Hormonal Rage

Just to recap: I’m from Los Angeles, but I’m currently in the UK, two years into a very fish-out-of-water experience. Being an expat is no joke. I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost everything is different in England than it is in California, where in my homesick memory, even in the traffic is more tolerable.

I’m in England because I’m working on a PhD about childbirth intervention. Somehow, I managed to convince an academic department to fund my project, and now I actually have to DO this massive thing.

Finally, I’ve just had my first baby.

So: 5,000 miles from family + PhD student + new mom. I have no local family support, I’m working on a doctorate, I haven’t slept more than 4 consecutive hours in 7.5 months, I carry/cradle/pick up/put down/walk/dance/bounce my son all day long, I am still exclusively breastfeeding, I am ten pounds lighter than I was when I got divorced and stopped eating for three months, and until two days ago, when I passed my UK driving test, I couldn’t drive here and was walking/taking the train/catching buses with a child strapped to my body whenever I had to go anywhere. So, I’m fucking exhausted and sometimes I can’t think straight or make decisions or get through a driving lesson without coming home and losing my shit because everything is just DEMANDS CONSTANTLY.

Thus, I find it really offensive and dismissive when people tell new moms that it’s okay to feel upset because our “hormones are still settling.” As if not loving every second of our insane new lives could only be because us ladies are forever at the mercy of our hormones. We accept that a person who hasn’t slept well overnight or has a cold might be negatively impacted, but we feel the need to excuse mothers who feel bad. Don’t worry, Mom. You’re just hormonal. I understand that some women really do suffer from hormonal imbalances post-pregnancy, and I don’t at all mean to disparage them. However, patting a new mom on the the head and telling her that all her fears and anxieties and complete exhaustion are just by-products of her hormones does two things:

  1. Ignores that having a baby explodes a woman’s life
  2. Dismisses the very real and very visceral physical and emotional trauma of that explosion

I feel crazy sometimes because I’m sleep deprived and physically drained and walking around with eighteen pounds of squirming, grabbing baby attached to my skeletal frame all day long. I snap at my husband because as much as he loves us, he doesn’t understand what this is like for me. I am uncomfortable with the way I look because I look really different. I get angry or weepy or temporarily mean because I am tasked with something damn near impossible and I am just one human being and I am tired.

Being overwhelmed by a new baby is normal, because a new baby is overwhelming, not because women just can’t hang. I pushed a person out of my body and am now responsible for taking care of him. I think I’m entitled to have some real feelings about it.

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38 Weeks!

I am 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant today, which is just absolutely madness. A friend’s sister, who was due one week before me, had her baby a few nights ago, and even though I am very pregnant and living in a house full of baby things, it still boggles my mind that there could be a baby here at any moment.

For anyone even remotely interested, here’s the third trimester belly progress:
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(In addition to being photos of some random internet stranger’s belly, which are by nature not interesting, I know these pictures are boring because I’m wearing the same thing in all of them. However, that was intentional, because I figured it would be easier to track changes this way. So, sorry, everyone.)

To look at me, it would appear that not much has happened in the last week or so. However, I feel like I am suddenly enormous. That pelvic pain I bragged about not yet experiencing in my previous post is here in full force, making my lower back and inner thighs feel like I’ve spent several days riding a galloping horse. I always thinking about food, but too full to eat anything. I am also totally exhausted. I haven’t officially started maternity leave from my PhD program, because I figure I might as well wait until the baby is born, considering I can very easily do my work from home, but my brain is basically already on a time out. It took me two full days to write an embarrassingly short project proposal, even though I able to crib most of the material from other things I’d already written. Luckily, I’d managed to get a lot done before I became useless because useless I most certainly am.

