One last partial repost– partial, because I left off the last part, which is time sensitive and no longer relevant. I wrote this February 24, 2015. I also changed the title of the post, because the original title is no longer relevant.
Last night, I looked up a woman I haven’t seen or heard of since fifth grade. I was surprised by how easy it was to find her. I just typed her maiden name and the name of the town where we grew up. I was surprised to find her living in a town not far from our old hometown. I also found out that she attended the same high school my former boyfriend did. He may even know her because they probably graduated in the same class.
This woman’s name was very common in the year of our birth. Indeed, I share her first name, but here I’ll just call her “Joni”. Like me, Joni was socially awkward and considered weird. Actually, she made me look like a social genius because she was even louder and odder than I ever was. Joni was outgoing and smart enough, but she was strangely dressed and kind of homely. She had very crooked teeth that didn’t appear to be very well cared for and an unfortunate habit of picking her nose in class and eating her boogers in front of everyone. When we were kids, she was very skinny, had stringy blonde hair, and a face that could be best described as interesting.
When we were in the fourth grade, I remember playing kickball with Joni. Our teacher at the time, Mr. A , was big on taking us out for recess if time allowed. These were the glorious days before the No Child Left Behind Act. One day, we were playing kickball and Joni, being kind of gangly and uncoordinated, stepped up to the plate. The ball rolled toward her. She kicked at it, missed entirely, and fell to the ground with a solid thud. On impact with the dirt, Joni’s leg made a sickening cracking sound, and she started howling in agony. At the time back in 1981, there was a McDonald’s commercial that used the voice talents of Frank Nelson, a guy who would say “Yeeeeeees….” all the time. That’s what Joni sounded like when she hit the ground and started screaming.
Poor thing. I actually remember people laughing and saying that Joni sounded like the McDonald’s guy at the scene of her injury. She was not well-regarded by our classmates. I don’t remember being especially unkind to her, though I also don’t remember being her buddy. People were mean to me too, though, and I think I might have had a smidge of empathy… though I probably also felt relief that someone other than me was being picked on.
Anyway, Mr. A got help for her and, after about a week, she came back to school with a canvas cast that covered her whole leg. She used crutches for months and I remember her wearing what she called a “rocking shoe”. I even remember her spiritedly telling someone about the rocking shoe when he was teasing her about it. She was a girl with a surprising amount of pluck and resilience, especially for her age.
I might have felt snarky toward Joni the way our classmates did, but I too suffered an accident while in Mr. A’s class. In my case, it just involved being knocked unconscious by a soccer ball kicked by Mr. A. That was a very embarrassing incident, but at least I recovered from it quickly.
The following year, Joni was in my fifth grade class. That year, I witnessed another classmate getting hurt, though this time, it wasn’t Joni. It was another person who, at the time, was a friend of mine. We were in PE class and she was climbing the bleachers when her leg slipped between the seat and the foot board. She tore a huge gash in her leg, right by her knee. I remember all the blood and our gym teacher (not Mr. A, though he did become a gym teacher at that school that year) picking her up in his arms and rushing her to the office where someone called an ambulance. This girl’s bleacher accident also happened right in front of me and it reminded of me of when Joni broke her leg. My other injured classmate screamed, but she didn’t sound like Frank Nelson. She, too, used crutches for weeks afterwards.
One of my last clear memories of Joni was at Christmas time. We had a gift exchange and Joni drew my name. On the day of the gift exchange, the teacher asked me to come speak with her out in the hall. While we were out there, she handed me a present, which turned out to be a little Smurf pin. I think it depicted Papa Smurf grinning and holding a flower. She said she had bought it for me because Joni had drawn my name and she knew the present Joni was going to give me would suck. She didn’t phrase it that way, of course, but that was the basic gist of what she was saying. I think I remember her telling me that Joni’s family didn’t have any money or something to that effect. I believed it, having been in school with Joni for a couple of years.
