Earlier this year I declared 2020 the worst year of my life. It was before the pandemic got bad, before my best friend of eighteen years revealed herself to be an ableist bigot, before I learned my ex-boyfriend was a serial rapist, before a botched lumbar puncture let me with back pain that is sometimes as horrific as my now 1-year-old Migraine (Happy Birthday!).
I mentioned in that article that the previous winner of the Worst Year Ever Prize was 1998. I was 19 years old, dating a 28 year old I’d known since I was 16. He was, as my mother said, “homely.” But he was from Naples, from home, he knew the people I knew. I didn’t want to go to college or live in Tampa. We do this strange thing to children, tossing 18-year-olds into the world, expecting them to understand not only what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but to remember that they need to buy things like toothpaste and ziplock bags, things they’ve never had to think about before. I didn’t know anyone; all my friends were a year younger or a year older or somewhere else. So when I ran into Collin, I was ecstatic, it didn’t matter how homely he was. He represented home. And despite my fondness for Henry Cavill in bathtubs, I’ve never been shallow, either. Collin was interesting, and into the things I was into. Late ’90s goths, and he had a car!
We went to clubs and had so much fun, just as friends at first. He had this “crazy” ex-girlfriend. I didn’t pay her much mind, not even the fact that she was fifteen. I shrugged when he said she had a miscarriage. It wasn’t part pf my life. It wasn’t my problem.
One thing led to another and suddenly we were a couple. He never seemed to have a condom. I made him go get them. I volunteered for Planned Parenthood, after all! I was going to be safe, and, of course, I told him, my worst nightmare was a child, especially as young as I was.
Little did I know, Collin reveled in women’s worst nightmares.
My best friend Jessica came back from her college exchange program in France, frustrated with school like I was, but until me, she had gotten more than a grand total of zero college credits. I invited her to room with us– we had a spare room and I thought it would be fun! My boyfriend and my best friend, what could be better?
And it was great. For a while. And then I started feeling sick. All the time. The nausea wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t smoke. Couldn’t eat anything but oranges. And then it dawned on me. My mother told me she craved oranges when she was pregnant with me. I asked Jessica to take me to the store immediately.
It’s funny, the hazy details you remember. I don’t remember the name of the grocery store, but I remember the gawdy July 4th display, how it was mid-afternoon and there weren’t very many people there, so the stockboys were carefully putting the displaces in perfect order. I remember that handwriting — that grocery story handwriting — advertising a sale on off-brand cola. How is it that all grocery store signage has the same handwriting?
The test came back positive pretty quickly and I didn’t think, “How will I pay for this?” I didn’t debate. I grabbed the yellow pages and looked up “A” for “Abortion.” There was no internet debate, ever. I never wanted to be a mother. It’s not part of my constitution. And my mind’s eye kept flashing back to that horror video they showed us in high school health class. No fucking way, NO fucking way!!
The appointment was made for as soon as possible and Jessica immediately offered to put the $300 procedure on her credit card drive me. I thanked her and told her she was the best. I didn’t want to talk to Collin about it. Things hadn’t been great, and he was emotionally manipulative, and it was starting to dawn on me that this 28 year old dating teenagers was kind of messed up.
But the night before the procedure came and I thought, “I didn’t get into this alone, I shouldn’t have to go through this alone.” So I told him I was having an abortion in the morning. He looked shock. He said he wanted the baby. I told him, there is no baby, it’s an embryo, there is no baby to want. He said he poked holes in the condom because he wanted a baby. I didn’t know there was a name for it back then: Reproductive Abuse. Others call it rape. I’m not comfortable using that word, I don’t want to cheapen the experience of survivors. I was abused, but I was not raped. I told him he picked the wrong woman if he wanted a family, that I’d dumped my last boyfriend when he told me he wanted marriage and four kids.
He told me we would both rot in hell for killing “our baby.”
I got to my feet and told him he was a fucking psycho.
The procedure was easy. This was before the pill was available, it was a good old fashioned vaccuu-suck and 9 weeks. Once my mother asks if I ever wonder if it was a boy or a girl. The answer is now. It was a cluster of bloody cells. It was nothing.
Mostly I was frightened it would hurt. But it wasn’t bad! Jessica held my hand and a television in the corner played an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. I was a little dopey. Not as dopey as Jessica, who bought Subway for lunch and then asked them to microwave my ham sandwich. Who the fuck microwaves lettuce and shit. I’m not a food snob, I could wreck a subway sub right now at 6am. But not fucking microwaved!
There was some spotting, some cramps. Really shitty cramps, but livable. I moved into Jessica’s room with her and we made plans to leave the loser behind. Big plans.
