Friday, March 13, 2015


That title gets your attention. I read articles every day that make me want to scream, yet I stay away from the subject instead of writing. I could easily put all my effort into countering arguments about things like feminism. When I get ready to write on the matter though, all that angst and adrenaline just flatlines out and my icy pragmatism wins.

I hate feminism. I hate the opposite, too. You see, I've always viewed the world as a global prison of equally tarnished men and women, and I don't believe for a minute that either gender has won an award for the most transgressions. That's an unsolvable equation. We've all done so much damage to each other that it's rare anyone can claim to be an innocent victim anymore. The biggest problem is that nobody likes to admit their own failings.

Whether we like to believe it or not, men and women are equally violent, selfish, and when they want to be, compassionate. We're the same. We're human. And we all get away with really bad actions every day. Humans are not the most privileged or intelligent creatures on the planet. Intelligence has been measured incorrectly for centuries, and privilege has always been an illusion. And the majority isn't going to admit imperfection any time soon. It's called survival. And competition. And that's how we're coded.

Our saving grace is that most of us have enough wits to understand the minimal requirement of getting along with other human beings, and we usually choose to honor that requirement. It's called compassion, and it doesn't stray too far from pity. Those who remember how to be compassionate most of the time usually fare better than the others.. but only if they don't allow it to overshadow logic. And that leads me to the next thing I don't agree with: being too "good".

It's a fine line. There is so much going on and situations depend on so many factors that it's extremely difficult to walk that line between compassion and logic. Emotions can get in the way of what's going to keep us or our loved ones alive, and logic can destroy relationships. So what do we do?

We just feel our way around in the dark, every day, and do the best we can. It's like playing a game with your life. It's a game that never ends. Sometimes we catch a win, a lot of times we lose our turn. So the only purpose I see to any of this in the end is simply to experience. And I've decided to not participate in quarrels about which gender is doing more damage to the other. I believe it's pointless for me in particular, because it only makes me tired and angry. People are generally stubborn and we  tend to stick to our core belief systems - the ones we've designed for ourselves according to circumstances and our own experiences. It's very hard to stray away from that, regardless of the argument. Especially since deep down, we all know that no one of us is any better than the other. This stubbornness is natural, and usually keeps us alive. Arguing with someone's core, individual belief system is messing with one of the most primitive functions we possess.

When I feel the urge to argue on the subject of feminism, I think about it and and realize my efforts aren't worth the outcome. I am not a feminist. But I also don't believe it's not had its much needed victories in the past. It has, however, changed over the years. Feminism today isn't want it was in the 19th century. Nothing is what it was a year ago. Things evolve, and people do too. No one needs to keep on competing over being a bigger victim than someone else. As long as we all stay in the mind set of being miserable and victimized, we'll never figure out how to be happy. All I can agree to is to let go of all this mental destruction and only worry about something when I realize I'm in actual, imminent danger. I'm tired. I'm tired of worrying about things before they surface, and stressing over things I have no control over. 

So I'm learning to get less and less angry every time I read those articles about feminism. I'm learning to not let that into my head, allowing it to spin out of control and resurrect demons I have no interest in entertaining. It's been a hard lesson, for I do have an anger management control problem. I've had it since childhood. I may appear cold and unemotional, but I guarantee I go to great lengths to keep that fury to a minimum without repressing it. It's a daily battle. And it's worth it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

An Emotional Downward Spiral: Living in New York

I moved away from the sweetest city in America to live with and emotionally support my fiance in New York as he furthered his career. Film incentives in Los Angeles have dropped 10% while they've risen 14% here. They slowed way down in New Orleans, too. New York City is booming in film and advertising productions, so this is definitely the place to move if you're in the business. So we did the best we could do on almost no budget; we packed a couple of suitcases, cleaned out the apartment back in New Orleans, and hopped a plane to the big apple. (That's just the quick & easy explanation..)

In truth, our transition to the North was much more gut wrenching. He thought he was coming up here for a week to look for work, and he ended up getting gigs every day he was here. Soon I got the phone call that forced us to make a quick decision and pack our bags. I would clear out the home down south, put everything we could keep in storage, and sell the rest, while he kept going to work and making the money that would get us an apartment. July passed.. then August, September.. it was almost time for me to meet him in the city.