Sure enough, when it came time for gift exchanges, I got Joni’s gift wrapped in rumpled notebook paper. It was a Christmas ornament that we’d all made in class and hers was painted several different non-complementary colors. Since the teacher had prepared me, I managed to accept the gift gracefully. And though I was never a fan of the Smurfs, it took many years before I could bring myself to get rid of that little Smurf pin that my teacher had bought for me. To this day, I still have the same luck when it comes to secret gift exchanges. I always get the person who buys me booze and then drinks it all before they present it to me (yes, this did actually happen to me once when I worked at a country club).
After fifth grade, Joni moved away. I didn’t know where she went and, in time, even forgot all about her. But then someone on Facebook posted one of those class pictures and I saw her in it, again reminding me that she was part of my childhood. I looked up Joni because I was curious about where she is and how she’s doing. It looks like she’s doing fine. I was a little dismayed to find out that she’s already a grandmother. Since we are the same age, I hate the idea that I’m old enough to have grandchildren… but hell, I guess I am. I see that she’s still awkward looking, but apparently has a lot of friends, a loving family, and a good sense of humor.
I even saw that she was brave enough to post photos from her early childhood. I actually remembered some of the photos because they were of a scholastic nature and I was around for them. She even had one that had the full on face shot with the heavenly profile side shot above it, ever popular in the early 80s. She had on a very frumpy looking dress that looked like it might have belonged to her mother. One friend asked if she was Amish and her reply was a light-hearted, matter-of-fact response that that was how her parents dressed her. I was glad to see that she looks happy enough as an adult despite our miserable elementary school days.
Back in 2004 or so, there was a show that used to air on ABC Family, or a similar network, that I used to watch on occasion. It was a “feel good” show called Home Delivery. The show’s formula was basically about people with hard luck stories having their dreams come true. The show featured several attractive hosts who would be there to present the fairy godmother treatment to the lucky person with a compelling sob story. I remember Home Delivery to be kind of an annoying and cloying show that appealed to hitting people in the feels. I would watch it because, frankly, I didn’t have anything better to do.
I remember one episode was about a young woman who had “severe appearance deficits”, as George Carlin might have joked. I don’t remember what the exact issues with her physical appearance were, but they were obvious and she dealt with a lot of mean behavior from others because of it. I think they may have been caused by a medical problem. In any case, I remember she loved the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” by country singer Mark Wills. I had never heard the song before I watched that episode, but I remembered Wills’ song, “I Do (Cherish You)” from a wedding at which I performed (not that song– it was played at the reception). Alas, the marriage didn’t last, and the bride has since wed twice more, though I did catch her bouquet and was married myself a couple of years later.
I am one of those folks people love to laugh at, which is probably why I have such a wicked looking resting bitch face. I’ve spent many years being ridiculed, particularly by so-called loved ones. I think that may be why I developed a sharp wit… or so people have told me, anyway. There was a time in my life when I wasn’t very quick with my words. I have an older sister who used to make me cry all the time because she would belittle me. This sister, like several others in my family, is also very witty and funny, although I think she has a tendency to be kind of mean. One time, when we were on somewhat good terms, I asked her how she got to be so quick with put downs. She told me that she’d learned from an early age to cut people down before they cut her down. It got to the point at which she would slay people with a clever barb before they knew what hit them.
I noticed that another one of my sisters also has this trait. She can be deadly with her words when she wants to be, although I don’t think she’s quite as quick witted as my other sister is. The eldest sister is above everything and not particularly funny… except for the rumor that she’s somehow morphed into a Trump supporter. I feel like she’s a victim of body snatchers! This sister, like me, was a Peace Corps Volunteer. She also has a doctorate in public health, speaks several languages, and was a ballerina for years. But she’s drunk the Republican Kool-Aid. I feel like we switched places. I used to be more conservative and she was more liberal. Now, the opposite is true. I blame my brother-in-law.
That song by Mark Wills popped into my head last night. I was reading a story about how over the past COVID-19 year, people have become extremely unruly on airplanes. I think I read that in the ten years prior to the pandemic, the FAA had dealt with some 1300 complaints total. And over the past year, with the new rules and face mask mandates, there’s been a lot of rebellion. According to that article, they’ve had 1300 complaints and counting– just since FEBRUARY.
