Not In Kansas Anymore...

Click your heels, and see if home is where you hang your hat, or somewhere else inside yourself as this simple, postmodern girl takes on L.A.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yet another installment of "I Hate To Be A Bitch, But..."


You may not be very sympathetic about this, becuase it will sound like I'm whining like a brat. That isn't where I'm coming from. Just for the record, I don't think anyone owes me anything. This is about the verbal abuse and down-dressing I get whenever something goes wrong ( and about the crazy world view my parents seem to have about life in general).

I've been pretty much avoiding my mom since the debacle this summer where she promised money to fix my car, then took it back, and was just wretched in the things she said, managed to drag my aunts into barraging me with insults, and held out for 6 weeks in paying for something she promised to teach me a lesson ( oh yeah. I almost lost my car over that. MY CAR. The one I paid for and IS paid for? It sat in a lot for 6 weeks while listened to rant after rant about how, in essence, I'm a big ol' failure, since I have a degree and cannot find work. How long am I expecting her to help me? Why am I not like my cousins (her two sisters' kids), who have highly techinical degrees-- in banking (Shallow Fiancee', BTW), hairdressing (SF's lil' sis), or aerospace engineering (my two male cousins), respectively? I went to COLLEGE, and she expects more outta me than my brother (an actual quote)! When I explained that hey, lady, the country has a NINE FUCKING PERCENT unemployment rate, and my degree is of no use, being as its Humanities related and guess what? All that is considered trash now by anyone who has a buck to spare, I CLEARLY am just making excuses. (My brother followed that up- yes, he got dragged into this too,--by me-- because I knew she'd listen to HIM, being that since he has a penis, he Must Know Things--that I'd gotten a degree in some "useless shit anyway". Oh thanks, there, pal. Oh ye of no education, do TELL me and the people I studied under that my efforts were a waste of brain matter . I'll pass that along to all of the professors, curators and museum employees who've had their jobs for 20yrs --if ONLY they'd drop dead or something, I'D have a job, dammit--and whose retirement plans are fatter than yours. What is it you do again? Oh right. You work at a call center. That's a career with upward mobility and a real contribution to society as a whole....)
I told her after THAT conversation I didn't want any more money from her AT ALL. I didn't really tell her why, I just said it was too stressful on the family's relationship, and I couldn't take the fighting. What I didn't tell her was that her money wasn't worth my dignity, sanity and freedom from emotional and verbal abuse. That would have been like trying to explain quantum physics to a 3rd grader.)

However, I called her this morning because there was a missed call from her on my phone, and she and my dad double-teamed me. Yelling, demeaning.....I spent money on my Care Credit card for dental work (which is what the card is for) earlier this year, and they are co-signed on it. I didn't think it would affect them, but apparently their credit score went down a bit because I haven't been able to pay on it, and they went to re-finance the house today and according to my dad, "They looked at us like fools!" ( I somehow doubt the ONE credit card they actually have --which I didn't even UNDERSTAND, mind you!-- would be THAT dramatically affecting their near perfect credit.). They went ballistic. They paid off the bill ($900) and then decided to let me know what an idiot I was for not knowing how emergent the situation was, how it affected them,and......wait for it......, and also for thinking I could get DENTAL WORK done without their permission! How dare I get dental work! Without calling them!! When I didn't know....or even if I did!!! What was I thinking, spending money on dental work!?!?!?

I have no idea what I was supposed to do differently, but these are people who never ever have had, nor currently have credit cards for ANYTHING ever, and never carry debt forward for anything other than the house and/or car. If they were actually poor or in need, I think they would be shocked at their lives.

My dad said, "NEVER EVER get work done without calling us first!" I said, "NO. Cancel the card. This is insane. I had no idea it worked like that, and if I thought you'd be affected, I wouldn't have done it. " And furthermore, I'm not gonna call them when I need fucking healthcare and so they can tell me how awful I am because I dont have the kind of insurance they do that covers everything. Because that's what's next. Hell, it's the subtext in this whole argument.

The other subtext is this: in their minds, if I JUST MOVED BACK, it would all be solved. True, it would be way cheaper, but frankly, as I have come to understand it through my brother and you and several friends, the situation in IL is almost as bad as CA. Lots of unemployment all over and significant budget cuts to public programs, like the one that actually provides my insurance. Hell, my good friend DR, who has had the same job for 17 years is on the verge of losing her job because Local University, where she is a dept. secretary, is cutting back. And you KNOW when that shit starts to hit the fan, it's serious (Her husband Gordy's job-- as an industrial engineer, something you always think is in need-- is also on the rocks. Their company is downsizing and they aren't getting contracts like they used to.)! The fact that my brother is employed and not coming to them for $$ is always thrown up in my face. I hate to point out to them that he doesn't have vision or dental, so god forbid anything happens to him, either. Then again, his teeth are horrific looking and he doesn't seem to care. They must be so proud.

It's like their living in another country, where everyone is insured. In the best way possible. And if you're not, it's your own goddamned fault.

I'm so not coming home for Christmas like I'd hoped. I just don't even want to see them anymore. I don't even think they realize how this so damages our relationship, what little of it was there.

The kicker is I still need like $5000 worth of dental work done. Why wouldn't I? I'm their kid. They both got dentures by the time they were 35. They grew up dirt fucking poor-- my dad especially--and didn't have proper care, but also, they have the shittiest genetic pool in the dental department. Rampant gum disease and the combination of their teeth/jaw structures in one mouth have caused every.Dentist. I. Have EVER SEEN to go, "Whoa. Well...I think you're gonna have some problems." since I was 10. (And I got the good luck in this area. My brother is twice as bad). It's a never-ending fight to slow the slide downhill with this stupid mouth. And they know that, they've seen it all, they've heard the whole thing. But you know, that's just not something they can handle. Like everything else in reality.....

I hope I can get a card on my own or SOMETHING....*Sigh*. They just know how to ruin my day when they want to. Still....

I hate to be a bitch, but...

If you're going to treat people like this and deign to call them family, don't expect them to want a relationship with you. Additionally, you cannot buy someone's dignity or their self-worth, no matter how many checks you write. The fact that you try makes me wonder how you rest peacefully at night.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Okay, DUH- comments ARE working on all new posts. I am SOOO slow, apparently. Sorry. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So, where were we? Ah, yes, "I Hate to Be A Bitch, BUT....."


This section isn't about Annie at all. It's about a friend I have who has really pushed me to the limits of my patience, and so, to bitchitude. Read on..

I've written a number of times about my lovely friend Lori and her great husband, Nate. I do adore them, and they have been there for me countless times over the years. However, it hasn't been without its bumps, mostly because Lori, when she's starting a manic episode (she's Bipolar I, and is usually really responsible about it), she gets irritable and for reasons I have yet to fully understand, gets pissed at me and won't let it go til she's well again (I don't think she fully realizes this is a pattern, actually). Or such is my experience; maybe she gets mad on her own and then starts to get sick, and then cannot let it go. I'm not totally sure. At any rate, I have been pretty patient about it, even though in the past it hurt me a lot (I didn't get invited to her wedding two years ago, for example). I have been patient because I felt very strongly that she was doing her best to keep herself well, and I know what it's like to have a disease you cannot control.

