Just beneath the surface of normal


The Inter-Gender Understanding Award

1. There should be an award for this. Even a Nobel Prize category would do.

2. It should be mine. Here’s why:

Wait – first let me explain: I hate to get dressed by myself. Almost every morning I come out of the bedroom with some version of “this cardigan……or this one?” and Jim explains his preference along with a surprisingly thoughtful analysis and only rare criticism regarding the sheer quantity of cardigans in my closet. Getting dressed without feedback was one of the more heinous aspects of his former job, which sent him on the road every other week (though I have to admit, the stillness of the bedclothes didn’t suck).

Back in the earlier stages of our relationship, he would come back with the usual “both are fine” or “how the hell am I supposed to know?” just like every guy on every comedy thing that ever portrayed men as clueless, unobservant, and afraid of women’s anger (basically all of them). Not to be deterred from avoiding making my own decisions, In one of my more inspired moments I retorted with, “What do you even mean? Men are pros at looking at girls and deciding whether they look hot. Just look at them both and decide which one makes me look hotter.” Since then he’s come back with amazingly helpful things like, “having that top cut off there visually interrupts the flow, which makes you look shorter and rounder. Do you have a cropped one in a lighter color?” or “yeah, that one really emphasizes your curves.” It’s like having a fashion-conscious girlfriend who also likes to lift heavy, grubby things and have sex with you. I’m pretty sure that alone is the trifecta of marital satisfaction.

I’m not sure I understand what this has to do with marriage, but I’m told it’s a good thing. I would have used a slots reference, but I don’t really understand that either. Also “slots” sounds way more lewd. Not that riding horses doesn’t. I guess the moral here is that when it’s me talking, it’s pretty hard to find a metaphor that isn’t racy. Get it? Racy? Yeah, I went there.

Now, for the ultimate triumph: Every single day I also  ask Jim to help me decide between 2 pair of shoes. This morning he didn’t like either option, so I tried on two more, neither of which satisfied him either. So I trudged back upstairs and pulled out yet another pair, which (because we were running late) were blessedly deemed close enough, “but it would be better if they had a little bit of greenish tinge to them. You should look for some.”

A woman does not see an opportunity like this but once or twice in a lifetime. I seized my moment:

“NOW you see why women have so many shoes.”

A look of wonderment flashed across his face. “I…oh my God, I actually do. Every outfit has a mood and a style and you need a variety for whatever you put together! Not to mention the comfort factor on different days.”

I don't even know what this means.

He also talks about feelings.

I cannot possibly describe the thrill that rushed through me at this revelation. My only regret is that there were no other witnesses to this landmark moment in male-female diplomacy.

Of course, he then went on to sing a verse from the song of his people, a rambling ballad called “I’m So Glad I’m a Guy”. This particular one went something like this:

When I get dressed in the morning, I say, “which shoes should I wear?”
The answer is almost always black.

I can wear them day after day and no one cares.
I just have to make sure that my belt is also black.
Same pants, same shirt – just different colors here and there.
But the shoes never change. I’m so glad I’m a guy.

Although to be fair, it is a far less grating stanza than the one about menstruation.


As part of my acceptance speech I would like to thank you, dear readers, for celebrating the triumph of this historic day with me.

If you need me before the ceremony, I’ll be searching for comfortable brown wedges with a slightly greenish tinge without so much of a trace of guilt.


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Dresses 4 Ever

Comfortable skirt season has come and gone and the painful realities of thigh chafing have set in. Yesterday I had the brilliant idea that instead of miserably hot and squeezy shaper shorts, I could make a relatively comfy pair out of a pair of cut-off non-control-top pantyhose to prevent the phenomenon which I have today learned is known as “chub rub” (because evidently the injury of thigh chafing isn’t complete without an insult chaser that sounds like nothing so much as a half-hearted hand job).

I picked up a discount pair at the CVS on the way home last night, along with a coconut chocolate bar because you can’t leave CVS without chocolate. It’s a rule. I felt very pleased with myself this morning as I went at them with scissors (though also kind of guilty because my inner German was pretty sure I was just ruining them on purpose and wasting money), and my joyful smugness at their comfort and effectiveness propelled me right through my morning routine without even the need for caffeine.

Until it came time to walk from the train to my office. By that time, they had stretched out enough to roll up like an old map, managing to actually squeeze the flesh of my thighs down in such a way as to make more of it come into contact, like one of those water filled stress balls that you squeeze and the creature’s eye or brain or whatever gets all bulgy.

My thighs in rolled up hose-shorts. Sort of. There are strikingly few good photos on the internet of stress balls being squeezed all out of shape. Except those ones in nets, which totally give me the willies.

As I walked, I made multiple surreptitious attempts to tug them back down and get a barrier back between my wrestling thigh balloons. Though I’m not sure I achieved all that much stealth; I never noticed how many public surveillance cameras there are in the 4 block walk to my office before. I can’t help but imagine some guy sitting at one of those monitoring stations with his coffee and donut and calling over his shoulder, “hey Al! Come get a load of this one!” Also, there are people, like, everywhere. You literally cannot be alone in the state of New Jersey. Literally literally – not just emphatically.

