Bill, marriage, memories, music

Repost: My husband hates the song “Dream Weaver”…

I have a touch of writer’s block today. I’m having trouble coming up with a good topic for the main blog, although I wrote one about our Thanksgiving for the travel blog. When this happens, I typically go to the original version of The Overeducated Housewife and mine for a repost. Sometimes doing that will spawn a fresh topic. And sometimes, I simply find another chestnut to share again… Today is one of the days I’m going to share an oldie. Word to the wise… this is a weird story and may be too TMI for some people. Proceed with caution. This was originally written on November 21, 2018.

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends shared this video of the song “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright.

This song was made famous in 1976, when I was a wee lass of about 3 or 4 years old.

In 1976, my dad was the base engineer at Mildenhall Air Force Base in England.  This song was popular, along with a lot of other great songs from the 70s.  I’ve always liked it, although I was a small child when it was a hit.  It still sounds pretty good in 2018, at least to my ears.  I also like Wright’s other big song, “Love Is Alive.”

This video includes the version of “Dream Weaver” I know best.  It says this song comes from 1972, but that’s incorrect.  It was released in 1975 and was a hit the following year.

When Bill and I met, he told me there are a few songs he hates.  For instance, he doesn’t like the songs “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow or “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” by Bryan Adams, mainly because his ex used to play them as a means of demonstrating to Bill what kind of man she thought he should be.  

If you know my husband (and a few readers do), you know that he is one of those people who bends over backwards to please others.  He’s got a really kind heart and does whatever he can to make other people happy.  To hear that his best efforts weren’t enough for his ex wife was shattering.  The fact that she used music to drive home that point was especially cruel.  She ruined some good music and a lot of children’s books that way.  She was also fond of using books by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to make her points about Bill’s alleged shortcomings.

So, although I do like “Strong Enough”, I never play it when Bill is around, because I know it reminds him of dark times.  Fortunately, I don’t really like Bryan Adams’ love ode, so we have no problems, there.  For a long time, I avoided playing anything by The Muppets or Kenny Loggins’ wonderful children’s album around Bill because I knew they would make him sad.

Another song Bill hates is “Dream Weaver”, but that’s because of another person in his life– his first stepfather.  When Bill was about ten years old, his mother decided to remarry.  I think remarriage of a parent is hard enough for most youngsters, but it’s especially difficult when the new spouse turns out to be abusive.  The guy Bill’s mom married was a very handsome fellow and talented artist I’ll call B.J.  Actually, B.J. was the name he went by.  Come to think of it, it was probably an inspired nickname.

At least on the surface, B.J. had a lot going for him. He was tall, blond, athletic and very physically attractive, and he was legitimately and generously blessed with artistic gifts. Although I never met the man myself, I have seen a beautiful portrait he did of my mother-in-law. She kept the artwork, although the marriage was mercifully brief.

Bill and B.J. didn’t really hit it off very well. Evidently, B.J. used to do things like blow cigarette smoke in Bill’s face and tell him that he was “emotionally unavailable”. B.J. once said that talking to Bill was like talking to a brick wall. Bill really took that comment to heart, and it made him feel great shame. I don’t understand where B.J. got the idea that Bill wasn’t easy to talk to. I find him very easy to talk to… but then, B.J. was probably a bit resentful that Bill was around. Bill took away attention from his mother that B.J. probably thought should be directed solely to him.

B.J. was a big fan of Gary Wright’s music, and he especially liked the song “Dream Weaver”. He used to play that song a lot. B.J. also liked wearing women’s clothing and, in fact, was probably transgender. The whole reason B.J. wanted to be married was because he was hoping to learn how to be a woman. He thought maybe Bill’s mom could teach him that. This was not something B.J. had disclosed before he and my mother-in-law tied the knot. Once she found out what his agenda actually was, she made plans and eventually got a divorce. My mother-in-law and B.J. lost touch after that.