One morning, a Sunday, a few days after the abortion, the phone rang. A landline of course. It was 1998, after all. It was about 11am, and Jessica wasn’t sleeping in her bed. I picked up the cordless phone and looked around the apartment. No sign of Jessica. There was only one other place to look. Groggily, I knocked on Collin’s door, unthinking, he cracked it open and I glimpsed a naked Jessica hurriedly pulling on a t-shirt. Collin grabbed the phone as I sleepily said it was Jessica’s father on the phone. Nothing registered.
I turned around and went back to my room, and by the time I reached for the doorknob it dawns on me. What’s happening. What I saw. Jessica’s eagerness to help me. It wasn’t benevolence. It was guilt. She was fucking my boyfriend the whole time.
The explosion that followed is a blur. I know a couple days later, my mom called, unknowing of my ordeal, to tell me my childhood dog died. I know called suicide hotlines and screamed and trashed the house at the betrayal, but it barely matters, really. It’s not the point of this story. The point is the shame. I didn’t tell my mother for well over a decade that I had an abortion. I recall a conversation in the car with the family when my grandmother declared, “Alison would never abort my grandbaby,” and almost bursting into tears, knowing that in her eyes, I already had. I lived with Collin and Jessica for three months before I called my mother and told her I couldn’t bear it anymore, and she agreed, without even knowing the abortion part. I’ve never heard her agree so quickly that I needed out of a situation, living with my ex and my ex-best friend, both of them who cheated on me.
I didn’t tell people in my family, but I told friends. For a lot of close friends, it was almost the first thing I told them about myself. My litmus test on whether or not they were the sort of person I wanted in my life. The boyfriend I had after Collin, the rapist, told me if I needed an abortion with him, to just go do it and never tell him. Compared to Collin, that felt enlightened. How fucked up is that? Sick, sick, as Tori Amos would say. The best friend I just broke up with the other day after fifteen years, judged me the first time I told her, a result of Catholic school. Most people responded well. I tell strangers because abortion should be demystified. So many American women have them. My mother says she believes she had one when she was miscarrying, to save her life, though she can’t be sure, because they call it something else in that situation. I’ve made friends who’ve said “yeah, I’ve had one too.”
I tell people because I don’t want them to be afraid. It’s just a pill now, even easier. I remember sitting in the waiting room, terrified, and watching a girl stumble out with her boyfriend, a little loopy from the twilight, say, “that wasn’t a big deal at all!” a little too loudly. I watched a waiting room sigh in relief.
I’ve never wondered. Never had regret. Never thought of what could have been. I know what could have been. What would have been. I would have been a terrible mother. I would have probably killed myself.
I’ve read countless accounts of the trauma women who have carried to term and given up their children for adoption experience. I’ve read about women were eager to give their baby up to a nice Christian adoption agency, only to be told they should try another agency when it is learned that the baby won’t be lily white.
I write this now because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead. And my experience, so safe and easy even if life wasn’t easy at the time, will be gone soon. No one harassed me as I walked in the door. No one made me look at ultrasounds of a fetus. It wasn’t prohibitively expensive. It left me with no psychological damage; the man who abused me did. The abortion saved me from being attached to that abuser forever.
Women’s rights died with RBG. The loss is profound. I am going through menopause now, early menopause because of my health problems. I am terrified for all the women who might need an abortion. I’m terrified for my mother and the gay rights she deserves. I’m terrified for myself and my roommate and his child and the disability rights we deserve. I’m angry at everyone who stood in the way of Hillary Clinton becoming our 45th President. I’m angry because whatever monster who will replace RBG will not be fit lick her boots.
And I’m angry at RBG, too, because she could have and should have retired in Obama’s first term, but she didn’t, and now here we are, and 2020 is worse than 1998, by a long mile. It’s worse than other terrible years, like 2016, and 2017, and 2018, and 2019, and 2013, and 2001.
I haven’t hugged my mother in seven months, because people on the left and right couldn’t get over of thirty years of indoctrination of sexism against Hillary Clinton, just because she didn’t want to stay home and bake cookies. Because conservatives have convinced leftists that liberals are the devil, and Democrats, too.
I’m a proud, liberal, Democratic woman, and none of this had to happen.
I’d rather be in 1998.
Help others who need you. But only as a tender nurturer. Be delicate and small, not large and strong. Speak up, but not too loudly. Only men can have a booming voice, when your voice projects, you’re being too loud and possibly hysterical.
Never talk too loudly if you’re fat. Then you’re just a beastly creature unworthy of anything. But don’t talk too loudly if you’re small, either, because that’s scary, because you’re too easily beaten down. Medium women, they’re probably written off as hysterical too.