But yeah, this has been my whole day. I would give up entirely and toss them in the trash were it not 90 degrees out, but the moments when they provide an actual barrier have been enough to avoid pain, so I soldier on. I briefly considered sewing some kind of edging onto them to keep them from rolling, but my track record with actually doing things like that is relatively bad. Instead I went to the Oracle and asked what to do about thigh chafing that would require the least amount of follow-through on my part.

It turns out someone else did a really thorough job of trying out a bunch of different options – up to and including silicone personal lubricant, which is exactly the kind of sordid end to which I would have made my way if not for the blessings of the internet. If nothing else, it tells me once again that I am not alone, though I don’t know whether to be happy about that or find someone to apologize to. Either way, the results are worth sharing because pretty much everybody’s thighs rub unless they have a particularly wide pelvis or a dedicated Photoshopper to create an aftermarket thigh gap for some absurd reason.

And so without further ado, the definitive guide to avoiding thigh chafing. You’re welcome. I love it when I get to help without doing any actual work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put all of my pants in a box labeled “November”. Or possibly “Goodwill.” Because seriously, dresses are like work-sanctioned nightgowns and I want to wear them all the time.


And Like That, Poof

As quickly and mysteriously as it came, it’s gone. I took Friday off to rest but other than sleeping late found I didn’t really need any. In fact, I felt itchy to *do something*, which is a sensation I’d all but forgotten. I’m out of the habit of being able to function, though, so mostly I crocheted and thought about doing things, and got up and paced, and video chatted with my best friend, and then took my geriatric cat to the vet to find out why she’s started meowing all. the. damn. time. Now I get to give her regular injections for her arthritis, which I sort of enjoy more than I should; but when she’s all “hey, it’s four in the morning and you rolled over which must mean you really want to pet me now” I am comforted by the knowledge that I will soon get to stab her again. AND that it will be for her own good, so I’m not even a bad kitty mom for having such thoughts.

Saturday I worked in the garden and Jim and I ran some errands. Yesterday – you guys, yesterday I DROVE A CAR FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FIVE WEEKS! It was awesome. And horrible. Because I am so rusty. So I sort of tried to go straight on a left arrow and the oncoming cars trying to turn left were all, “what the fuck is wrong with you?” and I thought I had a green so I’m all “what the fuck is wrong with YOU?!” but looking in my rear-view, it would seem that I was the problem. So that was kind of embarrassing. But everyone was fine, if a little annoyed, and I got the reminder that when you drive you really have to pay attention to all the little details, and you can’t just move because the car next to you moved. But still, it was incredible to have the freedom to run and get some groceries. Hell, it was incredible to have the freedom to know how to cook them again.

Last night Corinne and I baked a cake for Jim (who she calls Bear) – it said “Happy Bearther’s Day” because it was his birthday last Monday and it was Father’s Day yesterday. Trust me, it made perfect sense at the time. Although Jim asserts that he is entirely positive that Obama was born in the US, so maybe it didn’t actually make sense at the time either. I wish I’d taken a picture because I really suck at writing in icing and pretty much all of these were better than mine. Though fortunately we didn’t actually pay for my attempt.

Which is to say, life is back to normal, and I love it in all its goofiness.

The only downside is that now that my brain works again, I remember how to be anxious and codependent. I did not miss that. Like, at all. It was really fun when the only thing I knew how to be was blunt and I could say whatever I wanted to because I didn’t know how to worry about how it was received. And everyone cut me extra slack because of it. It’s kinda sad when you know you’re getting better when you start being crazy again. Also, it seems like my brain has decided it’s got lost time to make up for because now I’m worried about everything – and the things I’m not worried about, I worry that I should be. So that’s fun.

I don’t know how long it will last, or if it was only a product of the dry and temperate weekend we just had. But for now, I’m happy to be able to have energy and smile and make dinner. And drive. People say it’s the little things in life that give us the greatest pleasure. When I was young I thought that was total bullshit, but now that I’ve had a first-hand experience that my body is this mysterious vessel that could stop working at any time and/or maybe even trap me inside it, I kinda start to see what they mean. Walking from the train to my office on a beautiful morning without my legs aching after half a block was just about the sweetest thing ever.

Hopefully I’ll be taking it for granted again in no time.


Sometimes I Don’t Have Words

Sometimes you’re just sort of cruising along doing the life thing and singing with the windows down.

Sometimes a Mack Truck comes out of nowhere and causes you to slam on the brakes (metaphorical brakes – I haven’t been in an accident if you were worrying) and everything comes to a screeching halt as you deal with the big mess in front of you. This is one of those times. If this is really disjointed and not up to my usual wit, I apologize. My brain is sort of broken right now.

