Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quote of the Week

You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted.
- Ruth E. Renkl

Friday, February 20, 2009

Games People Play

From a very young age our feelings are protected and sheltered with “words of wisdom” that take the pain out of difficult moments but inflict long term damage. It all begins with our mothers and teachers telling us that the boys bully and tease little girls they like. What seems like an innocent way to explain that little boys are sometimes little shits becomes a dangerous long-term lesson. Women go through life hearing the same basic statements over and over again; “he is just too afraid to call because he likes you,” “he is a jerk because he is trying to get your attention,” “he likes you he just hasn’t figured it out yet,” “he hit you because he likes you so much he cannot contain his emotions.” The lies aimed at protecting the feelings of those we love turned the beauty of courtship into the world of gaming. “He’s just not that into you” is hard to hear, harder to say, but are often the most honest words we can deliver. How much different would the world of dating be if more women shared this phrase with their friends and loved ones?

When it comes to the pursuit of romantic relationships we learn “the game” as young girls and “refine” it throughout adulthood. Women are explicitly taught that men tease us when they like us, play cool and aloof when interested, and aren’t interested in women who seem “desperate” or “easy” which translates loosely to “interested.” Our mothers, friends, classmates, and co-workers perpetuate these lessons as a means of protecting us from the hurt and pain of rejection. Men who actually are interested in us become invisible; women are unable to recognize the true signs of love since they are so busy looking for the cues and clues learned to master the game. We learn that relationships are full of swinging emotions and drama, and run from relationships that are comfortable and stable.

What we don’t learn from the “Rejection Protection Program” we learn from Disney; someday my prince will come. After Disney brainwashing women hone their advanced gaming skills through the romantic comedy where we learn the road to perfect hair, perfect grades, the perfect job, perfect body, and perfect life is to find the perfect guy and get him to fall in love. This hypothetical prince is supposed to sweep us off our feet, fall in love at first sight, read our minds, love our mothers, paint our toenails, sing us love songs at bars, and rescue us from the mean cruel world. Men don’t stand a chance of meeting those lofty expectations; if there is no immediate spark, romantic first meeting, or storybook beginning then women decide with little personality analysis that you are not “the one.”

Conflicting lessons create enough confusion and chaos to make it nearly impossible to be “normal” in the pursuit of love. Piling the crushing self-esteem struggle that plagues most women, especially in their younger years, on top of the messages we receive from the world and you have the perfect recipe for dating disasters. Many women feel they are too flawed to be loved. If a man shows too much interest many women will draw the conclusion that aforementioned man has something wrong with him. The only possible reason a man could be head over heels interested in a woman with bad skin/a wide butt/cankles/crooked teeth/big feet/an outtie belly button/armpit fat/hairy knees is if he too has some deep, hidden issue. So the generally nice and interested guy is rejected leaving women fixated on men who show no interest, convincing themselves if they can just lose weight, cut their hair, hike the Himalayas, learn to surf, bungee jump, or pick up six foreign languages then the out of reach guy will certainly fall in love. If a woman is able to catch the attention of the jerk that didn’t show interest in the first place she often makes something out of nothing. She will romanticize a crappy relationship and play it like bad stock. The relationship continues well past its “use by” date because there was an incredible investment of time, money, and pride. Just like Wall Street, sometimes it is necessary to sell short and walk away from a bad investment.

Obviously I can only assess “the game” aspect of love and relationships from the set of eyes attached to my female body. I can only speak authoritatively and intelligently about the systematic programming that our friends, our family, and our culture perform on women to screw us up so royally in the arena of romantic relationships. However I imagine that men themselves go through their own programming by the world around them. Men hear messages that women only go for the “bad boys” and act like jerks because of that. Men learn that women don’t like a man to come on too strong because it scares them and then become distant and aloof. Men act disinterested because they don’t want to be too eager and chase a woman away. Men are warned that women are only after two things; their money and having their babies. Men experience women who change dramatically after a few months because those women can no longer keep up “the game” of pretending to be someone else, thus concluding that all women are liars. Men hear from other men that women are not worth the trouble. There is also a somewhat pervasive issue with men wrongly learning that it is okay to break off a relationship by simply disappearing. Men accuse women of playing games without realizing they are playing right back.

