divorce, Ex, family, narcissists

Maybe Ex did me more than one favor…

Apologies in advance for yet another post about Ex. Now that Donald Trump is going to be back on mainstream social media, my fixation on her could be coming to an end soon. Or maybe not. After all, I’ve been married to her ex husband for twenty years, and I still can’t seem to move past the awesome fuckery of it all… Luckily, Bill is worth everything and more.

I’ve often said that Ex did me a favor when she divorced Bill. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had. We are disgustingly compatible, except in the mornings and the evenings. Case in point, last night at barely 9:00pm, Bill was sitting at the bench in our dining room, eyes closed, head leaned back, mouth open, and practically in a REM state. I was still quite wide awake.

This morning at 5:45 am…

He was really animated, trying to tell me about some film… He got annoyed when he realized I was taking a photo, but it was mainly because he’d inspired me, yet again.

I wasn’t quite awake at 5:45 am. I had just read a letter sent to an advice columnist in The New York Times. It was written by a second wife whose stepson was getting married. She and her husband had reached out to the bride’s parents, hoping to form a bond. Stepson discouraged her from contacting the bride’s mom. She soon found out why…

My stepson is getting married this year. His father and I embrace our future daughter-in-law and looked forward to meeting her family. I began corresponding with her mother and expressed our interest in flying out to meet them. My stepson discouraged this; he said they would be visiting our area soon. But we weren’t introduced to them when they came. Later, I received a call from his fiancée’s mother, who clearly mistook me for my husband’s ex-wife. She said she loved meeting me and referred to “the new wife” — me! — as “not blood.” At Thanksgiving, my stepson and his mother flew to visit his fiancée’s family and made lots of wedding plans, including for a rehearsal dinner for which we will pay half. How can we get past all these hurtful exclusions, some affecting our pocketbook? (I note: My husband’s relationship with his ex-wife is frosty.)

I hadn’t yet read the columnist’s advice as Bill went off on his early morning tear. I also hadn’t had any coffee, and wasn’t quite ready for Bill’s insane early morning energy. I did, however, see some of the crappy comments on Facebook regarding the situation in the advice column. Lots of people were projecting their own experiences in their reactions to this letter. Some people were downright mean!

I wasn’t focused on Bill’s early morning chatter, because my sleepy brain was still processing the advice column and people’s tone deaf comments regarding the situation. Stepmothers so often get a raw deal… even as I will admit some stepmothers deserve it. But not all stepmothers are assholes. Just like any other group of people, it takes all kinds. I saw a lot of people saying the stepmom in the letter was “whining”. Others wondered about the circumstances regarding how she and her husband got together. I notice that few people assume stepfathers are “the other man”, but stepmoms often get that assumption, especially if the first wife is still living.

I’ve mentioned before that more than one person has asked me if I caused my husband’s divorce. Um… that would be a NO. I had NOTHING to do with it. I didn’t know Bill when he and Ex separated. I didn’t meet him in person until almost a year after their divorce was final. And, thanks to Ex’s extreme parental alienation tactics, I didn’t have a chance to fuck up what was left of his daughters’ childhoods, either. I only saw them once when they were still kids. Meanwhile, Ex got her very generous child support in full and on time every month.

It’s not a secret that I’ve been pissed off at Ex forever for being such a hateful, mean-spirited cunt. Sorry… not a nice word, but in her case, it’s absolutely warranted. And I don’t feel that way just because she severely alienated the children, which was bad enough. I don’t even feel that way because she “invited” me to my own in laws’ house for Christmas. I feel that way because she abused Bill in ALL ways… including the ways that are too horrible and humiliating to mention.

Put it this way. If she were a man, she could have gone to prison for what she did. She absolutely could have gone to prison as a woman, too, but that would have meant admitting to being a sexual assault victim and reporting what she did to the police. It also would have meant seeing what she did for what it really was, which, at the time, was much too horrifying to ponder.

That all being said… and I am being totally serious, here. I do realize that there’s a certain freedom in being so alienated from my husband’s daughters for so long. The wedding scenario in the letter above will never be a concern of mine. Bill wasn’t invited to his daughter’s wedding, which I gather was not official, as younger daughter and her husband are devout Mormons and no doubt did the religious ordinance sans the “unworthy”. Younger daughter did tell Bill she’d wanted to invite him, even though she got married before they started speaking again. I guess she figured inviting Bill would be more trouble than it was worth. I doubt Ex and #3 were there for the temple sealing, as they are reportedly not temple worthy. I doubt they got that way for a religious ordinance.

