The Bitch is Back

When I was a teenager way back when, I uncovered the power of the word Bitch.

Every single girl has been called this at one point or another, whether to our faces (common,) or behind our backs (even more common.) It’s an insult slung whenever a woman dares step out of her place, because for some strange reason they think that this particular word is offensive enough to hurt/shame us enough to force us back in line.

I think *technically* they’re calling us dogs, or maybe they’re reducing us right down to our primary reproductive function, either way: it’s been a paintbrush they’ve used to color all women at some point, generally whenever we “misbehave.”

We’re supposed to care about such things. We’re supposed to WANT to be nice, docile, loving creatures.We’re supposed to REJECT anything outside that narrow definition of femininity.

Needless to say, I’ve been saying, “Fuck that,” since the 80s.

I learned very early on the true power of the word Bitch, particularly when used as an insult.

It’s a feminist war cry.

Whenever a guy wants to tear down another guy, THIS IS STILL THE INSULT HE USES. Toxic men find guys doing anything that are at all *girly* (i.e. submissive/weak) every bit as threatening as a gal doing anything masculine – like claiming total power over herself. Therefore a toxic patriarchy uses it to diminish ANYONE who dares to defy the conventional male/female roles.

I’m a bitch because I’ll never be your bitch, but he’s a bitch, because – even though he’s NOT a bitch – he can be controlled like you want to control all your bitches.

In your impotent rage, you spew the word like it’s some kind of venom, but the only people it will work on are the people who are already under your feet.

For the rest of us it’s a word all about male control that ONLY works if it controls us – and it so doesn’t.

Hence, why you call us bitches.

Back when my kids were young and facing school bullies who would call them names, or worse – call their dead father names – I would tell them there was no sense getting upset over things that weren’t true. “If they call you a banana, does that make you a banana?”

My son still remembers this to this day. He will tell you that because I reduced it down to its basic absurdity, he learned how much power he needed to give words. If they’re not true, you can dismiss them. If they are true, you can dig deep and find the strength to embrace them.

If you ARE a banana, be damned proud to be a banana. Let that banana freak flag fly. It’s you, and you’re allowed to be you.

And no one can hurt you with a word you enthusiastically accept as an identifier.

Back in the 80s, girls like me embraced the word “bitch.” Someone even created an acronym around it: Babe In Total Control of Herself. I believe I even had a pin.

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If a bitch is simply a woman who cannot be controlled, there ain’t no shame in that, my friends. No shame at all. That is my fucking objective. There is literally zero sting to the word. Instead, it pumps me up. I’m quite gratified that you noticed. That means I’ve done my job properly. I want the world to know that I don’t WANT to be controlled, so y’all best recognize. I told you about my book of poems being stolen in the ninth grade, coming back to me with “Fat Bitch” (anonymously) written all over it like it was some devastating insult.

Meanwhile, me:

And

The 80s were a good time for Bitches. Jackie Collins wrote a book about it. Her sister Joan made a career out of it. The end of the decade witnessed the rise of Roseanne. Nuff said.

I really never considered it an insult. It bothered me more if they called me a slut, though that’s changed over the years too.

Back when I was in my 20s, I bought a T-shirt that read, “I’m not A bitch, I’m THE bitch, and it’s MS. BITCH to you.” It was the kind of shirt, along with my “fuck off” personality and “get the hell away from me” size, that parted crowds in front of me like the Red Sea.

Needless to say, I wore the CRAP out of that shirt.

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By the 1990s, we bitches even got our own theme song:

“So, take me as I am. This may mean you’ll have to be a stronger man.”

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I embrace the word so whole-heartedly that you can’t even offend my sons if you call them a son of a bitch. I told them a long time ago they are, and that was something to be proud of.

They’ve been taught it isn’t a bad thing.

It both amuses me and surprises me that so many people still find it offensive. Many are repelled by the word. It still slaps people in the face a little.

I’m such a bitch, I use that to my advantage. When you’re a writer, your weapons of war are your words. You think about what you’re going to use and how you’re going to use them for maximum effect.

It is no surprise that my book’s title is a very abrasive and unapologetic BIG FAT BITCH. There are a couple of things I wanted to address, in a very ME sort of way. I’m tired of living in a society where women are demonized for coloring outside the lines.

There are certain things in this world we women are not allowed to be if we want to be fully embraced by society. We can’t be fat. We cannot be a bitch. And we must not, under any circumstances, be a fat bitch. Polite society finds such things to be horrifying. (Hence why my anonymous bully way back when thought calling me such would be so humiliating.)

When I crafted my topsy turvy Beauty & the Beast retelling, it was a no-brainer to cast the “monster” in this story as a fat bitch. She’s a size-14 that will tear your life to pieces if you dare cross her.

Sofie Vincent is so self-possessed that if you called her a bitch, she’d take it as a compliment.

Sofie passed Davina’s dressing room on the way out, so she paused to talk to her friend. “How’s it going?”

Davina gave her a rueful grin as she munched on crudités. “Not too bad. Just eating dinner.”

She leaned against the door jam. “Tell me you’re going to eat more than that.”

Davina shrugged. “You know I have to drop more weight.”

Sofie pursed her lips. She knew Davina’s doctor had told her to drop a hundred pounds. That had been over two years before, and she had lost about fifty so far. Since she was a little older, it was taking a little longer than she liked, but Sofie thought she was doing great.

Maybe a little too great.

Sofie had never planned on transforming her character into someone much thinner. She had hired Davina with a specific purpose: to put someone on TV who didn’t look like everyone else. Much to the surprise of many, her middle-aged diva had managed to steal the hearts of America despite being overweight and over 40.

Frankly, Davina’s losing weight would virtually blow what made their dynamic special. But Sofie could hardly hold a grudge, particularly since it meant so much to her.  “How much is left?”

“Forty-seven pounds and two ounces,” she chuckled. So did Sofie.

“Shall I write it in? That you’re trying to lose weight to impress your wandering husband?”

Davina rolled her eyes. “Girl, please. I could weigh 99 pounds and he’d never agree to do a love scene with me. I am not his type.”

They shared a glance. “Thank God.”

Both women were older, had been around the industry a good long while. Men like Gregory Todd were a dime a dozen, and neither of them had the patience to pretend otherwise.

“Fine,” Sofie conceded with a sigh. “I’m gonna go get ice cream.”

She turned before Davina could throw a stick of celery at her. “You’re a bitch,” she announced, but in good humor. That was just the relationship they had. Sofie knew Davina would always keep it real.

“Don’t ever forget it,” Sofie called behind her before heading down the hall.

Hell, she has it on her freaking license plate. Sofie Vincent gives NO fucks.

So, why should I? I don’t need to dance lightly around the subject. She’s a bitch! That’s what made her a whole lot of fun to write. She was empowering. She made a name for herself doing things her way, no matter what anyone else had to say about it.

If she was a man, she’d be president of the fucking United States.

For a female candidate, that’s a liability. If you don’t believe me, check out the comments for the YouTube vid for Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back.” MANY commenters made the oh so pithy observation that the song must be Hillary Clinton’s theme song.

They skipped the irony of the situation entirely. Hillary is A bitch, but she’s not THEIR bitch, and that’s they hate her. Empowering that person with lyrics that say, “I can bitch, I can bitch cuz I’m better than you,” turns the punchline of their “joke” around on them, frankly. Karma works so much faster when the targets in question are stupid.

Which makes it that much funnier for a bitch like me.

You gotta be willing to face the hate if you do the bitchy thang and speak up for, well, anything. I knew this when I named my book. I KNOW it’s going to put some people off, which is a damn shame because the story itself can be universally read by anyone, even my own sons.

My biggest fan was my grandmother-in-law, who sadly passed before this book was conceived. She would have LOVED this novel, and – in fact – it wouldn’t have existed without her. Like always, I take on some pretty deep issues despite the trappings of a fairy tale. This story simply wouldn’t have existed without the experiences I had when Grandma was on hospice care, which plays to the Beauty and the Beast angle.

BFB’s wilting Rose is a real person. And she’s really dying, which sparks our whole fairy tale into motion.

This wasn’t an easy subplot to write for me after the scary ass year I’ve had facing off with my OWN mortality. Still, because the tale is so important to me, I couldn’t afford to step lightly. I faced, head-on, everything that scared me about it. That’s kind of how I’m doing everything now, in a very skydiving, Rocky-Mountain-climbing, doing-2.7-seconds- on-a-bull-named-Fumanchu kind of way.

(Except I’m not doing any of THOSE things.)

On January 4, 2018, I was faced with the possibility that there wouldn’t be enough time to tell this story or any of the other dozen stories I have lined up to tell. Once I emerged victorious from that battle, it would have been a slap in God’s face to half-ass ANY of it.

I ain’t half-assing anything anymore. If someone should call me a bitch because of it…

And

The very day I finished the book, I went to a local concert where the Bullet Boys sang their version of Elton’s Bitchy anthem. I knew then the universe had recognized my boldness. I sang loud and proud, high-fiving God for the cosmic shout-out.

Why, yes I AM back, thank you very much for noticing. This story is full of the pure Ginger magic so many of you have come to love. This is my love letter to you, and my middle finger to anyone left who thought I couldn’t pull it off.

That’s the beauty of being a Bitch. You get to be full of interesting complexities like that.

And if you can get past the prickly thorns wrapped around the title (and its bitchy heroine,) you’ll find the beauty of my fairy tale, I guarantee.

September 25 is only 16 days away. Soon you’ll meet Sofie, my BFB, and Fletcher, the beautiful man who is brave enough, and strong enough, to reveal her beauty anyway.

It’s the only fairy tale that a bitch like me could write. So, let’s fall in love… *our* way.

 

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The Ghost at the Door.

Back when I was a kid, most of my travels revolved around family. My dad was one of eleven kids, back when big families like that were the norm. They remained fairly close-knit throughout the years, despite losing a lot of members along the way. By the time I was born, my dad had experienced quite a few losses, including both of his parents, an infant sister, an older brother, and one of his brothers who went missing during WWII. So, the ones that were left made it a point to get together whenever possible. Family reunions were annual events, divvied up between the remaining siblings scattered all over Texas, and the one sibling who had straggled all the way to Arizona.

While I grew up mostly in Abilene, our relatives were all over Texas. I had Aunt Gertrude in Amarillo, along with most of my dad’s kids from a previous marriage. (I say kids, they were all older than my mother by the time my dad robbed that particular cradle.) Uncle Jack and Aunt Clarice, along with our cousin Bessie and her branch of the family tree, were located in Lubbock. Uncle Tom and Aunt Edith were in Lampasas, which was further south heading towards Austin.

I believe Uncle Clarence was in Houston, and Uncle Joe D. and Aunt Katy were in East Texas.

McCandlesses were everywhere.

Years later, when I posted some photos on Facebook, a friend I had made through my best friend (both gay men) asked me if I was related to a man named Weldon McCandless. I was, in fact. He was my dad’s great grandson…. who happened to be marrying someone my friend knew.

It really IS a small world, after all.

Before I turned 10, we made regular trips from Abilene to Lubbock to visit family. Like I said Uncle Jack was there with his wife Clarice. Cousin Bessie was always happy to see us, and would prepare a Southern Feast for us full of good ol’ comfort food staples. I used to swear I could smell her biscuits cooking by the time we reached Post, a small town just outside of Lubbock.

I had a special affinity for Bessie, not just because she fed me down home food on the regular. Her birthday was in November as well, so I felt a special kinship to her. That she was one of the family who understood pain and loss endears her to me now, given all I’ve been through. She outlived I believe two or three husbands, and all of her children… even a few grandkids. Yet she always had a smile for everyone and loads of love.

Needless to say, we share kinship in more ways than one.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Clarice had done very well for themselves. They lived in a beautiful home I can still see if I close my eyes. I can almost feel the velvet-accented wallpaper beneath my fingers. I so envied their cozy home full of the minor comforts I always associated with being financially secure.

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(Left to right: My mom Patsy, my Aunt Gertrude, Cousin Bessie, Aunt Clarice, Bessie’s Granddaughter. Note the photo album front and center.)

I loved that house. I loved their family room, their kitchen, their big patio/backyard. There was only one room I didn’t like: the music room.

It may very well have been the formal living room, but nobody actually “lived” in it. It was right off the front of the house, by the foyer heading towards the cozy family room that was big enough to accommodate our large clan. In that front room there was some seating, a sofa and maybe a couple of chairs, along with a coffee table. There was also a stereo, hence why I called it the music room. Back in the 1970s, our entertainment came in the form of fancy schmancy consoles, and so a stereo/record player could prove to be the focal point of the room.

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Anyone care to venture a guess WHY I would not care for these console stereos that were all the rage when I was growing up?

If you guessed, “Well, they kinda look like coffins,” give yourself a cookie. That was EXACTLY why. I mean, seriously. WHO THOUGHT this was a good idea??

When I was young, I kept a weary eye trained towards these things *just waiting* for the lid to open and a corpse to emerge.

It’s a helluva thing to have that kind of imagination since childhood.

