Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the category “Dating”

Extreme(ly Unpleasant) Camping: Part 2

Cold camping.  The cold one.  Ahhh, the cold one.

I was dating an attorney from Atlanta; let’s call him M.  Crazy things happened to the guy, all the time. He expected weirdness, and was seldom disappointed. Any bizarre occurrence that was dealt, he dubbed “M’s World”.  For him, shit just happened.  He bought a brand new Corvette, and a week later, hit a deer on a stretch of road in the woods. He had it repaired, and a couple weeks later, hit another deer. He had never before hit a deer. While heading out on a date one night, the guard gate at my apartment smacked down on the hood of his Corvette.  I said, “That’s weird. That’s never happened before.” He told me he had spent his entire life hearing those words.

We were planning a camping trip – whitewater rafting with a bunch of people I had never met. Destination: West Virginia, in early October.  I grew up in the South; it never occurred to me that cold might happen.

We brought my two dogs. Bella (the Italian Greyhound) was dumb as a freaking post. (I found out AFTER I got her that her breed is “remarkably difficult to housebreak”).  The dogs ran around the campground while we pitched a lot of tents around a communal firepit.  I kept an eye on both of them   Nymo peed. Bella, I didn’t see. I was hoping I had just missed it.

That night, it snowed.


It snowed about an inch. I woke up FREAKING cold, despite our air mattress and warm sleeping bags. M woke up freaking cold and WET.  We had run Bella around and around the campground the night before, hoping that she would settle down and pee. Having failed this simple task. Bella crawled that night into M’s sleeping bag (despite not being his dog) and peed all down his leg, and into his sock. When he woke, he rocketed out of the sleeping bag (into the snow, which we did not know was there), holding aloft a dripping yellow sock.  He had never before been so close to dog-icide. He also had not brought a spare pair of socks. Also his sleeping bag was wet. And he was standing on a bare foot, waving a yellow sock, surrounded by snow. Another yell about the presence of the snow.  The phrase “M’s World” was invoked frequently.

After M dissuaded himself from killing my dog (I wouldn’t have blamed him), we put on wetsuits and drove to the boat loading site. It had also not occurred to me that the WATER would be horribly cold. I figured it would be reasonably temperate, since it had recently become fall (in the South). Hell frick no. Water flowed down from the mountains, where there was already snow, and it was FUCKING cold.  So cold.  I can’t stand being cold.  Cold is like death to me.

Despite a full wetsuit, I shook uncontrollably, the entire time. Pre-boat, boat, and post- boat.  Water splashed by gallons into the boat. My hair was soaked. The wetsuit had turned into a sponge that held every drop of icy water. I was so horribly miserable, I prayed that we would hit a rock and I would be thrown from the boat, smashing my head, because death would have been a better alternative.

After an interminable amount of time, which felt fatal, we finished our ice luge and at last returned to the car, where I thought I would get warm. Nope. I hadn’t brought a change of clothes, and was drenched, and my teeth were clacking all the way back. Then, we had to get out of the car and trek back through the snow to our camping site, still clad in drenched wetsuits.  Death.  I swear, I wished for death.

I plastered myself to the campfire that night.  I wouldn’t get any farther away than three feet. When one side of me got painfully roasted, I would flip the other side to the heat. Flip. Smoke. Flip. Brrr. Leaving the fire for the tent was like being wrenched away from a friend.

We turned the sleeping bag inside out that night, so the pee part would be on the outside. Unsurprisingly, we were stinking and cold.

The drive home the next morning, with dry clothes, and the heat in the car, was the highlight of the freaking trip.

If driving home in the cushioned, warm comfort of a car is the best part of a camping trip, camping is probably not for me. Thus, I don’t camp any more. Ever.

And if I need more solidification of anti-camping sentiment, I’m also terrified of bears. Campsites have bears. I have no desire to be on the wrong side of anyone’s food chain, thank you very much.  I’ve had enough camping drama as it is.  I feel strongly that if I am ever stupid enough to camp again, I will almost certainly be eaten.


Extreme(ly Unpleasant) Camping: Part 1

Is it possible to have two worst camping trips?  This is a rhetorical question. It is possible.

This, Part 1, is the Hot One.  Part 2 will be the Cold One, which my loyal readers will eagerly await, no doubt.

The hot one was hot. And sticky.  And sweaty.  I was living in New Orleans doing my residency, and I was dating a talented painter from the Mississippi coast. For July 4th weekend, he proposed a double date. We and another couple would sail to Horn Island, an uninhabited island off the Mississippi coast, and camp there.  He loved that island, and he idolized a painter who had camped alone on the island and had done several series of paintings of it. His dad loaned B his catamaran. We would sail, and camp there, and watch the Fourth of July fireworks over the beaches of the Gulf Coast.

On a beautiful day, we sailed across the bay to the island, replete with camping gear and a good deal of beer.  En route, we spotted a pod of dolphins cruising with the boat. They seemed curious. B let me get on the back ladder, which was not locked down. The boat was moving at a good clip, and the ladder pulled out horizontally.  I held on to the bottom rung.  I felt like Superman, flying.  The pod swam closer.  I think they were wondering about this land-bound creature, swimming so fast. They swam next to me until we were close to the island.  I knew they wouldn’t hurt me. They were more brown than the grey I expected, and some had barnacles on them. Maybe they did think I was a superhero.  I was sorry when I had to climb back up.  In hindsight,  I was “drinking and laddering”.  If I had slipped off the ladder, how long would it have been before I was missed?  God, as they say, protects drunks, fools, and little children.

We anchored off a shallow spot on Horn Island and waded in with our camping gear. We pitched the tents, and found wood for a fire. In the height of summer, on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, the heat and humidity were oppressive. On the island, there was little wind, and it was stuffy.  I didn’t so much notice during daylight, because we were busy chatting, and walking around the dunes, and looking at the pools with crabs in them, and gathering burnable wood. Evening came, and we sat around the fire, which was inconveniently hot, and cooked hot dogs and marshmallows. The big fireworks were set off over the beaches.  We had a great view, and beer, and life was good.

Eventually, we found our way to our tents. I tossed, fitfully, and realized after a few hours that there was no way I could sleep –  I was miserable. There was a mosquito in the tent.  Mosquitoes don’t bite me much, but they love to fly into my ears.  NYEEEE  NYEEEEE!  SWAT!  And a miss.  SWAT!  There is nothing more fun than boxing one’s own ears to smash a mosquito.  I wanted to open the tent flap,, but I knew the mosquito wouldn’t fly out, but more would come in.  I was hot.  I was sticky.  I couldn’t stand it.  I got up quietly, unzipped the tent flap, crept out, and zipped it back before flights of Valkyrie mosquitoes came in.  I walked down the sandy slope to the dark water. I was going to get in.  It was SO freaking hot, even at night. The shallows were proverbial bathwater. The bay was as hot and humid as I was.  My hope was to splash water, and maybe when I got out, it would evaporate off my skin and cool me.

I was waded in waist deep, and was scooping water over me when B spoke behind me, as close as the mosquito, and much more unexpected. “Watch out for the swimming logs!”  At first I didn’t understand.. “Alligators,” B said. “They pass right through here all the time.”

He didn’t seem at all concerned, but my exit from the water was expedient and less than graceful.  I was now left with no respite from the heat at all, but at least I had not been a snack for gators.  We got a couple beers from the cooler, and some water and ice, and we splashed and drank.  It helped so very little.  We crawled back into the tent and when I heard the inevitable mosquito, I sucked my head into the sleeping bag like a turtle.  Way too hot, but no mosquito.  I put my head back out. Still too hot, but still mosquito.  Nyeeee… nyeeee… nyeeee

Too early and too late, we got out of our tents and begin packing up all the things.  It was a tad too early for beer. Not much, because we did live in New Orleans.  Everywhere else, people say, “It’s 5:00 somewhere”, when they want to make excuses for drinking early.  In NOLA, we say that it is noon somewhere. The bars there are open all night and all day.

