July 30, 2009

The Human Guinea Pig

Butters and Reese

It's pretty rare I get so embarrassed I almost start crying, but today was a rare day.

First off, I'm all for human testing. Humans give their consent to be tested upon, animals don't, and human products don't have consistent results when tested on anything other than humans. So when I found out about a clinical trial testing a new generic cream for eczema I signed my rashy self up.

The trials were conducted in what used to be a dentist office. The nurse, who looked my age if not younger, asked to see my eczema. Unfortunately for me (and everyone else involved), it's not in an area I can see without using a mirror... I had to put on a paper gown while she fetched the (male) doctor. I told her the idea of a male doctor viewing that area was an uncomfortable one, and she tried assuring me it would be just fine.

After waiting almost completely naked in a dentist chair for 30 minutes the doctor and nurse finally came in. He checked my skin in the less embarrassing places with a doubtful look and asked me to stand up to show him the rest. Oh. My. God.

"That's not eczema."

Huh? Sure as hell better be eczema or I want my $400 back from UC Medical Center.

The doctor is convinced it's not eczema because it's not a full blown rash despite me telling him it was when it was originally diagnosed, and even if it was I don't have it bad enough to participate in the trial, so he starts telling me my options. I could go to my general health practitioner, but I don't have one. I could talk to my insurance provider, but I don't have one. I could restrict my diet, but he can't tell me what foods I should eliminate. I could get a prescription for the drug this clinical trial is testing, but they're testing a generic version because it's fucking expensive. I could use him as my doctor, but he'd have to charge me for a visit. I also should not use any antiperspirant until the rash goes away, but I work in fucking Escondido, outside, in the cab of a truck with no air conditioning, in an environment made to resemble Africa. I sweat.

Then he asks me if I have any questions, and at this point I'm so embarrassed I had to bend over for no reason and frustrated at my conflicting diagnoses that I'm slightly teary-eyed.

"No, I don't have any questions."

Then we have a staring contest for half a minute.

"Should I have a question? Is there something I should be asking?"

"No," the doctor says. "Only ask the question you want to ask."

"I don't have any questions."

Keep in mind all this is going on while I'm in a paper robe and have shown very private areas to the dude. Thankfully he leaves, hopefully feeling as awkward as I was. I put my clothes on in record time and am about to bolt when the door opens and the nurse comes back in. I can tell she feels for me and maybe understands my position as a broke-ass person with conflicting diagnoses about a relatively new disease, and she secretly hands me a few trial sized tubes of the test cream. I take them and practically run to my car.

I'm unsure what I should take away from this experience. This all started at Urgent Care with a rash spanning almost my entire body and I was told I had eczema and the eczema medicine helped. All the information I could find on the condition says it's worse in the winter, and since it's not only not winter but the hottest part of summer and I work in "Africa" it makes sense that it's not a full blown rash right now, but a well managed, uncomfortable skin condition. Also, nowhere did I find a consensus on what products or foods to use or avoid- this seems like a highly personal condition, and my version of it is highly unusual, especially having been diagnosed as an adult with no relevant family history. Then this new doctor takes a look and says nope, last doctor got it wrong, so it's probably just an allergy, and maybe I eat too much broccoli and kale. What the fuck is kale?

I'm just going to stay my current course. I make sure to take cool showers, pat or air dry, put lotion on immediately and as often as needed, stay hydrated and eat healthy. And until I can afford health care this is about the only option I have. This is why I get so pissed when people complain about how a public health care option is going to ruin our country- I'm sure these naysayers are all happily insured and don't have to go through embarrassing clinical trials in order to get medicine. And to them I say fuck you, you put me in a terrible mood.

July 23, 2009

Superstitious Math

Adorable baby Kaya.

Q: If breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck and touching a live rhinoceros' horn brings one year of good luck, how many years of good or bad luck would a superstitious woman have if she shatters a mirror but repeatedly touches up to ten live rhinoceros horns in a four-month period?

A: Zero years of good or bad luck, because said woman is not superstitious.

But just to be safe, I'm going to touch all the rhino horn I can the next month and a half, mostly just in case I can't do it after Labor Day. Oh man, I'm already getting sad. Dammit, I need to stay at the park!

When I was in middle school (sometime very late 90's) a classmate set out to find out exactly how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop. He licked the pop since getting it at lunch and when we walked home he was nearing 300 licks. Has anyone answered this crucial question? Mr. Owl says it takes three, but the owl cheated.

I think the answer to that question may hold the answer to life itself... But alas, no one can know.

July 22, 2009

If Monk Had Eczema

I would feel very bad for poor Monk.