My PhD project, when it eventually starts really happening and isn’t just a bunch of stuff I tell people I will be doing someday, will focus on childbirth intervention, so I’ve spent many, many months researching maternal health care and childbirth and all its various outcomes. What I’ve found, for the most part, is that as wonderful as modern medicine has been to women giving birth (like, say, in its insistence that people wash their hands before attending laboring mothers), in many ways, processes that might be better left to proceed on their own are often too actively managed. (As an example, there’s the “cascade of interventions,” which is labor induction -> electronic fetal monitoring to watch the effects of medically induced contractions -> mothers laying on their backs in bed -> more intense pain -> epidurals -> the slowing of labor -> fetal distress and/or failure to progress -> caesarean section.) I had a lot of big feelings about this overmedicalization of childbirth when I drafted my PhD proposal, long before I found myself pregnant. Doctors are too pushy, medicine is too incentivized, nature has been abandoned in an effort to keep schedules or avoid lawsuits. And I still think those things. (To be fair, this isn’t just some earth-mother hippie crap being howled at the moon. Statistically speaking, the cascade of intervention is very, very real.)

However, what has been really interesting about doing this research while facing my own childbirth experience is discovering that as a pregnant woman, I will do anything to ensure my baby is healthy. I can intellectualize the medicalization of nature as a product of hospital care as much as I want, but I’ve learned that if a professional with an ultrasound wand tells me something might be wrong, I will drive home in hysterics and spend the next three hours on Google, working myself into a panic and vowing to consent to anything to make it better.

Those aren’t two opposing thoughts – in fact, in most of the theory I’ve read, that’s how medicalization works. Doctors and hospitals apply techniques to make childbirth more efficient/more scheduled/ostensibly “safer,” and mothers trust their care providers and consent to them.

It’s just been very eye-opening to experience it myself.

For the first 32 weeks of the pregnancy, I saw the same midwife practicing out of a medical practice near my house. At each of my relatively rare and low-key visits, she would test my urine, take my blood pressure, and then do a fundal height measurement using a tape measure. For the uninitiated, the fundal height is the distance from the top of a pregnant woman’s uterus to her pubic bone. This measurement in centimeters should, conveniently, mirror the number of weeks pregnant a woman is – a woman who is 26 weeks pregnant should measure on (or around) 26 cm. At all of my appointments, I was measuring spot on. At 24 weeks, I was 24 cm. At 28 weeks, I was 27.75 cm. At 31 weeks, I was 31 cm.

And then I moved to another city and had to transfer to another midwife. In the five days between my last appointment with my previous midwife and my first appointment with my new one, the baby turned from head-down to transverse, meaning he was now laying horizontally across my belly as opposed to vertically along it.

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I went from the long belly on the left to the short, stubby belly on the right. I didn’t think much of it, until the new midwife whipped out her tape measure and measured my nearly-32-week-belly at 27 cm. She immediately made me an appointment for a growth ultrasound, because measuring five weeks behind (even by super high-tech tape measure) could be a sign of a growth-restricted baby without enough amniotic fluid.

Now, as a person who knows too much about pregnancy and childbirth due to having had my super dweeb face in journal articles and books for nearly a year, I completely flipped out. In addition to taking me out of a midwife’s low-risk care and placing me into higher-risk “consultant” (doctor) care, this new potential amniotic fluid issue put me at risk of being harangued into an induction, as fears about a baby’s size and amniotic fluid levels are one of the most common reasons labors are induced. Cue the crying in the car on the way home, the drinking of tons of liters of water a day in an attempt to up my fluid levels, and the crawling around on my hands and knees to try to turn the baby.

A week and a half later, when I had the growth scan, the baby was head down again and measured in the 60th percentile for growth, which was lovely. However, the total amount of amniotic fluid measured via ultrasound was 8.2cm, which was still cause for alarm, as the “normal” range is about 8-18cm. I was hovering right at the low range of normal. My new hospital consultant wrote “low AF at 5% at USS” (low amniotic fluid at the 5th percentile at ultrasound) under a giant “ALERT! Please indicate risk:” label on the inside of my maternity notes, and told me she wanted me back for another scan in two weeks. That was great.