It was much too much work in the sticky heat to pack everything up.

At last we were on the boat, and the breeze over the water helped a lot.  We were getting closer, close enough to see the people on the beach, and we were passing a small catamaran race.  Suddenly, the little boats were tipping over, one after another, like dominoes. B knew exactly what this meant.  He was scrambling, frantic, to get the sail down. A squall line had come up suddenly.  If he didn’t get the sails down before it got to us, we were tipping over too, cabin and all. Suddenly there was lightning, and grey sky.  He got the sail down in time, and for a moment, we thought we would tip over anyway.  We crammed into the cabin and closed the hatch, out of the driving rain and lightning, in case we we tipped over into the waves.  We were little comforted by our tiny shelter, knowing that that metal mast went all the way into the boat next to us. The waves were huge and tossed us, slamming us and tipping us almost horizontal. The girl began moaning about how seasick she was.  I was thinking how awful it would be to be trapped in a swooping cabin with vomit. I found Benadryl and made her swallow it. That stuff is a miracle drug, useful for nausea, motion sickness in humans, dogs, and cats, and anxiety, and sleep. I made sure to tell her that it was super for nausea, hoping for additional placebo effect.  And thank God, she didn’t throw up. The thunder and thrashing water continued much longer.

At last, the swaying slowed, and the thunder got farther away. We ventured one at a time to the deck of the boat, and put the sail back up.  Alas, there was now no wind in the wake of the gust front.  None.  We were in our own small Horse Latitudes. B tried to start the small trolling motor in hopes of getting us home.  It wouldn’t start.  We were becalmed.

We had a nauseated girl, a clueless guy,  me, irate and certainly cursing the universe, and B, who was very concerned that his motor wouldn’t start. No one was happy. Magically, the motor sputtered awake at last. We were able to choke and hiccup our way toward shore, realizing that we might run out of gas, or be overcome by oily gas fumes. At last, we caught some wind.  We docked MANY hours after we had expected.  Then, we were left with a messy, soggy boat.  B firmly explained to us that despite the fact that we were exhausted, queasy,  hot, and pissed off, one never leaves a boat unswabbed and messy,  no matter what.  Our ground-kissing had to wait until everything was dry, clean, and put away.  Theoretically, I understood that this was something we had to do.  In practice, I was very very pissed at the universe.

We were very quiet on the ride home.



Sex Stuff Teens Should Know

I realized that my OB/Gyn self should make a post for the teens, since you are new at this stuff.

1. Yes, oral sex counts as sex.

2.  By law, your doctor can’t give any information about you to your parents, or anyone else, unless you sign a form saying it’s OK.

3. No, I will not be the one who tells your mom you’re pregnant.  You gotta tell her.  I don’t want to be around any flying bullets.

4.  Yes, you can get pregnant the first time.  And the second, and the third…

5. You can catch diseases having sex that can kill you.

6. There are some sexually transmitted diseases that can keep you from ever becoming a mom if they don’t get treated.

7. There is a safe vaccine that prevents cervical cancer and genital warts.  It’s almost 100% effective.  You can get it between ages 9-26.  Ask for it.  Ignore people who try to talk you out of it.

8. There is nothing shameful about giving up your baby for adoption.  If you are strong and smart enough to do it, you’re a hero.

9. Some states still require that we notify your parents if you are seeking an abortion.  Google your state laws. 

10. I don’t do abortions, but I won’t hate you, judge you, or stop seeing you if you have one.

11. Ask questions when you are talking to us.  We won’t think you’re silly, or slutty, or dumb.  We don’t judge and we will tell you the truth.

12.  If your friend told you something about sex that sounds crazy, it’s probably crazy.  Ask one of us.

13. Guys are dogs.  Especially guys your age.  They will screw anything that holds still long enough.  They will say anything to get laid.  Just sayin’.

14. If you are under 18, and the guy is over 18, they can be arrested for rape.  Even if you are OK with this, if your parents find out and call the cops, your guy will be arrested and will be a registered sex offender for life.  That is a life wrecker.

15. Do not lie about your age.

16. If you are in high school, any college-aged guy who wants to sleep with you is immature and shallow and will screw you over and dump you.  And if the guy is over thirty and he tries it, he is a FREAK.  And a pedophile.  He is not in love with you.  He might want to kill you and bury you in his basement.

17. I am totally not kidding about #16.

18. If it sounds like a bad idea, it probably is.

19. Parents are a pain in the butt sometimes, but they actually know about more than you think.  If they warn you about something, they are not trying to ruin your fun, they are trying to save your ass from horrible shit.  Same from us doctors.

20. 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  That’s a LOT.  Be smart.  Don’t be one of them.  Watch your drug and alcohol intake around guys, especially ones you don’t know.

21. Never accept a drink from someone you don’t know, and never walk away from a drink without one of your friends watching it.  Date rape drugs are out there.  A lot.

22. Travel in packs.  Predators are more likely to go after you if you are alone.

23. IF YOU ARE RAPED, go to the hospital ER immediately.  Do not shower, bathe, wash your hands, clean your nails, douche, or change your clothes.  There is evidence against your attacker in all of those.

24. You can be raped by an acquaintance, a date, a friend, a boyfriend, or even a husband.  If you said no, and they made you, it’s rape.  The law supports you 100% on that.

25. Use condoms.  Carry them with you.  I know, blah blah blah, they’re no fun, guys don’t like them, whatever.  USE THEM.  They will protect you from getting pregnant, and from some really nasty diseases, some of which we can’t treat. 

26. A guy who brings his own condoms is a SMART, COOL, and CONFIDENT guy.

27. If we tell you not to have sex while we’re treating you, don’t.  You’ll catch whatever it is back again.  Make sure the guy got treated for the infection too.  Don’t have sex with him if he didn’t.

28. If you feel like you don’t trust the guy, you probably shouldn’t.

29. Don’t jump into having sex.  Once you start, it is very hard to stop.  Make sure your partner is someone you care for and trust if you’ve gotta do it.  If you start out having sex with someone you don’t care about, it will mess up your love life forever. 

30. Anyone who threatens to dump you if you won’t have sex sucks.  Dump them.

31. Sexting will screw up your life.  Once you send a naked picture out, it belongs to the whole world.  EVERYONE can find it and see it.  Like your parents.  Your minister.  Every guy in your school.  Once you put that pic out there, you can NEVER get it back.

32. I am totally also serious about #31.

33. Never EVER tell a stranger online your real life name or address, and no pictures.  His avatar may look like a hot high school guy, but if you don’t know him, he really might be some forty year-old guy with yellow teeth, or a baby raper who wants to tie you up in some building.

34. Never use sex to pay for drugs.  If you start that, you will totally be screwed, in more ways than one.  When you were a kid, did you really wanna grow up to be a crack ho?

35. Ask your doc about what to expect if this is your first visit.  Ask to see things and find out what we will do and why.

36. Using birth control does NOT mean you are a slut.  It means you’re smart as hell.

37. There are a million ways to get birth control that are free or very cheap.  Ask your doc; we really don’t want you to be pregnant at a young age and we will do ANYTHING to make sure you can afford and get birth control.

38. If you have unprotected sex and are worried about getting pregnant, call us within 72 hours of having sex and we can get you a pill to help keep you from getting pregnant.  And no, the medicine does NOT cause abortions.

