The happiest day of his life

When I was a preteen, I got my first Spiderman comic book. I was enthralled. A hero who had powers, but had a grandmother, responsibilities, made mistakes, felt guilt and confusion. I wanted this, not the princess crap. I did not want a prince to ride in and carry me off. I did not and don’t trust princes. The wedding being the happiest day of a woman’s life: what the hell? Is it the happiest day of the man’s life? If not why not? It’s important to the woman to be married to her love but not the man?

And anyhow, the Disney movies were very consistent. There were no good Disney Queens. The good ones died in childbirth, or were absent, or their ship went down. The stepmothers were evil. The princess career ended with marriage. Pregnancy either kills you or turns you evil. Actually, sex turns you evil if you are a female. That was the very clear Disney message judging by the animated features. Virgin girls are pure princesses but there are no adult female role models for years and years and years. By my preteens I wanted to drive my own wagon: I was not going to be taken care of, controlled, or left poor and with small children through divorce. I would have a career and children.

What IS the happiest day of a man’s life? Do we have any map of that? When they are promoted? When they buy twitter? When they are elected President? When they get married? Why do we have a happiest day for women (and is it the marriage or the sex?) but not for men?

In the romance novels, the man is usually older, “experienced”, rich, and has a reputation for seducing women. The woman is often a virgin, or she has a child because there was an evil man who she thought loved her, or the older man got her pregnant and she never told him. She knows it is true love because she is pure and yet is overcome by lust, so it must be true love. Snort. I have always thought this is stupid and silly. So men in the novels are experienced, have sex with lots of women, and then are carried away by lust that turns out to be true love with this woman? What about all the others? Did they think it was true love too? Or were they “bad” women, who had lust without true love? Impure, not virgins, not a “good” girl. Seems pretty confusing to me. Often the virgin gets pregnant because, hey, she is carried away by uncontrollable love, so of course she would not think about birth control. What is the experienced man thinking? Hey, let’s get this one pregnant, I’d like to pay child support? Oh, he’s carried away by uncontrollable love, but really now, you’d think after all that experience that he would use birth control. Apparently the rich experienced older seducer males are all morons when struck in the heart by true love. These books should be burned, really.

Anyhow, I was suspicious of the princess story and I wanted my own horse and armor and sword and I’ll fight my own dragons, thank you! I was much more interested in the super hero story, even though the superheroines were still pretty lame and likely to get killed off. Oh, and girlfriends get killed off. Gwen dying from fear during a fall: give me a break. Yuk. Made me glad she was dead if she was that much of a weakling. At least she couldn’t reproduce. I liked Mary Jane a whole lot more: feisty.

I wanted to be a superhero and still human, not a princess.

So what is the happiest day of a man’s life?

_____

The cat is Boa, not Sol Duc. Boa died at age 17 right before Covid-19 started.

Elephant

My daughter got the elephant in the mail yesterday.

She called me, very happy with it. “It has a TAIL! It matches the pillowcase. I love the fishy fabric.”

The back story is that when she was a baby, her father’s mother made her a pillow. It had two pockets. In the pockets were four small stuffed toys. Her older brother has one too. The toys were not exactly the same. Hers had an elephant.

When she got sick earlier this year, I start sending her care packages. I send the pillow with three of the stuffed toys. However, I don’t find the elephant.

She loves it but asks, “Where’s the elephant?”

“I’m still looking.” The elephant is pink, with fabric ears that are different from the body. I find it! She is coming here for a month, so I don’t mail it. She is very pleased with the elephant.

It goes AWOL before she flies back to work. “Check the tent, mom.” She stayed in the tent in the back yard with two of her friends. I take the tent apart. No elephant. I check the sleeping bags. I sweep under her bed and search the house. As my daughter says, my house has a lot of hiding places and the cats like the elephant too. No elephant.

So for her birthday I make one. I remember how it looks and I make it while watching some continuing medical education. It’s easier to hand stitch than to get out the machine. I have to buy a large bag of stuffing, because the store downtown only has one size. Never mind, maybe I will make more elephants.

I made her a pillowcase last year, with the whale/mermaid fabric and the fish. So the elephant matches.

And she likes it! Hooray!

_______________

My daughter says I can’t make clothes for her, but pillowcases and elephants are great! A breakthrough!

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: breakthrough.

Arty’s warning

Trigger warning: non graphic mention of child abuse.

_____________________________

I don’t notice that things are frozen at first, because the cats aren’t frozen. I do notice the light. Also I notice the change in sounds. The car outside in the street is not moving nor making sound. Uh-oh.