Needless to say my imagination ran WILD every time we stayed there. You know, it’s a funny thing: eventually you always tend to find what you’re looking for. And it was in this upper-class home that I lost one whole night to a ghost.

I don’t remember which of our many trips to Lubbock it occurred, but I remember the night itself like it was yesterday. I was young of course, but whether my dad was there or not, I can’t recall. The McCandless clan kept my mom and me (and even my sister,) even after my dad passed away, so we traveled there quite often in the early 80s to hang out with the only family my mom had in Texas. This was more important after the family began to shrink, first with my Dad’s passing in 1980, and then Uncle Tom in 1984.

All I know is that I was pretty young, we were in Lubbock and we were staying there for the night. The guest room where I stayed was about a door or two down from the music room.

Stage. Set.

I don’t even know if I was able to sleep. Most times I can’t when I’m in new environments. Going to sleep in a hotel takes FOREVER. At some point, though, the darkness had settled in my strange new habitat, cloaking it in unfamiliarity.

Such things are ripe for Scare-the-Pants-Right-Off-You moments.

The outside light flickered into the bedroom window and hit the door *just enough* that it drew my eye that direction. There, barely visible, was a hint of white cloaked in the shadows. My heart stopped. I froze. And I stayed frozen.

It looked unnatural, more like a ghost than anything I had ever seen at such a young age. A white silhouette, shaped vaguely like a person. That was all the evidence I needed to freak the fuck out. I couldn’t breathe, I was too afraid to move. I stayed like that till morning, imagining every horrible thing a young child could imagine. I just knew drawing attention to myself would spell my doom. If I dared even LOOKED that direction – instant death. This made any further investigation impossible.

Forget going to the bathroom. I held in EVERYTHING.

I stayed rooted to the spot ALL night, until daybreak spilled into the room and revealed the source of my terror: a white shirt hanging on a hook on the back of the door.

Because of course it was.

I’ve been dealing a lot with my anxiety lately. I’m starting to experience some consequences of losing my job, and it hits squarely in a place I feel most vulnerable: my health. The loss of insurance was a big blow. I’m insured now, thank God. It’s costing us through the nose, but I got it. But now I have to switch everything around to get the new scans done. The delay scares the shit out of me, even though logically I know I’m probably okay. I was so super duper fortunate at the beginning of this year, getting that clean bill of health after the initial scare. Nothing has really changed in how I feel. In fact, I feel stronger, physically, even though I am still recovering in many ways from the total hysterectomy. My body is changing, my moods are all over the place. There’s a lot going on.

I *know* that the fatalist thinking is probably my mind playing tricks on me, because I was warned by other survivors that would happen. After I had a bout with a bladder infection earlier this year, a fellow survivor asked, “So, how long was it before you thought it was the cancer?”

Instant. It was instant.

She tells me that she felt that way about *everything* for about eight years, even when the doctors said everything was fine.

So, I have that to look forward to, I guess. More shirts. Plenty of doors.

This past week I had a particularly nasty scare. I woke up and within about ten minutes of perusing Twitter from my phone, I realized I was dizzy AF. Like, the dizziest I have ever been. Like, ever. I sat up and the whole world spun around me. I was afraid to walk to the bathroom. I sat there in the same sort of frozen panic I experienced with the Shirt Ghost, thinking to myself the same fatalist thoughts. The dizziness lingered. Nausea sat in. I blamed the heat, since my bedroom doesn’t have A/C and it holds heat in like an oven.

Finally I staggered out into the living room for some air. I sat next to the A/C and struggled to function. (Strug to Func, as Queer Eye’s Jonathan would say.) My oldest son ended up taking care of me. He brought me a cold compress and a trash can just in case I couldn’t make it all the way to the bathroom. After I finally threw up, I was able to nap on the sofa for about an hour, before heading back to bed. I felt myself when I woke up after a longer nap in the comfort of my bed.

Having had food poisoning in the past, I quickly put it together that it must have been something I ate. Yet at the time, I thought maybe this was the end. I nearly called 9-1-1. After cancer, *everything* has this extreme slant to it now. I have to talk myself down from the ledge constantly. Everything feels tenuous.

After decades of battling anxiety that’s nothing new, but this year is especially tough. Thanks to that unexpected and exceptionally serious cancer diagnosis, I learned some monsters are real. Turning on the light won’t make them automatically go away. It has supercharged the intense vulnerability I’ve always felt, way back to when I was a child.

I ran across a tweet yesterday that gave me pause. It talked about the long-term effects of childhood trauma. There was a handy dandy graphic and everything.

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Reading through it, I kind of had this light bulb moment where I realized almost everything I fear IS a white shirt, hanging off of a hook, right there in the shadows. It looks scarier than what it is, and I’m hard-wired by past trauma to freak out about it. There’s a kid down deep in there who is still waiting for the monster to jump from the closet, even when nine times out of ten it doesn’t. She can’t truly rest easy because she’s already seen it happen. The worst HAS happened and she’s had to pick up the pieces so many times before. She’s primed to react. That’s nothing to hate or regret, and it certainly doesn’t demand an apology. She did the best she could with barely any direction (and no, the church SO doesn’t count in this case. We’ll be getting into THAT later.) The fact that she was able to carve out any accomplishment at all, despite all the shit that was thrown her way, is a freaking miracle.

That kid deserves my empathy and respect, not my punishment and condemnation.

The other day I showed Brittany Disney’s “The Kid,” starring Bruce Willis. It’s my favorite thing he’s done since David Addison, because he truly just melts my heart, even if he has to work for it.

(Especially because he has to work for it.)

If you haven’t seen the movie, Bruce is surprised by his younger self to fix something that went wrong in his life. He has no patience for this kid, because the way he sees it that kid is “a pathetic dweeb” that embarrasses him, because he’s too weak (which in this case, only means young) and makes all the mistakes that Russ (Bruce’s character) has taken great pains to bury.

It made me think of what would happen if 8-year-old Ginger popped into existence right now.

Like Bruce, I might find that I had way more to learn than teach.

Fortunately, I need no movie magic to figure this out. She’s still there, deep down. And all she really needs is me to be there for her, like no one was way back when. That little girl desperately needed someone to give her comfort and reassurance, to tell her everything was going to be okay. 1978 Ginger needed someone to hug her and tell her she had nothing to fear, even when the world is a fearful place. Her life would be a long list of complete badassery, filled with people who would love her for it.

I guess 2018 Ginger needs to hear that, too.

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What would I tell her?

What do I tell her?

The other day I ran up against my discomfort answering the question whether or not I’m a cancer survivor. Believe it or not, that’s a difficult question for me. As you know from reading this blog, the whole thing was back and forth for a while, so I’m tempted to add “for now,” and knock wood. Hence why the doctor’s appointments are so terrifying for me now. I get to put that theory to the test.

I still see that ghost at the door, mostly because that’s what I was trained to do. I’m a reactor, remember? I keep the lights on so I can see the threats coming, even when they’re shadows inside my own brain, particularly when I’m put on the spot with this kind of question.

See, I was raised super religious. I was taught that I could never get too cocky. If I bragged about good fortune, God would be quick to take it all away. I’m supposed to remember with unfailing gratitude that I’m a pile of dog shit without God, and worse things are bound to happen to me if I don’t keep my head down and “follow the rules,” even if following the “rules” makes me miserable.

It’s supposed to, FFS. We’re religious, after all.

So, if someone asks if I’m a survivor and I say, “Yes! I beat it!” God will smite me for my pride and boastfulness and I’ll lose everything.

MEANWHILE…

All my other posi-thinking training tells me not to give negative thoughts a place to seed. If you dwell on the problems, the problems persist. If I even mention my fears to the fam or my friends, they’re quick to cut me off and tell me not to attract the stuff I don’t want. If I add, “for now,” after I claim my survivor status, then surely I’m telling the universe I don’t really *believe* I’m worthy of such a gift, and God (or the Universe) will smite me for my lack of faith.

And there are enough Bible verses to echo that sentiment to further confuse the situation.

I feel like I’m walking a mental tightrope over molten lava. All. The. Time. Even writing this blog feels like a lightning rod.

But the thing is…factually speaking, I am a survivor, and not just of the cancer. I’ve survived all the stuff that has already happened to me, and as we all know… it ain’t been pretty. I’m still standing. I’m still smiling. Cousin Bessie would be proud.

Not only am I still standing, and still smiling, I still feel deep down that things have yet to get better. In fact, I believe they can be really, really great. Beyond my wildest dreams, in fact.

I just have to get up off the floor, walk towards the scary ghost at the door and turn on the light.

So, 1978 Ginger… It’s time that we face our fears and trust that no matter what that turns out to be… shirt or monster…

We got this.

Because we do. We’re not just survivors… we’re more than conquerors. And the best is yet to come.

We’re gonna make it so.

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Dietland and my complicated relationship with Bangability.

This week’s Dietland showed Plum Kettle on the painful, humiliating, expensive and drastic journey to becoming “bangable,” as defined by her drastic weight-loss detractors as her driving motivator for thinness.

Because isn’t it always?

In case you were unaware, it is a woman’s first priority in this culture to attract the menz, and as such, the reason we are willing to do pretty much anything. Y’know, if magazine covers are to be believed.

Our main job, our noble calling, is motherhood, and you can’t get there if nobody wants to fuck you. Hence why bangability is key.

Fortunately for us, there are countless people willing to help us achieve this notable status. The weight-loss industry, the fashion industry, the cosmetics industry, the media… you can’t sling a dead cat in any direction and not find SOME advice how you, disgusting slob and wretchedly unbangable chick, can get a man to notice you so you can get you some.

That is, after all, our truest desire.

It’s in the Bible.

If you dress up, if you take care to look nice, put on makeup, get yer hair “did” or your nails done, everyone clearly knows that you’re gunning for some peen. That surely IS the reason for grooming yourself to the point of torture, right?

Spanx, people. Fucking SPANXS.

And as we have been told repeatedly for – well, at least as long as I’ve been alive and aware of it – men will only find you bangable if you change.

It doesn’t matter how or WHAT you change… just that you do something opposite than what you’re doing now. You’ll note most of these tips aspire to change you from your natural state. Curlers, straighteners, hair removal, concealer, padded bras, slimming jeans… lift, tuck, conceal, hide – CHANGE….nothing you have naturally is at all bangable.

Even beautiful, teenage, rail-thin models get photoshopped for optimal bangability.

If you’re a woman, you HAVE to change. Gotta. You’re simply unbangable as is, darlin’. If you’re older, you need to look younger. If you’re fat, you need to be thinner. If you have curly hair, you need to straighten it. If you have straight hair, you have to curl it. If you have a wide nose, you need to contour. If you are pale, you need to be more tanned. No matter how perfect the world may find you, trust me there will be something, anything about you that needs to be changed to be bangable.

Dare you like something about yourself, the kind folks in the Peanut Gallery are quick to let you know the error of your ways.

For some of us, there are more obvious violations. For me, it’s weight. For you, it might be unruly eyebrows. Are your lashes not full enough? FALSIES, baby. There is LITERALLY a product for every sin you don’t even know you’re committing. If you don’t believe me, watch a makeup tutorial on Youtube sometime. That alone made me realize I have no idea to girl properly. Five products JUST for your face? Ten more for your eyes? Three more for your lips? Two more for your eyebrows?

Are you fucking kidding me? And we’re not even talking about clothes, accessories and layering yet. Even for those of us who love clothes and makeup, there is no way to keep up with the latest new thing that will perfect what is unbangably wrong.

The SPANX, people. My God, the fucking Spanx.

(For the record, I’ve never owned or wore a pair. When I was younger, it was due to cost. Now that I’m older, I just don’t give a shit. Ain’t nobody got the time to wiggle into sausage casing just so that complete strangers aren’t offended by my cellulite. Things are going to jiggle, folks. Get fucking used to it.)

It’s no wonder that women take two hours to get ready. You can’t rush the fine art of being bangable, y’all. You just can’t.

Granted, women tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Do guys really care if you have 20 layers of product on your face? Are they really wondering if your lashes are real or Maybelline? Do they care if your lipstick is coordinated with your nail color, or if your underwear matches?

Probably not.

There was a joke meme going around years ago on the differences on what it takes to please women and what it takes to please men. For the women, guys had to buy flowers, pick her favorite restaurant, talk about her interests, basically devote his life and attention to her. For the guys, it just said, “Show up naked. Bring beer.”

I’ve seduced my share of men in my life. It wasn’t always THAT easy, but… the point has some merit.

Bangability simply isn’t that difficult, if that is what you’re aiming for. Most of the time it isn’t, which is why sexual attention is often unwelcome or bothersome. Despite what men think, just because we dress up doesn’t mean we’re advertising some cute new petting zoo.

My future daughter-in-law, Brittany, and I are tried and true partners in crime. I don’t have a lot of really close girlfriends, but she’s risen right to the top as my favored cohort. My boys generally don’t care to traipse around Los Angeles with me, doing the things that I love to do. But whenever I say, “You wanna?” to Brit, she’s down. For a borderline agoraphobe, having this kind of “safe person” is glorious. We go out to events pretty regularly, which often includes live music in famous Hollywood venues. Before each venture, we tend to do the Girl Thang and go shopping for clothes (particularly if it’s a “theme” night.) We mull long and hard over the accessories and makeup we’re going to wear. We coordinate to the point of OCD madness. On the day of, we tend to get started hours before we have to leave, and end up leaving late almost every single time.

