Got into an interesting discussion on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard yesterday. Someone shared a clip of comedienne Chelsea Handler, who was disparaging Mormonism. Ms. Handler was raised in the church by her LDS mom, though her father was Jewish. She was on Bill Maher’s show, and the subject of Mormonism came up. Chelsea Handler said she thinks “Mormonism is really, really ridiculous.” Personally, I agree with her, but I also know a lot of people love the church. I know there are many good people in the church, too. But if you know more than the basic stuff about the church, a lot of it is really ridiculous. It is. And a lot of it is also ripped off from other churches and organizations.
For instance, yesterday, my sister sent an email and briefly described my uncle’s funeral. Apparently, a lot of people were there to pay their respects. The receiving line went on for over two hours and the Masons, of which Uncle Brownlee was a proud member, came to offer their thoughts. My sister mentioned some of the symbolism and their dress, which I remarked the Mormons have ripped off. That’s because a lot of the early Mormons were also Masons at one time. Mormons have also ripped off traditions from other churches. I won’t get into that right now, though, because I’ve already written extensively about it, and I want to comment on something else that came up in that thread.
A poster named “Jordan” commented that she made kind of an erroneous statement about Mormons and Hell. Mormons aren’t really into “Hell”, per se. They are into “Outer Darkness”, which is a complete divorce from God. But there’s no fire and brimstone Hell in Mormonism… or, at least that’s how I understand their depiction of Hell. Mormons also have three levels of Heavenly Kingdoms. There’s the lowest level– the Telestial Kingdom, which is much better than Earth, but not as good as the Terrestrial Kingdom. The highest echelon of Heaven is the Celestial Kingdom. Chelsea Handler didn’t get into that. She kept her comments generically Christian, probably because trying to explain this stuff on a show like Bill Maher’s would be too complicated and take too long. Most people understand the concept of Heaven and Hell, so that’s where she kept her remarks, even if it wasn’t technically correct.
Jordan, who obviously doesn’t like Chelsea Handler, also made a comment about Ms. Handler’s drinking habits. He wrote, “Going by the appearance of her skin, she has imbibed frequently.”
A few posters took Jordan to task for making a comment about Chelsea Handler’s appearance and drinking habits. He then became oddly insistent that she’s a drunk, and started making other comments about people with “drinking problems”. The tone of his posts were “holier than thou” to the extreme, and it was clear that he was annoying a lot of people.
You know what? Based on what I’ve read about Chelsea Handler and her candid comments about alcohol, I would agree that she probably is a drunk. She even seems to admit it. However, I take exception to people who make judgments about other people’s health, sobriety, and character based solely on their appearances. So I joined in the fray, bringing up the fact that a person’s skin condition does not, in and of itself, indicate that someone is an alcoholic.
Take, for instance, a person with rosacea. Rosacea is known as the “Celtic curse”. People of Celtic descent often have problems with this skin disease, which causes ugly red blotches and spidery veins on a person’s face. Drinking alcohol can certainly make rosacea worse. So can eating avocados, exercising, spending time in extreme temperatures, or eating spicy food. A person can be a teetotaler and have blotchy red skin on his or her face. I have blotchy red skin, broken capillaries, and spider veins myself. I am of strong Celtic descent. I also drink a lot of booze. But my mom doesn’t drink much, and she has the same issues I have with blotchy red skin. It’s in our genes. In fact, when either of us drinks any alcohol, we flush. Many Asians also have this same issue with alcohol, although truth be told, a person can flush or blush for lots of reasons ranging from menopause to embarrassment.
My point to Jordan is that you can’t make a solid determination about a person’s health status or habits based only on one or two physical clues. And even if Chelsea Handler is an alcoholic, why is it anyone’s business other than her doctor’s or her loved ones?
Jordan went on to write this:
Or if you’re an interviewer/employer, lover, business partner, tenant, franchiser, passenger, in law enforcement, a car driver, a landlord and a hundred other situations
If someone’s high functioning they may be able to get away with it, but this phase doesn’t last forever.
And my response was, “The same could be said about finding out if someone is an asshole. I bet people pick up on that about you right away.”
So he wrote this:
Takes one to know one, right?
Totally subjective opinion, whereas alcoholism is a recognized medical condition with physical symptoms.
So tell me HONESTLY. If you got in a light aircraft, and the pilot stank of drink and was unsteady on their feet, would you allow them to fly off with you? Really? Or would that be too judgemental?
Don’t dodge the question this time…
Unfortunately, the thread closed before I had a chance to respond. If I had responded, this is what I would have written.
First of all, I am not in the habit of flying in light aircrafts. If I were, I would not expect Chelsea Handler to be the pilot. We’re discussing Chelsea Handler, right? So what does a drunk pilot of a light aircraft have to do with anything?
Secondly, having grown up among alcoholics, I would tell Jordan that most alcoholics generally hold their liquor pretty damned well. I would expect a novice drinker to “stink of drink” and be “unsteady on their feet” more than I would a functioning alcoholic to present that way. I also would expect a novice drinker to lack the judgment to try to fly a light aircraft while obviously drunk. Alcoholics generally know how to hide the disease pretty well. In fact, secrecy is a big part of the illness. The scenario Jordan presents is pretty unrealistic, although I won’t say it’s never happened. I’m sure it has.
The fact is, we’re surrounded by people with “drinking problems”. Most people would never know the difference unless they happened to live with the person or the person with the “problem” got to the point at which they simply didn’t care anymore and stopped trying to hide it. However, even the simple term “drinking problem” is kind of subjective. To some people, anyone who drinks at all has a problem. To others, a person has to be on skid row, falling down drunk, and about to die of liver disease to be considered an alcoholic. My dad came out of the closet as an alcoholic in 1997 and many people who knew him were very, very surprised about it. In fact, I myself didn’t really know he had a problem until I was in college. To me, his behavior was normal. My mom was very co-dependent and she helped him hide it. Most alcoholics have co-dependent accomplices who help them hide their conditions.
Now, it is true that chronic overconsumption of booze can have an effect on a person’s looks. Too much alcohol can dry out the skin and make it feel rough. Excessive boozing can lead to liver problems, which can cause jaundice– yellowing of the eyes and skin. But so can liver and gallbladder issues from diseases not caused by drinking. Some people do get blotchy skin, broken capillaries, and spider angiomas from drinking too much or vomiting due to drinking… But a person with sensitive skin can also get blotchy skin and broken capillaries from vomiting due to a stomach bug. Sneezing, coughing, and violent dry heaving can have a permanent effect on your skin in the form of broken capillaries. Someone could get spider angiomas from having a high level of estrogen. A person can get dry, leathery skin from all sorts of skin diseases or environmental conditions that have nothing to do with alcoholism. Too much alcohol can make a person puffy, flushed, and fat. But so can eating too much food, taking certain medications, exposing oneself to certain allergens, or having certain medical problems.
My point is, while Jordan may be technically right about Chelsea Handler’s allegedly excessive drinking habits, it’s generally not cool to assume something about another person’s health simply by casually looking at them. Another poster wrote that s/he has rosacea, but doesn’t drink alcohol. Sometimes the rosacea flares up, but Jordan apparently thinks it’s okay to assume s/he has a drinking problem simply based on that skin condition. In that person’s case, Jordan would be wrong. I would hope that if he was hiring for a position that required sobriety, he would do more than simply make an assessment about the person’s character based solely on the appearance of their skin.