Category: rants

People Ruin Everything #1

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The above image of a baby platypus has been floating around Facebook lately.
The platypus has been my favorite animal for as long as I can remember. This is obviously a fake baby platypus, but that doesn’t make it any less adorable. The stuffed bunny I sleep hugging in an unnerving display of arrested development is also a fake, but that doesn’t make Super Bun-Bun magically not cute.

(Don’t you come for Super Bun-Bun. You don’t want this.)

When I shared it on Facebook so that those who like to squee might squee along with me, I commented: “Also, please don’t tell me if it’s not real. I need this, you guys. I need to live in a world where this exists.”

Almost immediately, a white male mansplained facts about platypuses to me that I’ve known since I was an animal-obsessed kid.
Then, a bunch of people who rarely comment on my posts crawled out of the woodwork to crap on my dreams and tell me it isn’t a real baby platypus.
A conspiracy theorist who is convinced that turmeric cures cancer and posts memes about how “enlightened” she is because people think she’s crazy, all while using the grammar of a left-behind 3rd grader actually went to the trouble of finding a baby platypus image to “prove me wrong.”
Someone else shared a photo gallery of baby platypuses, just to make sure I couldn’t for one second longer feel happy about this picture.

All of these Facebook folks obviously missed the point when I jokingly acknowledged I was aware it’s not a real baby platypus with my comment.

debbiedowner
Hey! Because you asked us NOT to do this, we’re going to make sure we DO it.
Why? Because we’re negative assholes! Duh!


So rather than just “letting me have it,” as I begged, all these jerks decided to make it their mission to waste minutes of their day “taking it away” and condescendingly explaining facts about my favorite animal to me–as if I am not allowed to Google things, too.

I’m writing to let all these miserable Facebookers know that no matter what anyone says, I STILL BELIEVE IN THIS BABY PLATYPUS. And I, too, can see it was made by someone on Deviant Art if I search “baby platypus” just like all you dipshits did, but I STILL BELIEVE.

See how that works?
 
Also, I think I’d like to exchange my Facebook friends for better friends who don’t gleefully crap all over my dreams and mansplain animal facts at me, please.
 
Thank you for listening. I hope you have a day full of living, breathing, and real platypuses that look exactly like this one.
 
P.S. I ALREADY KNEW THE MALES HAVE POISONOUS BARBS IN THEIR HIND LEGS, DOUGLAS. PISS OFF.

youruingoodthings

The Dentist

(Writing from May 20, 2011.)
***
This is what it is like to get a five-year-old boy to the dentist for his 6-month check-up in my world:

6:30 am: He wakes up. Drinks his morning cup of milk. Refuses to eat breakfast.

6:45 am: I nag him to put on the clothes I picked out, and then we go to the bathroom where I brush his teeth twice with his electric toothbrush so they will be clean for the dentist. He refuses to use the toilet before we leave, insisting he doesn’t need to go.

7:15 am: We walk to the car where I strap him into his car seat, or “trap him” as he calls it. He turns on his Discovery Kids MP3 Player boombox and proceeds to play a song his father wrote and recorded over and over again during the drive to the dentist. He also does this every single morning and afternoon during the rides to and from school. Needless to say, I love his father very much, and think he has a beautiful voice, but I am really tired of hearing him sing.

7:30 am: My son informs me from the backseat that he has just pooped his pants. When I ask him how this happened, he tells me that he “gambled and lost,” which is code in our family for when you think you only need to fart and are mistaken. Very disgustingly mistaken.

7:31 am: I rage silently, wondering like I do in such moments how I went from playing guitar and singing in rock bands in Los Angeles to wiping up the shit of another human being in Oklahoma.

7:32 am: My son asks, “Well? Are we going to turn around the car and drive home for new underwear for me?”

7:33 am: I rage silently. More rock band versus poop contemplation.

7:34 am: I tell him that we can’t cancel this appointment last minute and there isn’t enough time to run home as we are now more than halfway there, so we’re going to try to clean him up when we get there. If the mess is too bad, we have a spare pair of underwear and shorts in his school backpack we will use.

7:35 am: He turns his father’s song back up so we can both enjoy it all the way to the dentist. The car continues to reek of shit and frustration.

7:45 am: We arrive at the dentist’s office 15 minutes early. I pat myself on the back for being so neurotic that I am 15 minutes early to every appointment, because today this quality has enabled me to clean poop off of my son’s buttocks and still be on time. Yes, today, poop has validated one of my neuroses, and probably not for the last time.

7:50 am: I walk with my son to the elevators and take them to the 4th floor. We enter the ladies’ room and crowd into a stall together. I wipe him off and am pleasantly surprised to discover that his underpants are cleanable. I can work with these Scooby Doo doo-doo stained drawers. The emergency pair of Wall-E underpants in his school backpack can remain there in case they are needed later.

7:55 am: We walk into the dentist’s office with 5 minutes to spare. The receptionist has just arrived and is putting her purse on her desk. She tells me in a chipper voice that they have a staff meeting in the back and leaves. The office is completely empty, so my son runs to the Thomas the Train table and begins to play. I grab an In Style magazine and sit down on a nearby couch, excited to indulge my superficial magazines fetish, as I stopped subscribing to all magazines two years ago to save money. (Well, except for one. I can’t give up Elle Décor. I need to be able to look at beautiful places, even if I can’t afford them.)

8:00 am: My Type-A starts itching as nobody reappears from the back to staff the receptionist area. “I hold others to the same high punctuality standards to which I hold myself” is what I’ll tell you if I’m trying to make myself look kinder, but really, if I’m being honest, I’m a little bit bitchy about lateness. I don’t like it when people waste my time. People can make all the excuses for their lateness in the world, but what someone is really saying by being late is that they consider their time more important than everyone else’s, and that’s rude.

8:05 am: Still waiting for the receptionist to return from the staff meeting. Wondering what’s happening at a dental staff meeting that is more important than keeping an 8 am appointment with one of the customers who pays for said staff. Start visualizing scenarios messing with receptionist’s desk while she’s in the back. Might enjoy placing a random object from the waiting room directly in the middle of the desk, such as a magazine opened to an odd advertisement. Or a potted plant. Will feign innocence if confronted, despite the fact that we’re the only ones here. Will suggest ghosts if accusations continue. It’s good to have a back-up plan.

8:06 am: Son stops playing with train set and runs over to me with a frantic look on his face, exclaiming that he needs to poop. Now. We run out the door and down the hall to the restroom.

8:07 am: I stand in a dingy, dirty public restroom stall while my son has explosive diarrhea, trying to lean as far away from him as 3 feet will allow in an attempt to escape the smell. He will not let me leave the stall because I made him use the ladies’ room and he feels like he’s not supposed to be in there without me by his side. Lucky me.

8:11 am: I help him clean up (i.e. wipe his ass) and we hurry back to the dental office. He plays with the Thomas toy and I wait, annoyed that I actually worried about getting here on time for his 8 am appointment.

8:17 am: Finally, the receptionist calls my son back for his appointment. I settle in for trashy magazine reading, mellow overhead music listening, and people watching of those now entering waiting room.

8:18 am: I think about what the opposite of a “wonderland” might be, and what John Mayer might sing about my post-pregnancy body. Would my body be a scary theme park, or perhaps some sort of roller coaster ride for the very brave and foolish?

8:24 am: I try not to twitch visibly as I listen to a woman whose son is playing with the Thomas toy call it “rasslin’” instead of wrestling, and pronounce the word “cement” as “SEE-ment.” I decide she probably calls it “EYE-talian” dressing too, and try to focus on my crappy magazine.

8:35 am: I wonder why they aren’t done looking at my kid’s teeth. They’re tiny — like little white Chiclets. They aren’t even doing x-rays today. How long should this really take?

8:40 am: I send my husband snarky texts about how long the appointment is taking and the excellent people watching I’m experiencing in this waiting room. He suggests “Your body is Silver Dollar City,” or maybe, “Your body is Six Flags” for my own personal John Mayer ballad, and I don’t really know how to take it.