Two panicky weeks later, at my second growth ultrasound, the amniotic fluid was up to 11.8cm, which was firmly normal. In addition, the baby now measured in the 90th percentile for growth. In fact, the ultrasound tech thought the baby might be growing too big – she took the femoral length measurement four times because she thought she was making mistakes. The baby that was once thought to be too small was now almost off the charts.

Despite the incredible hulking baby, I passed the growth scan with flying colors and am no longer high risk.

I hope it goes without saying that I am, of course, very happy and grateful that everything ended up being fine. It was, however, really bizarre to know that the difference in fundal height measurements between midwives was entirely due to the turning of the baby and the admittedly insanely subjective tape measure method, and still feel totally nuts when I was sent for extra ultrasounds. I thought that there was something horribly wrong with the pregnancy because of a tape measure.

On one hand, it’s nice to know that the people taking care of us are proactive. I have had nothing but wonderful interactions with everyone, and I don’t think any of the extra tests were done to make me nervous or take advantage. However, on the other hand, it was unnerving to find myself ready and willing to submit to any intervention possible (I would have been completely on board with an elective c section, for example, if it meant combating growth restriction, which shocked me, given what I know about pre-term caesareans), when the methods pointing me in those directions should be approached with caution.

The extra growth scans illuminated to me that childbirth interventions are notoriously difficult to manage and are more often than not used based on evidence that is subjective at best. For all the actual problems that are addressed by them, there are hundreds of others that are caused by them. (I lucked out because in my case, the only issues the extra scans caused were emotional.) At the risk of sounding super naive and having to eat these words after I have the baby, my WARNING ALERT SMALL BABY EXTRA SCAN experience has only solidified my desire to try to have as few interventions as possible during the birth.

We’ll see how that goes.

P.S.: I’ve been writing and editing this post for 24 hours and I still feel like it makes no sense. There was a point in here somewhere, guys, but like I said above, MY BRAIN IS ON VACATION AND I JUST CAN’T.

The Wrap, Bill Cosby, & Everyone Is Still The Worst.

About ten thousand years ago, when I was just out of college and struggling to find my niche in LA, I worked a lot of jobs in the backyard offices of wealthy, important people. (Apparently, that is a thing.) One of these people was Sharon Waxman, entertainment journalist, who, at the time, had just published her book Loot, and was starting to conceptualize The Wrap, now a fairly large entertainment site. I was hired on as an assistant, and spent a lot of my time organizing business lunch receipts for expense reports. Sometimes, I think that if I were more enterprising (or less totally terrified of Sharon – or, let’s face it, interested in entertainment journalism AT ALL), I might have been able swing a small job on the fledgling Wrap, which I could have parlayed into a nice writing career in Los Angeles, where I might have one day hired a 21-year-old idiot to shuffle receipt paper around in accordion folders.

Alas, I was not that enterprising or that interested in entertainment journalism (I was an anthropologist!), and I was pretty goddamn terrified of Sharon Waxman, so instead, what happened is that I worked for her in her home office for a few months over a summer and then got another job and started my MA and got married and then hated everything for a long time and then went to Ireland and finished my MA and got divorced and moved to the UK.

To each their own, I suppose.

Anyway, there are still sometimes when I see The Wrap mentioned on other sites and blogs and it reminds of the time when I really could have made it happen. (Real talk: there was no way in hell I was ever going to get hired as a writer for that website. I blew that on my very first day, when I expressed more interest in the subject of Loot, which was about the acquisition of historical art from around the world, than in the process of writing that kind of book.)

Today, however, on Jezebel, my favorite internet rant watering hole, I saw The Wrap mentioned for a reason that made me think less of what a networking failure I am, and more about how terribly gross people can be.

Over the weekend, The Wrap published an op-ed that was originally titled, “The Rape of Bill Cosby.” The first few paragraphs of the op-ed, written by Richard Stellar, are:

Bill Cosby raped me.

