Thursday, September 20, 2012


I was so thrilled when I found out that my baby was a girl. Even though I was a pregnant woman of "advanced maternal age," which meant that we underwent a battery of prenatal testing, my husband and I chose to wait and learn our child's gender the old-fashioned way. Somehow, having the doctor say "It's a ... (insert 'boy' or 'girl' here as appropriate)" seemed more exciting than finding out via ultrasound or amniocentesis.

Well, my doctor rewrote the script a tiny bit. "You have a daughter!" he announced. The effect (a quick gasp and many tears) was the same.

As she grew from baby to toddler to child, many people commented on how much my daughter looked like me. And, I had great hopes that she would inherit all my positive traits. Reading and writing and collecting dolls and loving musical theatre. Even my addiction to chocolate was welcome.

Back then, it did not occur to me that she would eventually have to deal with womanly concerns like finding a comfortable strapless bra, walking in heels, getting your period the day you're supposed to go on a beach date. Or ... that emotional roller coaster females have to deal with.

That's right. I'm talking, of course, about PMS. Putting up with Men's Sh*t.

We coined that phrase about twenty years ago when I worked at a very cool new media ad agency in Cambridge, MA. There were only twelve of us in the office and we were all women. The CEO of the agency (headquartered elsewhere)  kept pressuring us to hire some men because he didn't think our clients — mainly technology companies — would want to work with so many "girls."

On top of that attitude at work, most of us had to deal with husbands or boyfriends or, in my case, a fiancĂ© — most of whom displayed the classic symptoms of PMS: moodiness and irritability.

And, while any emotional or physical changes women might experience only last a few days, these men seemed to have license to behave erratically all month long. Honestly, I don't know one married woman who doesn't complain about her husband's mood swings. We all tip-toe around them. And, sadly, we teach our daughters to do so too.

Besides any gender tension on the home front (you cannot tell me that there's no such thing as male menopause), my daughter is at an age where she's starting to see gender bias and inequality in many different places.

In politics, for example, where we have yet to see a woman president or vice president. Or where an almost entirely male congress is attempting to legislate women's health and reproductive rights.

In the media, where even the most accomplished female journalists are pressured into getting cosmetic surgery. The lines that would symbolize experience and wisdom on a man's face are strictly verboten when we're talking about an anchorwoman.

In school, where her freshman Honors English reading list started with David Copperfield (by and about a man), then moved on to Of Mice and Men (there's a woman character but she pretty much gets squished to death). Next is Lord of the Flies (boys behaving badly). But hark! What heroine through yonder window breaks? They will read Romeo and Juliet this spring, written by a man but showcasing one very gutsy young lady.

The effects of Putting up with Men's Sh*t are significant and will last longer than the effects of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. It seems to me that society's emphasis on total male domination is a lot more frightening than one teen's estrogen levels. Even if that teen is mine.

Now, I'm not saying that my daughter doesn't encounter her own emotional bumps in the road. When she snaps at me for no reason, I remind myself that she's just going through another type of PMS. 

Pre-Maturity Syndrome.

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