Never cry, heaven forbid you’re someone who cries when you get angry. That’s emotional manipulation! Even if you can’t hold it, even if it’s your natural reaction to anger, even if it’s infinitely preferably to screaming and cursing, if you cry you’re weak. But if you curse like a man, you’re crazy. Just a mad woman who needs to probably be committed. And forget it if you’re black, then you have to tiptoe about being an “Angry Black Woman.” Or if you’re Latina, there’s that “Fiery Latin Blood!” Or the Asian “Dragon Lady!” Or a “Karen,” the new favorite jab from white men who coopted it from women of color (have you seen the white male designed Halloween mask? Men never can resist a “woke” way to be fucking misogynists).
Don’t be fat at all, while we’re at it. You only exist to be looked at and admired, while doctors pretend to care about your health and ignore all the metabolic markers of health. You know I almost had the incredibly dangerous weight loss surgery that would have done nothing for me because an ignorant doctor knew nothing about lipedema? It affects 11% of women. It’s extremely painful. If it affected 11% of men, there’d be a clinic on every goddamn corner.
Don’t be too beautiful, either, because then you’ll never know a moment’s peace with all the creeps crawling all over you. It’s why Billie Eilish dresses like an Olsen Twin. Don’t be high-maintenance, don’t be sloppy, don’t be lazy, make yourself pleasing, but don’t be the obnoxious bitch who nibbles on salad. Eat pizza and make it look cute.
And just remember, nothing will ever be good enough. Not for you, not for your families, not for the world.
Shave your head. Stop shaving your legs and armpits. Burn your bra. Stop wearing make-up. The feminists of the ’70s had it right. Don’t do shit for a man, don’t do shit to impress anyone. Don’t compromise your values for anyone. Don’t swallow your opinions for anyone, my fellow strong women. You’ve been doing it all your life. It’s like swallowing poison, over and over.
You’ve squeezed yourself into shapewear. You’ve injected poison into your faces. You’ve cut open your bodies and inserted foreign objects into your bodies to artificially create curves. You’ve worn shoes that changes the shape of your spine and shortened your Achilles tendon. You’ve moved out of the way when passing a man on the sidewalk, giving him the right of way.
Stop doing that.
Women hold up at least half the sky, if not more.
This world would be lost without us.
Remind them of that.
After seven months of nothing, I hear about his horrors
And start bleeding from my sex.
And no, I don’t write this for him, he doesn’t get to have this.
No one gets any parts of me anymore, I scream
at the email asking my opinion in a political survey
“You’re not a poet,” the voice in my head whispers
Well no fucking shit, I answer, but the voice doesn’t get this, either
This is mine all mine, now that the flood has finally
Washed over me and covered me in blood
My blood, her blood, and her blood, and her blood…
I bruise without knowing why, blood gathering under my skin
Finally escaping now, overwhelming me with its thick
ugliness, suffocating, making me dream of places I don’t belong.
I’m a reptile, I know, slithering through the swamp, a snake.
I should be so accustomed to blood
I fall down for no reason but to remind me to keep slithering
Because it feels good down here, slithering and devious
Ready to be a witch’s reagent, part of a scheme, to make blood
My best friend, blood the color of my lips blood the color of my pain
The flood might kill me but I’ve died before, over and over again
And I’ll rise again, as I always do,
different and more hideously frightening
Less ready to please the world and more ready to tell the terrible truth
Less interested in being told about my own predicament
“Oh, do educate me on my own pain and my own body again,”
Try it. Because I’ve already drowned in it and I’m not afraid of blood.
Didn’t I glow? Not in the way most young girls glow. But the way I glowed. With my own peculiar kind of beauty. Dark hair and porcelain skin and pale eyes and black clothes and cleavage that belied how saggy those boobs were underneath. All those corseted goth clothes kept it tight. I was beautiful.
Long before you stole all my roses you got my glow. And not just that, you got my hopes. Dark red lips and big green eyes and eyeliner, that, okay, I’ll admit, was a little shaky, but I look at this young woman and I wonder how she was ever self-conscious. I wonder how you saw the flaws in her. How you couldn’t just fall at her feet when we were young. I look at pictures of you and it’s not how I remember. I see the dopey haircut, the acne, the smile that shows too many gums. I don’t see the things you saw, like how you thought you were fat, but I don’t see the things I saw, either. I don’t see the kind face. I don’t see the loving eyes.
I was funny, too, doing the Kliq point in my goth gear. You never gave me credit for being so goddamn funny. I’m still funny, you know. I make my friends laugh all the time. I didn’t have friends when I was with you, and I was never allowed to be the funny one. In this picture, you thought I could stand to lose some weight, and I did, too, which is why I’m covered head to toe in clothes, but god, look at that body? Kim Kardashian wishes she came by that booty and hips naturally. No silicon injections there, baby! If you’re young, I promise you, someday you’ll be twenty years older and you’ll look at pictures of yourself and you’ll wonder why you hated your body. Or why you were young during Heroin Chic instead of when Big Butts were popular. But this was an insufficient body for you. I called you by nickname for you, “Muffin.” when we were at the gym you dragged me to and you got mad. I had no idea all the working our in the world wouldn’t work. I had a progressive fat disorder called lipedema. You should have appreciated this. This was as good as it gets, Muffin.