Because my husband’s daughters were so alienated, there wasn’t too much drama coming at us from them. I remember when we first got married, Ex ominously wrote in an email that she would never want the children to get in the way of our relationship. And then she did all she could to make it so they rejected Bill. That decision was calculated to hurt us, and it did. However, instead of breaking us up, it made us a stronger unit. Twenty years later, we still laugh at each other. We still inspire each other. Younger daughter speaks to Bill, and is now getting to know him again. And I’ve never had to worry about any weird or awkward situations involving weddings, graduations, baptisms or other family events.

It’s hard to think of this as Ex doing me a favor. The truth is, it was all very hurtful. I totally understand the letter writer’s pain. What makes it even worse is that society, in general, has no regard or empathy for stepmothers. We’re often seen as interlopers, at best. While stepfathers are often commended for “stepping in” for bio dads who weren’t there… whether or not the bio dads wanted to be, stepmothers “can’t win for losin’.”

Over the past twenty years, I’ve heard that my husband’s kids are “none of my business.” I’ve also heard that I “must love them as if they are my own children”. I’ve been asked if I broke up my husband’s first marriage. I’ve been told that I should regard younger daughter’s children as “my grandchildren”. I’ve only met younger daughter in person once, and that was twenty years ago this summer.

I don’t think the vast majority of people really stop and think about the many scenarios that cause subsequent marriages. This is a subject that is so personal and painful for so many that people tend to come up with a narrative that they apply to all situations. It’s a type of prejudice. Many people who hear that someone is a subsequent wife wonder how she became a subsequent wife. I guess we can thank fairy tales for that image…

Stepmothers are presented as money grubbing evil shrews with no feelings. The bio mom is always innocent and sweet. The stepmom is a selfish bitch who steals other women’s men from them. It’s laughable, in my case. I barely ever dated before I met Bill. I’m definitely not a man stealing hussy, although sometimes I legitimately can be a bitch. 😉 I try hard not to be a bitch unless a situation calls for it.

In my case, being a second wife has been a weird experience. My parents never divorced. In fact, there’s very little divorce in my family, as a whole. I don’t have stepparents, and never expected to be one myself. So, when Bill and I decided to get married, I optimistically figured I’d just do the best I could. Bill had warned me that his ex wife was a mean person. In fact, he once told me she would “rip me to shreds.” Maybe she might have done that, if I took anything she says or does personally.

I don’t take Ex’s behavior personally, because I know that it wouldn’t have mattered to her who Bill married. She would have been nasty to ANYONE. She saw (and probably still sees) Bill as her possession, even though she threw him away, and she would have resented any subsequent spouse. I’m just glad I can see that for what it is and feel quite free to tell Ex to fuck off. She deserves it. Being nice to her would not have changed the way she would have treated me. In fact, it might make her feel even more threatened. If I was a “Snow White” type, all sweet and kind, she would have probably been even more spiteful and jealous, like the wicked queen in the aforementioned fairy tale. Ex doesn’t like other people showing her up, and being determined to fake keeping sweet for the sake of optics would have probably made her behavior much worse.

My husband’s ex wife is so incredibly dysfunctional that there was never a hope of my having a normal relationship with Bill’s kids. She treats them like possessions, rather than people in their own right. Fortunately, younger daughter claimed her own self-determination. Older daughter, I fear, is going to stay stuck. I don’t think my situation is necessarily the norm. Most mothers aren’t as hateful and selfish as Ex is. They don’t wish for their children to be mistreated or disliked by others. Ex talks a good game about being a good mom, but her actions are opposite to what she says. I was never going to get a chance, no matter what. So, I never had to worry about my feelings getting hurt by being snubbed by younger daughter’s mother-in-law. But we also didn’t have to contribute money toward her wedding.

Of course, now that she’s talking to Bill again, younger daughter does get financial and other help from her dad on occasion. Bill gave his daughter and her husband some money for the deposit on the place where they are now living. To her credit, younger daughter offered to pay Bill back. Apparently, Ex would make her older kids pay her back for things, even as she’d happily take their birthday money to buy diapers for their younger siblings. Bill was horrified, and told her to consider the money a wedding gift. She was very grateful and thanked him profusely.

I think, if I were the stepmother in the above scenario, and my feelings were really hurt, I might consider having my husband go to the wedding alone. Then I’d hit a spa, take a short trip, or do something else fun for me. So many people were commenting that the stepmother should just step aside and know her place. I figure in a situation like that, my “place” might be outside the wedding venue, somewhere where I’ll be welcomed. But that’s just me. And, in fact, this was the approach I took in 2004, when Ex invited me to my in-laws’ house for Christmas. I stayed home, and Bill went to see his kids… for the last time, it turned out, until 2020.

