Home Is Where It Isn’t Anymore

My father called a couple of weeks ago. It was in the evening and after a particularly hellacious day, so I was already ¾’s high and in no mood to coherently speak to my father or listen to him read his grocery list over the phone (yes, he does this sometimes). I declined the call, which means he left a voicemail and then called back again and left another voicemail. No cause for alarm, he does this all the time because it’s 2016 and understandably some people still don’t know how phones work.

The next morning, as I was sitting in a half-conscious stupor with coffee, he texted to tell me to call him. He needed to talk to me, he wrote, and he’d already called and left a voicemail. Because it wasn’t yet 6am, I listened to the voicemail first. “Hi Erin. It’s Dad. Gimme a call. Bye.”

Before I continue with this story, can I just say that PARENTS, YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO LEAVE VOICEMAILS. If you insist on calling us now that texting has been a thing for over a decade, understand that we may not answer and that, should you choose to further inconvenience us with a recording of your voice when a succinct text would be so much more efficient and non-intrusive, please leave a message that a) makes sense, b) conveys the urgency or non-urgency of the situation and c) doesn’t make us think someone died. Because nobody reading this might think my dad’s message could possibly be related to option c, but the last time he left a voicemail + text combo like that, someone had died.

Anyway.

I texted back to tell him that I was getting ready for work and running late, and could this be communicated in 5 minutes or less? He replied that it could. So I called, and then he told me that he’s getting married to a woman I’ve never met.

Which is…a mixed bag for me, emotionally, if I’m being honest. Does it bother me that he’s getting married? Nah, not really. I mean, I do believe that it’s unnecessary and I wonder if he remembers how expensive divorce can be and I suspect he’s having some issues with realizing his own mortality and panicking about dying alone. But his relationships are his business, even though I am the one who wrote his OkCupid profile and convinced him to start dating this woman exclusively because, based on his description of her, she seemed to be the smartest and most independent of the several women he was dating at the time…which was literally only 3 months ago, but no big deal, right?

Anyway part 2.

I was briefly worried for my mom. My parents have been divorced for over 10 years by now, and while their divorce would have happened, anyway, the way it happened was especially shitty and this was entirely due to my dad’s actions. So while I know she doesn’t regret divorcing him and she’s been dating someone great for a couple of years now, I was worried that hearing he was getting married would bother her, and I was pretty annoyed when my sister – who actually lives in the same city as my mom and sees her in person on a weekly basis – said she had no intention of saying anything to her.

Forever the responsible one who understands how actual human beings work, I called my mom last weekend and said “I have something to tell you that you might not like to hear.”

So I told her, and she laughed until she choked on her own saliva, which was not the reaction I was expecting but what the hell, I’d take it. She did seem a little pissed that I only plan on being in town for a day (fly in on Friday, attend wedding and reception on Saturday, fly out on Sunday because everyone knows that no one actually wants to come to St. Louis, so if you require airplane tickets and a rental car, they can jack up the prices like crazy because no one has a choice but to pay it), but unless someone wants to pay me a Family Stipend, they can live with my brief-as-possible presence.

The thing that still worries me is that my dad’s house, which is the one my grandparents had owned since before he was born, will be sold. Apparently he and the woman he’s marrying both want to sell their respective houses and buy a new one together, which I understand, but that house is the only thing I have left from my grandparents. It’s a big part of where I was raised. My grandparents lived there. My great-grandparents lived there. I’ve said before that I’d want my last meal on Earth to be in that backyard. I know the weird window latches and back door lock and the way the floors cant to one side and I still sidestep that one worn stair to the basement, even though it was replaced years ago. I know all the hiding spots in that house and I’m still afraid of the stack of bricks at the back of the yard, even though it only comes up to my thigh now and is in no danger of toppling over and crushing me. I read so many books and heard so many stories and listened to so many Cardinals games on the tiny, tinny little radio in the kitchen while my grandfather chain-smoked and drank bourbon highballs and let me sip all of the flat Coca-Cola I wanted. I know it’s smell. I know the way the air changes when I’m inside of it.