The truly ironic part is that only one of us has to work that hard to be “bangable” as the previously referenced culture norms demand. We look different, we’re treated different, even though our goals/motives are completely the same.

Brit is not heavy like me. In fact, she’s the polar opposite of me. She’s underweight, and has the same difficulty reaching her goals as I do mine. Though this chick can eat (and trust me, anyone who has ever seen her do it can attest,) her metabolism burns so high that she has stayed between 90-95 pounds in the four years she’s lived with us. Given she’s the same height as me, the differences between us are drastic. I have even been asked (by a stranger in passing, and a man,) if I am the reason she doesn’t eat.

Nobody asks her, when she’s knuckle-deep in pizza, fried foods, southern comfort staples, booze and the endless sweets she indulges (because she can, because there’s no limit on what SHE eats,) if SHE’S the reason *I* indulge, which would be a whole lot closer to the truth.

But hey, whatevs. SHE is the one who is “bangable”, so clearly she’s the one who is doing it right, and men reward her (and punish me) accordingly. Even though we do almost the same things basically, except we kinda don’t – not when it comes to health. She’s in her 20s. She’s invincible. Her diet came with all the stuff I had cut out for years, and trained my family accordingly. There were no fried foods, no cream sauces. Oreos. MY GOD, the Oreos

Those are Brit additions, because I’m not going to afflict her with my diet, when she actually needs to put on weight. She loves whole milk, I always bought skim. She drinks full-sugar soda daily, I drink a diet soda maybe 1-2 days a week. I love salads of all kinds, she needs her salads compatible to ranch dressing, as, like many Texans, vegetables are her Ranch dressing delivery system. I also eat far less snack food, junk food, fast food, and I don’t vape like a dragon.

When we go to Sizzler, I get the salad bar. She gets the steak dinner WITH a loaded baked potato, WITH a salad (loaded with ranch,) WITH all the extras, with the biggest bottle of beer they have AND a soda.

Yet who’s the one who gets the dirty looks when I get a bowl of banana pudding, or drink a diet soda?

I should be eating lettuce and drinking water and LIKING it, goddammit. Don’t I WANT to be bangable, FFS?

Since you were so kind to ask… NO. I sure damn don’t.

This is what those concern-trolling shamers, who feel like it’s THEIR job to make me feel bad, to punish me for my weight – as if the weight isn’t punishment enough – don’t seem to understand. They think their stamp of approval, signing off on my bangability, will “inspire” me to go the other direction. They actually think I want to earn their favor, when all I really want to do is punch them right in their hateful faces.

I’m not necessarily a violent person, and I hate the color orange, so I have a long history of eating pretty much out of spite, flaunting my fatness to keep them far, far away, since it seems to work oh, so well.

(It’s been a coping mechanism for as long as I can remember. Since I’ve wanted to avoid sexual attention since the age of, oh, four.)

I did this to myself. Knowingly. Purposefully. I WANTED to be unbangable, because dudes viewing me sexually has always, always, always been The Danger Zone. If I looked like Brit, I wouldn’t leave the house. It gives ME anxiety whenever SHE wears a bikini, because I just can’t imagine lighting that kind of welcome torch. I personally feel the need to drape myself around her like a force field as is, just so some horny dude doesn’t put her in his pocket and run away.

Seriously, when she goes outside to vape, onto the Sunset Strip of all places, I worry if she doesn’t come back right away. These fuckers are relentless, y’all.

And as Jen Kober says, being skinny makes it so much easier to be kidnapped.

Truth is, Brit’s very cute. She’s a pretty girl and she knows it. If she didn’t, there would be nightclubs full of old rocker pervs to reassure her. They will do anything to get close to her. I’ve watched it happen almost every single time we go out. They will find any reason at all to get close enough to paw at her like a horny Schnauzer. “Ooo, your jacket. Is that leather? I love it.”

Though she wears an engagement ring on her finger, and will always answer every, “Who are you here with?” with a pointed, “My mother-in-law,” these guys are rarely deterred. She’s thin, blond and cute. Her bangability is without question, but has little to do with how she styles her hair or how much time she spends on her makeup. I tell her all the time that she could show up in a burlap sack with bedhead and it wouldn’t turn off these guys. “Burlap? Wow, I’ve always loved that texture. Such a novel choice! You must be very smart and creative.”

If she showed up naked with beer, a line would gather.

Guys who are with other chicks will still peacock around her, just to get her attention. Whenever I point them out to her, she always says, so sweetly, “But he’s with a date!” As if that ever stopped a dude anywhere from sucking in his gut near a pretty girl.

It’s kind of funny how predictable it all gets.

It’s so pervasive that, when we went to see a comedy show, she commented how the guy she was seated next to was such a nice, refreshing change from all the guys who come onto her at the bars. She noted it was probably because the comedy crowd was different.

What she didn’t notice, and what I never miss, was how he kept looking her up and down every time he got the chance, all the way through the show. He was already old news to her by then. Guys who find her attractive are a dime a dozen, and she’s already won the lottery landing my son. (Totally unbiased opinion.)

But I always have my Predator Radar on, particularly in “Mom Mode,” and so I pick up on cues others miss… like the chick sitting next to him with that big rock on her left hand. She didn’t seem to notice how he kept checking Brit out, either. Yet he couldn’t help himself from studying the bangable chick at his side, more than likely storing every detail for his spank bank.

Honestly, Brit is so cute I often wonder why I even bother sometimes to dress up. Despite being more than twice her size, I disappear beside her easily. If bangability was my objective, I’d be sadly barking up the wrong tree.

But – again – bangability is NOT the objective. All the events we go to are centered around people we consider friends, who, even though they’re men, the business of bangability isn’t even on the table. We’re just out to have a unbangable good time.

Such things ARE possible, you know.

I dress up because I like it. Crazy, right? I like to feel pretty. And both of those things are possible, too. I like to wear makeup. I’m a girl, FFS. I like pretty makeup and nice clothes, feeling beautiful and adorned, and will do so even if the masses think I’m completely unfuckable. Such things are by design and I’m used to it, so it has nothing to do with that.

I mean, no offense, but… it’s not about you. I’d bang me. And do, on a regular basis. You’re really kind of unnecessary in the whole deal, except for all the sexy details I store in MY bank. And if you think I’m not bangable because I’m fat, odds are you don’t make that list no matter how you dress or how hot you look.

They’re called standards and, believe it or not, I have them.

If I don’t turn your head, it’s perfectly okay with me. My dressing up and looking pretty was never about you in the first place. I’ve loved makeup way back when I was thirteen years old. I was still a virgin (by my standard, I didn’t “lose” my virginity until I gave it away willingly) with no plans on fucking anyone until I was married. (Ah, youth.) Still, I wanted to have makeup in the WORST way. One of my most beloved toys was my Barbie styling head, which I would style and primp for hours on end.

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Needless to say, I couldn’t WAIT to be like all the other teenagers and do my own hair and makeup instead of playing with a plastic doll head. When we used to live with another single mom and her kids, I’d watch 16-year-old Beth sit for hours at her makeup table, perfecting her 80s flip, getting her makeup *just right*. It was my introduction to girling. My efforts were never so perfect.

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And it didn’t help ANYTHING that puberty hit me like a fucking freight train. I wanted makeup simply to detract away from hellish acne. Look at anything but my pimples. PLEASE.

But my mother insisted I was much too young for makeup. I come from a very conventional household where my late dad called the rouge, lipstick and nail polish my mother wore, her only makeup staples, her “war paint.”

These were, in fact, the only makeup items I was allowed to wear as a thirteen-year-old.

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But I so desperately wanted all of it, particularly eye shadow. I’m a creative person who has always loved to decorate things. Why not myself? Given my eyes have always been my best physical feature, it was torture not to experiment with makeup that could light them up like a Christmas tree. (They are green, after all.)

Had they had as many glittery choices then as they do now, I might have considered shoplifting. I probably would have never done it, but I would have considered it nonetheless.

I have a theory that I must have been a drag queen in another life. If my passion for makeup isn’t enough to convince you, my healthy love of disco should seal the deal.

To tell you how creative I was, for a short time in 1983 I was mixing food color and baby powder, just to see if I could make my own. That never worked out either. Ultimately I had to wait for several more years before I got the real thing.

You know, AFTER my first kiss and AFTER I gave up on the whole virginity thing. As it turned out, the makeup I had always wanted had precious little to do with my bangability.

Do you see the emerging theme here?

When you’re a single gal, fat or thin, you really don’t have to work that hard to get laid, if getting laid is your objective. (Epiphany hammer coming down in five… four… three… two…)

YOU CAN’T FIGHT THE BANGABILITY, Y’ALL. You don’t have to pass Go, you don’t have to collect $200. You start the game bangable. Think of it like a passport that you’re born with. Pretty folks, yeah. They may have checks from a lot more people, filling their pages with validation after validation, where you can be like Brit, say you’re pretty and BELIEVE it.

But guess what? Fat, thin, young, old, geek, chic – there’s ALWAYS going to be someone in this world willing to stamp your Bangability Book. Getting laid is about the EASIEST thing you can do. Many times, all you have to be is available.

Guys have tried to pick me up while I was on a pay phone (ask your grandparents,) doing my laundry, sitting on a grassy knoll, reading a book, even walking down the street. No bars. No makeup. No ritual or ceremony. No sexy clothes.

Just existing with a vagina.

Your ONLY question is what kind of guy do you want to bang? Are you looking for love? Are you looking for security? Because that’s where it gets a little trickier, particularly if you have high standards.

Not all peen is created equal, folks. Therefore bangability, or the art of attracting all peen, is NOT optimal. For some of us, who have fought our inherent bangabilty off with every ugly stick we could find, it truly IS the Danger Zone.

Believe me when I say that when Brit and I gussy up, it’s not ABOUT men or sex. We’re in committed relationships with no intention of picking anyone up. In fact, Brit and I do this even when we’re going to hang out with other women. None of what we do has dick to do with… well, dick. If you get turned on, that’s kinda your problem.

Not to say that it’s all bad. I’ve had my share of attention, and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it when I got it. Still do. I’m only human, y’all. I’ve used my cleavage more than once to get my way, which is always an ego boost. (It also saves money at the bar. Even at the Whiskey, we’ve had our drinks paid for.)

When you lock eyes with someone who finds you attractive, there’s a charge of electricity that’s pretty hard to beat, even if you have no plans whatsoever fucking them. It makes you feel good. Powerful. Alive.

Like anyone else, I like that. I’m a Scorpio. The flirt is built in.

What I like better is knowing that the guys who find someone like me bangable are way more choice. A lot of guys look through me or past me or around me because of my weight, it’s true. I prefer that I’m not the easy option or the first choice. I’m not the lowest hanging fruit on the tree. You have to climb through all the thorny foliage I’ve grown to keep you out. You have to forgive the bruises on the outside to get to the sweet fruit underneath, and honestly… most guys are too lazy to keep going past the first barrier. I’m a human obstacle course and very few ninjas make it to the other side.

That has ALWAYS been by design. Call it… Asshole Repellent.

Assholes are the ones who will punish me for my brazen unbangability, withholding their attention and even their kindnesses, because God forbid I think that banging is even remotely on the table, even if I’m not asking for it. They’d rather look through me than make eye contact. Because that’s what I clearly deserve. They will pile other people in between us, a human shield, just so I am reminded – AGAIN – of my blatant unbangabilty, as if I had to be reminded, as if that was my objective in the first place.

If women are out for peen, surely fat women are out for peen DOUBLE.

We lust by the pound, doncha know.

All things considered, a man who finds me sexy demonstrates very attractive qualities, like depth, tenacity and, you know, decency. He tends to appreciate the whole package, including my mind, my wit and my strength. He’d never be satisfied with some blow-up doll of the feminine ideal. He needs more.

I’m the Queen of More. Only a true king can recognize it.

Self-esteem boost x2, plus you get to separate the wheat from the chaff? Win/win. My lack of “bangability” is a fucking PLUS, not a minus. Always has been.

Older women get this. The older you get, the more that kind of attention wanes from weaker men, who need you to be hot to make them feel better about themselves.

Eventually all of us women reach and pass our Last Fuckable Day with these losers which, despite the parody in this clip, IS a reason to celebrate.

It’s kind of liberating, honestly. You get to the point when you’re not doing it for *them,* you’re doing it for you. Whether you drop hundreds of dollars to let some sadist rip your pubes out by the root, that then becomes your choice. Whether you’re dropping thousands of dollars on hundreds of product to keep you makeup-ready, buying sexy underwear or – gasp – losing weight, becomes a lot more loving the less you care about random, superficial dudes wanting to fuck you. You get to do what you want to do, what makes you happy.