I got to the airport 4 months after he left the first time for New York. The time apart had been unbearable, and I had three heavy bags with absolute necessities in them and nothing more. Tears streamed from my eyes as I watched New Orleans fade out of sight from my window. He'd been couch surfing for months out of a duffel bag, and he was working when I hit town. I walked into the last place he'd been staying. It was supposedly some million dollar apartment in an upscale hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn. The apartment was sterile and empty when I walked in. There was an airbed under some back windows where he'd been sleeping, and a letter I'd written to him months back was taped to the wall. Some clothes strewn around on the floor.. a couple of beers in the fridge.. the place was more like a barely touched hotel room. It even smelled like a hotel room. It felt.. sad. And lonely.

When he wrapped that night and finally met me, it was magic. We spent the next 4 days scrambling like two overexcited teenagers. We were looking desperately for a place to live together. We found a sublet on Craigslist and stayed there for four more months. We were then forced to find another apartment, and we found out quickly how ridiculously difficult it is to find a place to live in New York City. Over the next four more.. (everything has occurred in quarters since the beginning) we'd be beaten down emotionally and financially while trying to survive. Thank god I wasn't trying to build a career & reputation as well.. at least one of us had to be a full time emotional supporter in this godforsaken place.

Today, we've come a long way. It's been almost a year since this change started. We have an apartment, he's made extremely good contacts and is getting the work he wanted, and we're slowly starting to build our safety net (slowly.. operative word, there). But is living in New York as a person who's not interested in a big career and money.. worth it? While I absolutely love and support my fiance to no end, I can honestly say that New York City is not my cup of tea.

I have not personally experienced anything that would make me love, or even like, this city. It's a place of filth and illness (I've stayed sick more often up here than I have anywhere else), I've experienced so much more racial tension up here than anywhere else I've lived, and the quality of life seems to be terrible. Nobody's ever happy. And if anyone is happy, someone is annoyed with their happiness and speaks their mind about it. It's a madhouse. You're forced to be in a hurry (all the time.. no breaks), the cost of living is not worth what you make on the job, and community is non-existent unless you've lived here all your life and in one spot. I feel more uncomfortable walking around up here alone during the day than I ever did in New Orleans after 4 am in the ghetto. Seriously. And New Orleans suffers way more of a murder rate than New York.

I've just figured out what others think is awesome about New York, and the list is as follows:

* Go out with friends and experience the "New York Life"
* Eat
* Shop
* Experience Broadway shows and/or other tourist attractions
* Art museums... ?

Really??? You must be joking.

First of all, what the hell do you mean when you say "experience the New York life"? Is that just hanging out while using NYC as a backdrop of skyscrapers and dim lit restaurants? If you're just going for a look, Okay.. I guess. To be honest, Manhattan got old to me about two days after I was in it. It's too noisy, crowded, expensive, and just plain annoying. There's no space. There's no way to breathe. You can't look at anything or you'll bump into someone and piss them off. Not worth the hype. I've had much better times with friends in New Orleans. Sorry. This town has nothing on the greatest adult playland in America.

Eating. Okay, I'll give New York that one. It is very hard to find bad food here. That's because there are so many restaurants, they can't be bad or they'll go out of business within a week. So yes, you do have fantastic food choices. But tell me this.. are you going to go out to eat every night? When you're spending 3 thousand or more in rent per month on a crate sized apartment, you're not going to get to go out and eat that often.

Shopping. Oh. My. God. This is the most annoying and depressing hobby out there. I have never liked shopping, so this one goes to the birds. I can actually say that I cry when I go shopping, I get so upset and annoyed. It's a godawful experience. I'd rather sit at home in my pajamas and find my necessities online, have them delivered to my house, and never set foot outside. I can't stand sales reps, I don't like selections in physical stores, and I loathe the sizing designers use in the U.S. for clothing. It doesn't make any sense. Oh.. did I mention I hate crowds?

Broadway shows and tourist traps. One broadway show in my lifetime is enough. I've seen two. They're overpriced. They're plays. Whatever. Statue of Liberty? Nice historic figure... that I can see from a boat. I don't need to go there and look up at it. What's it gonna do? Smile at me? Maybe seeing it on acid would be fun. Empire State Building? Just a building. It's windy up there. My dress flew over my face when I went up, revealing the only underwear I had left that was clean for the week.. a stretched out pair of granny panties. The lesson I took away from it was to never wear granny panties again. And art museums are great.. once. Then you've seen them. And guess what? They're all over the world! There are art museums everywhere! What about that?

