When I put on my first pair of roller skates a little over three years ago, I’d been recently divorced from, stalked and catfished by an emotional terrorist who simply would not stop. Bullying, berating, begging. Battered to exhaustion by his madness, I had long teetered dangerously on the edge of surrender, but I had, in the end, survived a full-on, years-long assault by a Master Manipulator. But barely. Something small inside me wanted to pick myself up and out of the ruins. But how?
By the time I put that first pair of skates on, I was out of ideas. I had tried therapy, yoga, meditation, chakra cleansing (STFU. I was desperate.). In addition to the marital PTSD, I’d lived through 5 years of debilitating illness and the sudden death of both my parents in a short time…I was simply crippled by grief and defeat. But I was also tired of feeling powerless, beaten, afraid. I laid around limply and scoured my imagination for the most outlandish precedent of female bad-assery I could conjure. And there it was: Roller Derby. DEAR GOD, I AM A FUCKING GENIUS. That I had never roller skated in my life seemed less important than the sudden, blinding flash of my own brilliance. I would do it. There was no one left to stop me.
The thing is – ROLLER SKATING IS REALLY FUCKING HARD. I was in no way prepared for how bad I would be at this. My first night on skates was an orgy of pain and humiliation that I’d never felt in my entire well-behaved, self-controlled life. I cried in front of strangers. The searing agony of fall after fall onto cold concrete was incidental. The searing agony of abject embarrassment was far worse. The women running the practice – my future soul sisters – would later tell me they were absolutely certain I’d hobble away from the track that night, never to return. But I did. I went back despite the pain and shame, and despite my heartbreaking lack of talent on roller skates. You must understand: I don’t *do* things that I don’t do very, very well. My vanity, my ego, the insistence on my own perfection do not typically indulge me with chances to make an ass of myself, particularly more than once. I credit the catastrophic structural damage my psyche had sustained for letting me slip through those ass-making cracks just this once. Because I made an ass of myself like a fucking BOSS. But, dear friends, I also saved my soul.
Because as it happens, by the time I put my first pair of skates on, I had been at war with my body for more than 30 years. I had loathed it, cursed it, dishonored and abused it. I had starved it, gorged it, purged it, damned and shamed it for most of my life. It was not thin. It was not lithe and lovely, like other girls’. It was too big. Too tall, too muscular. It was FAT. It was my life’s secret shame – my too-big body and the awful things I did to it to try and make it beautiful.
But you didn’t have to be thin or beautiful to play roller derby. And one day, shortly after that first time, I realized I was falling less. When I did fall, it was easier to get up. There was less crying. I was not so sore afterwards anymore. My body was getting stronger, more resilient. Shit, I was getting stronger and more resilient. I was less afraid, not just of skating but of EVERYTHING. Out of nowhere, I suddenly cared infinitely more about being powerful than I did about being thin. And I was proud of myself. Holy fuck. I was proud of myself.
I began to silently thank my legs for pushing me around the track lap after lap, my heart for working harder than ever before and my lungs for giving me the air I needed to fly. As my thighs grew thicker under my jeans I found myself not recoiling at their size, but rejoicing in their strength. I began to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. My step grew surer even in regular shoes. I gave fewer fucks. I was part of something special and I began to grasp that I, too, was something special, despite my measurements. This extraordinary new understanding – this new LIFE – was a gift from the very thing I had attempted to beat into bony submission for most of its days. The irony is not lost on me – just as I myself had narrowly escaped the clutches of an evil overlord who tried and failed to crush me, so had my body. I am ever grateful to us both for not surrendering.
In Derby, the reason you come is not always the reason you stay. You almost always find things you didn’t know you were looking for. Derby gave me strength and grit and courage. It gave me back the power that I had myself given away. It gave me sisterhood and drive and a million things that I am grateful for every single day. But Roller Derby did not really save my soul, in the end. It made me able, fearlessly and finally, to save my own.
Folks, I don’t have to tell you what time of year it is. Department stores and television ads have been heralding the upcoming holidays with glittering balls of mandatory joy accompanied by super-fucking-offensive Jesus Music since October, by my estimation. You can’t escape it, no one can – so here’s my suggestion: Don’t even try. I’m here to help.
If you’re like me, and since you’re reading this, you probably are – you don’t take kindly to anyone imposing seasonal gladness on you where there is more likely tepid apathy at best, and at worst, slow-simmering grief, unbearable loneliness, or quiet desperation. If you’re like me, you wonder what’s wrong with you that you don’t feel it – that magic that everyone talks about and that sells a trillion dollars worth of plastic shit that people will still be paying for NEXT Christmas, and the next. If you’re like me, you want to sit quietly with your thoughts – and maybe some goddamn twinkle lights, for ambience – and reflect on why this time of year makes everyone pretend to be so happy when surely you can’t be the only one to feel so fucking sad.
I am pretty clear on my own holiday triggers, but knowing why they kill you doesn’t ever stop them from killing you. The death of my boyfriend in a car crash 22 years ago, Dec 12th – each year a fresh cut, in spite of the fading color of the memory. Old pain from the sudden, unfathomable loss. New pain from the slow forgetting of it. My grandpa died on December 1oth thirty-six ears ago – but I replay the moment again and again: a child’s first real dose of death with no idea of what it really means or how it will hurt forever. To this day, I see them leave for the funeral which I was not allowed to attend, hear my mother’s wails of grief for her dead father in my ears even still. My birthday, December 18th. Looming mortality. Aging skin, lost youth, aching joints. The hourglass, silently slinking downward. Worst of all, each December I inevitably encounter the Christmas china I began collecting in my 20s for the family I so cavalierly assumed I’d someday have. Little sets for Santa’s milk and cookies that I imagined my babies and I would fill with goodies and leave by the hearth on so many Christmas Eves. But there are no children. There is no family. And every year when I open the hutch and see the ghosts of those dream babies in the tiny cups and saucers, it is a fresh kick in the cunt. A sucker-punch to a wasted womb. Every year I am reminded that my family’s generations of holiday traditions and memories will die with me for lack of progeny. Every year, I know it’s coming. And every year, it doesn’t matter.
So THIS year, I am putting my seasonal misery to good use. For you, my friends. I’ve here compiled a very important compendium of advice to hopefully make your holidays somewhat less godawful. Things you should definitely do or not do. Fucks you shouldn’t ever give. Shit you should never, ever drink (hint: egg nog). Here goes:
1) Ignore every single article you see on How To Stay Slim This Holiday Season. Fuck. That. Shit. No one is gonna make me suffer through the worst of what the holidays have to offer (see above, plus terrifying seasonal attire, mandatory office parties, maxed-out credit cards and very little daylight) without at least taking the edge off with some goddamn delicious Yule Log. What’s that? You want me to eat my dinner of lettuce and dry chicken breast BEFORE I go to the party so that I’m not hungry when I get there? And drink 1/2 of a watered-down wine spritzer for a low-cal but peer-pressure-proof holiday toast? Riiiiigggghhhhttt. WHY THE FUCK WOULD I EVEN GO TO THIS FUCKING PARTY IF NOT FOR THE FUCKING BOOZE AND COOKIES, YOU FUCKING MANIAC?
2) Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I can’t believe I even have to tell you this. Resolutions are just one more opportunity for you to inevitably fail yourself. Spare yourself the swirling vortex of self-loathing you will feel when you do not lose 30 pounds by Memorial Day. Or worse, when you quit even trying by 2 weeks into 2016. Trust me on this. You will “juice” exactly three times before you realize that it makes a huge fucking mess and tastes disgusting and gives you explosive diarrhea and costs $47 in wild-crafted organic produce to make 1/4 cup of pulpy brown “juice” that looks and tastes exactly like the stuff you just sharted into your underpants because no one told you about Juice Farts. Buy some goddamn V-8. You’re welcome. Seriously – if you truly need or want to make a meaningful change or two in your life, do it slowly, on your terms, with proper professional and personal support to ensure you’ll succeed at whatever it is. Don’t put it off or start before you’re ready on some arbitrary date that society has deemed The Time. Fuck society.
3) Don’t let anyone tell you what you need. Only you know what you need. If you’ve had a terrible year and you want to spend Christmas or Hanukkah by yourself to just process that shit so you can move on from it sooner? Then you spend it by yourself. You are not obligated to fulfill anyone’s outreach quota by agreeing to spend your holiday doing something you don’t want to do with people you don’t want to do it with just because Traditional Wisdom says that No One Should Be Alone For The Holidays. WHO MAKES THIS SHIT UP. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Listen to your own voice.
4) Please, for the love of GAWD, do not watch It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street or any other of their “Classic” ilk. You will cry. You will wonder where your life went wrong. You will ache for all of the things that you thought you’d have and don’t, and for the lost promise of your long-gone childhood. You will feel worse than you did before you spent two hours of your life watching it. Two hours of your life you’ll never get back. Two hours of your life you could have spent watching a holiday movie on Lifetime featuring Steve Gutenberg as a single Santa lookin’ for love. Now that shit? Is uplifting.
5) Don’t buy presents for everyone you know. Seriously. Most of those people will not get you anything. You’ll feel bad, they’ll feel bad. You’ll be broke and resentful. And then the next year you’ll be all, “Fuck that, I’m not getting her anything this year because she didn’t get me anything last year” and she’s all,” Well fuck, I’d better get her something this year because she got me something last year” and the whole cycle of you both cocking-it-up will go on for YEARS. Talk to your friends and family before the holidays and decide if you’re exchanging gifts. Pick a Secret Santa. Decide to do something together instead of buying some dumb shit nobody needs or wants. Just have it figured out before embarrassing yourself and others.
6) Do buy gifts for yourself. A soft new sweater. A mani/pedi. An awesome steak dinner in which you wouldn’t normally indulge. Anything to soothe yourself during this wretched, emotional Hindenburg of a season. Treat yourself kindly. You are doing the best you can and sure – it will never be nearly enough to please everyone or even yourself. That’s OK. Appreciate yourself for trying. And for the burdens that you bear. Always remember that other people have problems that are far worse than yours, but never diminish your own in so-doing. Buy yourself a gift that will remind you that you are fucking awesome even when you don’t feel like you are.
7) Don’t look in people’s windows, either literally or figuratively. It’s not just creepy, it’s dangerous. You may see scenes from a life you wish you had – a tree loaded with presents beneath it, joyful children, parties featuring merrymaking by people who actually seem merry (the real story, of course, is that the husband is cheating and the wife is popping pills and the kids are entitled little fucks who will grow up to be terrible people, so don’t let the life-glitter fool you)…or worse, you may see an old person eating a TV dinner all alone in a barcalounger and then you will really want to kill yourself. Trust me. Do not try to compare your life or experience with anyone else’s. Head down, eyes on the ground. You don’t want to know – nay, CAN’T know – what’s going on in there.
There you have it. My foolproof plan for Having A Less Sucky Holiday. I hope it helps you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some fucking pfeffernusse to eat while no one’s watching. Peace, y’all.
***This article was originally published on TouchVision.com in December 2014. They retain rights to its questionable wisdom.
It’s been two days since you died quietly in my arms, your tiny body softened and released from the gruesome, final seizure by a hefty dose of Valium, which I so wish I could have shared with you. Yesterday, at home, the sight of your empty crate in its corner and your little bed lying next to my desk was something I needed to see for just a little while longer. To keep you there, just a little while longer. To remove them seemed profane; the casual disposal of your whole amazing little life. This morning I moved them to the basement. Their crushing emptiness was suddenly unbearable. I’m sorry I moved them. I had to.
You were not a perfect dog, or even a terribly good one by most standards. Your unfathomable cuteness masked a tiny, terrible, tyranny. You were willful, demanding, disobedient. You were called – by three separate professionals – “untrainable.” Two of them gave me my money back. One kept it, for her trouble. You were smart enough, certainly, to be housebroken, but not solicitous enough to bother. You were not clean. You were not well behaved. You were not easy. My love for you was not always uncomplicated.
But towards the end it was – uncomplicated, that is. You grew so old that your eyes saw nothing but the milky darkness that took them slowly over. Your ears heard nothing. But still you looked for me, still you listened for me. You never listened TO me. But you listened for me. I was your universe. My love and attention were all you ever wanted. The constant, huffy mutiny in your little soul came from having to share me with the others – I get that now. I’m sorry you had to share me. Because I never had to share you.
The 16 years we spent together were not easy ones. You sat with me through illness, mayhem, fear, and grief. So much grief. You tagged along without complaint as I schlepped you and the rest of the herd from state to state and home to home, running to things and away from things that I would never find nor escape. You did so without moping or punishing; immune to change because the only thing you really needed did not ever change.
As your body aged and grew frail, too tired and busted for the usual fuss and furor – I got to see the soul of you. I understood why you fought so hard your whole life to get to the front of the line. The other dogs and cats played together, rumbled and wrastled – needed each other as much as they needed me. You never did. I was what you needed – to be near me, with me, on me, under my feet. It was pretty fucking annoying sometimes, if I’m being honest. Being loved so fiercely, so unrelentingly. I’m sorry that sometimes I was annoyed by your love.
