Fertility vs. Virility

Gerber Daisy in a pot

“I need help,” she pleaded. “I don’t know where else to turn.” 

“Sure. What do you need?”

“I’m pregnant.”

She was newly married. They were recent college grads, just starting their first jobs and their lives together.

“Congratulations! How exciting!”

Her face crumpled and she began to cry great body wracking sobs. I braced myself. Had he left her? Was she being abused? Was there something wrong with the pregnancy? Had she lost her job somehow?

“My health insurance excludes coverage for birth control. The pills make me so nauseated and the depo provera shot just made me bleed and bleed. I couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for other forms of birth control. So we used condoms. We tried to be careful.” She whispered hoarsely, “I don’t know what to do.” There was terror in her eyes. “My insurance policy excludes coverage for pregnancy. We made calls. All of the OB’s in the area want at least $10,000 up front in cash. We don’t have that kind of money. We have student loans and a mortgage!”

Could health insurance DO that? Exclude coverage for both pregnancy AND birth control? Oh, yes. Yes they could. And it was always hidden in the fine print. It was the young women starting out in life that didn’t know what to look for, the ones most likely to end up pregnant. 

It made me angry for her. What kind of misogynistic world did we live in where this was allowed? Where women are punished for possessing a functional uterus? The United States of America. The bastion of freedom and democracy.

We talked about her applying for Medicaid. 

It felt wrong, though. A woman… married, employed, insured (sort of, apparently) having to apply for Medicaid. That was not what Medicaid was intended for, was it? Once her dates were calculated, the pregnancy predated her employment contract and would have been considered a preexisting condition anyway, even if she did have pregnancy coverage. No matter what kind of policy she had, she was screwed. Literally and figuratively.

The other thing, which no one talked about out loud, was that the OBs who took Medicaid in the area were typically so awful no one with real health insurance would ever willingly use them. There was a huge stigma attached to it all.

So what happened to her, you ask?

She had an abortion.

Despite what you want to believe, hers was not an isolated story.

What a relief it was when the Affordable Care Act worked to changed that. No matter whatever else you felt about the ACA, it was a powerful step forward for women but even it did not go far enough. We all deserve comprehensive medical care that takes care of our entire bodies, not just the parts that correspond to our male counterparts.

But here we are with some people thinking it would be great to go back to that alternate kind of reality.

Well…

Be careful what you wish for.

Exposure

Almond tree flowers
What makes a woman report a crime?

I’ve been thinking about this question since my turn with jury duty. There are tons of things that would make me call the police. Theft, causing physical harm to a person or property, cyber bullying, extortion, etc. There are some gray areas, however.

For instance, let’s take a woman who is minding her own business loading groceries into the back of her SUV. A man drives up slowly in the store parking lot and exposes himself to her, his penis waving about in all of its erect “glory”.* What makes her say, “You know what? I’m going to call 911 and report you, you sorry bastard!”

To be honest with myself and all of you, I would not be the woman dialing 911. I’d be shocked and disgusted to be sure, but calling the police? No. Not for this.

Why? 

Shouldn’t I be reporting the guy to keep him from doing this to other women? Isn’t it my civic duty to report it, to protect the public? 

Maybe I am just desensitized from seeing men’s penises every day as part of my job, some of them even erect (nothing funny about that, it is involuntary) that it does not offend me as it should? Maybe I just don’t want to waste more of my time on him. Filing a police report, potentially testifying in court… those things take time. A lot of time. Then there is the added aggravation of having defense counsel work to convince the jury that out of either malice or ignorance I must not have seen what I know I saw… worse, if the jury decided he was not guilty.

So here I am, an educated woman telling you that I would make the conscious decision to not call the police about a man showing off his penis to me in public and I have to be honest with you that after serving as a juror, I think I would be even less likely to do it. 

Call me a coward. 

What prompts another woman make the report, though? What are your thoughts? Would you call 911 if you were the woman? Why or why not? What if you were a man and witnessed this being done to someone else? What if it was done to you? Would you do something different if a friend was with you? What if there were kids around?

*In case you are wondering, this was not the case I served on as a juror.

