Women don't come with a manual. If they did, men wouldn't need man caves.
The truth is, part of what makes women appealing can also make them terrifying. Their emotional volatility is either fascinating or distressing, depending on how it's expressed, yes -- but also on how it's taken.
Every woman's got her moods. Most men are by turns charmed, bewildered and blindsided by them. Here are some hints to help you keep your cool when I'm being a red hot bitch:
10. Don't resist it
I cannot overemphasize this one. Resistance is the most common reason my being a bitch gets us into all kinds of trouble (and not the fun kind instigated by tequila and a hot tub).
In case you're wondering what this means, it includes saying things like, "Calm down," "Would you just relax?" "What's the big deal?" and, "You're overreacting."
This is much like pouring gas on a lit flame.
When I'm pissed, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, it's happening. Wishing it wasn't or telling me to stop isn't going to work. It's similar to attempting to stop a tsunami. Is you telling the big bitchy wave to stop being a big bitchy wave going to work?
Nope. But if you accept that the wave is happening and grab a surfboard, you'll get farther and be in for a hell of a ride.
I know how complicated women are -- trust me, I'm living proof of this. But if there's anything I've learned about men, it's that the more I'm accepted for exactly who I'm being in this moment, the more I change and morph and melt into something more accepting myself.
9. Know that it won't last forever
Have I ever been a bitch forever? Have I? Have you ever known any women who was? (Meryl Streep from Devil Wears Prada doesn't count).
No. Emotions don't last forever, no matter what they are. That's why they're called e-motions -- energy in motion. There is no permanent state, particularly when it comes to women. We can switch from ecstatic to melodramatic in an instant, and be ready for tiramisu right after.
By the way, do you think that's easy? No. A lot of the time it's exhausting. You should try being on this roller coaster of emotion, not just being around it.
8. Know that it's not really about what it's about
When I'm being a bitch, we're in Emotion Land. We left Logic Land long ago and as much as you may lament its absence, that ship has sailed (right on over the tsunami). I may be crying hysterically 'because' you forgot to call, or sniping at you 'because' you forgot to buy the right kind of milk. But it's not really about that. In other words, it's not really about what it's 'about.'
It's not that it has nothing to do with the milk; it's just that it's more about something else. In fact, I may not even know exactly what's wrong myself.
The best way for you to deal with this is to stop playing the game of "fixing what this is 'about,'" and start listening for what it's really about. The more you can hold off on shaming me for being upset over something 'illogical,' the more we can work as a team to figure out what's really going on.
7. Have fun with it
Are you one of those people who loves watching sh*t go down when there's something destructive happening? Are you like, daaamn, look at those waves flood over the boardwalk, or those cars floating down the street, or that (empty) house get torn up by that hurricane? Holy Sharknado, this is amazing!
Use that. Pretend my storm is an actual storm, and you get a front row seat (which, incidentally, some people would pay for). Witness it the same way you would a tempest -- it swirls and rages, lessens and worsens, and eventually dissipates.
Because the things I'm saying and the way I'm acting isn't 'the truth.' It's just what's true for me in that one particular moment. It will change in the next moment, just like the weather. And once you stop taking it to be something to be defended against or resentful of, it can actually be kind of entertaining.
I'm like your own personal hurricane. Besides, wouldn't it be boring if it were sunny skies all the time?
6. When I act like a child, think of me like a child
Half the time when I'm being a bitch, it is exactly the same as when a 3-year-old is wigging out because s/he's sleep-deprived. There is no logical reason for the behavior -- it's a physiological reaction. As adults, we assume we're all capable of being normal, rational beings all the time.
We're not. Especially not those of us with riotously, spectacularly, outlandishly fluctuating hormones.
Seriously, when I'm whining or bitching or complaining seemingly just for the sake of it, picture me as a tiny little girl in a tiny little dress with a tiny little diaper and a tiny little face red from bawling, who is upset that you just gave her the wrong milk. How seriously do you take that toddler? How much compassion do you have for her?
You always knew I was secretly a 3-year-old. Now make it work for you.
5. Call me out (gently)
For me personally, this works best when you give a nickname to my bitchy side.
My ex used to use "'tudy," short for "attitude-y." This was brilliant, because it named what was happening without making me the bad guy. It also acknowledged that I'm not only that -- there are many aspects and facets to me. This just happens to be the one that's coming out right now.
It usually went a little something like:
Me: [Looking in fridge] "Really?? You forgot that I asked you specifically to get whole milk this week? You know I'm trying out that new Fat Is The New Skinny Diet -- you just thought you'd ruin my chances, or what?"