39. Don’t be scared of your OB/Gyn.  We can help you with LOTS of stuff.  We’re not looking to bust you.  Believe it or not, we’re mostly pretty cool people.   You can tell because it doesn’t freak us out to talk about random sex stuff. We get paid to talk about it.

40. Telling ANYONE anything about you in our office is against the law unless you sign a form giving us permission.  They can fine us up to 10,000 dollars if we do tell anyone.  We really don’t want to throw away that kind of money.

41. Some sexually transmitted diseases must be reported to the health department, so they can find and treat your partners.  They do NOT call your parents.

42. Having sex with lots of people is a terrible idea.  Your chances of catching diseases, getting pregnant, and other bad things go way up.  You are considered high risk if you do.

43. If you are wondering if you might be gay, or you feel confused about that, we are happy to answer ANY questions you  have.  3% of the population is gay.  We take care of GLBT people all the time.  We don’t judge.  And we won’t try to “talk you out of it.”. If one of us does try to, find a new doctor.

44. If anyone, even a doctor or a coach or a teacher or someone you babysit for, says things about sex that make you nervous, or asks questions about your sex life that are creepy and none of their business, stay away from them.  If they continue, tell a parent or some other adult you trust.

45. If someone in your life is hurting you, abusing you, or having sex with you against your will, your OB/Gyn office has phone numbers on little pieces of paper that you can hide in your clothes.  Call the number, and someone will come pick you up right away, no questions asked, and put you in a secret safe place.

46. If you are pregnant and hiding it from everyone, DON’T.  If you have the baby in secret, DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT KILLING OR HIDING THE BABY.  Almost every state has a law that you can drop a baby off at a hospital without being arrested.  Don’t be a baby killer.  They’ll catch you, arrest you, put your picture in the paper, and put you in jail.

47. If you are pregnant, the earlier you find out and make plans, the better.  Don’t wait until it’s too late to make any decisions.

48.  If you plan to stay pregnant, find an OB doctor right away.  Most pregnant teens can get health care.  We will make sure you and the baby are growing safely.  You or the baby are more likely to die or get sick if you aren’t seeing a doctor.

49. Be honest with your doctor about drugs you are taking, even if they are illegal.  We are not your parents.  We are not the cops.  We’re not going to bust you.  We just want to help you get off the drugs if you need help.  If you are pregnant, there are special things to do for you and the baby that will help keep you from dying because of the drugs.

50. We are here for you to use, for information, help, birth control, advice, and laws dealing with the things you are dealing with.  Use us!  We are like Google for female stuff. 

51. Ask your friends about an OB/Gyn that they like.  Your mom should almost certainly be seeing one of us.  Chances are, she would rather take you than let something bad happen to you.


When I was in residency in New Orleans, I met a remarkable boy. We didn’t have a relationship, in the normal sense, but I was deeply intrigued and felt drawn to him.

He was apparently the orphan son of very wealthy parents, and had been allegedly left with a large inheritance, enough to make him more or less independently wealthy.

Despite this beginning, which usually results in fairly useless, undisciplined people, this guy had smarts, and had gotten himself through med school and into a residency in New Orleans, where he was doing very well. That is where I met him.

I actually met him in Houma, Louisiana, a little shrimping bayou town just on the far side of the Intercoastal Waterway. Our residents were required to spend half their time there, when they weren’t working in the New Orleans hospital.

The Houma situation was as far from the New Orleans situation as could possibly be imagined. We worked there at Chabert Hospital, since closed down, called Little Charity, as it was a branch of the Catholic Charity Hospital system in New Orleans. The town was poor, the inhabitants were poor, and the hospital was poor.

The residents stayed in free apartment housing during their rotations there. The apartments were located behind the hospital itself, within walking distance, so you could stay there when you were on call. The apartments were ancient, and notable on my part for the fact that the entire ceiling of my apartment once fell in without warning, and for the fact that they had pulled a six foot alligator out of the decrepit swimming pool.

This guy and I met at these apartments. He was single, and the single residents sort of gravitated toward each other. He and his best friend, also a member of his residency program, tended to gravitate more towards strippers than to fellow residents, but I lured him in with my fabulous video game system, bought more on the “If You Build It, They Will Come Theory” than to my predilection for video games.

I got a lot of single guys to come over and hang out for beers and video games. I am no idiot. He was one of those guys, and we got to know each other during late night beer and video-fueled chats.

He was a pretty remarkable guy. He was very very bright, and good at what he did. He was also a big birdwatcher, which is an adorably geeky pastime, and guaranteed to draw me in, as my father was always a big time birdwatcher too, which made this guy instantly appealing.

When we walked around outside, he was always showing me birds. He pointed out a shrike one day, on a barbed wire fence. He explained how the shrike would catch food, usually some kind of insect, and leave it impaled on the barbed wire or a twig for later consumption. I thought that was amazing.

We seemed so close to hooking up. He used to hang out in my apartment, lolling about on the carpet in a manner that seemed to me to invite me to join him, but I never did. He was too handsome, and too cool, and too rich, and I was terrified of rejection.

This guy had an amazing car. I am a sucker for awesome cars, always have been, probably due to the fact that my father revered antique Chevys, which he worked on himself. They were all V-8’s, and my first car ever was a V-8 Chevy, around 1960 vintage, The thrum thrum of that awesome engine and the amazing speed with which that immense car got off the block left me loving automotive power.

So, the guy had a brand new red Supercar (unusual and expensive enough that I will not name the model here). Even had he failed to have any of his many other charming attributes, this one fact alone would have drawn me in. He and his friend and I would cruise out to the few clubs in town, not as a date, but to go dancing, and, for them, hang out with strippers. The best part of this for me, besides the clubbing, which I enjoyed, was the fact that when he and his friend became too wasted to drive, they would let me drive the car home.

The most intimate evening we had together was, at best, an oddity; one of those strange things that happens, but I will remember it forever.

He was hanging out in my apartment, and we were listening to music and drinking beer, and he remarked that he desperately needed a haircut. “I have a Swiss Army knife,” I told him. “I can cut it.” For some strange reason, he was intrigued by that idea and thought that was a good plan. I sat on the floor with him, and cut his hair with the scissors on my good old knife, and amazingly, it turned out great. He thought that was the coolest thing ever, and told anyone who would listen at work the next day about his haircut.

I guess maybe he liked me. I was in a dark time then and had just been dumped by a 5-year emotional terrorist, and had no self-confidence to make an aggressive move. I have always regretted that I didn’t.

For years I remembered him, how handsome he was, and how smart, and his love for birds and medicine and fast cars and video games and dancing, and I wished things had turned out differently. I wish I had pushed just a little bit to see where things might go.

For just a little while, I was left pinned on the barbed wire, regretting letting of go of something that never even happened; a foolish grasshopper on a pin waiting for the return of the Shrike.

Another Rollercoaster

I have been in two worlds. Like Tiresius in Greek mythology, who was both male and female in his lifetime and could finally reveal (but never did) which gender is happiest and enjoys sex more, I have straddled two places, fat and thin. I know that some people who will read this may have been overweight all their lives and my “awful” top weight might seem irksomely low. But for me, as shallow and as concerned about my appearance as I have always been, that top weight was disastrous.

I am 5’3″, and I have been as light as 115 pounds (I am 120 pounds right now). I was 190 pounds just before I gave birth to my daughter, and I hit my all-time “I may as well look like hell because I am dying an endless death in my soul-killing job” high at 175 pounds, definitively NOT pregnant.