I love that house. I hate that he seems so flippant about selling it (although I’m not surprised, as there is a remarkably strong selfish streak running through that side of the family and while I look like them, I’m forever thankful that I didn’t inherit many of their personality traits). I hate that he keeps asking me what I want from the house, because it highlights his total lack of understanding of how this could make his children feel, as well as his continued ignorance about how expensive it is to transport anything – furniture, people – across a couple of thousand miles of the United States whenever he decides he wants to do something.

I can’t take anything from the house. The few things I’d be able to ship are not things he wants to part with. In addition to knowing that I will lose the last of what’s left of that side of the family, I also got the singular pleasure of being told “you can’t have that until I’m dead, but I’ll write it down somewhere.”

Oh. Oh really. Thanks so much.

The first house I grew up in is gone, sold to another family when I was in grade school. My mom lives in the house in which I spent my adolescence, and I think the only reason she hasn’t fully sold it is because she’d have to give half the proceeds to my dad as part of the divorce agreement, and I can’t honestly say I have many happy memories from there, anyway. My great-grandparents’ house is gone, along with the bedroom where me and my diabetic and blind great-grandmother used to hang out and eat candy bars with her equally diabetic and blind dog, Charlie. My other grandparents’ house is gone, along with the dated furniture and ceramic-glazed kitchen stuff and perfectly roller skate-able basement and potted geraniums and  the giant swingset my grandfather built by sinking iron pipes into the backyard. And when my dad sells this grandparents’ house, I just think that no place will feel like home when I go back there.

I still dream about all of these places, by the way. Most of the time the houses are haunted, with safe floors separated from the shadowy, frightening upper levels. Other times I’m allowed to live in them again, like they’ve found me after all the time I’ve been away. Scary dreams or not, I worry that I’ll stop having them once they’re fully gone and there’s nothing to anchor me there at all anymore.

rob-montgomery-people-you-love

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The Rush of the Eurotrash Hesher

Some people get a rush out of stealing. Others, gambling. Others, punching people in the face in a secret underground gathering full of white males who are upset that their millennia-old power structure seems to be crumbling on a microscopic level. What I mean is that everyone responds to risk in different ways, but that for some, the reaction is an adrenaline-infused freefall, a pinball-behind-the-eyes sensation that tricks one into thinking anything is possible, yes, this feels right, why not me.

For me, that rush comes from spending money. Not in a shopaholic sense – I actually feel physically ill when I spend over $100 on clothes or at IKEA – I mean in a big purchase, major savings spend kind of way. I don’t do things on credit, so when I buy the big things, I have the money to hand over and truthfully, I usually have to hold onto the desk to keep from feeling faint. It’s not something I was brought up to feel comfortable doing, so when I manage it now, I feel a forbidden tickle in my brain-heart, one that whispers seductively “you really shouldn’t be doing this but it feels good, doesn’t it?”

And it does.

This week I dropped a fair amount of money on 4 nights in the Caribbean in January. The timing couldn’t be worse for money reasons – apparently everyone else in the northern hemisphere wants to escape the winter, too (how dare they). But I work in e-commerce and it’s right after the busiest season at work for me, two straight months of 12-14 hour workdays and white-knuckle decisions that leave me denouncing capitalism and wondering if I could actually live in a yurt. Graham’s “busy season” isn’t really a busy season, per se, but Seattle restaurants are both prolific and, as a result, chronically understaffed, and as the mentions in Bon Appetit (!) continue, I imagine he’ll need a break, as well.

Also, in February, Graham and I will have been together for 10 years, an amount of time that seems both impossible and highly weird to me. Sometimes I can’t even believe I’ve been old enough to have been kissing boys for 10 years. Other times I realize that most marriages don’t last 10 years, not even the ones my friends were trying out back when I was getting divorced and telling me things like “it’s too easy to get divorced these days” and “my marriage will last because I’m willing to make it work.” To those people, the ones whose Facebook posts indicate they’re learning just how easy it isn’t to get divorced, I say “SUCK IT, NERDS.” I am nothing if not patient in terms of comeuppance so consider this my satisfaction at the condescending shit you said to me back in our early 20s.

But anyway, 10 years, not without some speed bumps and occasional thoughts of murder, but 10 years all the same. Worth a celebration, I think, specifically one on a beach with an open bar nearby.

