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.

Posted in WTF | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A Barren Woman

If you were one of those people who, throughout my life, told me that I couldn’t possibly know that I didn’t really want kids, or who insisted I would change my mind as I got older, or who scoffed at the idea that a female had the ability to decide that the biological desire to reproduce just wasn’t for her without any larger trauma guiding that decision, I have a thing to tell you:

I am finally a barren woman.

Also:

I told you so.

Two days ago, I had a partial hysterectomy performed by a robot in order to relieve my body of nearly two months of constant, chronic, severe pain caused by one very large fibroid tumor and a whole bunch of smaller ones. It seems like a long time to wait for relief and it was, and there were times that I basically stopped functioning because it hurt too much to stand, walk, or be conscious. But really, none of the tumors in my uterus were the cancerous kind, so I understood that other women who needed killing parts cut out of them needed the robots sooner. So I waited, and finally I got my surgery, and 4 hours later, my uterus – which was the size of a watermelon and weighing five pounds, btw – along with my fallopian tubes and cervix were outside my body.

At the moment, I’m trying to heal. I’m still in a lot of pain from both the incisions (five total, and guys, I should not have looked the belly button one directly in the face) and the gas that surgery causes. Oh, right, that’s the thing about abdominal surgery, especially one performed to get rid of an enormous mass in your body. Your body has to re-learn how to pee and fart without those masses in the way. Which I wouldn’t think would be a problem, neither in function nor in things I normally find hilarious, but it turns out that both are extremely difficult and caused me to scream out in pain and dry heave and panic because I couldn’t breathe and this of course led to several extra shots of morphine in my IV and an extra night in the hospital. Anyway. I’m home now and trying to get better and so far I’m okay, I think. I can finally pee again and it no longer takes 20+ minutes. I can fart and it’s becoming funny again. Graham is an amazing nurse, strong enough to lift me and patient enough to get me every single thing I need while also waiting 8 weeks to have sex with me again (although he did say that he caught some upskirts in my hospital room, even though they were nowhere near as sexy as he thought they would be). My mom is in town to help. I can’t do much of anything for the first week and I’m not even supposed to drive for two more weeks after that, but I’m doing what I can and hopefully I can start living in 2016 without debilitating pain soon.

But there’s a thing that makes me mad still.

After turning 30, I noticed that my periods went from relatively normal and regular and manageable to…um, what’s the word? Hellish. Yes, that sounds right. I noticed that in terms of pain, discomfort, volume, etc., my periods were becoming impossible to handle while also being a functioning person with a job and a life. And I told doctors this for three years, I told them how uncomfortable and nauseated and humiliated I had become during my period, and every single one of them told me the same thing: “Periods can get worse as you get older.”

Another thing every doctor for the past few years told me was that I needed to lose weight. And for a bit, yes, they were right. I did need to lose weight. I knew that my face was fat and I didn’t look comfortable in photos and I didn’t feel like myself anymore. So I lost weight. I got a Fitbit, started using it and keeping track, and I went down two whole sizes in maybe half a year. Still, even though every time I went to the doctor I’d lost weight, I was told to lose more. Two separate doctors told me that I had to lose my belly fat because it led to high cholesterol and “a weak core.” So even though I’d lost this weight and should have felt proud, I still felt like a big fat failure, because the doctors told me I was.

So when I went to the ER just after New Year’s with unbearable pain and a severely distended abdomen and told them I’d been on my period for over 2 weeks and found out about this fibroid tumor (after 2 pelvic exams and a pelvic ultrasound, which is a lot like how I imagine alien abduction goes), I was a little upset when doctors asked me how I didn’t know something was wrong before.

I didn’t know because no one told me.

Because I’d been telling them my symptoms for years and no one suggested this.

Because they refused to do their jobs, and if I’d been the type of woman who did want children, I’d have been devastated.

I can’t even wrap my head around that. I’ve always known that I didn’t want kids. No question about it, not for me. Even when I was told I’d have to have a hysterectomy, no hormonal alarms sounded in my head to tell me this isn’t what I should be doing. But if I hadn’t been me, if I had been someone else who desperately wanted children as a biological imperative, I would be crushed. Not only because that opportunity was taken from me, but because the doctors who were supposed to care for me missed this entirely for years. Because, apparently, it is easier to call a woman old and fat than it is to address an actual medical issue.

