Sunday, May 28, 2017

I'm Menopausal, and This is My Friend, Obese

I like WebMD - usually. I write a health and wellness newsletter, and its upbeat, prevention-focused newsletters perk me up when I hit my morning email, even though they arrive by the bedpan-full. 


Menopausal and Obese, copyright, Teece Aronin. 
The articles are informative and life-affirming, like how to get fit playing with your dog; how to compare Paleo, Mediterranean, and DASH; how to cook with spices; how eating your main course off a salad plate makes you feel full faster. 

WebMD also addresses mental health topics with a balance of optimism and realism, and its photographs are vivid, colorful and otherwise eye-catching. 

But WebMD lost its Wellness Motivator of the Year Award when I came across this recent headline in its newsletter:

Exercises that Address Menopausal Weight Gain: About 30% of Women Ages 50-59 Are Obese. Learn How to Keep from Joining Them . . .

Really now. 

I've already established that I'm an avid WebMD reader. What I haven't mentioned is that I fit the demographic of "women ages 50-59," am menopausal, and, while I strive for a sort of va-va-voom quality, I am obese - at least temporarily. 

And true to the demographics, at least 30% of my gal-pals are too. Shouldn't WebMD presume that women like me are readers of its newsletter? I'm thinking it would have been better, dare I say nicer, to say something like this:

Exercises that Control Menopausal Weight Gain

And then just shut up. 

The WebMD  newsletter could have dropped a few pounds just by cutting that subtitle and that would have set a good example for what it seems to consider the 50-plus fatties. 

While its prevention-oriented articles are great in a lot of cases, WebMD is not Prevention magazine; Prevention magazine is Prevention magazine and can get away with that kind of article with a lot more justification, based on the name of the publication. Still, the subtitle is atrocious, and I would hope Prevention would have come up with something else, just as I think WebMD would have - ordinarily. 

Maybe if I write a letter to WebMD, they'll be impressed enough by my keen editorial eye to hire me. Then their articles would kick off more like this:

About 30% of Women Ages 50-59 Are Obese. If this Sounds Like You, Here Are Exercises that Can Help . . .

WebMD . . . shape up!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Everything You Need to Know about OCD and Scrabble

One evening, years ago, my friend Lucy's phone rang, and the name showing in the phone's little window was "Ma."     
Photo: Teece Aronin
"Hello?" 

When Lucy answered the phone, she heard distant conversation and could tell that people were playing cards - three-handed gin. Lucy knew the voices well; they belonged to her mother, Darlene, her aunt, Zelda, and her sister, Jo-Jo. 

Her mother's bag had apparently butt-dialed Lucy. Assuming that were true, the women were probably at Jo-Jo's or Aunt Zelda's. If they were at Jo-Jo's, they were gathered around Jo-Jo's glass-top wrought iron dining table, always splattered with wet rings because Jo-Jo didn't know what a coaster was. 

If they were at Aunt Zelda's, they were sitting at the 1940's era enamel kitchen table that had been Lucy's grandmother's. The table had caused a huge fight between Darlene and Zelda when Darlene accused Zelda of practically snatching it out from under the bowl of oatmeal that was on it when their mother fell during breakfast and never got up. Darlene had said the oatmeal wasn't even cold yet.     

"Hello?"

More ghostly chatter.  

"Hel-lo!"

Lucy yelled only a few more times before the conversation sucked her into its weird spell. 

Darlene: Her therapist told her it was free-floating anx-XI-ety. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Imagine having your anxiety hovering around over your head all the time - like a big, black cloud.

Aunt Zelda: For God's sake, Darlene; that's not what it means. It just means that you're anxious for no real reason. Your adrenaline cells have their foot on the gas pedal and the pedal's jammed. Don't you ever watch Dr. Phil?

Darlene: No, Zelda, I don't. I didn't have the good fortune of marrying a barber and therefore I have to work during the day.

