mental health, obits, psychology

This morning, I learned about the late Norah Vincent… now I want to read her books.

Prior to this morning, I had never heard of the late author, Norah Vincent. Then I read the New York Times obituary that detailed her remarkable life and the books she wrote. Now, I’m going to have to add some of her books to my pile to be read. I wish I had found her in the early 00s, when she was a “media darling” for passing as a man for about 18 months as research for her book, Self-Made Man. The book was an instant best seller. Vincent was a lesbian, and she identified as a woman. Her pronouns were “she/her”. She was not transgender or non binary. She simply wanted to explore what it’s like to pass as a man in today’s world. Or, at least as it was circa 2003 or so, when she was a 35 year old journalist.

Vincent went to great pains to be convincing in her quest to “pass” as a guy. She got coaching from a voice teacher at Julliard, who taught her how to deepen her voice. She bound her breasts with a too small sports bra and wore a jockstrap with a realistic prosthetic penis in it. She cut her hair very short, and learned from a makeup artist how to make it look like she had beard stubble. She even built up her back and shoulder muscles through workouts designed to increase her upper body strength. Then she did hard core “masculine” things, like joining a bowling team, a la Fred Flintstone. During her time posing as a man, she called herself Ned, dated women, went to strip clubs, and experienced being “rebuffed” at bars.

The experience led to a reportedly excellent book, but according to her obituary, it took a toll on her mental health. She was left disoriented and alienated to the point at which she checked herself into a hospital to recover from severe depression. She spent the next year and a half bouncing from hospital to hospital, which resulted in her next book, Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin. That one sounds even more intriguing to me than the first!

More books followed, and people got to know her controversial maverick style. I haven’t read any of Norah Vincent’s books yet, but I can already tell that I’m probably going to enjoy her writing, just by reading her obituary. The author of the obit, Penelope Green, writes:

Ms. Vincent was a lesbian. She was not transgender, or gender fluid. She was, however, interested in gender and identity. As a freelance contributor to The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice and The Advocate, she had written essays on those topics that inflamed some readers.

She was a libertarian. She tilted at postmodernism and multiculturalism. She argued for the rights of fetuses and against identity politics, which she saw as infantilizing and irresponsible. She did not believe that transsexuals were members of the opposite sex after they had surgery and had taken hormones, a position that led one writer to label her a bigot. She was a contrarian, and proud of it.

Even though I doubt I would agree with a lot of Ms. Vincent’s opinions, I have a feeling I would enjoy reading about them. I admire people who are brave enough to express themselves and do so with intelligence and style. I like reading well considered and thought out viewpoints, even if they don’t agree with my own. I read that she was for fetal rights, but somehow, I doubt her argument is going to be the same as some of the pro-life males’ arguments in any comment section of a mainstream newspaper’s. I doubt her comments will be based on religious or political dogmas, as are most opinions shared by everyday people. I do think it’s interesting that she was pro-fetal rights, especially given the way she exited her life.

According to her New York Times obituary, Norah Vincent died on July 6, 2022, at age 53, having gone to a clinic in Switzerland to end her own life. In my review of Amy Bloom’s recent book, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss, which was about Bloom’s husband’s decision to end his life at Dignitas, a Swiss organization that helps people commit suicide, I wrote about how people can more easily end their own lives in Switzerland than they can in the United States. I don’t know what reasons Vincent used to justify ending her life. According to Bloom’s book, even the folks at Dignitas have to be convinced that the person committing suicide isn’t clinically depressed. The obituary doesn’t mention a terminal illness, other than mental illness. Below is exactly what Penelope Green wrote in Vincent’s obit:

Ms. Vincent died on July 6 at a clinic in Switzerland. She was 53. Her death, which was not reported at the time, was confirmed on Thursday by Justine Hardy, a friend. The death, she said, was medically assisted, or what is known as a voluntary assisted death.