I think I did the best I could for you. To keep you safe and healthy and reassured, as much as I could, that I was there – always there. The choices I made for you were always what I thought to be the kindest, the safest and best – but they were not always. Sometimes they sucked. Sometimes I failed to notice that your nails were too long until they hurt you. Sometimes I took you everywhere with me so you would feel special and it only made you feel carsick. Sometimes I made you wear awful sweaters.
I let you sleep on the bed with me, nestled between my legs, until your very last day. Even after you could not see anymore – it was the one true joy you had left, and I could not bear to take it from you, even when I knew I should. I built little forts around you each night with pillows and stuffed bears so you would not fall. Sometimes you fell anyway, helpless to stop it and slamming against the hard floor with a thud I was sure would break you. Sometimes when you fell I was so scared and so sorry and so sad that all I could be was angry. I was angry only with myself, of course, but you must have thought I was angry at you. I’m sorry if you ever thought I was angry at you.
You peed and shat on the floor, sometimes a dozen times a day in the end. Diapers didn’t work – you always squirmed your way out of them or managed to get the shit half-in/half-out, making more of a filthy mess than if I’d just let you shit on the goddamned floor in the first place. I got mad. So mad, sometimes. I cursed and yelled in frustration that I was ready for this to be over. That I was tired of cleaning up your shit and your piss. That I had better things to do. I told myself you couldn’t hear me. I’m sorry I yelled anyway, even if you couldn’t. I’m sorry if I let you get too old. If keeping you alive because I didn’t want to let you go meant taking away your dignity (which, let’s face it, you didn’t have a whole lot of to begin with). I’m sorry that I lost my patience with you sometimes, because you never lost your patience with me. I’m sorry I ever thought I was ready for it to be over. I was not.
The house is too quiet. I can’t seem to stop crying and the others, they miss you. They lie alone silently, in different places, feeling the weight of the empty space you’ve left behind. They are working it out, as I suppose I am. Finding our way to the New Normal. We will be ok. But we won’t be the same.
There is so much I wish I did better. More of, less of. I can only hope you knew how much I loved you and that even when I did it terribly, I did my best. I hope you know, somehow, that so many of the choices I made – big and small, good and bad – were made for you. I hope that you knew I was there, holding you when you died. I hope that you could hear me say goodbye – if not with your ears, then with your heart. I hope you left knowing that you didn’t have to fight for my love – that you’d had it from the first second I saw you. I hope you forgive me for fucking it all up sometimes. I hope your life was mostly good.
Thank you for sticking around so long. Thank you for seeing me through the worst of times. Thank you for loving me.
Thank you for being mine.
Friends, this is an emergency. A no-joke fucking crisis. The Dick Pic Problem we have, as a nation, is in Stage 5. Code Blue. Zero Fucking Hour. It has reached a fever pitch, and we are, as a species, at Peak Dick. This is not a good place to be. Much press has been given to this issue of late, thankfully bringing to light a scourge that has been largely unrecognized by our non-single ranks for too long. I’m glad people are talking about it, writing about it, complaining about it. But the truth is, it’s not doing one goddamn bit of good.
Too many of our men are broken. Even the ones who READ the articles begging them to stop sending dick pics to unsuspecting women…they don’t stop. It might be – and I know this sounds crazy – that maybe men aren’t the greatest listeners sometimes. Or that they don’t particularly give a shit what we, as women, want and don’t want – I know, shocking, right? They assume that their dick is special. Excluded from the advisories. Insulated by its sheer awesomeness. My dick is magnificent, they think. Who wouldn’t want to see MY dick?
The answer is everyone. EVERYONE wouldn’t want to see your dick. It is safest, gentlemen, to just go forth on that simple assumption until the very moment you encounter someone who says, plainly, “Please, I would like to see your dick.” And we will, guys. When we want to see it, we really will tell you. What people don’t seem to realize is that this is not a new phenomenon – not some fresh outrage brought about by entitled Millennials who’ve been parented primarily by technology. Dick pics have been around as long as cameras have, and I suspect – as long as dicks themselves have. I’ve been single, on and off, for an awfully long time – and while those old-timey rascals of Last Century had to be slightly more innovative in their approach to delivery, their plucky, pioneering dick-spirits prevailed. The difference back then, and up until very recently – is that we, as women do, THOUGHT IT WAS US. That this was only happening to us, because of some shameful defect or secret whore vibe that we MUST be sending out to make guys think we wanted to see pictures of their dicks. What is it about ME, we asked ourselves, that makes them think I want this? We slut-shamed our own selves, for fuck’s sake – because the guys we liked couldn’t keep their dicks in their pants and off camera. How fucked up is that?
Nowadays, thanks to the likes of Tinder (also known as The End Of Civilization), women are finally calling bullshit and starting to understand that it’s not actually us. That we are not inviting the onslaught of genitalia into our unsuspecting eyeballs. Although shaming is still a big part of the deal, it’s now primarily used by men in a SUPER clever reverse-psychology kind of way. When we do not Ooh and Ahh at the dicks, when we fail to swoon, we are immediately berated – chided for being frigid, prudish, and (my favorite) “not as much fun as I thought you were.” It’s still Our Fault, somehow. Ever and always.
Again, this discussion is not groundbreaking – it’s everywhere. But what’s disturbing (aside from the fact that MEN CONSTANTLY SEND US PICTURES OF THEIR PENISES) is that we women are largely portrayed as victims of the dick pic with no recourse whatsoever. For, let’s face it, responding in kind with pictures of our own junk would hardly be taken in the vengeful spirit in which it was delivered. Because men. Using our voices to tell them we are displeased, again, only results in petulant attempts at Boomerang Shame. Not one of the articles I have read offers resolve to this issue apart from tepidly using reason, entreating men to please stop. And well, we know how that goes.
Here’s where I come in. I – teller of truths, warrior of women, docent of dick pics – am here to deliver this news, guys. WE ARE MOCKING YOU. We save them. We collect them. We show our friends. We make fun of them. We draw faces on them (sad faces, mostly). We point and laugh. We name names. We cackle uproariously at your pitiable lack of self-esteem, so thinly veiled as cock bravado. We feel a little sorry for you. We do not want to fuck you.
Because here’s the thing, fellas. We will, every time, choose the guy who didn’t send the dick pic – content to take our chances with what lies beneath over that which rears its ugly purple head. Because if it turns out you are worthy of our affections, our bodies, our time, our love, especially – we won’t fucking care what your dick looks like.
Truth, Misanthropista style. Please, everyone, do your part. Pass this shit on. Stop the madness. Save the world.