I have a mild case of obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to cleanliness. I wash my hands extremely frequently and shower every day, sometimes twice. Unfortunately, I also have a mild case of eczema, and eczema doesn't like cleanliness. I shower every day and I'm told to shower and use soap as infrequently as I can stand (which is sometimes twice a day, since I work in 90-100 degree heat). I'm learning to pat dry or air dry and to put lots of lotion on immediately following my showers. I've also taken to cold showers, which feel pretty good after a day in Escondido.

I would also feel very bad for poor Monk if he was a she.

Women have to be extra careful with their hygiene, especially during their most womanly days. Periods are not very hygienic, and period products would make Monk mad. For a whole week out of the month, Monk would curse his body: Monk would not have the luxury of standing up at a urinal, but would have to sit on a toilet seat that thousands of strangers have sat on before him, some even going so far as to not use the paper seat protectors (baffles my mind why someone would not use one). He would also have to deal with using period products in the confining space of a public restroom stall while trying to remain on the paper seat protector and not getting messy. There are way more doors and handles and locks to maneuver in a woman's restroom.

I would feel most bad for poor Monk if he was a she and had eczema.

If Monk was a woman with eczema the show would be either hilarious or completely frustrating. If Monk had to deal with not only the trials of womanhood but also a skin disorder he would go berserk. Especially if both showed their ugly heads at the same time.

In other news, I'm glad I have mild cases of eczema, OCD and womanhood.

July 21, 2009

Lies. All Lies.

From the time I was in preschool until I graduated high school every adult in my life told me I could do anything I wanted in my life, I could be anything I tried to be, I could have any career I loved. All I had to do was get a degree.

Now it sounds like a get rich quick scheme.

The truth of the matter is a bachelor's degree doesn't mean squat anymore. The bachelor's degree is the new associate's degree- a little something to make you feel like your time in college meant something. A bachelor's degree lives up to its name: the preliminary certificate you get before you start your adult life, before you get a master's or doctorate, the jumping off point to the serious stuff. Women used to get bachelor's degrees just to attract an man who was looking for an educated woman so she could stop working and raise his kids.

And you know what? With the economy as shitty as it is I can see why women might still do that. Don't like your job? Marry your boyfriend and start popping out babies. Not finding something satisfying in your field? Marry someone with a well paying job and work on your post-baby body.

Then there was the "there's money in what you love, no matter what that is" lie. They told me about the man who moved to Maui and started a business teaching people and their dogs to surf. Fantastic, but he had to have some money in order to actually move to Maui and start the business. He had to know about starting a business in the first place.

My last job was originally supposed to be temporary- redo the training program in a year and move on. My current job is temporary- drive for the summer while there's work to be had. My next job? In this economy I don't see the trend moving towards permanence anytime soon. The Mad Men days of growing 30 years with one company are dead and buried.

It also doesn't help me that I don't have a clear idea of what I want to do: do I be practical and stay my writing course and hope it works out in the end or do I stray and try going for my first dream? I'd love to be a magazine editor. I also want to build a sanctuary for elephants. Maybe I should marry rich after all...

July 13, 2009

Love Of Country

Irony: when Americans give up their unalienable rights and constitutional freedoms in order to protect and preserve their unalienable rights and constitutional freedoms as Americans.

For reasons I don't understand, Dick Cheney has been in the news more in the months since he left office than when he was in office. This time it's because he created an executive program to "assassinate al-Qaida operatives in friendly countries without the knowledge of their governments."

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Seriously.

Now, Cheney can hide behind the "it's for the good of the country" excuse. But counter terrorism is still terrorism, especially if it's done behind the backs of our friends on their land. If the tables were turned I highly doubt we'd be OK with countries like Kenya or Israel killing terrorists on our streets without asking first.

Though done under the guise of protecting the country, I believe Dick is missing the days of being the schoolyard bully. He does shitty things under the public impression that he is a superhero defending their babies and lawns. He was (almost) the man in charge and, since he wasn't part of the executive branch, he could quite literally get away with murder.

Before anyone gets on me for being unpatriotic and not wanting to do anything possible (regardless of legality) to get those bastards who killed our citizens on September 11th, 2001, doesn't it feel a little backwards that we have to give up our freedoms in order to protect our freedoms? Does it make you feel safer knowing that the government might be listening in on your private phone conversations or that the guy next to you threw away his Diet Coke in the airport security line? Are these the things making us safe now?

Personally, I'd rather take my chances with the airlines and my cell phone and the guy in the turban teaching biology section. I'd rather my government focus on real solutions to nationwide fear. I'd rather wave my flag on our Independence Day and be proud we're following our own ideals because those ideals are more important than anything, even our lives. If America is taking this new direction, I don't want to live here.

July 5, 2009

Ikea: The Wonderland

There are certain establishments I should not be allowed into because of the amount of money I spend there unnecessarily. Ikea tops this list (followed closely by Costco and Target). Every time anyone goes into Ikea for one or two things he or she comes back out with a car load of cheap goodies.