And since my diagnosis, one friend of a friend went to her doctor and, with my story in mind, told them about a concern she had about her own periods and asked to be checked. Turns out she has an ovarian cyst that needs to be removed. Another friend is going to the doctor soon for the same symptoms – cysts actually run in her family, and although her doctors haven’t offered her more information, she wants children some day and knows this could affect her fertility.

I promise I’ll tell funny stories about the hospital later. For now, please, if you’re at all concerned about your own issues, please go get yourselves checked. If your periods are especially difficult or have changed, or if the pain is worse, or if you’re gaining weight or mass and don’t know why, please don’t wait for a doctor to say something. Some might genuinely miss it. Some really don’t give a shit about your health. Bring it up, ask about your options. If you’re not cool with being barren (I call the now-empty space my Mystery Chasm!), do what you need to do to protect yourself and your fertility.

Signed,

Me and my Mystery Chasm

Posted in Uncategorized, WTF | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Ron Swanson of Partial Hysterectomies

My absence here has been conspicuous, but also by design. There’s little that’s happened that I felt like talking about, or at least opening a discussion about, as this blog has become since readership shrunk. Which I guess isn’t a bad thing, but over the past year, I’ve found that I am better at dealing with almost all of my issues on my own. It’s certainly appreciated to know that you have support and that people are rooting for you, but when you’re having a particularly bad time with a particularly bad situation, the last thing you need is some asshole commenting on a year-old blog post about how you were wrong about something you honestly haven’t thought of in months or are a spoiled shitty brat in general who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. When I realized that the comments didn’t make me angry as much as the time it took to read them, I decided that I was better suited for Twitter and forced myself to stop looking at my life as something to be written about.

And for the most part, that’s gone okay.

However, I did keep paying for the domain name, both because I am an idiot who likes to waste money and because I figured that I might eventually have something to say. And aren’t we all lucky that I did, because I have some news and you guys are going to shit yourselves.

Guys.

I’m 20 weeks pregnant.

Hold on.

Wait for it.

With a tumor.

All those times you saw me in the past few years and thought “her belly looks kind of big,” congratulations, your eyes were not deceiving you! They were honest and true. My belly did look kind of big, and this was a thought I carried with me day in and day out, it was a thing that caused me to get a Fitbit and lose (by now) over 30 pounds, it was something doctors loved to comment on (“a woman of your height should have a lower BMI, try losing some weight” no matter that I was consistently losing weight with each consecutive visit). It was a thing I hated about myself and still do, and while I can’t pass off all of the blame, I can say with certainty that a lot of this belly isn’t a belly at all. It’s my uterus, which is currently inhabited by a fibroid tumor the size of a grapefruit, which has ballooned me up to the size of a woman who is 20 weeks pregnant. And believe me, all of the doctors I’ve seen over the past 4 days would love to prove that I am, in fact, pregnant, but all of the pee and blood I have given so generously to their cause keeps shutting them down. I was tempted to take a baby bump photo and post it to Facebook with the caption “PSYCH, IT’S A TUMOR, YOU DOPES” but someone out there is too big a of a dope to get the joke and I don’t have the patience to explain that one.

Fibroid tumors are not uncommon. A lot of women have them, and most never even know. Typically, you only find out when one gets so large and greedy that it cuts off its own blood supply and begins degenerating, and the excruciating pain that results is basically this thing turning necrotic. That’s what began happening to mine sometime in the past few weeks, with the past 7 days being the most agonizing part of the process yet, what with the unending severe pain in my lower back and pelvis and the ER visit and the crying to medical professionals and the robotic partial hysterectomy.

Oh yes, there’s a robotic partial hysterectomy. I’ll get to that.

I will say that enduring severe, life-destroying pain for a week straight is certainly enough to shove whatever remaining Catholic body shame you might have right out the window. When I was 16 and getting my first pelvic exam, I was mortified when I heard that I had a backwards uterus. At age 33, I’ve probably told this fact to at least a dozen individuals over the past several days. I also gave no shits when I nurse asked me to fully undress in a partially-open ER exam room and would have gladly walked the hallways in an open hospital gown had someone promised more painkillers. Youth and Catholicism make you ashamed of your body. Age and pain make you realize that it is a garbage dump and must be dealt with accordingly.