So in the end, what can you do in New York that makes it so fucking special? You can work. That's all you can do. You go to New York City to make money, and you hope it will be enough to pay your rent and boost your career reputation. That's really all NYC is good for. So come to New York and make your money. Then take that money and move away to a nicer place.

***************PART TWO

Yeah, there's a part two.. it's coming soon. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I like athletes & bodybuilders for a weird reason..

I'm not a sports fan.. at all. I get so bored watching football that it gives me the sensation of needing to pass copious amounts of gas. I like the beer drinking.. watching fans dress themselves in uniform and act like they're going to war under the team has always been interesting to me.. but the game itself? I have to get seriously drunk in order to enjoy myself at all during these events. I can't even enjoy the butt spankings they give each other on the field.. they're too covered up. At least rugby shows some leg. But that's not really what I'm writing about. I love athletes. I love body builders. I love the people who get so obsessed over their active lifestyles and body conditions that it takes over their lives. Why? Because I have these people to thank for relieving my chronic pain just a little bit more every day. In the most obscure way, their obsessions have given me a better quality of life. And I appreciate that more than anyone will probably ever understand.

I have congenital hip dysplasia, 3 herniated spinal discs, osteoarthritis, a broken tailbone, a curved spine, and the sides of my body don't match each other in height. As a matter of fact, the measurements drastically change every ten years. And as a result, I have severe chronic pain. I've had pain since childhood. My tolerance is through the roof, but it still kicks my ass into submission. My quality of life was dwindling when I couldn't figure out how to treat my pain problems. But thanks to athletes and those obsessed with their muscles, that has changed. I hope that anyone else suffering from congenital hip dysplasia might read this and get some ideas as well. I swear.. it really helps to take the edge off that gnarly pain.

First off, let me explain how pain control doctors and orthopedic surgeons seem to work in the Western hemisphere. While they have extensive degrees and years of hospital experience, they don't seem to understand how to encompass the whole of how all the systems in the body work together.. or maybe they just forget. It's as though their concentrations in one area of study has inhibited their ability to properly diagnose. And this isn't an easy condition to fix.. frankly, no one has a concrete answer. It's just too complex. Congenital means "born with". Dysplasia is a broad term describing any kind of displacement of the bones anywhere from mild to severe. All hip dysplasia patients are not born equal. We're similar, but we're as different as fingerprints. Lumping us together under one category just doesn't work for treating the condition. I don't blame my surgeons for not knowing what to do.. it just makes me sad that most of them can't seem to think outside the box. That goes for sports medicine doctors, pain control doctors and therapists I've had over the years, too. My pain is ridiculously complicated. It is a mixture of muscle displacement, absence of bones, prosthetics rigged to a pelvis that didn't even form completely, and nerve damage. Oh.. and about nine surgeries and the damage caused from them. Tell me who on earth is going to figure out how to calm my pain down? It's like expecting your boyfriend to go pull the moon out of the sky and give it to you.

So, I recently had a light bulb go on in my head. It came when I was researching the fastest way to rid myself of sciatic nerve pain.. something that's really common and hurts like hell. After reading and watching videos of doctors explaining sciatica, I realized this pain was tied to my psoas muscle. So I began to concentrate on muscles, and started watching athletes on youtube explain how to "release the psoas" after strenuous activity, saving their lower backs and possibly their careers.

In my experience with people & relationships, body builders and athletes know more about the muscles in the body than most doctors do. They know how everything connects, what to do to push themselves, and how to not get hurt doing it. My epiphany happened when I saw how the psoas connected to the iliacus muscle. The psoas runs from the lumbar spine (last 5 discs) down to the hipbone and connects to the iliacus, which runs up along the inner side of the edge of the pelvis. I was born without much of a pelvis.. I don't have the outer edge at all. I also don't have any hip ball or socket. It was all just floating around in there all weird and stuff. That means those muscles don't attach where they're supposed to. And since I had a bunch of surgeries that cut away and rearranged what bones I did have, there's no telling what those very important muscles eventually attached themselves to. On top of that, I now have titanium in there.. and the prosthetics don't attach where they're supposed to, either. I never had a complete pelvis to work with in the first place. By the time I got hip replacements, it was a total mess in there. Everything is now held together awkwardly with screws and pins, and things are placed wherever the doctors can find a spot. Now my question is this: why didn't any of these doctors or therapists ever point me in this direction? Why were their answers always a point blank "I'm sorry.. I just don't understand what else to do here.." (And I swear to you, I'm not making that up.) My theory is that concentrating on one area keeps you from paying much attention to the surrounding connections and secondary problems that arise from the body systems not working together properly. But I'm just a laymen, right?