If it’s anybody else’s choice, then it falls dangerously close to abuse. Why would we ever open our hearts or our legs to someone who thinks we’re not good enough? How much do we have to hate ourselves to buy and accept this message?

And guess what? It’s never your “last fuckable day.” Guys of worth will still find you sexy. Hell, guys of little worth will find you sexy, they just won’t admit it. If you show up and bring beer, odds are you will still get them to fuck you. They might not be the 50-year-old rocker dudes clinging to their own youth by chasing 20-year-old groupies, but honestly… what’s the loss?

I’ve been overweight my whole adult life. The last time I broke 200 pounds, I was 19 years old. For much of the time since, my focus has been antibangability. Not that uncommon for women who have survived abuse. I don’t want strangers finding an excuse to touch me. Whether you find me fuckable or not is none of my concern, because odds are GREAT I don’t want to fuck you.

I need to trust you to fuck you, and have a reasonable expectation that you won’t, you know, destroy me when it’s all said and done. As a result, I wear my “Fuck Off” sign like a goddamn tiara. I scare off a lot of men.

I’m okay with this.

It could be a perfect plan except for one problem: despite all I’ve done to keep them at arm’s length, there are guys who will still want to fuck me, because there’s more to bangability than some number on a scale. I see it in their eyes if they dare hold my gaze. I’ve actually seen it rattle some guys. Makes me wonder who the revelation scares more… me or them. Probably the person who looks away first, which is usually me.

As a married lady, I don’t need those kinds of complications that come with looking twice, so I rarely do it. But the truth of the matter is that, married or not, if I wanted to fuck, I could find someone to do it. I was about ninety pounds heavier last time I tried to “show up and bring beer,” and a line still gathered. Handsome guys. Younger guys. This idea that Fat = Unfuckable is a tired myth, and nobody knows that better than I do, because I’ve spent a good thirty years trying to do everything I could to turn men off and they just won’t go away.

Which, mind you, isn’t always a bad thing. I like men. I like being wanted and loved by men. I just don’t want to be used and hurt by men, so I have had to be very selective. In truth, my antibangability has proven the ultimate test of a GUY’S bangability. If you can see through all the bullshit, look past the scars and the pain and still see a woman of worth… you’re a fucking prince in my book. Sure, they’re fewer in number, but quality over quantity, ladies.

If you’ve ever been with someone who wants to “reward” you versus someone who wants to treasure you, even worship you, you’d know exactly what I mean.

Hence why I wanted to throttle Plum when she asserted that she couldn’t be pretty simply because she was fat. She said it with a straight face, as if her best friend’s employee (a hot, young guy) didn’t moon over her constantly, or the sexy cop wasn’t all about her chocolate cake (not a euphemism.) She’s even got a lesbian hot and bothered. All of this attention is just as legitimate as Brit’s Whiskey fan club.

Yet… Plum thinks she still needs to staple her stomach to become bangable?

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YOU’RE ALREADY BANGABLE, GIRL. The only question now is whether you’re bangable to the masses, because as we ALL know, we’re just not worth a damn until a world of faceless dudes decide they want to fuck us.

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Despite OVERWHELMING evidence to the contrary, it’s easy lie to believe because goddammit if it doesn’t try to rear its ugly head every time we turn around, whether it’s in Plum’s fictional existence or our own. Just yesterday, author and feminist Roxanne Gay tweeted a personal letter she got from some stranger who felt it appropriate to ask her how her husband makes love to her. “How does he find your vagina?” this stranger (I’d bet dollars to donuts was a dude) wanted to know.

Really? Fucking REALLY?

I hate that fucking stereotype every bit as much as I hate the loose vagina one for women who have dared to have sex, or, y’know, a baby. Where DO you fuckers get the information you have about our bodies? And why are you so worried about a fat chick’s vagina anyway, if fat is what makes her so unbangable?

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I still haven’t forgiven David Copperfield for his “flour” joke re: Jabba the Hut in one of the I Love the 80s episodes. Seriously, if you’re a dude who thinks you have to “roll me up in flour to find the wet spot” just to find my vagina, not only do I have SERIOUS doubts you could find the clit on a skinny chick, if you’re this intimidated by size I’m going to assume you must have a wee willy winky, too.

Is that rude to say? I mean, we can talk frankly about this, right? Since you can bring up your concerns with my husband finding my vagina, since I’m so fat. We’re close, right?

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There are countless people out there ready to let us fat folk know that Fat = Unfuckable, particularly when we’re at ALL in the public eye. God help you if you mutter an unpopular opinion. The worst insult I ever got about my weight, which was aggressively sexual, was on a political forum. Fat feminists are particularly targeted, and, for some strange reason, these pissed off bigots will go right to the rape threats just to prove how unfuckable they find us.

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If there’s one thing our culture simply won’t tolerate, it’s all those women who DARE to exist unbangably. And all those multi-million dollar industries I mentioned above make sure that every single woman knows it, every minute of every day of her unbangable life.

It’s so misogynistic, I rage to the point I can’t even see straight. That women perpetuate this myth, at all, makes me even more stabbity.

Despite their billion-dollar efforts, some of us have opted to go the other way. For some of us, this has been a pretty effective shield for a long, long time. None of the guys who come up and paw at Brit are guys whose attention I want, so I’m not particularly sold on doing anything that lures them. I have had decades of self-abuse literally under my belt to ensure that nobody like that touches me, or gets close to me, or eyes me like some predator on the Serengeti. I am a fucking lioness, not some defenseless, little gazelle.

If my choices are “Scare you” or “Be scared of you,” guess which one I’m going to choose?

Some of us aren’t trying to lose weight just to be more bangable, even though we know that will ultimately be the result because of this superficial, misogynist culture. Some of us are pushing through DESPITE that unfortunate byproduct, and the difference needs to be acknowledged.

Why?

Because it’s anti-feminist as fuck to paint me with a brush that diminishes me, that’s why.

I get to exist, and make my choices, and do what I want to do, without having those motives questioned in regards to how it relates to a man. I’m not some halfling who needs their blue Verified check to show the world I’m acceptable. I’m not putting myself through this for anyone but me – not my husband, not my kids, not Rando Joe on the street. It’s all about me, baby, to have a healthier, more active body as I enter the second part of my life. Whether that’s 150 pounds, 200 pounds or even 2-fucking-60, my goal is to treat myself with a lot more kindness and respect.

That starts by rejecting counterproductive social constructs that have done a helluva lot of damage to me in my life as a woman. My worth as a human has dick to do with… well, dick.

Recognize, or STFU.

Like the goddess Pink so aptly sang, “I’m not here for your entertainment.” My existence doesn’t need to be justified by how many guys want to fuck me. Pretty is not the rent I pay to live in your world.

The way I see it, if I’m not here for you to “bang,” your opinion of my “bangability” is moot. The only outside person whose opinion matters is the hubby, who signed on for a lifetime commitment to banging only me, so… yeah. There’s nobody to impress after that. Except me, and I still count.

I get to dress up, wear makeup, look pretty, FEEL pretty, all without your approval or agreement, just because it pleases me. Because I feel lovely, and goddammit… that’s allowed.

Women are much too complex and diverse to abide by such limited rules. We’re going to be fat, thin, pretty, ugly, wear makeup, cut our hair short, wear casual clothes or the latest fashion, buy a thousand beauty products or none at all. Most of us will do this without worrying about how it attracts peen. Regardless of that, I guarantee you that at least ONE guy will find you fuckable despite the rules you adhere to or the rules you break.

See, that’s the secret no one in the fashion industry, the cosmetic industry, the weight loss industry or the media wants you to know. They DEPEND on torpedoing your self-esteem to protect their bottom line. Their job isn’t done until you feel lesser than and ready to open your wallet to “fix” what’s wrong, just like poor Plum.

They get you to question your inherent bangability and then put it on a stick way out in front of you, where you’ll never catch it. (Proven by the fact that they showed Plum what her new, thinner body would look like, complete with all the scars from taking off all the excess skin.)

There’s NO finish line. There’s no way you can win if you play the game by their rules. The only way to win is to STOP PLAYING.

Are we still bangable if we break their rules? Fuck yes, we are. As is, guaranteed. No waxing, no injection or surgery required. Anyone who is telling you differently is selling something, sweetheart. And it’s your self-esteem, battered to shit.

I’ve had a long, complicated relationship with my bangability, and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that it is a measuring stick you alone hold. Giving it away won’t get you laid. It’ll get you leveled. Trust NO stranger with it, because odds are great they’ll use it against you. There are no good intentions behind someone taking possession of something that was already yours in the first place.

Good, worthwhile, bangable people will help uncover your bangability. Bad, shitty, unbangable people will steal it away and try to lease it back to you, and tell you it’s your fault.

Learn who to reward, and who to ignore, accordingly.

Grasp that shit in a steel grip and hold your lovely head up high. Feel pretty, Plum and Plumettes. And go hook up with that young hottie and finally get you some, FFS. Ot the cop. Or the lesbian. Whomever you want, basically.

BECAUSE YOU CAN.

Just the way you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paper cuts and tomato juice.

Way back a million years ago, I used to work at Burger King. Started when I was eighteen, thanks to my bestie who was already working there. Ultimately I became somewhat of a “wiz” on “Boards,” (sandwich prep,) putting my skills to work through many a meal rush because I was one of the fastest workers they had. You might not know it to look at me, but I have little patience to take things slow. I want to get from Point A to Point B not only as fast as I can, but quicker than anybody else. Call it crazy revenge from the Duck-Duck-Goose years, when I was the fattest one and couldn’t beat anybody. If people picked me first (and they did,) I ultimately ended up spending all my recess on some endless circle of hell masked as a child’s game.

Honestly, I still feel stressed when I think about it. I think we can lay my aversion to sports to that fruitless exercise in constant humiliation. If you can’t win, why play? Especially if everyone finds your failure HILARIOUS. To this day I have an almost impossible time trying things new and risking this kind of humiliation/embarrassment in front of other people. You might as well sink me into a tank full of snakes, it’d be more comfortable. If I can’t ace it, I don’t do it. Whether it be friends or strangers, an audience of onlookers has historically proven to be unkind.

It instilled within me this neurotic need for everything thereafter to be a spotless, gold-star performance. Whether I was making burgers or uploading medical records (or even, writing a book – or thirty,) I cultivate my reputation to Get. Things. Done. Quickly. And well. Above reproach. Celebrated, rather than ridiculed. Everything – EVERYTHING – was about honing skill to achieve this purpose. I’m somewhat obsessed, ask anyone who has ever worked with me. And it was true no matter what the job was, or what it paid.

I could (and have) put a Whopper together in my sleep.

Way back then, when the Whopper was $0.99 and minimum wage was $3.35 an hour, the burger had its own clam-shell cardboard packaging.

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I became very adept putting countless burgers together, adopting various shortcuts that served me. One of which was to prepare the bottom bun in the bottom half of the box, and the top bun on the top half of the box, and then “slamming” them together in one fluid motion to slide the tab into place and spin it up in the warming chute.

Poetry in motion, it was, even though technically we weren’t supposed to prepare it that way. The owners insisted it made the burger “messy.” I contended that free-handing the top bun was far more likely to make a mess of the perfect mayo/lettuce and two-tomato-slice top bun combo, as lettuce went everywhere and those tomatoes could get rather unruly.

But what did I know? I just worked there.

(Not ONE of my sandwiches were sent back for being too messy. Just sayin’.)

I like to be known for the speed at which I complete my tasks, so I worked like a machine to beat the “expediter” (the person filling the order) before they ever got to my area. Not to brag, but I became a bit of a badass at it. I was a flurry of efficiency.

The only downside is that when you handle thin cardboard that quickly, you’re likely to tear your hands up with tiny little paper cuts that you don’t even know you have. These microscopic slivers don’t even bleed, so you have no evidence of injury whatsoever… UNTIL you handle pickles, tomatoes or onions.

God, what a rotten little surprise that was. If you’ve ever gotten acidic juices into an open cut like that, you know how badly it can make your hands sting, particularly if you have more than one.

Worse, there was nothing to be done about it. You just had to power through it. But just imagine the dread I felt after I made that first painful discovery, and the hesitation, no matter how brief, before I had to reach for more pickles, tomatoes or onions. I made that determination we all ultimately make when it comes to powering through obstacles: It’s going to be unpleasant. It’s going to sting. But, ya gotta keep going.

Such has been the last three months stuck in the 260s. There are so many deep cuts, cuts I had forgotten about, cuts that didn’t sting until I attempted to power my way through this damn ring on the tree, which is loaded with lemon juice for some reason. I really don’t know what’s going to hurt until it does. So, I’m working through each one of these ghostly injuries as they pop up.

Well, working through is ambitious wording. Acknowledging better defines it. If I can acknowledge without caving to impulsive, self-destructive behavior, all the better. There are some victories. There are some failures. I keep teetering on this tightrope, trying to keep my balance, alternatively going the same five steps forward and back again, without making any real progress. This drives the impatient perfectionist in me absolutely bananas. The whole world is watching and yet, week after week, I continue to run around the same demented circle over and over again, without any success or “wins.”