Aunt Zelda: Jackie is a much in demand hair stylist, and besides, there's always TiVo. 

Aunt Zelda had a way of sounding sage, droning, and boasting at the same time. 

Jo-Jo (referring to her husband): I think Charlie has anxiety. I don't know if it's free-floating or on the ground, but he definitely seems anxious. Sometimes it drives me up the wall. He has issues up the win-wang."

Darlene: Don't you mean yin-yang?

Jo-Jo: Win-wang, yin-yang, where ever they are, they're there.

Darlene: You know, there's all kinds of anxiety. There's the free-floating kind, and there's panic attacks, and there's ODC . . .

Aunt Zelda: Good God, Darlene; it's not ODC, it's OCD - obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can make you do things and think things you don't want to. The obsessive part is thoughts you can't stop thinking and the compulsive part is things you can't stop doing. Some people have one or the other and some have both. I read about it in WebMD.

Jo-Jo: I think I have OCD. I can't stop thinking I want to divorce Charlie, and I can't stop myself from screaming at him.

Aunt Zelda: I knew a girl in high school who when she got her driver's license, she found she had a compulsion for driving into potholes. I mean no one knew she had OCD. But she just couldn't stop herself whenever there was a pothole coming. She'd even veer into them. I always emptied my bladder ahead of time if she was going to be driving.

Darlene: I might've known her. Who was she?

Aunt Zelda: I'm not telling, but she's a therapist now, which just goes to show you can conquer your demons. 

Darlene: Come on, Zelda; what's her name?

Aunt Zelda: I said I'm not telling.

Darlene: Oh, screw you, Zelda.

Jo-Jo: You know, I hate it when the two of you talk to each other this way.

Aunt Zelda: Shut the fuck up, Jo-Jo.

Jo-Jo: Goddammit, Aunt Zelda. I hate it when you swear.

Aunt Zelda: Oh, I'm sorry. Jo-Jo, shut the frig up. How's that?

Jo-Jo: Better.

Aunt Zelda: Gin!

Darlene: Zelda, you asshole!

Jo-Jo: Ma! What did I just say?

Darlene: "You said that
 to your aunt."

Jo-Jo: I think next time we should play Scrabble.

Aunt Zelda: I once played Scrabble with a man who was a master at the game. When he played the word BEARS for 72 points, I said that's amazing! And you know what he said? He said: "It's not the bears, it's where you put the bears."

Darlene: You know, that applies to a lot of things in life.

Aunt Zelda: That it does, little sis; that it does.












Sunday, April 30, 2017

Whine, Wine, Paint, and Tulips

I'm going to one of those wine and paint parties with my friend, Penny. Penny's the one who was on hold waiting to straighten out an overage on a bill and decided to make breakfast while she waited. Then she got sidetracked by her dog who, like a lot of us, she talks to as if it were a person. When she realized she'd just left the billing people a voice mail saying, in a sultry voice, "Does Mama smell like bacon? Y  E  S, MAma smells like BAcon," she hung up.


Graphic by Teece Aronin

More recently, Penny fell asleep with her phone open to Amazon.com. Three days later, a corn hole game arrived, a large, expensive corn hole game. Penny's two boys were thrilled that their mother had bought them such a cool gift when it wasn't either of their birthdays so Penny didn't have the heart to return it. 

The latest on Penny and her amazing shopping phone is that she fell asleep cruising Groupon and rolled over on her phone enough times to buy "multiple" (she won't specify the exact number) "multiple" Groupon packages for a "wine and paint night with friends." 

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, these are evenings spent making your own painting based on an already existing work by a "real" artist. You do this with other people, usually in local bars or sometimes, shockingly, at art studios. And you do it while drinking.  