But first, though, I’d like to talk about a thing I’ve realized about doctors. It’s a thing I’ve realized for years and years, but only recently has it become a glaring boil on the ass of the medical profession, as things are wont to do when you’ve spent 7 days in the kind of pain that renders you incapable of walking, speech, or a field of vision that does not include slashes of light and spots.

Doctors don’t fucking listen.

Ok, ok, obviously some doctors listen. And I know that a lot of doctors probably have to deal with a lot of patients living out their ER/Chicago Hope/Greys Anatomy/webMD fantasies, so there’s a lot of talking and speculation that could be shrunk by about 85%. But doctors? It’s your job to listen, and to use your listening skills to properly diagnose a patient, and to provide options for care other than “have you tried ibuprofen?” It is your job to deal with issues expediently to heal and/or comfort a patient, rather than to nod with glassed-over eyes and say “maybe we can talk about the next steps when you’re feeling better.” It is not your job to ask me why I didn’t know about my fibroid in advance, this enormous 2-fisted thing in my womb, as I suspect it is not your job to assume that I am also a doctor (especially when I told you I’m not) or to know that any of the symptoms of uterine fibroids are at all distinguishable from just hating your periods more after you turn 30. Oh, and constantly being told to lose weight by doctors, of course. Even though you already have.

Sorry. Sorry, okay? I spent 40 straight minutes hysterically crying in a doctor’s office yesterday, and that was after I spent nearly an hour in her waiting room, sweating and shaking because it wasn’t time to take my pain meds yet, and that was after I cried in my bed for 3 hours and begged the empty room to make the pain stop, and that was after Graham drove me to the ER on Sunday because the pain made me vomit. And even that was after I went to Urgent Care and dealt with some dipshit in a Mickey Mouse tie who wouldn’t stop talking about how I really should get a chlamydia test. All in all, the only positive experience I’ve had so far was in the ER, which was filled with an Australian nurse-angel who administered Dilaudid via an IV and warm blankets and a doctor who said, no joke, “this thing didn’t grow overnight, it’s been cookin’ in there for years.” I mean yes, I also had to have a pelvic ultrasound which is like aliens using the longest dildo you’ve ever seen to take pictures of your ovaries, but really, the ER gave me care, took care of the pain, and told me what my options were going to be going forward. Which is what I expect from medical professionals, and so far, 2 out of 3 experiences tells me this is wildly optimistic.

I have a surgical consult tomorrow (note: this is where the ROBOTS come in). I’m going to talk to an OBGYN about a partial hysterectomy, which is not as scary as it sounds because a) it’s not like I was planning on using my uterus for its intended purpose, anyway and b) something like 80% of hysterectomies are because of large fibroids. Again, not uncommon. I would like to schedule this surgery as soon as possible. Why not? The pain will stop, the pain-causing apparatus will be destroyed with a bunch of other medical waste, and I’ve already cancelled Iceland because the world is unfair and my health is more important than seeing the Northern Lights, apparently.

Feel free to look up robotic partial hysterectomies. Graham has been doing it for 2 days and seems to enjoy what he’s learning. He has also asked me to ask to keep it (if not the uterus then at least the fibroid). I have refused. He’s been taking remarkable care of me so far despite this, and has also taken on additional research when I briefly panicked and wondered about where the cum goes if there’s no uterus, partially because that was a real question I had and partially because I was afraid that if I didn’t find out, I’d just start yelling “WHERE DOES THE CUM GO?!” under anesthesia, much like Captain Jack Sparrow yells “WHERE HAS THE RUM GONE?!”

I hope tomorrow’s doctor listens. I hope she understands that I want this taken care of and done right sooner rather than later. My painkiller supply is not a neverending one, and besides, I’d wanted to wean myself off of them before I became a poor substitute for one of the guys in Mötley Crüe. I don’t want to sit around and miss work and keep crying about this. I want to be the Ron Swanson of partial hysterectomies, goddammit, so bring on the motherfucking robots.