This is wrestler El Dandy, at one of the many wrestling shows we went to. He’d just finished groping me in this picture. You convinced me it was funny. This was the night we’d gone to Hooters with you and your friends before the show and you treated her like such garbage, like a sex doll, that I had to sneak in after pretending I had to pee and apologize to her and slip her an extra tip. You made me think it was funny and cool to be groped by a wrestler. How many women have you groped as a joke?
This is me and my puppy Charley, maybe a day or two after my father died. The best thing you ever did for me was suggest I get a dog after my father died. He spent fourteen years with me. For three of those years I could not figure out why he stubbornly refused to be house trained. When we broke up, he was magically house trained, overnight. Then I put the pieces together in my head. When I’d come home from work and you were still there, he’d spend so much time outside when I’d take him out. Pooping two or three times. Peeing five or six. Charley was a pee and poop and go back inside dog but every time I came home from work and you were in the house, he acted like he’d been holding it all goddamn day. You can’t even take care of fucking dog, let alone a relationship.
Here I am, just a couple years after you. thriving. With a friend. The glow is back! I have a lot of them now. Because I no longer have to choose between friends and you anymore. Or between family and you anymore. I no longer have to wonder if I make a female friend if you’ll ask “Is she cute?” because you wanted to pressure me into a threesome I didn’t want. I no longer have to brace myself for every physical flaw you detect in me. I don’t look at beautiful as I do in any of these pictures anymore. Illness has ravaged me, my immune system is slowly eating my brain and spinal cord, lipedema keeps catching up to me, I am going through early menopause and I’ve had the same migraine for like nine months.
But when I lived in Portland, the first place I lived that was away from you, I was as happy as that woman in that picture. And now I’ve learned how many women you’ve hurt and it breaks my heart that I knew things about you and I let it happen, even though I know it’s not my fault and there was literally nothing I could have done. You had this big booming voice and I had nothing. No one would have listened. No one listens to women, no one believes them. You emotionally abused me. You isolated me so all I had was you.
I don’t just have you anymore. I have me. I have my friends. I have my family. I have my dogs. I have a Bachelor’s degree. I have a Master’s degree. I have Multiple Sclerosis, yes, but I also have a good reputation and people trust me to be a good person. People love me for who I am, not whether I shave my legs or whether I have a fat ass or whether I’m “hotter than the last girlfriend.”
I’m sitting here tonight in excruciating pain because pain is all I live with, and I still feel luckier than you. Even though I went into a fit two months ago and shaved my head because the migraines made my hair too heave, even though I wear pink glasses now to fend off the light for migraines, even though I’m not the beautiful girl in any of the above pics on the inside, as Taylor Swift said, when it comes to men, “I’m doing better than I ever was.”
PS: GET OUT OF MY FUCKING CITY. YOU HAD THE WHOLE UNITED STATES AND YOU MOVED TO PORTLAND? GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FUCKING CITY. I DON’T CARE IF I DON’T LIVE THERE. IT’S MINE.
They’re my favorite flower you know. Maybe not so imaginative, but I love roses.
And you took my roses, you took them, my sweet roses of my favorite house on my favorite television show, and you stomped them into the ground like you did to all the other women on that show, because like women, like, everything beautiful, that show reminded us that everything beautiful only exists to be soiled and violated and made to scream, so they took my roses and they killed them all. They stole my roles and my hopes for a story with and ending that celebrates powerful women and LGBT people.
You see this rose on twitter and you know you’re about to see a hot garbage take. You’re about to see a so-called leftist who hates Democrats more than they hate Donald Trump. Who hates women more than sexists, who hates minorities more than racists. You, Rose twitter, You took my roses and you put them next to your twitter handle and now my beautiful flowers stand for people who have told me they hope I get raped or murdered or that my MS gets word or that I have migraines forever. The people with the roses next to their twitter handle stole my friends and family and turned them into cruel people, or at least people so complacent to the cruelty directed toward me that they feel no embarrassment or shame or need to be in my life because they have never made amends for it and never will. I refuse to be the first to apologize the ones who stole my roses from me.
You all harassed me endlessly, for hours on end, going back five years now. You caused my cousins and friends to treat me like garbage and never apologize. They never will apologize because I’ve given them strong hints and they ignore them. They love their cult leader more than me. They stole my roses and they stole my friends and family.