When you are fat you disappear. This is largely due to humiliation – in those 3 years I carried so much weight, I passed up so many opportunities to connect with old or new friends because I was so humiliated to be seen like that. No one tells you look nice anymore, especially your husband, because you don’t. And people just look at you differently, or more accurately, not at all. When you leave the societal expectation of reasonable weight, you attain “nonperson” status, especially in the shallow and competitive world of the physician and Junior League spouses, which is where I now was. My neighbors didn’t wave at me any more. I will never know if it is because they found me grotesque, or because I found me grotesque. I suspect both.

In high school I was never fat but I was awkward, curveless, had braces, and acne, and didn’t know what to do with my hair, which was stringy and awkwardly layered. I had had all my hair cut off, and instead of looking like a pixie, or, as my mother had hoped, Dorothy Hamill, I looked like an adolescent boy. I was absent all sensuality. I was a pariah.

When I hit college, I got beautiful. I was a late bloomer, very late, so I consider the beauty I had to be fair. It gave me the humility of the ugly duckling and the pride of the swan. I was a stunner. And I weighed 115 pounds. It was effortless, because I was always broke, and my quick meals were a Coke and a candy bar out of a machine, because that was all I could afford. I learned that my “skinny hair” could be made amazing by being grown out into a long straight curtain, with straight bangs that brought my sharp chin out of focus. I had huge blue eyes, and high cheekbones, and the acne went away. At 115 pounds, I still had the curves, and a size 36C bra. Men I didn’t know literally followed me down the street. I learned I could get a man to do ANYTHING, and I misused that and hurt both myself and them.

I have been a “yo-yo dieter” my entire life and I can tell you exactly what that feels like. My closet now and at any time contains a range of sizes from 2 to 12, because eventually, those sizes will come again. The time I hit rock bottom, or I should say, boulder top, there were size 18 clothes in my closet and I wanted to commit suicide. I destroyed those as soon as that weight finally came off; to paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara, I would never be that fat again.

My weight went up in college when I dated a guy who was 6’4″; I thought I could eat like he did and we drank beer and grilled steaks all the time. I gained a LOT. He was a great guy, but we finally broke up when I realized I was becoming obese. My mom made me try on and buy a size 14 dress; I slammed on the brakes and he stopped the relationship because he didn’t like and couldn’t afford the healthy foods I was trying to eat. We are still friends at a distance, and he too has struggled with weight his whole life.

I lost the weight. I went off to med school. I dated an athlete who pushed me to do crunches and windsprints with him – I was in great shape (although the muscles made me bigger). When we broke up, I had just moved to New Orleans to start my residency, and I was depressed over the failure of the relationship and drank and partied myself to an unattractive and unhealthy weight. In New Orleans, partying among professionals is not tolerated, it is expected. The mantra there: “We work to live, not live to work”. I dieted, and my weight swung between about 120 and 150 pounds, which remained my all top worst weight for years. 150 pounds at 5’3″ puts you at about a size 12. I never weighed because I couldn’t afford a scale, but the sizes of my clothes told the story. At that point I had dieted so many times that I could pinpoint my weight almost exactly by the size that I wore.

I moved to Atlanta for my first real doctor job. The shallowness of that town depressed me horribly. There was a homogeneity to the girls who went out at night in Buckhead; they all wore black and their clothes hung off them as if they were clothes hangers. I literally overheard, one night at a club, a guy say that he “couldn’t find beauty in anything larger than a size 5 dress.” I was miserable.

I met my husband in Atlanta and was a reasonable weight. I quit drinking and smoking, and was about a size 8, give or take, for several years. I looked beautiful in my wedding dress.

A year or so later I got pregnant. I was ecstatic; we both wanted a child, and for the first time since I was 12, I didn’t have to watch what I ate. The first 15 pounds of my pregnancy were my “Oh, thank God I don’t have to be on a diet any more” weight, which I joke with my patients about all the time. Most of them know exactly what I am talking about.

When I was pregnant, I ballooned to 190 pounds right before my daughter was born. I didn’t feel that bad about it; she turned out to be a huge baby and I figured I’d get the weight off after she was born. At that point I outweighed my husband by about 50 pounds – he is a small and fit man and he used to joke that I had gotten so big that “smaller OB/Gyns were orbiting around me.” I had heard him say the same things to his sister when she was pregnant, and it irked me, but didn’t really bother me that much. I threatened to sit on him if he pissed me off. He flung back that I’d have to catch him first.

I did have one eye-opening new experience while I was pregnant – for the first time a man looked at me with utter crawling disgust on his face. I remember the night well; I was in a Chinese restaurant picking up dinner and I saw a redneck bearded man looking at me, and the look on his face suggested that were he in a deer stand, he would do me a favor and put me down. I know that some men just don’t like pregnant women, but the look on his face really shocked me.

I was right about one thing though: I did lose the baby weight. I breast fed for an entire year, and when my daughter was 2 or 3, I got down to about a size 6. I hadn’t been that size since I was in college. I was thrilled, and dressed to the nines all the time. There are pictures of me with my family at the time, looking thin and relaxed and happy.

Then life happened. An OB/Gyn works hard, but my partner and I hit a really bad patch. There were 3 of us in the practice, and our older partner quit doing OB, as older folks will do because it takes so much out of you, so we hired a new partner. The new partner fooled us, and she turned out to be a bonafide sociopath. After tortuous debate, we fired her, even realizing that it would be just two of us covering call for an indeterminate amount of time. We didn’t want to hire just anyone, especially in light of our recent disaster, and that indeterminate amount of time turned out to be two and a half years. Being on call every other night, in a practice that delivers about 45 babies a month, is a life changer. You are either on call, getting slammed from every direction by extra phone calls, add-on patients, unexpected surgeries and deliveries, planned surgeries and deliveries, and just the kinds of crises that come up when you work with women for a living, or you are off call, which means you still have a full work day ahead of you, and which finds you bleary, fuzzy-eyed, staggering, unable to make up that sleep deficit because you need to at least say hello to your family when you get home, and filled with the knowledge that when the alarm goes off at 5:30, you have to hit the ground running and are on call for another 24 hours.

Damage was done. The job was destroying me. I worked 80 hour weeks, barely saw my family, and earned the enmity of my husband for providing no sex, no housework, and little or no attention for my daughter. I slid into a black depression, from which there was no escape, because no amount of pharmaceuticals were going to fix the underlying problem: I was working at a pace that was killing me. OB/Gyns are trained to be ultra-tough; it is a matter of pride never to call in sick. I only took 4 weeks off after my c-section, largely because I knew that at that point my partner had been on call for 4 weeks straight, and I couldn’t hit her with another 2. I went back to work and put my new daughter in day care. I literally fell to my knees and cried in the day care room the first day we dropped her off.

I gained weight. An unbelievable lot of weight. My life was so overwhelmingly out of control, and I had so little time off, that literally my only spark of pleasure during the day would be to stuff down a cinnamon sugar Pop Tart on labor and delivery or an extra dessert in the physician’s lounge. I tried to diet and get the weight off, but at this point I loathed my life and everything in it so much that I fell off any diet near daily, whenever I encountered any setback. I tried Atkins Diet, which had worked for me in the past. I even tried a diet where I ate nothing but dessert in the doctor’s lounge 24/7, because I thought maybe just carbs and fat would shut my body down and make it start losing weight, or I might get so sick of sweets I’d stop eating them. Such was my blurry logic.