I’ve been feeling a little off since right after Easter, though I originally attributed it to a family visit. As time went on and I continued to be cranky and tired, I began to suspect something more was up, though I thought maybe my meds just needed to be adjusted or something. And then my body essentially turned around and gave me the middle finger (Gave me my own middle finger? I may have lost control of this metaphor).

About two weeks ago I started getting dizzy and disoriented and forgetting how to use my object permanence and basic conversational skills and just slept and slept and slept for days. When I look at things, they’re kind of jerky and all parallel lines make moire patterns, which is really frustrating because there are lines LITERALLY EVERYWHERE. Even writing on a pad of lined paper is a sort of cognitive funhouse mirror adventure.I can’t wear my new blue and white striped skirt because it literally makes me nauseated. It’s an interesting coincidence, if you think about it. Or possibly just cosmic justice for bad wordplay, if that’s a thing.

I went and saw my doctor and he dubbed me vertiginous and told me it would go away in a couple of days. In the meantime, Facebook friends with vertigo came out of the woodwork to offer empathy. One said she felt drunk for weeks. Recognizing it as like being drunk was very reassuring; that’s a situation I’ve experienced before and I know what to do with it. Because I believe in science, I tried having a drink to see what happened. I actually felt less drunk. Go figure. But that’s science for you. Who am I to argue with results?

But after a few days I didn’t feel any better. Instead, along came the feeling of being poked with a pin in all sorts of random places (yes, including there. yes, ouch). Then came the muscle twitches and spasms, which at least had the decency to not hurt even if I do look sort of like a bad breakdancer. When the twitches started, something in my mind – the only thing that’s come through clear as a bell since it began – went “that sounds like MS.”

On the bright side, I’m probably the only person ever who dizziness made LESS clumsy. Last week I flinched hugely because I thought I was about to walk into a wall, but realized after I put my arms out to protect me that I was still a foot away. Which more or less sums up why I can’t drive anymore. I got overwhelmed with confusing visual input trying to back out of a bloody parking space. Driving is done for now. Which I mostly don’t mind because I don’t really like driving, but it kind of sucks to rely on other people to get you around the suburban landscape. Especially when it comes to little tasks you take for granted like running to the store for just a couple things, which is now a logistical nightmare – especially for someone who suddenly has to concentrate like she’s trying to levitate something in order to get through making a really basic dinner.

My idiot doctor still thinks I have vertigo, so he referred me to an ENT. I know lots of people with vertigo, so I feel pretty confident – even in this mental state – to assert that vertigo doesn’t usually come with muscle twitches and pins and needles. My doctor is so fired (I know I’ve totally said that before, but this time I really mean it. I even found another one). So I made an appointment with a Neurologist on my own. Blessedly I got fit into a cancellation the very next day.

She sent me for lots of tests. Most of them are to look for MS. A few are to see if it might be something easy like a B12 deficiency, which would be really really nice. Because that’s what we’ve come to: hoping for a lifetime of monthly injections over the possibility of managing an autoimmune disease for the rest of my life. Saturday I went for a brain MRI, which was remarkably like going to Burning Man in that I was trying my best to close my eyes and rest through a constant barrage of loud, rhythmic pounding. Who knew that countercultures could be so helpful in navigating medical diagnostics?

Before your procedure, please spend a week in the desert with 50,000 really high people who like techno at impossibly loud volumes 24/7.

Anyway, it’s boring and I can’t think straight and everything is suddenly really hard. I can’t even tell you how long it took me to type this. Mostly because I don’t know. But it’s been awhile, trust me. I used to type 85 words per minute with no errors. Not so much now.

It feels like my brain has been hijacked. Or like the sad half of Flowers for Algernon where Charley starts losing all that mighty brain power. If I had the capacity, I would probably be really scared. Which is kind of a bonus, actually. Equanimity is really easy when your feel synapses are all “fuck it, I’m out.” It’s not like there’s much I can do about it anyway, though. Like I said: bonus. Except I still do irritated pretty well.

Some days I’m almost normal. Some days I can get through a whole day without napping and can get a few things done. Those days are awesome and I love them. Other days I Segfault.

Error: No Such User

A segmentation fault is a specific kind of error caused by accessing memory that “does not belong to you.” It’s a helper mechanism that keeps you from corrupting the memory and introducing hard-to-debug memory bugs. Whenever you get a segfault you know you are doing something wrong with memory – accessing variable that has already been freed, writing to a read-only portion of the memory, etc. Also, I totally pasted that from the Internet because I can’t write that coherently right now. But I’m married to a programmer so I get to make nerd references even when I’m too stupid to explain them.


Anyway, if you’ve been wondering where the hell I’ve been, that’s where: I’m just doing my damnedest to make it up and down stairs and remember how to do my job well enough not to get fired until my brain calms the fuck down from whatever this is. Thanks for your patience. I promise to try to write on good days. Except I also promise to tend my poor neglected garden and get some laundry done and pick up around the house, etc. So maybe not every good day. But there will be good days, and there will be writing.

It may be weird sometimes, though. Like, weirder than usual, and maybe in a less fun way. Thanks for continuing to show up anyway.