You’ve stolen every part of my identity since we met so many years ago, when you were just some redneck who didn’t have any fucking culture and didn’t know shit about shit. I was happy to introduce you to cool new music and moves and things you never knew about in your backwater down. I kept silent when you stole my jokes for your “career,” such as it was at the time. I took it when you dumped me for “cheating” when I was writing a story, and you were the one who was actually cheating. And then the screencaps you’d asked me to make, days before, they were the fucking chick you were cheating on me with, not for you, and you still to this day refuse to admit you cheated, like I’m some kind of moron. I let you get away with acting like a feminist icon now when you made I don’t know how many “make me a sandwich” jokes during our relationship. I watch girls fawn over you and your blue check mark on twitter and wonder if they know that every time I made a female friend, your first question was “is she cute?” because you spent almost five years trying to pressure me into a threesome I didn’t one, and how that made me stop wanting to make friends at all.
I could talk about how you treated me like the most disgusting creature to walk the other because I decided to stop shaving my legs, or because I gained weight, which turned out to be the result of a genetic condition I couldn’t do anything about. How my weight was the topic of conversation of so fucking many of our conversations, how it seemed to be the sum total of my fucking value to you. How you are such a goddamn big deal in your industry my friend who was going to let me expose you via podcast backed down.
I could have told them about the time I came home from work and you were supposed to be in the middle of your shift and I asked you why you weren’t at work and you said, “I’m too good to wait tables. I’m a writer,” and I wondered just exactly how we were going to explain that to the fucking electric company. Or how I supported you through writing your shitty First Male Novel, in which The Girlfriend was based on me and stole the story of my father’s death without permission but was really about how the main character was in love with the chick you pined over since high school who never gave me the time of day. And how you dedicated it to Hitler? Because you were being that fucking edgy? And I had to somehow explain that to my fucking family?
Or I could have told him how, as recently as three years ago, over a decade after we broke up, you felt the need to stick your dick in someone very close to me’s ex-fiance, and she felt the need to tell me all about it while I was on steroids in the middle of an MS relapse, and how you told her all about how back when we were a couple you were powerfully attracted to her and wanted her so badly but she was with them and you were with me and had to hold yourselves back like some sort of demented redneck Jerry Springer bullshit?
I’m not naming your name, bitch, and you’re goddamn lucky, because in 2020 I’m settling scores, but did you really have to come to my fucking city? My Rose City? My Portland? My home? The place I plan to go to when my time comes and this disease has taken too much from me and it’s time to die?
Somehow you’ve been successful, and it’s so goddamn undeserved. You did none of the hard work. you failed up, like the men in Game of Thrones, like every presidential candidate. You didn’t go to college, you didn’t pay dues. You don’t tend to any gardens but you pluck up all the flowers and take credit for their beauty.
Margaery and Olenna Tyrell spent years trying to gain power by being good to the people and winning their love.
The women who ran for President in 2020 were hardworking, qualified, competent, and would do a better job than basically all the men.
I spent seven years getting a bachelor’s and master’s degree on fully scholarship and funding only to end up too sick to work.
Men waltz in and get to live the lives women have to scrape for and often never get.
Give me back my roses, all of you.
feeling like this for six fucking months straight and they tell me to be nicer. don’t curse so much it turns people off it’s not fucking professional it’s not nice don’t you want to be nice? sure you have people harassing you from the the psychotic Sanders camp for having the nerve to be a Democratic and you feel like this but it’s on you to be the graceful one all the fucking time. it’s on you to apologize every goddamn time. it’s on you to be the one who is the good guy. it’s on you to smile and act like the sunshine doesn’t make you vomit. it’s on you to not “get worked up” over the fact that disabled people in this pandemic are less likely to receive health care. it’s on you not to be angry and scared about it. it’s on you to accept that the world sees your life as less valuable. it’s on you to realize that the far left doesn’t care that their “revolution” will kill you, any more than the far right wants me dead for being a leech on society. it’s on you to accept it all, because disabled people are disposable, and most of them, it’s their fucking fault right? because health is a marker of value in this shithole fucking country. it’s on you to “see the other person’s side of things” when the other person doesn’t live in constant pain, has more money, has more of a life, has more of everything you will never fucking have and for six fucking months you have nothing but pain in your life, constant unrelenting fucking pain and people have the nerve to give you a fucking lecture on your behavior
you couldn’t live a goddamn day in my body
you’d be begging for fucking mercy
Did I think she was very good at her job? No, not really. In fact, I was ten minutes into our session, telling her how badly she done her job, when she tapped the fuck out and decided she couldn’t take it anymore.
I sat through entire bullshit session last week, trying my level fucking best, for an hour of her idiotic drivel, while she kept saying, ignorantly, “you’re a sociologist, you know,” why clearly not having the first fucking clue what sociology actually is, sat through her bullshit church metaphor, and even did my stupid fucking homework on how positive affirmations can somehow magically cure my MS and prevent the disease from somehow being progressive and degenerative? I don’t fucking know.