8:45 am: The dentist and his assistant call me to the back to discuss my son’s teeth. My boy runs circles around us while we talk as I try to get him to be still, to no avail. I am trying to listen attentively to the dental people, and he is fully aware of this, taking advantage of my diverted focus. The dentist and assistant both comment on how “active” he is, with big, sympathetic eyes when I agree that, yes, he never stops in a weary, haunted voice. The dentist tells me he is the father of 6 boys and it occurs to me that a man with 6 kids is actually giving me sympathetic looks about the rambunctiousness of my child. I am momentarily humiliated by this realization, but then I have to stop my son from lifting a glass coffee table into the air to “show us how strong he is,” which breaks my shame spiral.

8:46 am: I interrupt the dentist to tell my son that the boomerang they’ve given him as a reward is an outdoor toy only because he’s started throwing it across the room.

8:47 am: Dentist and assistant recognize that conversation is pointless because my crazed, manic child will destroy the waiting room if I don’t stop him, and we part with pleasantries.

8:48 am: I make the appointment for his next 6 month checkup while he runs to the waiting room. I find him there hiding magazines inside the toy box “as a funny joke.” I would normally get the magazines out and put them back where they belong, but feel justified wasting the time of whichever employee will have to do this chore because they’ve made me wait so much this morning. I leave them. We walk out the door and head down the hall to the elevators.

8:49 am: My son screams, “I lost my boomerang!” and runs frantically back down the hallway to the dentist’s office. He finds the boomerang, and we leave again, after he shouts, “We found it! We found my boomerang!” to the entire waiting room, and the receptionist who manages to somehow look condescending and amused by my psychological discomfort at the same time. She is clearly not excited for us.

8:55 am: My son snarfs down an entire bowl of dry Cheerios in the car during the trip to his school. I drop him off and drive home.

9:15 am: I arrive at home. I am already exhausted. I decide that parenting a hyperactive 5-year-old boy is kind of like playing in a rock band with a coke-head, so really, my life isn’t all that different than it used to be, right?

Why You Should Never Buy a Dell Computer

 

Years ago, my husband and I bought a Dell desktop for our home computer. Despite having all the latest security software, it caught multiple viruses and malware. Their customer service/tech department was absolutely worthless and unhelpful. We had to hire someone locally to remove the malware each time.

The third time this happened, we decided to not pay someone to remove the viruses, and instead use the money we were wasting on the Dell desktop to buy laptops from Toshiba instead.

We never had a problem with viruses again.

“We will never again buy a Dell!” we said.

***

When my Toshiba laptop died after many years of service (fair enough), I bought a Lenovo laptop to replace it. The Lenovo runs like a dream (I’m typing this on it right now) but I ordered a 17″ and it’s the largest 17″ laptop I’ve ever experienced. Like holding a very quiet, flat baby on my lap. (My old 17″ Toshiba laptop fit inside it with inches to spare on all sides? The Lenovo is big!)

My husband is 6’5″ and a big laptop suits him fine, so I passed the Lenovo onto him, and began my search for an affordable 14-15″ laptop for myself.

The news reported around this time that Lenovo was sending out computers with malware pre-installed, so rather than buy a smaller Lenovo, I shopped other brands for a smaller laptop.

***

I found a Dell laptop in my price range, and my husband ominously warned me: “Remember all the problems we had with the Dell desktop! DON’T BUY A DELL!”

But it was cute. I liked the keyboard, with the large “Shift” key, rather than the annoying chopped in half and shared by the “up arrow” keyboard design utilized by Lenovo.

Plus, the price was right.

Forgetting that you get what you pay for, I bought the Dell that seemed like a good deal.

Big mistake.

I immediately noticed something was wrong when I turned it on for the first time, and it flashed a bright light in my face. I get migraines that can be triggered by a bright light in my face, so I learned to turn my head to the side and close my eyes tightly every time I needed to restart the Dell laptop.

I didn’t call Dell for this issue because I figured it was a quirk. It seemed a bit ominous, but I didn’t want to have a stranger poking around in my new laptop trying to troubleshoot.

I think we can all agree that in a world full of identity theft, having a stranger remotely connect to one’s computer full of personal information and stored credit card numbers is not desirable or safe.

So I dealt with the flashing light upon every Dell laptop start up. I should have recognized it for the piece of junk it was and sent it back for a refund right then. If you have bought a Dell laptop in the last year and are still under warranty, I’d suggest you do exactly that.

***

Around this time, we switched Internet carriers, because the one we’d been using had become so popular in our neighborhood that we were competing with many, and could barely get on the Internet.

My Dell laptop had been dropping my Wi-Fi connection, then picking it back up over and over again. This was frustrating, but because our poor Internet connection, I assumed it wasn’t the machine’s fault.

When we got a different and better Internet provider, the Internet improved, and I could stay on for 5-10 minutes at a time before the Wi-Fi dropped me.

This problem slowly, gradually became worse, until I could barely stay on the Internet for a few minutes without being dropped. The Wi-Fi reconnects the Dell laptop to the Internet, then it drops it 1-3 minutes later.

This repeats until after losing my email, Facebook comment, or the writing on which I’ve been working, I finally give up and shut the computer, frustrated and disappointed.

On the positive side, I’m wasting less time on social media because it isn’t fun anymore. So… bright side?

***

My Dell laptop year warranty ran out in March. This means my computer, as of this writing is a few months past a year old. And it is completely worthless.

That’s right. The Dell Inspiron laptop I bought a bit over a year ago is now worthless.

This is not fair.

Dell seems to think this is fair, and that I should spend more money on the piece of junk they sold me. Strange, yes? I’ll explain…

I searched the Internet for a solution and when I put “dell laptops+dropping wifi” into the search engine, endless results appeared. This is a flaw, apparently, for Dell laptops in general.

Search it if you don’t believe me. I was blown away by all of the people explaining all of the very technical things they’d done and parts they’d replaced to try to fix this problem, all of the stories sounding exactly like mine:

“My Dell laptop started dropping the Wi-Fi connection, this got slowly worse and worse until I can no longer get on the Internet for more than a minute, and there is no solution.”

This is so depressing. We are not rich people. We cannot afford a new laptop, and I’m homeschooling my son next year. This means our family will share my husband’s Lenovo… for EVERYTHING.

I don’t know what we’ll do if something happens to this laptop.

I’m going to take a minute now to thank Lenovo for their vastly superior product to the horrible Dell product. I bought this Lenovo long before the Dell, and I can’t get on the Internet anymore with the Dell, but I’m typing this and I haven’t once lost the Internet the entire time.

I think that says it all.

Lenovo = quality.

Dell = crap.

(Lenovo stopped adding the malware mentioned above… they will get my money next time we can afford a laptop.)

***

When I warned friends to not buy a Dell laptop on Twitter, Dell reached out to me. After I gave them my computer’s Service Number, they told me sorry, you’re a few months past warranty. Call our out-of-warranty number.

Wow. Thanks for nothing.

***

When I called the Dell out-of-warranty number, an employee named Kunal offered to sell me a year extension on my warranty for $269.

His phone was cutting out so badly during all of this, so I couldn’t hear every other word. I had to keep having him repeat everything, and he became frustrated as if this was my fault. My cell phone works great and I’ve never had this problem ever. It sounded like this guy was operating out of a tent in the middle of nowhere. Bad sign.

I told him I don’t have the money to replace my laptop, which is why I’m upset; because a laptop should last longer than a few months past a year, and a company with any integrity at all should stand behind the quality of their products.

I told him I don’t have $269 to spend on a warranty, and if I did,  I wouldn’t spend it on a company that has sold me a faulty product. This product should be recalled and replaced: I should not be asked to spend more money on this faulty product.

I told him I was only calling to see if Dell had recalled this laptop, as the Internet is flooded with people having the same problem as me. I’m not calling to be sold more things

He got grumpy, telling me, “I work in tech. I’m not a salesperson.”

Gee, that’s funny. Because you’re definitely trying to sell me something. You’re asking me for what will be after taxes around $300 added onto a product that has broken and is worthless after barely over a year. I don’t think so, buddy.

I told him, “I think we can both agree that a laptop should last more than barely over a year?” He didn’t respond.

He then went to “check with his supervisor,” and I felt like I was buying a car. But remember, Kunal is works in tech. He’s not a salesperson.

When he came back on the phone, the non-salesperson tech employee offered me a “deal.” He told me I could pay $129 for a 3-day warranty.

No, I’m not kidding.

