Here’s a repost that appeared on my original blog on October 7, 2018.I still think it’s wrong for a person to coerce another into having an elective and permanent surgery (which is what a vasectomy is intended to be). I get that they are reversible, but sometimes reversals fail. They are also expensive and invasive. I know this because Bill had one.
This morning, as I looked at my Facebook memories, I found a lively discussion that I had last year. It was about Kelly Clarkson and how she’s demanded that her husband have a vasectomy after she had their two children. Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows how I feel about coercing people into permanently altering their bodies to suit the other person. I think it’s wrong. It’s very admirable if a person offers to get sterilized for their partner’s sake, but I don’t think it’s right for the partner to try to force it.
Imagine my surprise this morning when I found an article in The New York Times about that same subject. Only this time, it was in the form of a letter to The Ethicist, written by a woman who knew someone who had decided she wanted to get a divorce. But before she got the divorce, she wanted her husband to have a vasectomy. Why? Because she thinks he’s a terrible father and doesn’t want him distracted by kids he might have with someone else. She also doubts any future women would be interested in having kids with him anyway, since he’s “middle aged”.
I probably don’t need to rehash my thoughts on this subject. The short version is that I think it’s wrong for a man or a woman to demand that their partner have a permanently altering surgery. If you are done having children, you should have the surgery… unless there is a very good reason why you can’t have it. Even then, you have no right to demand that your husband or wife get sterilized. There are ways to prevent pregnancy that don’t involve permanent surgeries, which is what vasectomies and tubal ligations are intended to be (even if they can be reversed). However… to insist that your partner have such a surgery and then dump them in a divorce is unbelievably despicable and unethical. In reading The Ethicist’s column, I see that he is fully in agreement with me on this point.
What is prompting me to write again today are the horrifying comments people left on the New York Times’ Facebook link. Thanks to all of the misogynistic crap that has been circulating in the news ever since Trump got elected, there is a hive of emboldened women out there who think the way this man was treated is perfectly okay. It’s just fine that his ex wife, who did convince him to have surgery and subsequently divorce him, manipulated this man into doing her bidding. And why? Because there’s so much “misogyny” in the world. Who cares if this guy might actually be a decent person and maybe might be a great partner to someone else and a terrific father? He has a penis, so therefore, it’s alright to mislead him. Screw him and his plans for his own life, and those of any other woman he chooses to have a partnership with or marry.
I noticed a lot of men were commenting, only to be shut down by a group of women who appear to pretty much hate all men. I will admit that sometimes men can be annoying when they mansplain, but the reverse is also true. Femsplaining is also extremely irritating.
I’ve never made it a secret that I’m for *actual* equality. When it comes to reproduction, women have a bit more power than men do, since they are mostly capable of having babies without anything more than a dose of sperm. However, I would never agree that it’s okay for a man to demand that his partner have an abortion or get her tubes tied. I likewise don’t think women have the right to demand that a man get himself snipped. Don’t want to get pregnant? Don’t have sex. Get yourself surgery that prevents reproduction. Use birth control. But you don’t get to coerce, bully, or trick someone else into having surgery.
I think some feminists have lost their sense of fairness when it comes to this issue. Some of them seem to have the idea that men should be punished for what women have endured for so many years. But we will never have equality and fairness as long as one group thinks the other “owes” them.
I see the comments on the article itself are a bit more even-handed. A couple of people even suggest that the man would have grounds to sue his ex wife over the duplicity. She would probably really deserve it if he did pursue that action, although since they have children, it’s probably not the best solution for the children’s sakes. Besides, a judgment against the ex wife would not bring back his prior fertility. He’d either have to undergo a reversal, which costs a lot of money and involves some pretty serious recovery time, or some other costly intervention.
I will admit that my feelings about this issue arise from the fact that I was personally affected by a woman who demanded that my husband have a vasectomy. She claimed pregnancy was “hard” for her. Then she had two more kids with her third husband, while I’m left being the mom of beagles. Bill wanted to have a child with me and I wanted to have a child with him. We were denied that chance thanks to his manipulative bitch of an ex wife who took advantage of Bill’s kindness and good character. And yes… I do think she’s a bitch, among other things. I don’t like to namecall, but it is what it is. She destroyed his relationship with his children, tried to turn his parents against him, and made it very difficult for me to have children of my own without resorting to measures that should have been completely unnecessary.