I try to be open-minded about most things. I don’t know anything about what it’s like to be transgender. I can only imagine that it’s extremely difficult even today, and was almost certainly much more so in the 1970s, when people had much less understanding and consideration for those who are different. I’m sure B.J. had some traumatic issues that caused him to be the way he was… not necessarily transgender, but mean and abusive. There was some reason B.J. found pleasure in being disrespectful to Bill and saying cruel things that he knew would upset him. Hurting people tend to be hurtful to others. It’s a vicious cycle. B.J.’s status as a transgender person is not what made him mean, although it’s possible that the treatment he received from others, possibly because he was so different, is what led to him being so abusive.

I didn’t know B.J., although I’ve heard some stories about him over the years.  He wasn’t Bill’s stepfather for very long, which is a good thing.  However, even though B.J. was Bill’s stepfather for only a few years, he did leave a lingering calling card, besides that beautiful portrait of Bill’s mother.  Now, whenever the song “Dream Weaver” plays, Bill is reminded of that guy– a man he hasn’t seen in well over forty years.  And although I never knew the man myself, when I hear it, now I’m reminded of the stories I’ve heard about him.

It’s amazing how the most innocuous things can leave a lasting impression.  It might be a piece of music or art.  It might be certain foods or smells.  I have written a few times about how much I hate mushrooms.  I have always hated them.  When I was a child, I was literally phobic of them.  I’m still a bit phobic of mushrooms, though not nearly like I was when I was a young child in England.  In those days, whenever I saw a mushroom growing in the yard, I would freeze and start screaming hysterically.  Today, I still kind of cringe when I see them, but I don’t scream anymore.

My sisters were kind of mean spirited teenagers at that time. In our English backyard, there were a lot of toadstools that grew wild. Sometimes, my sisters would pick them and chase me with them, all the while laughing hysterically at me as I screamed and ran away. One of my sisters went as far as reinforcing the phobia by drawing mean faces and shark teeth on any mushrooms in my coloring books. To this day, when someone posts a picture of a dish with mushrooms on social media or I smell them cooking, I’m reminded of that time when I was a child. It still makes me cringe, even though it’s been years since anyone chased me with a mushroom (one of my cousins did years later, to the same effect). Those experiences are imprinted on my brain, much like certain songs are imprinted on Bill’s.

I thought I was alone in my hatred of mushrooms until one day, I was watching Montel Williams’ talk show, and the topic was phobias. Montel had a guest who was phobic of mushrooms. I watched in amazement as she reacted the very same way I used to when I was very young. To be honest, if someone tried to force me to eat a mushroom or touch one, I’d probably react the same way I did when I was a child. I wrote an article about mycophobia on Associated Content. It generated a lot of hits and was even noticed by the woman who was on Montel Williams. She sent me an email about her experience on the show. Although Montel did get her to touch one and, in fact, kissed her with one between his lips (that would not have worked for me), she said she’s still a bit phobic.

I once entertained the idea of becoming a chef, but abandoned that notion when I realized I couldn’t be a chef and have a mushroom phobia.  Maybe I could have been a pastry chef, but even then, I’d probably still have problems.  And then I worked at a restaurant for awhile and realized that lifestyle wasn’t one I wanted for the rest of my life.  It’s too stressful.

I understand why Bill hates the song “Dream Weaver”, although I like it and probably always will.  He understands why I hate mushrooms, although he loves them and truffles and always will.  He respects my idiosyncrasies and I respect his.  When Bill is around, our house is a Gary Wright free zone.  And when we go out to dinner or eat at someone’s house, Bill is supportive when I have to explain why mushrooms are verboten.  I’m sure more than a couple of waiters have filed away memorable stories about me telling them about my irrational fears.  I guess these things make us more interesting people.

Below are the comments that were left on the original post…

AlexisAR

November 23, 2018 at 11:15 PM

BJ sounds like a real douche. being transgender is surely a difficult way to live, but that obviously doesn’t give him a valid excuse to mistreat anyone. I know I’m preaching to the choir here.

knotty

November 24, 2018 at 5:36 AM

Oh yeah. Both Bill and his mom are such nice people that they attract abusive narcissists. Both have gotten better about telling those people to fuck off, but it never comes without a price.  

I think B.J. is probably dead. My MIL said one time he called her for help after they split up. He was in actual physical danger when he called. I think he was dressed as a woman and about to be beat up or something. So she helped him and then asked him never to contact her again.