I go to the front door. Might as well if everything is frozen. I just finished putting on make up, which always means a dangerous mood.

She lands first, on a white flying horse. Who smiles at me, showing fangs. Smoke is coming out of the Pegavamp’s nostrils. Eeeee.

Arty herself is in silver and black today. Silver cloth with black embroidery that seems to be writing a little.

“Good morning, Goddess.” I say, bowing. The other horses and dragons and flying motorcycles and pterodactyls are landing as well. Sol Duc is in the window. Elwha has gone to hide, quite sensibly, I think.

Arty stomps her staff on the ground. “I am really pissed.” she says.

“They named a rocket after you.”

“That penis toy? That is supposed to please me while they are killing virgins who refuse to tent their heads?”

“Sorry.” I hang my head.

“And do you know how much the smoke is going to shorten the lives of my birds and stags?”

“A lot, I think.”

“Do you all want to starve in the dark?’

I look up at her then. “No. I want grandchildren and a healthy earth.”

“Work harder.” she snarls. The rest of the dangerous crowd is muttering and snarling and the local cats have come out. They are sitting very respectfully at a distance. Rooftops. The ridge above my house three blocks up. The tree tops are frozen too.

“Do you need prescriptions again?” I ask. “I see that there have been a lot more rapists jailed. Thank you, Goddess.”

She looks tired for a moment. “We are hunting them everywhere: cities, countryside, hovels, palaces, movie sets, where ever.”

“You don’t turn them into stags any more?”

“Yes, sometimes. My hounds love to tear them apart. But sometimes prison is slower and crueler and a better punishment.”

I kneel. “What service can I do, Goddess?”

She touches me with the staff. I feel a hard bright shock, pain that roars through me and is gone.

“Write this. Write my warning. If this continues, it is death in the cold dark of nuclear winter and we will begin again.”

“Is that the only choice?”

“Oh, no, we are all being very creative. One suggestion has been the sperm banks. There is nothing that says they can’t be used to make one gender only. The one that rapes less and doesn’t kill young girls for what they wear.”

“Thank you for your warning.”

“Stand up.” she says. “You and every abused child, male or female, are under my protection. Yet the cycle must be broken and the abused must not become abusers. Write this.”

The Pegavamp drops one knee and she steps up easily. The other riders start to roar and shout and howl. Her winged creature jumps in the air and the whole group follows. There is a snap and they are gone.

The car in the street is moving and the treetops as well. The cats stand and move away.

I keep writing.

___________________

October 22, 2022

Finish?

“Get rid of him. Send a letter. Never speak to him again.” Male friend one.

“You need to read He’s Just Not That Into You.” Male friend two.

“There are other fish in the sea.” Brother.

“Men are too high maintenance.” Female mentor twenty years older than me.

But but but.

A poem circles in her head. “There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very very good. When she was bad she was horrid.”

We are like the poem. We bring out each other’s small child, two to four years old, who was hidden and traumatized. We laugh like hyenas. We play with words. We compare childhoods, each sometimes terrible, each full of scars. And when we disagree, we are also like four year olds. We want to stomp our feet and sulk. He wins the sulking award though. I worked through an awful lot of it with my sister and much effort, over 40 years. My sister was as smart as me or smarter intellectually. It’s the emotional part that is so hard to heal. Will you or won’t you, will you or won’t you, will you or won’t you, won’t you join the dance?

I don’t think he will.

But, but, but.

The small bird of hope sings happily and says he will, he will, he will…

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: finish.

The photograph is me and my daughter years ago. Her expression is very thoughtful because I think this is the first time she is seated in an adult chair. She is thinking about it. I am not sure who took the photograph.

Epilogue.

Doll culture

When I was married, my husband described my parents as “Time-Warp Beatniks”. That is a good description. We had no television until I was nine and my sister was six, because my parents disapproved of television. This lack made me even less social at school, even though I was never ever good a small talk. I still don’t understand the small talk code.

My mother disliked Barbie, so she conspired with her brothers. We had five girls and two boys in my maternal cousin generation. My mother got the four younger girls all 8 inch china dolls, instead of Barbie. The next summer, the younger boy got one too, since the girls were all sewing and building furniture and generally going to town with them.