Even if this hadn’t happened to me, I’d still be against this kind of manipulative bullshit. What the hell right does that woman have to leave such a permanent mark on her victim? I only hope the man in this story goes on to find a far more ethical, decent, and thoughtful woman than his ex wife is. The woman described in that column is the very definition of a bitch, among other things. I hope she gets what’s coming to her.
First thing’s first. I hate the term “dependa”. Although many people use the word as a shortened version of the government/military term, “dependent”, it’s actually a shortened version of an insult. At some point, years ago, some genius started referring to a certain type of military wife as a “dependapotamus” or “dependasaurus”, depending on the audience. Eventually, the terms “dependapotamus” or “dependasaurus” got shortened to “dependa”. And now, people use it all the time, sometimes even to define themselves.
Last night, I read an article in The New York Times about people who are getting married and being platonic. They see marriage as a business idea, rather than a romantic one. They find someone they can trust and with whom they can share marital benefits. The person may be more of a best friend than a mate.
I thought the article was very interesting and, for some people, the idea of marrying someone for practical purposes is useful. Most people need or just prefer having companionship in life, and it’s helpful to have someone share the load in terms of some of life’s bigger challenges. But then I went into the comment section and noticed one woman had mentioned people in the military and how the idea of a platonic marriage could be a boon for collecting “dependa” benefits.
I will admit, it was later in the evening and I was emboldened by evening libations, but I commented that people who disrespectfully refer to military family members/spouses as “dependas” are usually not worth listening to for long. The woman who wrote that “laughed” at me, then wrote that she is a “dependa” herself.
My response was something along the lines of, “Good for you. Maybe it’s time you stopped thinking of yourself in such a derogatory way and realized that you have value in and of yourself, rather than as just your spouse’s ‘dependent’.”
And although she “laughed” again, as did someone else, I decided not to read any other responses. I have learned my lesson with that type of person. It’s a beautiful Sunday, and I have better things to do… like pluck out and shape my own pubic hairs. 😉 I know that some people will defend their “right” to claim the term “dependa” with great vigor, much like some people consistently vote against their own interests. My experience comes from years of observation and fruitless discussions with people who love using degrading labels like “dependa” and its more offensive cousins, “dependapotamus” and “dependasaurus”.
Eight years ago, I fell into a very contentious argument on the WTF Army Moments! Facebook page. Someone had posted a photo that said FRG (family readiness group) spouses shouldn’t try to “wear their spouse’s rank”. I completely agree with that, by the way. Spouses who aren’t themselves in the military should not try to claim their spouse’s rank and bully other spouses. Surprisingly enough, there are some people who do that. It’s offensive, tacky, and wrong.
But then I made the mistake of commenting that I think the term “dependents” is demeaning and should be phased out. Well… the negative response I got was nothing short of astonishing! You would have thought I had insulted someone’s mother or something. The group owner demanded to know why I thought the term “dependents” was demeaning. I responded it’s because spouses are competent adults, and in most marriages, adults are supposed to depend on each other. Plenty of military spouses have careers of their own and are perfectly capable of supporting themselves. While it’s true that I, personally, do depend on my husband for some things, he depends on me for things, too. Our relationship is mutually beneficial. And as an educated woman who is fully capable, I don’t think it’s right that capable adults are being called “dependents” by the military.
Shit went down after that. I got accused of trying to “lord” my education over the women in the group. There was a tidal wave of insults, sarcasm, profanity, and sweeping assumptions about my character and life experiences. First, I was told that my education and experience mean nothing. That I’m the same as everyone else (Gosh, I sure hope not, judging by the moronic responses of some of them). Next, I was accused of being, “gasp”, a liberal (horrors)! When I explained that I don’t define myself as conservative or liberal and really couldn’t see where my politics come into this conversation, I was accused of not being experienced about military life.
The fact that I get health insurance from the government was repeatedly brought up as to why I’m a “dependent”. That’s funny. For over two years after I got married, I paid for my own health insurance. I reluctantly gave it up when it became clear that the constant moving we’d be doing would make hanging on to it difficult and needlessly expensive. When I explained that I’ve been around military folks my whole life, first as an Air Force brat and then as an Army wife, the group owner claimed that I would never see life as it really is in the military because I’m “just a dependent”. At that point, I told the rabid person who kept attacking me that she needed to make up her mind. I mean, am I “just like every other military spouse” regardless of my education, or am I someone hopelessly lost in an “ivory tower” and clueless about military life? Someone else added that the term “dependent” is a “fucking IRS term”. It is, but the IRS does not automatically consider spouses dependents, so that point was moot.