It was stupid.
I told her it was stupid.
I figured she try a different approach.
I had called her office last week in crisis, but she wasn’t in, and she didn’t have voicemail set up to leave a private message, she didn’t have email set up (thought ever other doctor in the practice has one set up), no way to leave a private message. I told the stupid bint of an assistant that I’ve been panic attacks—
And Sally, Sally, the dumbest assistant to ever walk the fucking earth, told me, an MS patient with a compromised immune system, in the middle of a global pandemic, to go to the fucking emergency room if I’m having a panic attack!
The fucking emergency room! Sure Sally, why don’t I put a pistol in my mouth while I’m at it? It would probably be a less miserable way to go than slowly drowning in the fluid in my lungs over a matter of weeks.
My neurologist was not pleased. I was told Sally was getting a talking-to. But bringing up Sally was the last straw, and then I was dumped. Never mind that she gave me mind-bogglingly bad advice, that if I were not a smarter person I might have taken, and right now might be dying of COVID-19 because fucking Sally doesn’t have a functioning fucking brain, my therapist, who is supposed to be on my fucking side, chose Sally’s braindead advice over the crippled, immune compromised person in crisis.
She told me she was referring me to ‘higher levels of care’ and believes I should be seen ‘several times a week.’
I’m too crazy for her.
I have had nothing but traumatic experiences with therapy in the entirely of my life and I made that clear to her in meeting one.
Now she wants me to go ‘several times a week.’
She wants to torture me.
Like hell will I allow another doctor to do this to me.
I had a migraine all day yesterday in anticipation of this appointment. I spent nine waking hours of anxiety worrying over it. It was over in ten minutes. I am terrified of doctors. They might be other people’s heroes. They are might nightmares. For every one good doctor I’ve dealt with, I’ve dealt with twenty sociopaths. I’m a professional patient. I’ve dealt with that many doctors.
Me? Therapy? After over thirty years of misery?
There might be some new competition for the worst year of my life.
2020, you’re off to a bang.
1998, you were a festering piece of shit and I thought you’d hold the tiara forever.
2016 gave it a good run for its money. Ditto 2004. 1997? Nightmare.
But 2020, one day before the Ides of March, you’re the big winner.
My mother says I’m pushing people away. I think it’s because I stopped taking the hormones that made me nice. The hormones that made me nice, unfortunately, gave me migraines every day for four months. I’d rather be a clear-headed bitch than a bitch in agony. I have fifteen prescriptions. I can’t really add anymore because then I think my liver will explode?
Turning into enough of an angry bitch that I accidentally forget I’m supposed to not tell my deep actual truth about things?… or being in so much pain I wanna fuckin’ die? What a sad story. Here, enjoy this picture of Eric Roberts kissing me.
Seriously if you’re ever at a random con, and Eric Roberts is there, and you are a fan of even one Eric Roberts movie (in my case, Best of the Best), spend the ten bucks and do the photo op. Lowkey the best fun I’ve had at a con. Everyone in line was like, “I’m not a superfan or anything, but I liked him in ______.” And the thing is, Eric Roberts has done so many freakin’ movies, everyone had a different answer. And then you went around this little tent and suddenly everyone emerging was like,
“WOW! Eric Roberts is amazing! He is the coolest guy EVER! I am now going to BUY ALL HIS MOVIES!”
And everyone in like was like, “what? Really? This was a $10 autograph.”
But then it was my turn and I wheeled in on the crip scooter I rented for the day and Eric was all, HOW’D YA EARN YOUR WHEELS! And I said, “Oh, I have MS.” And he hugged me and said, “oh I’m so sorry darling, but I think you’re simply amazing!”
LOL, What? Why? Who cares? HE WAS SO NICE!
He shot two pics. A normal smile and the kiss on the cheek. I emerged from the tent also raving about Eric Roberts. “He really IS THE BEST OF THE BEST! JULIA WHOMST?” I asked the lady printing the photos if I could buy both. She said it’d be an extra ten bucks. About ten people around me flipped out and exclaimed, “WE CAN BUY BOTH?!?!” And then everyone bought both.
I didn’t meet Eric Roberts tonight. I met a Nazi. I could sense it when I looked at him. His aesthetic. His hairstyle. The way he carried himself like he felt himself a part of the master race. The way he laughed when I stumbled, because cripples stumble. I looked at him, because I never know when to shut the fuck up and said,
“Are you a Nazi?”
Within half a breath, he was inches away from my face, a bottle of pepper spray an inch from my face, a smirk on his lips.
And then he winked.
I’ve never been so scared in my entire life.