I still have to book the flights, which I’m actually not as nervous about ever since I learned how much cheaper it is to fly out of Vancouver than Seattle. Apparently Vancouver is a prohibitively expensive city in which to live but it’s pretty sweet to travel from there, so even with the train to Canada, one night in Vancouver and traveling back to Seattle when we get back, that’s still cheaper than round trip with two stops apiece from Seattle to St. John. Plus, I mean, Canada in January, who can resist?! A Caribbean vacation isn’t a bargain any way you slice it, but I’ll take the small victories when I can.

After this vacation, we can sit down and make some decisions about how to spend all of our childless disposable income. Travel every year is an option (I still need my solo trip and still haven’t deleted my Iceland travel apps), as is really buckling down and saving to buy a house in one of the places on our shared Top 5 Cities For When We Get Priced Out of Seattle list. For as long as we’re still in Seattle, we can sell our junky separate cars and go in on one small one. The possibilities extending into our (gulp) late 30s are not endless but still not extremely limited, so we can see where we go from there.

Until then, Graham can plan on wearing a Speedo and his metal vest to the beach (the “Eurotrash hesher look,” he calls it) and I won’t and that should be a pretty accurate way of describing our relationship, even 10 years down the road.

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When Life Gives You Lemons

It’s said that if you want to be a writer, then you need to read writing that is good. I suppose that if you want to write a blog, you should read blogs that are good, but this is assuming that anyone wants to write blogs anymore, anyway, as they’ve fallen a bit by the wayside in this age of ascendant listicles and clickbait. Which is fine, because I’ve written so little in the past year and some change that nobody reads this anymore, anyway.

But I’ve got some ideas started – contributing to a comedy site run by a friend, plus I’ve gone back and re-read some of the stories I started awhile back. There are hints of pitches and plot points whispering in my brain, and in order to really figure out what they want, I need to flex my writing muscles again. In a way that isn’t a scoldy corporate e-mail, I mean.

I also caught up on a friend’s blog (I almost named her, but then I realized that I still call her what I called her in high school, and now that we’re Grown Up Ladies in Our Thirties, that’s probably not how she wants to be known). If I want to write then I need to read good writing, and her blog, LemonsEstate, is very good writing. It isn’t snarky or thinkpiece-y or topical. It’s quiet and mindful and made me realize that I am very bad at returning my friend’s text messages (although to be fair, unless you’re AT&T reminding me that by bill is due, I’m bad at returning everyone’s text messages).

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A Confession

About four years ago, I was working for a corporation that everyone in my city thought of as the golden ticket of employment. People would ask where I worked and, when I told them, would reply “how did you get a job there?” It was partly a misapprehension, of course, but so many people assumed that a job there was a job for life, and it paid well, and everyone was happy. Kind of like the Wonka factory until you get older and realize that the Oompa Loompas were essentially slaves.

But the thing is, I hated that job. I hated that job more than I have ever hated any job, and keep in mind that I once spent a day squeezing dog assholes as a groomer and a few years pulling espresso drinks for bitchy gentrifiers at 6am every weekend. The job I had sent me home every day with ulcers and migraines and brought me to work with a pervasive sense of dread. And it wasn’t even the job – the job I could handle. I can handle most tedious tasks, it’s part of my poor person DNA. The problem with the job was the department it was in, and the people who ran it, because I have never in my life felt so devalued as a human being as I did for the 8 years I worked for them. And, by the way, I hear they’re still at it, the same people in power for over 10 years now, because those are the kinds of people who never move up because they’re so damn good at exacting cruel mediocrity on everyone else.

When Graham and I decided to move to Seattle, it was for a few reasons. Sure, we had friends here and had fallen in love with the city, but also, I knew that if I left that job and stayed in St. Louis, eventually, I’d be back there someday. It’d already happened once before. So for my health and my sanity, I could leave that job and stay in St. Louis, taking another job that either involved a 2.5-hour daily commute or destroying the world at Monsanto, only to return one day to the same old soul-killing drudgery, or I could move 2,000 miles away to Seattle, where I’d never again be tempted to return to a paycheck that looked great but involved dying inside a little more every day. I chose to move 2,000 miles away.