Having experienced clinical depression and anxiety myself, I have a slight inkling of what may have been tormenting her. Whether or not people want to realize it, mental illness is still medical illness, and it can make living very difficult. It sounds to me like Vincent was an unusually sensitive soul with unique ideas and incredible powers of creativity. Sometimes that combination in a person can be devastating, as the person goes from brilliance to despair. Perhaps her creativity made her experience life on a much more intense level that was just too much to bear. Or, maybe something else was going on that she chose not to disclose, because frankly, it’s no one else’s business.

A lot of people in the comment section, many of whom obviously didn’t read the article, were making wrong assumptions about her. Some were even bold enough to use her story, which they never bothered to read, to support their own theories about gender politics. I wish people would read more. And I wish they would at least read comments by people who have read before they chime in with their own opinions. Alas, people don’t want to spend the money on a subscription or take the time to read. Yet they want to be heard. I would like to know why we should listen to people who don’t bother to listen to others. I think it would be great if, somehow, social media platforms could determine if people had read before allowing them to post. It’s a pipe dream, I know. Especially given our First Amendment rights in the United States, which overall are a good thing.

I still have a lot of books to be read, so it may be a long time before I get to Norah Vincent. But I hope I do, because she sounds fascinating. I wish I had discovered her before she exited life. And the comments about her are equally interesting– from those who didn’t read and assumed she died in the United States, to those who accused her of being “ableist” for the title of her second book (even though she was suffering from mental illness herself).

I don’t know about you, but it really is becoming exhausting keeping up with all of the “ist” labels people throw out these days. You can’t win, no matter what side of the spectrum you’re on. Why do people have to put labels on behaviors the so-called “woke folks” determine are somehow “harmful”? I don’t like the term “snowflake”, because I think it’s become very cliched. However, I do think that constantly judging and criticizing people for their thoughts and opinions makes life more difficult than it needs to be. It’s tiresome and obnoxious. But maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety… and tired of the thought police.

Gonna close this post now, and head over to Amazon to buy a couple of Norah Vincent’s books, which I hope to review in the near future. I’m sure whomever is in charge of her estate will appreciate the sales. If you want to join me, you can click one of the links below. If you purchase through either link, I will get a small commission from Amazon, which would be nice for me. But if you don’t want to do that, that’s fine too. Because I don’t blog for money, in spite of what some people wrongly ASSUME about me. Below are the two I’m most interested in at this point.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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Ex, social media, Twitter

The art of “talking a good game”…

July 9th is now kind of a day of infamy for me. Today is the anniversary of my father’s death, eight years ago. Since that day in 2014, the world has changed in so many ways. I’ve also lost a lot more relatives and turned 50 myself. I’m getting old… and cranky, like the proverbial old bat screaming about people on her lawn.

I’ve watched things change so much, ever since I was a young person. Nowadays, there’s so much confusion about things that used to be so simple. There was a time when I wouldn’t think twice about referring to someone as a man or a woman. Nowadays, it’s not so clear. If you say or write the “wrong” thing, you can quickly find yourself at odds with someone you don’t even know, and they might be labeling you as an “ist”.

Take, for instance a crazy Twitter feed happening on Mark Hamill’s page right now. Last week, people were sharing the “We Will Adopt Your Baby” photos. I wrote about that myself, a lengthy essay about how adoption isn’t a panacea against the need for safe and legal abortions. Pretty soon, celebrities began tweeting joke “we will adopt your baby” photos. Mark Hamill was among them. I only know this because of Ex, who is a Mark Hamill fan, and I enjoy watching her antics. I have never even seen Star Wars in its entirety, but you can’t really be an American child of the 70s and not have heard of Star Wars.

Mark Hamill’s tweet that fathered so many more tweets of shame and outrage.