My fat clothes stopped fitting. I had never gotten to the point where those 12’s didn’t fit. I shuddered as I bought my first pair of 14’s – God bless J. Jill for her stretch jeans. I started wearing size large scrubs, and it must be noted that they don’t make surgery scrubs in women’s sizes – just men’s. Even worse, scrubs can really let you lie to yourself for a long time; they are so loose and they come in so many sizes that you can just convince yourself that the scrubs you are wearing are still loose; things are OK. I think for me, rock bottom was when I bought a pair of elastic-waist jeans on sale at Coldwater Creek – they were a size 18, and my fat still rolled the waist down. I was too tired to even cry.

Then something amazing happened. Our hospital was bought by a large outside entity, and due to incredible skullduggery, my only chance for a job in that town was to agree to work in the new “elite” practice which was run by unethical hateful men whom I had known and avoided in town for 10 years. Oh, the stories I’d heard, and the things I’d seen them do. I could not work with them. They just wanted me because I was female, and had 10 years worth of patients accumulated in that town. They owned the practice and I would have been their employee. I was well acquainted with two women who had been employed by them previously; their experience had been so bad that they had both quit the practice and moved to another town. The men were stunned when I turned them down.

My only other choice was to start a difference practice, an act which I was made to understand would not be sanctioned by the hospital and would have been seen by the hospital as an act of war. With sheer glee, I turned in my resignation and decided I would do what I had wanted to do since residency and become a locum tenens, which is Latin for “traveling temp doctor”. I could work as much or as little as I wanted, depending on what my family needed.

I got myself the hell out of that job and began traveling for work, part time. The weight just fell off. I made 2 rules: I never ate out, and there were only certain foods I was allowed to eat; fruits and vegetables that were minimally doctored with fats and sugars, fish, chicken, and yogurt. Lots and lots of yogurt. In other words, a healthy diet.

When the weight started coming off I felt so happy. I felt happier every day. I didn’t know how much I weighed, or how much I’d lost, because traveling I did not have a scale. On one of the greatest days of my life, I went to a mall in a small town I was working in and saw a pair of jeans on the sale rack that were beautiful. I picked them up and thought to try them on, but they were a size 6. I didn’t think there was any way in hell that that would be possible, but they didn’t look that small and I thought, “What the hell.”

I went to that dressing room and they fit. THEY FIT!! I was beyond astonished. I hadn’t been a size 6 in at least half a decade. I hadn’t thought it would ever be possible again. I was delirious. I was ecstatic! I went back to the hotel and posted a selfie that night on Facebook, with the caption “Size 6 Jeans!”. My nurse friends, who had last seen me topped out at 175 pounds, were AMAZED. The well-wishings and the compliments and the “how did you do its” poured in. I felt beautiful.

When you are thin you are an object of mock horror and annoyance. I had forgotten about that; it had been so long. I must say, this is much less onerous than the personal and societal disgust that come with fat. I’ll take “skinny shaming” any day. The nurses in North Dakota where I traveled watched me drop sizes until small scrubs were loose. “You need new scrubs,” they told me. “You look like a stick,” they told me. “You’re probably cold all the time because you don’t have any body fat,” said one of them.

I love it! You can skinny-shame me til the damn cows come home! “You’re so little,” said one of the nurses in Ohio. “I’m used to hunting for 2X scrubs for our regular doc.” Don’t throw me in that briar patch, Br’er Fox!!

I let myself slip and put on 9 pounds. I went off the deep end. I was alone in a hotel room, and I cried. I screamed. I hit myself in the head. I threw things. I sobbed for 2 hours straight. I was a madwoman. I did a lot of soul-searching. Why would I overeat and sabotage my hard work, this acheivement that brought me so much pleasure? Overeating is such a fleeting rush, leaving only an uncomfortable feeling of fullness and shame. Thinness is a rush that lasts all day. Why would I sabotage myself? I took a deep look at my life, at the things that had brought me to this point.

I was raised by a mother who was a beauty queen. She was actually homecoming queen of a huge state college in 1962, among other things. When I was a kid, I was walked around the house with books on my head. I was a small child, never an overweight one, but Mom told me I couldn’t have a pair of jeans because they wouldn’t look good on my “lazy little tummy”. By this she meant that I wasn’t self conscious enough to walk around sucking it in all the time. Yet. Weirdly though, when things went wrong, she’d soothe me by taking me out for ice cream or a gingerbread man. But I could only eat when SHE sanctioned it. She could hear me peeling a banana across the house and would swoop upon me, objecting that I would “ruin my dinner”. She once told me that if I didn’t stop eating, she’d have to buy my clothes in the “Husky” section at Sears. I weighed maybe 65 pounds.

I went on my first diet when I was 12. I was not a bit overweight, but I saw all the diet tips in my copy of ‘Teen Magazine, and I guess I thought I’d become miraculously beautiful, or popular, if I did what the beauty magazines said. My mom wholeheartedly applauded my attempts at betterment, even though in the 7th grade I was still wearing girl’s sizes. When I fell off the diet a week later, when confronted by a plate of doughnuts at a school function, Mom expressed disappointment in my lack of willpower.

My mom treated my father’s eating with equal scorn, even though he wasn’t fat either. In fact, he was a jogger, did military pushups, and was in fabulous shape. My father and I became partners in an eating conspiracy. We would happily meet each other in the kitchen after bedtime, and would share cartons of ice cream or bags of chocolate chips. When I was home alone, I would scour the kitchen, eating marshmallows, brown sugar, cereal, chocolate chips, and raw oatmeal.

So I internalized a couple of things in childhood. First, appearances and beauty were tantamount. Second, when you were sad or blue, you got a sweet treat. Third, sneaking around and eating was a way to spite and defy my mother. I used sneaking and eating later to defy boyfriends, my husband, and more importantly, myself. Somehow I was punishing myself by taking in those calories.

Then, in high school, I was such an ugly duckling that the message of the importance of beauty was really slammed home. I couldn’t be less awkward, or have fewer pimples, or make my hair do anything, but by God I could control what I put in my mouth. It was the only thing I felt I could control.

In college, when I was pretty, that brought home the kind of power that a beautiful woman could wield. I was heady with that power, and hurt a lot of people. I also established unhealthy relationship patterns that would persist well into adulthood. And at the top of that list was the constant need to be reassured that I was beautiful, prettier than everyone else in fact. And I raged when I met a man who denied me that reassurance. I dated him for 5 years to make him change his mind and grovel. He never changed, and he never groveled. Many years later, he admitted to one of my friends that we had had one of the better relationships that he had ever had, and that I was probably one of the prettiest girls I had ever dated, but he denied me that to the end. The pain of the failure of that relationship dogged me for more years than we were actually together. He was an emotional terrorist.

I have a terrific marriage now, but my husband is a certified fat-phobic. He is ex-Navy, wiry and muscled with big lats and the proud carriage of an ex-military man who has stayed in shape. He and my daughter have the metabolisms of shrews, or hummingbirds, and it seems that they must consume at least twice their weight daily in food and remain in constant motion to surive. My husband does not like overweight people, and does not censor the things he says about them. When we first moved back to Alabama, he was horrified by the obesity he saw there. One day in Walmart, we encountered a family: the two parents were each in one of those motorized carts, with their fat rolls hanging down. They were each probably 400 pounds easy. Their teenaged son was with them – and he was well on his way to 300 pounds. I kid you not, they were in the candy aisle, heaving bags into the baskets on their carts and arguing about which multipack to pick up next. My husband backed away from them, eyes wide, as if he had encountered an intruder with a gun. He pulled me swiftly into the next aisle and whispered hoarsely, “Oh, my God, can we please move back to Atlanta?”