If going to a spa is too self-indulgent or ballsy, then maybe the stepmom should just enjoy the wedding like any other guest. Don’t offer to help in ANY way, unless it’s specifically requested. Let the moms do the heavy lifting. And then, if the wedding gets too boring, cut out and go do something more interesting. It sounds to me like the stepson doesn’t like her very much, anyway. She married his dad, not him. Let Dad handle the bullshit. Stepmom can detach and please herself. Some will say this is a self-centered solution, but it doesn’t sound to me like the stepmom can win in this scenario. Either she cares too much, or not enough. So she might as well please herself.

I am a very lucky woman. My husband is wonderful. He’s kind, generous, reasonable, and adorable to me. He’s his own person. He accepts me for who I am. In fact, he even celebrates it. Bill told me this morning that he enjoys my outspoken personality, because I often say the things he’s thinking. He worries a lot more about offending people than I do, so we balance each other out. If I were more like him, I doubt our marriage would have lasted twenty years. People would be constantly violating our boundaries.

Below is the columnist’s advice… which I think was pretty sound:

I totally understand your bruised feelings. That phone call on which you were mistaken for your husband’s ex-wife sounds awful! I suspect the explanation lies largely in that “frosty” relationship between your husband and his former wife. Visits seem to have been organized to keep them apart and to prioritize your stepson’s mother. (I get that: I happen to be a mama’s boy myself.)

Now, your stepson certainly could have handled introductions more deftly. But ceremonial occasions — like “meet the parents” — can be tough for children of divorce if their parents are antagonistic. So, unless I am misreading this situation, try to forgive your stepson and take the long view: Life won’t end at the wedding! Getting to know your stepson’s in-laws may simply take longer than you expected.

As for splitting the costs of the rehearsal dinner — which I assume was acceptable until you were treated unkindly — I would stick with that plan. If my assumption is wrong or if the price exceeds your budget, speak up. But don’t make a fuss on principle. Letting the small stuff slide in favor of building better relationships is often a wise strategy. I hope it works for you and your husband.

Again… if it were me, I might consider making other plans for the wedding day. It would depend on the level of disrespect shown to me, and my husband’s feelings on the matter. I don’t enjoy getting into conflicts with people or going to places where people don’t want me around. Stepmothers have feelings, too, and I’m not one to show up for things just to promote the status quo. But that’s me… and my husband is the type of person who understands. My focus is my relationship with him, because I married him. The stepson in this case is an adult, and presumably intelligent enough that his perspective isn’t the only one that matters.

I know a lot of people read my rantings about Ex and think I’m the problem. I’m being honest when I say that I married Bill because I love him. I always hoped to have a good relationship with his daughters. I was definitely willing. At first, I was willing to be cordial to Ex, too. She made it very clear from the beginning that she saw me as a competitor and an adversary. She didn’t want her daughters to get to know me, and did all she could to see that we never interacted without her close supervision. I’m not Ex’s ass monkey, so I opted out of the arrangement she unilaterally made for me without my input. I think, as an adult, I have the right to opt out of her plans for handling me. She made it abundantly clear that the kids weren’t “mine”, and she would heavily moderate any influence I might have. So I figured the best thing to do was to let her have HER kids. I had no rights to them, but neither did I have any responsibility.

Now Bill’s daughters are adults, and they can theoretically decide for themselves what’s best. I’m glad that younger daughter gave Bill a chance and is now able to bond with him. Maybe if more stepmothers saw themselves as wives first, there might be some less pain in these situations. But then, sometimes stepmothers really are second moms. Like I mentioned above, everybody’s got a story, and not all situations are the same. The right way to handle any situation depends a lot on the people involved. In my case, Ex is so toxic that it’s best to simply opt out to the extent possible.

I will say, though, that opting out of Christmas 2004 was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. She tried to punish me for doing that… I guess, assuming that Bill would resent me for the way Ex retaliated. But Ex is an adult, and responsible for her own actions. If she wants to try to punish me for not dancing to her tune, she can certainly try. I don’t accept her punishment. And it’s clear that she never knew Bill, nor did she ever love him. I do love him, and because I love him, he probably won’t be alone when he’s an old man. Ex, on the other hand, probably will be. And now that the kids are grown, I’m having a good laugh at her. 😀

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animals, controversies, dogs, mental health

Another day on the lymphoma roller coaster…

Today’s post title might be a tad dramatic. But then, I woke up at 2:30 am to Arran needing to go outside. He went downstairs and started to pee on my rug– a place where he’s peed a bunch of times before. But this was the first time I ever caught him in the act. “Arran!” I yelled, as I opened the door, “Go outside!” He went out and did his business, then wanted a treat, because he’s a beagle and Prednisone makes him hungry. I gave him a couple of dog cookies, then went back to bed.

