complaints, poor judgment, psychology

She’s down with O.P.M.!

“Wah! Why won’t my boyfriend’s parents financially support me?”

Okay… so you should already know that I don’t have a boyfriend. I am happily married to Mr. Bill, who already supports my unemployed ass without complaint. Today’s blog post title comes from therapist Lori Gottlieb’s column in The Atlantic. The powers that be at The Atlantic decided to rerun one of Lori’s posts on Facebook this morning. I happened to read it before my eyes were fully opened after this morning’s nightmare, which involved Bill bringing home a bag of snakes. I ended up killing two of them with my bare hands! Naturally, that was traumatizing. Thank God it was just a bad dream. Bill has already tried to interpret it, though. He’s very Jungian that way.

A little old school mood music for this post… although O.P.P. is not quite the same thing as O.P.M. is…

Anyway, the post I read in Lori Gottlieb’s column this morning was originally published on December 24, 2018. A woman named Zoe, writing from Edinburgh, Scotland, writes that she’s involved in a long distance relationship with a man who has a twin brother.

Zoe’s boyfriend, whom she’s been dating for five years, but isn’t yet ready to marry (as of 2018, anyway), has a doctorate from a “top” university. He has a job and is “doing right” in life. The boyfriend’s brother, on the other hand, is apparently aimless and shiftless. He doesn’t have a degree, and has bounced from college to college. He moved to Florida, married an “older” woman (horrors!), and now has a baby girl with his wife (double horrors!).

Zoe’s issue is that the twin brothers’ very wealthy parents are “lavishing” money on the “aimless” twin, his wife, and their baby. But Zoe, as the long suffering “girlfriend” of the more established twin, is “out in the cold”. She is, herself, in a doctoral program and claims she will not be ready for marriage or child bearing for some time. And she feels it’s unfair that her boyfriend’s rich parents aren’t sharing their piece of the pie with her.

In other words, Zoe’s down with O.P.M. (other people’s money), and they aren’t getting with the program by sharing the wealth with her. She clearly feels like she has her shit together and is worthy of some renumeration from the boyfriend’s rich parents for being the girlfriend of the “good” twin, who also apparently has his shit together… except for the fact that he has terrible taste in girlfriends.

Perhaps mitigating what sounds like an outrageous attitude of entitlement to me, is the fact that Zoe’s family of origin has been “torn apart” because Zoe’s Granny didn’t share her money equitably with her children. And now, people in Zoe’s family all resent each other. She makes it sound like she’s worried for the twin brothers and their relationship, rather than just feeling greedy and entitled to O.P.M.– that is, other people’s money.

Zoe’s boyfriend has told her that she needs to zip it about this issue, since “the financial matters should be between him, his brother, and his parents.”

But Zoe, who has been dating the guy for five years but “isn’t ready” to put a ring on it, says “… if we are planning to spend our lives together, shouldn’t I also be able to voice an opinion on these things?” Uh huh… she’s definitely down with O.P.M.

Zoe writes that she would be “grateful” for any advice, since she’s so upset and jealous that she can barely think. And that is sure to be having a deleterious effect on her studies in her “doctoral” program, which is very important to her. Not that there’s anything wrong with being committed to higher education and finishing what one starts, of course.

Okay… well, I was glad to see that Lori Gottlieb rather gently and constructively pointed out what is blindingly obvious to all but the most obtuse of us. Zoe’s boyfriend’s parents are entitled to spend their money as they see fit. It’s their money. What the potential parents-in-law do with their money is none of Zoe’s goddamned business, especially when she has no legal ties to their family. But even if she and twin doctoral guy were married, it would still be O.P.M., and none of her business how the in-laws spend their dough. It’s their money!

I can’t believe that someone who is supposedly smart enough to be pursuing a doctoral degree doesn’t understand this basic fact. I wonder how Zoe would feel if, years from now, she’s made a nice living for herself and has a pile of money saved. And then some person dating one of her hypothetical offspring has an “issue” with how she doles out her largesse. There’s no legal requirement for parents to give their adult children any help whatsoever, financial or otherwise. Certainly the girlfriend isn’t entitled to anything from her boyfriend’s parents. If they choose to give her anything, she should be extremely happy about it and STFU. If they choose not to give it to her, she should also STFU. Access to their money is not her right, even if she and their son have been dating forever.