Lately, however, it's become apparently how much she DOESN'T do to keep herself well, and how for whatever reason THAT is, our friendship has begun to suffer. As far as I know, she takes her meds regularly, and is someone who frequents the therapy couch-- both things she needs to do whether she likes it or not. It's the lifestyle changes that I think she's unwilling to make that continually appear to be setting her off in episodes and/or pushing her friends away.

See, here's the secret deal with mood disorders that not many people tell you (including your doctor, scarily enough): two things can be real problem areas and you MUST keep them under scrutiny at all times, and those things are 1.) sleep habits and 2.) stress levels. Meaning: it's probably NOT a good thing to only average about 5 hours of sleep a night, working at a high-stress job that makes your stomach boil. It's not a good thing to work 3rd shift and stay up during the day watching tv and then drinking to fall asleep. It's not a good thing to have a high-stress relationship with a needy partner that requires constant long discussions about The State of Things. In other words: don't get a job in the Stock Market on the trading floor married to a bitch who only wants your money and expect to be able to float it. It's just not gonna work.

In the smaller realm of day-to-day, though, it can creep up on you when you least expect it. I'll use myself as an example, even: last Summer, when I fell into an episode, I didn't really see where I'd gone wrong. But the seeds of that episode were planted well before it started in earnest and I started feeling shitty. I now look back and see I was in a very jacked-up situation with my now-ex, and it was becoming apparent to me when I went to visit him, and I was wickedly stressed to the breaking point before I even got home from the trip. I also spent a fair amount of that trip taking OTC allergy meds, which also fuck with my personal equilibrium, and not sleeping properly. I changed two time zones to visit him (studies have shown that crossing more than one time zone can screw with the sensitive circadian rhythms and in a mood disorderd person, send them into an episode. Believe it or not!). When I GOT home, I should have, in all honesty, told him it was over, or I at least needed a break, and spent some time getting my feet back under me. But I didn't listen to myself, my body and my gut, and I paid dearly for it, didn't I?

And you always will. ALWAYS.

In Lori's case, she does things like travels overseas frequently, overbooks her personal schedule with plans and events, (and then cancels the last minute), throws parties and shindigs at the drop of a hat, and commits herself to crazy schedules with volunteering, charity social events, school, etc.

Here's the lowdown on the past two years:

She got married in November. Then Nate got invited to China to speak for his job, and she went. Then she came home and started school in January of last year. BOOM: episode. So bad that she was hallucinating. After some time, she manages to pull it together with the patient help of Nate, family and friends, and of course, her doc. Later that summer, she decides, "I wanna have a baby." Okay....not where I'd go first after having a major breakdown only about 4 months prior, but, it's not my life, right? Uh....well, yeah, except to HAVE a baby, she's got to stop all of her psych meds (something ELSE the docs fail to tell women in particular).....and that would be bad enough, but fertility problems require her to take loads of hormones. About 3 months of that, and she just cannot hack it mentally (who could? Jesus.), so she stops and resumes her regular psych treatment. Not shortly thereafter, though, she decides she wants to buy a house and throws herself into it full force.

Then, sadly, her father dies unexpectedly. This is a huge blow to her family, especially her mother, with whom she is quite close. It's a big stressor, and it was terrible.

But at Christmas, she decides she wants to go to Spain. Spain? Okay. Well, who knows how she's dealing with her grief, right? Right. She comes home, and decides she's going to start graduate school. So she does. Right around March, she decides she's got a house she likes, and manages to buy it. She does so, and the mayhem begins with decorators, and this and that. Finally things seem to die down a bit, school stops, and....she goes to Boston to visit family. After she comes back from that, she goes on this weird raw food diet and stays at a spa in Santa Rosa that advocates all of this bizarre health changes to lose weight. When she gets home--on a WHIM, mind you-- she gets involved in some church mission to go to Brazil, via floating down the AMAZON for a week. She comes back, and promptly goes out of town again. And again. Last I checked, she'd just gotten back from Burning Man. That brings us to now.

Does this sound normal to you? Or at least....normal in terms for a girl who has a severe mental illness that needs to be monitored? Even her other friends --some of which don't know she HAS an illness (yes; hardly anyone knows about it and those of us that do are NEVER to tell. She has such shame, she remains secretive about it to this day. That's her choice, but it's a lot of work when you can't even tell your friends)--said, "Gosh, it seems kinda weird that Lori is running off to Brazil all of the sudden this summer. Wasnt she just in Boston or at that health retreat?"

Well, in my opinion, and in context of the last few years, YES, it, at the very least, wasn't a good idea. I don't know WHY she decides that it's all okay to run around the world and back in the midst of huge life changes and losses, but if I had to guess, I would say this: she so desperately wants to be "normal" that she doesn't want to think about the long-term effects of her choices. I think THAT comes from growing up in a very affluent family well-placed in society, and from having some early experiences in humilation-because-of-crazy behavior and shunning-via-stigma that is so common with people like us. Eventually, hopefully, you learn to accept yourself as you are, and understand that embarrassing, terrible stories may be a part of your history, but they aren't YOU. That people who love you for you will accept it, and anyone else can step off, because you're valuable in spite of the disease. And you learn to live your life how it WORKS for you with this illness, not how everyone expects you to. It sorts itself out, believe me, and it's not so bad.

I don't think that she's gotten that far, yet, though.

Up til now, I felt it wasn't my place to judge her, or her choices, or to tell her how to deal with that "normal" question. That's such a personal and painful struggle for anyone, no matter what the illness. I felt she'd eventually get there, and with the exception of one argument I had with her about it, it didn't affect our friendship. Untill it did.

But to these mutual friends, I just said, "I don't have any idea what's up with her. We're not speaking."

Which brings us to this OTHER thing she does, that pretty much has pushed me to the limit of my patient friendship: She lives life on the wave of her whims, and thinks very little of how it affects other people. She makes big plans and cancels them on a whim. She says she'll do something and gets all excited about it and then forgets because she's become distracted with something else. She makes big life decisions and then changes her mind in medias res. Anyone else who might be involved or affected is just screwed. (These plans tend to involve her spending a ton of money, too, and offering to do for others, and give large gifts that she will then attempt to take back.) Then when you confront her about it, she just won't have it. Throws a fit, gets irrationally mad and refuses to admit a thing.

Here's how it has shown its face in our friendship:

Last summer she was bored and wanted to go to Santa Fe. She invited me to tag along. I told her flat out, "I don't think I can afford to pay for much more than X amount of $. How much is this gonna cost?" She came back to me with some numbers and I said, "No, I'm sorry. Maybe another time." Mind you, I was wrestling with my meds and such at the time, and didn't really want to worry about my finances when I was feeling so poorly. She piped up and offered to pay for the part of it I couldn't, to be kind and generous and get a depressed friend out of town. I was bowled over by that gesture. I rearranged my schedule and said yes. About two days before we're to leave, she changes her mind and says she doesn't feel like going. Okay, well, that's her perogative. I let it go.

Later on that year, she wants to go to a spa. She invites me along, saying the room is covered. I say okay. She says, "I'll treat you to a massage or something, too." I say, that's very nice, but I can pay for that part. She insists, and so I allow it. Again, I clear my schedule, and again, about two days before, she backs out.

Repeat this a couple of times THIS year, and you'll see why I said what I said next, which was:

"Lori, I appreciate your generosity in wanting to bring me along on your adventures, but I cannot keep throwing my schedule and my life into disarray when you decide to back out. Just because you are paying doesn't mean you can expect everyone's life to screech to a stop and not be affected by your choices. That's rude."