Penny called me yesterday after we'd just seen each other at our neighbor, LouAnn's salad-in-a-jar event, and we tried to figure out which of the paint nights she bought worked for both our schedules. But here's the thing: It's not just finding a night that works, it's finding a night where you like the painting you'll be copying. None of the dates that almost, sort of, kind of worked for both of us would leave us with paintings either of us would want to hang once we got home. Then Penny said they did have a really cute painting of tulips.

"Oh, I love tulips," I sighed.

"Yeah, me too, but it's scheduled for a night after all my Groupons expire. I'll find out who to call, and maybe they'll let us switch."

So Penny and I are hoping they'll let us come in, drink, and paint but only if it's tulips. This has me wondering what kind of paintings people come up with when they've been drinking. Never have I seen a posting on Face Book from someone raving, "Check out the painting I did at last night's wine and paint night! And get this: a gallery wants to show more of my work! Heather Witherspeer, we are definitely doing this again!"

I'm thinking I'll order a white wine so that if I'm tipsy and accidentally rinse my paintbrush in it, I'll know right away. 



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Memory Like an Elephant

Some of us are prone to losing things. In my case, the things tend to be my phone, my keys, my car, my credit card. I don't know if what they say about elephants having great memories is true, but if it is, I want a memory like an elephant. 

"Trunkey" from the Detroit Zoo could be inserted into "talking 
storybooks" that would then tell you about the animals. Maybe
it's because elephants never forget, but Trunkey has managed
to keep tabs on me since I very small. Graphic: Teece Aronin.
I once wrote an entire blog post about losing my keys. My favorite part of writing that essay was recounting what actually came out of my mouth one of those times I was searching for them. I was going out for the evening with my old boyfriend, Prickly Pete when I realized my keys were missing. Frantically I dispatched the kids, whose complete buy-in to the cause was gained by shutting off the TV. As I opened and shut drawers, cupboards, closets and jewelry boxes, Prickly stood there, perplexed.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “Why don’t you just keep them in your purse?”

“What, are you nuts?” I hissed, “Then I’d never be able to find them!”

You know you’re getting desperate for material when you start quoting your own blog posts, especially the ones that make you look like a ridiculous screw-up.  

But I make a good point (twice): Losing things, even things that should be perfectly easy to track, happens; it happens to all of us - especially when we’re distracted or under stress.

There aren’t many stressors worse than divorce, and years ago, while in the middle of one, I lost a cell phone inside my car. It would ring out from some dark, unreachable, invisible recess, and not even my kids, elfin enough to be jammed between the seats, could see it, much less recover it.

Then there are the things you’d think are too big to misplace, for instance, the car you lose your cell phone in.

One day, gal-pal, Tina and I went shopping. Carrying our bags to the car, we realized that we had no idea where we’d parked because we weren't paying attention. As we made our way up and down aisle after aisle, row after row, I noticed we were being followed by a car. Every time we turned up another row of cars, he followed us. If we slowed down, he slowed down. When I stopped to tie my shoe, he stopped too. 

“Don’t look now,” I muttered from the side of my mouth, “but I think that car is following us.”

“You’re kidding!” Tina gasped.

“No, I’m not kidding. Just play it cool and don’t get close to it.”

The car pulled up even closer, and the passenger side window went down. Tina and I froze. A middle-aged man leaned toward us, and we held our breath.

“Excuse me, ladies. I was hoping to get your parking space, but you have no idea where your car is, do you?”

“No, sorry,” we confessed, and he drove away. The smart thing for him to do would have been to drive us around the parking lot until we found my car, and then take the space. Men just don't think sometimes. 

The other day, I lost a credit card – in the middle of the Lansing Convention Center. I was there for a conference with my boss and some coworkers. At the end of the day, hundreds of attendees were reconvened in the main ballroom. One of the event organizers stood at the podium, his image simulcast onto two huge screens on either side of the room.

“We have a lost credit card,” he announced. “Is there a Patricia Aronin in the room?”

“Oh, my word!” I yelped, jumping to my feet. “That’s me!” 