Logically I understand that stagnation isn’t necessarily “failure.” I’m not sliding back into the abyss no matter how it may feel emotionally. I suppose that could be considered a victory. I’m feeling rotten but I’m adjusting to how I cope, so that I don’t undo the progress I’ve made these last few years. I just hate feeling vulnerable, and I don’t respond well to it, but I’m not letting it totally derail me. I’m stalled and I know I’m stalled, and it’s seemingly beyond me to jump-start my progress again.

After all these months, the self-hatred is definitely seeping in.

And given the blows I’ve taken over the past month, particularly losing my job under the circumstances that I did, it doesn’t take a whole lot to get down about things. This is a battle I’m fighting on the daily. The menopause throws a few sucker punches as well. I swear to God I cry EVERY single day. I thought for sure I’d be a raging bitch during The Change. Instead, I’m just your run-of-the-mill basket case.

It’s like I’m COVERED in paper cuts. In the last couple of days, I got hit by two unexpected triggers that really sank those many cuts right back into a tub of tomato guts.

It stings like a bitch, lemme tell ya.

The first trigger was my own fault: I decided to check out the show “Dietland.” For sheer representation, I tend to support those shows that star diverse women. A big girl in a lead role? Sign me up. It was one of the reasons I got immediately behind This is Us. (The writing/acting and Jack kept me there.)

But it’s pretty painful to endure, like running around a circle of laughing children who get great joy out of your awkward attempts to participate in their world… and failing miserably. Only this time everyone is an adult and I’m naked. Yay, me. All the private pain I feel compelled to hide? Laid completely bare. In the case of Dietland, literally.

The fat chick shows some skin, y’all. It’s brave AF. And I hate to say that it’s brave, because it shouldn’t be. ANY time an actress has to brave some skin is an act of bravery and none should stand out more than any other, particularly when the skin in question is nothing more intimate than a bigger belly.

Yet it is, because it’s so against everything our sizeist culture has personally beaten into me for the last 38 years, preaching from a loud, hateful pulpit what girls like me should apologize for, or strive to keep hidden.

Therefore, I can’t help but marvel at it for breaking all these “rules.”

And Dietland is good, I suppose. It’s hard to stomach, but that’s kind of the point. I get gut-punched on the regular how realistically they portray being heavy in a thin-obsessed world. I laugh, I wince, I rage… it’s all there. It’s also very stylized, which I haven’t decided if I like or not. Let’s just say one scene further complicated my personal attachment to the song “Eye of the Tiger” and leave it at that.

But the hubby and I were intrigued to keep going, binging the first three episodes in one sitting. Steven kept shaking his head, saying that the characters on the screen were saying everything I’ve been saying since he met me. It gave him even more insight to how I perceive the world, and – more importantly – how the world sees me.

I can’t tell you how validating that is. It’s not just me being crazy, or paranoid, or any of the other nasty little adjectives used to undermine the feminine experience.

Needless to say this hurts, but it’s kind of a… necessary hurt. Like, this is me doing my part to show there’s an audience for these types of stories, so actresses like Joy Nash can rightfully find work telling different stories that absolutely need to be told, even if they’re not pretty or fit into the teeny tiny boxes of acceptable female prototypes.

(Hence why I’ve devoted the last decade telling these types of stories.)

Beyond that, Aisha Tyler hosts a “Talking Dead”-like post-show called “Unapologetic,” where she engages with diverse panels that include different notables, a sort of Girl Power alternative that discusses the feminist topics broached in the weekly episodes. Our anti-fat culture is at its heart a misogynist construct that needs to be toppled right alongside the patriarchy, and I will support those who take on this mighty and noble work. I feel the same responsibility to Aisha that I feel to Joy. There’s a place for them and I want to support them because the entertainment industry is not built for these kinds of successes, as I know all too well.

We got a reminder of that when news broke a few days ago that someone generally considered affable, nay, a “Nice Guy,” was exposed in a post by his ex-girlfriend as an alleged abuser who used his influence to get her “blacklisted” after their breakup, further punishing/abusing her despite their relationship ending.

Said Nice Guy has since come out with his own statement, denying the more criminal wrongdoing, turning it into a rather predictable he said/she said kind of thing, slamming her rep in the process – because that’s what an innocent person who didn’t believe in the mistreatment of women would do.

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Nobody wants to believe that he did the things she accused him of, except maybe those people who just want to justify their previous feelings of disgust for this guy. But even then, I’d like to believe that we live in a world where people wouldn’t wish HER the kind of pain she spoke about in the article, just so THEY could offer a smug “I told you so,” any time this dude’s name is brought up around a water cooler.

Because that’s just shitty.

For a lot of us, this tale triggered us HARD. We know what it’s like to be the young, vulnerable girl who wants to impress the difficult guy she loves. Her story is not that unusual, except for the fact he’s famous for being The Nice Guy.

Many of us are older and wiser now, with scars to show for previous skirmishes, and saw the red flags from the beginning of her tale. (Spoiler alert: if a guy has “rules” for you to follow in order to stay in a relationship, right at the START of the relationship, you might want to throw that rotten fish back in the water. That isn’t *a* red flag, that’s THE red flag of an abusive, controlling relationship.)

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If you’ve experienced this sort of thing, it was easy to identify with what SHE said, particularly if you have been discounted, dismissed, or emotionally gaslighted whenever you wanted to bring the issue to light. Nothing is ever the abuser’s fault. Ever. Because honestly, if he’s not beating you daily – it really isn’t that bad, is it? I mean, why else would you stay, right?

Only those of us who have been there truly understand. It starts slow and builds up until you’re locked in for the ride, no matter how hellish it gets. It’s not all awful, not at first. An abuser’s web often glitters like diamonds under the sun, and I would assume that’s even truer for someone who was already famous. The Nice Guy rep was built in, the ultimate lure. I read her story to my future daughter-in-law, who escaped an abusive relationship shortly before she moved out here with us, and she nodded for each and every item the accuser checked off. Honestly, it was freaking textbook.

We have immediate empathy for the accuser because we’ve been there. We know what it’s like to shoulder this kind of thing, particularly in the shadows, where it’s the painful secret we keep to ourselves, our responsibility alone to both protect our abuser as well as ourselves from the harsh judgment of strangers. We’re often torn between the love we have for our partners and the love we struggle to feel for ourselves, which depletes by the minute whenever you get stuck in one of these relationships where those two objectives are not aligned.

That’s where emotional abuse thrives. It’s insidious and cuts deep, often without you noticing until something uncomfortable makes it sting.

In 1991, ironically around the last time I was in the 260s, I was living with this kind of abuse every day. Dan wasn’t treated for his bipolar disorder back then, in fact he wasn’t even diagnosed yet. Instead, I thought his anger issues, and his controlling, abusive behavior, were the result of the abuse he had suffered in his own upbringing. He was a good man that did bad things, sometimes very bad things, and that is hard as fuck to reconcile in one’s head when you love someone.

This is especially true if you’re really young and new at the whole “adult relationship” thing. If your significant other is older, you begin to trust their judgment more than your own, simply because they’re older and arguably wiser.

See? Insidious.

In this accuser’s account of her experience, she mentions how, when she discovered she had an ectopic pregnancy, she was more afraid of his response to the news than possibly dying from the condition. (Typical.) When he stayed all night with her in the hospital (also typical,) it made her think, “Wow, maybe he really DOES love me.” Only later, when his first question to the doc afterward was basically when he could fuck her again (language: mine,) she was thrown right off kilter again.

Way. Fucking. Typical.

Life with an abuser is full of psychotic little roller coasters like that. And we feel we have to hide it because we don’t want the whole world to know how far we’ve sunk.

1986 Ginger swore publicly and vehemently that she would NEVER tolerate a man putting his hands on her. 1991 Ginger found herself in an emergency room, lying to a doctor about the broken bone in her right hand, saying she slammed it in the car door because that was less humiliating than explaining her husband got pissed and snapped the fragile bone in her hand like a twig when he bent it back to make a point.

Some folks might say that I’m projecting my own situation on these two strangers that I don’t know, skewing my judgment unfairly towards one or against the other due to my own personal biases. And I suppose that’s fair, because that’s what all humans tend to do to make sense of stuff that upsets them. A lot of men are doing it too, frankly, jumping immediately to the ex-boyfriend’s defense because affable Nice Guy has a lot of Dude Support.

(Shockingly, and perhaps most damning of all, none of that support is coming from the litany of comedians/celebrities he’s worked with over the years – whose silence in the matter is deafening.)

But here’s the difference, for me at least: I’ve seen this same story from other angles. I know what it means when girls lie about abuse to get attention or get revenge, using victimhood as a weapon, particularly towards a man that they want to nail to the wall. I’ve seen legit grifters manipulate the court of public opinion, up to and including using courts to further their destructive, self-serving agendas.

Point blank: I know that chicks can and do lie, particularly to get back at guys for not giving them what they wanted – including some white picket fence fantasy that was never going to happen in the first place.

I’ve seen the vindictive female in action. Hell, I’ve been the vindictive female in action. I’ve written about it. I know it exists. I myself have been led astray by lies and defended the wrong person, simply because I defaulted to defending the seemingly powerless party. Professional victims are really good at playing powerless. It truly is where their power lies.

Since I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog, these professional victims (often emotional abusers themselves) counted on this and used it to their advantage, no question. They counted on that shadowy cloak of intimacy, where nobody can really know what happens behind closed doors, to create better fiction than I could ever sell.

And I fell for it because it’s an easy lie to believe, particularly when you’ve lived through such abuses yourself.

I know it happens. I’m just not convinced it happens ENOUGH for the Peanut Gallery to default immediately to protecting the more powerful partner in the scenario. Because here’s the truth: What I’ve seen MORE of are the girls who have been legitimately hurt, who end up saying nothing at all and shouldering their pain silently because they know what kind of persecution awaits them if they dare take a stand, particularly the more powerful their significant other happens to be. Most of those women have been too traumatized by what has happened to them, and feeling the overwhelming guilt that it was their fault, to add that dollop of bullshit on top of their cruddy sundae.

They’re just trying to get through life on an impossibly thin tightrope as is. Shaking things up is unthinkable. They just want to steal whatever happiness, and peace, where they can. Telling a lie is strategic. Telling the truth? That’s scary as hell. It jeopardizes everything.

So how do we know which is which? Well, what I can say for certain is that you’ll find the truth in the fine print, the things that are not being said. Lies crack under intense scrutiny. The tomato juice will get in there and sting like the dickens, and your intuition will do its best to warn you ahead of time.

Around the time Steven and I were first getting together, we both got jobs at this retail gaming shop called The Game Keeper. There we met a gal named Amanda. She was a bigger girl, like me, only younger. She had a boyfriend, I think his name was Michael, and she would tell me things about their relationship that raised the same red flags raised in this other lady’s article. She had “rules” she had to go by to keep her live-in boyfriend happy.

(What is it about these non-committal idiots and their freaking rules, FFS?)

An example: she had really long hair because he never wanted her to cut it. I believe her exact words to me were, “He won’t let me get a haircut.”

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“LET?”

The earrings were already coming off.

She invited Steven and me to her apartment for NYE 1999/2000. I didn’t really want to meet this guy, but I liked her, and Steven wanted to go, so I agreed to it. I shared my misgivings with Steven on the way over there, and Steven – who didn’t know me that well yet – said, “I prefer to meet people before I pass judgment.”

He was so morally indignant. It was adorable.

Fast-forward to all the little cut-downs throughout the night, all the little passive-aggressive chips to her self-esteem (he had Britney Spears all over his computer,) and being awakened by how this gaming nerd was berating her – loudly and relentlessly – while she attempted to silently play a game while we slept in the front room. She was just playing the game for her own enjoyment, keeping the volume down, and he felt the need to stand over her (another dickish, controlling move) and criticize her EVERY decision on that stupid, silly game, to the point of waking up their guests to it.

We finally broke free from it all after spending an hour at a restaurant arguing about feminism (he was against it, big surprise.) And he didn’t much care for the fact he couldn’t back me down, because fuck him.*I* didn’t sign on to follow this man-baby’s silly rules.

Steven told me on the way back home again that he was wrong and would never doubt my instincts again.

He just had to get a little tomato juice in the cut to see how badly it stung first. Meanwhile, I was the one holding back, because I already knew, and had to determine just how much discomfort I was willing to subject myself to.

I’ve heard that pain is a great teacher, and I suppose I can’t really argue. You’re not really motivated to change as long as you’re comfortable. The #MeToo movement is making a lot of people uncomfortable right now, particularly Nice Guys. They wonder, loudly, how they can know what is right or wrong when the rules keep changing. I can hug her, I can’t hug her. I can flirt, nope flirting went too far. I can’t even tell a gal to smile, FFS!

Good news, fellas, the rules haven’t changed much. The only thing that is different? We’re sharing the discomfort now. We’re throwing some tomato juice on YOUR paper cuts, because we’re tired of carrying the load all by ourselves.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay that you don’t know. It forces you to ask. It forces you to engage. It forces you to think and decide… AND GIVE US A CHANCE TO DECIDE, TOO. We get to be equal participants. It’s totally rad.