**Pre-Emptive Disclaimer: Whilst Googling images to use for this post, I discovered that several people have already written about this subject. Pretty extensively. Which simultaneously makes me feel awesome because it means I am obviously right, again, but also stupid because I probably should have checked before I spent two fucking hours writing something that has already been written. I am an idiot. But I figure, one can not ever hear this advice too many times. So apologies and a hat tip to those who went there first. You are my heroes.
That’s right, friends. Your horny, half-witted, humble-ish, eighth-favorite blogger is in possession of the ONE SINGLE THING you need to know in order to fully participate, winningly, in Life. I realize that sounds like a bold claim, but I promise you, it’s true. There really IS a secret to life, and I am going to tell it to you. There really is only one thing you need to do to change your entire fucking existence. Are you ready? Here it is: the Only Advice You Will Ever Need:
Don’t be a dick.
That’s it. It’s so simple, and everyone thinks they already know it, but they do not. There is never a time, a situation, or a problem that cannot be solved by simply making the choice, right then and there, to NOT be a dick. You will never go wrong. “But Misanthropista,” you cry, “surely you cannot solve all of my problems with just that one little thing…” Yes. Yes, I can.
This directive will never fail you. This is the I-Ching. The Holy Fucking Grail of unsolicited advice. If everyone on earth did this one thing, there would be no war. There would be no divorce, there would be no hunger, poverty, racism, child abuse. There would be no bullying. No crime. None. If every person, every day, in every quandary, faced their choices with the simple aim of Not Being A Dick, just imagine how different things would be. Here are some examples, in case you are finding this hard to grasp:
I’m in a hurry, and the only parking spot left at the gym is handicapped parking: should I take the spot (because seriously, like, are any handicapped people REALLY going to come to the gym in the 45 minutes it might take me to go prance around in my spandex, flirt with some meat suits, drink a smoothie and not work out?)? No. You should not take the handicapped spot. Don’t be a dick.
I don’t want to vaccinate my children because I think I know better than a century of doctors and scientists, and I want to start wielding the tight fist of parental control over my kids as early as possible by gambling with oh, I don’t know, Their Health, and I don’t really give a shit whether their pure, unvaccinated asses make everyone else in the entire fucking world sick. What should I do? Vaccinate your fucking kid. Don’t be a dick.
I’m kinda seeing this girl/guy/whatever but I’ve lost interest and I don’t really feel like explaining myself or risking a scene, so is it OK if I just disappear into the ether and never call or text her/him/whatever again? No. It’s not OK. Find some humane way to let her/him/whatever know that you won’t be calling again. Don’t be a dick.
Should I tip the movers/server/cab driver/etc? Yes. Don’t be a dick. Should I take up two parking spots at the crowded mall, since my car is so much nicer than all of the other ones? No. Don’t be a dick. My country is hosting the Olympics and I’d like to make sure that gay people know they are unwelcome in my land because gay people are obviously pedophiles and also criminals, and will definitely brainwash our 100% heterosexual children to join the Gay Side. May I ban homosexuals from my country? No. Don’t be a dick. Should I blow up an airplane full of people because it will score me some big points and a few virgins in the afterlife? Dude. No. Don’t be a dick. I make a lot of money. Should I have to share it with the less fortunate or pay more taxes to help ensure that each human being in our country has their basic needs taken care of? Yes. Don’t be a dick. I’m thinking about spying on my wife. Should I make up a fake Facebook profile and go to elaborate lengths to trick her into thinking I’m someone else in order to extract information out of her? No. You should not to that. Don’t be a dick. My beautiful yellow-haired God-fearing daughter wants to get married to a (insert racial, religious or ethnic inconvenience here). Can I stop her? No, you cannot. Don’t be a dick. I’m dating two people at once, and they both think that we’re exclusive…can I continue on like this indefinitely, ’cause it’s pretty fucking awesome. No. Pick one. Don’t be a dick. I think my husband is cheating in me with his secretary. Should I send her a dead bunny? No. Don’t be a dick. Should I call someone fat or ugly because I secretly loathe myself and being mean makes me feel important? No. You should not. Don’t be a dick.
Do you SEE, my friends? How easy? There are always, always, two very simple choices. To be (a dick), or not to be (a dick.) That is the question. And I’m giving you the answer. Don’t be a Dick. Ever. The choice is virtually never ambiguous or “complicated” (which, let’s face it, is just Asshole for “I am not willing to make a choice.” Also known as Being a Dick.). I personally guarantee that if YOU make a conscious and focused effort to Not Be A Dick, others will follow. Because Being a Dick feeds on itself – it perpetuates the dickdom and spreads it throughout society like an unvaccinated toddler with their medieval fucking swamp measles. When you stop Being a Dick, people around you and affected by you won’t need to Be a Dick, and they will stop, too. It’s magic. Like a beautiful, twinkly, dickless unicorn spreading peace and kindness throughout the land. Fine, it’s *probably* just cheap glitter. But it’s still a magical dickless unicorn, so you shut right up. That shit is so sparkly.
So that’s all, my friends. The Secret of Life. It’s the only thing you ever need to know and the only thing you ever need to teach your children. So what’s it going to be? Do you want to be the swamp measles or the unicorn glitter?
Pick the glitter. Don’t be a dick.
The story goes like this: on a family vacation long ago – back when our big, extravagant grandfather hosted big, extravagant getaways for the whole extended lot of us – we all found ourselves on some tropical island together. Barbados, maybe. During the week we were there, the whole bunch of us would head down to the beach each morning – cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nannies – and each morning, my father would trip over the very same rock on the same pathway down to the shore. And each time, he would yell, “DAMMIT!” Every. Single. Day. So on the last day of vacation, on our way down to the beach, my youngest cousin (3 or 4 at the time), adorable in her sweetness to this day, called out to my father, “Uncle Bill! Watch out for the Dammit Rock!”
I think of this story often, always with a mixture of tenderness and sorrow. Because don’t we all have a Dammit Rock (or two or ten) that continues to trip us up throughout our lives? And since most of us don’t have the benefit of an adorable tow-headed cherub to tell us, “Watch out for the Dammit Rock!” we continue to trip, painfully, over the same flotsam again and again. Would we even hear her if she did?
Like my father, I am clumsy. I literally fall down, all the fucking time. Ice, dogs, shadows, rugs…there’s pretty much nothing I can’t find a way to fall over. I eat spectacular shit no matter the occasion, the footwear, the familiarity of the terrain – no goddamn matter. And I almost always hurt myself – badly. I have had at least as many X-Rays as Evil Knievel and have accepted that it’s only a matter of time before I begin to actually glow in the dark. Or grow one of those tiny me-twin tumors that look like goiters but are exponentially more terrifying. The more imperative it is that I maintain grace and dignity in any situation, the more certain the odds that I will end up ass-over-teakettle on the ground, likely having opted for *commando* as the favored underwear option that day. It’s all very predictable. And yet, I still put on the heels, I still forego the underpants, I still look everywhere but down when I walk – still do all the things that pretty much guarantee I will continue to single-handedly put my orthopedists’ children through college.