She got INCREDIBLY offended at that. "I'm one of the most generous and helpful friends you'll ever have! How can you say that to me?"

In the interest of our friendship, we agreed to let it go. And I did.

And everything was fine. Or so I thought. What I didn't see coming was a wicked combination of ALLLLLLLLL of the above , those two factors ( the illness AND the cavalier choice-making, that is), coming into play, with her doing something REALLY, really awful (which resulted in the aforementioned Not Speaking).

This is how it went down:

1.) Earlier this year, a friend of ours and I were on Facebook talking about how Muse was coming to LA in September and oh, how we wish we could afford tickets (GD ticket prices are outrageous these days! For reals, yo! When did this happen!?!?). We were just talking amongst ourselves, she wasn't even involved. Lori got wind of it and just up and bought 4 tickets--to a band she had not even heard of before she saw me and Friend talking on Facebook. She said it just sounded like fun from what we had said and thought she'd go ahead and get tickets. She invited me and Friend to go as her guests. We were over the moon excited.

2.) About a month after that, my car got impounded (long, terrible story-- but remember those liscence plates I needed to pay for? Yeah. I got pulled over. Anyway...). The officer was nice about it and said he'd allow me to have my car back in two days instead of keeping it for the mandatory 30 days, but he was taking my liscence. I was so thrilled not to have to come up with the cost of a 30 impoundment (usually $75 a day) and be without my car for a month, that I said "Whatever you say". But I didn't have the $320 it was going to cost me anyway, so I went to Lori and asked for her help. I made arrangements to pay her back, and she did indeed help me.
I got my car back, and it was all good.

Right? Well. Maybe not. Here comes the kick....

3.) This June, I'm sitting on the couch, watching tv, when I get this call from her. She's sitting in an airport in Boston, and she says, "Athina (her cousin) told me she wanted you to housesit for her and care for her dogs while she goes on vacation. I want to know that you'll do a good job." I was taken aback; she'd recommended me to Athina herself last Christmas for a similar arrangement (that didn't pan out) and Athina had been thrilled with finding someone, AND introduced me to her 3 year old son, Rowan. Rowan adored me and Athina had hired me for childcare a few times since. All had gone well as far as I understood. Thusly, I was confused that Athina would be doubtful as to my skills or reliability, and was concerned. I said, "Did Athina talk to you or something?" I was searching my mind for ANYTHING that had ever gone wrong between Athina and I. Nothing came to mind. Lori snapped, "She's my COUSIN. We talk all the TIME, Jessica!". I said, "Well, of course I'll do a good job. No worries. " She asked the question AGAIN, this time more snippily. I said, "What are you looking for here, Lori? " "Well, I just need to know you won't back out. You WON'T. Right?"

At that point, I'd gone from confused to insulted. I said, "Of course not. What's this about,exactly? I mean, I can only reassure you so much. And frankly, it's kind of insulting that you're this worried." She reiterated the same question. I said, "Lori, is this really about Athina's arrangement with me, or something else?" She said, "I just WORRY." I said, "You WORRY too much. And you need to either TRUST me, or you need to confront me over whatever is REALLY bothering you. I will do the job. Please, this is enough." She huffed a quick goodbye and got off of the phone.


I opened my email later and there was a note from Athina, saying, "Jessica....I'm not sure what's going on, but, I want you to know what Lori is saying,... it has me concerned.....I'm not sure what to do...." and went on to detail that Lori had come to her ON HER OWN, after seeing a few posts on our respective Facebook walls discussing details of the arrangements, and deluged her with a character assasination never heretofore seen by the likes of either of us. She said, in essence, ( Athina was fair enough and loyal enough to Lori not to divulge the entire confidence, and only insinuating that much, much more was said that she felt was entirely inappropriate. I have nothing but admiration for her for making such a wise and compassionate choice for both of us.), I was untrustworthy, and that I shouldn't be allowed to care for Athina's dogs, or her home; that Lori herself wouldn't EVER let me do something so personal, and then went into some diatribe about money I owed her! Luckily, after some discussion with me, Athina herself noted that "it didn't seem to be coming from a balanced place" and that "I don't agree with her; I've already trusted you with my kid, you know?!?!" I was relieved that it was still all good with Athina, since I really like her, and Rowan, and appreciate the work she tries to throw my way.

However, I was incensed at Lori. Who DOES that kind of thing to a friend? And why? So I confronted her. Her answer was that she was "Angry. Reallly, really angry and especially about money. I'm sorry I did it, because I should have come to you, but I was ANGRY."


Since this came out of the blue and I was pretty gutted (to say the least), I wasn't in a good place about it, and I didn't want to deal with her about it, either. I was just TOO mad. I was arguing a lot with my mother at the time and stressed out about a number of things, and just didn't feel like I could add dealing with a list of excuses why this behavior was okay right then. So I told her that I needed a bit of time to chill and come at it without so much anger. She took that well, and we exchanged a few emails about other things. I had hope that the friendship could be saved.
Then she went off to the spas and Brazil and all the rest.

At the end of the summer, I repeatedly tried to contact her to sit down and talk. She demurred, saying she was feeling depressed. I told her that I'd be willing to help her in any way I could, since I felt friendship came before conflict in a crisis. She set up a few things, but cancelled them. She wanted me to go to Vegas with her-- her treat. I turned her down, saying I was busy (I really just didn't feel comfortable with accepting those invitations anymore, understandably, and not when there was a money issue on the table). Then she kind of disappeared. I tried a few more times to get her to call me or meet me, but no answer.

Last week, I emailed her and said, "Hey, are we still going to Muse?" I was thinking, "If we're not cool by then, I need to make other arrangements." She emailed back that she didn't want to go, so she wanted $100 for the tickets.

That's when I cracked.

I was going to go ahead and pay her $100 I didn't have, if not just for me, then also for Friend, whom she so cavalierly is also screwing over. But I was pissed as hell, and in discussing it with my friend Amelia, realized I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to play her game, owe her anything, or deal with it at all. Amelia said, "Just tell her no. Let her sit there with $157 worth of tickets to a band she doesn't even know, and deal with what her little whim cost her. If you want to go, you can probably get a cheap ticket just for you. As far as Friend goes, that's her bitch with Lori, so let her take care of her own business with her. Just stop this little merry go round, and owe her nothing. She's obviously got some sort of issue."

And so I just said, "No, Lori, I don't want them. Maybe you can sell them on ebay. Or talk to Friend. You'd promised one to her, too." She emailed back, "Okay." And NOTHING MORE. I got the feeling she was totally hacked, and was being so terse with me since she'd done me a "favor" (that I didn't ask for) and now she had nothing. I also got the feeling that she was angry with me again, for.....what? For taking a break? For attempting to get a hold of her repeatedly? It felt like I was the being made The Villian of The Entire Summer.

I spoke with Friend privately and explained my drama and financial dillemma . She was gracious, and really pissed at Lori. I went and looked, and I can get a $50 ticket in a much better spot if I indeed want to go. It turned out just like Amelia had predicted.

So. So.

I'm not talking to her, still. It makes me sad, because she and Nate WERE my good friends, and I would love to see her thrive and be well. I miss them both.