A half hour later, Arran wanted to go out again. He was also obviously starving, so I gave him a handful of kibble. He went out, but not before he dropped a couple of turds on the same rug, which I stepped in with bare feet because it was dark in the room. So then I had to clean THAT up. Then, at about 4:00 am, Arran got up again, and this time he insisted on getting some food. The sound of the kibble hitting the metal bowl woke up Noyzi, who also thought it was time to eat. I made him go out while Arran ate a little more food to stave off his hunger pangs until a slightly more civilized hour.

Naturally, I couldn’t sleep after all of this activity, so I started reading the New York Times, where I read a couple of fascinating articles. One was about “atypical anorexia”, and with it was a photograph of an obese woman who, seemingly paradoxically, also suffers from anorexia. Naturally, there were many insensitive comments, as well as mean spirited laugh reactions. As someone who doesn’t look the part, but has dealt with eating disordered behaviors, that reaction really pisses me off. I thought it was a very insightful piece about a misunderstood problem that is killing a lot of people. If more people would read and understand about eating disorders with an open mind, lives might be saved. I was heartened to see a few stalwart folks speaking up about the ignorant idiots laughing at these women who are suffering from a hellish problem. I’ve about had it with the compassion challenged people in the world… especially the ones who are based in the United States. Anyone who wants to read about atypical anorexia is welcome to click the link, which should take you to the unlocked article.

Next, I read a sad update about a 26 year old retired New York City carriage horse named Ryder who, in August, became famous after he very publicly collapsed while working in Manhattan. After the collapse, Ryder got a new owner, and was sent to spend the rest of his days at a farm. But Ryder was losing weight and, on Monday, collapsed at the farm where he was living. Later, he had a seizure, and his new owner decided to have the Standardbred put down. You can read about Ryder by clicking the link, which is also an unlocked New York Times article.

The vet suspected that Ryder, like Arran, had lymphoma. I have no experience with equine lymphoma, but from what I’ve read, it’s expensive to treat, and horses who are diagnosed with it, are usually in an advanced stage of the disease. On the other hand, for those who have the means, chemo for horses with lymphoma can work. The University of Pennsylvania article I read reported that the mean survival rate for horses being treated with chemo for lymphoma is about 8 months, but that was taking into account horses who had died after just a month, and some who haven’t died yet after a couple of years. I have a feeling that, as it is with cancer a lot of the time, you just kind of have to leave it up to God.

As I know from personal experience, lymphoma often sneaks up on animals, and it varies in how bad it is. Ryder was already up there in years, so if he was still working in August and was ill with lymphoma, it’s no wonder he collapsed. Lymphoma causes weight loss and exhaustion, among other things, and unfortunately, even the best cared for animals can get cancer. While Ryder did have a new owner after his collapse, I wouldn’t necessarily assume the old one was abusive. It’s possible that he or she didn’t yet know that the horse was ill with cancer. There will be a necropsy to determine what ultimately caused Ryder’s demise.

My heart goes out to his reportedly devastated new owner, who doesn’t want to be identified, because people have been sending hate mail. As someone who also got a little bit of “hate” after we lost Jonny, the dog we tried to adopt in 2020 who escaped his pet transporter before making it into our home, I have empathy for Ryder’s owner. People can be really shitty to one another… and they justify being shitty for, frankly, spurious reasons, like tragedies that they negatively judge, often without having all of the facts or giving the situation much rational thought. What would have happened to Ryder if his latest owner hadn’t stepped up to care for him? I’m sure his owner’s loss is truly heartbreaking. The last thing he or she needs right now is shitty comments and mean spirited missives from so-called anti-carriage activists, especially if the cause of death really was cancer. People shouldn’t feel emboldened to harass others with hate mail, especially if they aren’t personally involved with a situation.

I do think that at age 26, Ryder was probably too old to be doing carriage work in New York City. I say “probably”, because I don’t like to make such statements without actually knowing the individuals involved; but in reality, I do think 26 is too old for horses doing that kind of work in a city. It’s a real shame that Ryder didn’t go to a farm earlier in his life. But, I also understand that these decisions can be complicated. One of the reasons I haven’t tried harder to get back into my beloved former pastime of riding is because I get attached, and my current lifestyle doesn’t really allow for having horses.

Horses aren’t like dogs. They don’t tend to stay with one owner their whole lives. And they require a lot of work and money to maintain. When they are part of someone’s livelihood, it’s not so easy to just decide to retire them simply due to age. But I will agree that in a just, humane world, these horses would get more kindness and consideration. On the other hand, I wish that for human beings, too. And most humans can’t afford to just take care of horses as “pets”. I also know that most horses prefer to work, especially when they are specifically bred for certain jobs. Standardbreds are usually bred for harness racing, so it makes sense that Ryder made his living pulling carriages.