Now that I have your attention, consider this: the allegations of sexual misadventure and impropriety that have pummeled the Cos over the last few weeks is not the issue. The issue is the scurrilous environment where media outlets and journalists lie in wait, like aging corpulent prostitutes, their hair dyed flame red and their nails like elongated daggers — waiting to blow any John who dares to topple those who may be kings. It’s once again an example of the TMZ-isation of journalism.

The prized real estate that is the first screen view of news websites, or the much vied for leading news story content on the evening news has been hijacked for reports of the latest Cosby detractor, while issues like Ferguson, IS, immigration reform, and 46 abducted students in Mexico receive a momentary lapse of attention. Our focus shifts when a celebrity falls, and like extras in “Walking Dead,” our direction sharply turns, and our attention shifts to the exposed flesh of the fallen, and we grunt and drool, waiting to feast.

The concept of justice is disregarded. The statute of limitations is ignored. The recollections of events that happened as long as fifty years ago are dredged up by aging actresses who have one eye on the CNN camera, and the other on a book or reality show deal. If the statute of limitations was as long as the 15 minutes of fame that these lost souls are trying to recapture, then our prisons would be as vacant as the Holiday Inn in Acapulco (you probably have no idea what that means because you’re not used to real news). Thankfully, the statute of limitations was written to avoid exactly what this blog is about. There is no legitimacy to justice if there is no real evidence, and evidence has a way of vanishing as memories dim with the marching of time. A DNA swab on most of Cosby’s detractors if done today would most likely come up exceedingly dry.

I’m not saying that what these woman claim happened, didn’t happen. I get it — Cos was the campfire that parents would sit at with their children, and chuckle at his homespun humor and life lessons. When we all retreated back to our tents with our tummys full of S’mores and toasted marshmallows, Cos was back in his tent, banging the camp counselor after doping her with quaaludes. Yes, that could well have happened, and once those women realized the violation that they endured at the hands of Cosby, then they should have reported it then — not a generation later.

This piece has a lot of issues, including but not limited to: opening with “Bill Cosby raped me” only to immediately state that the very serious and very numerous rape allegations are “not the issue”; referring to Bill Cosby as “the Cos,” which makes this sound like it was written by Zack Morris in 1992; being super sensitive to the issue of rape by comparing it to “the Cos…banging the camp counselor after doping her with quaaludes”; and finally, shaming the alleged victims by saying that if they were truly victims worthy of our concern, they wouldn’t have waited to report (which willfully ignores all the myriad reasons rape victims don’t report these crimes, most specifically those reasons relating to power, wealth, and fame).

Taken as a whole, Stellar’s post is a poorly written piece of absolute shit – and as someone who occasionally sits down with my laptop to fire off poorly written pieces of shit that I then post to the internet, I am a veritable expert in this field.

However, all its many, many problems aside, the most entirely disgusting thing about that op-ed is the last line of the fourth paragraph:

A DNA SWAB ON MOST OF COSBY’S DETRACTORS IF DONE TODAY WOULD MOST LIKELY COME UP EXCEEDINGLY DRY.

A DNA SWAB ON MOST OF COSBY’S DETRACTORS IF DONE TODAY WOULD MOST LIKELY COME UP EXCEEDINGLY DRY.

(Repetition and emphasis mine).

Because, you know, the best way to approach your argument condemning the media’s willingness to jump at any grim story, rocketing any old fame hound into celebrity, is to mock the age and dryness of the vaginas of alleged rape victims.

What a totally respectable, really professional piece of work, Richard Stellar. Super impressed.

This is what Sharon Waxman had to say about the ensuing shitstorm associated with the publication of Stellar’s descent into madness:

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I’m all for free speech too, but you can’t write (or edit or host or publish) misogynistic, victim-blaming, total idiocy and dress it up as some fancy, reasoned, thoughtful indictment of the media. As part of his apology tour, Richard Stellar updated his original post, changing the title and adding, “As Sharon Waxman so eloquently defended me — the purpose of the blog was to bring damnation down on the media.”

