Side effects

When you finally aren’t subject to drug testing at work but don’t know what to do next

Technically, I am high.

I have never gotten high.

I’m not morally opposed to drugs. If you want to destroy yourself with heroin, go ahead. People destroy themselves with alcohol and that’s legal. Your body, your choice.

I think maybe it’s because I’ve never had the chance. That is, nobody has ever offered me any.

Except for that time in New York City, when I was 22 and a co-worker and I were walking to a club one night. A man in the corner looked at us – in our pink polos and khaki skirts – and said, “Smoke! Smoke!”

I was offended.

“DO I LOOK LIKE I SMOKE?” I asked my co-worker.

Turns out he was trying to sell, not trying to bum a ciggie.


I would like to try.

I would like to try getting high.

I would like to try getting high as long as it doesn’t involve needles. Or smoking. Or losing control of my actions.

Or if it would actually work and not just make me sick.

After a dental surgery, the doctor sent me home with 25 Vicodin tablets.

I took one right away because even though someone had just cut my gums open and done stuff in my mouth that required me to spit out blood, I was excited about the possibility of getting high. A new experience! An experience for which I had a prescription just in case I got tapped for random drug testing at work!

Twenty minutes later, I was throwing up everything in my stomach.

I didn’t touch vicodin again until years later when another doc prescribed it. I told him it made me throw up. He told me I needed to take it with food (information on the label that I had ignored because of course it didn’t apply to me and I had just had dental surgery so how was I supposed to chew?) and that my reaction meant I probably would not become addicted to it.

I tried it again.

It took away the pain but did not make me high.

(Also, it made me sleepy but wouldn’t let me sleep.)

So I still didn’t know what high was like.


I tried valerian. It’s supposed to help with hot flashes and is also supposed to help you sleep.

Didn’t work. I mean, I will never know if it works for the hot flashes because do hot flashes even matter if you can’t sleep?

Walgreen’s clerk: What’s the reason for the return?

Me: Well, valerian is supposed to help you sleep, but there’s the weird possible side effect that maybe two people in the whole universe might get that instead of making you sleep, it gives you insomnia and you’re wide awake at 1:00 a.m., wondering if you were a really bad person in your previous life and now you’re being punished. I am one of those two people.

Clerk:

Clerk:

Clerk: So I’m just going to select “other.”

Me: OK then.


A friend suggested I try melatonin to help me sleep.

I took one tablet and was up all night, ready to jump out of my skin.

I had always thought that was an odd expression and had wondered how it came about.

Now I know.

Now I know what it feels like to be ready to jump out of my skin.

I never want that feeling again.


If there is a weird side effect to be had, I will get it

If there is anything weird that can happen to someone – any bizarre, rare side effect, it will happen to me.

Lyrica, which cost $1,400 for a one-month supply – my co-pay was $140, made my hair fall out.

Topamax killed my appetite, which I liked, but also made the food I did eat taste awful and gave me double vision.

Blockers made me feel like my body was made of lead.

None of these stopped my migraines.


All I wanted was to be able to fall asleep at night and maybe not have hot flashes at 2 a.m.

A friend suggested CBD.

So I tried it.

The stuff I got at the CBD store didn’t do anything for me, I don’t think.

When I was visiting my mom in Colorado, I missed my chance to get some edibles with THC. Mostly, I suppose, because I was lazy and how do you ask your mom to borrow her car so you can buy pot?

Maybe I blew it. Maybe I needed something stronger than the Wisconsin CBD.

Maybe I need the Strong CBD.

So I bought some.

And have been trying it for the past ten days.

Every morning, Mr T asks me how I slept.

“I don’t know,” I’ve been telling him.

Because I still lie awake trying to sleep, but once I am asleep, it’s weird. I don’t even know how to describe it. I have memories of things happening in the immediate past but when I think deeply on them, I realize I might have been dreaming – that it didn’t really happen.

And even though it turns out that CBD helps many women who have bladder pain, it can sometimes cause bladder pain.

Guess which category I am in?

Yeah.

Awake, bladder discomfort, and bad dreams.

I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

We keep our pain to ourselves because we’ve learned the world doesn’t care

Both “penis” and “pain” start with “p.” Coincidence? I think not.

“This tool is used to stabilize the cervix when they place an IUD. So if you’re like me and have been repeatedly gaslit about how you can’t possibly be in so much pain, here’s why you were in so much pain, and why they DEFINITELY knew it right then and there.” Source

The other night, Mr T sprained the top of his foot. Or something.

We are still in our COBRA election period (we don’t want to elect and pay the back premiums) and our ACA insurance doesn’t start for a week yet. So we do not have an official diagnosis because that would require going to a doctor and our doctor’s group won’t tell us how much an office visit costs and of course there is NO WAY we would go to the ER because that’s like giving a blank check to an alcoholic and pushing him into a bar or a liquor store, so we used the Doctor of Google to figure things out and it looks like a sprain, which isn’t something a doctor can do anything about anyhow.

Mr T sprained his foot.

It hurts.

I guess.