Maybe it’s just me, since I don’t expect much of an inheritance myself. My parents didn’t inherit anything but furniture and an old car from my mom’s dad, when he passed in 1979. When my Granny died in 2007, I don’t remember my dad, who was then 74 years old, getting anything from her estate. My mom has been living in a really beautiful senior assisted living apartment since 2009. It’s not a cheap place to stay. I don’t expect much of anything from her estate, when she dies. I’m just thankful that she’s still able to take care of herself, financially and otherwise.

My mom was pretty smart, as she gave me and my sisters special heirlooms as we were growing up. But I can’t imagine having the nerve to tell my mom, who is feisty, opinionated, and brooks no nonsense, that she needs to “share the wealth” with me. My mom hasn’t been the most demonstrative mother in the world, but she and my dad were always financially generous when they could be, and my mom, in particular, helped me a lot when I needed it. I’m simply grateful for that. As for my in-laws, I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of expecting either of Bill’s parents or his stepmother to give me a dime, especially when we were just dating.

That being said… having been through graduate school myself, I understand how financially stressful it can be. I lived on the proceeds of student loans and part time jobs– a graduate assistantship that paid $10 an hour and had limited hours I could work, and a job waiting tables at a country club with very occasional tips (but free food and a pretty decent hourly wage). I remember some stressful times during those three years, and I worried a lot about how things would be paid for. I was blessed in a number of ways when I was in school, though I sure wouldn’t want to repeat those lean years. Still, I handled my own business back then. I didn’t start mooching off of Bill until we were married and I started putting out.

Actually, given the financial havoc wreaked on him by his ex wife, I feel lucky that Bill trusts me and shares access to his good fortune with me, at all. It did take a few years after we married before he did start trusting me, and that was because he went to war in Iraq and I had to handle the bills. Since then, I have repaid his trust by investing some of his money. At this writing, the money I’ve invested on his behalf is about equal to what he paid for my education– we’re even about $10,000 ahead. It’s his money, though, and I’m grateful that he shares it with me, even as he insists that he considers his earnings “our money”. And I sure didn’t expect him to share it when we were dating, especially after what he’d already been through in his first marriage.

I guess I can kinda see why it’s distressing for Zoe to have a long-term, but unofficial, relationship with her boyfriend and feel jealous that his twin brother married an “older” (HORRORS!) woman who is getting so much financial help from the parents. But if she’s expecting the same level of generosity as the twin brother and his wife are getting, she will probably have to make the relationship official by way of marriage, at the very least. Even then, there’s absolutely neither a guarantee nor a requirement for her boyfriend’s parents to give either of them any cash. It’s entirely up to the boyfriend’s parents how they spend their money. And I’m not even sure, based on Zoe’s letter, that the boyfriend even wants to marry her. Maybe he’s smarter than we realize.

Zoe would do well to figure out how to make her own money, if it’s that important to her. If she marries her boyfriend, they can decide together how money matters will be handled. Even then, his parents shouldn’t be a part of the equation or expectation for support. If they do decide to contribute, Zoe should simply be grateful and zip it, other than to say “Thank you” to the in-laws for anything they do for her.

Frankly, I think Zoe ought to consider breaking up with her boyfriend, if this problem is really that upsetting for her. Or, really, I think her boyfriend, who sounds a lot wiser and more sensitive than she is, should consider breaking up with Zoe. She sounds like an insensitive clod. At the very least, I think Zoe should have an empathy check and, perhaps, put herself in her boyfriend’s shoes. I’m sure it’s embarrassing and irritating to him that his girlfriend is creating an issue over how his parents spend their money. He’s obviously a smart man, with a doctorate from a “top” university. He could probably do better. And then Zoe can quit obsessing over other people’s money (O.P.M.) and focus on building her career, which is obviously more of a priority for her right now (or at least in 2018) than family matters are.