There are other, less literal but every bit as damnable Dammit Rocks. Boys; the ones I favor being too young and/or broken to possibly NOT end up crushing me. I know they’re broken, I know they’re dangerous, I KNOW that I’d have much better luck finding some squirrelly meth tweaker to fall in love with than a beautiful, broken, too-young boy. And yet I do it anyway. Not often. But the outcomes of these infrequent trip-ups are so dizzyingly bad that they run a pervasive course through my entire life. It’s not that I forget, when the next one comes around. It’s not that I don’t see it. I know the Dammit Rock is there and that I will definitely fall on my face. But time after time, I fail to give a fancy fuck. I still take the same path.
Tolerating the intolerable. Fixing the unfixable. Tending, mending, managing problems that are not my own. Rescuing – people, pets, itinerant workers…ignoring red flags or painting them pink, with glitter! Entrusting secrets to *friends* I already kind of know cannot be trusted with them. Speaking before filtering. Moving to strange places and gaping, amazed, at the loneliness. Leaving my family and then aching for the comfort of them. Needing help and refusing to ask. So very many Dammit Rocks.
Is this Human Nature? Or just my nature? Are we supposed to keep fucking the same shit up until we finally learn, by vast experience, not to? Or do we just keep clambering up and down the same rocky path forever, paying the price for our stupidity in bruises and scabs? I don’t know. The way I see it, my own options are few, and none of them particularly appealing: I can blanket my home in porn-shag and stay in my onesie forever, avoiding the perils of Outside altogether; or I can pick myself up, put my heels on, aim straight for the rock, and hope to fuck I don’t fall. Or perhaps I can just learn to be more careful. Rein my shit in. Proceed with caution. Wear sensible shoes. Put on some goddamn underpants. Avoid the rocks and the strays and the love and the pain. That, I’m sure, is the answer. And it sounds perfectly awful. It sounds like defeat. It sounds like surrender. It sounds, to me, like death.
So at the risk of, well, everything – I think I’ll stick to the path I know best. I’ll keep falling down and fucking up until I finally get it right, or not. For better or worse, for as long as they keep making Percocet and Lifetime movies, I think I’ll take my chances with the Dammit Rock, dammit.
What are your Dammit Rocks, my friends? Share in the comments if you’d care to make me feel better about myself.
Greetings, dear friends. It’s been awhile since I’ve written, what with all the heaving myself out from the depths of hell and whatnot. Moving, an inferno-circle all its own, is a great way to close your brain off to any creative thinking or insight-making it might normally be up to. But now that I’m settled, I feel compelled to address something that’s been nagging at me for several months. Really nagging, like one of those little plastic hang-tags that I only ever succeed in partially removing from my new underwear, so that upon wearing said underwear I am forced to spend the entire day slashing my delicate upper-crackal region with this intrusive plastic dagger that there is really no way to stop from torturing me until complete removal of all clothing layers is achieved. Which is hardly ever appropriate in public, especially when coupled with the fact that then I have to use my teeth on the used crack part of the underwear to get the goddamned tag off before replacing the layers. Nobody needs to see that. But I digress.
So here’s the plastic crack-dagger: Apparently, and this is not a joke, smartasses – people think that I am bitter. In general, sure, but specifically about Love. Several passing remarks of late have stuck with me – primarily they’ve come from women who really ARE bitter, who see in me some sort of kindred rage-spirit hell-bent on vengeance for all of Life’s and Love’s affronts. These have come in the form of a nasty jab at male-kind followed by an “amiright?” or a knowing wink, or a “girls-like-us-need-to-stick-together” show of solidarity that I do not feel. While I have made it plain and public that I do not wish to marry again, that sentiment should never be construed as Anti-Love. It is, in fact, decidedly Pro-Love. I fucking love Love. Hence my personal no-marriage clause. Marriage, in my experience, kills love dead. Almost immediately. The luckiest among the Marrieds come to a sort of cohabitational business arrangement focused on child-rearing and credit-building after the flush of new love is inevitably replaced by the flush of abandoned turds left by inconsiderate spouses. Two years is about the longest I’ve ever seen married people stay “in love.” By that time, the soul-seams are strained by resentment of things both spoken and unspoken. Socks on the floor, un-capped toothpaste tubes, wasted money, waning sex drive, in-laws, children….all of those things that EAT LOVE. And I like love, thank you very much – so I choose to pass on the rest of it.
Now, before the outrage starts pouring in accusing me of not knowing you or your marriage (which is obviously awful or you wouldn’t be nearly this offended), let’s be clear: I am not attacking YOUR MARRIAGE. I’m sure it’s lovely. I do not pretend to know your story. And of course there are a million wonderful exceptions to be found in the world. Beautiful aberrations. I hope yours is one of them. My authority comes only from my own experience and the ones I’ve witnessed that validate my opinion. The ones that don’t, I am choosing to ignore for the duration of this piece. In the immortal words of Miley Cyrus, “This is our house. This is our rules.”
So why the obsession with Forever? Why must a relationship always be Going Somewhere? You do know that that’s why they end the feel-good movies at the wedding bit, right? Would it still be a feel-good movie if they showed the part, 5 years later, where the husband won’t come home from work because he can’t take the nagging and the wife won’t put out because she can’t take the piles of his crap on the floor and the baby does nothing but alternate between scream-crying and shitting its pants? I can say with some certainty that nobody wants to see that movie, let alone be in it. So why is THAT the be-all and end-all? Seriously, what the fuck is going on here? Why can’t two people just love each other madly for as long as it feels like love, and then stop? Part ways peacefully, with both lives enriched by the experience and spared the damage that comes from staying too long? Why can’t people just have beautiful, passionate love affairs that last as long as they last without others imposing Judgment, – or worse, Eternity – on them? Why, when the mere thought of touching our partners makes the hot sting of vomit start to bubble up in our throats, must we stay? Why is society so intent on killing Love?
Please don’t get me wrong. Marriage, I’m certain, has served us well over the course of history and is an elemental thread in the fabric of human experience. I get that. And I am literally bursting with joy that we live in a time when Marriage Equality for gay couples is something that society is not only talking about, but DOING something about. But to me, that’s not really about Marriage, as much as a basic recognition of ALL human rights that have been summarily withheld from those who are deemed “different” by the rule-makers. I rejoice in my friends’ newly granted Right to Marry because if that is how they want to honor their love, they should be allowed to do that as freely as any other
dumbass human being. As more and more people come to accept both the concept and reality of Marriage Equality, is it really too much to ask that someone like me be granted Non-Marriage Equality without being accused of harboring the ugliest breed of animus?
