Cooking with PMS: A multimedia experience

For some reason, I decided about a decade ago that the clothes I wear to work must often be at least 80% wool, and thus they and I get rather itchy. Occasionally, I up the percentage, and wear, in essence, a hairshirt and hairslacks (awful, but “hairpants” is worse). On days when my hormones have colluded to make my physical self the equivalent of a high efficiency heat pump, these get-ups transform me into a human burr.

Very recently, I spent a long day sitting at a desk in an office with violently fluctuating temperatures, because the temperature is dictated by the needs of the servers near my office. This is the future. This is, in fact, the beginning of our enslavement to the machines. But anyway, I had had either the chills or a cloud of steam around myself all day, and felt like I had been given one of those allergy tests where they prick your entire arm with various allergens and you get welts and sneezy. Along with this, I had epic PMS. What does that mean? It means a ton of physical discomfort and a variety of feelings, like this, perhaps:

harvest-workroom-thread-art-spirograph-thread-art-string-art

But not anything that would, say, prevent me from responsibly holding elected office, if I wanted to do that. Nothing, say, like this:

When I got home, instead of changing clothes, I seized the opportunity of being in an empty house to start “making dinner.” As I was looking in the refrigerator and finding only the type of foodstuffs a family fleeing an occupying force leaves behind (heavy gourds, hardening cheeses), my husband and kids burst in. “Mom, can you talk for trucks?” the two-year-old asks. Early on, we made the mistake of giving the kids’ stuffed animals distinct voices, and while the upside of that is that the kids will sometimes tell their foxes and bears important, otherwise-unshared news, a la puppet therapy, the downside is that, especially in the 2-year-old’s universe, everything talks back and at great length and it’s exhausting.

“I can’t right now. Why don’t you guys go outside?”

“Are you making dinner?” my husband asks.

“Can you talk for truuuuuuucks! Can you say yes? Mom, can you talk for trucks?!”

“Why don’t you guys go outside and build a Red Tent in the yard?” I suggest. My husband makes this face Shocked

and sweeps the children toward the outside and safety. I can hear the little one yelling, “Talk for truuuuuucks! TALK FOR TRUCKS!” I look out the window, and see my husband huddled with the children, probably explaining that Mom really needs to be left alone right now. I get a whisk and shove it down my back to violently scratch my shoulder blades in this stupid fucking middle manager-style Mom sweater. Thinking it might be best to proceed with something external that matches what is happening internally, I put this song on repeat: 

There is nothing much to make for dinner, and I start chopping vegetables with no plan. I put carrots, celery, garlic, onions, and shallots in a pot and sautee them. Then I spy potatoes and start peeling them with a dull peeler that my brother had in his off campus house in 1987. I know it’s dull. I should not use it. I start to put it in the sink, and then decide to huck it at the refrigerator and shout, “Why do we still have this stupid peeler?” At this moment my family re-enters the kitchen. “Hey,” my husband says… “Why don’t you take a load off? Have a glass of wine, go sit down? I’ll make dinner.”

“YOU MADE DINNER LAST NIGHT!” I shout. “IT WAS DELICIOUS! THANK YOU! WE TRADE OFF! I’M DOING THIS! I’M DOING THIS RIGHT NOW!”

“What….” my husband looks uncertain. I glare at him. “What’s that in your pocket, Shaboots?” At this, I burst into tears. Not sad tears, because I might have PMS but I’m not John Boehner, for God’s sake.john-boehner-crying

They are laugh-y frustrated tears because my husband is quoting Key & Peele, and has only half-derailed my crazy train.

“It really is the worst thing, all the time,” I say.

“I know.”

“You absolutely do not!” I glare at him. “You know who would do such a terrible job at a sketch like that?”

“Me?”

“NO! Daniel Tosh!” Rather than continue the conversation, like a human being, I turn back to potato peeling, but with a sharper peeler, and think about how radical it is for Keegan-Michael Key to mimic inserting a tampon. Also how awesome it is for Jordan Peele to say, “Don’t call her a bitch but…” and then I remove a two-inch shred of skin from the side of my left index finger and scream as my blood drenches the last potato. I drop the f-bomb repeatedly, like the kitchen is Dresden and I don’t care about the Geneva Convention. My husband pops his head in. “We have small children,” he says, and then, “What the fuck happened to your hand?” I have wrapped my sliced finger in a paper towel, because that is sufficient dressing for a deep cut, carefully rinse the potato and put it in the compost bin. “Gonna water the soil with my motherfucking blood,” I say. “What do you think will grow?” My husband pulls his head out of the doorway. The five-year-old says she’s really thirsty and I hear him tell her to go drink out of the bathroom faucet. I realize I need to manage myself, and get three glasses of water, but then gaze into the nonreflective refrigerator surface and talk myself down, kind of like this:

“Hey,” I say, delivering water to the living room. “Dinner shouldn’t be too long.” My husband just stares at me. The five-year-old says, “Look, Mom, I fit all my Shopkins into one basket, like a puzzle.” It is kind of a small feat of engineering. “I have two (small, plastic, purpose-free) raspberries, though, so I’m going to throw one away.”

“NO! That will just go straight into the Pacific gyre of plastic! No! You give it to one of your friends! Those things are clearly marketed toward girls to train you to shop, but without allowing you to choose what you get! They are ridiculous! And you absolutely may NOT throw it away!” I hate Shopkins. Can you tell? The five-year-old can tell, and I have apparently hurt her feelings.

“I’m sorry! But I’m not sorry because what are those things?” I say and stomp back into the kitchen. At this point, I have a large pot full of mostly soft vegetables.  Because I want to grind something up, I get the immersion blender and blend it, add random seasonings and stock, and then decide it’s soup. I prepare grilled cheese sandwiches out of the many small slabs of hardening cheese, put them in the toaster oven at low heat so I don’t have to wash a pan, and practice deepening my frown lines. I use the dull vegetable peeler to scratch the small of my back, and then stomp upstairs and put on pajama pants, a dress that is very soft, and two different socks. This takes an inordinately long time, so the soup has time to simmer.

I return to the kitchen. I violently clean the dining room table. I put fruit and drinks on it, and “soup” and sandwiches. “You guys,” I mumble to the family. “Dinner.” They all shuffle to the table. I have terrible cramps, so I squat in the corner, eating Twizzlers and Advil.

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“Mom!” the two-year-old shouts! “I like the soup!” I snort, but the other two agree, and the five-year-old, at least, is not a skillful liar, so it seems true.

“Seriously, it’s good,” Sam says. “What’s in it?” I know he’s worried that there’s a lot of my blood in there.

“I’m not sure,” I say. “Vegetables? Definitely some tomatoes. No blood though.”


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