I should add that this isn’t an earth shattering issue for me. I know it will never change in my lifetime, and I’m not going to be sending any letters to Joe Biden or Congress, or anything like that. I just think the mindset that all spouses are “dependents” is antiquated, demoralizing, and yes, kind of demeaning. Particularly since it’s also devolved into the “dependa” insult. I don’t understand why people would laugh at me or begrudge me for thinking that. Why can’t we just respect someone’s differing opinions without immediately resorting to insults and character assassinations? Isn’t that why a lot of folks put on a military uniform in the first place? Freedom?
The woman I encountered last night openly calls herself a “dependa”. She may have a very healthy self-esteem. She probably hasn’t given the term much thought. But I have thought about it a lot over the years, mainly because I have the time and energy to do so. When a military wife calls herself a “dependa”, she’s basically lumping herself in with a class of women who are assumed to be fat, uneducated, fertile slobs who are perpetually pregnant, sit on their asses all day, eat bon bons, watch daytime TV, and blow their husband’s paychecks on makeup or Coach bags. They are rumored to have married simply for Tricare benefits and have a tendency to try to “wear their husband’s rank”. And again– it’s almost always women/wives who are called “dependas”, even though many female servicemembers are married to men.
In all my years of living around military folks– first as a “brat” (another term that has come under fire, although not one I have an issue with, personally) and then as a “spouse”– I have run into very few true examples of the “dependa” stereotype. A lot of the women who marry into the military lifestyle are very strong, capable, independent, creative and smart people. Quite a few have been to college or even graduate school, and some– gasp– even have good jobs while they raise children! And then there are also wives who don’t work for money, but do a lot of volunteer work, or homeschool their children… or whatever. How they spend their time or resources is really no one else’s business, anyway, is it? That’s between the married couple, not some random person observing them at AAFES or the commissary.
There are several social media groups that are dedicated to shaming and making fun of so-called “dependas”. While it may seem like good, clean fun to take part in these groups, the fact is, sometimes they do things that are pretty questionable and have real consequences for others. For example, a few years ago, I read an article about a military wife whose Facebook photos were ripped off from her personal page and shared in a Facebook group, where perfect strangers proceeded to make fun of them. I seem to remember in one situation, a plus sized wife was wearing a bikini and dared to post it on her Facebook page. That bikini pic ended up on Dear Dependa, where people were having a field day laughing about it. In another situation, a family’s photos were stolen and posted, where they were ridiculed. Some of the pictures included children.
It later came to light that the person who had stolen the photos was an Army colonel. He had to be asked, and later threatened with legal action, to take down the photos. Here he was– a man entrusted to lead troops, serve as an example to younger, less experienced servicemembers, and make sure missions are accomplished– and he’s hunting the personal Facebook pages of military spouses, copying photos that aren’t his, and sharing them to Facebook groups, where they can be ridiculed. No wonder so many civilians think the military is full of brain dead, uneducated thugs who get off on killing people. That’s not the actual case, by the way… I know plenty of smart, decent people in the military. But guys like that colonel, who engage in online bullying and harassment, don’t do a lot for the military’s image. How can a person like that be entrusted to be a good leader, responsible for expensive equipment and the lives of so many people?
While I know I won’t change anything by writing this post about why I think the term “dependent” and its derogatory bastardizations “dependapotamus”, “dependasaurus”, and “dependa” ought to go, I do think it’s sad that some people think it’s okay to refer to themselves in that way. I doubt the woman I ran into last night would have liked it if I had said something like, “So basically, you think of yourself as just a fat, unemployed, lazy, perpetually pregnant woman who leeches off her husband’s paycheck? Kudos to you for being able to read, at least.” Because, when she refers to herself as a “dependa”, she’s basically saying that the people who make fun of “dependas” should think of her in that way. Like it or not, “dependa” is a shortened version of insulting terms. It’s kind of like referring to oneself as a “bitch” or a “bastard” or something worse.
I want to ask some of these people what a so-called “dependa” could do to make themselves respectable… Would they qualify as fellow human beings worthy of a modicum of regard if they lost some weight and got jobs at AAFES? What about someone like me? I am now a retiree’s wife. Many would say I’m fat. I don’t have a regularly paying job, but I write blogs and earn some money from that endeavor. Am I worthy of respect? Or would they call me a “dependa” simply because of my lifestyle?