Posted in I Hate, WTF | 3 Comments

Things Fall Apart, the Centre Cannot Hold

People deploy this line in Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” in broad strokes. It could mean a lot of things, could refer to just about anything, as long as that thing is coming apart. And because it is only a line, what is easy to forget is that the poem itself – written post-WWI – is a horrorshow articulating what Yeats believed to be the unmaking of the world.

But isn’t it more convenient and maybe less terrifying to take just that line (although “the falcon cannot hear the falconer” has its own cellar door-type of special panache, I think) and apply it to our lives? It is. Of course it is. So let’s paint in broad strokes here.

Graham and I split up. It would be much easier to talk about this breakup if there had been a “Second Coming” kind of situation, some deep and violent apocalypse of our relationship that drove us both to scream and accuse and get the cops called. It would be easier to handle if one or the both of us were angry or hateful. But that didn’t happen. We’re not. We’re just people who were always different but then became fundamentally different and grew apart, and in order to take ourselves out of a situation that wasn’t satisfying for either of us and make ourselves better people, we’re not going to be together. I almost typed “anymore” and then almost typed “for awhile,” but the truth is that I don’t know what will happen. It’s entirely possible that we will find our ways back to each other one day, but also it’s entirely possible that we will discover we are better off on our own. It’s hard to tell right now, as we still love each other, but it’s just not working as is. Things fell apart. The centre could not hold.

So what now? I don’t exactly know. I suppose a lot of trying not to be sad, which doesn’t usually work, and a little of trying to be drunk a lot, which sometimes does. I feel a bit stuck between wanting to be a better friend to the ones I have (and even make new ones, which is either cool or just a way to meet my future murderer) and not being sure how to talk to human beings anymore. And maybe this is fine, like I could just stick with animals for now and start re-building my relationship with humanity from there. So if you see a haunted-looking woman lurking around the local dog park, don’t be alarmed. It’s just me.

I’m also going to Iceland, I think. For a week or so, next month. I’ll go to Reykjavik and wander around and take a gander at the penis museum. I mean, geysers and waterfalls and stuff, too, but mostly the penis museum. Which makes just about as much sense as going to Iceland in October as opposed to going to literally anywhere else that has, like, a beach and blended drinks or whatever, but if nothing else, I am an atypical vacationer.

I will hold it together. The centre may be out of my control at the moment but making everything else fit around it is on me.

Posted in Sads | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

That’s Okay

I’ve had this feeling lately of needing to say a thing (or things) but I can’t for whatever reason, like it’s too difficult or too awkward or by the time the words get to the back of my teeth and pressed up against them between the enamel and my tongue they just vanish into irrelevancy and I have to swallow them back down.

I find that I do this a lot more as I get older, too, because I think when you’re young, everything seems so urgent and crucial and that’s why teenagers are so goddamn loud (*shakes fist*). But as I age, while it’s not that I care about fewer things or my level of caring is less, it’s that I don’t feel the need to force people to listen anymore. It’s like shouting at a brick wall. I had more energy for it when I was younger, but now I’m just exhausted and don’t see the point. Which is for better or for worse, I guess, and probably the way it is for everyone.

But it’s not great for getting a point across to actual humans or in writing, and that’s when I’m forced to post a song like this is MySpace and I’m young enough to have words again.

You were a child who was made of glass
You carried a black heart passed down from your dad
If somebody loved you, they’d tell you by now
We all turn away when you’re down

You want to go back to where you felt safe
To hear your brother’s laughter,
See your mother’s face
Your childhood home is just powder-white bones
And you’ll never find your way back

And when you’re gone, will they say your name?
And when you’re gone, will they love you the same?
If not, that’s okay.
If not, that’s okay.

Posted in Playlists, Writing | Tagged ,

Was It Hell Was It Fun

Now that I no longer live in St. Louis, I don’t write for KDHX very often. I expected this; actually, when I first told my editor that I was moving away, I expected that I’d no longer be allowed to write for it at all. But I did a few reviews after moving to Seattle, and every now and then I write a quick piece for a live performance. It’s hardly anything but about what I can handle at the moment, when my brain only has room for one type of writing and I’m trying to finish a couple dozen fiction pieces that have been sitting in draft form for (in some cases) two to three years.