My biggest disappointment in the recent movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” was its focus on the “exception” rather than “the rule.” According to the movie (and perhaps the book I have yet to read) the rule is if he (or she) doesn’t call, write, or ask you out then he (or she) “is just not that into you” and you should just say “screw it” and move on (my own adlibbing). The “exception” occurs when one catches the guy who showed little to no interest in the first place. “The Rule” could actually be a good message for women (and men) to watch and learn but doesn’t make for a very good romantic comedy. The lesson should be that we are each important, beautiful, special, and amazing in our own ways and deserve to find love with a person who appreciates and loves us right back. If someone doesn’t embrace you for who you are, appreciate your talents, hang on your every word, and spend their days dreaming about you then move the hell on and forget about becoming “the exception.”

Everyone learns their own set of rules even if they don’t buy the game. It is up to each of us to recognize our own patterns and break them. Women must understand that Disney isn’t reality. They are worth being loved rather than played. It is okay to dump and be dumped. A person cannot be deemed “the one” or eliminated from contention in a 6 minute speed date. Sticking around with someone who is “just not that into you” is a waste of time for both parties; then and only then can the vicious game cycle be broken. 6 billion people grace this planet and if you are willing to get out there and meet people there is a good chance of meeting a few that are just not that into you. Breakups and rejection, while painful and personal, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you (or them) it just means there is another person out there who will be into you, and we all deserve that.

A personal note: Unless you fall in love with your pizza delivery person finding love requires “getting out there,” meeting new people, taking chances, and giving chances. Sometimes dating it is hard, awkward, scary, funny, annoying, and downright painful but this makes us stronger, wiser, and teaches us important lessons about people and ourselves. I met wadE in a bar; it wasn’t romantic, we didn’t have a spark, he was cute enough to approach and chat with but otherwise wasn’t “my type.” We hung out, became friends, shared laughs, dated other people, and somewhere along the way realized “it’s you.” We could have easily brushed each other off because we lived 1000 miles apart and weren’t the other’s “type” (admittedly I thought he was cute enough for a little “fun” but didn’t fit my preference of tall, lanky, dark haired, with a foreign accent and he thought I was “out of his league” and probably a bit obnoxious). It took us a while to develop our happy ending, getting over our how we didn’t fit the other’s mold, and realizing how we were actually a good match. If we would have rushed into becoming “exclusive” we would have quickly extinguished any chance of letting our feelings grow organically. We did not have the love at first sight Disney relationship, but I’m pretty darn happy we fell in love anyway.
This piece adapted from my response to Alex on

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quote of the Week

We have the Bill of Rights. What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities.
- Bill Maher

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eight is Enough

Congratulations California! It’s a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a girl, and another girl. The California taxpayer deserves congratulations for this “miraculous” birth since they will be shouldering the financial burden for the long-term health and well-being of Nadya Suleman’s octuplets; from their hospital costs, to their food, and their education. These costs are in addition to the estimated $3000 a month in assistance the single mother is already receiving for her first six children. This human incubator expected the world to accept her and her litter with open arms and bestow gifts and grandeur. Much to her surprise, and mine, the world is not throwing her a big baby shower and is finally asking; when is enough *enough*?

Human interest story reporters are like flies to feces at the announcement of any birth ending in “tuplet.” The media circus canonizes mothers of “tuplets” as saints for birthing a litter size that would make a Great Dane quake with fear. Microsoft Word spell-check does not even recognize the word octuplet and stops at septuplet (7). Early news of the “Suleman 8” followed the usual human interest story formula; announce birth, celebrate the miracle of survival, interview parents from previous “miracle” births, wheel and deal for the exclusive interview with the new parents. Then the news started leaking; there were already six children, the mother was single, she hadn’t worked in years. Nadya and her family learned the hard way how fragile the pedestal of a faux-celebrity can be. Her plummet from media darling mother has everyone from publicists to Pampers’ running the other direction. Even her own mother called her daughter's decision to keep expanding her family "unconscionable." Nadya Suleman has not and will not be receiving the usual free benefits that many mothers of high multiples get; there are no diapers, formula, car seats, 16 passenger van, or 14 bedroom houses, or television deals from A&E pouring in. Instead the family is receiving backlash and death threats from a citizenry already burdened with a monumental budget deficit and unemployment rates nearing the double digit mark. If she had any plans to fund her children through record book deals or a gig on reality television she and her publicists better come up with some new plans or hope people in the United States are too blind to realize that buying, watching, or reading anything that the Suleman’s produce encourages other people to risk the lives of their children to make some cash.