Ah, no matter. I know I am worthy of respect. Those who don’t want to give it to me aren’t worth the worry. And those who disrespect themselves by calling themselves “dependa” probably aren’t worth the worry, either. Particularly, when they don’t realize that they’re making things harder for themselves by seeing themselves in that way and emboldening bullies in the military community.
It IS true, in my experience, that people who regularly use that term are not worth listening to for more than a minute. They’re usually the type of people who can’t stand smart, accomplished, intelligent, and articulate women, and they would just prefer it if anyone who doesn’t have a penis just shuts up and does what she’s told. I’m serious. There are some truly vile, misogynistic, abusive people in the military culture, and they don’t care about anyone or anything but themselves, despite the military “esprit de corps” ethos they are supposed to follow. They may seem alright on the surface, but once you spend any time talking to them, you find out they have little to no regard for anyone– particularly women.
And so, when a woman calls herself a “dependa” and actually defends her “right” to refer to herself in such a way, all I can do is shake my head in dismay. I just think it’s sad. Surely, she’s better than the “dependa” stereotype. Or, I would hope so… I would at least hope that, deep down, she thought of herself in kinder, more flattering terms. I would really hope she has more self-respect. The vast majority of military wives truly are worthy of, at the very least, self-respect and dignity. If you don’t have respect for yourself, it’s hard to ask others to have respect for you. Just something to think about… especially if you’re a military wife reading today’s post.
As a new week begins here in the land of perpetual lockdowns, my mind is on a heartbreaking opinion piece I just read in The Washington Post. A public health nurse practitioner, writer, and former Army Captain named Jackie Munn wrote about how her parents both contracted COVID-19 a few months ago. Munn’s father, a 28 year Army veteran, had tried to care for his ailing wife, Julie Anne Oeser, while he was himself ill. Unfortunately, Ms. Oeser’s condition deteriorated and she had to go to the hospital. She had initially resisted going, fearing that she wouldn’t come home. Sadly, she was right. On January 26, 2021, as many people were getting their first COVID-19 vaccinations, Julie Anne Oeser died. Her family stood around her bedside. She had spent 11 days in the intensive care unit, battling the novel coronavirus.
Jackie Munn is understandably very angry that she’s lost her mother, who was 62 years old and had “few preexisting conditions.” She writes that her family had “done its part” to fight COVID-19. Munn’s sisters, Jess and Jenn, are also in healthcare. Jenn works as an emergency room nurse in a hospital east of Los Angeles, California. Jess is a medical laboratory scientist at a Kansas City area hospital. Their parents had taken the pandemic seriously and followed all precautions, to include social distancing, hand hygiene, and wearing face masks. Both planned to be vaccinated, although Ms. Oeser died before she was able to take that step.
Jackie Munn writes, “…as a West Point graduate and combat veteran, I was taught that good leaders chose the harder right over the easier wrong.” She acknowledges that her father and older sister, both veterans like her, and been trained to do things that might be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but serve the common good. And she’s understandably pissed off that so many Americans, many of whom were egged on by our former leader, Trump, have decided not to “do their part” to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Munn blames Trump, of course, as well as Dr. Deborah Birx, who was herself an Army colonel and had been part of the COVID-19 task force in the Trump administration. She served as the COVID-19 Response Coordinator for Trump’s White House. Birx was recently in the news admitting that many COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented if people had taken the virus more seriously and Trump had been a more responsible leader. I remember watching Deborah Birx on video, looking visibly uncomfortable as Trump spoke about COVID-19. She knew the truth, but unlike her colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, she did not feel that she could say it out loud. She’s said that she had many “uncomfortable” discussions with Trump. My guess is that he threatened her.
Although I haven’t yet been personally affected by COVID-19, my heart goes out to Jackie Munn and the rest of her family. And yet, I also have some empathy for Dr. Birx. It’s easy for people to say she should have done more. They aren’t in the position she was in, and they weren’t directly dealing with a man like Trump, threatening, bullying, and browbeating them into doing his bidding. I can’t help but realize that Trump is a malignant narcissist, and if you’ve never had to deal with such a person, you have no idea how difficult it is not to bend to their will. They can be extremely convincing, even if they aren’t the U.S. POTUS… and when they are someone as powerful as Trump was, with many minions ready to carry out his wishes, it seems like an impossible situation to be in.