I walked away, but I did tell him to go back to Germany.
I turned and said, “you were really going to pepper spray a crippled woman on chemo?” He had a shit-eating grin on his face. “Yes.” Nothing would have given him more pleasure.
I reported him to his security.
I’ll report him to the hospital.
I’ll report him to the local news media.
I’ll find out his name.
I’m going to ruin him.
This is not his fucking country.
Michelle Obama said, “when they go low, we go high.” Maybe that applies to human beings. Nazis aren’t people. But I don’t really feel it applies much to humans, either. I’m okay. I’m gonna be okay. I’m in no danger, but the context of the story really actually makes it worse, but I won’t get into that.
People tell me to stop telling Trumpers to move to fucking Moscow when I see their bumper stickers.
What, like I’m gonna change their mind? Oh, they might go home and feel justified? Who fucking cares? They’d feel that anyway. They’d feel that watching my 40 year old fat ass take their handicapped parking space they were gunning for when they leave a note or make a comment that if I lost weight, I could park normally. “Yeah, but I’d still have MS, you fucking asshole,” is typically the response.
Trumpers, Nazis, they’re all the same. They can’t be reasoned with. I don’t give a fuck about their sob stories, economic or not. Juggalos come out of the same impoverished midwest and all those crazy bastards are about is partying and have a song that repeatedly cries “FUCK YOUR REBEL FLAG.” Economic anxiety my taint. Racists, Nazis, pedophiles, separatists, Nationalists, alt-right, whatever kind of bullshit catchphrase they use now–they’re not fixable. There’s no “seeing their side of the story.” There’s no reaching through. There’s no income inequality magic bullet, because you know what? These people would never be happy with equality. Class consciousness would upset them. Make the same money as a women, or worse, a woman who isn’t white? They’d never go for it.
Marx didn’t anticipate much beyond the price of corn and the making of pins an capitalism being prone to chaos. The world has changed. Fixing the economy won’t fix Nazis or Racists or Trumpers, because it was never about the money, stupid. It was never about being nicer to them, either. They didn’t feel “neglected.” Academic studies have been done on the 2016 election. It was the racism. And the sexism. And the racism. And the sexism. Science has made that conclusion.
Essentially, it was about the hatred. Always. It was that wink from a Nazi who desperately wanted a chance to watch me scream and suffer.
2020 is the worst year of my life. I never met a real-life-overt-wants-to-kill-me-while- looking-me-in-the-eyes-Nazi before. I never had physical pain like this before. I never felt so much like the world didn’t understand me before. I never wished so much that fucking meteor a while back had just gotten it done.
My middle name is “Beth.” I was named after my grandmother, a pillar of a woman, though her build was slight. She loved children, especially her grandchildren. With an absentee father and a single parent mother, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather loved to call me “Little Beth” when I was very small, and I was defiant about it, insisting, at the age of four, that I was not little.
Oh, how many times since then have I wished to be called Little Beth again? No one has ever called me little since. I grew like a weed, and then puberty and hormones brought weight and a genetic disease called lipedema, where painful fat deposits accumulate in the arms and legs. I was six feet tall when I stopped growing. Not the lithe, stick-thin supermodel six feet tall, the stretched out woman you think of when you think of a six foot tall woman.
I am not willowy, or statuesque, and my legs are over forty inches long but they’re as thick as tree trunks. I never had what my ex boyfriend called “girl arms,” his greatest desire for me when we would go to the gym.
“I want you to have girl arms,” he would say, meaning soft, feminine, but not too thick upper arms. Think Emilia Clarke, or Alison Brie before she lost all that weight for GLOW. Little did either of us know that my then-undiagnosed lipedema made “girl arms” impossible, but most of what men want from us is impossible, anyway.
I’ve come to terms with being an enormous woman. There are some perks. I intimidate other women; no one has ever picked a physical fight with me. I’m taller than most men, so I can tower over them or glare them back straight in the eyes on public transit when they’re being creepy. I can reach things on tall shelves. People leave me alone. They move away to avoid touching me. I know it’s because they think I’m disgusting, but it’s okay. I’m as uninterested in touching them as they are in touching me. What, do you skinnies think we just love brushing up against you? We don’t. I came to terms with that a long time ago. I’m just glad they’re leaving me alone.
I’m too big to fly coach, and even if I wasn’t, it would be too dangerous. My legs, those nasty tree trunks caused by lipedema, “the painful fat disease” as they call it, can easily lead to blood clots if I crunch myself into a coach seat. I’m too poor for first class. And the thought of even attempting to try crushing myself into a coach seat makes me feel like I’m going to have a panic attack. Once, I flew Southwest, a really short flight, from Portland to San Francisco, and got there very early so I could pick the front row with the most legroom. I sat by the window and stared and stared out of it while people boarded until it was nearly full.