It is not just Californians who should be up in arms at funding these children. Federal assistance from an already strapped social security system is available to any and all of these children if their premature birth yields long term complications. It is also reported that the OctoMom's sole source of non-government income is $50,000 in student loans. Did she obtain a student loan to continue her education and instead used that money to have more children? So in addition to bilking the taxpayers of the State of California and the United States she also took money from a limited pool of student loan money leaving another legitimate student without the cash necessary to actually attend school. And who will pay when she defaults on all those loans? If she goes back to school she will attend a CalState institution and plans on using their campus daycare; now her daily daycare for fourteen children will jack up already rising tuition and fees. Did you know in fourteen states taxpayers and people paying medical premiums are funding people like Nadya Suleman to get pregnant? Even if Nayda was a gainfully employed health insurance carrying citizen, we should all still be outraged; have you ever stopped to think that the high costs of fertility treatments and multiple births could be a contributing factor to the rising cost of insurance premiums and an overtaxed healthcare system?

Investigations of the fertility specialist entrusted to care for Nadya are underway to determine if any violations occurred, whether he should maintain his license to practice, and ultimately whether the state will file criminal endangerment charges against him. Doctors learn in medical school “primum nil nocere,” roughly translated as “first, do no harm.” Creating a situation where it is impossible for a child to be born at term, of a healthy weight, and highly possible of triggering maternal complications and death is certainly harmful.

The Hippocratic Oath, the pledge made by physicians to practice medicine ethically, includes the following passages: “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.” Implanting more embryos then a woman can safely carry is overtreatment. According to the March of Dimes a multiple birth is 6 times more likely to end in preterm labor then a single birth; the stat is worse with each additional child in the birth, and babies born early are infinitely more likely to suffer from long-term disabilities or die at birth or in infancy. Taking a “gamble” with that many embryos is just as dangerous if not more so than drinking, smoking, or walking a tight rope while pregnant. Recent reports indicate crack babies have few long term effects; smoking crack while pregnant less risky for the long term health of a baby then being part of a litter of fetuses. There is no doubt that the doctor, who claims he was just abiding by the wishes of his patient, violated his responsibility to first and foremost ensure the health of his patient and her offspring. “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick” is an assertion made by doctors in the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors have an ethical responsibility to ensure that treatment and the result thereof does not financially, emotionally, and physically bankrupt the patient, their family, or the healthcare system.

A book could certainly be penned by dissecting every aspect of this “miracle of modern medicine” but unfortunately I do not have time to write a book, even if I am not busy raising fourteen children. This analysis of my own time, or lack thereof, as a childfree woman without the responsibilities of parenting makes it even more dumbfounding how Nadya Suleman can claim on national television that she is “responsible,” a “good mother,” and denies the label of “selfish.” How is having children you cannot afford and sticking the bill to an economically unstable state just because you always dreamed of having a big family anything less than irresponsible and selfish? Even the riskiest gambler in Vegas would think twice about the odds on “a gamble” the OctoMom made with her own life and the lives of her children. A “good mother” would not risk orphaning her six living children with such a gamble nor would she take such a gamble with the lives of her unborn children. Most mothers and fathers I know feel like they are not able to spend enough one-on-one time with their children and they have far fewer than 14, of course they also have to spend much of their day at work so people like Nayda can stay home and have their children supported by the government.

Nayda Suleman had the audacity to judge people criticizing her “unconventional” choices while taking no responsibility for how those choices will yield higher taxes and healthcare costs for those same people. If her drive and desire to have an insane number of children is not enough to demonstrate her compromised mental capacity then the delusion she will be able to raise her children on her own once she finishes her master’s degree in counseling should be enough to convince anyone in that very same field that she needs help. The average master’s level counselor in California makes $43,000 a year; anyone who thinks that is enough to raise 14 children in Southern California has to be crazy. What is sad is how Nayda Suleman turned to a fertility specialist rather than a mental health specialist to fill the obvious void she felt in her life and how the medical community let her. Even sadder is how the Department of Health and Human services requires a woman seeking sterilization to undergo a counseling session to avoid having children yet it is not required for women seeking fertility treatments (although encouraged).