I don’t blame Dr. Birx for deciding to retire. I think it’s a shame that all of the legitimately good work she’s done over the course of her career, to include work in mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS, is going to be tarnished by her unfortunate connection with Trump. I think she was in a no win situation. I can see why it was so hard for her to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong,” even if doing so might have saved lives.
Naturally, I had to read the comments on Jackie Munn’s piece. It was a lot of the same polarized crap we’ve been reading for over a year now. Many people– I’d say maybe 85%– had nothing but condolences and commiseration to add to Munn’s piece. It really is a sad read, and it resonates with a lot of people. A few other people were obviously ignorant pro-Trump trolls, who are clearly belligerent and selfish. But I also noticed a few people whom I thought made sense being called “trolls” or angrily shouted down by the masses. Here are a couple of examples:
Those of you who “know” me, know that I’m not a fan of group think or echo chamber comments. So many people seem to want to pat themselves on the backs for doing the “right” thing, for the good of everyone else. I’ve seen so many self-congratulatory and outright pious comments from people who claim they have done everything correctly and figuratively spit on everyone they assume isn’t toeing the line created by the likes of Dr. Fauci. Don’t get me wrong. I admire Dr. Fauci’s work, and I think he’s a very smart man who knows what he’s talking about. He definitely knows a hell of a lot more than the average Internet user. I also agree that people should do their parts to control the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more rational discussion, rather than chastising and insulting perfect strangers online.
I had to quit reading the comments when I realized I’d started rooting for the people who were gamely taking on all of the arrogant lecturing and blaming done by those who are all about everyone being forced to do the “right” things. I am not a fan of forcing people to do right, especially when people take a black and white, zero tolerance view. There are always situations that require exceptions to the rules, and the people who require exceptions should have a chance to be heard without being screamed down by others. I don’t like to be the devil’s advocate myself, because I find dealing with the deluge of irritating comments from graduates of the Google School of Public Health too tiresome and ultimately pointless. But I do secretly cheer on those who take on these folks. Most of us can Google. Not all of us are going to come to the same conclusions. That should be okay. People should be allowed to share their thoughts and opinions if they want to, and the ones who make some sense should have their thoughts respectfully considered, even if their conclusions are eventually rejected.
I’m getting especially “prickly” when I see some all knower write something like “You do know that…” or “Pretty sure that…” or “And your medical/public health degree is from…” or “What about seatbelts and helmets…” I don’t think the COVID-19 situation is akin to the other safety measures enforced by law. Ms. Munn is obviously gutted that her mother has died. I can’t blame her for that. I don’t blame her for trying to place responsibility on other people, either. It’s only natural. But even if everyone was wearing a mask and social distancing, there’s a chance her mother still would have gotten sick. There may have been far less of chance, but the chance still existed.
Not everyone is going to get onboard with the new rules. Some people never will, no matter what we do. There’s a good chance those people won’t spread COVID-19, despite breaking the rules. On the other hand there’s a good chance they will. We don’t know who passed the virus to Jackie Munn’s mom, but we do know that it’s an extremely contagious bug, and even if someone does everything right, as Ms. Munn’s mom presumably did, people are still going to get sick, and some people are still going to die. Hopefully, with the advent of the new vaccines, those numbers will drop significantly.
I think it’s useless to point the finger at random people who aren’t doing what they’re told. Those people have their reasons for not cooperating. Maybe you and I think their reasons are stupid, but they obviously think they’re right. And unless we stop and talk to them and actually listen respectfully to what they have to say, they probably won’t cooperate, even if they’re dead wrong. How many random strangers are going to change their habits just because someone insulted them and left an angry comment? On the other hand, if we engage with them from a place of respect and decency, maybe we can come to a meeting of the minds. Maybe then, more people will “choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”
A few days ago, I got into a minor scuffle with some woman from Australia. Well, actually, she tried to start a scuffle with me. I ignored her, which probably pissed her off. Anyway, what happened was, I had read an article about a type of dermatitis that is being caused by mask wearing. Many people are getting perioral dermatitis and mistaking it for acne. The condition doesn’t clear up when they use acne remedies, and they have painful reactions, as their sensitive skin is abraded by constantly wearing the masks.