I have mixed feelings about the New York City carriage horse industry, which has become very controversial in recent years. I don’t think working in Manhattan as a carriage horse is the most ideal life for equines, especially given that they don’t have a place to be turned out. However, I would rather see a horse working in Manhattan with somewhat decent, but less than ideal care than, say, being hoarded by some mentally ill nut, or being sent off to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered. Also, I do believe that many of the carriage drivers do care very much about their horses. Why would they choose that line of work if they didn’t enjoy it? As it is with anything, it takes all kinds. I just hope Ryder is resting well, and wish much peace and comfort to all of those who loved him. A lot of people who are against the industry are people who don’t know anything at all about horses.

Well, I suspect I’m going to be tired today, since I didn’t get much sleep… so I think I’ll practice guitar, and consider taking a nap… if Arran will let me, that is.

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communication, complaints, News, technology

Google nightmare reminds man that Big Brother is always watching…

Last night, I read a frightening New York Times article about a San Francisco dad named Mark whose life has been upended over photos he took of his naked toddler son. I know that on the surface, it sounds like Mark’s life should have been upended. Nobody should be taking naked kid pics, right?

But what if it was in the middle of a pandemic? What if the photos were necessary for a doctor to see what was wrong with the boy, whose penis was swollen and hurting him? That’s the situation Mark was in, back in February 2021, when the COVID pandemic was routinely killing people apace. That was when people were being encouraged not to congregate indoors if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. When Mark’s son needed help, it was also a Friday night. His wife had called a nurse’s advice line to schedule an emergency telemedicine consult for the next morning. The nurse had told her to take photos of the infection and send them to the physician for review.

As requested, Mark’s wife took the pictures on Mark’s phone, then sent them to her iPhone, so she could upload them to the doctor’s messaging system. Under those circumstances, she didn’t realize that the photos might be seen by anyone other than the healthcare professionals who were entrusted to take care of her toddler’s very real medical problem.

The pediatrician received the photos, examined them, diagnosed the child’s medical problem, and prescribed antibiotics. The toddler quickly recovered without further incident. Unfortunately, that’s not where the story ends. The naked toddler’s photos tripped Google’s screening system and were flagged by “an algorithmic net designed to snare people exchanging child sexual abuse material.” The end result is that Mark lost over a decade of contacts, emails and photos. He also became the target of a police investigation. 

A couple of days after the photos were taken, Mark’s phone made strange noises. It was then that he realized that Google had flagged his account because of “‘harmful content’ that was ‘a severe violation of Google’s policies and might be illegal.’ A ‘learn more’ link led to a list of possible reasons, including ‘child sexual abuse & exploitation.'” Mark was surprised and confused, but then remembered the photos of his son’s genitals. Realizing that Google’s screening system probably flagged the photos and labeled them as abusive, Mark thought that eventually a human being would review them and let him off the hook.

Still, being flagged by Google wasn’t a small inconvenience. Mark’s whole online life, including his cell phone plan, was through the company. He filled out a form requesting that Google review the decision. He explained that his son had an infection, and he had only taken those photos so that the doctor could diagnose him properly. But because Google had shut down his cell phone plan, Mark had to get a new phone number from another carrier. And then, because he couldn’t access his old phone number or email address, he couldn’t get the security codes that would let him access his other accounts.

A few days after Mark asked Google to reconsider their decision, he received a flat denial from them, with no further explanation. The company had also flagged a video Mark made and sent everything to the San Francisco Police Department. He was already under investigation by the police and didn’t even know it. In December 2021, Mark received a letter from the San Francisco Police Department informing him that he had been under investigation. The envelope included copies of search warrants, as well as other documentation generated by the investigation. The investigator’s name was included, so Mark called him. The investigator, whose name was Nicholas Hillard, told Mark that he’d tried to get in touch with him. But… his phone number and email address didn’t work. Go figure!

Fortunately, Mr. Hillard told Mark that the case against him was closed. He had looked at the evidence Google sent him and determined that no crime had taken place. The police did not consider the photos and video abusive or exploitative. So, at least Mark would not be arrested… but, when he asked Mr. Hillard to tell Google he wasn’t a criminal, Mr. Hillard said that there was nothing he could do to help Mark get his online life back from Google.

So Mark appealed to Google again, this time sending them the police report that exonerated him. But Google still wouldn’t budge. In fact, they sent him a message letting him know that his account was being permanently deleted. Mark contacted a lawyer to ask about suing Google, but when he was told it would cost at least $7000, Mark decided the lawsuit wasn’t worth the money. And even though it’s been proven that the photos and the video were not abusive or exploitative, Google refuses to reconsider.

The article included a story about another man who was wrongly accused of sexually abusing a child due to intimate photos on his phone that were taken out of context by Google’s AI system. The other man faced similar repercussions, and basically lost his online life because of artificial intelligence that flagged photos that weren’t taken for abusive or exploitative purposes. For some reason, the HUMANS at Google are incapable of discernment, and fail to see that while the technology they use is very valuable for preventing child abuse, it also poses serious privacy issues and potentially ruins innocent people’s lives.