At first, I took a job at a place that paid well enough, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and although most of the people there were nice enough, they weren’t the kind of people I wanted to keep working with. It’s just…when I have to show people how to save a document to their desktop multiple times because they can’t keep track of the piles of paper on their desks which have started to look like the inside of a birdcage, it gets a little tedious and I knew I wasn’t going to learn anything there. So I started looking for a job in tech, and I got one, and I know this makes me Asshole #1, but guys – I really like my job.

It seems silly to like my job. There’s nothing all that special or prestigious about it. It can be irritating and I still don’t like saying the same fucking things to the same fucking people over and over again. But – and this is a huge but – never once do I look up from my desk and see someone from my department walk by and think “I hate that sonofabitch.” Never! I don’t dislike anyone I work with, even though I’m aware that some of us are fundamentally different and would probably never ever be friends outside of work. But also? I am friends with a number of these people outside of work. Not, like, creepy friends, like when people start working somewhere and immediately become best friends with everyone in their hiring group to the point of going on trips together and being in each other’s weddings. That’s just weird. But I like hanging out with these people, and by and large, they seem to like me. And the thing is, I don’t think that as a group, they’re organized enough to fake it or trick me.

I like that I work in tech, at a company that still conducts itself like a startup. Sure, the pay isn’t as impressive as it would be if I worked at, say, Amazon, but I once worked for the Amazon of beers and I wanted to kill myself on a weekly basis. The answer at my job is never “that’s the way it is” or “that’s how we’ve always done it” or “how would you know, tell you what, I’ll suggest the same thing and steal your credit.” The answer at my job is “tell us how to make it better and we’ll build it for you.” Sure, you still have to repeat yourself a thousand fucking times to condescending web developers, but at least they’re actually doing something about it and that makes your opinions – and, by extension, yourself, in a way – feel valuable. Even on my worst days, I never come home with the intention of drinking a 12-pack until I pass out. I never fall asleep grinding my teeth. I want to tell myself that I’m lucky, but I also realize that no company should ever treat their employees the way my old one did. I’m not necessarily lucky, I just escaped.

And this is what I force myself to think about on Sundays, when it’s gray and raining for the millionth day in a row and we’ve lost an hour to Daylight Savings Time and the deep animal part of my brain is digging in its heels because it doesn’t want to go to work the next morning. I think about and remember this stuff, as well as how it feels to stand in front of the elevator every morning and realize that I’m not dreading going inside to start my workday. I like my job. I like the people I work with. I like my bosses. Whenever I think about how I make less money than I did before or how my insurance isn’t super great (ahem, like when I stare at the medical bills on my desk, like, right now), I remind myself that it’s a small price to pay for feeling like an actual human being every day, and I am grateful that I finally found this place.

(It helps to know that I have no expectation of my bosses every finding me on the Internet, btw, so you know that I really really really mean this.)

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Home and Far Away

The thing about being essentially homebound to recover from abdominal surgery is that eventually, even if you think you’re a champion recluse who never needs to leave the house, you will get terrifically bored and start to act out in strange ways. Currently, I can’t drive or walk very far, so I’m limited to…well, sitting around or getting the mail, basically. I’m wearing down the battery on my phone by early afternoon because there’s little else to do but fuck around on Twitter, and even though I’m really good at it, sometimes it gets boring and that’s when I turn to online shopping.

Guys.

This is a problem. I mean, it’s not a financial problem – even though I’m online shopping more than I’ve ever done before, I’m still me and in charge of my bank account with an almost fanatical kind of precision – but it’s a problem because I know I’m doing it for purposes of release and that kind of weirds me out. It’s so…so capitalist, I guess, and the exact kind of thing I make fun of people for.

But you know, doctors did spend over 4 hours cutting into and prying stuff out of my guts, so forgive me if I seem out of line.

In addition to buying all new underwear (because without a uterus, I’ll never have a period-damaged pair again, MWAhahahahahaha!), I’ve also gone a tiny bit crazy on things that no one else would ever be excited about. My standard black tank tops, t-shirts, and leggings, for example. Cheap and plentiful and pretty much all I ever wear and if Younger Me had been less slutty and more Catholic, she might have become a nun just because having a uniform is so easy.