It’s like this for most art forms, actually. I have difficulty focusing on more than one at a time, so if I’m in a reading phase, I’m focusing on words. If I’m in a film phase, I’m focusing on movies. And so on. I’m currently reading, so while I haven’t been able to sit down with an album for awhile, I did spend some time yesterday listening to Jason Isbell’s “Something More Than Free,” and let me tell you something: “Something More Than Free” is a very good album.

As much as my brain processes certain kinds of art at certain times, it also processes music in different ways at different times. Sometime before Graham, I dated a guy who told me that he never listened to lyrics and I thought this was insane. Then, several years later, I found myself liking songs for melodic reasons rather than lyrical ones, and in some cases, I liked whole albums without having any idea of what was being said. I’m back in a lyrical phase now, so “Something More Than Free” is a direct hit to my language-processing hemisphere (called Broca’s area, btw, I looked it up just now) and if I didn’t need new tires and brakes on my car, I’d drive for days just so I could play this album and fully absorb it.

As it stands, though, my car does need new tires and brakes so I can’t drive for days. Instead I sat at my desk and played the album twice, and then I played the song “How To Forget” two more times.

“have a seat, have a drink, tell the jury what you think,
was I good to you
Was it hell, was it fun, did you think I was the one,
was I good to you”

And then this of course put in my head Gaslight Anthem’s “The Spirit of Jazz,” in which the frenetic refrain demands:

“Was I good to you, the wife of my youth?
Not another soul could love you like my rotten bones do”

And all this talk of past loves and youth led me to think about how Stephanie is going through a bunch of stuff from her old house lately, including teenage journals, and how I am thankful – unbelievably, ecstatically, might-actually-believe-in-a-higher-power-for-this-y thankful – that I no longer have my teenage journals in my possession. I did have them, though, for quite a long time. I carried them with me from state to state, apartment to apartment, shelf to closet to disused corner and occasionally I would read them, until I realized that any realization of the wisdom I’d gained since writing in them wasn’t really outweighing the discomfort and self-loathing I felt while reading them. I mean, I had gained wisdom. But I also have a thing where I sometimes recount every bad or embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life just before I fall asleep at night and I have a solid 20 minutes of full-body cringing before hating myself to sleep.

So obviously I don’t need to revisit the memories I may have already repressed, and I found that choosing to stop re-reading my adolescent journals fixed the problem (for the most part, at least as it pertained to most memories originating between 1992-ish to 2001). Solution: I got rid of those journals. I got over the idea that I was throwing away actual years and understood that I was throwing away skewed descriptions on paper from those years and once I did it, I felt a lot better. I did the same thing to the journals I wrote when I was first dating and married to the person who would become my ex-husband. After re-reading those, I realized that they were full of glaring red flags that I’d blithely ignored (or misinterpreted) and the very thought of those ideas in my house made me feel sick. So I threw those away, too.

I do still have old journals in the house. Probably beginning sometime around 2004, they’re not nearly as prolific as their predecessors because by that time I had a blog. You wouldn’t know it to read the fucking endless entries on my old old blog (I don’t think it exists anymore, thanks MySpace!), but I did actually censor myself quite a bit. I was already writing for an audience. The truly humiliating stuff, the stuff I couldn’t find the joke in, went into the journals. And I haven’t re-read them for several years by this point, although I’m not sure that I’m ready to throw them away. It’s not that they’re still relevant. It’s not that they can remind me of any lessons I’ve already learned but forgotten somehow. At least, I don’t think so. But I don’t need to read about how much I liked the probably gay guy I dated (mostly because he looked like young Marlon Brando), or how that drunk guitarist was clearly not that into me (which I knew but ignored at the time because guitarist), or about this guy, or that guy, or this boss, or that coworker, or about anything else that I thought was important then but would be loath to recall now.

Which is not to say I wouldn’t surprise myself. I did this with my adolescent journals, on rare occasions. There were glimpses of understandings well beyond my years, but of course, these were quickly buried by a tidal surge of idiot hormones and insecurities. Which I think is the main point of journals, actually, and why it gets easier and easier for me to throw them away.