An old man was looking for a seat. The flight attendant pointed to the seat next to me.
“Look at her,” he barked. “She doesn’t belong next to anyone!”
I crunched myself against the window and didn’t turn my head. The flight attendant found him another seat. I was another woman, trying desperately to make myself smaller in a world where women can’t be big. Can’t be tall, can’t be fat, can’t be anything but petite, or as the kids say, “smol,” to indicate just how adorable it is to be little. Oh, why won’t anyone ever call me Little Beth ever again? Grandpa’s gone, but even when he was still with us, he’d stopped calling me that thirty years ago.
I haven’t dated anyone since Girl Arms, and I don’t really have any interest in dating again. All of me is too big to accommodate another person, and here I don’t mean my body.
I used to pride myself, in my younger adult life, on being “chill.” Relaxed. Nothing got to me too much. I was mellow. I loved drugs as a youth, but never cocaine or speed or meth. No uppers, period. I liked weed, and acid, and mushrooms, and benzos and molly. Things that made me feel nice and mellow and see pretty things. Now that I have MS, they sometimes put me on steroids, and those feel like uppers. When I take them, I’m jittery and pacing and I can feel every single beat of my heart, which feels like it’s going to explode. I hate them. I need to feel calm, and at peace, because that’s my default state. It’s as much as part of my identity as my (now declining) intelligence, but that’s another essay, for another day.
So you see, why my body grew massive, I was able to keep my emotions small and manageable enough for me to cope with. I could deal with things. I let myself cry, sure, my mother always told me to let myself cry. I didn’t bottle things up, but I didn’t go into hysterics. I didn’t go into fits of rage. I didn’t find myself inundated with intrusive thoughts. Nihilism was not my philosophy of choice.
But Multiple Sclerosis attacked my brain when I turned 34, and it changed me.
I became someone else.
The myelin that is supposed to protect my brain and spinal cord was attacked and chewed up by my own immune system, leaving sensitive parts of both exposed, damaging them, confusing them, and now I no longer worry about my body being too big. I don’t care anymore. I’m beyond the insults of others on my big fat ass, my big fat ass is spectacular.
No, what scares me is the size of my rage. The size of my emotional pain. What scares me is that sometimes when I cry, I can’t stop for hours. That when I get upset, I scream, and wail, and I realized that if people cannot handle the size of my enormous physical being, the size of my massive emotional being is so much worse. They’re disgusted when they brush up against my fatty flesh. They’re terrified, bored, turned off, scared off, disbelieving, or they just roll their eyes when they brush up the real Big Beth, the one in my mind, who cannot just be “chill” anymore.
Most of my best friends can’t handle Big Beth.
Sometimes, Big Beth is too loud that my own mother shuts down in her presence.
Over Christmas, after two and a half months of everyday migraines, I got an email from my nurse informing me that they had no solutions, no answers, no remedies for these constant migraines. I had a friend who wasn’t speaking to me. I screamed in pure agony. Big Beth’s pain felt like fire exploding from my chest, from my eyes, from my ears, rays of fire-light spraying from my fingertips, like something inside of me had to escape.
Do you know what it feels like to be in so much physical pain that you want to die? Because that’s what Big Beth in my brain was responding to. Physical pain destroying me mentally. Do you know that I’ve spent about $800 on medical marijuana since the beginning of November? Money I do not have? Because this fucking government and fucking Medicare won’t cover it? I can get opioids from Publix for 11 cents on Medicare, but I can’t get a doctor to prescribe it.
So when I got the email, telling me they would do nothing to ease my pain, that they had no answers, Big Beth in my mind wanted to escape this horror of a body forever, and she screamed and she yelled, and my own mother went silent and shut down.
Little Beth was a cute, sweet girl beloved by all.
Big Beth can never be loved. She’ll always be alone. She’ll always be in pain. She’ll always long to be little again. And she’ll never be little. Even her weight gain isn’t her fault, it’s the lipedema. The MS certainly isn’t her fault, but try telling that to the people who think she’s too loud or too angry.
Big Beth is too much even for her own mother, the person who loves her most in the world. She later apologized, sweetly. But she also told me she didn’t want her neighbors to hear us, either, because that’s embarrassing.
Big Beth’s family is very polite. We don’t talk about things unless we’re in person, the extended family of Facebook politeness where we pretend we know each other even though we don’t. Big Beth occasionally makes an appearance there, when a cousin or an uncle comments on Alison’s page only once in a blue moon to tell her how wrong she is, Big Beth emerges and snaps back. Who are you, you stranger, to come to me only when you want to correct me? Who are any of you?
Big Beth doesn’t know. She waits, coiled, angry, and too much for anyone to handle.