24 February 2005

12. Migraines

Dear Migraines,

I'm sorry I tried to ignore one of you for too long this past weekend. Really, really sorry. At first I thought it was just caffeine withdrawal, but then I'll admit I was stupid and thought I could be strong and keep hanging out with all the friends I hadn't seen in far too long despite the dizziness and pulsing pain, and then I tried to take ibuprofen but by that point it was far too late. So then I finally found myself a quiet, dark place to lie down and sleep, but unfortunately just as that seemed to be working out I woke up and my whole body gave me the "Aw, hell no."

As I told some friends the next day, after I'd more or less recovered, I didn't know I was a migraine puker. As voyages of self-discovery go, that one more or less completely sucked. I can joke about it now that it's been a few days, but I'm also still wondering if maybe I should see a doctor, even if as far as I can tell medical science is almost as baffled by you as I am, only in ways that involve more thinking and less excruciating pain. Dang.

But back to you. Again, I'm really sorry about last Saturday. I'll try not to be so neglectful in the future. But uh, if you could try to happen at less inconvenient times, that would be okay too. Really.

Love,
-Tracy

22 February 2005

11. Hunter S. Thompson

Dear Hunter S. Thompson,

I lack your eloquence with insults, or I'd be calling your dead self some pretty ugly names right about now, or would have this morning when I first read the news of your apparent suicide. As much as I'd like to believe that you faked your own death to laugh at us all like we so richly deserve, I'm more inclined to think that the bad joke that is life finally caught up with you in the form of some awful incurable debilitating disease and you decided not to give our stupid sick sad world the satisfaction of watching you die slowly, in which case good on yer, if only because I can't stand the thought that you lost the spite and malice that rocket-fueled your larger than life adventures (and this is the part where I tell myself that I just cynically and intentionally wrote all those clich├ęs on the off chance that you're in hiding and this makes it onto the list of obituaries you laugh at, really, it's not that I want you to send me letter-bombs with no return address perhaps from beyond the grave and it certainly isn't because I resort to triteness in response to sentimentality on my own part). I don't know whether to be inspired or scared by the thought of finding hope in hate, but there you have it. And now I'm worried that the next time I read a Transmetropolitan comic, I'll cry. Hell, even a good Doonesbury Duke strip might do it. Dammit.

It's too late to say this, and it's not like we knew each other anyway, but goodbye.

Love,
-Tracy

16 February 2005

10. Wedding Invitations

Dear Wedding Invitations,

You stress me out so hard. I mean, it's bad enough when you're an invitation to a wedding that I clearly don't want to go to, because it's hyper-formal, tons of nested envelopes requesting the pleasure of a reply, return address is someone's parents and not the couple (I don't care if it's proper etiquette, it's archaic and downright creepy to pretend like the people getting married aren't consenting adults capable of announcing their own commitment celebration, and if the party's so huge they need their parents to help foot the bill, that's another sign that I don't want to play). Some of you have obvious scary church stuff warning me to stay away; I don't need to go to any more weddings where the bride promises to obey her husband and be his appendage instead of her own person, and God blesses it six ways from Tuesday. Invitations like those are bad in their own way, but at least they're fairly easy to deal with, because I can just be snarky about them and be happy I don't have to go.

On bad days, I think all wedding invitations should say something like:
In case you don't get enough daily reminders of heterosexual privilege, here's a big huge party to celebrate just that! If you're extra-lucky, it'll be super-formal AND in a church, for all the bonus alienation points! And maybe if you're a girl you'll be invited to buy a big ugly dress that's no good for any other occasion, just so you can be part of the scenery! 
Come, pretend like this archaic ceremony and adjustment of legal status also changes something about this couple's relationship to each other, even if they've clearly already made these promises and commitments in private! They're having a party so you can witness their vows, but do they celebrate the fact that you're participating or do they pretend that it's just between them and maybe their God? The only way to find out is to come to the party, grin and bear it, and suffer through heterosexual supremacy hell!
I suppose, wedding invitations, you could say that on bad days, I don't much like you at all.

But then some of you are the occasional good wedding invitations, coming from dear close friends whose love I truly want to celebrate, invitations that aren't hyper-formal or churchy or addressed from anyone's parents and maybe even straight-out answer the questions I'm not allowed to ask, like "Why are you getting married when you already love each other and live together and everyone who knows and loves you is happy about it? Is there a legal need? Couldn't you just have a party and a preacher person if that's your thing? Do you really have to deal with the law? Couldn't you at least put it off until the law's a little less sad and messed up?" Good wedding invitations are the ones that really hurt. Because despite all of my discomfort and disgruntlement with weddings, which in turn make me twitchy because they all too often reflect the most glaring and horrific flaws in the institution of marriage, at the end of the day I still have the best friends in the world and if anyone can change both marriage and weddings for the better, it's them. I don't have the strength or the stubbornness to subscribe to a system I hate and change it from within, but I can wish my friends the very best in doing just that, just like I wish them the very best in everything else they do. And so the good wedding invitations break my heart even more than the bad ones make me sick to my stomach, because I want to raise my glass in salute to all the happy couples that I love, but I wish it were easier to do so in a way that makes it clear I'm drinking to them and only them, and not to any church or state that blesses their couplehood while refusing to recognize other committed relationships.