I know that my massive weight gain hurt him, but he was actually very kind. I think he understood, at some level, how much stress I was under and how really broken I was. And he knows me well enough to know about the “spite” game – he knows I was passive aggressive enough to fight him with sneak eating if he forced the issue too much. He just stopped complimenting me. Which was OK, it wasn’t hurtful as far as I was concerned because I knew how he felt about fat, I’d let myself go, I looked like hell and didn’t deserve complimenting. It’s nice to be married to someone who knows you well enough to provide you with the best strategy to keep yourself from shooting yourself in the foot.

He’s delighted that I’ve lost the weight. Now he compliments me. And when he sees a heavy woman pass by, he does what he did when we were first married, and leans over and whispers, “Thank you”. I’ve worked my way down to somewhere between a size 2 and a size 4 now, and I am holding. I reined back in, tightened up, and got those 9 pounds back off by giving myself a positive peptalk, rather than belittling myself. I lost a total of 55 pounds in 9 months, and I hope with my new attitude, with an understanding of where I have come from, and my new enjoyment of my appearance, that I will keep it this way.

I did mention to my husband that I thought it was odd that fewer of my long-term acquaintances had mentioned my new appearance than I thought would. He thought about it and said that in today’s world, sometimes extreme weight loss means that something bad has happened. I thought about “divorce diets” and HIV and cancer and decided that was right. He also suggested that they might be jealous. I was OK with that too.

So I’ve been on both sides now. Many times. And as the Tiresius of weight gain, I have lived with fat and fat predjudice, and thin and thin predjudice. And I will say, having worked both sides, I’d rather be sassed by somebody who is jealous than by somebody who is feeling superior and disgusted. And, shallow as it may be, looking great is the best revenge!

V-Day Is D-Day

It seems everyone is writing a Valentine’s Day post.  I considered not doing one, because I am one of those grinchy Valentine’s Day nay-sayers that everyone rolls their eyes about.  I would like to establish, however, that Valentine’s Day is an absolutely wretched holiday.  It brings misery to almost everyone it touches.

Since childhood, I have never had a Valentine’s Day that made me happy.  The best part of V-Day comes when you are a kid, and little enough to decorate the cool valentine box and have red and white cupcakes and skip around the classroom delivering your little messages.  Since teachers insist that valentines be brought for the whole class, the poor little geek or stinky kids don’t get left out.  Everyone gets some cards and a cupcake.  And when you’re a kid, you don’t know yet how lonely you are.

As soon as middle school hits, the bottom falls out.  Hormones start surging.  Everybody wants someone.  Most people don’t get anyone.  Everyone feels pretty much lonely and unloved.  Of course, there was the odd beautiful couple, somehow beautiful and fully formed even in the seventh grade, but how many of us really were a part of that couple?  I think most people, given the chance, would go back in time and drop a nuclear weapon on their middle school.  And at that age, the girls are swooning and wanting romance, but the boys are just thinking about sex.  And not getting any.  Hardly anyone, even in a young couple, does V-Day right.  And by right, I mean meeting the expectations of the other party involved.  Because mind reading is not common.  And most of us communicate very poorly.  And let us not forget the young GLBT.  They may just be realizing that there is something about them that is palpably different, and it sure doesn’t include receiving flowers from the prom king or queen.

Nothing gets better with age.  Most people feel lonely.  Relationships in high school and college are rarely too stable.  And it seems someone always has magical expectations, despite the rarity of being a member of a couple, that aren’t being met.  The sweeping romantic dreams of one are met by, at best, fumbling attempts to just making it through the day before someone’s head gets bitten off. 

Ahhh, and then adulthood.  You have the alone and the lonely.  Those in loveless marriages and relationships.  Widows and widowers.  Those whose lovers are far away, or in grave danger, away in the armed forces.  Then you have the bitter and the cynics.  And believe you, when I tell you from experience, that a cynic is best described as a failed romantic.  Cynics believed once.  They are angry because they were taken in, and reality never met their dreams.  For example, an emotional terrorist that I dated in my twenties showed up at my door on V-Day with a smirk.  He said, “I brought you flowers and candy!”  He was clutching a single red and white peppermint from a restaurant and a dead pine branch.  Even if you are in a lovely commited marriage, with a family, V-Day may be D-Day for you.  My husband thinks cut flowers are a waste of money.  One year, when we still passingly celebrated V-Day, he gave me several jars of mustard.  He stated they were romantic because I was doing Atkin’s diet and I could eat them with my meat.  We have since put an end to Valentine’s Day in my house.  We just don’t acknowledge it.

And don’t forget, Valentine’s Day is a holiday completely contrived to sell candies and greeting cards.  It didn’t even exist before a century or so ago.  And the old adage, about making every day a Valentine’s Day, if you truly love someone, is spot on.  You don’t just wait until one day to do nice things for each other.

And truly, most men hate Valentine’s Day.  As soon as the red and white displays go up, they start dying inside.  They’re going to have to buy something.  They don’t know what.  They will probably wait until the last minute, because they never know what to get.  And they know their partner probably has hopes for something, but human nature being what it is, they are probably not communicating their needs, because part of “romance” is that your partner “just gets it.”  And of course, most of the time, they don’t.  The wrong jewelry is bought.  Jewelry is not bought.  Chocolate is bought when partner is dieting.  And on, and on, and on.

Women are always getting disappointed.  We have high hopes that our partner will “just get it”.  We don’t communicate.  And frankly, a good bit of Valentine’s for us is conspicuous consumption.  After all, nothing proves that you’re loved more than a magnificent bouquet of flowers that the whole office gets to see.  I remember I never felt so gratified as a couple of Valentine’s when I was dating an attorney (who was otherwise a complete psycho, but had the whole gift thing down pat) sent me enormous bouquets of flowers to my office.  I had finally arrived.  I was conspicuously loved.  And when you think about that, it’s pretty damn shallow.

Then there’s Valentine’s for the GLBT community.  Just like anywhere else, there are committed loving couples giving great gifts.  And just like everyone else, for many V-Day is just being done wrong.  And then there’s the added whammy.  Many relationships cannot even be acknowledged, must less commemorated in flowers and candy.  If you are closeted, how do you answer the question about who sent you the flowers?  Saying “None of your damn business” over and over again is not any fun, any way you put it.  And you probably can’t even keep a picture of your significant other on your desk, unless you work in a very progressive office.  And you can’t bring your partner to those “fun” office picnics.

So as far as I’m concerned, Valentine’s Day is torture for most everyone.  If you have a great Valentine’s Day, congratulations and I wish you the best.  Just don’t forget, probably most everyone else is miserable.

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Unexpected Wife

Man With Sis’s Children

He had had enough.  His friends were questioning his sanity.  He had gone above and beyond, really, so why did he feel so guilty?  When he lost Sis he felt like his life was over.  He had spent his life protecting her, and ultimately, defending her when her relationship fell through and the father of her children left her.  After all, in those times, no one had children out of wedlock.  That was just Sis though.  She was such a beatnik.  She had always been such a free spirit.  The kids at school had treated her like a freak.  And a freak she was.  She was beautiful in an odd way, with her pointed chin and her quizzical eyes.  But she dressed unlike anyone in her class, preferring to haunt thrift shops for ratty old pieces of clothing that she put together in odd ways.  She found a used drum set, and she banged away on them at odd hours when their folks were not around.  Which was often.  Their folks had been drunks, long before that became stylish, and he found himself at home with his little Sis all the time.  Their folks had both died badly – their mom fell down the stairs (although everyone swore Dad pushed her) and Dad bled out in the hospital Emergency Room with bleeding varices from his ruined liver.  He had wound up with a strange little sister and a lifetime of bad memories. 