I have never sprained anything, but I have broken my toe three times and I know these things can hurt.

But he spent the immediate post-injury time explaining his suffering to me VERY LOUDLY.

And he spent the next day sitting in bed with his foot elevated – which was the right thing to do – and explaining more of his suffering to me.

It was like a Man Cold. Only it was a Man Sprain.

I now know ALL THE PAIN THAT COMES FROM A MAN SPRAIN.


I have endured migraine headaches for days.

I have had menstrual cramps that made me throw up.

The people around me never knew.

Why?

You know why.

I stayed silent.


On Day 3 of a headache, if I mention it to Mr T, he will express shock. Why didn’t I tell him?

Because telling him doesn’t make the headache go away?


When I was in high school, my mom took me to the doctor for my cramps.

The only option the doctor gave me was birth control pills, which I thought (at the time) to be only for Bad Girls and I certainly was not one of those.

The doc did not attempt to convince my mom – who also had very painful periods – that this was a medical intervention and I spent the next few years just sucking it up.

It wasn’t until I was in college that another doctor offered ibuprofen to me. It was by prescription only back then and I was supposed to take 1600 mg at a time.

You were supposed to take it before your period started but of course I wanted to preserve the pills for when I actually did have cramps – I didn’t get them every month – so would wait until the cramps started to take them. They didn’t work so well as a catch up, so I still had bad cramps.

But I stayed silent.


I didn’t see a doctor about my headaches – which started when I was in junior high – until I was almost 40.

I thought everyone got headaches and having a headache was just part of life.

Yeah I was in pain – so what?

Wasn’t everyone?

I got headaches and I took aspirin and sudafed – I thought they were sinus headaches – and joked about my sinuses but never complained about the pain.

I stayed silent.


I needed a biopsy for something. Bad periods, probably. By now, I was an adult and had jumped on the birth control bandwagon, only I had a hard time finding a formulation that did not give me unpleasant side effects.

By “unpleasant side effects,” I mean

  • a splotch of discoloration on my forehead so bad that complete strangers stopped me to ask me what was on my face
  • breakthrough bleeding (“Stick with it! It will stop!”)(It didn’t.)
  • still getting cramps.

Yay womanhood amirite?

Do you remember the image at the top of the page?

Wait. I’ll put it here again.

That’s the tool a doc uses when he places an IUD. I am guessing – docs and nurses, chime in here – it is also the tool he uses when taking a biopsy.

BTW, I am using “he” as my default pronoun for the doc here because I cannot believe a female doctor would do this to me. And the doc I had was male.

Anyhow – my doc warned me I might feel “a pinch.”

I passed out.

I stayed silent, but – I passed out from the pain.

My doc dismissed it. “You have a highly-developed vasovagal response,” he told me.

Yay.


After a day in bed with his foot elevated, Mr T’s calf suddenly cramped.

“OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!” he yelled. “OOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!”

He was – LOUD.

LOUD.

I rolled my eyes.

It was a cramp.

Everyone has cramps.

“OW THAT HURTS!!!!!” he yelled.

And so on for the next 45 seconds.

Mr T did not stay silent.


I have only my own experience to draw from. I am one of the luckiest people in the world: I am white and educated with some degree of financial security. I am a woman, which makes me a little bit less lucky than a white man, but as a white woman in America, I am still at the top of the list compared to women in other parts of the world.

I know that.

But I also know that we women share – or seem to share – certain experiences, experiences we have simply because we are women.

Our pain is not taken seriously. Not in the US and probably not anywhere else.

It gets worse for Black women (for all Black people, actually), even in the US.

And maybe this is something I can help fix. I can’t solve period poverty. I can’t solve child brides.

I can solve human trafficking and domestic violence and rape in the US by paying attention to elections.

And maybe, we women in the US can solve the pain problem by getting loud. It’s the only way they’ll pay attention.

Be. Loud.

BE LOUD.

Happy new year

If you’re vaxxable but not vaxxed, please get vaxxed

This is what the world can look like if you have a high vax rate and people mask in public.

This is also what the world can look like if you have a high vax rate and people mask in public.

When Mr T and I went to Spain in late November, Spain had an 80% total vax rate. At the time, children 12 and under were not eligible. The vax rate among eligible people is 90%.

Spain had a much lower death rate than the unvaxxed places like Florida.

Get vaxxed, please, so we can get back to life.

Life with an engineer at Christmas

We take our victories where we can find them

We weren’t going to have a tree because covid has killed all the joy in life but then we thought we shouldn’t let covid and the anti-vax idiots ruin everything so we got one.

Mr T hauled the decorations down from the attic and started sorting the lights.

The first two strings he tested didn’t work.

On the third, only half the lights would illuminate.

He was getting a bit cranky, but I did not suggest that we buy new lights.

We are of the Tribe That Does Not Waste

I mean, I never would suggest buying new to replace something that still sort of works. The only things I buy new these days are underwear and socks. But I should be able to make it until I die on the blue jeans I have now and if I do need more before then, I will get them on eBay for about ten or 15 dollars.