So I called Dell to find out if they’ve recalled this broken laptop or would replace it because it is worthless after only a few months past a year from purchase, and all they can do is try to get more of my money?

Wow.

I asked him how we were going to replace a broken/faulty Wi-Fi drive long distance, in 3 days? He then told me he’d get access my computer remotely and try to repair the drive.

So I get to let a complete stranger into my Dell laptop that shouldn’t be broken for only $129, and if it’s deemed unfixable, I’m out of luck and 129 more of my dollars?

What a great deal!

***

In short: I have a worthless Dell Inspiron 15″ laptop that is a few months past 1 year old, and Dell is a company without the integrity to stand behind their products.

We all know a laptop should last longer than a year. Don’t play dumb, Dell. You know this is wrong. You are thieves. You took my money and sold me a product that should generally last 5 years minimum, and it lasted barely over 1 year.

I repeat: Dell, you are thieves. 

The employee kept repeating that if I’d just called before the warranty ended in March, he could fix or replace the laptop. And I kept repeating that I thought the problem was the Internet, not the computer, which I think is a pretty common assumption.

I now think Dell is counting on people to assume the problem is with their Internet connection, long enough that by the time they figure it out, their warranty is expired.

And who wants a stranger tinkering around in their personal computer? Not me.

So I am writing this caveat emptor piece to warn others: Dell laptops are inherently flawed, and the company does not stand behind their product or have the integrity to replace what has always been an obviously flawed and broken laptop.

Buyer beware: Dell is fully aware their laptops are flawed, and their only solution if you are barely past a year with one of their crap products is to try to get more of your money.

And this is why you should never buy a Dell computer.

 

Also, I had to say to my husband, “You were right and I was wrong. This Dell laptop sucks and I never should have bought it, just like you warned me.”

Sigh.

 

The Kids Are Not Alright

(Writing from September 20, 2011.)

 

I’ve been upset by the distraught Facebook status updates of a friend for the last 24 hours or so, because I can relate to them, and because I’m really upset for her. And I’m pissed off about what’s happening to her daughter at school because it has happened to my son. And my son has been kind of dealing with the “boy version” of it lately. And because, like my friend, I don’t know how to handle it or what to do. And this is partly because I can’t be next to my child, or inside of his brain, guiding him on what to say and do all day long at school.

I’m being cryptic. I’ll try to explain.

My friend has a little girl the same age as my son, who started kindergarten this year, like my son. She is a bright, glowing little light; one of those outgoing, happy, sparkly little kids who likes to sing and dance, and is a friend to all she meets.

Both of our kids share an adorable lisp on the ‘R’ words (acceptable/age appropriate until first grade, according to his kindergarten teacher, no worries) and a super-sensitive, heart-on-the-sleeve disposition. I am not a proponent of corporal punishment for children, but for my son, this has never even been an option regardless of my distaste for violence against those smaller than us, counting on us to keep them safe. I look at him sideways and he bursts into tears. We have no need for spankings. He already has more empathy than most adults I know.

My son is very similar to my friend’s daughter, which is why I could immediately relate to her distress over how her daughter was being treated by the other kids at school. You see, other children aren’t always as kind as our kids.

When my friend’s daughter runs up to other little girls on the playground and innocently asks them if they want to play with her, these little baby-bitches ignore her and turn away. My friend has been hearing about this from her daughter, and has watched it with her own eyes. And it’s breaking her heart.

As the momma of the most earnest little open-book-boy in the world, I have seen the same thing happen to my son on the playground, and I’ve watched him shoved to the ground by other little boys, and I’ve gotten him off the school bus, with a tear-streaked face, and asked him why he’d been crying, only to have him show me his scraped up hands and bruised legs, and tell me that an older boy on the bus violently shoved him out of his seat, to the floor, on the ride home. And like my friend, it is breaking my heart.

My husband has had to talk me down from spilling the blood of those who’ve wronged my boy, because obviously, I can’t be with him all day at school, and on the bus. And I can’t go around beating up third graders. He tells me that boys are different from girls, that they are more physical than girls, and I’m going to have to get used to my son being shoved, pushed, and hit all of the time. That’s just how boys interact, he tells me.

Well then why doesn’t my boy interact like that? If all boys interact this way, then why doesn’t my boy shove, push, and hit?

Oh, yeah. That’s right. Because I’ve taught him to keep his hands to himself. Because I guess I stupidly thought that was what I was supposed to be doing, and I thought that was what everybody else would be doing. I thought I was supposed to try to raise a kind human, with empathy, who used his words instead of his fists to communicate with others.

Silly me.

And I’m sure my friend with the also kind and gregarious daughter probably thought she was supposed to raise her daughter to be accepting of others, to be open to new friendships, and to have good manners when approached by her peers. Because I thought that too.

And I have seen my sweet kid run up to other little boys on the playground, saying, “Hi! Do you want to play?” and watched in horror as a little boy immediately shouted, “No! Go away!” causing my son’s face to crumple in sadness.

And in addition to the breaking of my heart for all of my fellow sensitive empaths in the world, like my son, and my friend, and my friend’s daughter, I’m starting to get really, really pissed off.

Like darkly, darkly angry.

Because it’s not the fault of these rude, cliquey, pushy-shovey, or otherwise poorly-mannered children… they are what they are because nobody has been teaching them to not be that.

I’m pissed because I have tried so hard to teach my son to be a gentle little boy that I did too good of a job. He is getting pushed around by boys at the bus stop, he is getting shoved around on the bus, he is getting hit at school.

And I’m watching the mothers of the shoving, hitting, pushing kids do nothing.

And I’m wondering where the fuck the teachers are when this shit is going down. This shit that makes my son come home from school sad.

So I’m experiencing the cognitive dissonance-producing phenomenon of knowing violence isn’t the way we solve our problems with others, as civilized humans. All while choking down the mother animal inside of me who wants to tear the throat out of anyone hurting my child.

Parenting is not for the weak. Oddly enough, physically controlling myself in the face of those abusing my child is the biggest challenge I’ve had to face as a parent. Not parenting, but other people. Other people are my biggest parenting challenge.

And that’s fucking ridiculous.

Just teach your kids to be decent people. Jesus. Why is that so much to ask? Don’t be an asshole, and don’t raise more assholes.

Do better, humanity.

 

 

 

 

When You Did Not Have Consent

girl-worried storm

 

 

When I was a little girl, age 5-7, and the older boy often took me into his bedroom to pull down our pants and touch genitals, saying, “This is how people show they love each other.”

When my grandfather encouraged my female cousins and me to look at the underage porn magazines he kept in his bedroom.

When he got caught molesting one of my cousins, only because the other one told on him, and was never legally punished.

When he showed up to family gatherings with the little neighbor girl as his “date,” and my family made remarks behind his back about how tacky it was—but nobody helped his new victim.

When I was 6 and a stranger tried to get me into his car while walking home from school, and my lizard brain told me to run back to the school for help, where they called my mom to pick me up.

When walking home from school another time, a man flashed his penis at me, and laughed as I ran.

When the 20-something guy started hanging out with my group of friends, tickling and touching us, until we asked an adult to make him leave, and he tried to make us feel guilty.

When my mom divorced the pathetic bully who held me down to push his stinky, crunchy-with-sweat, black work socks in my face, and then hit me as hard as he could because while struggling to escape the smell, I instinctively kicked.

When the same man would make me go get the belt to add psychological torture to physical abuse.

When, before I turned 6, “bare-bottomed spankings” were a thing, as if a the grown son of a pedophile making a little girl pull down her underwear so the spanking will sting more is not perverted and inappropriate as fuck.

When my mom married my stepfather who had a 6-years-older-than-me son who would often grab girls in the crotch, until one day his sister yelled at him to stop doing that to us.

When the same stepbrother, who was 9 years older than my younger sister, secretly raped her in his bedroom from age 5-8, telling her, “This is how people show they love each other,” while calling his semen on her stomach “baby food” when she asked what it was.

When nobody wanted to believe her because it was icky, and she had to live alone with her abuse, for years, until the weight became too much to bear.

When we were moved away from all friends and family to the middle of nowhere, and my new stepfather decided I hadn’t watered and fed the chickens right, so he dragged me by my 8-year-old arm to show me what I’d done incorrectly.