Mark says that the police department has his information on a thumb drive, and he’s hoping they will give a copy to him. The police department says they are “eager to help him”, which sounds like good news. But according to the article, it’s “easier” for Google to just deny people in Mark’s situation access to their services, rather than exercise discernment. In other words, too bad, so sad. I hope Mark changes his mind and sues. Maybe he and the other guy, both victimized and treated unfairly by Google, can team up and sue. What happened to them isn’t right.

And now, a loosely connected rant…

Naturally, a lot of people had comments about this situation. Many of the comments came from people chiming in, even though they hadn’t read the article and simply reacted to the headline. As my regular readers know, this is one of my pet peeves. Especially when they also complain about paywalls, and make a statement like “I think journalism should be freely open to everyone.”

That sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? Until you realize that newspapers are in business, and the people who provide the news have to eat, too. Most people can’t and don’t want to work for free. This was an excellent investigative article by reporter, Kashmir Hill, for The New York Times. Below is a screenshot of Hill’s information page on the newspaper’s Web site.

I see that Ms. Hill is a graduate of two fine private universities. She is based in New York City, which is not a cheap city to live in. She’s a successful and experienced journalist. She probably owes student loans, too. Delivering the news is a very important job, but newspapers are in decline. Why? Because people don’t want to pay for subscriptions and expect that the news ought to be “free”. But you get what you pay for, right? Someone has to pay the bills.

Even if the news is “free” for everyone, someone still has to pay expenses. So– they either get paid for by taxes, which most Americans would prefer to keep as low as possible, or they get paid by wealthy people who have their own agendas to push. That means people like Donald Trump or George Soros… or Jeff Bezos, who already owns The Washington Post, or Bill Gates… or Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News and other news publishing outlets. The New York Times is not a cheap publication, but it’s not owned by the likes of Bezos, Murdoch, or Trump. It’s owned by The New York Times Company, which is publicly traded. How would the paper change if it was purchased by a politically affiliated billionaire with an agenda to push?

I have repeatedly stated that I subscribe to several newspapers, ranging from local publications like The Gazette Journal in my Virginia hometown, to The Irish Times. Yes, it costs money, but we can afford to pay, and I am grateful to have access to the news from excellent and reputable sources. The newspapers help me create content for this blog and keep me engaged in the world. I know not everyone wants or needs to pay for newspaper subscriptions, but I also think that if you’re going to comment on something in the news, you should know what you’re writing about. At least take a moment to read comments made by people who did read before spouting off ignorance. And have some respect for the journalists who took the time and spent the money to get trained to deliver the news properly.

Journalists– especially the ones who bravely go into harm’s way and/or cover difficult or challenging topics– help keep us free by reporting the unbiased truth. Isn’t that interesting? Paying for a newspaper subscription and supporting journalism, rather than expecting it for free, will help keep all of us free. Think about that.

And now, for a funny anecdote involving The Irish Times.

I have been a subscriber for a few years. I don’t read The Irish Times as much as I should, even though the journalism is excellent and offers an interesting perspective. The paper covers US news, but naturally, most of it is about Ireland and Irish issues. And sometimes, a reporter will cover a really unique topic. The other day, I read a poignant piece about a man who realized that his power garden tools were killing machines for the creatures who dwelled there. The thought never occurred to him until he noticed a headless frog, accidentally decapitated by his weed whacker. The guy wrote that he immediately decided to buy new tools that weren’t powered in hopes of sparing the wildlife. I don’t think I would have read something like that in a US paper.

Anyway, The Irish Times also has an advice column, and yesterday, I read a letter a young mom wrote to the advice columnist. The troubled woman explained that before she had her baby, her husband regularly wanted to have at least an hour of sex, preceded by showering and shaving. The mom wrote that her baby is very needy, and she simply doesn’t have the time or stamina to give in her husband’s demands for extended sex sessions.

The comments on this were hilarious, but one in particular was hysterical. A man wrote:

My wife and I have an hour long sex session every week by playing doctor and patient. She’s the doctor and makes me wait outside the door for 55 minutes before I can have 5 minutes with her.

At this writing, his comment has 819 likes and laugh reactions. I responded:

I’m an American, but I subscribe to The Irish Times just so I can read Irish witticisms. (62 likes!)

And the guy came back and wrote:

We’re great at taking the piss out of ourselves. That’s not true about my wife. She’s actually an Olympic Performer……….. Once every 4 years!

To which I replied, “In that case, my husband and I are also Olympic contenders.”