Then Sis got hooked up with a man more freakish than she.  He fancied himself a poet, and a free spirit and he and Sis moved in together long before that became acceptable.  When she found herself pregnant, her father disowned her, just before he died.  He was just sober enough for it to register that his daughter was pregnant and not married, and that even for him this was unacceptable.  The disowning was a formality, really, as he died broke and had nothing to leave them.  Sis and her man fought on and off for two years, and then suddenly she was pregnant again.  Imagine that.  The brother had been slipping her little bits of money and food when he could, that useless son of a bitch Sis was with didn’t think that a job was included in his adult duties, since the man was not a man at all, but a miserable weakling who could not be bothered with anything. 

He had never married.  He had seen his parents’ marriage go bad, and violent, and he felt that the institution held nothing for him.  He was determined not to be a worthless drunk and didn’t drink alcohol at all.  He worked at a thankless job at a local newspaper setting type and put away little bits of money after the rent was paid and the groceries were bought to give Sis to help feed her kids and keep the little house from being foreclosed on them.  Finally the useless bastard left her; even the ghost of a responsibility was more than he could handle and it ran him off.  So Sis was left alone, never married, with two kids out of wedlock to take care of.  She was the town pariah.  She had been known in school as a bizarre girl, and her behavior with this useless man marked her as untouchable.  So she had no one to help her, except him, and he did the best he could.

Then the worst happened.  Sis got a lift home from the store one day and was killed instantly when the car she was in slammed into a bridge abutment.  The two kids had been left home alone, and when he got the call and no mention was made of small children in the car, he went to go get them.  What choice did he have?  There they were, tiny and alone, but oddly undisturbed by their abandonment.  This was not the first time Sis had had to leave them home alone.  He tried to think of a way to explain what had happened, but they were so small, and looked at him so strangely that he just told them that Sis had been in an accident and would not be coming back.  This seemed to satisfy them; neither of them questioned him at all.  So he just took them home with him.

With his limited funds, he was able to hire an elderly woman in the neighborhood to care for them when he was gone to work, and then money and food were even more scarce.  He found a second job delivering the papers early in the morning.  Nothing had prepared him for having small children.  They cried, and shrieked, and ran around the house, and tore the place up.  The woman who was keeping them reassured him they were fine, that all small children were like this.  He spent all his money on rent and on food for them.  He went to work, and he came home, and there were children there, and then he got up before dawn and went to work again.  His social life had never been very active; he had had few girlfriends since he was so soured on marriage and so busy with his Sis.  Now, though, there was no chance of anything at all.

So, as luck would have it, he met someone.  There was a woman on one of his paper routes who had been widowed young, and she began to take the habit of waiting for her paper to arrive so she could chat a few minutes with him.  Still he did not take her out, or call on her, for quite some time.  After all, the children were at home, and the elderly woman who kept them could not be prevailed upon to keep them of an evening, and who could blame her?  One morning, the woman on his paper route invited him to dinner.  He stammered and stuttered and finally explained that although he was unwed and had no children of his own, that he was left with the responsibility of caring for Sis’s children and that there were two children at home waiting for him.  “Bring them,” she said.  It turned out she was childless, for she had lost her husband before they could have children.  So he brought the children to dinner at her house, and they ran, and shrieked and generally behaved as they always did.  But the woman seemed curiously undisturbed.  She found the children adorable.  And, he supposed, as children went, they were. 

They began to see the woman more and more often; she somehow found out where they lived and brought them a casserole dinner one night.  She brought gifts for the children too:  toys and little outfits.  He felt as though he were taking advantage of her, but she persisted in her wooing of him and the children, and before long, she began to feel like family.  A year after he found his “gentlewoman caller”, she began to drop hints and before he knew it, somehow he found himself engaged.  He told her he could not afford a church wedding.  “Then we’ll just go before the justice of the peace,” she replied.

And so, one afternoon he checked out early from work and picked up the children, as the woman had specifically said she wanted them present.  They met on the sidewalk; the woman had a camera and proposed a photograph of the three of them, him and the two little children.  She snapped the photo, and they went on to the justice of the peace, who married them with the two children standing with them, wearing their best clothes.

Years from then, when the children asked about the picture he told them, “That’s how we were then, before Mama came to be with us.  It was just the three of us, since we lost Sis.”  They did not remember Sis, all they remembered was Mama.  And the man who did not believe in children, or in marriage, came to find himself happily ensconced with both.

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Splash of Color

This week’s writing challenge asked for a post about color, which got me thinking about colors, which got me thinking about rainbows.  In this case, Gay Pride rainbows.  I have lived in New Orleans and in Atlanta, both of which have some of the biggest Gay Pride festivals in the US.  I used to love Southern Decadence weekend in New Orleans.  I was actually down there Labor Day weekend of this year, but Hurricane Isaac had just made his lovely debut, and the place was empty.  I was sorry to have missed out.  They know how to throw a party in New Orleans.

I will preface this with the statement that I am heterosexual, and as far as I know, I always have been.  I was never even interested in some of the “experiences” that people dabble with in college or after.  So let’s just say, I am very secure in my sexuality.  So secure, in fact, that homosexuality has never had the “ick factor” for me that some people associate with it.  And yes, some of my best friends have been gay.  I just had to throw that in. 

As a woman’s physician (Ob/Gyn), I consider myself an advocate for women’s health, and that includes all women.  I have read articles on healthcare for gay/bisexual women, and yes, there are some different issues that need to be considered.  Sexually transmitted diseases do not manifest in some of the usual ways, and some patients are caught blindsided by an STD because they were unaware that their partner was not just gay, she was bisexual.  I have had several patients who have had transgender surgery and are now female.  They also have special health care needs.

The main thing though, that got me thinking about GLBT issues, was not my patients, but something else at work.  When I lived and worked in another city (I won’t say which one), two of my Ob/Gyn partners and one of our midwives were gay.  That was out of four physicians and three midwives.  Working with these women every day began to make me notice things.  For example, they never told me they were gay.  I had to figure it out.  Once I figured it out, they were good with me knowing, but they certainly didn’t bring it up.  In fact, they brought it up so seldom that I actually “outed” our boss to one of the new docs when I found out she was a lesbian also.  She didn’t even believe me!  They never mentioned their partners at work.  And none of them even had a picture of their partner in their office, even under the guise of “friendship”.  Despite being highly educated and having high powered jobs, or maybe because of these things, they were highly closeted.  This all began to strike me as incredibly sad.  I was single at the time, and in my thirties, and was hoping maybe to meet someone and settle down, and it started me thinking.  Dating is HARD.  Being married is HARD.  Even if you are straight.  And being gay just adds a terrible amount of pressure to an already difficult situation.  You may, for example, not even be out to your family.  You can’t even talk to them about your dating/marriage woes.  You can’t bring your partner home for the holidays.  You can’t show off your partner to your straight friends, for fear of being stigmatized or outed where you are at a disadvantage.  You don’t get to bring your partner to work picnics, or Christmas parties, all for fear that some of your employees are homophobic.  You can’t even keep a photo on your desk to smile at during the day.  And unless you live in one of a very few states, you can’t marry them.  This on top of just plain old dating and relationships, which even under the best of circumstances are incredibly hard.  This situation is unfair, and very sad.  That first year I worked there, I became a card carrying member of the Human Rights Coalition and have been one now for twelve years.  Nobody at work asked me to do it.  I just did it.  I read their mailings, because I want to know what businesses are hostile and which are sympathetic to the cause.  I want to know the latest politics.  I do not know why I have taken this so personally, but I think it is because I dealt with this with friends on a personal level, and also on a business level as a patient advocate. 