When he then kicked me in the tailbone so hard my legs wouldn’t move for a while, so I stayed on the ground waiting for the numbness to subside, reaching into my pants to check for blood and crying because I was alone, in pain, and nobody cared.

When my biological father beat me so violently my face was unrecognizably distorted, one of two black eyes completely shut, chipped front tooth, clothes blood-soaked and ruined from the teeth-ripped flesh inside my swollen lips gushing blood.

When I was curled up fetal on the cold, gray tile of the foyer, where I hadn’t made it to the door because he grabbed my skirt, so I instead faced down into the pool of blood forming beneath me, wondering who was screaming because I’d dissociated from my body.

When he then kicked me, and scornfully told me to “stop being so dramatic.”

When I hitchhiked because I had no ride home and the guys drove me outside of Phoenix, pulled over in a scary, deserted area, and the driver pulled out his penis, imploring me to “Touch it, come on, touch it,” while the others in the car laughed.

When I refused to “touch it” and had to walk the psychological tightrope between indignant and annoyed, but not too angry, lest I trigger violence, then play nice and talk about “going rafting together sometime” after the driver gave up, praying I would make it home alive.

When my high school boyfriend broke up with me for someone else, got jealous that I, too, had moved on, and beat me up in an empty parking lot after confronting me, bruising my face, and breaking my ring finger, later making it harder to play guitar in bands.

When I went to the police and filed an assault and battery charge afterward, and later heard the ex-boyfriend only got a $50 fine for the permanently damaged and crooked finger I still stare at every day.

When the football quarterback I was kissing in the back of a car ripped my jeans zipper open and pulled them off to fuck me, when all I wanted to do was kiss, so I went somewhere else in my head until he was done, and lied to my parents about how the zipper broke.

When I got drunk at a high school party and puked on my shirt and pants, so the girls put my clothes in the washer and dryer while I was passed out in a pile of dirty laundry in the garage, and a group of boys started talking about raping me.

When a boy named Scott I didn’t know very well told the group of my would-be gang rapists, “If anyone touches Tawni, you’re going through me,” so they left me alone—and one guy doing the right thing was enough of an anomaly that a surprised person who overheard later relayed the story to me.

When I went to college, poor and without a car, and run-walked home from my fast food job late at night, scared when men would often pull over, offer me a ride, and yell “Bitch!” at me before spinning dirt and rocks on me for politely refusing.

When the guy stalked me in the dark morning hours every day walking to my early doughnut shop job, talk-driving next to me, offering me a ride “for my safety,” and got mad when I wouldn’t get in his car, forcing me to find different and further-to-walk routes to avoid him.

When I only wanted a ride home from a college party, and the guy who gave me a ride made a point of dropping off the other guy he gave a ride first, then wouldn’t let me out of his car at my house until I let him fuck me while I went somewhere else in my head.

When my all-girl rock band was visiting our record label in New York and a strange man behind me in a crowd pushed his penis into my rear end, smirked, and walked away when I turned around to confront him.

When the creepy ex-boyfriend with a secret stash of rape porn and an SKS rifle under his bed once used my chain necklace to choke me without my consent during sex, bruising my neck, until the chain snapped, allowing me to breathe before I passed out.

When the same boyfriend got mad at me in a bar and left me there, so I walked home crying, and a group of guys pulled up next to me in a car to offer me a ride, yelling “Bitch!” at me when with tears running down my face, I told them, “No thank you, I’m not having a good night. I need to walk,” foolishly hoping that maybe because I was crying this time, I wouldn’t have obscenities yelled at me for refusing to get into a car full of strangers.

When my 15+ years-older step-uncle moved to the same city as me, began flirting with and harassing me, coming to my band’s shows, entering my apartment to leave items when I wasn’t there, or to knock on the door while I hid, making me feel violated and unsafe.

When he came to the convenience store job where I was trapped behind the counter, forcing me to deal with daily visits, afraid of disturbing the family balance if I told him to fuck off, stop acting like a pervert, and leave me alone.

When, after turning him down for drinks and movies and nights out together, trying to “be nice,” at least 20 times, he finally got angry, yelled at me, stormed out— and I felt nothing but relief.

When he recently turned up at a family gathering, and after not seeing him for over 10 years, he told me, “I used to have such a crush on you. You still look good. If I were a younger man, I’d wear you out,” in a lascivious tone of voice, making me feel repulsed.

When I didn’t call him out for being completely inappropriate to his married step-niece in front of her 10-year-old son out of unspoken pressure to “be nice” because he’s family.

When this same man gave my 21-year-old niece the creeps by looking her up and down, telling her in a sexual tone of voice that made her uncomfortable, “she’d grown up into a very attractive young woman,” as if this epitomizes all she might aspire to be.

When a 60-year-old man who knows damned well he’s being inappropriate is allowed to do so because none of the women in the family who discuss his behavior want to cause trouble, so we just endure it, and he gets away with it, and he knows this, so he will always do it.

When I lived in Los Angeles, and the large man I tried to not make eye contact with as we passed on the sidewalk punched me in the chest so hard my heart skipped a beat and I couldn’t breathe, and I didn’t bother finding a business and calling the police because I knew nobody would take me seriously.

When the guy at my gym has been monopolizing a machine for 30 minutes, walks away, and I try to use it quickly for 5 minutes, refusing to “be nice” and obediently move when he comes back to stand over me aggressively—so he sits 10 feet away, glaring threateningly at me.

When I share this story on social media, and guys oblivious to their own male privilege call me rude names and comment that I should have had better gym etiquette and “been nice,” completely missing the point, because they don’t have to feel physically threatened for existing while female.

When I used to go for runs and felt I needed to wear baggy clothing, or else the male attention that made me feel frightened for my safety was somehow my fault.

When I used to go for runs in baggy clothing, and still had to listen to men yell demeaning things from their cars at me.

When women are judged purely for how we look, as if we exist only for decoration or visual pleasure.

When women are threatened, harassed, or stalked on the internet by anonymous, cowardly assholes with something to prove and nothing to lose.

 

 

These are all examples of when you did not have consent.

 

This is not how people show they love each other.

 

Girls and women aren’t supposed to fear violence or violation from boys and men, ever.

 

“No” is a complete sentence.

 

When we place a boundary, or are too emotionally immature to know how to do so, you don’t get to cross lines you shouldn’t without consequences.

If we are physically unable to place a boundary—for any reason—you should assume that also means no.

Your vile actions haunt us, and change who we become, who we might have been.

Because we remember. Forever. So you should, too.

 

You should feel guilty for these things.

You should feel sorry that you did these things.

You should, at the very least, take responsibility for, acknowledge, and apologize for these things.

You should never blame the victims for these things.

 

Women are allowed to be angry.

We are tired of being unwilling participants forced to march in your endless parade of insecurity.

We are tired, and we are angry.

 

This writing seems long, yet is an abbreviated list, because I’m not special. Many women have longer, more haunting lists.

But the one thing we have in common is that we all have a list.

A list of when you did not have consent.

 

 

Do Better, Henry

I recently read a Spin article discussing the stance Henry Rollins took on the topic of suicide via his website; that it is a selfish act, rather than something depressed and desperate people fighting mental illness do because they can no longer tolerate the pain of being alive.*

I used to be ignorant too, because I was genetically “blessed” with the opposite of depression: I am diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder with associated agoraphobia. So rather than “pick-me-up” pills like anti-depressants, my brain functions better with “calm-the-eff-down” pills, which I take daily, with success.

Because I had never experienced depression growing up, I never understood it. I had always felt happy to be alive, grateful to be given every day I received, and I too, used to think depressed people simply needed an attitude adjustment. Back then, I might have nodded my foolish head along with Henry Rollins as he recently stated: “Fuck suicide. Life isn’t anything but what you make it.”

In my youth, I wasn’t openly dismissive of the depressed, but would privately think, “Why don’t they just get some fresh air and take a walk, exercise, read a book, or go be with nature?” because these were things that comforted or uplifted me if I needed peace.

As if people are all the same. As if what worked for me would magically cheer up other people. As if my particular brain chemistry applied to all.

I was so stupid.