(I heard someone say that once you’ve tried the $180 jeans, you never go back, but this person had family money.)

I got the lights for 25 cents a strand at the Episcopal ladies’ thrift shop in Colorado Springs in 2006 so we have not yet gotten our money’s worth and will be darned it we are going to replace them.

Mr T finally found a strand that worked and, after we had rotated the tree several times trying to find the best spot – we did not buy the symmetrical tree, he carefully placed the lights on the tree.

“Carefully” is how he does things. It’s good to be married to someone who has that characteristic for when it matters.

(It usually doesn’t matter. Dishes don’t need to be scrubbed for a minute each. They can be put away even if there are a few drops of water clinging to them. But I digress.)

Mr T put the lights on the tree and plugged them in and it was beautiful.

The next morning, the bottom half of the strand went dark.

Mr T did something – I left the room – to repair it. The repair involved being grumpy, which is why I left.

The next morning, same thing.

More grumpiness ensued.

I suggested removing the Bad Strand and replacing it with one of the remaining 10 ten strands of Episcopal Ladies Lights.

No, that was a Very Bad Suggestion! Removing and replacing implies loss and surrender, I suppose.

In which The Lights Become A Symbol of All That Is Going Wrong

“Everything I do is going backward,” he said.

“Every time I think I have finished with the trust, there’s a new issue. Every time I think I am done with my brother, there’s another issue.”


In Mr T’s defense, his brother is a total nightmare. Mr T’s parents disinherited him but made him the executor of their will and the trustee for the money, which went to their grandchildren and which has required that Mr T deal with his brother on a lot of stuff.

Don’t do this, OK? Leave your money to whomever you want – it’s OK not to leave money to your kids, but don’t make your kid the executor of your will and the trustee for the trusts. It’s a ton of work and if you are leaving any amount of money, you can pay a lawyer to do the work.

Especially don’t make your child the executor if you are disinheriting him. That’s just an asshole move.


“Every time we think we are getting close to maybe getting back to normal,” he said, “there’s another issue. Now we have Omicron. The whole world is going backwards.”

A few hours later, Mr T announced he was going to Lowe’s.

To buy a new tool.

A new tool that would help him identify – something about currents and bad currents vs bad bulbs or something.

“It’s sold out everywhere, but Lowe’s has a store brand version of the tool and it’s on sale,” he said.

When the hardware store is your Happy Place

Is there anything that makes a man (or some men – maybe some women – the desire to fix things is not a trait associated with sex and here I am repeating sexist stereotypes – I should be ashamed of myself) happier than going to the hardware store?

My former boss used to leave the office occasionally when he needed a break and would go to Menards to wander the aisles.

Another former boss told me, “I’m tired of all this corporate drama. I just want to be a floor manager at Home Depot.”

Two hours later, Mr T returned, triumphant. He had also stopped at Aldi and gotten German butter cookies from the Christmas aisle, so the trip was worth it just for that.

He pulled out the new tool.

“Watch!” he said. “Watch this! It tells me [stuff that I don’t remember but is about electricity etc etc]!”

The tool flashed green and red as he moved it from bulb to bulb. He replaced the bulbs where it flashed red, but the rest of the strand remained stubbornly dark.

“Maybe this one?” he said as he replaced another bulb.

I got bored and went downstairs to watch TV.

Fifteen minutes later, he came downstairs in triumph.

“IT WORKED!” he said. “IT WORKED!”

And now we have a tool that can be used in the future for – I don’t know what. We have a highly-specialized tool that we may never need again.

But for one small moment, we made a step forward.

Happy holidays, everyone. Enjoy the victories, no matter how small.

Will nobody think about the white male sexual harassers?

In a world without men, women would be fat and happy and we would never wait to pee. But we would settle for a world without sexual harassers.

Yes, an older man at work once started massaging my neck and shoulders. I was wearing a suit, but even if I had been showing my shoulders, that is not permission for a man to touch a woman at work.

Old (male) friend: I miss Al Franken. I wish he hadn’t resigned.

Me: But – that photo of him, pretending to grab that woman’s breasts!

Friend: But aren’t there so many worse men? And it would be so good to have him in politics now.

Me: There are worse men, yes. My friend R, when she was an associate at an Austin law firm, pushed back on a sexist comment a partner made. The partner answered, “Don’t forget I’m the one who does your performance evaluation.” She found a new job out of state.

Friend (who is a lawyer in Texas): I would never do something like that!

Me: I know, but every single woman my age – every single woman you see here – Mary, Karen, Stephanie – has experienced some kind of sexism and sexual harassment at work. Every single one. So I for one am glad to see the harassers finally getting what they deserve.

Friend: But if we get rid of all those men, there won’t be anyone left!

Me:

Me:

Me: Did you really just say that if we get rid of all the harassers, there won’t be anyone left?

Friend: Oh. Right!

Me: There will be me. There will be Mary. There will be Karen. There will be Stephanie. If we had power, I don’t think we would do any worse than the harassers.