As usual, commenters were all clamoring about how we should show no mercy to the rule flouters. Throw the book at them and toss ’em in jail! Zero tolerance! Let ’em rot with the child molesters and murderers! I understand the outrage and the sentiment, but I wish people would stop for a moment and think about what they’re suggesting.
I happen to believe that jail is an overrated punishment that is mostly ineffective at best. So I commented something along the lines of “Jail isn’t the best punishment for every crime.” That’s all I wrote. I didn’t write anything about not punishing offenders. I didn’t even express any sympathy for the rule breakers, although I can kind of understand why some of them cracked. I just wrote that I don’t think putting people in jail is the best way to handle the problem.
Do you know that at last count (because I quit looking), there were at least five laughing responses to my comment? I don’t know what was so funny about it. It was a simple statement, and like I said, it’s not like I expressed a wish for the misbehaving people not to be held accountable. I just think putting people in jail for every single offense is wrong-headed and does more harm than good, particularly in a pandemic. And, perhaps because I’m extremely irritable and stressed out right now, I lashed back at a few people who decided they needed to school me with lengthy diatribes about why we can’t let the rule breakers “run roughshod”.
The first response I got was a comment about how we should just execute people so they won’t reoffend. That response was stupid, and I said so (note– I didn’t “laugh” at the guy or call HIM stupid). The next two were from women who both kind of gave off an extremely shrill and neurotic vibe. I wanted to tell them to calm down and hear me out, rather than “laughing” at me and verbally vomiting the same tired script we’ve been hearing all year about how to deal with pandemic rule breakers.
To the first commenter, I wrote that I never said we should let the rule breakers go unpunished. I said that jail isn’t the most effective way to deal with people who break the rules. The lady had said the rule flouters would “learn a lesson”, but I think if she did her research about recidivism, she’d find that a lot of people who go to jail end up reoffending. Moreover, jail sentences don’t just affect the offender. They can have a bad effect on society as a whole. Locking up people costs money to taxpayers, and makes it more difficult for the offender to support themselves and their families. A jail experience can have a devastating psychological or even physical effect on a person… or it can have no effect at all. Again, plenty of people who do time end up going back to jail.
To the second one, whose fingers pretty much vomited out the same shrill diatribe as the first commenter’s, I wrote something along the lines of “Americans are much too wedded to the idea that we have to jail everyone who does something wrong. Consequently, we have many, many incarcerated people who are being guarded by folks who, frankly, often aren’t a lot better than they are.” Then I added that it seems to me that if controlling the pandemic is a concern, locking potentially unvaccinated people up in a crowded jail is not the best approach to fixing the problem. Then I added a comment about how it’s sad that people “laugh” at anyone who isn’t parroting the same crap in the comment sections, rather than taking a moment to consider if what they’ve said makes any sense. I ended by wishing them all a good day. A couple of people “liked” that comment.
I don’t know… maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the vast majority of people aren’t thinkers. People have a knee jerk response to so many issues. Someone does something wrong? JAIL THEM! Lock ’em up and throw away the key! Let ’em ROT! To be sure, prisons and jails do serve a purpose. I think they are mostly valuable for keeping society safe from dangerous offenders, although some people who commit egregious, but non-violent, crimes probably should go to prison, too. But not everyone needs to be locked up to be taught a valuable lesson. Maybe it’s my time living in Europe that has made me feel this way, but I really do think Americans are way too enamored with the idea of throwing people away in barred warehouses. It’s sad, ineffective, and inhumane.
Empathy is a two way street. You can’t expect people to have empathy for your situation if your rabid response to them, and their concerns, is to simply lock them up and hope they rot in prison. Jail is not necessarily the best place for people to learn empathy… although I suppose it can and does happen sometimes.