I also started an Amazon wishlist and frequently feel drunk with power when adding items to it. I shared the link with Graham after he asked what I wanted for my birthday, and his first words upon checking it were “none of this is fun stuff, though.” (Note: he only briefly raised his eyebrows at the $700 dining room table + chairs I want, which is a very weird under-reaction from him.) So I’m going shopping-nuts for me, but nobody else would be impressed.

In addition to the shopping I’ve already done, I told Graham that I want to spend all my extra money in 2016 and 2017 on travel. We’ve never been able to travel together before due to conflicting schedules and money (I maniacally saved mine, he didn’t have any extra to throw away) but lately I’ve come to realize that traveling more makes me happy, and if I have to be a slowly decaying barren woman in her 30s, I might as well make the most of it.

This year is Iceland in the spring, after rescheduling the trip twice (once because I decided to pick a mid-winter date for the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights, another time because I found out about my bum uterus and couldn’t breathe without severe pain for nearly 2 months). Then hopefully an all-inclusive Caribbean trip in the fall with Graham, who blanched at the price initially but then I did what I’ve been doing to myself and just whispered “all-inclusive” while urging him to imagine the condensation of a cold blender drink for which he doesn’t have to pay or tip, in his hand.

2017 should be Cuba and a national park – Graham wants to see the Grand Canyon for the first time, I’m willing to endure the tourists if it means we can see Yosemite soon – and maybe we can fit in a third short trip, like a weekend in Vancouver or the San Juans. I can get a credit card that nets miles and we can see where that takes us (eventually).

After that, ideally I’d like to try for one international and one domestic trip per year. We’re supposed to be making lists. So far, mine includes Yellowstone, Big Sur, the Florida Keys, Santa Fe, Kauai, Maine, Nova Scotia, Buenos Aires, Uruguay, Colombia, Budapest, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Manchester (and the rest of the North), the Hebrides, Lisbon, Sweden, Vietnam, New Zealand and Kenya. I don’t know what’s on Graham’s list and he says he’ll go wherever with me, but honestly, I would like to take the occasional trip by myself, too. I mean, obviously not the big ones, but I like traveling by myself like I like going to movies and eating fancy meals by myself. It just feels…comforting, in a weird way, knowing that I am dependent upon myself and can do whatever and go wherever I want.

Of course, all of this is just me pretending to be a rich person for awhile, without the spectre of medical bills and rent and all that stuff. But it’s nice to think about, and I occasionally fall into the “why not me?” mindset as I watch people I know go on trips and do things and have experiences that aren’t limited to spending a weekend at IKEA.

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BUT THERE’S FREE FOOD

Have you read that open letter to Yelp’s CEO, written by a 25-year-old CSR at the company? Okay fine this was like 2 weeks ago, but I have been concerned with recovering from organ removal so excuuuuuse me. Anyway, I read it about a week ago and have been thinking about it ever since, both in terms of the actual letter, my own experiences that are similar to those of the letter’s author, and in other people’s reactions to it, both on Twitter and on Facebook.

First, Twitter and Facebook are, as usual, completely opposite. On Facebook – where, admittedly, most of the people I know are from the more conservative Midwest – the general perception is that the letter’s author is a spoiled complainer who needs to learn how the world works. On Twitter, the general perception is that Yelp is evil and holds their employees in a slave labor camp.

Although in almost everything else I lean to the Twitter side of things, in this case, I’m split almost evenly down the middle. And this is kind of hard to admit, which I’ll explain in a minute.

The Yelp letter describes the personal experience a 25-year-old college graduate who chooses to move to the Bay Area and after arriving there, applies for a customer service position at Yelp. They were offered and accepted the position with the assumption (theirs, not Yelp’s) that they would be promoted to a higher-paying job within 6 months. When this didn’t happen, they became resentful of their pay rate (low, but what customer service pay rate isn’t?), cost of living (again, this person chose to move to the Bay Area, widely known as one of the most expensive places to live in the US), insurance copays ($20 per office visit for full health, vision and dental, which is more comprehensive than and has copays $5 cheaper than mine), and holiday and weekend schedule (they have to work, which, again, where in customer service is this not commonly practiced?). The letter author complains that there is no way they can continue to survive without getting (gasp!) a second job, and that they and other people in their department are nearly homeless and have to depend on the free food and snacks provided by Yelp during work hours (this would have been an unbelievable luxury to me at any point in my working life).