I started toward the front of the auditorium and several people shouted, “No! Behind you!” I turned around to see a woman walking toward me, reaching out to hand me back my card.

I sat down in the nearest empty seat, and heard a soft ping inside my purse. It was a text from my boss:

“Really?!?”

“I'm glad that tattoo artist was honest,” I texted back.

“Must notoriety follow you all of your days?” he asked.

Oh, I hope so.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Mercurochrome and the Mothers of Spring

All hail the Mothers of Spring! They are that fast, fierce, elite team of first responders always on the scene when their kids bash themselves up. The Mothers of Spring aren't real in the sense that they are a formally organized group; I more or less made that up. But they're very real in every other way, especially to any child who ever cried out for his while sorely in need of something akin to an Army medic.
Graphic by Teece Aronin

The Mothers of Spring are so called due to their ability to spring into action at a moment's notice, and also because, where I'm from, they're at their best during the spring season. You see, in my neck of the woods - the United States Midwest - Mothers of Spring shine brightest on the glorious days of April when it's warm in the sun and chilly in the shade, when children and their toes, get so carried away by the beauty of it all, and too dazzled by the light to look where they're going, and collide with something hard, like a section of buckled sidewalk. The Mothers of Spring deftly bandage up their wounded warriors, first applying enough antiseptic to sterilize Lenny Bruce's toothbrush. And yes, Bruce did kiss his mother with that mouth.

Down through the annals of time the Mothers of Spring dabbed every boo-boo deemed in their unchallengeable judgment as appropriate for it, with Mercurochrome. Mercurochrome was a reddish-orange colored tincture that once dried, became the reddish-orange skin stains kids wore as badges of honor. The cooler or more scrappy the kid, the more Mercurochrome stains he or she sported, or, conversely, the klutzier the kid was perceived as being. Baby Boomers know what I'm talking about. 

As it turned out, the Federal Drug Administration did prove capable of challenging the authority of the Mothers of Spring, Mercurachrome Division. In 1998, the FDA found that Mercurochrome was "not generally recognized as safe and effective." It wasn't flat-out banned, but it did get a whole lot harder to find. The comely flower-wreathed heads of the Mothers of Spring, especially those who were also Traditionalists or Baby Boomers, snapped up as one at this news, and many of the mommies yelled, "What the f*€#?"

It turns out that Mercurachrome didn't get that first syllable, "merc," from nowhere. It got it because Mercurochrome contains mercury, an ingredient no self-respecting fish would get caught dead with. While Mercurochrome didn't seem particularly hazardous when used as directed, it probably wasn't doing kids a whole lot of good. 

In an episode of I Hate Chris, the sitcom based on the childhood recollections of comedian Chris Rock, someone yells, "Chris got hit by a car!" and Chris' mother shouts, "I'll get the Robitussin!"

Robitussin is another must-have in the medicine cabinet of every good Mother of Spring.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sprung

This is the weekend everyone in my neck of the world springs ahead, meaning we turn our clocks ahead one hour to usher in Daylight Saving Time.
Daylight Saving Time,
copyright, Teece Aronin.

So many things about this ritual confuse me, starting with the name; is it Daylight Savings or Daylight Saving? I've thought about this quite a bit. For years I thought it was Savings, but often see it indicated as Saving. Why this distinction bothers me I have no idea. If I dedicated as much thought to other aspects of time, I could discuss Einstein's theories more impressively at cocktail parties and maybe even get places when I'm supposed to - the latter being the bigger achievement despite not having a science-minded bone in my body and never getting invited to cocktail parties.

I'm also confused by whether I'm really saving anything valuable since I've just lost an hour of sleep and will be exhausted all week. Every winter I get all psyched up in anticipation of Daylight Saving(s?) Time only to get there and find myself haunting my house like a doped-up ghost until my circadian clock catches up. 