Why are so many people freaking out now, because of the “strip of cloth” they are being asked to wear across their nose and mouth? Well… I think it’s because a lot of them are tired of being told that the “strip of cloth” is not a big deal. Clearly, it IS a big deal to a lot of people. Folks who would have never caused a problem on an airplane prior to the year 2020 are now acting crazy, rebelling, assaulting and cursing at flight attendants, and behaving completely out of character. I think it’s time that we acknowledged that forcing people to wear face masks for hours on end is a problem, and it’s not a sustainable practice. A more acceptable solution must be found and implemented, or these kinds of outbursts will continue. The FAA can keep fining and banning people for life from airplanes, and we can keep throwing the offenders in jail, but eventually that will cost the airline industry, and society as a whole, money that we can’t really afford to lose. Moreover, the job of enforcing the mask wearing will continue to suck and airlines will have trouble finding people to work on their planes.
I’ve found that trying to explain this concept to people is very difficult. I generally don’t try to do that in comment sections anymore, because people have become very rigid in their thinking. And they are quick to “laugh” at anyone who thinks or dares to say anything different. People will dismiss anyone who has empathy for the “anti-maskers” as crybabies, COVIDiots, spoiled brats, irresponsible and selfish, Trump supporters, or science deniers. Speaking only for myself, I can assure you that I’m none of those things. I got my first vaccine last week, and I wear the mask when I must. I will also confess that a year ago, I was afraid the masks were going to become permanent, but this year, my gut feeling is that most people plan to ditch them as soon as they can. That makes me feel somewhat better and more hopeful about the future.
Even Dr. Fauci has said that the masks could become less of a thing soon. He has said that as more people get vaccinated, we should become more liberal about indoor mask wearing. Some people may choose to wear them, and that should be perfectly fine, but the mandates forcing people to wear them will be lifted. Frankly, I believe that once that happens, the FAA will have far fewer issues with passengers attacking flight attendants on airplanes. Instead, they’ll just go back to attacking each other over reclining their seats and being too fat for economy class.
Of course… if someone gets on a plane and does something violent or genuinely puts people’s lives at risk by being disruptive, then yes; by all means, they probably should do some time behind bars. But I don’t think a “zero tolerance– straight to jail” policy is necessarily the best approach to handling every incident or altercation on an airplane. Because, as I mentioned earlier in this post, since February, the FAA has gotten over 1300 complaints about unruly passengers. We have a lot of jail and prison facilities in the United States, but at the rate people seem to want to lock people up, we’re sure to run out of space eventually.
Now… getting back to the title of this post– “don’t laugh at me”. Why was I so annoyed by the “laughing emojis”? Part of it is because, on the whole, I’m generally upset about life right now. But the laughing at me thing has been an issue my whole life. I’m the youngest of four by a lot of years, and my whole life, people have scoffed at me, laughed at me, underestimated me, not taken me seriously, and basically treated me like I’m stupid. Sometimes, I can use that perception to my advantage, but if I’m honest, it gets really old when people feel the need to resort to ridicule and insults. I’m tired of it, and have reached a point at which I’m not willing to tolerate it anymore.
There was a time when I was much more likely to take the blame in a situation in which someone mistreated me. Like, if someone chastised, ridiculed, or humiliated me, I would just feel shame and blame myself. But now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that anyone who resorts to making other people feel bad by being rude or mean to them is the one with the problem, especially if they are a perfect stranger.
Some months ago, a YouTube acquaintance/collaborator I had once respected “yelled” at me because I commented on his video in a way that he didn’t expect or appreciate. He had wanted me to simply praise his video. My comment was short, and had nothing to do with the music in his video, but was more about world events. He proceeded to go “off” on me publicly, lecturing me about the genius of Paul Simon (seriously?) and that I shouldn’t post anything on his videos that wasn’t strictly about the video or the music. I took that to mean that he only wanted positive feedback, which he would then reciprocate with a rubber stamp comment on my videos. Wow. Don’t do me any favors.
I didn’t realize that he’d had this policy. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have posted anything. Or maybe I would have just posted, “Nice job.” or something equally banal. I mistook him for a friend, though, so I didn’t simply praise him. I didn’t insult him, nor did I write anything that was extremely offensive. He’d played “American Tune” and my comment was that America wasn’t looking that great lately. My former acquaintance, who is from Scotland, took that to be a political comment, although I didn’t mention a word about politics. He ripped me a new one. I considered responding, but decided that this was the last straw in a disturbing trend. So I deleted my comment and unsubscribed from his channel. I also temporarily hid the recordings we’d done together and stopped featuring one of our duets, because I wanted to take a few days to process his response to me. They have since been restored. I figure if he wants me to take them down, he can ask.