And so my stomach churns and my blood pressure rises every time I read one of you, wedding invitations. I've only just started to recognize these feelings as the fight or flight response, and the more I care about the people involved, the worse it is. And sometimes it's just alienation at the reminder that I'm completely from-another-planet out of touch with what feels like most people's opinions about weddings and marriage, but sometimes it's an all-out battle between the parts of me that rejoice and thrive at seeing friends and especially friends who love each other awesomely, versus the parts of me that die inside when I bite my tongue through the part of the ceremony that asks if it's right for the couple to wed, the part that makes me want to get up and beg "Just don't sign the papers! You can be partnered without reinforcing the hateful, wrong laws!" But I digress.

Sigh.

I think these thoughts and feel these feelings every time I encounter one of you, wedding invitations, but there's almost no one I can tell about them, and there's almost invariably somebody who's going to take it really personally whenever I mention this stuff in the wrong place or at the wrong time. If I'm lucky, it's just the people who most recently sent me an invitation, which makes me wish I could be writing this letter in like 1984, before anyone I knew was getting married. And so I'm writing this letter, addressing you instead of the people who send you, because I am a giant coward, and you couldn't read this even if I found a way to send it.

Love,
-Tracy

Started 18 January 2005, posted 16 February 2005, last updated 16 May 2005.


This letter is dedicated to Mark and Sara Betnel, because on very rare and lucky occasions sometimes I don't have to be a coward. "What more can you share than your whole self, your whole life, all the nights and all the days?" (Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed.)

09 February 2005

9. Toothpaste

Dear tube of toothpaste from my bathroom counter,

I think my partner has had you since we were in college, perhaps even since before we were living together, but I'll get back to that later. You're Crest Fresh Mint Gel, and you're an insipidly sweet artificial flavor that tastes sort of pastel green, rather than your actual color, a truly terrifying shade of translucent blue, which in turn renders my teeth blue on the rare occasions when I brush with you.
Tonight was one such occasion, because I'm out of my regular kind of toothpaste, which is actually not a toothpaste but a weird liquid gel that's apparently only for sale in Europe, but which my mom likes and so occasionally gives to me, but whatever. I'm out, and I have a dentist appointment this Thursday, so I've been brushing and flossing (my first attempt at typing that turned up "blossing") with far more regularity than I can usually muster in an effort to demonstrate a semblance of dental hygiene. It's been years since my last dental checkup and professional cleaning, and I'm a little freaked out, but I know I should stop putting it off while I still have teeth left to save. Anyway, I was out of toothpaste, and so I used you.

You're much grittier than my usual toothpaste, and pastier. Then again, as I've mentioned before, my partner's had you a long time. How long is that? Well, I suppose only you know for sure, but while I was standing around with my mouth full of minty foam anyway, I checked your labeling for clues, and found your expiration date.

December 2002.

Even I give in. After I finish this letter, I'm adding toothpaste to my grocery list. Wow.

Love,
-Tracy

01 February 2005

8. Stress

Dear stress,

I know I ignore you a lot. It's my coping mechanism or whatever, and it's gotten me through many a tight spot, which would be a good thing if I dealt with you afterwards, but mostly I don't. Which is bad. For one thing, your effects, combined with those of boredom, often leave me crushingly depressed, which is probably a topic for another letter. Lately, however, I've been becoming more aware of the fact that when I tune you out with my mind, my body takes a beating.

Headaches, sometimes even migraines, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, and most recently a return to menstrual irregularities the likes of which I hadn't seen in a few months, since before I switched birth control hormones. I just finished a notebook, which meant rereading it, which in turn meant revisiting all my health complaints of the past four and a half months. And with the exception of a particularly wretched bout of stomach flu, just about all the health problems I complained about coincided neatly with the times I had the most to complain about stress wise.

Usually work was the culprit. But whatever. I mostly don't have to work with the guy who it turns out literally makes me sick anymore, and I've started a new job that's much more mellow and self-directed, with coworkers who are at once friendlier and less immediately involved with what I'm doing. Somehow it's easier when I'm responsible for everything, which I guess makes me a control freak. No big surprises there.

But meanwhile, stress, you haven't been getting as much attention as you deserve. It'd be one thing if I wasn't paying attention because you weren't around, but you're definitely out in force, and I'm probably building you up in my mind even as I pretend you're not there. And it's not like you can advise me on how to deal with you better, though that sure would be great if you could (while I'm dreaming, I want a pony). My head-in-the-sand habits might make more sense if you were always a bad thing, but you're not, and while I'm acknowledging that, thanks for all the fight-or-flight endorphins. They've come in handy from time to time, even if I suspect they've got something to do with why my body hates me so much sometimes. You're really not to blame here; my response to you is. So I'm going to have to learn to recognize you instead of ignoring you, and deal with you in a more responsible way than pretending you're not there and getting sick later.

Exercise might help. It's good for all kinds of things, and there's far worse ways to burn off those fight-or-flight hormones I thanked you for earlier. I'm thinking of taking a yoga class, maybe even learning to meditate. Writing letters like this one, letters I can't send but need to address, seems to be good for my heart and my head, which I hope will translate into fewer headaches and less physical trouble on the whole.

Can we work together, stress? I hope so. Because making myself mentally and sick for lack of a better way to cope with you is pretty miserable.

Love,
-Tracy

Started 28 January 2005; last updated 1 February 2005