At least some good is coming from this situation. People are finally starting to openly ask some difficult questions. Is bearing children a right of everyone or a privilege to those who can afford to care for them? Should a person be considered “infertile” and receive treatment if they already have a certain number of children? Should there be limits placed on the number of embryos a doctor can implant? Is implanting too many embryos malpractice? Is choosing to have children you cannot afford to provide food, shelter, and clothing to tantamount to abuse? Is medicine defying the natural order of “survival of the fittest” by creating children who were not conceived as Mother Nature, God, or whatever higher being you believe in, intended? Should mental health counseling be required for anyone seeking fertility treatments? There will always be debates regarding treatment guidelines and decisions in medicine; there is a delicate balance between “can” and “should” and the case of the Suleman Octuplets is an example of when medicine pushes well past the boundaries of what should be done.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Quote of the Week

Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.
- Margaret Mead

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Safety Dance

Lawmakers in Nebraska recently amended a safe haven law that allowed parents to drop their children off at designated “safe hospitals” or police stations, avoiding punishment for criminal abandonment. This type of law exists in all US states to reduce the cases of infanticide among parents who kill or dump their newborns. What made the Nebraska law unique prior to the recent amendment was the absence of an age stipulation thus allowing parents to leave a child of any age under 18 without retribution. Much to the surprise of lawmakers, teenagers started flooding the safe-haven hospitals as parents from Nebraska and states far beyond used a law meant to save infants to save themselves from their out of control children. People pointing fingers at who is responsible for the needs of these children; laying blame on everyone from government, for providing little to no support to parents in need, to the parents themselves for not taking personal responsibility to care for or control their offspring. Social advocates are crying out for more mental health benefits and protestors are claiming these parents are lazy and gave up too easily on their responsibilities. Through it all no one is asking the question; why did these parents have children they couldn’t care for in the first place?

I feel sorry for the parents who felt they had no other choice but to leave their children with authorities. I don’t feel sorry because they should receive more support from their state or local governments or because they reached the end of their rope; I feel sorry because these parents probably never realized that having children was optional. How many of these parents did not receive proper education on practicing birth control? How many of these parents were ill-equipped financially, emotionally, socially, or physically to have and raise children? How many family members, churches, communities, and news outlets are guilty of preaching the benefits of having children without providing the fair and balanced reporting of all the challenges and drawbacks?

People assume that everyone can and should have children without thinking of the consequences of those assumptions. How is giving up a child, or teenager, you cannot support any more socially and ethically irresponsible then suppressing the reality that raising children is not all fun and games? Rarely do people assess a person or couple and formulate the opinion that they should not have children. On the contrary society perpetuates the belief that all people should become parents. As any childfree person can attest to there is a huge amount of pressure from friends, family, strangers, and the media to conform to social norms and have children regardless of capacity to care for and raise those children. Parents who utilized the Nebraska Safe Haven law could have conceivably been on the receiving end of “bingoes,” insults heard by the childfree, before creating these children they ultimately couldn’t handle. Is someone guilty of convincing them to go against their instinct with arguments like “it’s different when they are your own,” “it just comes naturally,” or “everyone has kids, it’s just what you do.” Even more common, did they just not even stop and consider that having children might not be right for them?

The children surrendered to Nebraska authorities serve as reminders that there are some people that parenting does not come naturally to, that sometimes it isn’t “different when they are your own,” and some people are not fulfilled by their children. People have the right to understand all that raising children entails; go in with open eyes or don’t go in at all. It is socially irresponsible to pretend that parenting is easy, to canonize families who have more children then they can raise or afford, or to promote the myth of the perfect family. Not every child is born “perfect,” not everyone women is healthy enough to bear children, and not every person has the support network necessary to raise a healthy and happy child. Am I advocating policies that allow parents to “throw in the towel” when the going gets tough? No, I am advocating we all take responsibility in promoting a country where people fully understand the pros and cons of having children and have the ability and support to choose the path most appropriate for them. It is not the responsibility of the state, the country, or the taxpayer to take care of people’s children, but it is the responsibility of each of us to openly and honestly discuss parental responsibilities for people who are not yet parents and support those who choose a childfree life.