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family, memories, mental health

WaPo advice column reminds me of mealtime meltdowns of yesteryear…

Today in the Washington Post, I read an advice column in which a letter writer asked if it’s “wrong” to force a child to eat. The writer explained that he or she was born in 1952, and their mother used to compel them to finish everything on their plate. She would either force the person to sit at the table for hours until everything was eaten, or she would use a fifteen minute timer and warn that if the food wasn’t finished, the child would be spanked and sent to bed early. The writer later found out that they have food allergies.

Yes… I think it is very damaging.

The advice columnist, Meghan Leahy, wrote that she thinks the letter writer is traumatized. She points to the level of detail included in the letter, so many years later, and explains that remembering that much about the experiences indicated psychological damage. Leahy comments:

There are three main activities one person cannot force another to do without inflicting some pretty serious harm: sleep, eat and use the toilet. These are driven by deep impulses, and each human runs on their own internal clock. When parents take draconian measures to control their children’s eating, it is about more than just getting them to finish their chicken. The parent is saying or sending messages such as: “I don’t care about your feelings or impulses. I control them.” “You don’t get to say when you eat. I do.” “I will withhold love and affection until you eat.” “Not eating or not making me happy will make me hurt you, physically and emotionally.”

I found myself nodding as I read her comments. Suddenly, I remembered my own traumatic experiences at the dinner table when I was a very young child. My father and I had a difficult relationship. He was an alcoholic who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. He could be very controlling and demanding at times. Other times, he acted like he didn’t care at all about things. Sometimes, he was even kind and reasonable. Unfortunately, I never knew which version of my dad I was going to get.

When I was very young, I was a rather picky eater. There were, and still are, a lot of things I don’t eat. My mom was a pretty good cook, but she wasn’t above using processed convenience foods. I didn’t mind eating canned things. I loved Franco-American Macaroni and Cheese, for instance. I remember eating a lot of Campbell’s Soup– especially Bean with Bacon or Chicken Noodle. Sometimes I’d have frozen chicken pot pies that, of course, I would heat up before eating. These days, Bill and I make most things from scratch. He doesn’t like eating food from boxes and cans.

But then there were times when my mom would make things I didn’t like. My dad would get on a power trip and try to force me to eat things. I’d sit at the table and cry as he yelled at and threatened me.

The one thing I could never eat under any circumstances was mushrooms. As I have mentioned before in this blog, I have a phobia of them. When I was very young, I was literally petrified of wild mushrooms growing in the yard. I would freeze up and panic when I saw them. I think it stemmed from being told, when I was very young, that they were very poisonous and I must never touch them. I took the directive very seriously. I also had sisters who enjoyed tormenting me by chasing me with the mushrooms or drawing mushrooms with ugly frowns and shark teeth in my coloring books.

So one time, my dad, who was quite exasperated about my phobia, decided he was going to force me to eat a mushroom. My mom had made meat pie, and it had mushrooms in it. I remember him standing over me– I was maybe nine or ten years old– screaming at me to eat the pie. He had to go to choir practice that night, so I was under pressure. I was crying uncontrollably as he demanded that I obey him. I think I did eat some of the pie, but I never forgot that experience… or another one we had at a chain restaurant called Mountain Jack’s. My parents took me there one night and ordered sauteed mushrooms as an appetizer. My dad tried to make me eat one in the restaurant, and I started crying. My mom snarled at him to leave me alone, which he grudgingly did. But he would often get on these control freak power plays, sometimes in public. And yes, it was humiliating and traumatic.

As I read that article about forcing kids to eat things in the WaPo today, I was suddenly reminded of all the times my father bullied, harassed, and belittled me over things like food, body image, or even the way I laugh. Like several of my family members, my dad hated my laugh, and claimed I sounded like a witch. By the time I was eleven, I was very preoccupied with my body image and weight. For years, I struggled with disordered eating, although I never fell into a diagnosable eating disorder. Nowadays, instead of being obsessive about my weight and body image, I drink too much alcohol.

I looked at some of the comments people left on this article. One reader left what I thought was a really good comment. I took a screenshot of it; it was so good.

I wish all commenters were as wise as this person is.

Someone else left this comment, which made me feel really sad…

Eating should be a pleasurable activity. But this person’s mother turned it into a battle.