Seriously, if THAT is what’s holding you back from success with the ladies… you’re right. The #MeToo movement is going to *suck* for you.

Nobody gets to skate by playing the Nice Guy anymore. You’re going to have to be a good man, and that’s a whole lot harder.

Frankly, women are exhausted of taking up your slack. We’re tired of this expectation we need to be stronger than you. Strong enough to walk away. Strong enough to identify powerless situations and somehow, miraculously, power our way through, even though in almost every instance of abuse, we have been isolated and robbed of any economic or social independence to counter the destructive gaslighting that goes hand-in-hand.

Even when kids are young, we socialize girls to take more responsibility than boys, underscoring that it is somehow our job to protect them. It is the girl we send home for how she is dressed, for fear she is going to “distract” poor, wittle boys away from their all-too important schoolwork. We’re supposed to fastidiously police our own behavior to a fucking fault, lest we end up the victim of some neanderthal who couldn’t keep it together when he saw our bare skin.

This ideology in itself is abusive, and yet we are so surprised that women keep falling into this trap with their intimate partners.

IF YOU TEACH GIRLS THAT IT’S THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO FIX BOYS, THEY WON’T LEAVE BROKEN BOYS.

Even now, in this violent society of entitled men, there’s a narrative being pushed that men wouldn’t be so darned violent if we just, you know, offered it up more.

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

And we can’t even talk about it because IT MAKES MEN UNCOMFORTABLE. We’d rather excuse 99 bad men than punish a good one, but if one woman lies, suddenly we can’t believe the other 99.

It’s bullshit, but that’s kind of the rules we go by.

Abusers know this. They count on it. They play to it. Especially when they have to answer to their own abusive behavior, like say – trashing someone’s reputation as part of their defense. “Well, she cheated on me, so….”

So… what? She wasn’t absolutely good, so you get to be absolutely bad?

(I’d also like to point out that his defense didn’t refute anything she hinted from her essay that she could prove – like recorded screaming voicemails. It also didn’t argue, at all, that he or people associated with him blacklisted her after a breakup, which – if you’re worried about someone doing something “vindictive” post-breakup, sounds petty AF to me. Pay attention to those details, folks. They’re important.)

It’s built into our culture to the point that, when a woman says, “Hey, lookit. I’ve been abused. It was awful,” a whole litany of men will be like, “Well, that’s what you SAY. But let’s hear it from the dude first, you know. To get the FULL story.”

Spoiler alert: unless you were there in that relationship, you’re never going to get the “full story.” You’re going to get the story from two very different, often broken perspectives, and it’ll be up to you to find any nugget of truth in the whole mess. And none of it matters anyway because you judge the world through YOUR perspective, which is biased towards your experiences and beliefs.

I’ll use the Walking Dead as an example since, you know. Seems fitting.

From the beginning of the series, we are invested in the story of Rick Grimes. He wakes up from a coma in Episode One to learn that the world has been taken over by the Walking Dead, and he has adapt himself very quickly to this new world (and all it’s seemingly unthinkable rules) in order to find/protect his family. We’re invested from the start, or at least I was, and every choice he’s had to make since then we’ve had a basis of understanding: this is a good man forced to do bad things just to survive.

In Rick’s case, this has included ripping some guy’s throat out with his bare teeth, as well as pummeling to death some persistent cannibals in a church sanctuary.

But we “got” it. We understood. We were there with him every step of the way. We understood difficult choices made in impossible situations. Beneath it all, we maintain that he’s a good, if broken, man, nay – the hero of this new world.

Seven seasons later we meet the nefarious Negan, who promptly murders two of our group to establish himself as the new leader. We hate him. We clearly see he’s the villain. He’s a threat to everything we’ve already built with our group.

Yet, if we had *started* with Negan, how would we have viewed Rick when he and his gang of merry mercenaries introduced themselves to the unknown character by slaughtering a satellite station full of Negan’s crew?

Ah, how complicated it gets, alternating our POV.

Humans like to keep things simple. They want to know who to root for and who to dismiss, in fairly quick order. Them or us? Make it quick. We’ve got shit to do.

I often say we live in a bumper sticker society, where all our core beliefs can fit ever so neatly on a bumper sticker, its limited slogan our tag line for the entire world. That forces some black and white expectations on messy gray situations, kind of like taking sides regarding a he said/she said fallout following a public decoupling.

I’m still #TeamJennifer. I’m not afraid to say it.

Still, I honestly don’t feel the best response to a story like this is, “Well, let’s reserve judgment till we hear from the guy, because you know girls. They’re vindictive, lying whores,” – which seems to be the ongoing narrative among those Nice Guys who want to support their Nice Guy hero, whose OWN FRIENDS aren’t saying a damn word.

Says way too much about their “hero,” if you ask me. And it breaks my heart, really, because I was one of those people who totally bought The Nice Guy act.

This isn’t some feminazi tirade, berating someone simply because he happens to have a penis. If these allegations are true, this guy has some serious demons to exorcise. Abusers are quite often victims themselves. Hurt people hurt people and all that, and – being the good woman that I am – I believe that broken boys truly can be fixed. I watched it happen in my own life, where someone who did all the things described in that article to me on a regular basis for years, ultimately found help and turned his life around. I definitely don’t believe in the “tossing the baby out with the bath water” approach. There’s nothing evolved casting either party away as irredeemable. Nothing will ever get fixed this way. We’ll just stall and stagnate for another decade, while hurt people keep hurting people, enabling this vicious cycle indefinitely.

Perhaps now you can see why this all reminds me of sticking cut up hands into tomato juice. Spiced with jalapenos. Sprinkled with vodka.

Abuse is always, always wrong, but the real truth is that we will never really change these problematic dynamics unless we dig a little deeper than simply “bye Felicia.” Doing so means we risk it getting messier and more complicated.

We risk getting tomato juice in all those paper cuts we didn’t even know where there.

Some won’t power through because it hurts. Some will hesitate before they power through because it hurts. But it only hurts because something is wrong, and avoiding it fixes nothing. Eventually you gotta do what you gotta do to move past it.

I say this as gently as I can because here’s the painful truth: at some point, if we don’t change these toxic dynamics, some of us will become our own abusers simply because we think that’s what we deserve. These are cycles of trained behavior, and victims don’t get a free pass. They have to decide whether or not to break the cycle or, the easier option, perpetrate the abuse either outwardly or inwardly.

THIS is really my problem right now, and it took writing this blog to figure it out. Talk about falling bricks.

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The problem isn’t that I’m dealing with some ghostly residue from the 90s. The problem is that the 90s created a monster who now resides in my brain, ready to perpetuate the cycle of misery because *I* am now the abuser in question.

This is where I’ve been for the last three months, and I haven’t been able to get around it because… well… I’m both the hero AND villain in this scenario. One half of me wants to win this race, the other is continually trying to sabotage it.

Just like the last time around, when I put on weight in response to emotional and sometimes physical abuse, I find myself doing self-harm to perpetuate this bullshit mentality that I deserve to suffer… and for no other reason than how I fail so constantly at being perfect, which is a fool’s errand in the first fucking place.

Imagine the insanity. I want to be perfect, but I know I can’t be, so I fuck up so that I can have a reason to beat myself up about it. Impossible rules = excuse to abuse. I wouldn’t take this from anyone else, yet I’m a master at inflicting it on myself. I should be a master, I’ve had 48 years with a victim who can’t outrun me.

If I was a villain in one of my novels, you’d hate me. And rightly so. In all my years yearning for a Jace, I’ve become my own Eddie.

In a twist that I personally didn’t see coming, the abuser I wanted to blog about, to vent about, to purge so that I could move forward isn’t any of my exes, my family, my bosses, or any of those fair-weather friends who hug me with arms outstretched just so they can plunge a knife in my back.

Those bitches are gone, just like every other phantom haunting me is gone.

The abusive bitch standing in the way of my goals, simply because she doesn’t think I deserve them, is ME. And she spouts all the bullshit I have heard from other people, but no longer take from other people. If someone tried to “feed” me unhealthy food, then berate me for not being healthy, I’d tear the walls down. But here I am, continually telling myself, “Here, have some cake. It’ll make you feel better. BTW, no one likes you because you’re fat.”

And I take it.

Okay, so I’m not that overt about it. But it’s essentially the same thing. And I’ve been facing off with her for the last three. freaking. months. Recently I’ve had to do it on my own, since all my usual coaches are MIA, because life. I’ve been set adrift from my usual anchors. Slowly but surely my life has closed in until I’m isolated in the house, where all abusers like to keep their victims, so there’s really no where to run when I hear that shrill voice ringing in my head, the echo of everyone who has ever tried to tear me down.

It still stings like a bitch. It hurts because it is wrong. And the only way out of it is through… through the bullshit and through my last known abuser, someone I can’t discard. Someone I will still have to love, protect and heal when it’s all said and done.

Girl, I love ya, but I’m tired of your shit. This is gonna hurt, but… we are about to mud-wrestle through some tomato guts.

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I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be successful. And I deserve to be loved. There is nothing at all unworthy about me, despite my great sin of being imperfect.

It’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to fail, to fall, even when the whole world is watching. It’s okay to run around the stupid, endless circle of laughing morons until I can finally pull a win out of my ass.

Eventually, I will – because that’s what I do. I persevere. I endure. I last. Ultimately, inevitably, I conquer.

Time to pick myself up. Brush myself off. Give my own damned self a magical hug.

Go forth and kick much ass, Wounded Beautiful Imperfect Me.

You got this, girl. And for the first time in a long time, I’ve got you.

260 little reasons.

So I weighed in yesterday because it was March 1st and, for the first time in forever, I finally got a full night’s sleep. I wanted to see what that meant on the scale, and I was excited to see that I had broken through not only one but two milestones. I am now under 270 pounds and under 60% body fat.

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Confession: prior to surgery I had gotten as low as 266. It went so low, in fact, I was starting to get nervous, since I was home all the time and not getting proper exercise. It felt pretty drastic over the few weeks it took me to get surgery scheduled and I was actually kinda scared it was a bad thing.

Cancer + weight loss… seemed like a bad omen.

It was probably more to do with my cancer-fighting diet where I ate no processed sugar, I went low carb, filling my diet full of cancer-fighting fruits and veggies and nuts to battle the Beast the only way I could at the time.

At least that’s what I told myself then. In reality, the 260s are another ring in my emotional tree I have to conquer in order to kept blasting down the weight so I can finally conquer obesity.

I haven’t been looking forward to this part of the journey ever since Hal put it in my head that each milestone comes with the residual pain/mindset that made gaining weight preferable to dealing with the emotional/physical trauma I was going through at the time. The reason I haven’t been looking forward to it is because it involves someone else, someone whom I love, and these are not going to be good conversations. They make both of us look bad and make me feel bad. No bueno on either front.

I think most people who have been abused find a way to protect their abuser. What many don’t understand about abuse is how insidious it is. Most women will say if a man hit them, they’d be out the door in a second. But it doesn’t start there. It starts way far away from there, in this slow, gas-lighting process that whittles away at any amount of self-esteem you might possess to resist such negative, toxic relationships.

I know, because I was one of those women. At sixteen, when I used to live by Oprah, I swore NO MAN would ever abuse me. I grew up on the Burning Bed, FFS. I watched The Accused only once because it made me so angry I was ready to take a twig trimmer to any man I met. NO ONE, I swore, would ever make a victim of me.

Then love happened.

I was seventeen when I fell in love with my first husband, Dan. He was beautiful. He had long, blond hair, crystal blue eyes and he was the kind of man who made me feel safe in his presence. He was a good man, and I mean that even now, even after all that happened.

I met him through my mom, who worked at a convenience store at the time. I was seventeen, a bit of a hard-head, who was bound and determined to do what I wanted to do. No one could tell me anything back then. I’d been through hell, much of it by that point my own doing, and I wore my scars openly. I had no interest in her favorite customer until September 25, 1987, when I met him face to face for the first time.

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He looked straight out of a music video, or a Patrick Swazye movie, and I was immediately smitten. Mom’s stories of how good of a man he was, and he was a man at the time, 27 to my 17; how he’d walk her to her car in the ice so she wouldn’t fall, or how he’d coming running, literally, from his house a few blocks away if he heard a car backfire because he wanted to protect her from any gun-wielding wackos. He was kind and generous, and he was completely uninterested in a romantic relationship with me, but I didn’t let that stop me. I wanted what I wanted and I was going to get it, by God.

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I spent the next couple of years wearing down his defenses. I was impossible to shake, even though he tried a couple of times. We were friends, I wanted more. I lived in perpetual angst day in and day out. It was intense and dominated everything, like many love affairs that happen when we’re so young. Actually, ALL of my affairs have felt this way, but never anything like this. I was starring in my own soap opera, and everything around me fed off of it. Songs scored my soundtrack, all heart-wrenching ballads of unrequited love.

If you’re following my 25 Days, 25 Songs thing I’m doing on my official author page on Facebook, you’ll know today was “song that reminds you of your ex” day. This could have easily been the song that I chose:

I was hopelessly in love, and if you know me you know that there’s really no going back from that. Once I’m strapped into the ride, it would take dynamite to blast me out of it. If I love you, I love you hard and forever, that’s just the way I’m made up.