A few years ago, Mr T was running for the state legislature. He had run for the seat before, unsuccessfully. But this looked like it might be the year.

He announced in November, a year before the election. This, apparently, is a common strategy in the political world: announce early to dissuade others.

He started campaigning in March, which includes collecting signatures for the nominating papers.

(Where we live, a candidate must collect a certain number of signatures to get on the ballot. I think it’s like that in most places in the US, which is why I am always so confused at movies where someone decides to run for office right before the election and voila! they’re on the ballot. That’s not how it works, Hollywood!)

In May, a woman announced that she, too, was running.

She was running against Mr T in the primary, not against Mr T in the general.

Mr T was frustrated. This woman was an unknown. She had not participated in party activities. She had not volunteered on other campaigns. She was not playing by The Rules.

We tried to figure out how to defeat her in the primary.

Turned out she and Mr T agreed on all the issues.

If you agree on the issues, then you have to make your campaign personal.

Mr T did not want to go there.

He did not want to make any personal attacks, even personal attacks veiled in nice language.

Then he met her.

“I LIKE her,” he told me. “I don’t want to like her but I do.”


Fitbit started in 2010.

It took them until 2018 to add a period tracker.

(And even then, they didn’t do it right: “Fitbit’s period tracking feature only allows women to log their menstrual cycle if it lasted for 10 days or fewer.“)


By Bestrossi – Self-photographed

In Katrine Marcal’s latest book, Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men, she talks about Aina Wifalk, the inventor of the walker you see above.

Wifalk was training to be a nurse when she contracted polio. She invented the walker to help herself and others with her physical challenges.

She made almost no money from her invention.

How could she? As Marcal points out, 97% of venture capital goes to men – and that’s a current figure. Wifalk invented the walker in the 60s.

Would a man have invented this same thing?

Maybe.

Maybe.

But how many men do the shopping? How many men do the daily errands? Would men have thought, “I need a basket so I can get the groceries home?”

Maybe.

And if a man had invented it, he could have gotten venture capital and developed the product himself and gotten rich.


It took Ruth Bader Ginsburg successful challenge of a sexist IRS deduction to start changing sexist laws in the US.

In the nineteenth century, the Supreme Court ruled that women had neither the right to practice law nor the right to vote. In the mid-twentieth century, the Court approved “beneficial” practices by states making women’s service on juries optional and approved Michigan’s law preventing women from working in bars unless a male relative was present when they were working.

Harvard Law Review

If these sexist laws did not apply in your lifetime, they probably applied in your mother’s lifetime.

It took a woman to challenge these injustices.

I know I know I know. Not all men are like that. Not all men.

But in general I don’t see men leading the fight to end sex discrimination.


Mr T withdrew from the race so the opponent could run unopposed.

“I agree with her,” he said. “I like her. And I think she has a better chance of getting elected. All I want is to have our views represented in the legislature.”


Let’s try a world where women are in charge, OK?

When you see your college boyfriend/fiancé for the first time in 30something years

How many people can we hold in our hearts?

When I was 19, I fell in love for the first time.

I thought it would also be the last time.

I thought my college boyfriend – CB, let’s call him – and I would get married and have children and live happily ever after.

We took long walks around campus late at night and named our children. We went two-stepping with our friends. We went to movies in the chemistry lecture hall. We talked about how lucky we were to have found Our Person at college. So sad for all those other people who would go through life unmatched!

(Also, he kissed great. This is important. To me, anyhow. It’s important to me. And he was an amazing kisser.)


(I mean – he was an AMAZING kisser.)


We planned to get married after he graduated, a year after I graduated.

Our parents had met. We had the church and I had the dress.

I had gone through the Catholic pre-Cana stuff, muttering to myself as I signed the papers promising to raise my children Catholic (he was not Catholic), “when they let women become priests.”


The Catholic Church, 35 years later, is still not letting women become priests.


I had a job in Houston, but I was going to move with him to wherever he got into grad school. His parents were worried that if he married me, he might not complete grad school, but I was willing to move for love! And CB was (and still is, I expect) an extraordinarily focused man.


He was so nice. He was a kind person who is still friends today with the friends he had back then. He was a good man.


He did get his PhD. Even if he had been married to me, he would have gotten his PhD. I have no doubt.


At our recent homecoming, I ran into a friend I had not seen in a long time.

“Half my conversations this weekend,” he said, “have started with, ‘I am so sorry for’ – whatever it was. All I am doing is apologizing for horrible things I did when we were students.”

“Me, too,” I said. “Me, too.”


Before I started dating CB, I went out one time with a very sweet guy who took me to Gilley’s.

On the way back to campus, his car broke down. We were in the middle of nowhere, still far from Houston, back when there was space between Houston and Pasadena. I was scared. We were out in the country. It was dark. I didn’t know how we were going to get back. I was sure there was an ax murderer waiting for us.

Even once we found a pay phone, no taxi would come because we didn’t have an address. He finally had to call his roommate to get us.