I also believe in gay marriage.  I understand that churches are under no obligation to espouse this, and that is their business.  What I believe in is legal civil marriage, with all its rights and opportunities.  As a physician, I have seen so many occasions in which a patient is terribly ill, and the partner receives no healthcare information or no ability to participate in healthcare decisions because they have no legal status.

I am also perfectly delighted with adoption into gay families.  Every child deserves a chance at a loving family, and kids adapt to families of all kinds with amazing resilience.  Sure, these families have all the same problems that straight families have.  I’m not saying they’re any better.  But they’re certainly not worse.  There’s nothing wrong with having two dads or two moms.  At the practice I mentioned previously, we did a lot of infertility work for gay couples.  There was a lot of activity at the sperm bank!

And let me just say, I don’t eat at Chick Filet anymore.

California Or Bust

At the end of my time in college, in the summer before I started medical school, my boyfriend at the time decided to move to California to seek his fortune in the real estate business.  As he was a completely broke college student, this was rather a remarkable goal, but he was a rather remarkable guy.  His older brother had apparently gone to California and made a killing in real estate and he decided he would do the same.  Since he was not on speaking terms with the older brother, he was not going to have any help.  His middle brother was also living in California, existing as a starving actor.  My boyfriend somehow persuaded his college roomate to go along with him and become a destitute partner in crime.  Since he was rather a con man, he somehow managed to get a sucker car salesman to sell him a brand new Honda, using a fake social security number.  Allow me to say that I did NOT approve of this.  Anyhow, he and the roommate drove the new Honda out to the promised land.  I decided that as this was my last summer off before medical school, I would go out to California and spend the summer living in abject poverty for my personal amusement.

I flew out to LA where the guys were staying.  They were holed up in a little (and very expensive) apartment that belonged to his starving actor brother.  We were there for about a week before we moved out to Temecula.  During our stay, the temperatures in LA hit over a hundred degrees and we were sweltering.  I remember keeping all the lights in the apartment turned out during the day to help keep it cool.  I had my first sushi out there, before the American sushi craze started.  It was DELICIOUS.  One night we ordered hot and sour soup and it was the best hot and sour soup I had ever had.  I have yet to find its equal – it was brought right to our door in double time and the seafood in it was awesome.

We moved to Temecula and began to try some cons in earnest (at least, the two guys did).  My boyfriend had purchased an extensive infomercial on buying up foreclosure real estate from scratch and selling/trading up.  It was one of those ridiculous things that come on at three in the morning which you know is bullshit.  I laughed and laughed inside my head at those two guys trying to get (almost) free foreclosure properties from scratch.  But I observed them with great interest.  They would pore over the newspapers and the foreclosure notices and then we would drive out and visit the properties.  This was rather nerve wracking, as people who are being foreclosed upon are notoriously not happy with company, especially when that company wanted to steal buy up their property.  Fortunately, a lot of the properties were already abandoned so we never got shot at. 

My role in all this was to attempt to cook on a budget (it is amazing what you can do with Bisquick) and spruce up their decrepit apartment to make it look half lived in.  I accomplished this by sneaking plants out of the surrounding plant beds and putting them in plastic pots in the windowsills.  We were sleeping in tents in the apartment bedrooms.  I remember we would come back from scouting seedy real estate and I would read to them out of Cheaper by the Dozen.  We of course had no TV.  I ran up quite a little bill on my Amex while I was out there.  I also bought CDs to listen to in the apartment.  Somehow, we obtained a kitten, which my boyfriend named Hobbs.  I did not have anything to do with the adoption of said kitten.  He was a really sweet critter; when we would go for walks in the evening he would follow us, which worried me a little because there were mountain lions in the area.  In fact, shortly after I returned to Alabama, he disappeared.

We spent some time also enjoying San Diego – what a beautiful city.  If I recall correctly Temecula was about midway between LA and San Diego.  Some of the cheapo properties were in each city, so we drove to both places a lot.  Somehow my boyfriend managed to wreck the Honda and crunch the front all up.  So, we started driving around in his roommate’s car.  Keep in mind that no car payments were ever made on the conned Honda, and one morning we woke up and it had been repossessed.  I have never before or since been involved with someone whose behavior was so questionable, but he was a very charismatic person and had his roommate and I both sucked in.  Meanwhile, the roommate’s parents were frantically seeking him as he had just dropped out of college, which they were paying for, and disappeared.  Eventually they found him and came and took him home. 

At the end of the summer, I returned to medical school after our big loser adventure.  I kept things up with the boyfriend for a while, but as he couldn’t afford to visit me and had no transportation, eventually I broke things off.  He was not nearly so charismatic at a distance.  The whole thing was a very interesting exercise in con artists, and I am grateful that I never loaned him any money.  Last I heard, from his sister, he was still living in California and ekeing out a living, and dangerously riding a motorcycle that he had somehow obtained.

I saw him once more before we completely drifted out of contact.  He appeared unannounced at my apartment, very distraught that I was seeing someone else.  Apparently he’d thought I was going to wait around in some sort of limbo without him ever calling or coming to visit.  I seemed to have broken his heart, and all in all, it was a rather unnerving evening.  However, we parted ways amicably and I would get updates periodically from his sister.  I wonder now if he is some kind of real estate mogul.  As determined and as willing to break all the rules as he was, I would not be surprised if he were not somehow rolling in dough.  Maybe one day I’ll find out.  In the meantime, I don’t plan to seek him out.

First Date

I met my husband online, which is not that unusual these days.  We talked for a month or so before actually meeting, because he had his father at home on hospice and really could not leave him except to get groceries.  When his father passed, he called me to set up a date.

We decided on coffee.  I am a physician, and I was on call the weekend we decided to go out.  Therefore meeting for an actual drink was out of the question.  So we met at a coffee house in Vinings, which is part of Atlanta.  We had a great time chatting, and the conversation went from this to that and somehow we got to the subject of a handsome Indian doctor who had been hitting on me for months.  He even offered to wash my car (I had a Porsche then – it was fun to wash).  I wouldn’t go out with him because he was a known playa – he had girls around every corner, mostly nurses and his office personnel.  We were chuckling over this guy and his hectic dating life and his strange ways of flirting with me when I realized I had to go to the bathroom.

I excused myself and stood up and when I did – THAT DOCTOR WAS IN THE COFFEE  SHOP – in the far corner away from where we were sitting.  At first I thought he was a look-alike, but, no such luck, it was the very same guy.  I was SO mortified.  I ran into the bathroom and when I came out, MY DATE HAD STRUCK UP A CONVERSATION WITH THE GUY.  I didn’t know my future husband well enough yet to realize that he will chat up ANYONE, the busboy clearing the table, the cabbie, the maintenance guy.  And now he was talking to the VERY PERSON WE HAD BEEN DISCUSSING.  And I had no way of knowing what, if anything, the guy had heard.  I slunk over to my date and the doctor guy and pretended just to have noticed that he was there and that I knew him.  The doctor went to take a page and I literally grabbed my date and hissed, “We have to get out of here.”  “Why,” asked my innocent date.  “Because,” I whispered ,”THAT’S THE GUY.”  “Whaaaat?” said my future husband.  “That’s him?”  “Ohmygosh yes, we have to gooooo!”  We literally ran out of the shop before the guy could come back and my future husband and I collapsed with laughter against a parked car.  “I don’t know what he heard,” I wailed.  “He could have heard the whole thing!”  We were both cackling with glee and embarassment and our mutual enjoyment of the situation established that yes, he could possibly be the one.  So somehow, being totally catty brought me together with the man I was going to marry.  Girls, let this be a lesson.  You never know what may be the thing that will bring you and your partner together.  In this case, karma was all out of alignment and my cattiness over that guy served as a catalyst for a long relationship.

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