I am not speaking out of turn here. I tried marriage. Twice, in fact. I just wasn’t good at it. The second time was the soul equivalent of a lube-free ass raping with a splintered two-by-four…I married a gold-digging psychopath whose clutches I would have escaped much sooner and with far more of my money, sanity, and stomach lining intact if not for that pesky Marriage Thing. The Protocol. The Next Step. The Contract. Where Everyone Must Go. I loathed the man with the fire of a thousand burning suns, and spent my every married day Jedi-Mind-Murdering him for fun (yeah, like I said, – I’m not good at it.). But not being good at marriage or refusing to watch that awful sequel doesn’t mean that I am done with Love. One has nothing to do with the other. The carnage that my marriage wrought stays obediently in its lock-box, and I am normally quite good at not assigning blame for it to anyone who didn’t actually do it – with one recent, dreadful exception wherein a very innocent and lovely bystander felt the business end of my icy-hot wrath for stumbling accidentally upon a trigger I didn’t even know I had. Now I know. And the profound regret I feel over that mutilated moment just serves to solidify my determination not to punish anyone else for the crimes of my former spouse. Because let’s face it – NO ONE could duplicate that shit.
So no, dear readers. I am not bitter. If you must know, I am ripe and juicy and aged to fleshy perfection. I am hopeful. I am open. I am soft. I’m a little broken, as most of us are. But the broken pieces sparkle far more than the flat pane of conformity that I failed to preserve. And if I’ve given up on marriage, please do not assume that I’ve given up on Love. I have not. Because that? I really am good at.
Really fucking good.
And they lived happily for as long as they were actually happy, with separate residences and complete freedom to choose the duration of their partnership. The End.
How I Spent My Summer (Hint: in a Basement With 12 Severed Heads, Some Soul-Crushing Grief, and Not Much Else.)
Don’t worry – this is not going to be some Cheryl Strayed-style
gag me with how hot and awesome I think I am and how every thing I ever fucked up was actually someone else’s fault account of hard-won redemption and triumph over the very grief that leveled me. It’s just not – there’s no redemption in sight, and certainly no triumph. I’ve spent the past 3 months in some stranger’s basement, for fuck’s sake – not to mention that said basement’s every vertical surface is covered with the heads, skins, pelts, and antlers of things he’s personally killed for, I assume, fun. Said basement has no internet or cable. Said basement has no kitchen. Aside from the whole “being indoors” thing, it’s camping. I’m lucky to have it, as I had nowhere else to go with my 5 pets – and grateful in a way that I keep needing to remind myself to be. Like, I am grateful not to be homeless. Which is not a small thing, but still. No fucking cable?
So, this might sound obvious, but: you should never move immediately after the sudden loss of a parent (You’re welcome.). Especially when you weren’t planning to move and therefore have no fucking idea of where to go next or what to do when you get there. While selling my house to the guy who came out of nowhere and just *asked* if he could buy it seemed like a good idea at the time, I can tell you in hindsight that this was a seriously fucked-up thing to do. I did it because that’s what I do – I leave. That’s how I handle pain, how I’ve ALWAYS handled pain – I cut and run and never look back; and not in a theoretical or emotional way which would allow me to stay conveniently stationed in my home whilst doing the cutting and running. Nope. I fucking RELOCATE. Sell houses I just bought and move across the country to places I’ve never been and where I know no one. I start over, thinking the pain won’t come with me or that it will somehow be less awful if the scenery around it is different. And this time it just dropped in my lap. It was the Universe clearly telling me, once again, to haul ass away from the sadness. Right? *The Things We Tell Ourselves.*
Since 9/11/01, I have moved 13 times. Next month will make it 14 times. In 12 years. It does not take a genius to determine that this pervasive discontent with my surroundings is merely a reflection of the chaos that exists within me on a cellular level and the bloody, beefy lasagna of scar tissue over my heart from a life touched by far too much death. Illness, financial ruin, betrayal, relationship flame-outs: these things all hurt, too, and yes – I have fled from those as well, many times over. But it’s the death that really gets you.
If there’s anything I should have learned from losing 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 1 uncle, 2 godparents, 13 close friends and 1 boyfriend (all but the grandparents were sudden. The phone calls and news stories that I will never have the luxury of forgetting.), it’s that there’s no going around grief. You have to go through it. Much like the Thieves’ Forest in The Princess Bride: while it would be really, really nice to take the scenic belt loop around that shit and avoid the flame bursts, lightning sand, and ROUSs that you’re pretty sure are going to kill you, make no mistake: that plan has its own set of perils. Better to risk the Fire Swamp with its well-documented dangers and just get the fuck to the other side.
Which brings me back to the basement: the Belly of the Grief Beast. My own personal Fire Swamp. Even though I got here technically by “running away again,” I knew that this time, leaving was not going to be enough. So I came here intending to take the summer off from all the things I’d normally do to distract myself from the pain of losing my mother. What I didn’t realize was that there were far many more of those things than I even realized, and that I couldn’t do any of them even if I wanted to. Aside from the obvious distractions like work, parties, committees, boys, booze, opiates, clubs, sports – I suddenly found myself with no kitchen, where I have always sought comfort – traveling, through food, to other worlds (i.e. away from my own) without ever leaving the house. No internet, where I might spend vast, empty hours of time-suckage on Facebook or numbing out to teen vampire marathons on Netflix. No bathtub, where I’d surely be spending evenings luxuriating with books and wine and the occasional inappropriate jet usage. There’s no shopping nearby, and friends here are few and far between. (In my experience, friends typically don’t handle your grief well, anyway. They liked you the way you were, and you’re not that way anymore. It’s inconvenient for them, the fact that your entire world has caved in on you.) So I don’t see much of anyone at all. I stopped playing roller derby. Although I still skate often, I skate alone. I eat alone. I walk alone. I go to the beach alone, if I go at all. I even stopped sexting with the adorable, too-young boy – not because it wasn’t tons of fun, but because it was. I am going THROUGH it, goddammit, not around. I am in self-imposed exile in some dude’s basement with the looming specter of my dead mother and the heads of a dozen murdered animals to remind me why I’m here and what I need to do. Which is cry. Cry so hard that I choke on my own sobs and fight for breath through a gullet near-strangled by the sadness. Rage. Rest. Talk to people who are not there anymore. Forgive them. Forgive God. Forgive myself.
Through it. Not around.