Pecking Order

Flamingos fighting

Just take a nip 
Here and there
So I can be pretty
Fix my hair
Pull and tuck
Gouge at my eyes
Make me look pretty
Slim my thighs
Whiter teeth
A larger bust
I’m still not pretty
Another adjust
Raise those cheeks
Now my nose
Got to look pretty
Paint my toes
Some fuller lips
Sharper jaw
She is so pretty
Fills me with awe
Chisel me down
Tighter skin
I could be pretty
If I were thin
Sew me up
Dress me up
Give me more pain
So I can feel alive
So I can feel loved 
Still not happy
Just a pinch more
Want to be pretty
Want to be adored
Soon I’ll be there 
You wait and see
Soon I’ll be pretty
Soon I won’t be me

Games Played

Pelican on the water

“The staff doesn’t like you. They are all scared of you.” She sat across from me, feigning concern.

“Why?” I felt my face redden and struggled to keep the emotion under control.

“They just think you are too demanding. You should stop talking to them. Let me handle it for you so they can be mad at me.” 

Too demanding? I was not being ugly. I just asked the front desk to check on a patient’s insurance coverage. How could that be construed as anything but an honest and necessary question so I could take better care of a patient? 

“If you have a problem, come to me and I will take it to them.” 

And with that I was not supposed to communicate directly with my staff anymore. Because they feared and disliked me. The practice administrator over her and HR supported this she said. 

Whatever. 

My head reeled. She left. I closed the door and had myself a good cry.

Unbeknownst to me, that office manager was telling the staff that she was the boss, not the physicians, that they should stop taking their concerns to us. If there was an unpopular decision the staff was told that it came from the docs even if it didn’t really. If it was something good, she told them that she had done everything in her power get us to reluctantly agree. She lied and lied and lied to the staff about everything.

If you have been reading my blog posts for a few years you may recall the angst of this period of time. How could I be doing the same thing I always did but now all of a sudden everyone thinks I am the bitch from hell? Is it really that I am so evil? Or is it that I am woman and as such people are taking everything I say and do and twisting it into something I am not? If so, why now? 

What was going on?!?!!??!!

I had this niggling suspicion, as my staff continued to leave the clinic one by one, that my office manager was not supporting the physicians or the staff, that there was something else going on to which I was not privy. I reached out to upper management and they listened for a change. Within a couple of months she was gone. It was startling how quickly that occurred. Typically there is a huge HR process and blah, blah, blah. At the time I felt guilty, terribly guilty, blindsiding her with it when HR showed up to escort her out of the building. I worried that I had destroyed her career. 

Yesterday I found out that there was an investigation going on, that each employee who had left the clinic during that period of time was approached by a contracted firm for statements as to why they left. The investigation supported what I was saying which was why upper management moved so quickly. But no one ever told me this occurred. I found this out from one of the employees that we rehired. 

In fact, virtually everyone who has left this clinic has asked to come back at one time or another. On some level I knew it was not really me but how to rationalize that with what I was being told by an office manager that I trusted?

That whole period of time really messed with my head.

Friends and family started to doubt me. Hell, I doubted myself. I questioned my judgement. I questioned everything. In the end I realized that I had to let it go. All I could do was what I thought was right and I found my peace with that. While the maelstrom swirls around me, I can stand upright knowing I am doing right. In that respect the whole experience has been invaluable. I care so much less what people think about me. 

Just do what is right.

I have been back to communicating directly to my staff again for over a year. The practice administrator last week complimented me on my “level of engagement with the staff,” saying that everyone always had positive things to say about me.  

Ok. 

But I am doing the same thing I have always done. Maybe it is just the tequila I keep in my office?

Love Is….

Heart shaped hole in a tree trunk

… someone who makes you a cup of coffee the way YOU like it instead of the way THEY want you to like it.

It sounds so simple but the truth of that statement evaded me for longer than I care to admit. There is peace in the knowledge, though…. peace and love.

So, to that man in my life, thank you for being my hero and saving us from the house fire… both literally and figuratively. I love you!

Marching and Madness

Statue covered in dozens of breasts
“I like how he responds to the media. I voted for him because of that. I hate the media…” she was watching video of the inauguration on her phone when I entered the room.