In any regard, this is what I learned from reeling in sciatic pain this week: Your psoas muscle goes from the lumbar to the hip bone. Your sciatic nerve goes through a tiny hole in the pelvis and then weaves in and out of that psoas muscle. People who are very active tend to use that muscle to a point where it tightens up so much that it squeezes and pinches the sciatic nerve. It then inflames and swells through the tiny pin-like hole in the pelvis, causing even more intense pain. So you have pain coursing from your lower back through your hip and down your leg. And the only way to alleviate the damage done to the nerve is to get that muscle to relax. If you don't want to wait for it to do that on its own, you can do what they call "releasing the psoas." You can find out how to do this by looking through youtube.. it's there. They're just very comfortable stretches that don't stress the psoas any more than it's already been stressed. And the pain will begin to go away. (You can also take 4 ibuprofen every four to six hours to reduce swelling just to get the pain under control so that you can move at all.) After all this, you can slowly start to do sciatic nerve exercises to get the fluid flowing in that area, which heals it up quicker.

Understanding all this made me realize why I've always felt like I was lifting weights with my legs every time I take a step while walking. It is because my psoas and iliacus muscles aren't connected in the right spots, and it's a gigantic strain on them just to do simple every day things like walking down the street or stepping across a water puddle, or even lifting my legs onto an ottoman. I can't lift my legs easily at all. It always feels like I'm balancing a bowling ball on them. I stress the crap out of those misplaced muscles every day, all day long. No wonder I'm reeling in pain and tired as hell by the time I go to bed every night! If you have congenital hip dysplasia, please pay close attention to and figure out how your own muscles and limited bone structures are placed, and how they're working together. Figure out how your body's been trying to compensate for what it cannot normally do, and you will figure out how to treat your pain better. We can't rely on doctors or therapists just because they hold expensive degrees and pseudo important name tags. They're just as baffled as we are over this, and this condition is an ongoing learning experience. You have to dedicate your own time to learning how to treat yourself. No one is like you.. you're very different. All of us have different degrees of malformation and pain. So find your own way and stop being so frustrated and dependent on someone who knows even less about your pain than you do.

Also, give this a thought.. you're going to have at least three different types of pain to deal with. There's nerve damage pain (from surgeries and realignment of the skeleton every time you undergo a procedure), muscle displacement pain and damage, and osteotomy pain. (cutting into and rearranging bone at less than two years old) You have to deal with all three of these and figure out your limits. And there may be other complications that cause even more pain due to misunderstanding your condition over the years. Example: my curved spine and herniated discs were caused from a lack of understanding what was going on in surgery as a child, and I never understood I wasn't supposed to do strenuous physical labor when I finally left home and started looking for jobs. I worked very hard for over 20 years and caused more damage to my spine, hips, and joints.  I listened to other people when getting reprimanded for calling in sick on days I couldn't get out of bed.  I caused a lot of my own problems by not understanding my limits and not taking my disability as seriously as I should have. I allowed people who didn't know anything about me decide my lack of ability was just laziness.

Don't ever feel pressured to do something you have a feeling will hurt you, no matter how much others may expect you to do it. This is an invisible disability on the outside. Nobody can see your bones, or the way your muscles are twisted and pulled out of place. They can't see the metal or the fractures, and they have no idea how easy it is for that rigged together surgical job to slip out of place again. All other people can see is a normal human being who's not doing as much as they are. And that will always cause confusion and angst. You know where your pain is coming from, what it feels like, and your body will tell you when to stop doing something. You can always tell. Never feel guilty for not doing as much as people uneducated about this might expect you to do. Listen to yourself and trust what your body tells you. Abnormal fatigue and physical stress to the point of jacking up the pain is pushing it too far.. not "keeping up".  You're not a failure because you can't sit in a chair for more than four hours. You're not lazy because you can't work the same way most people can. You have a serious condition. And every physical therapist isn't the same; there are some real idiots out there. I'm not knocking all of them… there are good ones, too. I'm just trying to get hip dysplasia patients to question things and give themselves more credit. It seems as though we depend too much on doctors because they're doctors, and we let people who don't understand our condition make us feel guilty for long absences in the work place. Putting so much faith in other people who do not live in this much pain every day isn't going to make it go away or make us more "able". This has always been a complicated condition that no one has any real answers for. Surgeries for it are trial and error, with experience and years of study in one area being what most orthopedic surgeons bank on. But again, concentrating in one area keeps a doctor one-track minded, and they do seem to dismiss other issues that may be key in treating your pain. And listening to the general public when they are pressuring you to be more active is physically damaging in the long run. Trust me, my pain is worse than it should be because I pushed my limits. I regret it now. At one point, I remember my legs completely giving out at work and falling to the floor, unable to move. It was in the middle of a hotel lobby, and the ambulance took me out on a stretcher. I was 24 years old, and only employed 20 hours per week. According to what most people believe when they look at me, I should have been able to handle this.

