Friday, August 7, 2009

A Full Moon...not that kind, though.

True Facts:

Glass is not actually a solid, but a very, very thick liquid

In Iceland, 30% of the population believe in the existence of elves.

The full moon is an apeshit time…and I now know why.

Those who have been working in the volatile human service field have long suspected that lunar cycles have been known to influence chaotic human behaviour. Paramedics, police officers, and emergency room personnel tend to be large proponents of the belief - and they should know. Or perhaps, amidst such chaotic and unpredictable work environments, staff are more likely to cling to any explanation or theory, no matter how voodoo-esque or implausible, including lunar cycles and zodiac signs, to predict how a night will go - I’m not quite sure. All I know is, I knock on wood every time I feel I’ve tempted fate by saying something positive, I never open up umbrellas inside the house, and every time I attend a live sporting event, the home team loses, even if it’s just a practice game.

Wait, wait…we were talking about the moon.

The women at my all-female drop-in centre, staff and clientele included, have long been believers in the link between moon-cycles and behaviour. Some are more skeptical than others, and we all admit that the full-moon nights of June and July were entirely quiet and ordinary. This, however, has not been the norm. Full moon nights are known to be chaotic and occasionally violent, and my boss has observed that the night she got punched (last November) was a particularly heinous full moon. Once, women spontaneously howled at the ceiling, and generally, the nights tend to be a little…manic.

Full moons have generally held this characterization throughout history, and most associate the monthly lunar event with general unrest and bad, bad luck. The vast majority of ancient civilizations attributed great power to the moon - but ancient civilizations were known to attribute power to a great many things, like rain dances, and the redemptive power of slain witches, which we now consider defunct.

Many people - doctors, psychologists, and eminent scholars among them - poo-poo the idea of a moon-body connection as hoaxy pseudoscience. If there is a connection between human behaviour and lunar cycles, they argue, then it certainly a placebo-like effect: that the legend of the full moon makes people behave accordingly. Fair enough, except doctors regarded circadian rhythms in an identical light a short hundred years ago, and we now know that everything from blood pressure, body temperature, and memory ability fluctuates in a 24 hour pattern mediated by melatonin.

Still others seek to explain away the connection with science - really bad science. The moon controls the tides, people note, and since our bodies are largely composed of water, then the moon also exerts control over our bodies. Except…the gravitational pull of the moon happens every day to everyone and does not vary according to how much of the moon we can see (just like the tides follow a daily, not a monthly, calendar). And very small bodies of water (like ourselves) generally don’t experience any tidal fluctuations. Sorry, Dawson’s Creek psychologists, you are once again very, very wrong.

A more plausible explanation has to do with light. Circadian rhythms tell us to be awake and alert by day (and owls and university students to be awake at night), and light tells our bodies and our minds when exactly daytime occurs. So, logically, when a full moon lights up the evening sky, we receive some cross-wired signals telling us to get out of bed and party hard. Chaos and mayhem ensue.

This explanation would seem far more likely were there not such variances in artificially light, all but blocking out the night time sky within cities in much of the world. The shifts between lunar lighting are subtle ones, even in the most rural locales, and so a night-long fiesta on exclusively the full moon seems unlikely. So let’s skip directly to the REAL explanation.

According to scientific studies, the death rate is ever-so-slightly lower on a full moon.

More nuances and specific studies have looked at suicide rates, which tend to go down on a full moon. More detailed studies, too, have found that this is due to women - women are far less likely to kill themselves during a full moon verses other times of the month.

But…less female suicide seems like a good, happy thing, yes?

True. And happy just gets a little bit out of hand during a full moon party.

The moon happens in a 28 day cycle. Women’s periods, or a great many women’s periods, also happen in a 28 day cycle, and an unusually high number of women have cycles which begin during the New Moon. The rates here aren’t total, but there is a statistically significant 7% difference. (Pheromones may be partly to blame…as we all know, women in close quarters often have synchronized cycles, much to the chagrin of many old rich men with multiple wives.)

So….a lot of women are on the rag during the New Moon. Consequently, this same large number of women are ovulating during the Full Moon. And while women who ovulate are not exactly alley cats in heat, they have been shown to be more sexually outgoing, more likely to wear clothes that they themselves describe as ‘sexy,’ more likely to feel attractive and attracted, and more likely to engage in sexual acts.

And what of the men? Women who are ovulating are more likely to be attracted to manly men’s men, by which I mean muscly thugs. During a woman’s post-ovulatory period, she is more likely to be attracted to caring, sympathetic men who will stand by her during her pregnancy and help her raise her children but, during ovulation, the hormonal concern is one of big, strong, manly sperm.

So women are feeling happy, and sexy, and are seeking the company of men who are willing to fight for them. And fight they do. Suddenly, our cities become mountainsides where all of the rams start galloping and locking horns in a hormonal dance of doom.

Paramedics, police, and front-line workers the world over lament. And I say dammit, people, please just get a room. Some of us would really like get some rest.