***

My 20s panic attacks were an occasional thing I attributed to either low blood sugar or asthma. I felt humiliated when they happened and lived in denial, because if they weren’t happening for a physiological reason, that made me one of the weak people who couldn’t handle life; one of the people Henry Rollins has spoken out against with his disdain** for depressed people.

What I didn’t yet understand is that anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental illnesses DO happen for physiological reasons, and are as beyond the control of the person experiencing them as any other illnesses.

If I had been experiencing seizures because of a chemical imbalance in my brain, for example, I would have immediately headed to a doctor for anti-seizure medication. But because so many people chastise those with the brain chemical imbalances behind mental illnesses and dismiss them as weak, I’d bought into this theory, too.

So I didn’t seek help, and would instead try to hide when the panic attacks happened in public. When my chest would tighten and I’d begin to gasp for air, when my vision would start to tunnel, when I’d drop my basket in the middle of the store and run for my car, soaked with sweat, my heart-pounding, and when I’d have a panic attack in the car while driving, pulling into the closest parking lot to cry tears of terror, I was bewildered because I had no idea why my body was doing this.

And I was ashamed. So very ashamed. I am weak and pathetic, I’d think to myself.

And I was terrified, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Am I dying?

But then the mean, all-logic, no-emotion voice in my head would chastise me.

“Come on, you wimp. Pull up your big girl pants and move on,” my inner drill sergeant would bark, “You’re lucky to be alive, somebody always has it worse than you, and you have no reason to be crying, so get on with it!”

I’d take deep breaths, finish crying, feel utterly humiliated by my self-perceived weakness… and I’d eventually get on with it.

***

Cut to me at age 34, a book-loving, classic introvert with severe social anxiety. In bars and at parties, I used alcohol as a natural sedative to function amongst people without breaking out in hives. At work with the public, I wore an over-compensatory cloak of extreme friendliness to hide my social fears that employers loved, as an always smiling, non-confrontational employee makes any company look great.

(I waited on Henry Rollins while working at a Trader Joe’s in West Hollywood, by the way. He was always very kind, polite, and really loves cheese popcorn.)

I had been playing in bands for the last 12 years, which people who really know me have trouble understanding, considering my anxiety. The best way I can explain it is that onstage, I got to be someone else, and that girl wasn’t the shy, awkward chick who couldn’t make small talk to save her life. (It felt like an acting role. It was a beautiful escape from The Unbearable Lightness of Being Me.)

Then I got married, pregnant, had a baby at 35, moved from Los Angeles to Tulsa, and was suddenly isolated from all family and friends, no longer playing music, while staying with a lovely and kind member of my husband’s family.

The once-carefree, guitar playing and singing rocker chick was now alone all day in the suburbs with a 2-month-old who didn’t sleep more than 2 hours in a row until his 9th month (and stopped napping at 2-years-old).

We now know his sleep issues were symptoms of his ADHD/gifted neurology, but at the time I just thought I was doing everything wrong, as new parents are wont to believe. I was deliriously tired to the point of hallucinating, and… BAM. I experienced depression for the first time in my generally happy life.

I need 8 hours of sleep a night to function, and I was now going on months without REM. Sleep deprivation is used as torture for very good reason. I think this, combined with roller-coaster-ing postpartum hormones, had everything to do with my depression, and I hazily remember tears pouring down my face as I fed the baby.

I was strung out, wrung dry, beyond exhausted, alone without the support of my family or friends, and for the first time in my usually positive, high-energy life, everything felt pointless.

I logically knew I was the luckiest woman alive, with a healthy (albeit sleepless) new baby, a husband who loved me and treated me well, a roof over my head, and food on the table.

But despite all logic to the contrary, my emotional side simply couldn’t grasp that I had no real problems and nothing about which to complain. Sadness was sitting on my shoulder like an unwanted gargoyle of misery, and I couldn’t shake the ugly bastard off, no matter what I tried. Exercise didn’t work anymore. Nature wasn’t cutting it. I was officially depressed.

Possibly the weirdest thing about my depression was that I didn’t even have the will or desire to complain… I just felt kind of numb. I’m a lot of things, but numb isn’t usually one of them. I’m a fighter of injustices. I’m a complainer. I kvetch. I speak up – like I’m doing right now. The numb feeling was my main clue that things were very, very off inside my brain.

The old me that could look optimistically into the future, the girl who simply appreciated “every day above ground” was gone, and in her place was a drained and empty shell that couldn’t figure out where she’d misplaced her hope. It was so weird to logically know all was okay, yet emotionally feel a huge disconnect. I had no reason to be depressed. Nonetheless, I still was depressed. But logic and emotion, as we all know, are two completely separate things.

I had a new understanding about the physiology of mental illness, and oceans empathy for anyone experiencing depression. I vowed to never be of the callous, unsympathetic “People who commit suicide are selfish!” mindset again. Because I wanted to stop feeling sad more than anything in the world, and there was no way to “choose” happy anymore. I finally realized that for many people, happiness is not a choice.

And it’s insulting and cruel to say this. Are you really telling depressed people they’re choosing to be miserable?

I stopped breastfeeding at 6 months, even though I’d wanted to continue for at least my son’s first year. But I needed sleep. My brain chemistry was obviously imbalanced and I was horrified by the fact that I couldn’t escape the fog of sadness. I never reached the point of suicidal thoughts, but I’d definitely checked into Hotel Hopeless, and that was scary enough.

I started getting more sleep, and very slowly, the fog of depression lifted for me.

Because I got lucky.

***

I was entering my 40s before I finally spoke to a psychiatrist about my anxiety, and the only reason I did this was because my hyperactive son needed a calm mommy, and the panic attacks were now happening on a near-daily basis. Only because I could no longer function as a parent (as “leaving the house” is necessary for that job) was I forced to the doctor.

I got on daily Xanax and the panic attacks stopped immediately. I feel no euphoria on the medication, and only like a calmer version of myself who doesn’t go straight into “fight” mode at every perceived threat. The medication gave me back my life, gave my husband back his wife, and most importantly: it makes me a better mother for my son.

I only wish I’d sought help years ago. I’ve wasted so many years living in fear, and it’s partly because people like Henry Rollins who equate mental illness with selfishness made me feel like the chemical imbalances in my brain were a sign of weakness, and something I could control. Because my life isn’t anything but what I make it, right, Henry?

Wrong. And fuck anyone who thinks so. I now know I’m not weak, as I once believed – I’m actually incredibly strong for dealing with my anxiety alone and without help for so long. And I feel the same way about every depressed person on the planet – yes, even if they kill themselves.

***

Two of my mom’s brothers (my uncles) committed suicide in their 20s. They held onto life as long as they could stand it, and killed themselves because the pain of being alive was unbearable, and I don’t see anything selfish in that. It just makes me feel really, really sad for them. Because I have empathy.

Mental illness is legitimate and real, and it’s time we stop making people feel ashamed and alone for physiology beyond their control by ostracizing them for their “icky” feelings because we’re too uncomfortable to talk openly about them. Everyone has a different life perspective, and everyone is allowed to interpret their experiences any way they will, without shame.

What might be “no big deal” to one person can severely traumatize another, because we’re not fucking robots.

Pain is not a contest.

And showing pain is not a sign of weakness.

You’re not stronger than the person dealing with mental illness because you’re handling rough situations better than they are; you might have simply gotten a luckier roll of the genetic dice.

Or maybe you compartmentalize bad things more efficiently.

Or maybe they’ve been pushed over the edge into darkness, and you haven’t yet. Who knows?

But maybe instead of feeling cocky or stronger than them, you could try feeling grateful or compassionate.

Or shit… feel whatever the hell you want to feel… but please stop shaming others for their feelings, because you’re making them feel too humiliated to seek help, and that’s just mean.

 

What anyone who thinks depression is a “choice” made by people who aren’t “making their lives into what they should” needs to realize is that the one thing in the world depressed people wish they could be more than anything else is happy.

 

Nobody “chooses” depression.

 

All Henry Rollins has done with this ignorant opinion is potentially shame people suffering from depression by making them feel weak and pathetic, and possibly too embarrassed to seek help.

 

Way to go, Henry.

 

 

*I am not linking the website of Henry Rollins because I don’t want to increase website traffic for someone with an intolerant and uncompassionate view of mental illness.

