Monday, October 17, 2016

Common, Not Normal

TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic description of sexual assault.

We can clutch our pearls all we want over the grotesque misogynous circle jerk of Howard Stern and Donald Trump, but our quivering with moral outrage seems a tad disingenuous when one of those men is this year's Republican Presidential candidate and the other served as a judge on "America's Got Talent," where he somehow managed to serve four years without referring to a single competitor as a "piece of ass." Perhaps we simply feel no need to state out loud what we already know: There is, by and large, very little consequence for misogyny.  Brock Turner's judicial abortion of a sentence was outrageous not because it was an outlier, some monstrous anomaly, but precisely the opposite: because it was so utterly predictable, just the most recent in a long line of egregious examples of how utterly consequence-free rape is.

For the rapist, anyway.

To describe the consequences on the other side of that inequality, I don't think I can touch the statement penned by Turner's victim in terms of its eloquence or power.  But maybe I can shed light on what precedes sexual assault for so many women in America--not the immediate precedents dissected by juries, the media, and legions of armchair psychologists, things like clothing choices and intoxication and dating history and race and socioeconomic status and and and.  But the cultural morass that normalizes sexual objectification, degradation, and ultimately assault from virtually the moment the doctor says "It's a girl!"

What follows is one person's experience only--mine--and I offer it up, like the Brock Turner sentence, not because it is anomalous, but rather precisely because it is so utterly, devastatingly commonplace.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

44, The Year of ZFG

I can’t decide if the hair was the cause or the effect, but this:

Is definitely the official hairstyle of Zero Fucks Given.  As I’ve described before, I began my transition to grey hair on the day my father died.  What I may not have described is the decades of hand-wringing that went into that eventual decision.

I found my first grey hair when I was away at summer swim camp.  I was 12.  By 23, I was sporting enough grey hair that, when I finally dyed it, a coworker gushed, “Oh, honey, that hair color takes 10-15 years off of you!”  “So I look like I’m 10?” I asked.  The confused look on his face made me realize that he honestly had no idea how old I was—or more to the point, wasn’t. 

After my first divorce, at the age of 25, I chopped my hair into a short pixie and let the grey grow out.  I noticed an immediate shift in the people who hit on me.  More women for starters, but also a different subset of men.  Some older, some younger, but all had a certain non-conformist streak.  And that’s when I realized the value of Appearance As Filter.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Dear Universal Studios: Does Everything Have to Be So Rapey?

Right around the time Brock Turner was getting a stern tsk-tsking for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, a group of us went to Universal Studios to celebrate one of my best friend's birthday.  I was dreading it maybe just a smidge, because even the lure of Harry Potter World was struggling to offset a four-hour round-trip drive to mill about cheek-to-jowl with thousands of other people on the hottest day of the year to date.

But I went! With my friend and three of our collective four daughters,  And Harry Potter World is all that and a box of Chocolate Frogs, seriously, totally worth the trip and the exorbitant price of admission.

Maybe it was just that Brock Turner (or perhaps his dad, infamously lamenting his son's lack of appetite for rib-eyes after "20 minutes of action" had landed the poor misunderstood collegiate swimmer rapist in hot water) had flipped the "confirmation bias" switch in my brain, but...it sure felt like rape was everywhere.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Glass of Bubbly

You know your day is off to a rough start when your first phone call of the morning is to Poison Control. And you are calling for yourself.  And you are a grownup.

"I drank a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide," I stammered, shaking, sure I was going to die right there in my bathroom, whereupon everyone would discover not only that I haven't figured out how to adequately clean grout but also what I look like naked.  I thought about writing an apology to my children in eyeliner on the mirror.

"Dear girls, I am sorry I am such a fuck-up that I accidentally drank peroxide this morning, but we had a good run while it lasted.  Also, sorry for the F-bomb.  Please put a quarter in the swear jar for me.  The one I've been meaning to start ever since I saw it on Pinterest.  Also, call 911 if I am still twitching and then clean this grout before anyone else gets here, in case I survive the self-poisoning but then die of shame.  Love, Mom."

A Glass of Bubbly

You know your day is off to a rough start when your first phone call of the morning is to Poison Control. And you are calling for yourself.  And you are a grownup.

"I drank a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide," I stammered, shaking, sure I was going to die right there in my bathroom, whereupon everyone would discover not only that I haven't figured out how to adequately clean grout but also what I look like naked.  I thought about writing an apology to my children in eyeliner on the mirror.

"Dear girls, I am sorry I am such a fuck-up that I accidentally drank peroxide this morning, but we had a good run while it lasted.  Also, sorry for the F-bomb.  Please put a quarter in the swear jar for me.  The one I've been meaning to start ever since I saw it on Pinterest.  Also, call 911 if I am still twitching and then clean this grout before anyone else gets here, in case I survive the self-poisoning but then die of shame.  Love, Mom."