A woman posted that she was dealing with this condition herself. That’s when Tiffany from Australia responded that she’s owned a medical practice for twenty years, has to wear masks, and just sucks it up and drives on. The original poster came back and reiterated that the dermatitis was actually very painful. Tiffany still had no empathy for her. She wrote that she has the dermatitis too, but she still does her part and masks up. Here’s a cookie, Tiffany.
I was a bit disgusted by Tiffany’s lack of regard for this woman and her valid complaint. So I wrote, “You made a choice to go into healthcare, where masks are required. Most of the rest of us didn’t. It’s not nice to discount other people’s legitimate problems.” Several people agreed with me, and I got quite a few likes for that comment… not that I needed the likes. They just told me that I wasn’t the only one who found Tiffany’s “suck it up and drive on” attitude annoying.
Next thing I knew, I got a message that Tiffany wanted to “connect” with me. I discovered her message maybe an hour or so after that exchange. I had a feeling she was going to blast me privately. I didn’t read her whole message, but saw enough of it to know that she felt I had no right to call her out for her virtue signaling and she was telling me off in my PMs. The end of her message was, “Cat got your tongue?”
If had responded, I might have said, “I didn’t even realize you had messaged me until I saw my phone. I don’t get those notifications on an iPad. Moreover, your decision to PM me doesn’t require me to answer you. If you want to address me, you can do it publicly and respectfully. Otherwise, I have nothing more to say to you.” What I really would have liked to have said to her, and anyone else who PMs me uninvited and is abusive is, “We don’t know each other, so piss off!” In the end, I chose to ignore her completely, which probably left her feeling like the wind was let out of her sails.
I wonder how many people would like to get in on the discussion and have valid perspectives to add, but choose not to because of bullies like Tiffany who want to call them “babies” or tell them to get over themselves. Likewise, while I completely understand Jackie Munn’s anger, frustration, and outrage that she lost her mother at age 62, I don’t think issuing a blanket blame toward anyone who isn’t doing what she thinks they should be doing is productive. Would she be just as angry if her mom had gotten the flu and died? How about if her mom had had an accident? Would she have felt better if many more people were wearing masks and her mom still died of COVID-19? It’s possible that could have happened, too. The bottom line is, the situation Jackie Munn is in is terrible, and it seems unfair. But we’re in a pandemic, and people are going to die, just as they die in wars and other catastrophes. It doesn’t mean the situation isn’t horrible and tragic– but unfortunately, blaming the world for her mom’s death isn’t going to bring her back from the dead.
Now… to wrap this up and get on with my day…
A few days ago, I wrote a protected post about a situation we’re in right now. It’s going to require some tough choices that may make things temporarily worse before they’re better. Or, they could make things permanently worse. And yet, Bill and I both know that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s something we should have done a long time ago. I was thinking of that situation when I read Jackie Munn’s words– the lesson she learned at West Point– “choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.” It’s so easy to turn a blind eye and let people get away with doing bad things. But in the long run, it can cost dearly.
I’m truly sorry about Jackie Munn’s loss. I absolutely appreciate all she and her sisters have done to fight COVID-19. I’m going to continue doing whatever I can to stop the spread. I stay home about 90% of the time and, on the very rare occasions when I do go places, I follow the rules. But unfortunately, I also know that the virus is very contagious, and some people can and will do everything right and still get COVID-19. It’s not necessarily anyone else’s fault when this happens, and I don’t think it’s helpful to blame others. It’s just a sad fact that until more people are fully vaccinated, people are going to get very sick, and some will die.
Yes, we should do all we can to reduce the numbers and cooperate for the common good. But there will be casualties regardless, and there will be heartbroken people who will suffer tremendous losses, no matter what they do. I also realize that I may very well be among those who will lose, as Bill and I anxiously await the vaccine ourselves. May God help us all.
This morning, I read an article in The New York Times indicating that many people have quit using trains and buses in cities around the world. Ridership has gone so low that there’s concern that public transportation systems will fail and there will be many related disasters. One of the biggest worries is that there will be a severe effect on the environment, since more people will be driving their own cars. I expect that with more people opting for private transport, there will also be bigger traffic jams and less available parking. However– I don’t think that consequence will happen unless life gets totally back to normal, if and when the pandemic ever ends.
As I read the article about how cities around the world are grappling with the low numbers of fare paying travelers and governments are having to bail out bus and train systems, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder. It seems like it would only be natural that people aren’t wanting to use public transportation right now. Here’s a list of reasons:
Most of us have been instructed NOT to travel unless we must.