 

**Actually, on his website, Henry Rollins spelled the word disdain as distain, but as an English major and Hall & Oates fan from way back, I can’t go for that. (No can do.) Both are official words, which is probably why he didn’t catch it with spellcheck, but in this context, he was clearly using it to mean “scorn or contempt,” which is the definition for disdain.

 

Also: Here’s an excellent article about suicide I highly recommend:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-hurley/theres-nothing-selfish-about-suicide_b_5672519.html

Fitness Faux Pas: 5 Ways You’re Doing the Gym Wrong

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Every day, I go to the gym after I see my son off to school. I’m diagnosed with ADHD and generalized anxiety/panic disorder, so after I have a green protein shake and my delicious daily Xanax, I go to the gym. This allows me to burn excess energy, get the positive endorphins flowing, and work off anxiety.

And every day, the people in my gym unknowingly cause me some of the anxiety I’m there to alleviate.

I’ve been working out at home and in gyms since I was 14, and am well-versed in proper weightlifting form. I’m one of those wacky people who’s always loved to exercise, probably because it corrects a lot of my brain chemical imbalances and raises my low self-esteem. (Let’s hear it for body image issues! Woo! No? Just me?) If I start my day with a good workout, I have a better day. It’s guaranteed. So not going to the gym isn’t an option.

Because of the aforementioned anxiety disorder, I belong to a smaller gym. I chose it because I can see the exits from everywhere in the gym, and the front is made of glass. If this sounds odd to you, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of generalized anxiety and panic disorder (similar to PTSD), and you’ll understand.

(I don’t like crowds, I need a clear escape route wherever I go, I have an overactive startle reflex, and I trust no one. Xanax literally gave me back my life; at least the life outside of my home.)

But the people. Oh, some of the people in my gym. Just… wow.

I should say that most of the people in my gym are nice, have great manners, we say hello, and they’re lovely humans. But there are a few that stress me out on a regular basis, and those are the people I’d like to discuss here.

With this in mind, I want to send out into the intellectual ether a list of annoying gym habits, so people may nod their heads in agreement with me – or will please stop doing these things if they recognize themselves.

***

 1. The Super Slammer— 

Hi, Meatbird. May I call you Meatbird? No? Okay, sorry. It’s just that you seem obsessed with amassing flesh on your upper body, while completely ignoring the lower half. Your workout regimen is giving you the appearance of a bulky, top-heavy bird, and calling you “Turkey” seemed rude. Forgive me. I’m probably just being bitchy because I’m jealous of your delicate ankles.

Anyhow… Chad. Todd. Blake. Whatever your name is. If you could stop slamming the weights down after every… single… one… of the 5 reps you’re barely able to do because you’re lifting more than you can handle, that would be great. (<— Say this in the classic “Office Space” annoying boss voice for extra points.)

Because firstly, you’re scaring the ever-loving shit out of everyone in the gym who isn’t looking in your direction when you loudly drop the weights. Yes, even the people who don’t have anxiety disorders.

And secondly, those who are knowledgeable about weightlifting realize that controlling your repetitions on the way down is just as important for muscle-building as the upward movement.

In short: You’re being such a loud jackass that I can’t even drown out your crashing noises with my headphones cranked to the max. Stop it. And learn proper weightlifting form, brah. You look like total newb.

 2. The Heartrate Hog— 

Hi, Lady at My Gym Who Wears Jeans and Does the Crossword on the Recumbent Bike for an Hour. I just wanted to let you know you’re being rude.

“Why?” you may ask. Or not. I don’t care. I’m going to tell you either way. You’re being rude because there are only 2 recumbent bikes in our smallish gym for middle-aged people like myself who trashed our knees via youthful running, and can now only do knee-friendly cardio. Since we can’t fit a swimming pool in our gym, this leaves only the bikes for bunk-kneed folks like me.

Except… when you monopolize 1 of the 2 bikes while the other is in use to pedal so slowly you’re able to legibly write words across and down. Then, this doesn’t leave any bikes at all. Just you. In your jeans and cardigan. Doing the crossword. For an hour.

It’s sometimes written via signs on gym walls, but mostly it’s an Unspoken Rule of Gym Club (it’s the second rule, actually… I’m breaking the first rule with this article) that if all versions of a cardio machine are full, polite gym members limit their cardio to 30 minutes per machine.

Did you know this? Of course you didn’t, or I’m sure you would stop your rousing hour-long game of newspaper trivia to let someone else have a chance to bike.

In short: Why you don’t spend your gym membership money on a recumbent bike for your home, and give those of us who want to break a sweat a chance to do some fucking cardio? Thanks.

3. Just the Pro-Tip, I Promise— 

Hi, Brian. I’m calling you Brian for this article, because that’s the actual name of the guy at my gym who used to give me constant pro-tips. Because of this, all pro-tippers will forever be known as Brian to me. Sorry, nice Brians of the world. It’s not your fault. Brian at my gym ruined it for you. Blame pro-tip Brian, other Brians.

Even though I don’t know Brian at all, Brian likes to walk over to me while I’m doing leg lift machine reps and give me amazing pro-tips like “twist your legs from side to side to work all the muscles.” I stupidly tried it. This resulted in my wrenched knees becoming so painful from twisting them while lifting that I couldn’t walk the next day.

Brian also gave me a pro-tip that involved my neck muscles, which are easily hurt ever since I was rear-ended by a distracted driver doing 50 MPH as I waited for a light to turn green. I told Brian this, but he assured me that no, it wouldn’t hurt my neck. That pro-tip set my fitness regimen back about a week as I waited for my strained neck muscles to heal.

Now I ignore Brian, and all the other pro-tip givers trying to “help me” (read: boost their insecure egos by condescendingly trying to teach someone who already knows how to exercise).

In short: Unless I’m paying you to be my personal trainer, get the fuck out of my face and let me work out. And save your ego issues for your therapist, unless you’re going to pay me to help you with those. Brian.

4. My Long Lost Relative— 

Hi, My Long Lost Relative! It’s great to meet you!

What do you mean, we’re not related? I don’t understand.

No, I’m not crazy, I promise. It’s just that you left so much DNA via the oily rivulets of fluid dripping down the seat and back of the weight machine you last used, that when I sat in it, I figured we became automatic Sweat Siblings.

So what you’re saying is that we’re not Sweat Siblings now? Darn.

I’m disappointed because I was hoping that you could be the younger Sweat Sibling. And then cleaning repulsive human secretions off the weight machines would be a chore our Sweat Mom would make you do. You know, since you left them there and all.

In short: You’re disgusting. See all the free paper towels and bottles of cleaner our gym has conveniently placed in all areas? Use them, you horrifying perspiration beast.

5. The Lazy Lifter—

Hi, Lazy Lifter! Yes, you. I’m talking to you.

“But I’m at the gym… how can I be lazy?” you ask?

You’re lazy because you come to the gym, in theory, to exercise, and then despite the signs asking you to rack your weights, you still leave them on the bars and machines for someone else to take off.

I notice this most often when I walk over to use the leg press machine and there are 4 heavy weights on the bar – on each side – that have been left by the last user. This makes me worry that someone is still using it, and also, that I’m going to pull that pesky weak-ass neck muscle I mentioned above as I unload the 8 large weights you left behind.

This is equivalent to getting a glass of milk and leaving the carton out for the next person to put into the refrigerator for you.

This is equivalent to taking a big dump in a toilet and leaving it for the next person to flush for you.

This is equivalent to being an inconsiderate asshole who leaves weights on the machines for the next person to take off for you.

In short: There’s no short version of this one. If you don’t know what I’m asking you to do, you’re as dumb as the weights you don’t put back where they belong.

***

This concludes my current list of top gym etiquette frustrations, with a bonus shout-out to the guy who “saves” machines by putting his gym bag on the one he’s not using at the moment, like we’re in a high school cafeteria rather than a gym.

Also: An extra-special bonus shout-out goes to the large man who was at the gym the one – and last – time I tried to go at 4 a.m. to avoid the crowds (and be guaranteed a precious recumbent bike).

When it was just you and me, alone in the gym, sir, and you growled in a disturbingly sexual way while lifting weights, and then counted your reps out loud in a raspy serial killer voice behind me, I decided I’d never go to the gym in the dark again. Thanks for the extra terror-calories I burned that day, dude. My hot bod will totally be worth the nightmares.