If nothing else (well, in addition to a repository for curse words and pornography), my brain has an incredible talent for brutally honest hindsight. It learns shame. It learns hurt. It does not learn dirty jokes, unfortunately, because I recently realized I’ve forgotten most of them. ANYWAY. I don’t need the journals to be able to yank my own leash and tell myself to calm down, or to just sit back and be quiet for once, or to rap my chest above my heart and say sternly “I do not want to have to tell you this again.” I remember. I can cringe all by myself.

Posted in I Just Can't, Letters to My Younger Self, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Do Not Startle the Animals

My mom is coming to visit next weekend. I think partially because she wants to and partially because I recently threw half a tantrum over no one in my immediate family having any plans to visit Seattle for reasons involving money, time, etc., even though I’ve visited St. Louis twice already and those burdens were on me. But the important part is that she’s visiting, and she’s staying in a hotel here in Ballard on what is perhaps one of the best streets in America (please remember that I am biased).

She gets in on Friday night and is leaving Monday, so it’s more of an extended weekend than an actual vacation. And I have no idea what we’re supposed to do, although I guess I should leave that up to her. My idea of a good day in Seattle is taking the bus or walking wherever and not doing much of anything, and as long as I’m not getting rained on (even though we need the rain) or getting shouted at by a crazy homeless person (although we also need those, apparently), I’m just fine.

I guess Graham is working later on Saturday so he can make lunch with us then, and maybe if it’s a sunny day I’ll take her over to Seattle Center. Not for the Space Needle, though; remember, we are St. Louisans. We have our own history of paying money to go up in pointlessly tall monuments and then realize it’s good for a field trip and that’s about it. But it’s a nice park, and the fountain is one of the most hilarious pieces of entertainment if you like watching giddily terrified children, and both Five Point Café and Lake Union are near-ish. Although I might have to reconsider my estimation of “near-ish” as no one walks anywhere in St. Louis and so far everyone has been less than pleased with me about my insistence on self-ambulatory travel. But I’ll take her to get coffee, and we’ll hit up the chocolatier, and we’ll walk along the Burke Gilman and probably cross over the Locks. I kind of want to keep it a Ballard-centric visit, actually, because like I said, it’s not really a vacation. I want her to see where I live. And outside of work and work-adjacent activities, I don’t really leave Ballard all that often. Why would I?

It’s funny to me – I’ve lived in Seattle for nearly three years but I still don’t feel like that’s long enough. It’s sort of like when you start dating someone and you get a little bit jealous of their ex. Not because they used to sleep with the person you’re with, but because of their history. Because they know them better. You have all this catching up to do and there’s someone out there who beat you to it. But that’s how Seattle feels to me. I’ve been here for three years and am intensely jealous of those who have been here longer, to the point where I constantly feel like I have to prove myself as a Seattleite. Which is pointless because a) I am a library card-holding, condo-griping, registered voter Seattleite and b) I already passed the two-year Seattle Freeze mark so as far as everyone else is concerned, I belong. But I think that’s why I was so driven to figure out the neighborhoods and bus schedules and weird little quirks (guys, quit saying “bag” like it rhymes with “vague,” please).

Tourists don’t know the difference. See, I like to think that I’ve developed my own brand of disaffection that is common here in the Pacific Northwest, but there must be something still Midwestern and earnest about my face, because even when I assiduously avoid eye contact (like a true Seattleite), the tourists seek me out for directions and general conversation. And I really do think that hotels should start briefing visitors about this, because it really freaks us out. It’s like having a sign at the zoo that asks people to please don’t startle the animals. We can’t handle that kind of thing here.

But because I am a native Midwesterner and being thought of as impolite by a stranger is just unacceptable no matter where I am, I give them directions. Good ones, too, ones that make sense to someone who doesn’t live here, not the shrugged and confused directions common with many people who don’t look up from their phones while walking or riding the bus. I answer their questions. I try to keep my responses short but I will play along for a bit when they suddenly open up with a piece of their life story. And they do. Because no matter how many times people have told me that the look on my face is cold and unapproachable, a person with a camera slung around their neck and some baggy khaki shorts at their waist will invariably find me wildly attractive.

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