(A brief caveat before the summary: I cannot be sure that her choice to unload to Athina and run all over the globe and so forth is a result of her disease. I mean, if it were, I think that either Nate or her mother would have--should have-noticed it. Nonetheless:)

I just don't have the energy to keep up with her changing characterizations of me in her mind, and I don't have the heart to suffer the slings and arrows of that hurt anymore. It's been too many times now. I'm a firm believer that at the end of the day, you still gotta take responsibility for The Shit You Did When You Were Crazy. I guess I kind of see it like they do in AA- you take responsibility, you make amends, you hope the person forgives you, but you don't demand forgiveness. After all, The Shit You Did still hurt them, and while the illness wasn't your fault, it still has consequences. Trust needs to be re-earned, and sometimes, relationships rebuilt. Hopefully the person will understand that you have an illness you can't always control and give you that chance. But making the effort to say something is so appreciated, nonetheless.

I actually thought that this summer, with the gallavanting all over and the bizarre blowup with Athina that she was starting to be manic again, and it all would fall back into place when she hit rock bottom and had to pick herself up. (The fact that she was depressed recently supports that argument; what goes up must come down, and usually comes down hard.). It hasn't really sunk in, though, I guess...or I could be entirely off base (see caveat, above.). All I know is this looks suspsciously like other things she's done before, when she was ill. And I can't help but think that I don't wanna watch her cycle in and out of this illness if she isn't going to take care of herself, because it's not easy dealing with someone who won't deal with it first. I'm thinking that maybe the way she's treating her illness isn't the best way to handle it, and maybe it's time to sort out what IS, because it's starting to cost her. And ME.

I'm tired of being sucked into her whims and her whirlwind, too. I can't live the way she does-- I can't afford it! I have to work, and I have a house to take care of, with pets and bills due and a budget to attempt to manage. And I don't want to set myself up for a.) disappointment when she inevitably changes her mind, b.) feeling indebted to her for something I can never offer in return (I could never pay for a spa trip for my friends!) or c.)resentment from her when I'm not the super-fun friend she thought I was, in the same social strata she is, with as much freedom and disposable income (I do think she's looking for that, even if she isn't aware of it. I can't be that.). I feel, given the events of this year, that there are strings attached to everything she's ever given me materially, and I DON'T DO that. I have plenty of that with my mother; I don't need someone else doing it. Maybe I'm misreading her meanings, it's true. But all together.....I'm tired of it all.

In the end, I feel totally fucked over. Not just because of the stupid concert-- they'll be back. But because of the way she's handled everything in the last two years. Right now I feel like I'M the bad friend in her mind for not forgiving her right away for doing something truly ugly, and sticking her with tickets I was never supposed to pay for to begin with. But if that's true, she's failed to see how much bigger her lifestyle/her illness has cost her: that maybe this life-on-a-whim is not working the way she wants, that trying to be "normal" for everyone else's admiration isn't going to make her happy, that like it or not, fair or not, you DO have to slow down a bit more than the average person, that you cannot use money and gifts as a string to yank on people when you want them to do what you want.

In the end, I think she needs to sort it all out and take some responsbility for all of it. That's just my perspective, and.....

I hate to be a bitch, but, hey.....if you're going to live life by the seat of your pants, that's your perogative. Just know that it has its price, and sometimes, its price is losing people to your own selfish whims and inability to face your failings...especially when you hurt them in the bargain . Not cool. That's just not cool at all.

GAHHHHHH. response to a few requests, I tried to enable comments on my blog. It didn't work! I have no clue as to why, but as soon as my BFF is feeling better, I will ask her, as she uses this bloggy platform and prolly knows more than I do about it....
This post should be titled, "I Hate To Be A Bitch, BUT...."


I shouldn't do another post bitching about The Roomie, I know. But here I am again, feeling like my brain is going to explode, so it's either brains everywhere, or blogging. You have my apologies in advance.

So, I woke up today at 5pm. Yes, 5pm. I've seemed to take to sleeping all day again, since I cannot get a quiet moment in my own house where I'm not relegated to my bedroom for 18hrs a day. (During the week, I've gotta figure out somewhere to go and sit and just chill out and get work done, I really do.) Davy was here for his weekend with Mommy and of course, they didn't go anywhere. I'd asked her to try and take him out one of the days when he had his weekends here-- to the park or maybe to a playdate, whatever--just so I can be in my house a few hours freely--but she didn't. Of course not. Why would she? Isn't the whole world enamoured of her child and in service to her needs?

That's harsh, I know. But try waking up to the following on Saturday night and see how you feel:
  • One of my favorite knick-knacks busted. Said knick-knack was on my desk, which I have repeatedly asked her to keep him off of.
  • The house littered with ink pens-- which for some reason, she sees fit to let a 2yr old play with. I really don't care, because that's her (foolish) decision (does "you'll put your eye out" ring a bell?), but I don't want ink marks all over my couch fabric or curtains or walls. Said pens end up on floor, where New Puppy thinks they're fun to chew on. This can only end badly.
  • Sink full of dishes, food on floor. I had asked her to PLEASE take time to pick up this kind of stuff when he goes to bed. Nope.
  • Ripped up paper littering carpet. Why? Because he and dog both love to shred paper. I've asked her to pick up this shit too. Nope.
  • Bathtub filled with toys, bathroom floor wet. Obviously, a bath was had. Again, another discussion item being ignored.
  • Yard toys all over yard, dirt that has been dug up from yard in drifts and piles everywhere on terrace. (Yes.....and nope.)
  • Box FULL of yard sale items completely broken and books, toys, clothes spilling out onto dining room floor.

Call me anal retentive, call me unrealistic about living with a toddler. However, that isn't my point in listing all of this shit. And if you'll indulge me, let me go on to describe how SHE keeps HER things:

  • All manner of craft supplies-- wax, candle makings, bath salts, scents, etc-- shoved into boxes on top of the wardrobe. Okay, fine, right? No. Kid gets into boxes and drags all of this out, and she just shoves it back on top of wardrobe, higgedly piggedly, waiting for him to get into again. Boxes are probably empty now, all the crap is on top of them.
  • Tissue paper/old newspapers from....whatever wadded up and shoved on top of boxes in same area.
  • Various knick-knacks and jewelry in between furniture in LR, having fallen there and never been picked up.
  • Clothes scattered around and hanging out of drawers and hampers.
  • Bed (also couch) is full of toys, torn paper and stuff the dog chews on.
  • Desk is a complete bomb site. Receipts, paperwork, CDs, pens, hair clips, makeup, all piled onto surface. Hell, the Magna Carta could be in there and who would know?

It wouldn't matter to me so much if she had her own room. But this is all in the front area of our home, and when people come over, they have to see it. She doesn't have a lot of pride about that, and gets irritated when I care. I'm sorry, but I was raised to pick up a bit before guests come over, if not for their comfort, then mine. I don't want to be embarrassed by a house that looks like a frat boy lives in it.

I don't know why she doesn't care much for her things, and leaves them around like that, but that's her issue, not mine. What I really care about is her lack of concern for how MY house is being treated. She lets ALL of this stuff pile up and her kid run rampant and then sits around like it's no big deal. And when I get on her case, I get the EYE ROLL, like I'm some dictator. NO, HONEY, this is MY HOME! This is MY STUFF! All stuff I worked very hard for and paid for and have tried to keep nice, and I want to continue to keep!

And on THAT note, THAT doesn't seem to matter either:

A couple of weeks ago I went out to run errands during the day. I came home after she and Davy had left for the bus for the evening. I unlocked the gate to the yard, and stepped in.