I would not talk to him again. He called and left messages. I did not return his calls. We had a class together that next year and I wouldn’t even look at him when I walked in the room. There were only about 20 students in the class, so it was obvious when one student was giving another the cold shoulder.

At our 15-year reunion, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

It was Gilley’s Guy.

“I AM SO SORRY FOR BEING SUCH A BITCH TO YOU!” I gasped.

And I meant it. Lord have mercy he was just a sweet boy who was trying to impress me and I wouldn’t even talk to him. I don’t even remember if he accepted my apology, but we did talk for about 15 minutes, so I guess maybe he did? I hope so.


I hadn’t dated much (except for Gilley’s Guy and two guys in high school, one of whom turned out to be gay – Hi Keith!) when CB and I started dating.

I definitely had never been in love. I definitely had not had a long relationship.

I started working after graduation and meeting new people (ie, men), some of whom I thought were cute, and I started wondering if maybe I really wanted to get married.


I decided I did not want to get married.

It was absolutely nothing that CB did. He was a good person. We didn’t have a big fight. One of us didn’t cheat on the other. I didn’t discover he was an addict or an alcoholic or bad with money.

We were so, so young. We had Things, but everyone has Things. We were babies.

I broke up with him a few months before the wedding and – well, it wasn’t an easy time.


I have had long relationships since CB. I have even had marriage proposals. (From men other than Mr T, that is.)

One of the worst things about breaking up with someone is disappointing my family. After I broke up with Tom, the boyfriend who came after CB, my mother said, “Please don’t bring home any more boyfriends until you find the one you’re actually going to marry. I can’t take getting to know another one and then having to lose him again.”


On Monday, when I passed on CB’s greetings from this weekend to my mom, she wrote back immediately, “And I MISS CB, too! I had mentioned to someone just recently how sad it was ‘lose’ him after his being a part of our family.”

Thirty five years and my mom still misses him.


Another bad thing about a breakup is not knowing how the story ends.


Who among us hasn’t googled an old boyfriend to see what’s happened in his life? It’s not just me, right? I’m not the only one who is insanely curious about what happened? Who they married – their children – their careers? Please tell me I’m not the only one.


So of course I knew a bit of what CB was up to. I can see things online and we have a lot of mutual friends. I knew he had married and had children and was doing the work he had always wanted to do from the first time I met him. But he had never come to a reunion before. I hadn’t seen him in decades.


Am I the only one – even though I am very happily married – who wonders what it would be like to run into an old boyfriend?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who pictures stepping outside of the party into the quiet courtyard, still and lit only by the moon. I’m alone and I look great because this time, unlike real life, I actually did lose 20 pounds before the reunion. I’m wearing something immensely flattering, including high heels that don’t even hurt. My hair looks fabulous – no grey! – despite the Houston humidity and my skin is only 20 years old. I have mastered makeup.

I sigh and look up at the moon, wistfully – holding a glass of champagne? Only I don’t like champagne and if I had a glass of it, it would be in a plastic cup, which isn’t quite the same.

Suddenly, a shadow falls in front of me. I hear a voice. It’s CB!

And – I can never figure out what he says, probably because I’m the one who broke up with him so it would really be on me to approach him except there’s no way I would do that because I wouldn’t impose like that on someone who is now happily married to someone who is not me. You don’t get to have romantic scenes when you’re the one who did the breaking.

But really, the key part of this story is that I look great. Hold that thought.


I met Mr T at our 20-year class reunion.

I love him.

I am happy with him.

He’s a hottie and he’s my friend.

But – I like reading alternative histories.

Not only do I want to know how the story ends, I also want to know how it might have ended. What if I had taken Path A instead of Path B?


At our reunion party on Friday, I saw a classmate I had not seen since we were undergrads. We were not friends, but we both worked in the faculty club. I remembered him because his twin brother was also at our school.

We spent 20 minutes talking. What had happened over the past years? How had the story ended?

He said one of the nicest things I think someone could say about me. He told me, “You were always kind to me when I worked at the faculty club, and I always remembered that.”



Saturday morning, before the football game, I was talking to one of the friends CB and I have in common. He said, “Just so you know, CB is here.”

“Oh!” I said. “Oh.”

I didn’t know what to think.

This was not how I had planned it.

Not that I had planned it – but you know.

I was not expecting this.

But.

“It’s been 35 years,” I said. “That was a lifetime ago.”

Which it was. It’s more than half my life ago.

But do you ever really stop loving your first love, even when you have found your last love?


Every reunion, Mr T sees his first love. He has seen her when he’s had to go to her city for work.

They did not date in college, but were close friends and he was in deep love with her.

He has not stopped loving her.

But he also loves me.

Is there room in our hearts for our first and our last loves at the same time? And maybe even for some of the loves in between?

Are these loves all the paths we could have taken? Would we have been equally happy with any of them?


PS I like Mr T’s first love. I consider her my friend.


I was nervous. What do you say to someone you have not seen for decades who was once the most important person in your life? What do you say to someone you hurt deeply? What do you say to someone who you know has moved on – as he should! – but is such an important part of your history? Someone who shares a biography with you? The older I get, the harder it is to develop deep relationships – we don’t make those emotional connections the same way, I don’t think.