Next month I will move to another beautiful home in another beautiful town where I will know no one. I will start over as I always do. And while I like to think that This Time will be different because I’ve forced myself to feel the pain fully, I don’t know that it will. While I like to imagine that the unbearable darkness of the Basement Days will ready me for a life better lived in the light, I don’t know that it will. While I like to dream that this experience will finally turn me into someone who believes that the things that don’t kill you make you stronger instead of someone who believes that those things chip away at you little by little until there’s almost nothing left, I don’t know that it will. But I do know that when I leave here, the worst will be behind me, and that I will have survived it, again. I will cook and skate and see friends and laugh and shop and watch movies and mastur-bathe because those things should be for the living, not just for avoiding the dead. I will try my hardest to stay in one place, no matter what happens – because I will know that running doesn’t fix it.
Through it, not around. And from now on, not away.
Wish me luck.
GUYS. Sexting? Is awesome. I am a HUGE fan of sexting. *Disclaimer: If you are a teenaged girl, please do not send naked pictures of yourself to your boyfriend. Teen boys are helpless douche-nozzles, especially when it comes to boobies. It’s not their fault. They are biologically obligated to show their friends, and YOUR NAKED PICTURE WILL END UP ON THE INTERNET FOREVER. Just don’t do it.*
Anyway, I, a fully-formed and mostly-functioning adult, love sexting. And I don’t mind telling you, I’m pretty goddamn good at it. It’s so easy, when you have the right playmate. Think about it. The only thing that needs to be looking hot or smelling fresh for me to KILL it sexting is my vast Pervertian Lexicon, which is – not gonna lie – top-shelf. I can be sending the filthiest, Penthouse Forumiest content to my cellularly intended whilst wearing flannel pajamas, coke-bottle glasses, TMJ mouthguard, tube socks, and two cats on my head, with a nosebleed. He doesn’t need to know that instead of writhing around in a vat of strippers, cherries, and coconut oil as advertised, I’m watching Saved By The Bell and eating Bugles (Witch Fingers!). Here’s why I’m so good – it’s because I actually mean it. If given the chance and the miracle of good timing, huge lady-balls, and a lawless society, I would be doing exactly what I say I’d be doing. To exactly whom I say I’d be doing it.
I am not an indiscriminate sexter. I don’t sext with anyone I wouldn’t actually have All The Sex with, given the above conditions. I am totally monogamous, sextually speaking. And there have been exactly 2.5 people with whom I’ve sexted over the course of a decade or so. It’s fun. It’s secret. It’s clean. I don’t *do* actual Sex Outside of Relationships. Never have. It’s far too dangerous and it’s just…well, awkward. The ONE time I decided I’d really go wild and have totally safe, protected sex with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend or husband, the condom came off and got STUCK IN MY VAGINA FOR 24 HOURS (the thing’s like a steel trap, what can I tell you?) and I spent the entire next day – as per instructions procured on the internet – shooting warm water up there with a turkey baster and fisting myself in an effort to retrieve the lost condom without a visit to the ER. Like there’s even an insurance code for that. I made the grave mistake of sharing this – um, mishap? – with a close male friend, who still refers to me as “Old Southpaw” and swears he’ll never come for Thanksgiving.
Sexting can be a very good option for someone like me, or you! Generally, sexting is a lot cleaner, and not just bio-hazard-wise. It’s emotionally cleaner as well. It could be someone you haven’t seen in years, or as is the case with my most recent sexting partner, someone you know well enough to trust with your naked selfies, but don’t really *know.* There’s nothing to lose, really. It’s the whole point. You can see them however you want to see them, or however their Facebook photo album wants you to see them – and vice versa. There’s no backne or halitosis or sauerkraut BO on his end to contend with, and frankly, you don’t have to wax or aerate or hide your wobbly bits in order to get handily rogered via sext. You don’t have to worry about accidentally farting in the middle of it, or accidentally farting in your sleep afterwards, or accidentally farting in the morning when you pee in his bathroom because you’ve held in the fart all fucking night long and it just slips out because it won’t freaking wait any longer and FUUUUUCKKPPLEASETELLMEHEDIDNOTJUSTHEARTHAT (he totally did). Sexting is virtually worry free in the Fart Department. Fart away! He’ll never know. And all the while, YOU know it’s all an illusion. And your heart is as safe as your lady business.
But what happens when, at like, 1:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, you find yourself wondering what kind of sandwich he might get for lunch that day? Or how many brothers and sisters he has, or what makes him laugh – really laugh, from the belly – not just LOL, as evidenced by the yellow emoticon indicating hilarity. What happens when you realize that you almost just actually water-shat your pants when he texted unexpectedly because you have managed to work yourself and your stomach up into such school-girly knots over him that your bowels are no longer your own? What happens when you find yourself reasoning that the ridiculous age difference between you or the geographical impossibilities of your arrangement or the fact that you have good reason to suspect he might be a Republican are nothing but mild nuisances? What happens when you realize – to your abject horror – that you actually LIKE him? For fuckssake, then what?! This was not part of the plan. You never like anybody. WTF?
How would that GO, anyway, for argument’s sake? I mean, how would one even begin to move the conversation in that direction? “Baby, I will make you a nutritionally sound breakfast SO hard.” Or, “You can watch while I slowwwwly pull up to the curb, take off my seatbelt, and pick up your mother for her optometrist appointment. Mmmm…” Or, “I am soooooooo hot right now, babe. I think it’s the pre-menopause.” Yeah, it’s awkward. Not to mention the fact that the only way to find out if your cursed “feelings” are mutual is to risk a) cocking up a perfectly thermonuclear tickle party in your pants and b) getting really hurt and terribly embarrassed – which defies the Ultimate and Universal Law of Sexting: It’s Just Sext, You Idiot.
Plus, HE OBVIOUSLY SMELLS LIKE SAUERKRAUT. He has to. He just has to.
The problem is, of course, that once you *feel* something, you can’t really just *unfeel* it. You’ve crossed a line, and the course goes in one direction all the way to the end of the story. The options are few: carry on as is and pretend you don’t care while you water-shit your pants every time you hear from him, or fess the fuck up. Great. Death by Krazy Glue sounds better than either of those. So I ask you, dear readers: Why is it so much easier to say, “Baby, I am gonna ___ your ___ until you ___ and then I’m gonna ___ while you ___ my ___,” than it is to say, “Hey, I kinda like you. For real.” ??? (I confess, I have no idea what to do with that, grammatically. Which is upsetting.) Finally, there is the choice just to stop. Disappear into the ether, never to be sexted from again. And that’s the worst one of all. But it’s the one I will probably choose, if I’m being honest. Unless he happens to read this post, in which case I will most likely just kill myself.