And found my front door hanging WIDE FUCKING OPEN.

As was my mouth when I laid eyes on it. At first I thought, "Hmm. Maybe they're still here...." I checked my watch. I walked in, called for them, walked through the whole house.

No. They had indeed left for the bus. And left my house not only unlocked, but the door open like an invitation. Mind you, the gate was locked. (WTF is the logic in THAT!?) The walls are high (6ftish) but are easily scaled, if you're looking to do it.

Needless to say, I almost had a stroke.

And when she came back, I pointed it out to her. She said, "Oh, I'm so sorry, " like she'd borrowed a book and forgotten to give it back. I raised my voice and said, "NO. That's not good enough. See, Annie, this is the first and the LAST time this is going to happen, do you understand? " She said, "I'm sorry!!" like I'd poked her with a stick.

What I didn't tell her was that I had made a decision that day: if I EVER come home and see that again, I'm confiscating her keys. Yup-- you read that right. No keys, no coming and going. You wanna go somewhere? I let you out and in and you don't have any freedom to choose when unless you have to get to the bus. You'd better hope I'm home for anything else. Yes, that's extra work for me, but more peace of mind, so it's worth it to me to teach her a lesson like that.

So. I hate to be a bitch, but.....

In my house, you act like a teenager, and you get treated like one. That's all there is TO it.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Right now, I should be making banana bread. I have 4 bananas I bought and let ripen to almost-brown for that purpose. One more day and they'll be rotten.

I don't feel like making banana bread. I feel like sitting here and complaining. Plus, making banana bread would involve turning on the oven, and given it is right around 80 in the house at 8pm, that sounds extremely unappealing.

WHY is it about 80 in my house, you ask? Why, Jessica, don't you own an AC? Why yes, dear reader, I do.

Why isn't it on, you ask?

Well, let me tell you why. Because my roommate prefers to sweat out the dog, the two cats and me. She's COMFORTABLE at 80 degrees. And because she's comfortable, she didn't think of how STUPID it would be to run the dryer at around 2pm today. How it might run up the power bill, and, since I'm unwilling to swelter, I am forced to hide in my room, where the window unit AC in here is forced to work double-time to fight the heat.

Currently, she's also in the living room sulking it out because the cable got turned off today, as well. Why? Because the bill is due. (I paid half of it, but as I had a $300 unexpected car repair this month, I'm way behind.). The phone is also turned off, and if something isn't done soon, the internet will be, too.

Does she come forward and ask about these things? No.

See, it doesn't OCCUR to her how things get paid. I just present her with a post-it note of her half of the bills every month, she sighs like I'm bleeding her dry and writes me a check. (Mind you, she doesn't pay more than $150 in rent, which is less than 10% of the cost. When I asked her to start doing that this month, as it's been 8 months I've been doing her a favor and letting her live here because of her terrible custody situation, she looked at me like I'd stabbed her.) The girl has never, ever, on her own, paid a bill. That I know of, anyway. And I suppose it hasn't occurred to her that I haven't presented her with a post-it for about 6 weeks now. If it has, she hasn't said a thing.

This, people, is why I want to hit her over the head with an anvil some days. Even though she's a good and nice person, fun to hang out with, and a kind-hearted girl, she lives as though her life has no impact on anyone around her. What's more, she's 25 years old and takes the path of least resistance at every possible opportunity, being mostly unmotivated and uninspired to do much to avail herself of the opportunities of the world. It's just easier to let other people take care of you.

On top of it all, she has a 2 1/2 year old, who, up untill the point at which I said "My house is not a free-for-all for your kid and the fact that you've considered that it IS has got to be the rudest thing I've ever seen," wasn't disciplined. At all. ONLY since I put my foot down and suggested (read: insisted, in a way that had my skin crawling from all the boundaries I felt I was breaching, insomuchas "parenting" a kid that isn't mine) that she wasn't doing him any favors by refusing to take a firm line, has it improved. He's a good kid-- strong-willed, and a toddler; a difficult situation he can't be blamed for--it was HER unwillingness to take control that the problem. And although, as I said, it's gotten better, it sometimes continues to be a problem.

However, even with this living, breathing, talking daily dose of reality coming in every day and needing things, it STILL isn't enough to wake her up to the ways she needs to get a grip on her life, and stop laying passively around til a solution reveals itself (or the cable and phone get turned off.).

To wit:
We had a conversation last week about the Dr. Laura scandal (Annie thought she was right, I thought she was wrong; that's neither here nor there in this example). I commented that, either way, I LOATHE Dr. Laura with the fire of a million suns, since she I find her a.)self-righteous to the point of nastily judgmental; b.) downright cruel and unprofessional in her "theraputic" approach with those who seek her advice and c.) delusionally conservative about how people should conduct their lives, inserting her own values and ideals into her feedback like it is simply reality. Especially, I said, when she deals with SINGLE MOMS (whom she villifies for a.) slutting it up and getting knocked up outside of marriage OR b.) leaving their husbands even despite there being a child involved; c.) working outside the home and leaving the kid with other care providers and d.) in general, being a poor example of womanhood doomed to raise serial killers and rap stars and deserving of every blight that might come their way as they struggle to bring up a child on their own.).

Annie's response? "I think she's right. Mothers should be home with their children."

Um, sure, I stammered, not really believing she meant that comment QUITE like the uninsightful blurb I'd just heard. That would be ideal, but AS YOU KNOW, the world doesn't really work that way. Most mothers would like to be home with their children, I'm sure, but--

"I don't believe that. I think some mothers like to work. I think that's wrong."

Hoo-boy. Here we go, I thought. Here we go on THIS thing again: how she thinks all mothers should stay at home with their kids untill they're of school age, and how dads are no substitute, since they're not MOMS and parents who want to--god-forbid!--have their own lives as well (by, say, having a career, or taking a vacation without the kids or maybe even not letting the kid sleep in the marital bed til he's 4) are selfish and shouldn't have had kids in the first place.

But I said nothing on THAT tangent. I just said, "Well, urhm, that's another discussion. SINGLE MOMS, though-- I mean, what are they supposed to do? They have to take care of their kids and provide for them! There isn't another way! And to get on the air and brutally down-dress them for making the tough choices....that's just wrong."

(Think you know what's coming? Oh, just WAIT for it. )

She says, "Their priority should be to BE there for them. "

The fact that my mouth didn't fall open from shock is a triumph of self-control, my friends. Instead I said, " It's one thing to BE there for them, Annie. But you know, FEEDING THEM and putting a ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS kind of takes priority over that. I'm just sayin'."

She shot me a look like I was the devil spewing infant-eating propaganda and said, "Well, whatever. I guess that's your opinion...."

And I changed the topic, aghast at what I had just heard.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone? I mean, do I really have to spell it out for her? SHE'S a single mom. Ed (the babydaddy) isn't going to pay child support -- he already told her he'd go to jail before he did. Right after he threatened to kill her (resulting in a restraining order, which expires Sept. 30th; the problem of which she's been addressing by sitting on her ass and not consulting legal advice about getting it extended for her continued protection. BTW: having this status as a "domestic violence" case can help her get more access to public assistance, like housing and such... but ONLY with an active order.). So as far as caring for this kid goes, even with joint custody (yes, the judge gave them joint custody, even though THAT'S techinically against the law if there's a restraining order in place....fucking psycho judge. Don't get me started.), she's on her own. She gets a little money from the state, and insurance, and foodstamps and her public transportation subsidized. When she moves out of here (how that's gonna happen, I don't know!) the majority of rent, sundries such as diapers, clothes, laundry, etc., and utilities are on HER.