What do you say when you don’t want to think that this person has dwelled on you, because of course he hasn’t, but when you want to acknowledge that you caused pain?


Also, I thought, REALLY? THIS is the year I see him? The year with COVID hair and wrinkles and the 20 pounds not lost and not one stitch of makeup on my face because I decided I am done with all that but perhaps just a little bit of mascara and some light eyeshadow might have made me look not so washed out.

Old jeans, a black t-shirt, hiking boots.

REALLY?

Yes I am superficial and vain. Not vain enough to dress up or fix my hair, but still vain. Lazy vain.


“Do you wish you had married him instead of me?” Mr T asks.


I saw someone come up behind me. (A shadow fell…)

I turned – and there was CB.

“Hi,” he said. “Remember me?”

I didn’t know what to say.

He looked the same. Exactly the same.

Only he didn’t – he was the same man but older – but when you look at a memory, maybe time freezes?

He smiled, so it seemed safe to ask, “Is it OK if I hug you?”

And I hugged him and he hugged me back and I thought, “I think maybe he’s forgiven me” and I felt a weight leave me that I didn’t even know I was carrying.

When we see ourselves in art

Those who control art control how the world sees us and how we see the world

Mr T and I saw an amazing play last week: The Cake, by Bekah Brunstetter.

The story itself is good, but what’s really wonderful is that the lead is a middle-aged woman who GETS NAKED ON STAGE.

Wait.

It gets better.

She gets naked on stage and SHE HAS A NORMAL BODY.

Tara Mullan plays the lead, Della.

Della and her husband, Tim, have not gotten busy for a long time, so Della tries to spice things up by covering her essential bits with buttercream frosting and telling Tim to meet her after hours in the bakery she owns.

We see Della naked except for strategically-placed buttercream.

We see a normal, middle-aged woman naked.

They did not cast someone who looks like Christy Brinkley or Brooke Shields.

They cast a normal, middle-aged woman.

Don’t get me wrong: Tara Mullan is very very pretty, but she has the body of a 50something woman in the upper Midwest, a body that says, “I live in a place that has really good food and that happens to get ice cold in the winters and we are into the second year of a global pandemic where all the rules changed, so you bet your bippie I’m going to eat.”

That is, she is normal.

She is us.

I think we are all there right now. We are all at, Seriously, why did we ever think dieting was important?

She gets naked.

And I saw myself in her.


I have been watching a lot of TV and movies during all this and what I have noticed is that even without makeup (or makeup made to look like they’re not wearing makeup), almost all of the the young female cops on Chicago PD and the female firefighters on Chicago Fire are all stunningly beautiful with super-firm, slim bodies.

I don’t begrudge this of them – they look wonderful – but the only female character on Chicago PD who makes me nod my head and say, “You are my people” is Trudy Platt, played by Amy Morton.

If Trudy Platt is not your favorite character on Chicago PD, we cannot be friends. Also, I love her hair.

Coincidentally, both Amy and Tara are from Chicago. Maybe this is a Chicago thing?


Don’t get me wrong: I love what Reese Witherspoon is doing and I love her work. There are other amazing actresses out there as well, but when I do see a Hollywood actress in her 50s or older, it’s Nicole Kidman and Viola Davis and Jennifer Aniston and Kyra Sedgwick and Salma Hayak and Jennifer Lopez and Emma Thompson and Laura Linney.

These are all lovely lovely women.

But – dang. Even on my best day in my 20s, I don’t look as good as they do in their 50s.


The nurse who gave me my covid booster shot last week had beautiful silver hair. When I complimented her on it, she answered, “For the longest time, I thought my hair was an ugly yellowish gray, even though my daughter kept telling me it was pretty. I thought she was saying that just because she’s my daughter.”

“But then, I had my cataracts done. After the first one, I got home and closed the other eye – and suddenly, my hair was a pretty color!”

“I closed that eye and looked with the cataract eye. My hair was ugly again!”

All along, it was the filter she was using that told her that her hair was not pretty.


I don’t want this to sound like I think Amy Morton and Tara Mullan are unattractive because that’s not the case at all. I think they are both super attractive. But they are normal attractive and they draw me into the story in a way that Hollywood perfect never can.

And they make me feel like our stories matter – the stories of women who are no longer 21.

Most importantly, Tara’s nakedness made me think that maybe I, too, look good naked even though I am no longer 21.


In Blonde Roots, by Bernadine Evaristo, the protagonist is a white woman who has been enslaved by the powerful Africans. The white woman laments her limp, colorless hair, her thin lips, her pallid skin, and longs to have full, dark hair, lush lips, and rich, dark, warm skin.

The dominant culture decides what’s beautiful and what’s not.


Even when I was 21, on my very best day, I never looked as good as a woman in Hollywood. This, I think, is the reality for most of us.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t look good. It just means that we are told we don’t look good.

Someone is trying to make money off our insecurities looking at you beauty industry.