Below is one rather contentious comment thread on Facebook regarding this advice column. “Mike” obviously thinks that being controlling about food is a good approach to child raising… and now he’s raising his grandchild.

When I was growing up, I could not eat the hot lunches served in the school cafeteria. In those days, the food was actually cooked on site, but the smell of it usually disgusted me. There were certain items that smelled so bad that I would get nauseous if someone sat next to me eating it. I seem to remember being completely revolted by the smell of the vegetable soup, which was always served with a big piece of government cheese. I always wondered how it was that the cafeteria ladies could make ordinary food so unappetizing in appearance and aroma. I used to skip lunch during school, partly because I was always dieting, and partly because the whole experience of eating lunch at school was so traumatizing. I think it must be worse today, as schools now police what children are allowed to eat more than they did in the 80s, and food is not always cooked on site.

I remember practically starving myself in the summer of 1982, when I went to 4-H camp. The food there was even worse than what was served in school. The smell of it turned my stomach. I never went back to 4-H camp, mainly because I could not abide powdered eggs and the other barely edible stuff served there. I was fortunate in the the food served at my college was mostly very good, but I remember going to 4-H Congress at Virginia Tech and being grossed out by the food there, too.

I’ve probably shared this before, but it bears repeating. I agree with George, and his take on “fussy eating” is funnier than this post is. 😉

To this day, there are a lot of foods that some people find wonderful, like cheese, that I don’t enjoy. I don’t eat a lot of cheeses, myself. There are maybe half a dozen I will eat, and they have to be melted. Bill, on the other hand, loves stinky cheeses. He will not think twice about buying cheese that, to me, smells like dirty feet, and enjoying it with wine. I can always smell the cheese through the refrigerator door. On the other hand, I do like fish, which I know a lot of people can’t abide.

I’m sure my dad’s tendency to hypercontrol at the dinner table, back when we ate dinners together, was formulated in part because he was a child of the Depression era. He had eight siblings, and the family wasn’t wealthy at all, so food was a precious commodity. My dad was also an Air Force officer, so sometimes he would use that identity to make demands of his daughters. Sometimes, he could be strict, but his method of punishment was, in my opinion, quite cowardly. He used physical and corporal punishments to get what he wanted. Imagine, being a grown man taking out your frustrations on a little girl by walloping her whenever she challenged you. That was my dad. And, sorry to say, he did traumatize me with that treatment. Maybe that’s why I am so fucked up today. 😉

I did love my dad, when he was still living. I think a lot of his issues stemmed from his own abusive childhood, in which he was the eldest son of a violent alcoholic. I think a lot of the things he said to me were things that he heard from his dad. In fact, although I never knew Pappy, because he died when I was two, I have heard a lot of stories about him. Some of the stories are funny, but most pointed to the fact that he was an angry bully and a tyrant, and he had a biting, sarcastic sense of humor that could be devastating. I know that, on some level, my dad hated his father. He didn’t like to talk about him. When he did, it was usually after he’d been drinking. And sometimes, he told me things that sounded pretty awful.

Anyway… I don’t know what made me fall down this rabbit hole. But reading that advice column today really reminded me of those days when I was younger, and eating was traumatic and stressful. It’s too bad that we couldn’t have peace in those days. And it’s too bad my parents weren’t more careful about making a baby they didn’t really want.

Bill just left to go back to Bavaria for the next few days. It was good that he came home. Arran is doing well on the chemo. He’s eating well, enjoying his walks and snuggles with us, and doesn’t have huge lymph nodes right now. I don’t know how long the chemo will keep him feeling better, but I’m grateful for the extra time. I was very worried about Arran a couple of days ago, and I think if we hadn’t started treatment, we might have had to say goodbye this weekend or soon thereafter. As it stands now, he’s mostly back to normal, save for the rancid farts, need to pee, and increased appetite caused by steroids.

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family, funny stories, love, marriage, memories

Pulling passive aggressive pranks that get under dad’s skin…

Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of Carmen Miranda.

Hee hee hee…

I had quite an epic laughing fit this morning. You know when you laugh so hard you feel like passing out, or throwing up, or peeing on yourself? That’s the kind of laughing fit I had. It was all because of Bill. My stomach muscles were actually quaking as I forced myself upstairs to calm down.