And okay, I get it. I get that companies should pay their employees a living wage. I get that the “living wage” differs depending on where someone is living, and that if I was planning on moving to San Francisco for work, I’d need that work to pay me more money than I’m currently netting in Seattle. I completely agree with these points. I also get that my personal experience shouldn’t lower my empathy for someone else, as we should always strive to improve the quality of life for others instead of forcing them to re-live our own past struggles. This is why I strongly supported raising the minimum wage. I don’t give a shit that I made less than $6 an hour for my first job, a 16-year-old entering the workforce today shouldn’t have to scrape by on that same amount for the same work. Give people the money, make it better for everyone, move forward and let’s set a precedent that companies are accountable for their employees.

But this Yelp letter…it just won’t stop rubbing me the wrong way (counter-clockwise, don’t you know anything about the clitoris?!). I’ve tried to interpret it differently and to see this person’s points as valid, but honestly, I can’t get over their shitty entitled attitude or inability/unwillingness to take any responsibility for their circumstances. Can they help that our education system saddled them with a ton of student debt? No, probably not. Can they help that the CEO of their company hasn’t raised a CSR’s salary to that of, say, a manager making the roughly $60,000 a year needed to live comfortably in San Francisco? Again, no. Can they do anything about the nationwide problem of desirable cities with strong economies being incredibly expensive whilst more affordable cities exist, albeit with  almost consistently weaker infrastructures and stagnant economic growth, both of which make furthering a career there either undesirable or impossible? Absolutely not. The letter author is not to blame for these things.

However, they did choose to move to the Bay Area immediately after school, with no savings or profession. They did choose to apply for and accept a position that isn’t known for paying particularly well (but offers full health benefits and free food). They did choose to assume that they would magically be promoted within 6 months, despite the absence of such promises made by their employer. They chose to reject the prospect of taking on a 2nd or 3rd job to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the country. They chose to complain in a public forum after less than a year of living in circumstances that are far better than what many other people in this country can expect. They’re…they’re kind of a bitch about it, honestly, and that’s why I can’t quite muster the sympathy to say “I’ve been there, I know, I hope it works out okay.”

See, I have been there. I do know. I’ve been completely broke and working three jobs to stay alive and eating bowl after bowl of rice and broccoli because it was the cheapest food I could find that still allowed me to take a shit every now and then. I’ve lived in cheap, crappy apartments in a cheap, crappy city. I’ve had to beg for rides to work. I’ve had to forgo sleep and a social life. I’ve had to struggle, is the thing, and again, while I don’t think that everyone should be forced to struggle or that society necessarily benefits from that, I find it kind of grossly presumptuous that anyone would find these circumstances, which are so typical to so many people and even preferable to the circumstances of lots of others – to be so unfair that they would necessitate a letter to their CEO, and further, to be shocked when they’re fired from a job they obviously loathe. I mean, I know we’re should push for higher wages and fairer treatment, but I just can’t fully wrap my head around why I’m supposed to feel sorry for this person’s little tantrum.

I’ve worked with people like the letter author my entire life. People who thought a college degree catapulted them above those who’d been working harder and better for longer. People who claim ignorance of a world where weekends and holidays off aren’t an option for everyone (just those dumbass civil servants, hospital workers, cashiers, and everyone else who makes the world keep going, right?). People who confuse ideals with rights. I’m not saying that you should swear fealty to a corporation just because they throw you a bone every now and then. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue fighting for a living wage for everyone. What I am saying is that people like this letter author are setting themselves back and would do well to understand the workplace (as well as personal economics) better before firing off a bitchy letter that makes them look less like an employable adult and more like a Millennial brat who’d prefer a teat to suckle instead of actually working at an actual job.

It makes sense that Millennials – a generation for whom promises of education, prosperity, and careers turned out to be more like lies – resent the reality that not every job pays equivalent to its requirements or the demands of the city in which it exists, but I think the biggest problem with them isn’t the ideals – it’s the work involved in making those happen. They’re reluctant to get involved enough to get dirty, their “activism” is more defined by whiny Internet posts rather than grassroots mobilization, and their resistance to work and the idea that it can be hard and may not always yield an immediate reward is going to continue to doom them.