Many people are working from home, which eliminates the need to commute (and is probably better for the environment, too). Where I live, most businesses are closed, so why would I go anywhere?
Who wants to ride in close quarters with a bunch of strangers, some of whom aren’t practicing social distancing or wearing proper masks?
Who wants to ride on a bus having a bunch of people watching your every move and giving you the stinkeye if you aren’t wearing a mask the way they think you should?
Isn’t it nicer not having to smell other people’s farts or halitosis? How about vomit, urine, poop, smoke, or booze? Or not being smushed standing up on a bus while some yucky guy cops a feel? That happened to me more than once in Armenia, where the buses would be filled until people were literally almost hanging off of them.
To me, it makes perfect sense that fewer people are taking public transportation. I think there are a lot of reasons why they aren’t using it. Some people, who were once bus or train riders, have opted to buy a car. According to the article, used car sales are up, and so are their prices. But some people are walking or riding bikes instead of using public transportation. Isn’t that a good thing, both for their health and the environment? Riding a bike is pretty low impact in terms of causing air pollution. So is walking.
The article makes it sound like the world will end if people don’t get back on the bus. And, I guess, if everyone suddenly starts driving a car instead of getting back on the bus, there could be serious problems. Mass transit systems are valuable sources of employment; they cost money to maintain, and they provide an efficient way of moving people that eliminates the need for parking spaces or sitting in traffic jams. However, more people than ever are working from home. Quite a few folks find that they like working from home and their employers are discovering that working from home is a viable option. They have lower overhead, the employee can handle minor personal business, and there’s no need for a commute. That means the employee can potentially sleep a little longer in the morning and maybe doesn’t have to spend as much money on work clothes or gas.
I read some of the comments about this article. So many people were writing that they don’t want to ride public transportation because they are concerned about anti-maskers spreading diseases. But there are probably just as many people who find riding on public transportation with militant mask enforcers just as unpleasant. I would rather ride privately in a car to avoid both types of people– the ones who don’t comply with the rules and engage in racist tirades, and the ones who act like mask cops and pay their kids to publicly call out rule breakers.
I have repeatedly stated that I won’t be willingly flying or cruising anywhere until the pandemic is under control, and I don’t have to be forced to wear a mask for hours while sitting in a cramped seat, being surveilled by flight attendants and other passengers after I’ve also been groped by airport security and had my bags searched. That just doesn’t sound pleasant to me, even as I understand why masks are important. I simply don’t want to spend money on that experience. For that reason, we’ll drive if and when we can travel. Mrs. Merkel did decide not to do the “hard” lockdown for Easter, but as it stands right now, most places I would want to go to aren’t taking visitors anyway.
I think, ultimately, the answer to this problem is mass vaccination and changing the way we do things. It sucks, although I do think that some of the changes could turn out to be positive. The article in The New York Times predicts disaster if the public transportation systems fail. But if people stop traveling so much for work and leisure, it seems to me that there could be a positive effect on the climate. If more people are able to work from home instead of clogging up the roads every day at rush hour, that could mean less air and noise pollution and less wear and tear on the road systems. And if people refuse to get with the program and get back on the bus as it is now, then perhaps the systems will evolve so that they are more appealing for riders. Hell… maybe more car manufacturers and municipalities will embrace electric cars instead of gas fed ones. That would be good for the environment and reduce noise pollution somewhat.
One thing I have noticed since we moved to Wiesbaden and live close to two Autobahns is that I can really hear the traffic here– both from the massive roads and the flights coming in to Frankfurt. One thing our homes in BW had over our home here is that it was a lot quieter (at least when the landlady wasn’t yelling at me about something).
I did think this article in The New York Times was interesting reading. If you have access to the NYT, I do recommend reading it for a look at how public transit systems around the world are coping, as people have stopped moving around as much. I think the people working in that industry are going to have to come up with creative and cost effective ways to make the system more attractive to riders. And that will mean they might have to consider why people are opting not to ride the bus or the train and adapt as necessary.
I can state that when I lived in Yerevan, public transportation was not comfortable. Riders were expected to cram in as much as possible, and it was not pleasant or safe. Today, I would imagine those buses that used to be stuffed to the gills with passengers are not so much, thanks to COVID-19. But in the 90s, when there wasn’t a pandemic, I remember having my crotch and my breasts explored by someone’s hands as I was mashed up against a stranger who hadn’t bathed in awhile (due to a lack of running or hot water in those days).