I was also given the doll in the picture. She was my grandmother’s china doll, Katherine White Burling. I do not know who sewed the dress that she has on, possibly my great grandmother. The stitches are by hand and tiny. We understood that the dolls’s world was in the late 1800s and since this doll came with a wardrobe, we sewed doll nine patch quilts and my grandmother helped make demure pantaloons for our dolls.

My sister and I did manage to score Barbies eventually, though our china doll world was much more full. The china dolls went with us to Ontario, to Blind River, Canada, where my maternal family has shacks on a lake. We were all allowed to use scrap wood to build tables and chairs and benches and beds, as long as we PUT THE TOOLS AWAY.

Meanwhile, my paternal grandmother, Evelyn Bayers Ottaway, was a brilliant knitter. She taught me to knit at age 8, but it didn’t really take. I learned again in Denmark and still knit. Grandma Ottaway knit elaborate Barbie clothes on microscopic needles. I still have a few of them. They were in the late 1960s and early 70s and really beautiful. One was a tiny knit stole, with a mohair, lined with brown satin. My china dolls stole it from my Barbies. Or perhaps there was an exchange, I don’t know.

The hand sewing came in handy. I have had surgeons ask me where I learned to stitch. “Doll clothes,” I say. They tend to look confused at that.

At one point I had a patient here who was indigenous to the area and age 104. She told me, “When I was in my twenties, even if I dressed like the Caucasian women, they would get up and move to a different pew if I sat by them in church.” I apologized. She told me not to worry, things are changing. So in the photograph, the woman behind my grandmother’s doll is an indigenous weaver. There is a tiny baby on a cradle board. They are having tea together. That is wishful thinking on my part, but we are allowed to wish for peace and work for harmony. Two cultures, still trying to come together with respect.

Blessings and peace you.

__________________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: culture.

Autoimmune OCD and my daughter shops my closet

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01700-4

The article is a proposal for diagnostic criteria for autoimmune obsessive compulsive disorder, a relatively rare version of OCD. Important because the treatment has to include searching for infection that triggers the antibody response, which in turn attacks the brain. Antibiotics to treat a “psychiatric” disorder. Mind and body connection, right?

The ironic thing about this new proposed diagnosis is that I do not have obivious OCD in any way, shape or form. It is masked by packrat. Also, my OCD is focused. When I was working, it was focused on patients. My clinic charts were thorough, 100% of the time. I was brutally thorough and wouldn’t skip anything. The result was that I got a reputation for being an amazing diagnostician. Usually it was because I wanted ALL the puzzle pieces and the ones that don’t fit are the ones that interested me. They have to all fit. Either the patient is lying or the diagnosis is not as simple as it appears. Occam’s Razor be damned, people can have more than one illness.

In fact, an article 20 years ago looked at average patient panels and said that the average primary care patient has 4-5 chronic illnesses. Hypertension, diabetes, emphysema, tobacco overuse disorder, alcohol overuse disorder, well, yeah. And then the complex ones had 9 or more complex illnesses. You can’t see the person for one thing, because if the diabetic has a toe infection, you’d better look at their kidney function because the antibiotic dose can kill their kidneys if you don’t adjust it. So do not tell me to see the patient for one thing. Malpractice on the hoof. Completely crazy and evil that administrators tell doctors to do that.

No one looking at my house would ever think I have any OCD. I am not a hoarder (ok, books) but the packrat force is strong in me. My daughter did not inherit that gene. She is a minimalist. However, she has come to appreciate the packrat a little.

This summer she said that her purse is wearing out. As a minimalist she has one purse. I ask, “Would you like to see if I have one that you like?” It so happens that as I was trying to recover from pneumonia, a local garage sale had 20+ year old designer purses for $3 each, because the house was going on the market. Got to get rid of the stuff.

“Yes, please.” says my daughter.

I start with the weird ones that I know she will not want. I get eye rolls. But I am progressing towards the purses that are close to the one she has. At last I produce a small leather purse, the right size, in good shape, and she sits up. “Let me see that one.” Like Eeyore with his popped balloon, putting it in a jar and taking it out, she tries putting her phone and wallet in the purse and taking it out. “Yes, I like this!” She calls it “Shopping mom’s closet.” I think it is delightfully comic. The benefits of a packrat mother.

Back to the Nature article and OCD. The diagnostic criteria are gaining steam. Having watched a conference this summer about Pandas and Pans, mine is mild. Some young people have a version where killer T cells invade the brain and kill neurons. I had a moment of panic when the conference was discussing a case, but then I thought, if I had the neuron killing kind I would be dead or demented by now.

Instead, I’m just a little neurologically unusual.