"Do you know what concentration?" the lovely and all too calm Poison Control person asked.

I squinted at the bottle through my delirium.  "3%"

"That's very dilute, and this is a very common exposure," she assured me.  "We actually give this to dogs if we need to induce vomiting!"

My brain was flooded with relief before doing a quick little click-click-click-DING! that ended with the word "vomit."

"So I'm going to throw up?" I asked.

"Well, we don't WANT you to throw up," she said, which seemed like an odd disclaimer but maybe you get a little sensitive if a good part of your job is helping people induce vomiting. "But you might throw up."

"But other than that, I'll be fine?"

"Yes, you'll be fine.  But you might throw up," she reiterated.  "Do you know how peroxide bubbles on a cut?  That's what it's doing in your stomach right now."

"Got it," I really didn't want to hear any more.

"So it's just in there bubbling away, and that might make you throw up.  But if you do throw up, it will be within the next hour, not like days from now."

I thanked her, hung up, and re-arranged my Saturday morning schedule to include proximity to a toilet for at least 60 minutes.  Then I spent the next 57 minutes successfully fighting the urge to vomit...

The peroxide won.

The pressing question, of course, is HTF I managed this.  And there's a totally reasonable explanation.  Last night, before bed, I soaked my dental night guard in a glass with some peroxide (roughly 1/4 cup of 3%, in case you're playing along at home).  Then, after I removed the night guard from the glass and went on about my evening ablutions, I thought to myself you'd better dump that out so you don't mistake it for water in the morning.

And, apparently, that's as far as I got.

This morning I stumbled bleary-eyed into the bathroom, shook a Synthroid into my hand, grabbed the glass of water sitting on the counter, and knocked it back.  Although it looked like water, it burned like peroxide, and I instantly realized my mistake.

I think this is an example of what my therapist, a big fan of "recovery language," calls "a God thing."  Meaning, as near as I can tell, something intended to be a "sign" or a "lesson." And while (if memory serves) the God of Abraham and Isaac seemed to do His "thing" through locusts and floods, in my experience the God of single moms apparently prefers to work Her magic via bodily functions.  I suppose it's a good trade, all things considered; my first born is still safe.

So what exactly is "the God thing" in this case?  I think it was a sharp wake up call to slow my ass down and pay attention.  Recently my friend Karen and I have been discussing the perils of ignoring "The Voice" (not the television show).  The Voice is the wisdom within you that prods you in the direction of better decisions...but usually these better decisions turn out to be less palatable in the short term, which is why you need prodding in the first place. The Voice tells you not to try to anesthetize your sorrows through binge-shopping or binge-eating or binge-whatever.  The Voice nudges you when a relationship is cratering and you'd prefer not to notice.  The Voice whispers in your ear when your job is no longer a good fit.  The Voice also, on occasion, lets you know when you're being an insensitive ass, or a distracted parent, or maybe just lazy.  And--apparently--to toss out the damn peroxide before you groggily chug it the next morning.

So Karen and I have a pact to listen to The Voice.  And right now it's telling me there is no good picture to include with this blog post, but I know that no one reads a post without pictures, so...



If you need me, I'll be in the bathroom.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Going Grey Gray-cefully

Apparently this is a big thing now, going gray.  I started graying in my teens; my brother and father have been graying since their twenties.  I started dyeing mine at 29, when I was pregnant with my second daughter, and someone took a picture of me with my then-husband.  The next day they gave him a copy of the picture, saying proudly, "Look!  I got a great picture of you and your mom!"

My brother and father never dyed their hair, of course.  "It's different for men," my mother says.  "They look distinguished.  Women look wizened."

But I spent most of the past month sitting beside my father's bed as he died, and staring at his glorious shock of silver white hair.  His hair was so abundant and healthy, it looked jarring and incongruous against his jaundiced skin and skeletal frame.

Even the Hospice nurses and his caregivers had trouble believing he was dying: "But look at that head of hair! He's so handsome!"

Also, to the extent that his brain still worked, he retained a wicked sense of humor.  One day he couldn't remember my brother's name.  Not wanting to admit that dementia had gotten the best of him, he called out instead, "Hey, Fatty!"

Fatty's also handsome, by the way, and not actually fat--the caregivers informed me that he was muy guapo.  His hair is more gunmetal than moonlight, and no one's calling him wizened.

A couple of nights before my father died, I began to hatch my plan.  I stayed up too late Pinterest-ing images of women with naturally gray hair and texting pictures to my poor stylist, the omnipresent smart phone an effective distraction from thinking about the inevitable.

"I can't strip all of the color out of your hair; that would totally damage it," she said.  "But I can give you some highlights, and we can tint them ash blonde, so the roots will be less noticeable when they grow in."

I was dubious--I don't feel right as a blonde.  But I figured it was my only option, so I decided to first get my hair cut short, to minimize the grow out time.  I actually drove to my stylist's house to get it done, since she was booked up at the salon.