I discussed this with her as recently as two weeks ago. I finally told her family --and her--that hey, it's been 4 months since this custody judgement. It's not looking like Ed is gonna fuck it up and get sent to jail for breaking the order or non-payment of child support soon so she can get full custody and move back to you like we all suspected and even hoped. As much as I hate to say it, this looks to be an ongoing life circumstance for her that she has to stay here in Los Angeles. It's unfair and awful, no doubt. But it is what it is, and unfortunately, I cannot emotionally or financially afford to be the ongoing solution. I'm happy to be part of a support system, but Annie needs to start looking at stepping out and taking responsibility for her life, including finding alternative housing and work.

Her family was 100% behind me. Annie? Fell apart. Which is to be understood; it's a scary prospect. I wouldn't shove a dog into this city alone. But she's not ALONE alone; she just needs to be ON HER OWN. Which is something she's never, ever been.

(Did I mention she was 25? Right. Never rented her own place, paid her own bills, HAD her own bills, bought a car, bothered to learn to drive a car, or lived alone. Has had a whopping 3 jobs, none of which she has had to keep for more than a year. Right.)

I suggested that she take advantage of the FREE (!!) childcare afforded to her by the state and get a job, and she FLIPPED IT.

"I cannot leave my son! I cannot leave my child! I won't do it!"

Well, Annie, that's up to you, but you have to solve this problem. I'm giving you the deadline of January to sort it out. If there's anything I can do to help you solve it, I will. But the arrangement we're in cannot continue. I can't do it anymore.

I know, I'm the biggest bitch ever, right? Tossing a single mom out into the streets with a kid and a psychopathic ex? Right. I thought so, too, at first. For many months I tried to come up with alternatives: maybe we could pool our resources and rent a bigger apartment. Maybe I could work more and she could work a little and we'd have plenty. Maybe we qualify for Section 8....

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: the very idea of continuing to be this girl's sole Answer To Everything just wore me out. I don't know if I was conscious of how much it was bothering me: I just started sleeping 12-15 hrs a day. Then I started sleeping DURING the day so I didn't have to navigate the exhausting craziness made in my own home by a very active-and-sometimes-tantruming 2 year old running around (sorry to anyone who has toddlers; I do love kids. I even love this kid. However, as I'm sure you're aware,your home is no longer YOURS when you have kids. They run the show. Don't get me wrong: that's normal; he's normal. But as I didn't birth this kid OR sign on to parent a kid at this stage in my life for a variety of good, sound reasons, I find myself a bit ill-equipped to handle it all, you must understand.). I gradually moved on to quiet moping and refusing to see friends. I started feeling like I was old and used up. And it took a professional mental health provider AND my BFF AND several other people to point out, "Hey, why is this your problem to solve? Isn't it hers? Isn't it HER child? What about YOUR life, YOUR dreams, YOUR goals? When does she grow up and take her life on her own shoulders ?."

Where, in other words, were HER answers, HER suggestions, solutions, worries, or concerns about the sustainability of the living situation in this house, or HER situation in general?

Answer: I don't know. And I don't know what solutions she's working on for January. I don't know why she thinks the only way to be a good parent is to be a stay-at-home-mom. I don't know why it's never occurred to her to WANT to be on her own, even before Davy was born. I don't know why it didn't occur to her that it might not be FAIR to presume that I would continue to provide for her and her child indefinitely.

Obviously, I don't even know why she thinks bills pay themselves or it's a good idea to run a dryer in the middle of an August day in Southern California. Even simple things seem to elude her grasp, which, given her level of native intelligence (very high), is really something to ponder.

Maybe I can mash up those bananas and freeze them til tomorrow....I'm suddenly feeling very tired again.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yes, I'm back, bitches.

After an 8-month hiatus from this bitter machine, one would think I would have gained a new outlook on life, or at least a less snarky attitude, since I had no outlet for the snark. I was pretty sick of hearing myself complain and whine, and I figured that if I took a step back and whined less, perhaps there would be less to whine about.


What happened instead is that there was NO outlet for any whining and thusly, I started developing all kinds of wrinkles around my lips, from pursing them together in a semi-permanent sour face. Clearly, I need somewhere to let off steam or I'm going to look like I suck lemons and possibly develop an ulcer. Or a brain tumor.

So here I am, back with a vengeance.

However, I have made a solemn vow to myself to at least spend as much time on being positive as I do on being negative. Call it an experiment in mental health, or my attempt to debunk The Secret-- whichever. I'm just going to call it Not Wanting to Live In Bittertown All The Time Anymore.

But that doesn't mean we can't visit there....

As I did today. Read on...

Two of my cousins became fiancees this week. TWO. One on each side of the family, so I am not spared the forthcoming silent judgment from either my father OR my mother. How do I know it's there if it's silent, you ask?

To this I answer, "How do we know there is oxygen?" Take my word for it. Consider me a scientist of all things Marie and Ross. It's there, okay? Even worse, it's going to be there from the rest of family, too. They already, as I'm sure I've explained in previous posts, think I'm a.) a lesbian; b.) crazy or c.) a crazy lesbian. Whatever the mysterious reason I remain as yet unmarried must be my fault (after all, there's nothing worse than being either crazy or a lesbian, and in certain factions of the family, either or both are major failings in character), so if there were any pity (which is SO much fun, too!), it's likely long gone.

So my plan for revenge is simple: when I marry Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who, being 12 years younger than me, a successful millionaire and a smoking hot lust object for more than one generation, will surely inspire envy and ire from all sectors), I can promise that, without a trace of guilt, I will not be inviting any of them. I don't like their taste in gifts, anyway. I've got all the Wal-Mart tchtockies I can use, thank you.

But none of this means I can't feel sorry for myself, of course.

Don't think I'm not. I am. Pretty earnestly. I'm trying to assauge this wretched feeling by telling myself that Cousin A is a 19 yr old Mormon girl, and her whole job in life is to GET MARRIED and HAVE YOUNGINS, lest she miss out on that Celestial Kingdom situation with her Forever Family (personally,if I thought I were going to be stuck with my nuclear family in Some Version of Heaven for eternity, I WOULD go be a lesbian. Gays aren't allowed in Mormon Heaven, see. I'll bet they're having one awesome party down there in Outer Darkness, though...). Cousin B is 36 and not the deepest tide pool on the beach, and the prospective hubs is of a military sort, which comes with its own set of issues.

It isn't working very well, though. See, I love Cousin A and Cousin B. Both of them love me, and we get along famously. All issues about (what I consider wackadoodle) religious beliefs and intellectual depth aside, they are BOTH wonderful people who have been nothing but kind to me, ever, and who deserve happiness. I could stand here and pick apart all of their flaws, but I really don't want to and don't have it in me to NOT wish them well. While it's certainly true both of them have some life circumstances that make finding a mate a fairly straightforward deal (god forbid I'd have married any one of the dudes I was dating in college....eeeghghg.), really, not the least of which IS being nice and kind and relatively, well.....I don't wanna say "simple", because this implies they would ride the short bus to school, but it's the only word that comes to mind. Simple. As in, not particularly complicated or conflicted. Which, for me, would be akin to asking me to suddenly sprout a third arm or something. I can't do it, never could, and likely, never will. I don't think any one of us is better than the other, mind you. (I certainly took that tack as a teenager, but I've grown out of being THAT pissy. Yes, I have. YES, I HAVE. Oh, shut up. ) We're just different in some key ways.