So sext away, friends. Sext away. Strengthen those thumbs and get good at taking naked selfies. But make no mistake: however disengaged you intend to remain, however detached you assume your tech-only affair will keep you – your heart is not, in fact, as safe as your lady business. Take it from this intrepid sexter, who for once finds herself deep in a pickle for her cause, and not the other way around. Way to go, ass-hat. Way to go.
Last night, a friend posted a link on Facebook to a short documentary on Lyme Disease – I don’t always click on these things because I know myself – I am weirdly reactive and hyper-emotional on this subject, even though it’s been nearly a decade since I was cured. I lost 5 years of my life to this illness, as well as countless friends, dignity, confidence, one husband, one almost-husband (well, he was a porn addict, so I can’t really blame the Lyme, I guess) and a burgeoning business. I don’t want to talk about it – I could write here for hours, nay – days, years – about my life with Lyme disease but I don’t want to. It was awful and I just don’t fucking want to.
Last night, I did click on the link and had the predicted response. Tears, weird snarfling sobs, and a strong desire to shake my fist at the sky and scream. (I didn’t do that last part, OK? I swear.) It also got me so wound up that I spent the entire night in fits – for it seems that in the 13 years since I first became ill, nothing has changed. Not one goddamned thing. And now I really do want to scream. Which is awkward. And given that I don’t *actually* want to talk about it, all I can think to do is share here a letter I wrote to the New York Times in 2001 after they published a horrifying and dismissive article on the subject of Lyme. The New York Fucking Times, practically my hometown paper, was basically calling me crazy. It was like being hit in the head by Reggie Jackson (my forever hero) with his magic bat from 1978. It hurt that much.
Below is my editorial letter in its entirety, followed by a link to the original drivel – er, article. Their response was something like “good letter, too long.” Please forgive the writing – I was young, I was angry, and I was going through an Adverb Thing. I was also less than a year into my illness, with no idea what I was in for, or what would become of me. (By now, you kinda know what became of me. Yikes.)
June 13, 2001
To Whom it May Concern:
On September 30, 2000, what was to be my wedding day, I awoke in the emergency room of the Valley Hospital paralyzed on my right side from forehead to fingertip, with unspeakable pain in my back, neck, jaw and head, and a life-threatening fever of nearly 105 degrees. Not only did I suffer the devastating loss of my wedding and excruciating hours of painful and invasive tests, but was also made to endure the patronizing solicitations of friends and family who deep-down believed I was merely experiencing some acute pre-wedding jitters. This was not entirely unexpected in light of the fact that in the four days preceding my trip to the ER, I had visited two MDs, two chiropractors, and one acupuncturist in search of some relief from my ever-increasing pain – only to be told repeatedly that I was suffering from wedding-related stress. One such doctor (who had not made note of the fact that my fiance’ had to half-carry me from the car to his office because I could not walk on my own), even dared to suggest that I “relax, go shopping.” Not one, including my own beloved family practitioner, bothered to take my temperature, vital signs, or blood samples.
I was and remain horrified by their apathy, but after reading Ms. Kolata’s shameful and reckless article on Lyme Disease this morning, I at least understand it. For it was indeed Lyme Disease that robbed me of my wedding and very nearly took my life. Had I opted to attend my rehearsal dinner the night before instead of going to the emergency room, Lyme Disease would have killed me. That’s right, Ms. Kolata. Lyme Disease.
Ms. Kolata and Dr. Sigal condescendingly assert that Lyme Disease is not much more than a nuisance ailment – fodder for hypochondriacs and fuel for antibiotic junkies. They speak of “inflated public fear of Lyme Disease, which is widely perceived as a grave illness that is easy to catch.” Dr. Sigal even dares to declare that, although Lyme is of mild concern in the tick-infested Northeast, “The bigger epidemic is Lyme Anxiety.” I defy Dr. Sigal to convince me or any other person who has suffered from this illness that we shouldn’t worry. I notice that Ms. Kolata didn’t include one word of testimony from an actual Lyme patient on the topic of whether or not this disease is worry-worthy. Interesting.
IN my experience, people aren’t afraid enough of Lyme Disease. I can’t count the number of well-meaning but uneducated and/or misinformed inquiries I have fielded regarding my illness. “So, uh, Lyme’s Disease – how did you get that, from a mosquito?” and “So, what, are you like, tired a lot?” are common questions. My favorite, however, came from an otherwise well-educated New Jersey man: “Whoa. Can you get that from limes?” This guileless ignorance is hardly what I would classify as “inflated public fear.” For those who may be inclined to believe Ms. Kolata’s dismissive mockery of this illness, consider this:
I and many other Lyme patients suffer from drastic memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, trouble speaking and thinking, constant confusion, tremor, sudden-onset dyslexia, loss of balance, paralysis, chronic arthritis, vertigo, heart damage, Bell’s Palsy, and countless other symptoms ranging from inconvenient to unbearable. Add to that the abandonment of one’s family and friends, who regard our memory problems as “irresponsible,” our need for help and support “selfish,” and out “imaginary” fatigue as frankly tiresome. Articles like this one recklessly perpetuate these misconceptions with statements like, “Those symptoms are very common among the general public, leading Dr. Shapiro believe that there is some other cause.” There’s nothing more demoralizing than a trusted friend who dismisses one’s agonizing forgetfulness with statements like, “Well, I must have it then, too, ’cause I’m like that ALL the time (haha!)” To endure the journalistic equivalent from such a respected publication as the NY Times is simply infuriating.
In closing, I feel I must address what is perhaps the most heinous of all the public disservices contained in Ms. Kolata’s article. The blase’ Dr Shapiro (making the wildly strained assumption that everyone who is bitten by the microscopic deer tick is aware of it) suggests foregoing preventive treatment with antibiotics and instead, simply keeping an eye on the site where the tick fed, and “if they develop a rash within a few weeks, they can take a full course of antibiotics and they will be fine.” What Dr. Shapiro fails to mention – in addition to the fact that “a few weeks” may be far too late – and something your reporter neglected to unearth during her exhaustive research on the subject is this: current studies estimate that fewer than 30% of all those infected with Lyme will ever get the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash. I didn’t, and I very nearly died because of the denigrating attitudes both the public and the medical community continue to perpetuate about Lyme Disease.
But hey, don’t worry about it.
This is dangerous and irresponsible journalism. Shame on you, NY Times.
Marie K., Ridgewood NJ.
Here’s a link to the original shitpile, should you care to hate her with me: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/13/us/lyme-disease-is-hard-to-catch-and-easy-to-halt-study-finds.html
Thanks for reading, and please share with all the Lyme-ignorant assholes in your life.