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Truckin’

At this time last week, I was just going into surgery to have what turned out to be a 5-lb tumor removed from my uterus, which had expanded to 16 times its regular size and was roughly the size of a watermelon. I had to stay in the hospital for a couple of days due to pain and bathroom issues (ummm my bladder had to re-learn to pee when a tumor wasn’t sitting on top of it) but I’ve been home since last Friday, shuffling around and trying to sleep and don’t worry, my bathroom issues are fixed now. I’ll go back to working from home tomorrow, probably half the time in my desk chair and half the time from my bed. I’ve already reduced my dosage of pain medication, but if you ever want to check my progress on that point, please check my Twitter feed to see if I’m lucid (normal words, legible sentence structure) or looped out of my skull (my mom watched Pawn Stars and shows about Hitler during her visit, so these are seeping into my sleeping brain).

Now I’m just concentrating on not hurting when I’m conscious, booking Iceland for late April, and signing up for a gym membership in early May. I can’t be truly active until then, and I’m already anxious to get rid of all this weird extra almost-pregnant-lady skin. It turns out that I was kind of a secret thin person under the giant uterus, but that it’s still hard to see because of this big fold of skin that’s just kind of flopped there. A month and a half of pain-related inactivity before this didn’t help in reducing that, and my current/ongoing immobility isn’t making me feel any better about it. But with any luck (and a whole lot of cursing come May), Graham and I might be able to swing a semi-affordable beach vacation in the fall and I won’t feel like a grotesque sack of laundry and potatoes someone threw out of their car while driving down the highway.

Speaking of my garbage dump of a body, it’s remarkable the transition that a person is a capable of making between their mortifyingly Catholic teenage years and their hyper self-aware 30s. Back then, I would have been humiliated had something happened in my reproductive area. Going to get my first Pap smear was upsetting enough to make me vomit in the bathroom across the hall from the exam room. Today, though, I would discuss this with anyone who would listen. I signed to allow medical assistants to watch the procedure. I was fine with photos and video. When the anesthesiologist asked me if I was a real redhead, I offered to show her my pubic hair as proof if she needed it (redheads require more pain medication because we have a genetic mutation that affects pain receptors in our brain and produces an enzyme that blocks more pain medication than a normal person; this is actual scientific fact and something I have to tell every dentist I ever see and only half of them believe me until we’re midway through the procedure and, as I predicted, I need at least triple the standard amount of Novocaine). My first words upon waking up from surgery were “Who’s going to help me use the bathroom?” I accepted giant hospital underwear and even more giant sanitary pads with a grim resolve. I gleefully reported to a nurse that I farted for 30 straight minutes in the middle of the night (because yes, farting is hilarious, but also this was an accomplishment because the gas that builds up after abdominal surgery is painful enough to make you want to die). When I had to get 2 catheters in one night because my body wouldn’t pee on its own, I apologized to the nurse by saying “I’m sorry you’ve had to look my urethra in the eye more than once in the same shift.”

I just don’t care anymore is the thing. All the things I feared in childhood make no sense anymore. If it hurts to the point where I am debilitated, I will let absolutely anyone with a medical degree and a nametag look at my private parts. Can you administer morphine and order me some applesauce? Great, lift up my gown and take a gander. It’s a free-for-all down there.

But really, the key is to accept that you don’t have control over your body anymore, you can’t affect how you look (you really shouldn’t be looking in the mirror, anyway), and that when your surgeon tells you not to do any ab exercises for 6 weeks, it’s fine to laugh and say “let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

It would be easy to look at May as Gym Month and to interpret it as being so far in the future that it will never actually happen; however, I was given an instantaneous 5-lb weight loss as kind of a head start from the Universe, so it’d be pretty foolish to pass up this chance. Plus, without a complete reproductive system to slow me down, I’ll no longer experience weeklong exercise amnesty periods or cramps so severe that they feel like exercise on their own.

I shall be motivated by my Mystery Chasm and the promise of an all-inclusive resort and its accompanying tropical drinks and no-consequences sex on hotel sheets, I think, which is a far more promising system than anything I’ve been able to come up with before.

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