Do you know what this guy did? He came to my channel and took the time to delete every single comment he’d ever left for me over a span of about seven or eight years. That just told me that my initial response to his public ass ripping comment was the right one. Obviously, he’s an asshole and not worth my time. He probably felt I should be grateful to him for sharing his “genius” with me on our collaborations, but actually, I feel grateful because his shitty behavior only prompted me to learn how to play guitar with more urgency. Because I don’t want to remain in a situation where I feel like I have to be nice to someone so they’ll do me a favor. The truth is, I’d overlooked some of his prior bad behavior because I enjoyed making our collaborations. We like similar music and our voices work well together. But he obviously doesn’t respect me and, I think, was either jealous or using me on some level. I should thank him, too, because last month I posted my first two videos in which I played guitar FOR MYSELF. 😀
This doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than he is, by the way. He is a more skilled musician than I am, by far. I think he’s the type of person who doesn’t want to share the credit. He’d suggest collaborations. We’d do them. I’d post them on my channel, but I noticed that he only posted ONE of our collaborations on his channel. And that collaboration got a lot of positive comments, which he brought up repeatedly in emails to me. I think if I had sucked, he wouldn’t have offered to do more collaborations. I think the truth is, we didn’t suck, but he didn’t want to share the wealth. For some reason, he felt perfectly fine in just publicly ripping on me. I didn’t retaliate by ripping on him in kind, because it was his channel and I respect his right to run it the way he wants (although he didn’t reciprocate in that instance, either). But I did vote with my feet. Obviously, my reaction to his public belittling hit a raw nerve for him to be so petty. I’m sure he’ll find someone else to sing with, while I continue to improve my guitar playing.
Last night, I asked my friends on Facebook if I was really “that funny”. It seems like everybody is laughing at me. A number of people responded. I was kind of surprised by that, since it was meant to be a general and rhetorical statement of irritation rather than a serious question. I was heartened to read some kind responses from people I think are real friends. Many of them are people I have known offline, but a couple are people who only know me from the Internet. I will say that those who took the question seriously are high value people worth my consideration and time. Those who just “laugh” at others… not so much. However, I reserve the right to laugh at people who still champion Donald Trump.
I know I’ve been writing a lot about eating disorders lately. I wasn’t actually planning to write about them again today. However, as today happens to be the first day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I think it’s kind of appropriate to write one more post. If you’re surprised there’s an actual week in February devoted to fighting eating disorders, you shouldn’t be. This has been an annual event for at least twenty years. I remember being a temp at the College of William & Mary back in 1998 and seeing posters for this week plastered all over the Blow Building, which was where I was working in the office of admissions.
Lately I’ve been passing the time watching old episodes of the 80s era family friendly comedy, Growing Pains, and I’ve finally reached the fourth season. Season four is when Tracey Gold, who played middle child, perfect Carol Seaver, started to become noticeably thinner. We didn’t know, at the time, that she was developing anorexia nervosa and would eventually drop her weight from 133 pounds to about 80 pounds.
Yesterday, I happened to see the episode “Homecoming Queen”, which originally aired on November 23, 1988. I was sixteen years old then, and pretty obsessed with dieting myself. I’m not sure I was still a Growing Pains fan at that point, though. The show had kind of jumped the shark by then, and I had a lot of other things going on at the time. It’s interesting to watch it now. I’m finding that it was a pretty decently written show, even in season four, which was the season in which the Seavers had their change of life baby, Chrissy. Anyone who grew up in the era of sitcoms knows that new babies or adopted kids always end up on the show as the original kids get too old.
The plot for “Homecoming Queen” is centered around Carol, who is nominated by her peers to be in the Homecoming court. Carol is shocked that they would think she’s pretty and popular enough to be queen. She sees herself as fat and ugly, and unworthy to be Homecoming Queen. She even considers refusing the honor, but ends up running when her competition erroneously assume she’s trying to sway people by being falsely humble.