And what exactly happens anyway? How did I just gain an hour of daylight and lose an hour of sleep? I mean I get it - sort of - but it still seems counter-intuitive - or counter-clockwise - or counter-something. 

Then of course, the first day of spring arrives at roughly the same time we spring ahead. This is an event I've overblown in importance for years. Ever since I learned that spring commences at a specific time of day, say 12:57 p.m., I've gotten all excited about it every year and find myself staring at the clock or my watch a few minutes ahead so that I'll be aware the very moment it begins, kind of like New Year's Eve without a lot of hoopla. 

Years ago on the first day of spring I was babysitting for a four-year-old. I told him that spring would arrive later that day and that we could go outside a minute before and do a 60-second countdown to welcome in the new season. I was careful to explain that we wouldn't actually see spring arrive, but still, it would be coming at the same time we were outside counting. We walked out of the house, and the conversation went like this: 

Me: Okay, here we are, out on the front porch. Spring will be here in exactly one minute. Are you ready to do the countdown with me?

Jamie: Yup!

Me: Okay, repeat after me: Sixty!

Jamie: Sixty!

Me: Fifty-nine!

Jamie: Fifty-nine!

Me: Fifty-eight!

Jamie: Fifty-eight!

Down and down we counted until . . .

Me: Three!

Jamie: Three!

Me: Two!

Jamie: Two!

Me: One!

Jamie: One!

Me: Happy Spring!

Jamie: Happy Spring! . . . Now what?

Me: Now what what?

Jamie: Now what happens?

Me: Well, nothing happens.

Jamie: But where's the spring?

Me: It's here, right here, all around us.

Jamie: But nothing happened.

Me: Well, we didn't see anything happen. But something did happen.

Jamie: What?

Me: Spring.

Jamie: Where?

Me: Here. Everywhere. All around us.

Jamie: Oh, man, dat was a bummer. I goin' back in da house. 

So here we are again, having just gained light and lost sleep. It's too confusing for me to ever fully grasp, so this will be the year I just roll with it. By the way, I looked it up, and according to the website, TimeAndDate.com, it's Daylight Saving Time.

So now, I've lost an hour's sleep, and I've also lost my S. On the bright side, I have an extra hour of daylight with which to go find them. 






Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sammy Davis, Jr. Went Swimming with My Mother (No He Didn't)

It was a mistake any white four-year-old could make - in 1962.
Graphic, copyright Teece Aronin

When I was four, my mother told me a story about a civil rights activist she admired. He was a contemporary of Dr. Martin Luther King and his name was James Farmer. Knowing what I know about him now, he was one of the bravest people who ever lived because he was one of the volunteers who rode buses throughout the South testing how successfully and safely blacks could enjoy their newly established equal legal status. 

This was a time when Jim Crow, separate but equal laws were still in force in a de facto way, meaning that forcing blacks to the back of the bus was supposed to be illegal but was still a stubbornly lingering practice. What Farmer did was extremely dangerous and blacks were frequently beaten and lynched for this kind of "brazen" behavior. 

When my mother was a girl, Farmer visited the church camp she was attending, spoke with the children, and swam with them in the lake. I was impressed by this and bragged to my Sunday school class that my mother had gone swimming with Sammy Davis, Jr. I loved Sammy Davis, Jr. I also lived in an all-white neighborhood since neighborhoods, even in the North where I was from, still tended to be segregated. The black men in my life were either Sammy Davis, Jr. or Nat King Cole. I loved him, too.

When my Sunday school teacher fawned over my mother, telling her what I'd shared with the class and swooning over how thrilling it must have been to go swimming with Sammy Davis, Junior, my mother, who never swore - even in her mind - had a WTH moment. Immediately she whisked me aside and abruptly demanded to know what that was all about.

Once I'd explained, and she saw how guileless I was about it, she laughed.

Then she had to explain things to my Sunday school teacher who probably thought James Farmer was a singer too.

But my Sunday school teacher wouldn't have had my excuse.