I watched Mare of Eastown. There is no way to make Kate Winslet unattractive.

Mr T (Kate W is on his List and you know what I mean by that): Would I like that show?

Me: Maybe? She is not glamorous – no makeup, doesn’t even comb her hair.

Mr T: What about anything in my past would make you think I care if a woman wears makeup or looks glamorous?

Me: Oh. Right. I mean, you married ME.


Geena Davis produced a documentary, This Changes Everything, about how women are shut out of producing and directing in Hollywood and how this lack of representation shows in the stories Hollywood tells.

The best part of the documentary is how many well-known actresses are trying to fight the system. And I have started to notice the little things – like in on-screen sex scenes, women wear bras.

That’s not, if my experience is any guide, how real life works.

But women in Hollywood are pushing back and they are starting to win.


Tara Mullan is fighting back, too. She founded an entire theatre company dedicated to telling women’s stories.

I founded Rivendell Theatre Ensemble with the specific goal of expanding the role of women in theater. I knew that society could come to view women differently only if our real struggles and experiences were reflected on stage, not just the two-dimensional versions Hollywood spits out.

Tara Mullan (read the full interview here)

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble is dedicated to advancing the lives of women through theatre….An award winning, critically acclaimed professional theatre company Rivendell’s productions explore the unique female perspectives of everyday stories in an intimate, salon environment. Since our inception, Rivendell has grown to fill an important role in the Chicago theatre community as the only Equity theatre in Chicago committed to women’s stories. Rivendell has become a leader in new play development, a major port for new writers, and today, offers a brick and mortar artistic home for women theater artists to develop their work.

Rivendell Theatre

When women are the storytellers, the human story changes.

Elizabeth Lesser

If only we had a penis, this wouldn’t be so hard

And no, I didn’t mean to do that, but serendipity

From Geena Davis’ documentary, “This Changes Everything.”

My friend, who is smart and talented, has asked her boss for a raise several times.

She has documented her accomplishments.

She has shown how she is doing work outside her job description, work that her boss considers to be strategic and important, as he is the one who is asking her to do it, sending her to director-level meetings in his stead.


Have you already figured out what part of the problem is?

Did hitting the word “he” give you a clue?


When he told her there are metrics and a path to promotion, she answered, “OK! What are they?”

[I]n performance evaluations, “Women were criticised for being ‘bossy, abrasive, strident, aggressive, emotional and irrational.’ Men were not. Indeed, men were exhorted to be more aggressive.”

Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

“I have so many skills,” she told me. “I have spent a lifetime learning how to pacify men’s fragile egos. I can walk into a meeting full of men and know immediately who the alpha is and whose ego needs stroking.”

These are not skills you can put on a resume.

These are not skills we should need.



My friend’s boss backpedaled when she asked for the metrics. “Well, they aren’t really defined. We’d have to brainstorm and create some.”

My friend, who has been on this rodeo before, answered, “Guess what I came up with a bunch of ideas!” as she slapped down another page of proof.


Years ago, I was in charge of cleaning the customer and item data in three operating systems for 70 factories.

I did so and documented the financial and time benefits to the company.

I saved the company a ton of money and I had proof.

I asked my boss, who had been the manager of one of the factories before he came onto this project, for a promotion (and raise).

“But them you’ll be making more than my assistant plant manager did!” he answered.

“My work has had more of an impact than his has,” I said.

I did not get that promotion.


In my performance evaluation with a boss once, he told me I “used big words that make people feel stupid.”

I was confused. “What words? Which people?” I asked.

He could not cite any examples.

I told a co-worker the story and the co-worker laughed. “You make our boss feel stupid,” he said.

Men (women were not found to exhibit this bias) who believe that they are objective in hiring decisions are more likely to hire a male applicant than an identically described female applicant. And in organisations which are explicitly presented as meritocratic, managers favour male employees over equally qualified female employees.

Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

At my last job, I was hired to create an internal document repository.

I taught myself the software, researched the best practices, convinced management to change how they did things to adopt best practices, and designed, built, and launched the repository within four months of my start date.

My coworkers praised it, telling me it was intuitive and easy to use.

Then I started internal communications – newsletters, posters, podcasts, and videos – that increased sales opportunities. My company made machinery that started at $150,000 an item. My campaigns created the possibilities of increased revenues by hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

I asked my boss for a promotion.

For context, I was two position levels lower than an engineer who had ten years’ work experience. I had more than twice that amount of experience and had documented results above and beyond my job description.

No promotion.

“What do I need to do to get a promotion?”

My boss, one of the really good guys – a great guy in every other way, could not give me an answer.

Employment procedures that are unwittingly biased towards men are an issue in promotion as well as hiring. A classic example comes from Google, where women weren’t nominating themselves for promotion at the same rate as men. This is unsurprising: women are conditioned to be modest, and are penalised when they step outside of this prescribed gender norm.

Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

We are punished when we advocate for ourselves.

But this generation? Women in their 30s? They’re not taking this crap. They know they’re right and they know they’re not alone and they will make things better for the women who come after them.