So if it's not some failing on either of our parts, what IS the problem? Why AM I not yet living in connubial bliss with my soulmate, while both of them plan big Barbie Dream Weddings?

The answer is....

....I don't know.

If I were comfortable with that answer, and didn't feel like a pariah AND a failure (two for the price of one! Fun!) every time someone in my life announces they're gettin' hitched, I wouldn't be blogging right now. If I were A-OK with being alone and steeped in unimaginable personal bliss, I'd be sitting here watching HBO and eating Ferrer Rochay right this SECOND.

Obviously, I'm not. I'm very angry, and bitter, and desperate. ( All of which makes men just TRIP over themselves trying to get to you, BTW.) And I wish I could stop feeling this way, if only to ensure that I send them a nice gift with sweet wishes for their wedding day, instead of a Marie Special (a cheapo Wal-Mart tchtockie masking passive-aggressive disdain/envy/bitterness and deeply ingrained tightfistedness).

But I don't know how. I've tried everything I can, including extensive therapy on the matter, and it doesn't. Ever. Work. It might be that untill *I* get a Happily-Ever-After of my own, I will just have to swallow it, make a dilligent effort to ignore the haters in my family, and have a friend help me pick out gifts to make sure that I'm behaving cordially and appropriately.

Which, not surprisingly, makes me even sadder than ever.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let's give this day a do-over, okay?

It started off nicely enough. Really, it did. I awoke at 11am to thunder, and rain on my tin roof. Beautiful sounds, and good sounds for SoCal. It's a sign that, with any luck, our summer will not be dry and hopeless.

I got out of bed, made coffee, and discussed with Annie the plans for the day. She just got some of her EBT money, so a trip to the grocery store was in order. I also needed to go to the library. I figured slogging around in the rain in Los Angeles ( scary when people who live in sunshine 9 months out of the year get behind the wheel in a rainstorm) should be limited to one trip, so we decided when Davy arrived for the day we'd all pile into the car and go.

Except, of course, Davy's dad had to be an asshole- like usual-- and on a whim, this morning, take him to his (Ed's) mom's house. He's been doing this somewhat frequently lately, much to Annie's consternation, since she's available ALL day and there's no reason to go to Grandma's when Mom is right around the corner. ( Add to this that Ed's lawyer hasn't gotten back to Annie's lawyer about a proper visitation schedule, and Annie is chock out of cash to pay her lawyer to get off of her ass to make a fucking phone call. Annie's lawyer is a lazy bitch, who, whenever asked about such delays, would rather file an injunction and collect another $3000 retainer. ) So she called, and Ed gave the usual excuse, "Oh, I went to drink coffee with my mom this morning and he was having so much fun playing and I had to get to work...." Whatever, pal.

And he said he'd call over there, and see what was up, but OF COURSE he delayed. And delayed. Finally it's about 2:30 and now it's MY day he's fucking up, because we can't leave the house since he MIGHT call. This is when I get a little short with Annie and say, "Okay, I know this is a sucky situation, but this man is holding ALL of us hostage. The whole household is now waiting to get food because he's dicking around. I have other things to do. YOU have other things you could be doing, like working if he's going to pull this crap. " I go on to discuss the lawyer situation-- which I did not know all of the details of untill she told me in the midst of this tense talk-- and her options for getting a pay-as-you-go-cell phone, the concept of which eludes her. Finally, she just hands me the EBT card and her pin and says, "You go." And cries.

Shit. This is not what I wanted.

So I sit and talk to her some more, and the whole financial quandry with this lazy bitch of a lawyer comes out, her trying to stroke Ed enough to get him to agree to a custody agreement they can settle out of court and have the judge sign off on, and this and that, and all of it. Of course, I had no idea. Basically, Ed wants to believe they're getting back together, and the judge is crazy, and her lawyer is....yeah, you guessed it, and Ed's got all the power. Legal Aid won't call back, and she's stuck, at this point, trying to work it to her advantage the old-fashioned way: manipulation. Poor girl.

And guess what time Davy came today? 3:30. Screaming his head off, since of course, he'd not had a nap. Hitting and screaming as loud as he can have become his forte, by the way, since when he's with Daddy, he doesn't have a bedtime. Or naptimes. Or any rules. When he's here, he has boundaries and limits, and naptimes and bedtimes. He's also going through a developmental push, growing and learning to talk, which naturally is frustrating to him. So, when he doesn't get what he wants, he tantrums. When he wants something, he whines.

(There is no whining permitted in Miss Julie's House, in case you didn't know, so this is getting extinguished pretty quick. I think Mommy is so glad to see him she's immune to it, but Miss Julie isn't. So when whining comes around--about every 10 minutes-- I make a silly joke. Or make him laugh. Or if he's being truly incorrigible, say in a serious voice that "there's no need to behave this way." Surprisingly, it works. We're down to whining only when we're truly cranky or hungry or thirsty-- in other words, when there's a real need. )

Today he didn't want to take a nap, so he threw a holy rolling fit. Luckily for everyone involved, he passed out rather quickly, and frankly, for the sake of my own sanity, so did I. I just needed a mental break from the maddening situation in my house which I cannot escape.

I woke up 4 hours later- FAR later than I really intended-- and ate some dinner. Davy? Was back with his dad. Annie was PISSED. Understandably so. I was....pissed that my day had been wasted entirely by stress that I have no control over, or so it feels.

So I commit to going to the grocery store. (Earlier in our talk, Annie really did genuinely offer her card, so that today I could just go and get as much as I could and later, we would all go together and stock up. ) Then I realize that my friend Terry, who lives in NYC had texted me. I pick up the phone to call him, and we're chatting and whatnot. Next week we have plans to meet in Seattle- a short, cheap jaunt for me;a more expensive, long haul for him-- for my birthday, and to see our mutual friend, Kat, who lives there. We're all very excited, and so on, and he and I are talking details, and then he starts going on about "this most recent development, I'm just not accepting it. I cannot."

Um, what?

"You know, the breast thing."


"Oh, shit. You haven't read your email today."

I had, but apparently not THAT email....last night my power cord died, and I've been sharing one with Annie til my new one comes, so I've not been online as much as usual....

AND, as it turns out, Kat was diagnosed with a carcinogenic tumor in her breast this morning.

All the details, I do not have. But it has to be removed, Anthony said, and chemo is probably on the roster, too. I was floored.

Kat is barely 36 years old. (Which certainly puts those stupid new guidelines for waiting untill you're 50 to have a mammogram to shame. SHAME.) I've known her since she was about 16, which is to say, at least 20 years. She was my first roommate in my first apartment on my own, and she's one the brightest, most special people I know. She recently lost her job, and had to move, and is trying to rebuild after losing her business because of the recession. I'm not even sure she has insurance. Her mother lives close by, but her mom isn't entirely....functional, so this is something she might be doing, to some degree, on her own.

Which makes me SICK. Sick to think of that girl doing this on her own. Immediately, Terry and I are like, "We must DO something...." and the best we can do is....possibly buy her a new bed ( because she currently sleeps on a mat on the floor!). I can't stand how unfair that is.