About ten minutes into the episode, we see Carol having a terrible nightmare. Surrounded by her beautiful competition for Homecoming Queen, Carol is dressed in unflattering overalls that make her look huge. She’s wearing glasses and her hair is short and frumpy. As the principal and her peers laugh at her, Carol falls through the stage because she’s so fat. Then, her brother Mike, who constantly rides her about her weight, comes out and humiliates her, saying she’s “merely going through a stage…” as everyone laughs at her literally “going through a stage” because she’s so fat.
Tracey Gold has said that the fat jokes on Growing Pains were one reason why she became so preoccupied with her weight. As I watch that show now, I can see how the fat jokes really ramped up a lot in seasons 3 and 4, which was ironically when Tracey Gold was getting noticeably thinner. I don’t notice them as much in the earlier seasons, when she was legitimately heavier and her character was presented as nerdier and plainer. She gained some weight in 1988, but then lost about twenty five pounds with the help of a doctor, who put her on a 500 calorie a day diet.
Tracey Gold has also said that she had been diagnosed with the early symptoms of anorexia nervosa when she was eleven years old. I remember reading about that when I was in the eighth grade, years before she truly got sick with an eating disorder, around 1990 or so.
It seems especially tone deaf and wrong that the writers on Growing Pains saddled the Carol Seaver character with so many jokes about her weight, especially since she clearly wasn’t overweight at all. They also included “ugly” jokes, but I don’t notice as many of those as “fat” jokes. In fact, on the “Homecoming Queen” episode, Alan Thicke, who plays psychiatrist dad Jason Seaver, is shown offering Carol a piece of cake. When she says something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m not fat enough for you?” Jason starts to say, “Sure you are…” but then stops himself.
By 1991, the producers of Growing Pains, who had originally urged Gold to lose weight, suspended her from the show because she had become so skeletal. They required her to get treatment for her eating disorder before they would allow her back on the show. She did appear for the series finale in 1992, but she hadn’t recovered by then. She says that in one of the last scenes, the family is shown eating pizza and it’s very obvious that she was faking it. She says she’d forgotten how to hold a piece of pizza. I’m sure it was very traumatizing for her. Kind of like a phobia.
Which leads me to an opportunity for a nice segue… I’ve mentioned this before, but I think I wrote about it on my original Blogspot version of this blog. I happen to have a food related phobia myself– mycophobia, which is an irrational fear of mushrooms. I am a lot better than I used to be. When I was a small child, we lived in England, and there were huge toadstools in our backyard. I remember my parents telling me to never touch the mushrooms. I didn’t like mushrooms to start with, but somehow the directive not to touch them really hit home in an extreme way. I got to the point at which I would freeze and scream bloody murder if I simply saw one in the yard.
I remember my dad was pretty exasperated by my adverse reaction to mushrooms. He was kind of an old school disciplinarian and used to try to force me to eat everything on my plate. I actually have aversions to a number of foods, like unmelted cheese and most dairy products. I think this is because when I was very young, I was allergic to cow’s milk and it would make me vomit. To this day, I don’t drink plain milk, and aside from ice cream and butter, don’t eat most dairy products unless they’re in something. Like, I can’t bring myself to taste cream by itself, although I like it in coffee, and I would never eat a piece of cold cheese that hasn’t been melted. The flavor and the texture completely gross me out. Forget about any kinds of strong cheeses. I will vomit.
A couple of weeks ago, Bill made nachos with melted cheddar cheese. I can normally eat melted cheese, even if it’s cooled off. But on that day, the cheddar had a flavor that overwhelmed and ultimately disgusted me. I ended up throwing up. I do like some mild cheeses in things. I love dishes like lasagna and mac and cheese, and I like pizza, although as a child, it took many years before I would eat it. I can even eat cold pizza with cheese on it. I’ve read that some people can’t eat melted cheese, but they can eat it unmelted. Humans are so strange.
Anyway, yesterday, The New York Times ran an article about mushrooms, complete with a photo. I generally hide photos of mushrooms because even though I don’t run screaming from the room anymore, the sight of them makes me cringe and shudder. I imagine my reaction to mushrooms is much like Tracey Gold’s stated aversion to a lump of butter, back when she was very sick with anorexia.