Don’t stop fighting. Don’t give up.

We are not safe

Men worry about being bored, women worry about being murdered


rape
It’s the water we swim in. It’s so “of course” that we use it as a joke.

Remember the woman who was raped while she was jogging in Central Park in 1989?

(And the five teenagers who were accused and convicted were actually innocent and not released until 2002. The fomer president – the awful guy – took out full-page ads in the New York newspapers calling for the death penalty to be brought back. Last year, he refused to apologize for the ads and for what he said about the teenagers. He said, “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt.”

Their confessions were coerced. They. Were. Innocent. They might not have gone to prison if TFG had not taken out the ads.)

Anyhow. Remember when that happened?

My friends and I were horrified.

Our worst fear – that we would be attacked and raped by a stranger.


(Although as it has turned out, at least for me, it’s the men you know who should worry you more. The ones who just won’t stop trying. When I was in those days, I thought that just because a guy drove from Houston to Austin to see me, I had to let him stay at my house. And then and then. I WAS AN IDIOT I WISH I COULD HAVE A DO OVER.)


We were horrified.

This is what happens.

This is what happens to women who Don’t Follow the Rules.

So we did what women do.

We blamed the jogger.

What was she wearing?

“What was she thinking, running in the park after dark?”

All women know you can’t go running after dark.

It’s unthinkable.

It’s not done.

That is not how women get to live.

My friend Heather got angry with us.

“Why shouldn’t we go running after dark?” she demanded.

I was confused. “It’s not safe!” I tried to explain.

“It should be!” she countered.

“But – it’s NOT!” I said.

“We shouldn’t have to park under the light in the parking lot when we go to the grocery store at night,” she seethed. “We shouldn’t have to position our keys over our knuckles. We shouldn’t have to check under our cars and in the back seats before we get in.”

“But that’s how the world is!”

She shook her head. “That’s not how it should be.”

I gave up. She was living in some unattainable utopia. I was in the Real World.

That was then.

This is now.

Now I realize that she was right and I was wrong.

I realize that I should be angry that I have to think about whether it’s safe to walk alone after dark.

No.

I realize I should be angry that it’s not safe for us to walk alone after dark.

When your rich university, which which invents things like a heart monitor woven into a shirt, can’t seem to figure out potty parity

Even the gajillionaires who built the new basketball arena (with taxpayer money) have more toilets for women than for men

The chairs are necessary why?

Mr T and I went to our college homecoming in Houston last week. Before the university president’s town hall, which was in a building that’s only a few years old, he and I both went to the restroom.

When I finally got out and found him saving a seat for me in the auditorium, I looked at my phone and discovered he had called and texted. Where was I? WHERE WAS I?

Silly man.

He thought that that because we entered our respective restrooms – each of which had two stalls – at the same time, we would leave at the same time.

Hahahahahahahaha.


When I walked out of the ladies’, I saw the university president.

I caught his eye.

“I should not have to wait twice as long as a man to use the bathroom,” I said. I was, as you might imagine, very annoyed.

“And yet that’s what just happened. Rice has the money to solve this problem. You need to fix this.”

The younger man standing next to the president said, “There are more restrooms in the next building!”

Oh bless your sweet heart.

“Yeah,” I replied. “That doesn’t really solve my problem.”


A (very smart) friend asked, “Why don’t they just make all the bathrooms unisex? Wouldn’t that solve the problem?”

He did not, of course, mean constructing single-unit, locked-door bathrooms. He meant converting existing multiple-stall bathrooms to unisex.

In theory, if you just do the math, this works. It’s actually a really interesting queuing theory problem: how do you minimize wait times?

In this case – by converting all the toilets to unisex, you might increase wait times for men but reduce them for women. Depending, I suppose, on the ratio of men to women, total wait time could be reduced, which is something that might matter for businesses that just want people to get back to work.


I don’t think the people who run entertainment venues care if women miss the first part of the show after intermission – they already have our money.

I, along with at least two dozen other women, was waiting for the ladies’ before the Tom Jones concert. Next to the ladies’ was a toilet for disabled persons, with a guard sitting in front of the door.

Me: May I use that toilet, please?

Guard: No.

Me: But – it’s empty. And there’s a long line. And the concert starts in a few minutes.

Guard: No.

Me: But why not?

Guard: You’re not disabled.

Me: Nobody in the line is disabled and if someone is, I gladly yield the bathroom to her.

Guard: No.


The problem with looking at potty parity as nothing more than a math problem is that you don’t include the things that can’t be quantified.

Things like high school girls not wanting to change a tampon when there is a boy in the next stall.

Things not schoolgirls not even wanting to pee if there is a boy in the next stall.

Things like boys – or men – looking under or over the stall door.

Things like men putting cameras under the partition to photograph women.

Things like women being worried that they are stuck in a stall, pants down, in a vulnerable condition, around men, who may or may not be predators. Ted Bundy was good looking and charming. We can’t tell by looking who the good men are and who the bad men are.


All we want is to pee in privacy and not miss the show.