I have spent decades trying to understand this thing and treat the pain. If it's still this complicated for me, imagine how confused people who don't suffer with it are. So you can be polite, but don't take it seriously the next time you are judged. And you will be. Try not to get angry when another doctor tells you he doesn't think he can do anything else for you. Congenital hip dysplasia can't always be corrected or even treated easily. Just do some research, learn about your body, and go from there.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Art of Language.. and Murder

Disclaimer: These are dark, comedic thoughts I have on a daily basis. I am a writer and an artist, and I have a very dry sense of humor. I express my feelings through art. I am in no way promoting or glorifying murder. Murder is bad. I don't like murder. Okay? No murder here.

"So, what do you do?"
How come every time I go to a social event, I am asked this question first? Why is it even on the list of popular questions to open a conversation with? It's usually in the top three, and it's annoying as hell.

When I am asked, "What do you do?", I automatically interpret that I'm being asked, "How much money do you make and how do you make it?" in a more summarized and polite manner. This is not really a polite question. It's personal and can get very complicated depending on who you're talking to. It's also an assumption that everyone's on the same page in the manner that we're cooperating citizens of society. What if you're talking to an assassin? How do you know the guy petting the puppy dog at the party isn't a hired killer? How do you know I'm not a sociopathic, sick freak who makes her money selling bulimic porn? Maybe I don't want you to know how much I'm worth or how I obtain the money that I have.
Of course I shouldn't assume that is the question. "What do you do?" could mean something else.. like "What are your favorite things to do?" But if it was, wouldn't the person ask, "What do you like to do?" Or even, "What are you interested in?" And if it just means, "What do you do, but not make money at?" Aren't they eventually going to tell me I should try to make money at this thing that I do?

So back to square one.. If "What do you do?" does indeed mean "What are you worth, and what is your career path?", then I am kind of insulted. Number one: this is a very popular question, so that tells me many, many people are interested in the answer. And that means the majority of people are focused on status and wealth, thus tossing their souls into the nearest trash bin and becoming empty headed zombies. We are now surrounded by scary zombies. Number two: it implies that you are what you do for a living. And if this is the case, does that mean that someone over 40 and working at Kentucky Fried Chicken is a worthless, uneducated human being? Maybe they have a bachelor's degree in Environmental Biology, yet they're stuck in the most economically depressed place in Kentucky taking care of their sick mother? And if we all decide it does make them a loser, then we begin to judge people and create stereotypes based on financial status and employment decisions. An accountant becomes a conservative, financially stable bore, and a filmmaker becomes a self-absorbed, over-privileged jerk. Every insurance salesman is now a malicious, inhumane asshole, and people who make natural, chemical free lotions are unshaven, stinky hippies. When you think about it, we're very mean and impulsively judgmental. 

I have been guilty of doing this myself, and I should work on changing my obscene behavior. It has made me a classist. I regularly feel disgust when meeting privileged or wealthy people, because I assume they're selfish and have ulterior motives. I don't want to feel this way, because it just makes me a repressed killer who hasn't crossed a boundary yet. What if this tension bursts one day and I become a serial murderer of wealthy people? I already have an intoxicating fantasy of being at a fancy Hollywood party, in a pool, shooting screaming people until blood fills the water and then doing sexual things while I watch the horror. That can't be normal.

This question is never going to go away though, so the next best thing to do is to answer it in another manner. "What do you do?" "I talk to spiritual entities", I might say. Because I do. Or "I occasionally steal copper pipes out of abandoned buildings when I need some extra cash." Because that is something I have done several times before. So I'm answering the question correctly. I'm not doing it to shock anyone. I'm doing it because I don't really want to talk about my finances or the fact that I don't give two shits about a job. And I don't really want to murder people in a pool.