But he made it clear that he didn’t find me attractive. I was “friend-zoned” before it had a name. However, I’m a hopeless romantic so I hung in there. I let nothing deter me, even the occasional red flag. Instead I internalized all the flaws, because after all – the problem in the equation was that he didn’t want me. What was wrong with me?

This is not to say he was perfect. He had come from an abusive home, had bounced around from place to place, he was even on probation when I met him. I didn’t care about any of that. He was scarred like me, so it made me feel like less of a loser. He was also good-hearted like me, generous like me, he cared about things and people – I understood that he could be both really really good and really really messed up at the same time.

I didn’t know it way back then but he wasn’t necessarily messed up as he was sick. He made bad choices in manic/depressive episodes that had landed in him trouble with the law, alienated from his family, and – as I came to learn later – resulted in one bad mood away from being my worst nightmare.

The only real red flag I had about that happened one night when my cousins were hanging out with us and horseplay got a little out of hand. Remember, I was a hot head back then, so when I saw him knock down one of my teen cousins I jumped up to confront him, nose to nose, in his face.

He pushed me down onto the sofa behind me, so of course I shot back up even more pissed off. He pushed me down again, I jumped up again. The next time he pushed me down, I grabbed his arm and took him down with me. However with the momentum of this exchange, he ended up going right outside the big plate-glass window behind the sofa.

This engaged The Shadow, which is what Dan would later call his psychotic alter ego. The next thing I knew he was grabbing me from behind, putting me in a neck hold and threatening, in front of a house full of people btw, to snap my neck right then and there.

After a few tense moments, he finally released me and went outside, where his buddies joined him to help him calm down.

At that point, there was NO WAY I was going to calm down. I marched directly to the kitchen, grabbed a knife from the door and went outside to find him. I threw the knife at the ground at his feet and told him if he was going to do it, then he should just fucking do it.

Of course he didn’t, he was back to Dan at that point. Somehow it all smoothed over in a rednecky kind of way, and I was back to my hero worship of him within weeks.

Anyone who has been abused knows how this cycle goes. There’s an incident and then there’s the “honeymoon” phase, where they feel so guilty they will bend over backwards to ensure that nothing like that will ever happen again.

I really couldn’t tell you how long we’d known each other by then, but I do know it was long enough that I brushed it off as some isolated incident, brought about by the fact we both got a little out of control. I didn’t get up in his face without accepting there might be some consequences.

Again, I internalized.

By 1989, I had worn him down enough that our relationship finally turned physical. He wanted to move to California and I knew I never wanted to live without him, so off to CA we went, by car, with a few hundred dollars in our pocket. I expected to stay with my sister once we reached LA, but she decided against that. She didn’t want the whole thing to turn into some endless handout so instead she directed me towards the nearest welfare office and wished us good luck.

Off to the welfare office we went. He was approved for GA (general assistance,) which gave him some food stamps and a voucher for a single room at a hotel in downtown LA. When I say hotel, think of the place in Big that Tom Hanks had to stay when he first got to NY. It was that shady and that scary.

Since I had quit my job to run away with him, I wasn’t eligible for anything, which meant my only home was the car we brought with us from Texas. Dan, being the Dan I fell in love with, decided to forfeit his voucher and stay in the car with me, since he wasn’t about to leave me alone in a car on a street in the middle of big, scary city.

There we were, homeless in LA without a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, living out of our car, eating out of dumpsters, digging for any sort of change to buy a $0.33 taco or a $0.99 Pepsi just to get us through the day. We would spend time in Griffith Park, hiking forever in the mountains there since it was something we could do for free, and as long as we wanted.

Ironically, I went from the 220lbs I was when I met him to probably under 200. My size 20 jeans were nearly falling off about a month or so into our homelessness. It was the thinnest I had ever been in my adult life.

thingin

By April of 1989 I was pregnant with my oldest son Tim, which, unfortunately, flipped the Shadow’s trigger BIG time. We were homeless, jobless, had no money and suddenly there was a baby to consider, so the stressors kicked in BIG time.

Actually, I paint a grim pictures. I actually DID have a job when I got pregnant. I went to one of those trade school things to get an office administrator job and had finally gotten hired by some folks in Encino. He was working pretty steadily with day labor.

But we were in no shape to have a kid, and Dan never wanted any anyway. Suddenly he was angry at everything. And he didn’t leave, because he didn’t feel he could.

My pregnancy is where the abuse started in earnest, particularly after my mother rescued us and we all went up to Fresno to start over. There were some intense, scary moments, there was also an outside relationship. He got a job working at my mom’s store and had a customer, female, who he talked to and about endlessly. There was no ring on my finger after all, and let’s face it: he settled for me because I had worn him down, but I was never his ideal. He had been trying to get me to lose weight almost from the beginning, and even told me once when he saw an obese woman that he never wanted to see me get to the point where my gut hung down over anything else.

In my effort to soothe myself, I did what I had always done: I ate. Being pregnant made this a thousand times harder, because I had horrible all-day-sickness for the first five months. I ate what would stay down, which wasn’t at all good for me. Sugar, check. Fat, check. Proceed food, check. Caffeine… you name it.

I gained sixty pounds with that pregnancy, which meant I was 260lbs when my son Tim was born in 1990.

I don’t believe I’ve gotten under that since. I was 260 when I got pregnant with Jer and 290 with Brandon. The abuse was probably a big part of it. I was subconsciously building a barrier between Dan and me, one I knew he wouldn’t want to cross. It affected our intimacy to the point I can tell you exactly when Jeremiah was conceived because of how rare of an event lovemaking actually became.

“So Ginger… why did you stay?”

I wish I had an easy answer. I still loved the man I fell in love with, though I despised the evil twin who would come out whenever I was least expecting. That’s a very confusing place to be, and I didn’t really know how to handle ANY of it. What do you do if you love the person you hate, or hate the person you love, but still, after everything, need them to breathe? Dan was the reason I related to ANY Diane Warren song. I didn’t know how to live with him and I didn’t know how to live without him, even when I also relied on an outside relationship to get me through the bullshit.

If you have ever read Enticed, you can see how I split the two personalities in between two brothers. It was the only way to deal with my own spitfire 16-year-old inside who kept screaming at me that this was not cool. We were NEVER supposed to let someone run us over.

Yet, when he cheated – I stayed. When he threw hot coffee on me when I was pregnant and cornered in a bathroom – I stayed. When he pushed me down and threatened to bash my skull in – I stayed. When he chased me upstairs with a knife – I stayed.

By that point I was both financially crippled and emotionally entangled, which, some trivia for the readers, was the original title of Enticed. And that was what we were, entangled. I was worried if I ever made a break for it, my whole life would come down, starting with the deaths of the people I loved, whom The Shadow threatened if I ever even HINTED I was ready to bolt.

When he wasn’t The Shadow, things were not only bearable, they felt “right.” We had kids. We finally married. And I didn’t want to give up on the Dan I first fell in love with, because after all – THIS was what I had always wanted. I vowed my love would save him. Without me, he would have been lost. And I never would have forgiven myself for that.

I was 21, 22, 23, 24 and I carried the world on my shoulders.

So I did what I always did: I just piled on the pounds and prayed for the best, which eventually happened when we realized that his problems were due to his mental illness. He wasn’t an evil man, he was sick, which was a relief. It made it okay to love him again, to defend him again, to carry on and try to piece together our happily ever after, despite the burning wreckage it had often proven to be. For better, for worse, right? Sickness and in health. He needed me more after he was medicated than he had before he was, and only a cold-hearted bitch would have left him when he was most vulnerable.

By then the die was cast.

When I see 260-whatever on the scale, I am transported back to the 1990s when my life was a huge, scary mess. And I think it triggered hard when I first saw those numbers on the scale a month ago, prior to surgery, when I was also facing another really scary beastie named Cancer.

This is what I’m going to have to work through to lose these next nine pounds, which really doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? It feels like climbing Mount Everest though. Worse, there’s a fair amount of guilt involved given the fact that, once Dan realized he could be treated, he turned his entire life around to do what was right for his family. He defeated the Shadow at last, and I never, ever want to diminish that accomplishment by dragging up all the bad shit. That’s in the past, buried where it belongs.

That is my ring in the tree. I stood by a man I believed to be intrinsically good, though he sometimes did really bad things. I both hated him and loved him. I was both afraid of him and ready to battle anyone on his behalf.

And in the end I don’t regret loving him because it gave me my two amazing sons, who take the best of their dad with them into this world every day. What broke him, I had to fix for my kids, and that’s a rocky road I’ve managed to conquer. Their lives are better than his life, which is all we ever wanted for them.

But yeah. It’s gonna be rough. This was the first part of it, tearing off the shades of nostalgia to look this pain in the face again. The good news is I’m older now, and the 48-year-old Ginger would never tolerate the stuff her younger counterpart did, so by that very definition I can’t beat her up for not doing better or knowing better. Yeah, her path hurt people, including her own children, but when I look at my sons and our life now I can’t be anything but grateful to have survived it all. I can’t hold onto the guilt, the shame, the self-loathing anymore and defeat this tightening ring.

It was the path I walked and I chose to walk, that made me who I am today. It’s time to turn this jagged scar into a tattoo, or pour gold into the crack. That starts by feeling the pain and allowing it to hurt, like alcohol on the wound.

The only way out of the 260s is through.

I’m digging out, you guys.

Sometimes you gotta slap ’em in the face to get their attention.

Scrooged is one of my favorite holiday films. I watch it every Christmas Eve, and have for as long as I’ve had access to make that choice for myself. I owned the VHS. I own the DVD. I’ll watch it when it comes on TV. It’s a very easy tradition to keep, and one that I look forward to every single year. The movie is the perfect mix of humor, absurdity and heart, so I relate to it very well.

For those who haven’t seen it, the incomparable Bill Murray plays a Scrooge-like TV executive who faces three ornery ghosts who each show him the error of his ways, motivating him to change his indulgent self-serving behavior so he can become a better person.

One of those ghosts is played by Carol Kane, one of the few people in the world who can actually upstage Bill. She’s a glittery, cheery spirit who dresses and speaks like a fairy, but who also happens to be a sadist.

Her philosophy is simple: the truth hurts. And sometimes, for the truly stubborn among us… it needs to kick you in the balls and bring you to your knees for you to get the message.

To me, so far, 2018 is Carol Kane’s demented truth fairy. How my year is going can be summed up in one sentence: I got diagnosed with cancer on January 3, and my husband had a heart attack on January 14.

Welcome to 2018.

Yesterday Steven wasn’t feeling all that well at work. He had a heaviness in his chest that led to some dizziness and sweating. He ended up calling 9-1-1, who picked him up from his job and took him to the hospital. His blood pressure was high, 180/120, and the EKG showed an abnormality. Once he got to the hospital, their EKG didn’t show the same abnormality so they decided to keep him for observation. The kids and I raced up to the hospital, where we thought – at first – that he would simply be kept in the ER overnight to ensure he was okay.

They took another EKG and found the same abnormality, which changed all their plans. It turned out he *was* having a heart attack, which meant they needed to perform an angioplasty. Unfortunately, their cardiac team already had someone in the cath lab and he had to wait. To treat him, they provided powerful blood thinners. “Clot-busters,” they said. This made every decision thereafter a little more challenging, given the risk of bleeding.

And, just like they said, he started bleeding minutes into taking this medication. His gums, the IV sight… it was scary to watch, though they said it was completely normal.

Let me just say that nothing about this year so far has been normal. N’ I’m gonna freak out accordingly, mmkay?

The night before we had binged the show Disjointed, a Netflix comedy about a woman who runs a marijuana dispensary. I had already binged it with my bestie the night before, and realized that as we got to the final few episodes of the season that the story line got a little too real for my tastes. The finale wrecked both Jeff and me. We sobbed together as we watched, and then felt all out of sorts the next day because of the weight of a message a little too heavy for a show about pot. This light-hearted silly comedy tackled the undeniable nature of mortality, which is a tough lil nugget for anyone in my circle right now.

But, despite the painful nature of it, I decided to watch it again with my family, since it’s a show we’ve all grown to love. Watching it together makes it even more fun – usually. I gave them a warning I wish I had had, but the message still kicked us all in the proverbial balls. Steven, for the first time since I was diagnosed, faced the mortal risk cancer poses. It was really rough for him. Really, really rough for him.

Maybe that’s why he wasn’t playing around with these bothersome symptoms. Either way, I’m glad he listened to his body and reached out for help. The culprit was a minor artery branch that had a 90% blockage. They went in and opened it up with a couple of stints, which required another artery it was leading into to be opened as well.

He’s in the hospital in ICU recovering. He was in good spirits when I left, no pain, his blood pressure was coming down thanks to some medication they gave him. I didn’t want to leave him at all, but the stressful day kinda kicked me in the nether regions as well. I experienced cramps and some spotting, so I had to go home to take my progesterone and get some rest of my own.