I tried to hide the article, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to. I mentioned it on Facebook, and everybody laughed, which is rather predictable behavior among so-called friends. Now… I can understand why people laugh at this. I have a phobia, and many people think phobias are funny, especially when they are regarding something as ridiculous as mushrooms. So I don’t really blame people for laughing at my trauma. They’re ignorant and insensitive for doing so, but I can understand why they laugh. It’s probably my fault for mentioning it, although I mention it because it’s one of the many things that makes me unique. However, I did point out that people were laughing, but I was being very candid.
The photos on the New York Times piece weren’t too bad. The fungus looked more like sea anemones than mushrooms (to be honest, just typing that word skeeves me out a bit). I really get creeped out by pictures of mushrooms in food or toadstools (again– yecch). Like, they make me very uncomfortable. If sometime tried to make me eat one, I would probably have a full blown anxiety attack. Indeed, I did have them when I was a child and my control freak father would try to force me to eat things I didn’t want. Years later, he would call me a “hog” and shame me for being too fat.
A few years ago, I remember trying to eat a dish that had mushrooms in it at a fancy restaurant and I just couldn’t do it. They had to bring me a version without ‘shrooms. And this issue has come up at restaurants and when I’ve been invited to people’s houses for a meal. It’s always embarrassing to try to explain why I can’t eat mushrooms. Many times, people laugh out loud. I know it’s absurd.
You’d think I could tell people in the restaurant that I have an allergy. However, having worked in restaurants myself, I know that that’s also problematic, because the staff will then worry about my having a reaction. I don’t have an allergy, so I don’t want them to freak out about potentially causing anaphylactic shock or something. I won’t have a physical reaction if something I eat comes into contact with mushrooms. But if I can see, smell, or taste them in my food, the meal will be ruined, and I might end up vomiting or worse. I don’t mind if Bill eats them at a restaurant or something, although out of kindness to me, he doesn’t buy them at the grocery store and doesn’t cook with them at home. He’s also been known to switch plates with me if I order something that has them and his dish doesn’t. We have had situations, though, where both dishes have had mushrooms and I’ve had to get something else.
I once thought about becoming a chef, but ultimately decided not to when I realized that my phobia would probably be very problematic. In fact, sometimes my phobia has even led to embarrassing altercations. Below is a repost of a piece I wrote in 2017 for my original blog on Blogspot. I don’t expect anyone to read it– extra credit if you do– but it kind of illustrates how this issue sometimes pops up in my life. Incidentally, the obnoxious guy who laughed at me because of my phobia was recently fired for undisclosed reasons, and they never did spend all of the money that was left for their “party” at the Biergarten…
Phobias are not funny… (originally posted July 20, 2017)
Have you ever met someone with whom you immediately clash? I think that happened to me last night. Despite my rather funny personality, I don’t actually like parties very much. I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes, especially when I’m in the company of certain types of people. Not everyone can take my sense of humor and I don’t enjoy offending people. Sometimes I do, despite my best efforts.
Last year, the guy who hired Bill moved on to a new job in Hawaii. He left behind a huge collection of euro coins, which he donated to everyone he worked with. The coins were all counted and it came to the euro equivalent of about $800, which was used to pay for last night’s gathering at a biergarten (and, in fact, not all of the money was spent). It was a farewell dinner of sorts, since the company Bill has been working for lost its contract and many of the people who have been working with Bill are moving on to new jobs and/or locations.
We arrived too late to sit at the table that was already started, so we sat at a second table that had been reserved. Soon we were joined by another couple, the male half of whom will continue to be Bill’s co-worker because they were both hired by the new company that is taking over. The first thing that happened was the guy came up, looked at me, and said “Who do you belong to?”
I answered that I am Bill’s wife. He then made some crack about my being the daughter of the other guy sitting across from me. I’m not really sure what that was all about. Bill had told me a bit about this guy being a bit obnoxious and full of himself, so I wasn’t that surprised at his comment. This guy also referred to me as “Jen”, when I introduced myself as “Jenny”. That also happens to be a pet peeve of mine, when someone takes it upon themselves to change my name, especially when they’ve just met me.