You’d think someone smart enough to earn a doctorate would know better, right? But there are plenty of people with Ph.D.s who are down with O.P.M. 😉

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healthcare, mental health, modern problems, psychology

What’s eating young women these days? Eating disorders and COVID-19…

This morning, I read a news story about how eating disorders are on the rise in the United Kingdom, especially among young women. Pediatricians in the United Kingdom are seeing a tremendous rise in the number of patients who are coping with the stresses of the novel coronavirus by engaging in harmful behaviors such as binging and purging, starving themselves, or exercising excessively.

Karen Street, a consultant pediatrician at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and an officer for child mental health, says, “Eating disorders are often related to a need for control — something many young people feel they have lost during the pandemic.” Eating disorders often occur in young women who are extremely accomplished and driven, engaged in extracurricular activities and earning high grades in school. Thanks to the pandemic and being forced to isolate, many of the activities that young people could be engaged in are now unavailable. Teenagers don’t always have the coping skills that older people have, which would allow them to find a more COVID-19 friendly passion. It’s also harder to see a health care provider face to face right now, as many of them are either focused on treating patients with COVID-19 or are not doing so many in person consultations because of the risk of spreading the disease.

I was interested in reading about this phenomenon. When I was much younger, I used to struggle with eating disorders myself. I think my issues were actually connected with depression, anxiety, and terrible lack of self-esteem and secret wish to exit this life. I never really saw anyone about treating them and eventually managed to outgrow my obsession with food, diet, and exercise. It took years, though, and most people had no idea of the extent of it and would not have taken me seriously even if I had tried to tell anyone. I certainly didn’t look like I had a problem with food or dieting. I think, in my case, I exchanged my problems with eating disorders with something else. My issues with food mostly seemed to stop once I started taking the right antidepressant.

I’ve often marveled at how a few years taking Wellbutrin permanently seems to have changed the way I used to feel all the time. Before I got treated for clinical depression, I often felt overwhelmed and out of control of my emotions. I would vacillate between being funny and gregarious and being very depressed. When I was much younger, people would often ask me, in all seriousness, if I was bipolar. I am not bipolar, but I did have a chemical imbalance for years. Wellbutrin seems to have permanently corrected it, though– that, and having Bill in my life has made a huge difference. He treats me with love and respect. I literally don’t feel the way I used to feel all the time. I feel much more balanced and in control, and with that balance and control, I stopped caring about dieting. I don’t need a lot of people in my life. I just need one person who cares. I have that in Bill. If I didn’t have him, maybe I would go back to the way I once was.

I’ve often thought about what life must be like for young people right now. I think if I were a teenager in the lockdown COVID-19 era, I’d be going crazy. I can remember being 13 years old and stuck at home with my parents because I was sick or there was a big snowstorm. The first day or two was great, but then I got bored and frustrated, and being with my parents was hard, because we didn’t really get along that well. My parents were always at home, because they ran their business from our house. So snow days were particularly difficult, because I had no escape, other than going to the barn where I kept my horse. It wasn’t always easy to get to the barn when there was snow. I usually rode my bike there. It’s hard to bike on snow packed pavement. I remember getting very cagey and depressed when I was out of school for several days due to snow. I would have absolutely hated the way things are now, even though I’m a fairly self-directed person and would have probably done fine with online school.

Being isolated from their peers, teachers, and health care providers, has increased the risks to mental health issues in teens. Young people in Britain are developing eating disorders and can’t get treatment because there are not enough beds in treatment facilities. Washington Post reporter, Miriam Berger, quoted a couple of pediatricians who have seen eating disorder cases rising. From her article:

Luci Etheridge, a pediatrician specializing in eating disorders at St. George’s Hospital in London, reported… a 250 percent increase in cases compared with 2019, with a particular spike in September. Previously, the center had been able to access referrals within a nationally mandated four-week window; now they have 30 children on the waiting list to be assessed.