*Cool photo at top by SandyJo Kelly, via Flikr Creative Commons.

Public School and the Island of Misfit Boys

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It’s often discussed amongst parents and teachers that our public school children aren’t getting enough exercise to work out their “kid energy.” We older folks remember having multiple recesses, while simultaneously wondering why obesity is becoming a problem for our country’s youth.

P.E. and the liberal arts classes that teach children creative thinking — a trait every bit as valuable as math skills and English rules — are now referred to as “specials” at my 9-year-old son’s school, and rotated throughout the week. This means the kids only get one of these types of classes each day. When I was a kid, we had daily P.E. and music or art multiple times per week.

~

I recently went to my son’s school to eat lunch with him, where the kids are allotted exactly 20 minutes to file into the room, wait in line to get their school lunch, or find a table and start eating a home lunch. I almost always pack my son’s lunch because he tells me this gives him more time. Never enough time to finish his lunch, though. He always brings the unfinished part home to eat after school.

The sweet little girl who sat next to me was trying to quickly eat the apple on her lunch tray. She told me, “I always try to eat as much of the apple as I can before they give the 5-minute warning, then I hurry to try to eat the rest of the lunch.” I watched her throw away half of the uneaten apple, with the rest of her unfinished lunch. She wanted to eat the healthy apple. She was unable to eat it. This is ridiculous.

~

I know you’re probably thinking at this point, “Well they’re kids… they’re probably talking rather than eating during the 15 minutes they have in which to eat after settling down at a table with their lunches.” And I thought this too, since my son always brings home part of his lunch uneaten. That’s why this visit was so shocking for me.

Because, no. It turns out my son’s cafeteria has two teacher’s aides who walk around with microphones to silence the children who’re constantly reminded to quiet down, and rushed to eat, with the last 5-minute warning being a period of complete silence. I watched a table of 8 kids try to eat their food, and only one of them was able to eat the entire meal. (He was shoveling food into his mouth, which seems like an unhealthy habit to force a child to establish.)

~

As we sat in silence, with the kids trying finish their lunches, I wondered why I was there. It was the opposite everything my childhood lunches had been: we’d had time to socialize and chat with friends while enjoying a meal. We were always able to finish eating, with time to spare.

As the microphone-carrying women admonished the children who dared to talk while eating, the room felt militaristic and creepy. And despite the “prison guards” with their amplification devices, most of the children still didn’t finish their meals.

The kids then ran outside for the one recess they get per day. That’s right, you heard me: one chance to exercise, one chance to work off some energy so they might be better able to sit still in class. That’s it. One.

~

My son is officially “twice exceptional,” which means he is of gifted intelligence combined with atypical neurology. He is diagnosed with ADHD, and on an extremely low dose of ADHD medication, which makes me wonder if, were he allowed to have more recesses and daily P.E. like we were as kids, he might be able to handle the rigid structure of the public school system without medication.

We’ve tried to take him off his medication, and he can’t handle it, however. He has the energy of a joyful puppy, and he needs chances to burn it off in order to focus. But he’s not getting any guaranteed chances beyond that one recess.

I don’t understand why I can see that more physical activity would help all children – male or female – do better in school, yet school officials don’t seem to get this. Every country ranking above us in global education prioritizes physical activity as an important tool for helping kids learn, and it’s proven to work, yet we, the overweight Americans are moving in the opposite direction.

~

There are 3 boys in his class, my son tells me, who are allowed to stand while doing work. While I applaud his teacher for offering a solution to this problem, I don’t understand why my son’s school doesn’t recognize that so many children having excess energy and causing classroom disruptions could be drastically reduced by giving the kids more opportunities to exercise.

My son knows 2 other boys on ADHD medications, and boys tend to (very much in general) be more immature and therefore hyperactive/impulsive than girls, but this need for more exercise and creative free play time applies to girls as well, obviously.

I was a little girl with both-undiagnosed gifted intelligence and ADHD, for example, who sat bored and restlessly staring out the window. Teachers wrote on my report cards that I “daydreamed too much in class,” yet even then, I was getting much more daily exercise and liberal arts classes (that we’re slowly eliminating and calling “specials”) than today’s youth.

I feel that my son, all our sons, and all our daughters, are not being given enough chances to move around, and be silly, goofy kids during the school day.

I’m dismayed that my son’s school lunch time feels like a boot camp meal.

And most of all, I’m extremely displeased that so many parents of hyperactive kids are forced to medicate our children to boost their immature prefrontal cortex development and executive functioning… simply so they can attend an unrealistically restrictive public school.

~

I understand the physiology behind ADHD and don’t deny that my son has a neurological developmental delay; but considering that a minimum of 10-11% of the population has ADHD (this number is only the percentage of the officially diagnosed), I think it’s time for the schools to change the way they teach our children. And I’d like this change to start with more physical activity. More free play, socializing, and recess, so our kids can better learn when it’s time to sit still and focus.

Why? Because I shouldn’t have to take my son to a behavioral therapist, a psychologist, and feed him scary medications just so he can fit into a rigid and intellectually inhibiting system that sets up smart, inquisitive, energetic kids for failure, no matter how hard they try.

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My son is advanced enough that we were offered the chance to move him up a grade, but because his ADHD neurology makes him unable to conform to the behavioral expectations of a higher grade, this is not an option for us.

So he is bored, and when un-medicated, disrupts the other children by talking out of turn and not sitting still. He then gets in trouble and feels like a bad kid for something he can’t physically control, so the cycle of low self-esteem and anxiety progresses… along with our therapy expenses.

Much like the misfit toys featured in the popular “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special we see every winter break, my son doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. There is no place for him in the current public education system, yet when I discuss homeschooling him, he cries and begs me to not do it, because he’s so gregarious and outgoing, and would miss his friends.

Because we can’t afford private school, we are officially out of options.

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Structure is important and necessary, lest the classrooms become chaotic, and I applaud all good teachers for their patience and everything they do. This is not a teacher-bashing piece, but instead a cry for help aimed at the public school system.

In short: My child doesn’t attend a military school, but it feels like it, and I think that’s wrong. Our young public school kids are being forced to conform to what I believe are near-adult behavioral expectations, and this causes them – and their parents – unnecessary anxiety, and hampers the educational process.

If anyone reading this has the power to change the direction of public education, please consider refocusing on more opportunities for physical exercise, such as multiple daily recesses, and more emphasis on music, art, and physical education classes. These were once important parts of our public education, and most of us who remember having them don’t understand why they’re being taken from our children.

The next time you’re contemplating how to fix our obviously broken and underfunded public educational system, giving children more opportunities to be kids every day would be a great starting point. They’ll have the rest of their lives to be adults, after all.

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*Cool artwork at top copyright CJS 2011 a.k.a. guttergoo at DeviantArt.

Gym Probs: No, You Can’t Intimidate Me While I Lift Weights

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Yesterday afternoon, I decided to go to my gym.

After my usual 30 minutes of warm-up cardio, I moved to the weight machines. My gym has 6 leg machines in an area where I do 3 sets of 15-20 reps on each, waiting only 30 seconds between each set so I don’t cartelize the machines.

There’s a guy who monopolizes the machines by checking his phone between sets for 2-3 minutes, for example, which keeps him on a machine for at least 15 minutes. I don’t want to be that rude person. So I try to be considerate and do my 3 sets quickly— plus the “hit it hard” factor of 3 sets with only 30 seconds of rest between each really builds up my legs. Not rude machine hog + tired muscles = a win-win.

***

There were 4 people in my small, empty gym. This means that there were plenty of machines open. I normally do my upper body and core/ab exercises at home via DVD, so I use the gym for my cardio and legs of steel. (That’s right… steel, I say. They’re not skinny, but I leg press 200 pounds 20 times for 3 quick sets like it’s nothing, pals. Mama got some big strong legs.)

So I used the inner and outer thigh machines, and after those I normally move to the leg press machine, then use the 2 hamstring and quad-building machines. But this guy kept using the leg press machine, walking away across the gym, then coming back to use the leg press machine again. So no big deal: I used the machines in a different order, trying to not get in his way. He had probably used the leg press machine for 6 or 7 sets when I finally had nothing left but that machine.