See? Besides the news, when you subscribe to a paper, you also get witty comments from other people who read! Of course, the quality of the comments tends to be commensurate to the paper’s readership. I used to be a Wall Street Journal subscriber, but I got rid of it when I realized it was much too conservative for me, and I never used the subscription. And then I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get rid of the subscription, which I ranted about in this blog some time ago.

Well, I think I’ve prattled on long enough. I need to practice guitar and walk the dogs. I hope you have a good Monday. And if you don’t already subscribe to a newspaper and have the means, please give it some consideration. The papers need your support, and the rest of us don’t want to read your erroneous and misled reactions to headlines.

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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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music, politicians, politics, social media, Texas, weather

“At least I’m not in Texas…” Did I actually have the cojones to say that out loud?

The featured photo comes from Wikipedia and references a popular slogan that tough talking Texans like to bandy around about their (or should I say *my* state)… but Bill tells me it was actually an 80s era slogan they used to discourage littering. This post is full of cussing, so if you don’t like that, you know what to do and where to go… preferably not to Texas.

Yesterday, there was an article in The New York Times about Europe’s current heat wave, which I’m sadly enduring here in Germany. A woman went to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, and offered tips on how she stayed cool during her trip. I decided to leave a comment. I will admit, I knew on some level that my comment would probably attract trolls and other assholes, because most comments somehow do… but I decided to leave it anyway, because why not?

Thank God for that! I am a proud native Virginian… which is also where the most famous Texan, Sam Houston, was born. In fact, he was from Rockbridge County, which is where most of my people come from… once they left the British Isles and Ireland. I love Lyle Lovett, anyway… even if he IS from Texas.

My comment was that I live in Germany and I’m so tired of the heat and the drought conditions here. But, “at least I’m not in Texas.” That was ALL I posted. I made no mention of politics. I didn’t bring up the lack of abortion rights in Texas, or any of the other anti-woman or racist policies and attitudes that are so prevalent there. I didn’t post about the crappy power grid and how it failed many Texans during the winter of 2021, causing people to die earlier than they should have. I had no words about the religious fanatics who want to impose their ways of life on the whole population and control everybody. And I wrote nary a word about all the ammosexuals in Texas. All I wrote is “at least I’m not in Texas.”

At this writing, my comment has well over 125 likes, which is unusual for me. It’s also attracted comments from jerks. Or, so I assume, anyway. I only bothered to read one comment, from a guy calling himself “Jay Smith” and claiming to be living in Istanbul, Turkey. He basically made some crack about how Texas isn’t my problem, and I should just enjoy Germany. There was more to it than that, but I’m not going to quote it verbatim, because I don’t want to read it again or see anyone else’s rude responses. The main idea is that I should STFU.

I bet “Jay Smith” of Istanbul talks like this in Texas.

So I responded that while I live in Germany, I am, in fact, a Texas resident, and I still vote there. So Texas actually IS my problem… and I can comment on Texas if I want to (which I’d be allowed to do regardless, as a *still free* person). Then I advised him to fuck off, which I normally wouldn’t do on a Facebook page for a newspaper. What can I say? The heat is making me CRANKY. My house is warm all the time, even when I use the portable air conditioners– which are helpful, but only cool individual rooms. The grass in the backyard is brown and crispy. I sweat all the time. I know that very soon the weather will change, and it will be glorious… but for now, it’s pretty yucky here.

I wonder what made that guy decide to leave me that comment. It genuinely fascinates me. My guess is that he’s probably some right wing turd in a red state– perhaps Texas itself– and he can’t abide anyone making the slightest negative crack about the beloved Lone Star State. Especially when it’s an apparently “liberal” (horrors!) woman who lives in another country. But there’s actually a lot to dislike about Texas, as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t necessarily hate Texas when I lived there for a year, but it’s gotten really weird and dystopian since I left. There were some things I didn’t like about it when I did live there, but I didn’t see it as weird-o-rama as I do now. Ever since Greg Abbott became governor, it’s gone down a very dark and climate challenged road. I sure as hell don’t want to move back, especially if Beto doesn’t win the governor’s seat from Greg Abbott.

But, like I said, I didn’t actually write anything bad about Texas. I just posted that at least I’m not in Texas. For all Jay Smith knows, I was simply posting about the weather there in August. And, in fact, that’s literally what I had in mind when I made my comment. I well remember what August is like in San Antonio. We had a pool in our backyard, but in August, the water was as warm as bathwater. Central air conditioning was an absolute must for a good portion of the year.