And:

Jon Rabbs, a consultant pediatrician in Sussex, [claims] his eating disorder service usually saw 11 referrals a month. Since September, it has risen to around 100 monthly.

The increased time people are spending online is probably contributing to the problem. With fewer offline activities available, youngsters are focusing on apps that have to do with calorie counting and recording exercise. Some people will become hyper-obsessed with their diets and exercise because it may take their minds off of the horrors of COVID-19. Or they worry about getting fat because they’re supposed to quarantine or stay at home as much as possible. Or, for some, it could be that the dieting apps are even like video games, as in, “let’s see if I can beat my record for jumping jacks”. On and on it goes, as the sufferer focuses their obsessions on the disorder and being alone with it, instead of getting back to living normally someday.

The sad thing is, when the pandemic ends and lockdowns are lifted, the people who have developed eating disorders will likely still have those problems. The obsessive behaviors won’t go away simply because people will, once again, be allowed to live somewhat normally. Thanks to the lack of treatment facilities and far fewer in person health provider visits and/or attention from teachers, friends, and guidance counselors, the disorders will go unnoticed and untreated for much longer. Delaying the treatment may lead to physical devastation, particularly if the person also gets sick with COVID-19. And one of the main features of eating disorders is the desire to be left alone and isolated. The pandemic provides a perfect environment for that, making the situation especially difficult for those who are already in recovery. I would imagine it’s the same for recovering alcoholics or other addicts, who need regular support to help conquer their addictions.

We are also now in the holiday season, which is stressful and often centers around preparing food and eating it. Usually, we celebrate with each other during the holidays. This year, many people are alone, and a lot of them are facing uncertainty about their finances or career prospects… life itself, really, since we don’t yet know when it will be safe to live in a more normal way. I imagine a lot of teens are hearing their parents worrying about surviving the pandemic, which adds to stress levels. Couple that with adolescents’ inability to do “normal” teenage things. Even dating someone would be difficult right now, which is another rite of passage that mostly affects adolescents. It really is no wonder that a certain type of young person– mostly females, but also males– is engaging in eating disordered behaviors. After all, the one thing most people can control is what they put into their bodies– even if they can’t control a novel virus that is ravaging populations around the world.

Sadly, a lot of people won’t take this issue seriously. As is my habit, I took a look at the comments about this article. At this writing, no one has left any comments on the Washington Post’s article itself. However, many dimwits have descended upon the Washington Post’s Facebook page to leave their ignorant and ill considered thoughts. Quite a few people hadn’t read the article and were spewing the usual crap about “covidiots”, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the rise in eating disorders. Another insensitive male commenter kept making tasteless jokes about cannibalism– again, this has NOTHING to do with the topic. More than a couple brought up U.S. politics, which again, have nothing to do with the rise of eating disorders among British teens. And then there are the people who blame the media, claiming the media is making the pandemic out to be much worse than it is and is causing the depression and anxiety that can lead to the development of eating disorders.

Having suffered with eating disordered behaviors myself when I was young, this is not something I would ever wish on anyone. It might be funny to make jokes about eating disorders, something that a lot of people don’t understand at all, and don’t even TRY to understand– but to the people who have them, they are hell on earth. While in my case, my issues were mostly in my head and undetected by the people who cared about me, I would not want to be a parent having to deal with a child truly suffering from an eating disorder during the pandemic. It’s hard enough to help them when things are normal. Imagine trying to get help for your child when you can’t even get them in to see a doctor in person and, even when you can, there are no treatment facilities with available beds. Given the damage that eating disorders can do to one’s health, I would imagine that the risk of becoming severely debilitated or dying from COVID-19 would be much graver.

When it comes down to it, eating disorders are a very damaging coping mechanism, not unlike other addictive behaviors like alcoholism or drug abuse. People are stressed right now, and some young people are turning to destructive habits in order to cope with the anxiety and depression associated with the global pandemic. A lot of people who would not have otherwise gone down the dark road of an eating disorder are finding themselves on that path today. If I were a parent, I think I would be concerned… and it would be just one more thing to worry about. I don’t envy today’s parents at all.

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