I moved to listen to her heart and then her lungs. 

“That sort of thing is how he won the election,” I murmured, careful to keep the judgement out of my voice. I quickly changed the subject back to her persistent nausea. 

My clinic is not the place for political debate. It is for healing.

At the end of the visit I picked up my computer from the counter across the room and caught his face leering back at me from the magazine rack again. I always moved him to the back of the stack but somehow, just like a bad penny, he kept turning up again at the front. How many pelvic exams had I done in this room with him looking on? I have tried to remain neutral publicly but I just could not take it anymore. I snatched up the magazine and threw it into the biohazard bin while the patient walked out of the exam room.

I wish he would shut up.

Does he even hear himself? The things he says? How he appears to others through his tweets?

“Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” Donald Trump

I imagine there were women out there marching who did vote for him. That does not mean that they cannot stand up and protest. That march was not just about Donald Trump, even if he wanted to think it was.

I did not march yesterday but oh how I wish I had. Do I agree with everything the Women’s March was said to represent? Maybe. Maybe not. But I do stand as a woman who is more than a pussy, a woman who believes she deserves more respect and equal pay and better rights. A woman who believes that people have the right to kindness, love, safety, and respect regardless of religion, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, or country of origin.

This was how he should have responded from the first instead of as an after thought:

“Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.” Donald Trump

Yes. That.

So I say this:

Unite us. Stop dividing and provoking. Be someone we can respect, even if we do not agree with you. 

Act like a president.

Pointing Ahead

img_3944

I thought I would do something a little different for the last post of 2016…

On A Slave to the Face from the other day, DM made a comment that got me thinking about our perception of beauty. What do we think the world wants to see in us and how does that compare to what we actually want to see in others. How does it compare to what they see in us?

What attracted you to your partner? How do you let them know what you find attractive about them? Do you think they believe you? What does your partner say about you? How do you feel about their compliments? What would you change about yourself? What would you change about your partner? Why?

This year I resolve to be freer with my own words of praise and a more gracious recipient of compliments from others.

A Slave to the Face

Victorian tombstone
I am going to let you in on a little secret: I own a Princess Leia slave costume. 

Yes, for those purposes. I am not going to claim that I ever looked good in it but I did purchase it and have worn it more than once. Well. Maybe more like *not worn* it….

You can say all sorts of things about sex and slavery and the subjugation of women and how wearing such a costume betrays feminism at its very core but here’s the thing: Princess Leia choked the ever lovin’ life out of Jabba the Hut while in that costume. She strangled that slimy, disgusting bastard with the chain that bound her to him while wearing a bikini. She wasn’t cowering in a corner, ashamed of how much she hated her exposed thighs. She owned that chain and she used it to her advantage. That is some kind of woman. I long for that kind of confidence.

I am not who you think I am.

You will remember in my post last year that it really bothered me how much criticism Carrie Fisher took for her appearance in The Force Awakens, how I didn’t think it was about her so much as it was about our own aging and mortality. For many of us, she was a tangible way of measuring the passage of time. Her appearance spoke to our own finite existence, our own mortality. It was like holding a mirror up to our souls and for some recognizing that we did not like what was reflected there.

She looks older. 

So do I. 

I am not what others see in me.

There was a time that I would get told by complete strangers that I looked like Nicole Kidman or Jullianne Moore or Bree from Desperate Housewives. No one says that about me now. My face and my body are changing. The days of Star Wars kink fests are over.

I am not who I think I am.

I grappled with the anxiety and panic of that for a few years. I tried laser… once. The pain from that was indescribable. And Botox… once. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like the contortions and fasciculations from Botox wearing off. Then, I smeared the most godawful smelling stuff derived from baby foreskin on my face twice a day while choking back my own vomit.

My face is NOT all over the big screen and yet I freaked out, doing crazy stuff in a vain attempt to hold onto my youth. There was the dysphoria of not recognizing the face staring back at me from the bathroom mirror and the despair of feeling my sex appeal dwindle away.

Who am I now?