This is the only question I find ridiculous. I can handle all the other small talk questions; "Are you single?", "How long have you lived here?" and so on. Those are fine. Not intrusive, not rude. But that horrible "What do you do?" makes me feel like thick legged spiders are jumping and crawling all over me. This is because it forces me to view the person asking in a completely new way. I see wires coming out of their morphing and balding head that's half machine, half human. They change into a cyborg from Star Trek right in front of my eyes. They blend with that giant mob of moving meat and metal that shares all its thoughts. It's creepy. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vietnam, My Father, A Lot of Vodka & Regret

I started digging into my past four days ago. Those days have forced old ghosts on me, hard memories, and tears that seem to come out of nowhere, stinging my face and making it hard to breathe. Tonight I sit here with a bottle of vodka, determined to keep digging, even if it finally breaks me. I have completely lost any ego I might have had left.

I was an infant without much physical contact, due to the body cast cocoon I lived in for the first years of my life from a severe disability. There were several dark incidents that came later that I don't care to mention here, making me even more distant towards people and society. And so, I made my way into my teens as an emotionally unavailable, distrusting and stubborn kid. I clashed with my father, a man drafted into Vietnam as a kid himself, and sent back home in 1968 a very different person. We had strife in common, but it wasn't a bonding attribute. He died two weeks before Christmas, five years ago.

I've spent this week trying to find my old surgical records. That probably doesn't sound like it had anything to do with my father, but it eventually did. That's another, more personal matter, though. Now apparently, some hospitals destroy records that have been untouched well before 1980. These records would prove I've been disabled since birth. You see, I'm on record for being disabled since 1996- after I'd already started to run my weak body into the ground by leaving home a lot earlier than I should have and taking physical labor jobs. I had no idea I wasn't supposed to.. my condition was never thoroughly explained to me by doctors. So I worked until I collapsed at age 24, and only then did I find out I could have been receiving disability help my whole life. But things happen, and time moves us on..

As I was searching for medical records, I came across a situation that required me to look into my father's military history. And as I dug through more and more material, I began to realize what shaped this man.. for the first time. I learned he drove a truck that picked up the bodies of dead soldiers, and that he had to take the M60 away from the gunman in his passenger seat once and use it to shoot back at incoming sniper fire while speeding to catch up with his convoy.. his gunman froze in fear that day. I also know he came back home in the summer of 1968 and married my mother one year later.

I know he was a gorgeous man. Women loved him, and he loved taking that opportunity every time it presented itself. He was usually busy with either that, or making money. Eventually, he married a gold digger who got everything he ever worked for. I don't think he thought about it much. He was distant. These things, plus some more pretty questionable experiences I won't mention here are all I know about him. And the more I dig, the more I regret. It feels like a million graveyard insects rapidly eating away at me. The atmosphere starts to pull me into what feels like a dream as I read about the late 1960s and listen to what he was listening to on the radio. The whole room seems to get smaller and the air feels heavy and just sits there, bearing down on me like someone's here. And then there are the strange memories of my childhood and elaborate, experimental surgeries I went through. It has brought up a very strange memory I had when I had apparently been drugged and was about "to go under" right before a surgery. I smell a sterile, cold room and I'm lying on a metal table. I can't feel my legs. I see my mother on the other side of the door with a diamond shaped window, looking like she's crying and trying to get back in. There's a doctor pushing her away.

There's an old photo of the hospital in 1974 when I first went in.. it's completely reconstructed now and has become a "trauma center". I have been informed they may not be able to find my records at this point. It seems like these very real things have just been swept away like dust and turned into an illusion that only lives inside my own mind now.

But they are real. I can feel them every time I bend or move, and I can feel a lump in my throat every time I think of my father's young face and the adrenaline that must have been shooting through him while speeding down the dirt road that day, trying to stay alive. Guns can be fucking scary. I've had one in my face before. Your bones freeze and your blood runs hot at the same time. You think you can't handle it, but you're still there.. breathing.. eyes wide open and all sorts of crazy shit running through your brain like you're on some kind of speed. You either let yourself shut down or you start thinking more efficiently than you ever have in your life. And after it's over, thinking about it almost makes you excited.. because you realize you've just won a game against Death.

I didn't go to war. I had my own battles on the East coast of home. But I feel like if he'd just stuck around a little longer, we'd have learned we have a lot in common. I'm sitting here with his death certificate. I had to use it to request his military records today. I can't put it away. I keep looking at the details.. time of death.. who signed the paper.. place of injury.. "home".. "coded in ER"..