I'm currently praying that when they take this thing out of her next Friday, it's small and contained, and she bounces back with all her might. I want her to know, though, while she goes through it, that she's loved. That we're there for her. But how to BE there when I can't BE THERE??

This day really needs to go back another 24 hours and start over, fresh. I need a different outcome.

And yeah, I did finally make it to the store. I cried in the aisles to the maudlin music they play, but at least I can do that. I can shop, I am well enough to shop. I am well enough and my friend is sick. And don't think for a minute I wasn't grateful for my health and cursing whatever stars made this day as fucked up as THAT at the end of it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In the hubub of the holiday season and my Annual Post-Holiday Season Cold, I realize this evening while making cookies ( yeah, I know. They're New Year's cookies. Shut up.) that I'd forgotten about my recent episode in The Aging Parent Follies.

Not to be sarcastic (me?) or flip ( never!), but as my parents get older, they start to do things that make me take on the role of the adult and them, the role of the insolent teenager. By and large, my parents are in excellent health, are active and self-sufficient. (And just in case, my brother checks on them regularly. Well, sort of. He checks their refrigerator regularly for good eats, which by mere proximity allows him to be in their company at least twice a week.). However, as they start aiming down the middle 60s, I've noticed their tendency to slide into denial about the limitatons of their age. Case in point:

My mom, for most of her life, has had perfect eyesight. Unlike my father and I ( who should be qualified as legally blind along with the rest of his side of the family), she can see without any kind of corrective lens. This is still, amazingly, true at 63 for her. Nonetheless, some aging has taken its toll: she needs reading glasses to read and see small print. Did she go to the optometrist? No. She insists, instead, on buying those cheap reading glasses from the drugstore. Of course, none of them is ever *quite* right, so she has a million pairs of them lying around the house, languishing. A couple of Christmases ago, she finally found a pair that suited her-- but had rather unfortunate frames. (When I teased her that she looked like Buddy Holly trying to wrestle garland onto a pine tree, she didn't think it was funny, oddly.). But then she lost those and the search began anew.

Finally, she once again found a pair that suited her needs, and all was well in her world. Well, except for the fact that she kept misplacing them, forgetting where they were, and really, not havng them on hand when she most needed them. I once watched her try to answer the phone, standing there, with the phone in hand, holding it out at arm's length, trying to find the "ON" button, swearing, "Well, goddammit. I can't see. Where are my glasses? I just had them..." Meanwhile, the phone rings insistently, and by the time she finds her glasses, the caller had just given up. ( Don't ask if the machine picked it up. That's a whole other kettle of fish, my friend....).
I looked at her and in my family's time-honored way of expressing loving jest, pointed, laughed, and ridiculed her infirmity.

"You're like Mr. Magoo bumbling around trying to answer the fucking phone! That's ridiculous Mother. Why don't you just get one of those chains and keep the glasses around your neck? That way, when people call, you can actually answer. It will save on the numerous police drive-bys that will surely start occurring, as people start to wonder if you're still alive, since you're NOT ANSWERING THE PHONE."
Of course, her answer was, "I'm not getting one of those things. They're so UGLY. And they make you look like an old lady."
(Never mind that she IS an old lady....but I delicately avoided pointing this out to her.) In response I said, "Okay, then, go to the doctor and get progressive lenses. The top lens can be clear, and the bottom lens will be your reading lens. You can wear them all the time."
No dice. "I don't want to wear glasses all the time. So unattractive."
(Never mind that *I* wear glasses 80% of the time and my dad, before his Lasik 10 years ago, wore glasses their whole marriage. Whatever....)

Every time I call now, my father answers the phone. When I last visited, it was next to his chair ( you know, His Chair). Apparently he decided to take control of the situation, and now screens all calls.

But you see what I'm dealing with here? Okay.

This year's little Aging Parent Folly was actually a pretty decent scare. I called on Christmas, dutiful daughter that I am, and wished my parents a Merry holiday. My dad ( having answering the phone, of course) returned the good cheer, and I asked him what he'd been up to, blah blah blah. THIS is when he informs me that all was well-- except for that fire in the house 2 days before Christmas.

Excuse me?!? FIRE? WTF?

"Well, I was making some stew on the stove," he started. "You know, I was starting a soup." ( For my dad, this can take all day, BTW. The art of stew/soupmaking cannot be rushed.) "Then the power went out, and we waited a bit to see if it'd come back on, you know.....but it didn't, and we were hungry, your mom was getting impatient , and so we decided to go out to eat."

Uh huh. Where is this going, Dad?

"We came home, opened the door, and the house was filled- I mean just FILLED-- with black smoke! I mean, it was terrible. Just terrible. I went downstairs to see what was going on (sidebar: DID NOT call the Fire Department first, I might add! Hello???), and the stove was all hot and the countertop next to the stove, you know, the green formica we had put in? It was all buckled and black and in flames...." (Second sidebar: where was my mom? Not calling the Fire Department, apparently....) "SO I found the fire extinguisher and put that out, and opened the windows and all that, and..."

"Did you call the Fire Department? I mean....." "Well, yah, after the fire was out and everything....", he answered, like calling them DURING the fire was an insane notion, since he was busy, you know, (DOING THEIR JOB and )putting it out himself. "Well, what did they say, Dad?"
"They said everything was all right, and checked the house for any other risk, which there wasn't. But they said that if we'd have been even 10 minutes later, the whole house could have gone up!!"
I was shocked and appalled at the idea of my parents going through such a trauma at this usually festive time of year, and of my childhood home going up in flames. "I'm SO GLAD you're all right," I squeaked out. "I can't imagine what could have happened. Thank GOD. " My dad, in his usual way, sort of minimized it and replied dismissively, "Well, everything's fine, now, no need to worry."

Then it hit me. "What did they say started the fire?"
"Well, it seems I forgot to turn the stove off when we left. The power was out, so I didn't think to."

Yeah, that's the sound of my palm hitting my forehead.

"Uh, you didn't think to turn off the stove BEFORE you left the house? "
"No, the power was out."
"Oh. Well, USUALLY, it's kind of a reflex; I guess I would have done it automatically. "
"Well, I TOLD YOU, the power was out, so I didn't think of it."

RIIIIIGHT. Because you know, the power was out. Not like it MIGHT COME BACK ON while you're gone, which is an obvious notion. Not like it might have been a good idea to --JUST IN CASE-- make sure you turned off the stove.


And now they're having the insurance people over, replacing the countertops, washing all the apholstery, the drapes,....hiring a cleaning company to remove soot from the walls, the carpets, the furniture, on and on and on and on blahblahblahblah.

It's in moments like these I flash back to my adolesence, when I used burn candles (safely! Yes, safely, I might add!) in my room for ambience ( yeah, I thought I was cool. Shut up.). My mom and dad FREAKED out, and constantly nagged me with things like, "Don't fall asleep with those burning. Make sure you're not burning them next to the curtains. You didn't get wax all over your dresser, did you? I REALLY want you to know we're worried about a fire, so DON'T let those things get out of hand." Okay, I understand that's a reasonable concern: teach the silly teenager about fire safety, yes, yes.

I just never thought the roles would be reversed, that's all.

God in heaven. PLEASE keep us all sane and safe while they get older and older....or untill I can think up a legitimate, passable reason to have them institutionalized....