I cannot even imagine what Carrie Fisher went through in her lifetime, the tremendous courage it took for her to play the role of Leia once again decades later. As a little girl I wanted to be like Princess Leia. I wanted to learn to shoot a blaster, sure, but I also wanted to look that good in a bikini slave costume. What I did not realize at the time was that virtually all women, no matter how beautiful, suffer from a distorted image of themselves. Princess Leia suffered. Carrie Fisher suffered. Now I find that Carrie Fisher herself is my hero even more so than her character ever was. 

But then Carrie Fisher died.

So will I.

Suddenly a face seems like such a triviality. I won’t say I am completely over myself or my vanity, but I am working on it.

May we all rest in peace…

A Conversation

Girl sitting on a driftwood stump at a lake
“Mommy, Caden was telling me some stuff about Pluto…” She started to list some facts that were blatantly incorrect.

“Baby, you know that isn’t right. Remember learning about Pluto at the planetarium in Chicago?”

“But Caden said…”

“You don’t have to believe everything Caden says.”

“Yes I do. I’m his girlfriend!”

She is five years old, people. 

Kindergarten.

“Caden? Who is this Caden fellow anyway?”

“He’s in first grade. He’s my boyfriend but we can’t get married until we are twenty-eight. That’s the rule.”

She’s dating an older man?!??!?! Still, 28 is a reasonable age…

“Why do you even have a boyfriend? You can have friends that are boys but you don’t need to have a boyfriend.”

“Yes I do! Everyone at school has a boyfriend or a girlfriend.”

Call me old and outdated, but I sure don’t remember that sort of thing going on in grade school back in my day. And who the hell told her she has to be stupid to earn some guy’s affection?

I remember my mother pulling me aside in high school, telling me I needed to dial it back a bit. “Boys don’t like girls who are smarter than they are.”

Maybe that’s true.

Maybe that’s been my problem all along.

But you know what? 

Bite me. 

My daughter knows that Pluto has a different orbit than the other “real” planets. It is smaller than Earth and is terribly cold. And you know what? It isn’t a planet because it has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

Loving someone does not mean you have to agree with their silliness. Why some people still believe this is beyond me. 

She can still “love” you, Caden, but by golly she is gonna teach you ALL about Pluto today…

Frolicking

img_4003

I gave my daughter the Lime Chiffon doll that I played with as a kid. Lime Chiffon was friends with Strawberry Shortcake, and the only doll out of that collection I ever received. Remarkably, it still has its pink shoes and green and white striped stockings still intact. My daughter carries it around with her everywhere. To the mall, to church, to the opera….

A doll that is about 35 years old.

You know what is depressing about that? A mere toy, a plastic doll for crying out loud, has held up better than I have. Just when I think I am at peace with the whole aging thing, a toy reminds me just how old I am and that I am not going to get any younger.

Would you judge me harshly for wanting to scream, “You bitch!” at the doll?

Yes?

Well, I didn’t do it. But I sure did want to.

I have some consolation, however: The doll is not likely to survive the love of this new little girl. Not for long anyway. 

Mwahahhaha!

(Death to the plastic toy!!!!! I will have my revenge…)

Now, back to the opera. Did you roll your eyes when I threw that into the opening paragraph? Did you think I was trying to be snooty? Let me say a few words about that…

I love the opera. It is a fantastic place for people watching. Generally an opera is good for a couple of entertaining scenes. The rest of the time it would be boring as hell except that the people in attendance are so much fun. I love the people who attend operas!

My kids know that mommy attends the opera from time to time and that she really dresses up for it so it holds some mystique for them. There happens to be a series of operas put on for kids so I took mine for the first time this weekend. I wasn’t sure what they would think but it thrills me to no end that I can give my kids cool experiences like that. What kind of person would I have grown up to be had I been able to go to the opera as a kid?

Um, don’t answer that…

Fortunately, this opera was only 30 minutes long. These people are not fools. They know you cannot hold a kid’s attention on opera for much longer. Bless them for that.

What did my kids think? 

They said they loved it. But turns out, it wasn’t the opera itself that they loved. Oh, no. It was the chandelier going up into the ceiling before the performance that was so frickin’ awesome. That, and the fact that we spent the entire morning of singing everything in “opera”.

Life. Life is a perpetual lesson in humility. Once you have learned that lesson, you die.

Happy Monday.