave 100% logically. But women are also really tired of having our judgment second-guessed in our personal and professional lives because of our hormones. We’re a little emotionally out of whack — we’re not crazy. So, no, this isn’t “my period talking.” So even if this does occasionally happen to be true, it's also a sure-fire way to make it a lot worse by blaming everything on our hormones or pointing out, that, yes, we are feeling a little testy.
3. “Come to think of it, you are looking a little bloated.”
This one is a favorite of mothers the world over, but it’s also employed with surprising frequency by random men as well. Here’s the thing: Most women are already sensitive about their weight, so bringing it up at a time when we’re retaining water and craving chocolate is really quite cruel. Why would you do that?
4. “Haven’t you already had lunch?”
Yes. And now I am having a second lunch. Do you have a problem with that?
5. “Why are you complaining? Doesn’t this happen to you every month?”
Your uterus trying to punch you to death from inside your body doesn’t really get less painful just because it happens once a month.
6. “Oh, you still get your period? Why don’t you just [insert method of birth control]?”
A lot the criticisms on this list are directed at men. But this one is for all the women who have opted out of menstruation and think anyone still going through it is a fool. Look, ladies: It’s great that you have found a solution that works for you, and I know you think you’re being helpful. But many women can’t avoid PMSing for reasons that are complicated, personal, and private. So, in the name of sisterly solidarity, if another woman tells you she’s PMSing, don’t make her feel like she brought it on herself.
7. “Why are you crying at this beer commercial?”
DON’T YOU TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT CRY ABOUT. THE PUPPY WAS LOST UNTIL THE HORSES FOUND HIM. IT’S BEAUTIFUL. WHY ARE YOU NOT CRYING?
8. “So you’re PMSing. What do you want, special treatment?”
You know what? Yes. Every woman who goes through PMS deserves to be treated, if not like an actual queen, then at least with a modicum of respect. She should certainly not be made to feel embarrassed because her body is working through the mechanism that creates life. When women ask to be cut a little slack because we’re PMSing, it’s not because we’re whiny babies — we’re just going through some major stuff! I wish more non-PMSers (of all genders) would ask what the experience feels like, so they’d have some sense of what a painful, exhausting, expensive ordeal it is. Until then, just steer clear of all the comments on this list, and you’ll have gone a long way toward making the world a friendlier place for women with PMS.
Elaine Atwell is an author, critic, and founder of TheDart.co. Her work has been featured on Vice, The Toast, and numerous other outlets. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.