We had two air conditioners for the house we were renting, but they hadn’t been serviced in a long while, and the filters were absolutely DISGUSTING. I actually have pictures of how coated in gunk they were when we moved in and changed them. It had probably been years since anyone had done that. Energy prices were insane, too. Just to be comfortable, we had to pay out the ass. And, as my old friend Weird Wilbur sings in his song, “Down in Texas”, it’s always “summertime” down in Texas. I know that’s not actually true. I do remember some chilly days when we lived there. But it’s usually hot and uncomfortable, and not a place where I’d particularly want to endure the onset of menopause, especially when I start having hot flashes (which haven’t happened yet).

My spelling challenged pal, Weird Wilbur’s funny song about Texas… or one of them, anyway. I don’t talk to Wilbur much anymore, because as funny as he is, he’s also a right wing crackpot. I used to have much more tolerance for them, before the days of Trump. Wilbur’s song “Fuck You, Texas”, is the very best, and my absolute favorite Texas song…

All day, I kept getting tagged in more responses. Some of them might have been kind responses, but my guess is that most were probably more like Jay Smith’s, the obvious troll. So I haven’t read any of them. I keep asking Facebook to turn off notifications, but as usual, Facebook doesn’t care about my preferences. So here I sit, deleting notifications, and fruitlessly asking Facebook to stop sending me comments from right wing Trump supporting jerks.

I’m probably a little crankier about this than I ought to be. I guess it’s because sitting over here in Europe, watching how oppressive and dystopian the United States is right now, gives me a weird sense of survivor’s guilt. It’s so much more NORMAL in Europe, all things considered– even with this relatively oppressive heat and lack of cooling systems due to the fact that Germany doesn’t often get this hot. I don’t routinely see people walking around downtown with huge firearms slung over their shoulders, like I often did in San Antonio. I don’t hear or read about people being shot up, or trying to attack the police for doing their jobs. Leaders here actually seem to care about people, and their jobs… or, at least they put on a convincing show of it.

There’s a much better video of this song, but I can’t share it here. If you search for it by using the properly spelled word, “fuck”, you can find it.

But… for all of my grousing about the Lone Star State, I can see why some people like it. It’s huge, and its populace has a certain bravado. My husband went to high school in Texas… but then that’s also where he met his ex wife, and we know how that turned out. Bill’s mom still lives there, as do some of my relatives. I guess it’s a good place if you like BBQ beef brisket, rodeos, margaritas, and Tex Mex. We have a bunch of friends who live in Texas, and none of them are batshit crazy. There’s even some pretty good wine in Texas Hill Country. But… unlike Tanya Tucker, I hope I won’t be in Texas when I die…

Nein, danke… Germany would suit me. So would Virginia. I’m loving Virginia more these days, although I’m not quite ready to move back there. It is a truly beautiful state, though… and decidedly purple, which I never thought I’d see.

Even if Texas was the most progressive, “woke”, politically correct place on earth, I’d still rather be here than there. For one thing, I’m not that excited about woke or politically correct places. I just want to live in a “NORMAL” place, where all people get basic human rights and I don’t have to worry about being shot. But for the main thing– and the most obvious reason– Texas in August is FUCKING HOT AS FOUR HELLS… and I don’t like that kind of heat, or paying for the energy required to have basic comfort in it. So, for that reason, I am glad that “at least I’m not in Texas.” And I should be able to write that in a comment section without having to deal with stupid trolls who try to tell me to shut up. I’ll thank you to fuck off, because I will never be your ass monkey, mmm’kay? Texas is uniformly HOT and unpleasant in August. For that reason alone, Germany is naturally a preferable location for me, especially at this time of year. It’s perfectly logical and acceptable to state that, and I should be able to do it without crap from Jay Smith and his right wing buddies.

In other news…

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a fucking moron. Sorry, it’s not a nice thing to state, nor is it particularly constructive, but she is embarrassingly stupid. And way too many similarly stupid people follow her. There, I said it. Blame it on the heat and my aging reproductive system, which thankfully will NEVER be forced to birth. Yesterday, I became aware of her recent diatribe about the evils of solar panels, wind turbines, and other “green” energy solutions that might help stave off climate change. She made some outright wrong statements, confidently speaking as if she was a comedian delivering an hilarious routine. And it WAS hilarious, but not for the right reasons. Sadly, her audience was into it, and laughed with her, while the more informed of us were laughing AT her.

I’m not going to go too far into this, because a lot of people are already posting about it… but, I live in a place where lots of people have and use solar panels. And there are wind turbines aplenty. We can’t take a trip on the Autobahn and not eventually pass a wind farm. You know what? We very rarely have power outages in Germany. When we do have them, they are usually fixed within an hour. I did not have that experience in several areas of the United States. Moreover, Marjorie’s district actually hosts the largest fucking solar panel plant in the United States! So… she’s out of touch with her community and reality, and she’s leading more people down the dark rabbit hole of ignorance and stupidity. As her hero Trump would say, “Sad…” But at least she’s not in Texas. They’ve got enough problems.

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