Bill and I were having a conversation about the meaning of life. I told him I thought maybe I was born to be his companion and dispense wisdom to him. He said, “You share wisdom with others, too. What about that woman who was on the Montel Williams Show and wrote to you when she saw your article about mycophobia?”

Bill was referring to my weird phobia of mushrooms, that I have had since I was a toddler. It’s a problem that has dogged me my whole life, exacerbated by my mean-spirited family members who did things like chase me around the house with mushrooms and draw shark teeth and fangs on illustrations of mushrooms in my coloring books. I know my phobia is ridiculous; that’s what makes it a phobia. I have an irrational fear of mushrooms, and people have laughed at me my whole life because I can’t even bring myself to touch one, let alone eat one. I don’t like looking at them or smelling them. But, at least I’m not as phobic as I was when I was very little. I used to have full on panic attacks when I found them growing in our yard in England, complete with screaming, hyperventilation, and being frozen in terror. Yeah, I am serious. I don’t do that anymore, thank God, but I might if you try to make me touch a mushroom.

Suddenly, I was reminded of the time I went off on one of Bill’s dickheaded ex colleagues, because he was laughing at my phobia. Granted, we were at a Biergarten, and both of us were quite inebriated, because the party was funded by the loose change left by a departed boss. It was over 900 euros worth of coins, and we didn’t even drink enough to use it all up… When the company lost its contract, everybody was basically out of a job. That was when Bill got hired by his current employer, which also hired– and later fired– his ex colleague. Like I said, he’s a dickhead, so it’s not surprising that he got fired.

In any case, this guy was laughing at me at the Biergarten because I have mycophobia, so I cussed him out in a very vulgar and profane way. It was almost like I couldn’t help myself. The guy’s wife was standing nearby with their young son, who was probably about twelve or thirteen years old at the time. Her mouth was agape in horrified shock at my language. Her husband, though, the dickhead on the receiving end of my tirade, was oblivious, and still laughing at me. I remember leaving the gathering still really steamed. I never forgot that guy, even though I killed plenty of brain cells that night and shouldn’t have remembered the incident.

This morning, we were talking about my mycophobia, and how many people had enjoyed the article I wrote about my experiences. I got a lot of comments on that piece. Bill reminded me that the lady who had been on Montel Williams had even found the post. She wrote me an email about her experiences. Bill said, “I’ll bet that was comforting for her. Someone else has the same problem she has.” Actually, I was comforted seeing her on the show, since she was reacting very much in the same way I used to when I was very young. Montel actually got her to eat a mushroom. He would not have been able to get me to eat one, because he did it by kissing her. I don’t like to kiss people on the lips. I don’t even kiss Bill that way.

So anyway, I brought up his old dickheaded colleague, and Bill started talking about the guy’s son, who had witnessed my profane outburst at the party. The kid is VERY intelligent. I remember that he was speaking near fluent German to our waitress. He goes to a private school and is being taught in a European style. I suspect he’ll someday go to a very fine university. I remembered that he was used to hanging around adults. In fact, I recall that a few years ago, the young man pissed off Bill’s former boss’s wife, who had wanted him to sit at the kids’ table. Dickhead’s son cheekily told Bill’s boss’s wife that he didn’t HAVE to sit at the kids’ table. His DAD had told him he could sit with the adults.

I remember Bill’s former boss’s wife drunkenly vented to me about how insolent she thought the lad was. At the time, I probably responded with sympathy. However, after being around the kid a few times, I realized that he was right. He was basically 13 going on 30, and didn’t need to be hanging out with kids. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more “adult” child in my life.

Bill said that the boy is very clever, and likes to get under his dad’s skin by doing passive aggressive things that are also hilarious. He told me that one time, the dickhead was describing how his son had deliberately pissed him off. As dickhead told Bill the story about his son’s passive aggressive antics, he was kind of chuckling. But it was clear to Bill that he was also still kind of pissed about what his son did. This is where I started laughing so hard that I literally thought I was going to faint.

via GIPHY

Oh my GOD!