Anyway, some people are pointing out to Mark Hamill that his son, Nathan, supposedly pressured an ex girlfriend to have an abortion. The girlfriend, name of Maegen Chen, refused to have an abortion and had the baby in 2016, a girl she named Autumn. That information spawned all sorts of emotional responses from strangers who seemingly had only one thing in common– interest in Mark Hamill. And before too long, people were being called “racist”, “sexist”, “classist”, and “ableist”, just to name a few.

Someone brought up that adoptive couples just want white, healthy babies. Someone else responded by asking what the first commenter thought of white couples adopting babies from Asia, and whether or not they’d call them racist. The person responded that that was more of an “ableist” move, than a racist one. And here I sit, bewildered at the preponderance of strangers judging each other and their life choices– hurling pejoratives with “ist” at each other. There’s just so much negativity and hatred. Half of them think more babies being born are the answer to making the world a better place. Half of them have completely lost their senses of humor. And just about all of them are guilty of harshly passing judgment on people they don’t know, simply because their opinions differ. Everybody has a story that colors their worldviews and informs their decisions. One person’s life choices might not be the right choices for the next person.

I wasn’t surprised to see Ex had weighed in on this controversy. She’s not one to shy away from drama, which makes her strangely entertaining to watch. Once again, I shake my head as I see her posting things that are perfectly reasonable to anyone who doesn’t know about her. Like– if I were to only meet her online, I’d probably have a pretty good impression of her. On the surface, she and I seem to agree on a lot of things. But I know what is beneath the surface, and I’ve watched people I love be badly hurt because of her. While I like to try to give strangers the benefit of the doubt, unless they give me reason not to, in her case, I know better. It’s a reminder that people are rarely exactly who they seem to be. See below.

Ex’s responses are the ones with the name redacted.

I did kind of chuckle when someone referred to her as a “heartless dipshit”. He doesn’t know how accurate that name is. It’s true, you know. She writes about what it takes to raise a child, and seems to be very compassionate and loving. Yet this is the same person who forced her three eldest kids to disown their fathers when her marriages to her two ex husbands failed. This is the same woman who made her older daughters drop out of high school, take out student loans, and give her the “change” from whatever wasn’t used on tuition. The daughters then had to pay back the loans themselves. Or, at least younger daughter did. This is the same woman who hangs out on Twitter and other social media outlets while my husband’s 31 year old daughter looks after her mother’s “severely autistic” son. Ex definitely talks a good game, but the reality is, she’s full of crap.

This is the same woman who allegedly attempted suicide to force one of her children to stay home. When did she get to be so “reasonable” and sane?

Yep… Ex really does talk a good game. She’s very good at it. That’s probably how so many people have been charmed into her sphere, only to get burned. I wrote yesterday about how I find Twitter to be a cesspool of nasty people hurling insults at each other. I find such an environment to be frustrating, because being mean to other people is not the way to change anything. At best, all it does is temporarily relieve some angst. Maybe there’s a brief surge of satisfaction when someone lobs a verbal barb that stings. But in the end, the person who is insulting is still the same miserable person with the same selfish, mean-spirited personality that eventually comes out and turns off the best people.

I see her tweeting all of these social consciousness memes and comments that make her look progressive, kind, and thoughtful. But then I remember the way she treated my husband, his family, and her own children. And I realize that if Ex can be like that, so can a lot of people. She’s not particularly special… although I would say that the fact that she gets away with the things she does is pretty extraordinary. But that doesn’t make her special, per se. It just makes her very lucky. I look forward to the day when her luck finally ends.

Anyway, Bill just called me to breakfast. We’re having cheese souffles. So I’d better end this post and get on with the day… with the valuable reminder that no matter what people say or write, good or bad, chances are that they’re just “talking a good game.” And underneath, it’s entirely likely that they are completely different people from what shows on that exterior facade. That works both ways, too. That person who called me a “fucking idiot” for being”too liberal” might actually be a pretty decent person once you get to know them. And a supposed mensch like Ex, tweeting positive platitudes and kindly thoughts about the plight of special needs children and adoptees, can be a complete monster. So keep that in mind, fellow life warriors.

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