My husband and son were waiting for me at home to go to a family gathering, so I needed to finish up. I figured the big dude had used that machine 6+ times—surely I can whip out my 3 sets (again, I allow only 30 seconds of rest between each set… I’m fast) and get out of here. I tried to stay out of his way and use the other 5 machines, but this is all I’ve got left, and I need to get going. I should mention that we also have a lying-on-your-back “sled” leg press machine at our gym that was open this whole time that basically works the same muscles.

***

So I got onto the seated leg press, ready to whip out my last 3 sets and go, and after my first set of 20 reps, I rested for 30 seconds.

Guess who came to sit on a bench 10 feet to my left and stare at me between my first and second set? Yep. The same guy who’d now used the machine at least 7 times. I’d tried to be considerate for this man by saving my time on this machine for my last exercise, because I thought, “Surely he’s going to be done using it soon? How many freaking sets are you going to do on the same machine, dude?”

I sensed he was going to come ask to “work in with me,” so I quickly started my next set. He sighed loudly, obviously, doing the bodily version of an eye roll, then stalked over to the other side of the gym. You know, the other side where the identical-except-you-lie-on-your-back leg press machine lives? Yeah.

***

So I had 2 of my 3 sets down, and was giving myself the 30 second rest break before I started my last set. One more to go and my workout was done. Annnnnd… then Sir Douchebag came back over to sit on the 10-feet-away bench and stare aggressively at me. Again.

I turned my head to adjust the weight, to let him know I was ignoring him. This seemed to anger him, the same way a toddler gets mad when you ignore their attempts to get your attention during a tantrum. I tensed my legs to push through my final set on the seated leg press machine.

I wear headphones to the gym to block out sudden, unexpected noises because I am diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder and PTSD, and the weight slamming of lazy-lifters (i.e. people who lift more than they can handle, and don’t understand that controlling the weight on the way down matters just as much as the upward movement) has sent me shaking to my car, fighting a panic attack.

So I didn’t hear this guy walking the 10 feet toward me. He gestured and was saying something, but I couldn’t hear him over Queens of the Stone Age, so I pulled off my headphones, and said in an irritated voice, “Can I help you?” because I knew damned well what this idiot wanted.

He wanted to “work in with me.”

In case anyone is unaware, what “Hey, can I work in with you?” means when you’re a woman in a gym is: “Hey, I’m a big guy, and your girly workout is less important than mine because I’m stronger and feel entitled because of this, so move out of my way.”

Whether or not that’s how it’s intended, that’s how it feels, guys. Deal with it. But most importantly, try to understand it.

Also realize my gym is not a crowded gym in a large city, where “working in” might be necessary. My gym is a tiny, empty gym in the Great Plains region of our fine country. There were exactly 5 people in the gym this day, including me.

Never mind that I’ve belonged to this gym for over 2 years and I’ve never seen this guy before.

Never mind that I’ve been working out since age 15 and have better lifting form than he does (he was one of the aforementioned loud ‘n’ lazy-lifters, by the way).

Never mind that he’d already used this particular machine 3 times as many times as I had.

Never mind that I pay the same fucking monthly dues as he does for the machine usage, and was in the middle of my workout.

HIS workout was obviously more important than mine. HE felt entitled to sit like an aggressive asshole, 10 feet from me and stare at me in an attempt to make me uncomfortable, giving no thought to how physically threatened that might make a woman feel— or perhaps giving ALL thought to how intimidated that would hopefully make me feel.

Unfortunately for this dipshit, I have an anxiety disorder that sends me past freeze or flight, and directly into fight when I feel threatened. This is not something of which I’m proud—in fact I’m working on stopping this response, because when I finally blow, I go dangerously big, and I have a child who needs his mother—but I learned young that if you show fear, the aggressive men see you as prey. And I will not allow myself to be victimized without a fight ever again.

***

So I said “No. I’m going to finish my set.” And I put my headphones back on.

He continued to sit, glowering at me from the nearby bench to my left, staring as I now slowly, passive-aggressively did each leg press, adding 10 more reps onto my usual 20 just to prove to him I wouldn’t be bullied off the machine.

In the middle of my last set, while he glared at me, I again pulled off my headphones, and said, “There’s a gym full of other machines you could be using right now. Is there NOTHING ELSE you could be doing besides using this machine?”

He replied, “It’s the last thing I need to do before I’m done.”

I replied, “Me too. So I’m going to finish,” and continued until I was done.

He then made a big production of hastily jumping on the machine like he was in a huge hurry when I got off.

As I grabbed my purse to leave after that, I noticed this guy (again, with only 4 other people total in the gym, he was easy to spot) on the other side of the room, getting busy with another machine.

So, not only was he a self-centered asshole who thought his workout was more important than mine, he was also a liar.

Last thing you had to do? Yeah, whatever, asshole. The actual last thing you had to do was fuck with me while I tried to squeeze my 3 quick sets in-between the 8 sets you’d done on the same machine while I stupidly tried to save it for last… because of I was trying to be considerate of you.

I won’t be considerate again. And fuck you.

Women who lift weights, I want to remind you that your workout is as important as anyone else’s, so don’t ever let anyone intimidate you off the machines this way.

If, like myself, you’re hustling and working it—not playing on your phone, or chatting while sitting on a machine—but actively trying to get some strength training; you have just as much of a right to be on that machine as any guy in the gym. Don’t let them intimidate or bully you out of their way.

This is not a writing about gym etiquette, this is a piece about a male being oblivious to his privilege. Being male and not realizing how threatening you can seem to women equals you being oblivious to your male privilege. Wake up. And stop it. Imagine someone frightening your daughter, mother, or significant other this way if it helps you find your empathy or understand.  

And guys who do this: shame on you for being completely insensitive to how scared you can make a woman feel with your body language and words, and for assuming your needs are more important. Your parents obviously raised you poorly, so I guess the rest of us will have to teach you to recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around your entitled ass for them.

Lucky us.

Non-spiration: Choosing to Not Share Dumb Platitudes

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I don’t really mean to tell anyone to fuck off, but I am tired of this version of “inspiration.”

I would have written “WHATEVER” in place of the “FUCK OFF” actually, because if it works for you, great.

I guess.

Unless what you’re saying is stupid and thoughtless.

Then: WHATEVER.

I’m one-hundred percent done with the “words over a scenic background” approach to mental health and wellness. Can we just talk, please? Whatever happened to talking about things?

Are we becoming so stupid we can only share our feelings via short blurbs and quotes from other people placed over pictures of things?

Are these enjoyed by the same people who need pictures to point to when they order from restaurants?

I especially dislike the “Happiness is a choice!” graphic floating around in various butterfly and rainbow-laden forms lately.

Happiness is not always a choice.

Two of my uncles committed suicide, for example.

For my two dead uncles, happiness was not a choice. Death was the only “choice” they could visualize. They were mentally ill, and for this reason, people implying that my uncles chose to die rather than choosing happiness makes me feel stabby.

(It’s not that simple, but if you think it is, your brain might be. And wow, enjoy that, you lucky duck. Ignorance is bliss, after all. Keep “choosing happiness” with your fortunate blend of brain chemistry and genetics while all those silly depressed people who just don’t “get it” will keep choosing to die. Because gosh, they must not realize that all they have to do is choose happiness! It’s so easy! Hey, maybe you should write a book! You could CURE SUICIDE.)

When Robin Williams killed himself, there was Team He’s Selfish versus Team Suicide and Depression are Mental Illnesses Beyond the Control of the Sufferer. (Or something shorter and more concise than that. I’ll workshop it. I was on the team with the long name, obviously.)

Hey! Guess what, people who called him selfish? The autopsy confirmed what intelligent people already know… his suicide had many potential causes based on biology, not some weird, imagined desire to hurt the people he loved. He had Lewy Body Dementia, which likely contributed to his depression and suicidal thoughts, as it has been known to do to many.

For Robin Williams, happiness was not a choice. He was biologically messed up beyond his control, and calling him selfish for that is like calling someone selfish for a cancer diagnosis. Stop it.

So when someone shares this chirpy, oblivious-to-the-physiology-behind-depression message with me, that “happiness is a choice,” I not only think they’re a blithering idiot, I kind of want to throat punch them.

Or maybe I’d just say WHATEVER.

But you’d know what I really mean, wouldn’t you, friends?

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