Vodka kills pain. It warms you up while you read through things that are tough to read. I've been drinking and watching real footage of Vietnam soldiers in 1967 with no audio. I've been doing it for hours.. and I'm starting to feel a strange kind of calm. It's not nice or happy. It's just calm.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

An Alarming Community

When I have time to get bored, I always end up somewhere my head shouldn't be. I ended up mentally listless recently, and surfing my way into the darker waters of the internet. I found a disturbing sect of the population made up primarily of 12 to 24 year old girls, so obsessed with getting skinny that they saw anorexia as an artistic, beautiful goal they wanted to reach with stars in their eyes. Of course I knew about anorexia, but I had no idea it was practically a subculture now and something that these young girls strive for every day until they end up dead.

It's easy to find. Just type in "thinspiration". And it has levels. "Extreme thinspo".. the heavy metal version of getting thin. Apparently this has gone on for a long time, but is easier to find now that girls know how to upload photos and edit them with "inspirational words". Then you've got your "pro ana" and "pro mia" websites, which are short for pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia. These terms refer to the conditions as a lifestyle, and not as something unhealthy. There are also gobs of tips for making it easier to become bulimic or anorexic, such as what foods are easier to toss up later and how to hide your anorexia from your parents.

The "inspirational" words these girls plaster on pictures of emaciated, dying carcases spin the state of being anorexic into illusions that come across as bizarrely attractive. "Light as a feather", "be fragile", "starvation is fulfilling; sight becomes more colorful", "eating isn't very Chanel".. and the list goes on and gets worse as it does. There are blogs, tumblr accounts, twitters, and thousands of videos on youtube dedicated to it. Girls are building each other up constantly with reminders not to eat and extra ways to burn calories, like standing on your tip toes while you brush your teeth. I managed to come across message boards glamorizing hip and collar bones and how some teenager had one month to "make her bones appear".

There is no easy way to open their eyes to how dangerous and sick this is either, because they believe in "staying strong" and rebelling against what people are trying to tell them to do. The more you push, the further they run.

It's a delicate situation, and their minds are made up. They have an entire community dedicated to bonding together and supporting this abnormal cause. I have no answers, and doctors are failing in their efforts to heal these young girls. And I'm devastated at the notion that it has become an art form. It is now the deadliest trend in body modification.

This has gotten so bad that modeling agencies and fashion designers have come under scrutiny for hiring models with a body mass index of anywhere under 18.5. Numerous models have died from it, including a woman who suffered a heart attack on the runway in Uruguay several years ago. Her sister died shortly after from "malnutrition". Isabelle Caro, a french model, had the onset of it at an early age when her mother wouldn't let her outside for the fear of "the air making children grow up". Isabelle eventually tried to start a campaign against anorexia in the last years of her life, and had begun to train herself to eat. She died on the road, as her body was already wasted beyond the point of being able to heal.

There are so many more factors triggering anorexia nervosa and different types of cases, but most statistics explain that the average person suffering from this disorder is female, from 12-24 years old, usually comes from a middle to upper class family, and is emotionally immature and depressed.
"Experts" are making guesses as to why this is occurring in this particular group of women. Their best guess is an obsession with perfection and trying to live up to overblown, unrealistic society standards. The more I searched through what they call a "life choice", the more I began to realize this was way more complicated than I originally believed. After several days of obsessive curiosity and hours spent scouring over these pages, I began to slowly understand it. And that was the scariest revelation of all. Media is incredibly powerful. And unfortunately, a lot of people don't realize what kind of power they hold when they start a visual, public campaign.

Just another daily revelation on the internet. Although I've known this has gone on forever, my reaction to people with eating disorders has always been a black and white sort of "they're weak and dumb". I was very wrong. It takes some effort to starve yourself to the point of death while fighting every person around you who is trying to get you to stop. Humans instinctively want to eat. There's pain. There's the deterioration of mental faculties as you stop getting nutrients to a young, growing brain. There's the fact that after a while, starvation starts to become easier.