The medication helped, though rest was hard to come by.

I could have lost my husband yesterday, had he been a little more stubborn like we’ve both always been.

But life was there to slap us in our faces to get our attention.

Attention officially got, demented Truth Fairy.

Despite this run of seemingly bad luck, I can’t help but be exceedingly grateful. Things aren’t great, granted. I have cancer and my husband just had a heart attack. These are huge, scary things. But the fact we got both of these in time to do anything about it is literally a godsend. Some folks never get that chance. My first husband Dan didn’t get that chance. He died of a massive heart attack at the age of 43. One second he was here, the next he was gone.

We’re going through the gauntlet right now, but we’re both still in the race. We’ve got a lot heaped on our backs to keep going, but we’re not out of options. As long as we’re breathing we have options. The fact that we do is a reason to celebrate, not a reason to curse the universe, despite the temptation being very high to do so.

One thing I’ve done to cope with the fog of uncertainty that still permeates my condition is to do what I’ve always done: plan. Formulate a plan of action, implement it, make changes, see progress. That’s my goal in everything I do, from writing a book to getting through a Monday.

As someone who believes that food is a medicine, I immediately started researching what foods I need to eat to battle this new foe. I have a new Pinterest board called F*ck Cancer where I’m tucking helpful information, including recipes to prepare foods that I never used to prepare. Some of these things I have no idea how to use, like turmeric or chia seeds. And some foods, I’m not a big fan of in the first place. We’ve often been told bitter is better, but I’m not a fan of bitter foods. Guess what fights cancer? Yep. You got it.

Worse, of all the food I’ve eaten, only two made me gag the moment I tasted them: liver and beets. Guess what is a cancer-fighting superfood?

beetroot

liarliarpuke

So I’m like, okay. Buck up, buttercup. Grow up and learn to like food that is actually good for you, rather than all that overly processed, high-sugar shit you’ve been feeding yourself for years. (Since, by the directive of my oncology nurse, sugar is a no-no and I need to avoid it.) I’ve made almost all of my food choices based on indulgence, in no small part because of what happened to me when I was four. I’ve been self-soothing with treats to make myself feel better ever since.

I have no choice but to make new choices.

Like Bill Murray’s Scrooge character Frank Cross, I don’t HAVE to end up where my current choices were taking me, and thanks to 2018 – my cheery sadist of spirit-fairy – I’ve now been slapped hard in the face and kicked harder in the lady balls, I’m completely aware of that now.

Thanks to yesterday, so is Steven. We can make better choices. We can change our destiny. And when bestowed with this gift of a second chance, why wouldn’t we want to?

Mortality is certain, sure. But like Disjointed pointed out, “I want to be with him until I can’t be with him anymore.” That’s how I feel about the people I love, and I know that’s how Steven feels too.

This is our chance to make that time extend a little longer.

Just like Frances Xavier Cross, I know – deep down in my soul – choices made from love can make all the difference i the world. It’s the only fight that means anything. And it’s worth it. For every extra second we can scrounge to be with the ones we love.

I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not letting him go.

It’s time to change how our story ends, by changing how we write our story now. We still have a chance. We still have hope. And by a miracle of God, we still have each other.

As I learned 23 years ago today, that’s not always guaranteed.

That’s why we will take our lumps and face these hard truths… and change.

For the better.

For the best.

 

 

“We can rebuild her. We have the technology.”

As you may have noticed, I didn’t have a blog entry for last week. And it wasn’t because there wasn’t anything to talk about. I actually had a positive update, having lost nearly three pounds that week AND finally dipping under 290. You would have thought I’d have been shouting from the rooftops.

Instead I was unconscious on pain pills.

See, this is the main issue with my ongoing struggle with back pain. The “cure” often sidelines me every bit as much as the pain. Maybe more so, because it affects my very consciousness.

Those who know me know that I have two jobs: the nine-to-five that pays the bills and the writing career. It kills my soul daily that I have to regulate my dream to ‘hobby hours,’ just to be able to survive. It’s a compromise. It’s not the ideal. And this year, my opportunity to make inroads as a screenwriter has monopolized those few hours I do get to chase my dream, which means I have seriously neglected the part of my career that has made me the most money.

But whatever it takes, right? These are the perimeters in which I’m forced to operate, so I have to navigate these narrow corridors as best I can.

I can’t do that unconscious, which is where western medicine leaves me when my back decides to take a powder. The only thing they can do for me is A.) give me strong medication I’m loath to take and B.) steal all the rest of my precious time away on every new gamble that MAYBE this new thing will work longer than the old thing.

This week I had my first appointment with the physical medicine department. This was supposed to be for an epidural shot for the pain. My thought was, no – I don’t really want a shot in my back but if it gets me upright and stabilized, it’s worth it.

But remember in my last blog, when I said that going to the doctor again for my back meant I knew I was getting back on the merry-go-round with more tests to needle down the “cause” and the “cure”? Well, this appointment was that, even though he actually did a range of motion test and actually listened to me when I talked to him. When I told him what the previous doctor said about weight, he conceded that weight can be an issue but there are just simply folks who are going to suffer from chronic back pain, heavy or thin. He said weight management was something that they often discussed, but really the issue was strengthening the core muscles that surround the back to stabilize it.

His focus was my back, not my weight. It was refreshing. (I can ONLY hope it wasn’t because my husband was there at the appointment with me.)

Honestly I got the impression that the shot was really a small part in the overall cure, and I could pursue it if I wanted but isolating the root cause (which at this point really points to nerve pain since it radiates down through my hip and into my leg) and dealing with it through that strengthening of the core was really the bigger focus of the treatment.

This starts with an MRI to rule out that there isn’t any disc damage now that wasn’t there eleven years ago when I had the last one.

I haven’t scheduled it yet, mostly because I’m a big baby who is extraordinarily claustrophobic. The last time I had one, I nearly flipped out being slid into that silly machine. I will, don’t worry, I just need a little time to wrap my mind around it and gear up to it.

In the meantime he offered yet another pill to help deal this time with the nerve pain. It’s called Nortriptyline and it’s an anti-depressant, which was not good news for me. I hate anti-depressants because I have yet to take one that makes me feel legitimately better. Most either make me go numb or kill my creativity and steal away the parts that make me “me.” I’ve been on Paxil, on Wellbutrin, on Effexor – and none of them have ever made me feel “normal.” Much like the pain pills that steal precious hours away from me by knocking my ass out, they steal so much more from me than they give. Considering my past history with suicide, I want nothing – NOTHING – to do with anything that could exacerbate that risk.

Both Chris Cornell and Robin Williams were being treated for their depression with medication, and still succumbed to the unthinkable. That scares the shit out of me. I’m barely holding on sometimes as it is. I don’t want the very life-saver I’m clutching to turn into pure led and drag me down to the depths as I struggle to keep afloat.

He explained that this wouldn’t work like that because at such a small dose (10mg,) it would work on the nerve pain when taken nightly with the Tramadol I was already taking. I just couldn’t take it during the day because it would make me sleepy (big FUCKING surprise) and he advised NOT to take it with the  muscle relaxer.

So I was like, fine. Whatever. Get me mobile, doc. Then we can worry about the “real” cure – which essentially means I’m going to have to devote my precious time and attention to working on my back. I just need to get past the acute stage of pain first.

The second warning bell went off at the pharmacy, when I experienced a delay getting the prescription filled because the pharmacy needed the doctor himself to clear it, considering there was an issue with taking Tramadol and Nortriptyline together.

But I have to trust the doctor, right? So did the pharmacy, apparently, who filled the order finally. They gave me a box of pills set up with weekly therapy: one pill a night for the first week and if that wasn’t effective, I could increase it to two doses a night for the next week. If that didn’t work, go to three for week three, four to week four or finally five doses on week five – with a maximum dose of 50mg nightly as needed for pain. I was told, however, to take the lowest effective dosage, which was fine with me considering I didn’t really want to take this new pill at all.

But desperate times called for desperate measures.

I did tell my husband, my bestie and my kids, though – if you see me demonstrate ANY questionable behavior, please say something. DO something. Don’t let this new fucking pill gaily trip along my subconscious, turning off every filter that keeps me in what narrow control I currently have.

That first night I took the first pill with my Tramadol and still had a helluva time letting myself fall asleep. The whole thing at the pharmacy really fucked with my head. IS this safe to take together? I mean, yes, a guy in a white coat assured me it was fine, but the one and only time I had a hallucination was on prescribed medicine, under a doctor’s advice. I was taking Tramadol that time too, and my doc prescribed Ambien to help me sleep. You wouldn’t think I’d need it on such heavy pain medication, but after a while, it doesn’t make you sleep anymore, and I had been on it for a good little bit by that point. I made the mistake of taking the two together and whoa, nelly. It was a wild ride. I gave up on the Ambien a week into taking it, which resulted in one of the worst panic attacks of my life.

I hate, hate, hate pills. Hate em. HATE.

But, to my delight and surprise, the pills actually started to work this time around. I felt better. I slept better. I was moving with very little thought, which meant the pain was actually, finally, inhibited.

For two days anyway.

By Day Three, I started experiencing troubling side effects. I was at work that morning and I was getting dizzier by the minute, which made me nauseated. My heart started to race and I knew that a panic attack was setting in, which makes it hard as hell to work when you’re spending 100% of your energy trying to normalize. I made the HUGE mistake of going online to figure out if these were side effects of the new medication. Why was the pharmacy so reticent to fill this prescription?

As anyone in a post Internet world knows, if you already feel bad and you start to self-diagnose with what you find on the web, you’re going to convince yourself that you’re gonna die. This is never a good idea when you’re on the verge of a panic attack. By the time I got to “serotonin syndrome,” I was freaking the fuck out. This condition can occur thanks to certain medication that causes serotonin to accumulate in your brain, kinda like, oh… Nortriptyline AND Tramadol, and symptoms run the gamut from nausea/vomiting to seizures and DEATH.

Panic attack mode: secured.

Unlike the panicky feeling I would get on certain strains/dosages of cannabis, where I was secure in the knowledge that no one had actually ever DIED from it, I no longer had that assurance. Now I had this potentially fatal cocktail coursing through my body and nothing to do but read the signs and pray it on the more benign side of the side effects scale.

Quite a gamble if you ask me, and an expensive one at that. Hence my biggest issue about Big Pharma and cannabis prohibition.

So that night I didn’t take either pill. Fuck all that noise. I’m not going to get killed by the cure. The very day I went to the new doctor I nearly passed out at work because of this toxic mix of man-made chemicals screwing up my body chemistry – and I was still in pain on top of it all.

The new meds helped with the pain, finally, but I’m not sure that it’s worth wondering if every little twinge I get is something significantly worse than any other normal twinge. I’ve never had a seizure, but they don’t look like a whole lot of fun.

So what’s the answer? Well, the doc gave me the answer. It’s not in a pill, or a shot. I have a bad back and it sucks to be me, but them’s just the cards I was dealt. And wouldn’t you know it, everything I want is on the other side of pain and I have to do – big surprise – whatever it takes to get to the other side of it. So I’m going to have to do the exercises, the stretches, the physical therapy to strengthen the core, even when I have to fight through excruciating pain to do it. There is no shortcut, much as I would like there to be.

I do, however, think there is something to my theory that it might involve something in my reproductive system. When my period hit this past week, it was another hellish one. I was passing 3-inch clots and experiencing such horrendous cramps that, with combined with the back pain, put me at a steady “9” on the pain scale, just one hair away from unbearable. I cruise normally around 2 or 3, but with back pain it can go as high as 7 or 8.

If I’m sobbing in my husband’s arms for ten minutes straight, just because I can’t handle one more moment of pain, I’d say that there’s a major fucking problem. I’ve been dealing with this shit for more than a decade. I barely break.

This is breaking me, which is why I reached out for help in the first fucking place.

And the Internet sources agree. “Talk to your doctor,” they said, if a clot is bigger than a quarter.

Yeah, I tried that. She told me I was too fat and this was normal lady stuff. But, you know. Whatever.

I did file a grievance with this particular doctor and asked to get another provider. Now it looks like I have to pay yet ANOTHER co-pay (along with what I paid the doc in physical medicine and probably the MRI too) to go see an OB/GYN just to get my issues addressed.

Getting nickled and dimed while I’m strung along for weeks, and still nothing is getting fixed?

Sounds like western medicine to me.

Fuck the system. That’s all I’m saying.

I can’t be unconscious for weeks and I refuse to live in a constant state of panic. I’ve got shit to do. I’ve got a final rewrite to do on this script, which I haven’t even been able to address because I’ve been in too much pain or medicated into a coma. After that, I need to – absolutely and positively NEED to – write another book. My career is flat-lining and my creative soul is gasping its final, dying breath to express itself.

If I don’t get back to “me” – and soon – there may not be anything left.

It’s not going to be easy, and I know it’s going to hurt like a mother, but I have to fix this the old fashioned way. I’ve got to grit my teeth and do whatever it takes to make my incredible body as strong as it can be. Because it can be. I can make it so.

I can do this. Whatever it takes.

Just… don’t judge me if I cry, okay?