Him: [Glancing over at me; pausing for a moment] "Hey there, 'tudy! I've missed you. What you been up to?"
I'd roll my eyes but no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't suppress a smile. He knew me -- all of me -- and he wasn't scared of it. Instead of taking my comment as a huge and monumental attack on his manhood that he must defend against, it was more like, 'let's acknowledge that bitchy thing Mel just said.'
It's not that he wasn't taking me seriously. It's that he wasn't taking me too seriously.
4. If you can't handle it, leave
It's all well and good to talk about enjoying it, but sometimes, that's just not possible. In those moments, don't tell me I shouldn't be or feel a certain way. If you can't handle it, get out the way.
Look, I love my sister like, well, a sister. But she can be a real bitch sometimes. And I've learned that occasionally, it's best to just leave the room. Sometimes I can read her moods and know that she's ready to talk; other times I know it's about her blood sugar being low; and sometimes it's just a different type of mood -- the untouchable one. It's that one where no matter what I say or do, she's just going to be a bitch.
For the most part, I know when to stick around and when to stay away. Then there are the times when I read it wrong and get scratched by her 'tudy talons. At that point, I retreat into the other room and lick my wounds.
Both are fine, but it's a whole lot more pleasant when I read it right and beat a hasty retreat. You should feel free to do the same.
3. Take care of yourself
You don't always have to put up with my crap. Just because I'm in a bad mood doesn't mean you're responsible for it -- or for fixing it. As my man, I expect you to give me attention and put energy into the relationship, but I don't expect either 24/7.
You are, in fact, a whole separate being with your own experiences and needs and responsibilities. And your first responsibility is to yourself: If you can't handle it or don't have the energy or just don't want to deal with me in a certain moment, don't.
DO NOT sacrifice yourself or your truth just to make me 'happy.' It doesn't work, anyway -- you usually get resentful that you tried to help and it didn't fly. I'd much rather you take care of yourself in the moment and have space for me later than overextend yourself now and blame me for it later.
Instead, try just letting me know: "Hey, I get you're upset and I want you to know I care. At the same time, I need to take care of myself right now so I'm gonna go chill for a while. Cool?"
With this, you've solved half of it anyway just by acknowledging that I'm not OK. I at least feel seen, and I'm also primed to get that it's not all about me all the time.
Sometimes, it's easy for me to forget that.
2. If you don't know how to support me, ask
You don't have it all figured out. You don't have to know exactly what to do or how to do it or what to say or how to say it beforehand. It's far better to admit you don't know than to constantly attempt to figure out the enigma wrapped in a riddle served on a bed of unpredictable with a little dollop of wtf on top that constitutes the psyche of a woman.
If you are really at your wit's end, but you do have the energy and you do want to know what's going on or how to help -- ask. For example: "I don't know what to do or how to help right now, but I want to. How can I support you?"
That will bring me up short.
And much of the time, I will tell you. This can flip me right out of my mood and put me into a different one. I might start to bawl; I might ask for chocolate; I might collapse into your arms and say, "I just -- *sob* -- want - *sob* -- a foot rub. Can you -- *hiccup* -- give me -- *searching look* -- a foot rub?"
Because usually when I'm being a bitch, there's some need that's not being met. I don't feel heard, or I'm craving connection, or I'm not feeling expressed, or I'm just generally feeling like I don't matter. Here's a truthful secret for you: Sometimes I lash out just to make sure that I do matter -- that I can at least impact someone.
The point is, usually all that frustrated and angry energy wants to be transmuted into something else, something softer and more accessible and more yielding. If I'm given the genuine space for it, it will.
You can create that space. Sometimes.
1. Love me anyway
Please, God, let me find a man who is capable of this. Let me find someone who doesn't take me too seriously, isn't intimidated by mood swings and embraces the fact that I'm pretty judgmental a lot of the time. Let me find someone who knows that while I'm totally imperfect and totally impatient, I'm also totally loyal, totally affectionate and willing to go all out for my friends. Let me find someone who sees it all -- not who shuts down when I'm not at my best.
And if it's in the cards for me, let me find someone who doesn't just tolerate me, but genuinely finds my quirks endearing. Let me be discovered by someone who doesn't see me as a problem to be solved or a thing to be handled, but as a woman to be loved.
Even -- or maybe even especially - when she's being a bitch.
Follow Melanie Curtin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MelanieBCurtin