Hey, guess what, Richard Stellar? If that was the purpose of your post, you are a terrible writer.

If this is the kind of atrocious bullshit that is considered a “legit contrarian view” on The Wrap, I can happily put away my regrets about blowing my big break and content myself with not being associated with this kind of garbage.

 

On Being Pathetic & Growing Up

I missed my ten-year high school reunion this year, because it was held over the summer, precisely one month before I flew home for a two-week vacation (a breakdown of that is coming, I promise). I was a little sad to miss it, because it’s such a milestone, but in today’s world, I can keep up with those I want to talk to and spy on those I don’t want to talk to pretty easily, so the night I missed the reunion, I just ate a bunch of cookies and spent some time on Facebook.

However, the idea of a high school (or college) reunion speaks to me. Long, long ago, I was an oppressively awkward, totally self-conscious, acne-ridden teenager, surrounded by people I thought were better looking, more hilarious, more intelligent, and destined for bigger, better things. Every person I knew had qualities I felt I didn’t possess, and every day, I walked the gauntlet, recognizing only good things in others and only terrible things in myself. (Look, I know how that sounds, and I would have edited it so that it wasn’t so pathetic, but you all know about my horrible divorce, so I figure things have been worse around here.) As a teenager and young adult, I was too convinced that I was ugly or incompetent to really take any chances, so I ended up being a small, judgmental, self-satisfied little Puritan weirdo, who longed for the freedom other young people had. (I was basically the worst.)

Now that I am a (more) fully-formed adult, with life experience practically bursting out of me, it would have been nice to see people from ten years ago, because I am cool now. Yes, I said it. I AM COOL. Deal with it.

There are a lot of people I knew who were fabulous. However, in hindsight, I don’t feel like I ever had real relationships with them, because I was always so concerned with what they were thinking of me that I couldn’t ever be truly present. One of these people was a guy who lived on my dorm floor my second year, a guy for whom I harbored a year-long, painfully obvious obsession.

He was tall and great looking and funny and effortlessly cool and looked at people in the way you only read about in books – he made every person he spoke to feel like they were the only person in the world. Now, as a grizzled, jaded, 28-year-old monster, I would say that he is just a very proficient active listener, but then, when I was 19 and a living, breathing sad-face emoticon, the fact that this glowing, gorgeous specimen of male youth ever looked at me with such intensity (much less that he did it every time we spoke) was just beyond me. I could not get enough.

I adored him and was eventually heartbroken by him, as he had relationships with other people and then moved out of the country and then I never saw him again.

You know, the usual.

As it turns out, this person is now also living in England, and last week, we met up for the first time in eight years. We shared a bottle of wine and went out in London and basically tried to jam the discussion of nearly a decade of life experience into a few hours. It was really wonderful.

One hundred years ago, when we were undergraduates, we often had long, wandering conversations about music, relationships, and life, during which I would mostly just smile and nod, because what did I know about relationships or life? I would talk about things in the abstract or discuss things I always wanted to do or experience, but never had. Last week, when we saw each other again, we had the same kind of conversation – hours long, punctuated by gross jokes and references to our personal neuroses – but I could offer actual advice, real, true, hard-won universal truths about what it means to be a person in the world, because I’ve done it. I’ve opened myself up to things and done really well and have also failed spectacularly and have lived to tell the tales in dark, loud comedy clubs in England on Tuesday nights (which, by the by, are places I never thought I’d ever be).

I have lived, the good stuff and the bad, and seeing this old friend was an incredible barometer upon which I could measure my personal growth. I am both hugely different and totally the same. I have always been funny, smart, cool, interesting, worthy of being looked at like I’m the only person in the world.

The difference is: now I know.

Existential Crises.

I haven’t posted in a few weeks. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been having super deep thoughts about the world. In fact, I’ve been wrestling with some mighty big questions about life.

Things like:

1) How many shortbread cookies are acceptable for breakfast? (4.)