Bill said that dickhead is homophobic, and he didn’t like it when his son acted in an effeminate way. He would go out of his way to discourage his son from doing “girly” things. So one day, after a shower, the boy wrapped a towel around his whole body (as opposed to just his waist), and put another towel on his head, turban style. Then he started dancing around his dad like Carmen Miranda would, just to be annoying.

The mental image of that was so funny to me, especially as I imagined dickhead’s reaction to it, that I about fell apart with laughter. I haven’t seen or talked to either of those guys since the night I cussed out dickhead, but I remember how bright the kid is… and what a dickhead his dad is… and I have a feeling that he probably pisses his dad off regularly! The thought of that delights me! I say, all smart-assed passive aggressive kids unite! Kudos to the boy for even knowing who Carmen Miranda was!

The only passive aggressive thing I used to regularly do to my dad, was deliberately ask him questions whenever he sang or hummed in front of me. I did that because I hated it when he sang and hummed, and asking questions forced him to stop singing. His voice was like nails on a chalkboard to me. I don’t know why. A lot of people thought my dad had a lovely singing voice. I was definitely not among them. I used to get in trouble because, when I was very little, I would put my fingers in my ears whenever he sang solos in his many choral groups and church choirs.

I probably didn’t like his singing because he would often try to sound like someone he wasn’t, like when he would mimic opera singers like Luciano Pavorotti. My dad was not trained, and didn’t even read music. He could sing on key, but he was not an opera singer. So, to me, he just sounded like he was very constipated when he would try to sing like Pavorotti. And I really didn’t like it when he hummed. It was very annoying to me. My reactions to my dad’s singing voice are a major reason why I didn’t start singing, myself, until I was 18 years old. Even then, I only did it for a college general ed requirement. It took awhile before I would do it publicly.

But in spite of my disdain for his singing voice, my dad often got solos in church, so I endured a lot of his performances. He further pissed me off when I decided to study voice as a means to help me get over clinical major depression. I deliberately didn’t tell him about the lessons for a long time, because I knew what he would do. Sure enough, he got wind that I was taking voice lessons and decided to take lessons from the same fucking teacher. Yeah… we had a rather rocky relationship.

Bwahahahaha!
Or maybe I was laughing because I thought of this hilarious scene from Three’s Company.

I sure did need that laugh. It was like a full on circuit of sit ups– my muscles actually hurt. Last Sunday, I spent the day pissed off at my cousin, and at Bill, because he went TDY. This Sunday, the endorphins are rushing because I had a much overdue belly laugh… If I could do that every day, maybe I’d lose my beer gut.

I don’t know how the dickhead and his son are getting on these days, but I have a feeling that the lad could be a chip off the old block. It delights me to think that he does creative and funny things to get his dad’s goat. I wish I had thought of something that genius when my dad was still living. It would make for great family story lore. And now, I’m going to be laughing about teenaged boys dancing like Carmen Miranda for the rest of the day. It’s like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon!

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celebrities, memories, mental health, rants, stupid people

Fat jokes really aren’t funny… and neither are food phobias.

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.

Yes, this is a thing.

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.

Tracey Gold talks about how she struggled with eating pizza in the last scene.

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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funny stories

The menu from Hell…

Hi folks. Checking in again, this time from Italy. We arrived here on Monday afternoon and will stay until Friday. Then we’re off to Switzerland for the weekend. Once we get home, I will write the whole story of our trip, which has turned out to be mostly fantastic so far. But, because it’s too early for breakfast and Bill is on the toilet, I figured I’d take a few minutes to write about last night.

In fairness, I knew the menu from Hell was coming. At this hotel and the one before it, half board is included in the price of the room. I don’t actually love to get the half board option, because there are times when I can be very picky about food. There are some foods I literally can’t eat without risking vomiting. Then, there are the dreaded mushrooms, which are super popular in Europe. I can’t eat mushrooms. In fact, I have a phobia of them. I’ve written about the phobia and the trouble it’s gotten me into on more than one occasion, so I won’t get into that here. Just suffice to say that they are the one food I absolutely can’t abide under any circumstances.

Unfortunately, mushrooms were the side dish of the day yesterday… Have a look at this menu.

Incidentally, they brought us menus in German on Monday.