"Oh my."  She looked at my Pinterest board.  "Those are all really short."

"Be bold!" I encouraged her, and she was.  We started like this:
And ended with this:
Which, product placement aside, felt pretty good.  Then we needed to lighten it, so she used an ascorbic/citric acid treatment to lift the color as much as possible, which my lovely stylist said would also be good to help strip the mineral build up from our water, which is so hard it's nearly solid.  If she weren't also a dear friend, I might not believe all this hocus-pocus, though.  So that lifted my color to a fairly brassy tone I'm going to euphemise as "golden":

I made an appointment for the following day to finish up the color...And then my dad died.  Someday I'll talk about that in more detail, but for now I'll just say that after we had said our final goodbyes and met with the Hospice Chaplain, I invited my mother and brother back to my house--after my hair color appointment.

I felt weird and I'll just go ahead and say it, guilty sitting in the stylist's chair right then.  But it was a space of silence, where I could sit and feel numb while someone who cares for me did her best to get rid of one aspect of my past appearance and help me transition to one more consistent with who I am psychologically as well as genetically, and that seemed entirely appropriate.

So the next step was to lighten select pieces while toning the rest ash brown, then tone the highlights as blonde.  However, once we removed the foils and washed the bleach off, my stylist decided that the highlights were light enough that we could skip toning ash blonde and instead use Pravana Silver, a trendy wash that would instead tone my lighter hair silver-gray--that much closer to my roots:
See?  That's some very, very light hair.

Take a second and go Google "Pravana Silver Images."  Lovely, no?

So we decided to go for it:

What's that you say?  Why, yes, my hair is blue.  Not silver.

I sat in the chair, staring at my reflection.  My stylist freaked out.  I considered freaking out.  And then, I remembered that my dad had an affectionate term for little old ladies: "Blue Hairs."

So I decided to embrace it.  After all, it beats being called Fatty.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Snore Wars

The Boyfriend snores.  Those of you who share my pain need read no further to fully grasp how difficult this is.  The rest of you, please: I've tried ear plugs.  Both foam and silicone.  (Pro Tip: The dainty ladylike pink ones are in fact more expensive than the bulky masculine yellow ones, at least at Target, that pink-taxing motherfucker.  But I buy them anyway, because they are smaller (which, if capitalism were truly rationalis, would be LESS expensive) and fit in my ear marginally better.  Thereby making me feel slightly less like a Ceti eel is burrowing its way into my slumbering brain.)

Anyway.  The snoring.  He is abject about it, which makes me feel like a savage harpie for the awful, awful things I think at 1 am, as I listen to him saw away.  (My therapist assures me that these thoughts he so politely terms "violent fantasies" are nothing to worry about, though I'm sure that The Boyfriend's mother will include them in her next semi-annual installment of Why You Should Break Up With Her, along with other damning tidbits gleaned from this blog, like Promiscuity and Mental Instability and Goldfish Rape.)

But hey, I am a problem-solver (my Lumosity score says so), so I tackle this the way I tackle any other challenge: with Google.  Unfortunately, even the crowd can't source a solution to the snoring problem beyond roughly these four steps:
  1. Ear plugs for the victim.  Seems logical, but they are uncomfortable, and often fall out.
  2. CPAP machine for the assailant.  These treat apnea-induced snoring, which doesn't seem to be the problem here.
  3. Nasal strips.  In our personal experience, these reduced the snoring by maybe 10-25%, depending on the night.
  4. Go to bed before him so you're in a deeper sleep when he starts snoring.  Seriously? a.) So much for nocturnal intimacy and b.) If you can sleep through the snoring, then either it's not very loud or you're a much better sleeper than I am.   
  5. Separate rooms.  How dismal.
  6. Break up. Worse, plus WebMD says that half of all men snore anyway, so why roll the dice? 
Of course, the male author of the WebMD article describes snoring as "no more than an irritant to those trying to sleep within range," but then reminds us that snoring can have real health impact on the snorer, because sleep is "as important as what you eat and how much you exercise".  In other words - for the woman being deprived of sleep, relax, honey, this is nothing more than an irritant.  But for the man snoring, YOUR HEALTH DEPENDS ON A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP.  Thank you, WedMD, for giving me a new target for my middle-of-the-night violent fantasies.

Did you come here for answers?  I'm sorry.  All I've got is Google and its hundreds of thousands of links to CPAP machine ads and trite, recycled articles about the marital benefits of earplugs and how you should sew THREE TENNIS BALLS IN A SOCK TO THE BACK OF YOUR PARNTER'S NIGHSHIRT.  Because a.) Men still wear nightshirts and b.) This won't help the snoring, but it will keep you busy.  And if you're tired enough from all of the tennis ball sewing and "gentle nudging" you are doing while somehow still also remembering that sleep is as important to your health as what you eat or how much you exercise, then maybe, FINALLY, you will fall into a deep and blissful slumber.  In your own room.