2) How many breakfast shortbread cookies is too many breakfast shortbread cookies? (5.)

3) Should I wash my hair this morning? (No.)

4) If I only wore these socks for an hour last night, can I wear them again today? (Yes.)

5) If I’m allergic to the aluminum in my deodorant, and I am, and the natural stuff is disgusting, which it is, is it okay for me to just not wear deodorant? (Yes.)

6) I’ve stumbled across photographic evidence that I’ve had the same tube of lip gloss for two years. Is it safe for me to keep using it? (Yes.)

7) How often? (Every day.)

8) I need new socks/underwear/shirts/sweaters, but I’m going to the US in a few weeks and everything will be much cheaper there. Is it alright for me to look like a total mess for months before I leave? (Yes. Obviously.)

9) Do I have to wait until lunch time to eat the food I brought to work? (No. Helllllllo, 10 am burrito!)

10) I keep spilling saucy foods on my sheets. Does this mean I have to stop eating dinner in bed? (No. Just buy new sheets.)

Missing The Beast.

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“You’re such a spazz, Auntie Sarah.”

I’m planning a trip back to the States soon, and I could not be more excited to see this beast again. You know I mean business when I say that I miss that three-year-old creep more than I miss burritos. I haven’t seen her in SEVEN MONTHS, which is just unacceptable. That’s like one hundred years in toddler years. I feel sick just thinking about it.

Last night, Fertile Myrtle and I had our weekly Skype date, and yet again, I had to bribe The Beast to speak to me by threatening to withhold her English chocolate gifts. It’s a super effective tactic, but it also makes me feel gross and sad. I want her to remember how awesome and fun I am, and just live to speak to me for five minutes every Sunday morning. Unfortunately, she’s still too little.

As I was falling asleep a few hours after the call, I had this moment of feeling present in Fertile Myrtle’s house, just standing by the kitchen island where I’ve eaten my feelings a thousand times. And that one second of teleporting home was tragic. It is really, truly, deeply devastating to be separated by distance from the things you love. As much as the move was my choice (and a huge opportunity), if I could have everything at once, I would be home surrounded by my people, showing The Beast how to stick salty pretzels to her wet arms in person instead of having to do over the internet.

I apologize in advance to everyone else who thinks they are going to see me when I’m home. I’ll be really busy for the full two weeks teaching a child how to make her mother insane.

The Hive.

When I was a kid, I was sometimes referred to as “Princess,” as in the frustrating, difficult young lady from “The Princess and the Pea,” because I have always been an overly sensitive, supernaturally delicate flower. (In my defense, my parents did this to themselves. The Biblical meaning of the name Sarah is “Princess.”) I have always been very particular about temperatures, foods, clothing tags, and hair brushing. I have a lot of feelings about a lot of different things. I crave balance in all things, and can be a little bit of a cranky nightmare when I am: too hot, too cold, too sweaty, too tangly, too hungry, too full, too itchy, too lotion-y, too dry.

Every part of my body falls victim to this intense longing to spend every day eating a perfectly-sized burrito and some soft sugar cookies in 72 degrees with a slight breeze while wearing clothes with all the tags cut out. I get moody and irritated most of the time. However, one part is more sensitive and therefore, more obnoxious, than all the others combined; that part is, obviously, my skin.

My skin has rebelled against me for my entire life. My insane allergy to plated metals was discovered in my infancy, when I would break out in little metal-button-shaped rashes where the snaps of my onesies touched my body. By the age of 20, I’d had several subcutaneous cysts and discovered at least two hernias. I made the mistake once of wearing a new t-shirt from a big-box store without washing it first, and my back erupted in a horrible, itching rash in reaction to whatever terrible preservative shit they spray on clothing before it’s loaded on cargo ships. Things like heat rash, poison oak, and ring worm have haunted me always. That’s to say nothing of the acne, which is just always, always lurking. If there is a non-life threatening skin condition to be had, I’ve had it.