Fortunately, they do offer alternatives for the times when there’s nothing appealing on the menu of the day. I ended up ordering an entrecote with fries, after reiterating that I don’t eat mushrooms of any kind. However, there was still a bit of a crisis. One of the starters didn’t have mushrooms. Instead, it was made of Alpine cheese. A waitress asked me if I would try it. I said okay.

So dinnertime rolls around… I was in a pretty good mood because we met a very eccentric artist completely by chance, had a nice lunch in Merano, and drank beer at a quirky bar. I decided to get antipasti, in anticipation of not enjoying some of the other stuff on offer. I took more lettuce than I should have for my salad, so some of it was leftover.

Then came the soup, which was much like the soup from the previous night, only they’d added smoked salmon to it, which made it very salty. I ate a little of that, then set it aside. The waitress exclaims, as she takes it away, “Oh, you don’t like!”

Out came the cheese tart for me… and unfortunately, I couldn’t even take the first bite of it because the cheese was really strong and smelled like sweaty, dirty feet to me. Bill loves that kind of cheese, but I absolutely can’t eat it. I felt my stomach start to roll at that point and gagged a little. Bill was worried… both about offending the staff and about the possibility that I might hurl right there at the table. He ended up eating half the tart so it looked like I’d at least tried it.

Finally, out comes my steak. It was cooked medium well because no one asked how I wanted it cooked. There were lots of fries with it. We did ask for fries, but there were way more than I could ever eat. The waitress set the platter down with fanfare. I immediately noticed everyone else’s eyes on me, since it wasn’t one of the night’s entree choices. I never finish steaks, even when I’m at home. I ate about two-thirds of the one I had last night. The waitress came back and playfully said, “What am I going to do with you! You eat so little!”

At that point, I probably blushed. Again, a bunch of people were looking at me. It brought back memories of me in my twenties, when I used to flirt with eating disorders. Of course, to look at me now, you would never guess I had a problem like that. In fact, back then, most people wouldn’t have either. Only people who ate with me would have noticed… and today, I’m downright fat. So I just kind of looked at her and said, “It’s alright. I’m definitely not going to fade away.” It was the same thing I used to say to my Granny, who would nag me to eat, but then talk about how fat I am. The night before my wedding, which she declined to attend, Granny asked me to show her my dress. I put it on for her and said, “Oh, you have a waist after all.” Wow…

People were already kind of giving us the side eye because we’re obviously Americans, although a few people took us for Dutch. Americans aren’t supposed to be in Europe right now, thanks to Trump’s COVID-19 fuckery. Bill said the people sitting at the table nearest to us kept looking at us disapprovingly, and that made the whole situation even more embarrassing.

So then she brought out dessert, which was amaretto flavored ice cream with amaretto soaked cherries. I enjoyed that, and when she came to take the plates, I beamed and said, “Now see? I ate all of that!”

After dinner, we were going to try some Schnapps made by a local distiller. It turned out the German speaking couple who was glaring at us all through dinner were also there, as well as an Italian couple. The lady who did the presentation made a big deal out of speaking English for us, Italian for the Italian couple, and German for the German speaking couple (who are probably from Germany). It was actually an enjoyable presentation, although we surprised her by knowing some German and even translating a few words she didn’t know in English.

She started talking about problems with fungus in the fruit she used to make her Schnapps and I said, “Oh, mushrooms… that was my big problem tonight!” The German speaking couple laughed, because they’d seen me struggling with the disastrous dinner, where almost everything was a total miss. I think it just might be the worst meal I have ever had in Italy.

Anyway… here is hoping tonight, the menu will be less offensive. On another note, I’m already impressed by the Swiss hotel we booked. I got a message from them yesterday in English, letting me know about the COVID-19 requirements, as well as their policy that if I didn’t want them to take my temperature at check in, I could postpone or cancel at no charge! How classy! Of course, I’d already bought insurance for that stay anyway (suggestive sell by Expedia). We aren’t getting half board there, so I look forward to enjoying dinner at a couple of different restaurants rather than a set menu.

Well, it’s time to get dressed and see what the day’s adventures have in store for us… Hope you don’t encounter any menus from Hell today.

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