I noticed his wife sitting in the corner with their son, whom I had met before. He is a very bright kid for his age and already speaks German pretty well. I could tell he is the apple of his mother’s eye. She was doting on him quite a bit.
As the evening wore on, Bill and I found ourselves talking about different subjects, including one of the Space A “hops” we took a few years ago. Bill told everyone about how we landed in Georgia after an overseas flight from Germany. We were really jet lagged. He’d gone out to get us some dinner. I would have been just fine with something from the nearby Wendy’s, but Bill decided to go the extra mile. He noticed a restaurant across the street and ordered take out. He brought back steaks, not realizing that they had been smothered with mushrooms.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you may already know that I do not eat mushrooms. In fact, I have a phobia of them. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the truth.
So anyway, I opened the carton he handed me and was immediately confronted by this piece of meat covered with ‘shrooms. They were totally grossing me out. I was pretty exasperated because I was exhausted and hungry. All I’d really wanted was a sandwich, and if Bill had just gotten something at Wendy’s, I could have had a sandwich and gone to bed. Instead, I was sitting there with what could have been a nice dinner that was rendered completely unappetizing due to the fungus. Aside from that, I was annoyed that a restaurant would put mushrooms on a steak without advertising that they were going to do so.
Bill was telling this story and people were wondering why I didn’t just scrape off the mushrooms. And that’s where the whole mushroom phobia story came in. Phobias are, by nature, ridiculous, irrational, and perhaps even funny. However, if you actually have a phobia, it’s not really a laughing matter.
My whole life, I’ve been laughed at for having a fear of mushrooms. When I was a kid, family members even chased me with them and yukked it up when I reacted with fear. I can mostly laugh about it now… and the phobia is not nearly as bad as it used to be. For instance, I no longer scream when I am confronted with mushrooms. I don’t like having them on my plate and I refuse to touch them or eat them, but I won’t freak out or anything. I still have a phobia, though.
I used to think I was the only person with this problem, but then I wrote an article about mycophobia (fear of mushrooms). In my article, I even referenced an episode of The Montel Williams Show that was about phobias. There was a woman on that show who was afraid of mushrooms and reacted the very same way I did when I was much younger. She actually saw my article and sent me an email. I got so many comments and emails from people who have unusual phobias and happened to read my article. In fact, a quick YouTube search turns up a number of videos about mycophobia (mushroom phobia).
I was trying to explain this last night. I will admit, a phobia of something weird like mushrooms sounds hilarious if you don’t make an effort to understand what having a phobia is like. I have been in some embarrassing and annoying situations due to this problem, but I can see why some people think it’s funny.
Of course, Bill’s co-worker thought my mushroom phobia was totally hilarious. He was cracking jokes and hysterically laughing at me, as was his son. I was trying to explain the origins of the phobia, which started when I was a little kid, and he was just having a knee slapper of a time laughing. I had been drinking beer, so I was feeling my oats. And I let loose with some really far out insults involving his testicles being covered with fungus. I’m sure whatever I said was shocking and disgusting. Sometimes, I have no filter, especially if I’ve been drinking.
I could tell the guy’s wife was horrified and it looked like she was trying to shield her son from the insults springing forth from me. I wasn’t sure if she was horrified by my comments, her husband’s comments, or the whole scene in general. But anyway, they made a hasty retreat. I’m sure they think I’m an asshole, now. On the other hand, I thought the guy was being an asshole for outwardly laughing at me and lacking empathy.
Meh… I really think sometimes I should not go to these kinds of parties with Bill. I’m sure a lot of his co-workers think I’m nuts. On the plus side, we did talk to a really nice lady last night. Too bad she and her husband (and their fabulous dog) will be leaving soon. Also, I gave our waitress the stink eye because she told me that putting a wine bottle upside down in a galvanized bucket full of melted ice is “nasty”. That sounded a bit like bullshit to me, but what do I know? She was happy when we left, though, because she was tipped handsomely.
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