This brings me to yesterday, when I spent the whole day wandering around an outlet mall on a gorgeous, albeit hot, humid, and sweaty English Saturday. I made out like a bandit, finally buying a bikini that does not make me look like a sausage exploding out of its casing, as well as stocking up on the Crabtree & Evelyn Sweet Almond Oil lotion I’d been told had been discontinued in the US, and choosing a short, pink and orange woven-wool skirt that serves as the latest milestone in my ever-excelerating journey toward becoming my Birenstock-wearing, straw-tote carrying hippie mother. I was very pleased with myself and had a really great day, aside from the fact that I was pouring sweat for four hours as I moved in and out of crowded, tropical stores that had no air conditioning.

It wasn’t until we’d sat down in a local pub waiting for a bus that I felt it coming. Sometimes, I can sense the doom. In the amount of time it took me to drink half a pint of Stella, it had grown from a small, dense promise of misery to a full blown hive, forged in the fires of disgusting humidity and born right onto the middle of my chin. Oddly enough, if it isn’t a pimple, weird swollen crap on my face doesn’t bother me. Besides, while this heat-welt experience is rare, I am not a stranger to having my skin throw up its proverbial hands to the weather and say, “Enough already. I am done.” So, I proudly walked around for the rest of the evening with this welt on my face, confident that it wouldn’t be the size of a quarter when I woke up in the morning.

And guess what? I was right! It wasn’t enormous and swollen anymore when I woke up this morning. The swelling had gone down and it wasn’t nearly as red – because it had become a blister. I have a pea-sized blister on my face because I spent too much time in the elements yesterday. This is akin to the fabled photosensitivity blister, something I’d been warned about when I was taking Accutane, because that medication turns human beings into vampires who burst into flames in the sun.

It is the worst. THE WORST.

I’m happy I got out yesterday, because I am not leaving the house today.

On Judgment.

The other day, I reblogged a post written by a friend of mine about her decision to end her marriage. It spoke to me not only because it was tragic and honest, but also because it mirrored my experience to an almost freakish degree. She is someone who made a terrible, hard, gross, humiliating, and ultimately good decision for herself and for the person she loved, and who is currently working through the fallout. I wouldn’t say she’s a hero (only because I’m drawing parallels here and I wouldn’t say that about myself), but she is brave. I know from experience how much courage it takes to make such an enormous change, imploding life as you know it, driven only by the hope that life will be more fulfilling when the dust settles.

In an effort I assume was an attempt to help her friends understand, she shared her post on Facebook, which was wonderful because she got a lot of support. Unfortunately, being open with a wider, more personal audience meant that she also got a bunch of blow back from people who had their fair share of opinions about how she is choosing to pursue happiness in her own life. I was terrified of facing a fire squad like this, so I didn’t share anything or make an announcement about the change in relationship status on my personal social media accounts. So, lucky for me, the only terrible insults lobbed at me were from a select few people close to the situation and mothers who didn’t know me at the school where I was teaching at the time.

As someone who spent a few years in college working in a phone room in a ticket office, I am well aware of what irate jerks are capable of saying when they are granted the anonymity of a phone call or the internet. However, reading the things people have said to this friend is just absolutely disgusting. These are people close to her who took the time to create WordPress profiles, simply in order to call her names and shame her for being honest with herself and those around her, and for refusing to spend her life in a relationship that was long past being healthy.

Obviously, cloaking yourself in ridiculous internet mystery and ripping someone down means you are a particularly miserable person in general. However, it also speaks to something else: namely, 1) you have been fortunate enough to never have had anything terrible, unexpected, and hugely transformative happen in your life, and have therefore never had to do any major soul-searching. Go you; or 2) you’ve had something like that happen, and you’ve just failed to internalize any of the lessons afforded to you by such an experience.

Either way, you aren’t qualified to have an opinion on someone else’s transformation. If you can’t see beyond your own face, you should probably keep your nose out of other people’s business.