I have only highlighted the trendy, more popularized reason hitting a general target audience. I have brought up pro ana websites that are everywhere, reminding, supporting, and understanding these girls when everyone else may not. Websites full of children reminding their peers that they don't really have to eat, and that the physical pain is "strength building". Kids telling kids not to worry when the brittle hair starts breaking and the skin starts turning yellow and bruising all over.. that they're all experiencing it and pretty soon they're going to be "so thin boys can pick you up without struggling". Girls spending days coming up with "the thin commandments" and numerous tricks to live off 100 calories per day. This is an addiction. It's just as serious, if not more so, than drug addiction. It's a psychological obsession, and it's based around fighting the pain of deterioration and struggling to "stay strong". These girls aren't taking something to make them feel good. They're teaching themselves to accept pain. It's just something to think about.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why Clothes on Etsy Are So Expensive

In our world of capitalism, personal thinking processes that reveal the reasoning behind questions like this one are slowly fading away. It is too easy to get roped into the fast paced convenience of the current state of consumerism, and forget about what goes into making something by your own hand. In the world of fashion, we only see a final, mediocre and generalized product sprung from cheap labor and marketed to way too many people at once. It has become almost impossible to understand what a one-person designer/tailor goes through to make one item of clothing by hand anymore.

First off, as any artist knows, the cost of supplies to create is outrageous. You'd assume if you're going to make anything yourself, it would reasonably be cheaper. But no, not in a million years. Musicians pay the cost of small, used cars to obtain instruments, and digital designers have to worry about computers that can handle mass loads of memory and cannot rely on just any old, cheap pc. As a seamstress and designer, I have to worry about paying anywhere from 7 to 23 dollars per yard of fabric if I want something that's going to hang comfortably on a woman's body when designing a simple sundress. Now if you want to go around in a dress that fits and feels like a garbage bag, well I could easily pop into Walmart and go to the discount section. But that's still going to run me 4 bucks a yard.. and it takes a good 3 to 4 to make something for a small to medium body type. And used fabric has wear & stretch, and will fall apart too easily. Then there's the upkeep on my machine, thread, needles that break periodically, finishing tapes, lace, iron and ironing board, cutting equipment, drafting paper, rulers, dress form, pre-wash and and crinkle set costs (I pay for laundry use)... you get the idea.

So from here, we set out to design our product. I'm going to use a woman's dress as an example. First we have to get what's in our heads out on paper, so we draw it. When it first comes out, it looks totally unlike we thought it would, so we draw it again another way. And we keep on and keep on until we come up with something someone would actually wear. This takes more than just thinking of a design. It takes thinking of how the inside of it is going to feel on the skin, how to flatter a normal body type instead of assuming everyone looks like a model, how it's going to move when they move, and what kind of fabric is going to work for however we want it draping the body. Next.. geometry.

Now we look at the design and transfer it to a two-dimensional paper pattern. We measure and we use a dress form. Since a woman's body curves all over, we have to actually take the paper and transfer it then onto fabric, then place it on a form to watch and see how it covers it. Adjustments are then made, and we apply this back to the paper to come up with a working pattern. And since all body types are different, we have to use our intuition and just know where to leave extra room to make up for those possible differences. And when we have finally established this working pattern, we are ready for our labor stage.

This requires sewing as well as troubleshooting the machine as we go. We can encounter anything from bad feed to busted needles to improper tension depending on the fabric type and weight. And since this is a personally designed pattern, we make more adjustments as we go along. It is never so cut and dry.

When we've finally gotten our dress finished, we then worry about marketing it. We beg friends with photography experience to help us establish a photo that makes someone want what we've spent our blood, sweat and tears making (Literally.. I've sewn right through my fingers before). The photos have to be clear, show the way the dress hangs on all sides, the background can't look sketchy, and the model has to be comfortable in it. We then move on to paying fees for listings on places like etsy and doing a lot of general social networking to let everyone know the dress exists.

Is it over? Hell no. Once we sell the dress, we have to keep our customers happy. Remember, no one is the same size. So they've got a number of days to return it for alterations or to return it for good if they don't like it at all. Now, we are finally done.

So, how do you charge for all this? You charge for supplies, which end up kind of high considering the material used must be in top quality condition. Then you consider the time it took to make it. Design, draft, labor, marketing and alterations.. takes about a week to do it right instead of just throwing something together that's going to fall apart the first time it gets washed. So if you see someone selling a hand made dress for $70.00, they're probably actually making a profit of 20-30 bucks.

We can't all afford to go buy hand made clothing that often. But once in a blue moon, it's nice to have something original and well made in the closet. Think of it as purchasing a luxury. The same old, tired saying applies here; "You get what you pay for".