But the reason we drop hundreds in Ikea is simply because it's fantastic. Here are 10 reasons Ikea is so amazing:

10. Bulk Value: Ikea sells items Costco-style: in bulk and for cheap. You can get a complete set of silverware for $3.49, 6 wine glasses for $5 and 100 tea lights for $4.

9. Single Item Value: Even their singular items are cheap! A stylish wood dish rack was $4, a glass pitcher was $1.29 and plates are around $1 each.

8. Mix and Match Goodness: Ikea makes matching designs and colors to coordinate your house, or you can "design" your own style with the wide range of colors and finishes they offer. You can find an Ikea style that fits what you already own.

7. Food: Swedish meatballs. For breakfast, lunch and dinner!

6. Everything Fits Into A Compact Car: Literally everything you just bought. Including the bed. And the dresser. Oh, and the palm tree and lamp.

5. Product Look-Up Computer Terminals: The warehouses have strategically placed computer terminals and catalogues so shoppers can search for the exact location of that one elusive item.

4. Warehouse Set-Up: Everything in Ikea is set up in a home-like situation. The first floor is the "design center" where you walk through the various "rooms" to get ideas of what you want your kitchen/bedroom/bathroom/living room to look like. They keep all of the price tags on their items so you can also get a good idea of how much your dream room will cost.

3. Craigslist: Just search for "Ikea" and set your price range. Almost anything that can be bought new in Ikea can be bought used at half price or cheaper on craigslist.org. I love my $100 used couch (down from $400), and I bought a brand new cover for it in red. It's still super comfy!

2. The Ikea Website: Buy anything and have it shipped to your door if you'd rather not stuff a bed and dresser and desk and TV stand into your hatchback. The website has a feature called "Asking Anna" in which you can ask an employee product related questions.

1. Self Checkout Discount: Just as it's nearly impossible to get out of Ikea with only what you went in for, it's also nearly impossible to scan everything correctly at the Self Checkout Lanes. If you're spending hundreds of dollars to buy dozens of home goods you inevitably forget to scan an item or bring home an item that didn't register the scan. My boyfriend recently tried to return a paper towel rack he apparently never even paid for! Since no one checks the carts or the registers honest mistakes (and deliberate theft) can and do happen.

July 1, 2009

Living Alone. Together?

Last weekend my boyfriend moved into his stunning, brand-new, 8th-floor downtown apartment with talking elevators (not kidding). Now we're both living roommate-free and we're closer than ever (7 minutes away!). We could not be more excited.

Yet some people assume that because we didn't move in together that something is missing in our relationship. I realize in this day of "we made it to a year" that dating someone for 5+ years without living together seems like a waste of time (and money). However, I've seen many move in with a significant other they intended to marry only to see them move back out confused and hurt. I'm not eager to go through that, and I'm not naive enough to think that moving in with my boyfriend, though I love him more than I know how to express, automatically means it'll last. In fact, I'm more inclined to think that moving in together is the first step to breaking up. Moving in with another person is such a huge deal but society is lumping it and having a baby into the "it'll work itself out" category.

I'm sitting at home, with only the company of my cat (who does not even want to be touched), as I type. This is my time to think clearly, to write without the distraction of another person or the TV, or to just enjoy the silence and take in the beautiful surroundings of my apartment. I cherish my alone time and my space, a concept that has baffled former roommates and some family members. If I moved in with my boyfriend I would lose that. As theoretically wonderful as it would be to fall asleep and wake up in his arms every day, it's not something I want to take for granted.

It seems everyone moves in with their SO after a year or two (the reason my boyfriend moved is because his former roommate moved in with his girlfriend). My way of understanding the deep love many attribute to "love at first sight" (gag) is to experience it slowly and methodically, enjoying every day of falling in love over and over again. The first couple of months of our relationship felt like an elevated friendship; 5+ years later that friendship is a damn good foundation. Around our 4 month mark my boyfriend took me out for dessert in a stylish restaurant. We had the lounge area all to ourselves and after dessert he took my hands in his and pulled me up to dance. It was probably the most romantic gesture ever and as he held me I started falling for him. I waited a long time to say those three little words- I waited until that feeling wasn't around just when he was being sweet, or just when he was with me, or just when I was talking to him. No, I waited until that feeling was always there, until I knew that no matter how he replied I had spoken my heart. (It turned out he had been planning a rather romantic way to tell me that same night!) We're fans of taking it slow and making it count.

Everyone has a different pace; my pace just happens to be opposite of the fairy tale I feel expected to have. I wish people would start recognizing that- it's sad that I get excited every time someone is happy I don't live with my boyfriend... It's as if we're not taken seriously because we live apart, as if all we have to do is move in together for the world to see us as a real couple. Even my parents believe that as long as we're not telling everyone we're getting married or living together we're not committed to each other. World, please stop projecting your opinions on my life. It's getting old.