Or, more simply put, before you accuse someone in pain of being a lying hypocrite, you should examine all the ways in which you are perfect and then shut your mouth.

How About No

Things I Learned In Newcastle.

Yesterday morning at 7 am, I flew up to Newcastle for a workshop. Last night at 8 pm, I flew back to Southampton. (Initially, I wrote “at 8 pm, I flew home,” and then I immediately panicked. Is England home now? Eeeps.)

When Newcastle University offered to fund my flights up there for one day, I was super impressed with myself. I’d sent out a query about attending a workshop exactly six days before the event was set to take place, and instead of the form rejection email I deserved, I received a supremely enthusiastic reply, complete with details on a flight that could get me there and back in one day. Mind = blown. As much as I loved teaching children, it was always a terrible struggle to wring $20 for new colored pencils out of the administration of the private school where I worked. So, the thought of someone I didn’t know throwing £200 at me so that I could share my infinite wisdom with a group of people who were hugely more educated and accomplished than me was nothing short of unreal.

I was so excited for my business trip.

Sadly, now, sitting on the other end of a 17-hour work day that included two planes, two taxis, two trains, and one bus, I can say that flying to a meeting in another city without also booking a hotel room is really pretty dumb.

However, the workshop was fantastic and Newcastle is gorgeous and I’m very happy I was able to go.

It was also a learning experience:

1) Newcastle Airport is staffed entirely by teenage girls. This is no exaggeration. Check-in desk: girls. Security staff: girls. Gate police: girls. I could not believe it. My air travel safety was in the hands of 18-year-olds with box-dyed pony tails and loud stories about boys. I don’t doubt the intelligence or abilities of young women, as I was one of those once, but there was something mildly unsettling about having the people scanning our carry-ons be people who were having a heated discussion about the best music festivals in England.

2) I am a demon when hungry/tired/traveling. I saw a baby struggling to get its face out of some bright sunshine at the airport and my first thought was, “God, just close your eyes, dummy.” I thought that. About a baby.

3) This is not specific to Newcastle, but it synthesized for me when I tripped over the cord of a running vacuum cleaner at the Newcastle Airport at 5:30 in the afternoon: retail England does not hide its maintenance from the public. In the United States, supermarket shelves are restocked late at night and in the early mornings. In fact, the only time I have ever seen someone wheeling a cart full of boxes around a Ralph’s was when I’d pop into one at 6:30 am for the cheap coffee and bagel I’d sometimes eat in shame in my car before I started work. Here, in the UK, supermarkets are restocked approximately 100% of the time I am inside them. I would say that one in four supermarket aisles have massive carts blocking them at any given moment in England. Also, there is always, always some sort of cleaning happening throughout the day, like in the airport W H Smith bookstore I was in yesterday, where there was a teenage girl (surprise!) wheeling a vacuum around the store in the middle of the day. WHAT.

4) Los Angeles has ruined me for public transportation – in that, there is no public transportation to speak of in LA, and I have now aged to a point at which there is no teaching this old dog new Metro tricks. (Not in a prostitute way, pervs.) I rode the Metro thirty minutes in the wrong direction yesterday and ended up in Sunderland, which is, according to the taxi driver who drove me back into Newcastle, the patchy, sad stepbrother of Newcastle Upon Tyne. (I didn’t say that, guys. It was all the cab driver. Sunderland looked great.)

5) The power of good Mexican food knows no borders. Strangely, of the twelve people at the workshop yesterday, six of us were American ex-pats. Three (including me) were from California. Two were from Los Angeles. I ended up talking to a dude from La Habra about the glory of El Cholo, my favorite Mexican restaurant of all time, for about ten minutes. All about the sauces and the chips and the burritos and oh my God I have to stop thinking about this because it is physically painful.

All in all, despite my near-death experience in the bookstore and my very real (and also very fleeting) baby judgment, yesterday was a pretty good day.

I just never want to do something like that again.