Public transport in Germany, pre-pandemic, was generally not that extreme, but I do remember some really crowded rides on the U-Bahn or city trains in Stuttgart. I remember there not being enough seats and almost falling on my face as the trains moved, because I had to stand in the aisle. Believe me, I have had my fill of public transportation. It’s a necessity for cities to have it available, but honestly, if you can arrange your own transport, why wouldn’t you? At least you have a say in how you will ride without having to deal with other people’s bullshit or bad behavior.
Even flying is less attractive these days. I remember how, about five years ago, a young pilot on Germanwings (now Eurowings) decided to kill himself and everyone else on the plane because he was so depressed. He deliberately crashed the plane and killed 150 people. Given how deadly COVID-19 is as it’s begun to mutate, perhaps the odds are becoming riskier for public transport users. Maybe 150 people on a bus won’t die because of COVID-19 spread, but for those who get the illness, it could mean long term disability and a permanent change of lifestyle.
Incidentally, my comments on not wanting to spend money to ride planes, trains, buses, or cruises don’t mean that I’m an “anti-masker”, either. I do follow the rules. A person can agree with the necessity for wearing masks, yet still hate the goddamned things and do what they can to avoid having to wear them. My need to travel is not so great that I have to get with the program, but I understand that I write from a place of extreme privilege. I know most people don’t have the choices I have. My point is, nowadays, since there is a pandemic, one really does take his or her life in their hands when one uses public transportation. City transportation experts should probably consider that, and act and change accordingly.
For some reason, my post about Adam and Darla Barrows’ love story has attracted a lot of attention. I am intrigued, because it’s somewhat uncommon for items in newspapers to generate interest for so long. Usually, you get a burst of interest in the hours or days after something hits, then people move on to the next thing. And I am especially surprised by the interest in my comments on Barrows’ piece, which was a Modern Love story, rather than a hard news item. I’m just an American blogger in Germany. Why do people care what I think? Why do they care so much that they want to respond or even set me straight? And do they know that sometimes their comments lead me on unexpected paths? That’s what today’s post is about– my unexpected trip into high priced help for the hungry in Switzerland. I never thought my post about a newspaper story would lead me there.
I recently got comments from two people who have never posted here before, both of whom have direct experience of loving someone with anorexia nervosa. One commenter seemed to agree with my take on Adam Barrows’ New York Times article about how he fell in love with a woman with anorexia. The other one clearly did not agree with me, and in fact, says my views are “outdated”. Both commenters have children who have suffered from anorexia. I appreciated that they took the time to read and comment. I won’t be surprised if others also comment, since that post is clearly very hot even a month after I wrote it. Adam Barrows’ story obviously really resonated with and rattled a lot of people.
I just want to mention a few things about that post. First off, all of my posts on this blog are mainly just my opinions. I share them with the world, but I don’t necessarily expect people to agree with me, nor do I assume I’m always right. I wouldn’t want everyone to agree, because it’s hard to learn anything new if everyone thinks the same way.
Secondly, I really think that Barrows’ story was less about anorexia and its treatment, than the development of Adam’s unique love relationship with his wife. I think a lot of people read Adam’s story, got very triggered by it, and felt the need to judge him. He probably knew people would have strong reactions to the story. Ultimately, I think a lot of people missed the point entirely, and focused on anorexia rather than the love story and his perspective as a man who loves someone with an eating disorder. Furthermore, Barrows’ story is not a long piece and was probably edited a lot, so it’s not a good representation of Adam Barrows’ character. It pained me to read so many nasty comments about Mr. Barrows, and that was why I wrote about his NYT piece in the first place.
Finally, I’m really glad he wrote that story and shared it, despite the polarized reactions. It has really made me think and, as you can see, continues to inspire new posts for my blog. 😉
Which brings me to today’s fresh topic. One of the people who commented on my post expressed disappointment that The New York Times shared Barrows’ piece and “glamorized” anorexia. Looking on my Statcounter results, it appeared that “Danielle” might have been writing to me from England. If she is from England, it would make sense that she would give me hell about my comments. She may or may not be aware of how different the US and UK healthcare systems are. In the United Kingdom, citizens have access to the National Health Service, which means healthcare doesn’t cost people as much as it does in the United States. A basic level of affordable care is available to everyone.
In the United States, healthcare is very expensive for most people, even for those with decent health insurance, which is also expensive on its own. Mental health care coverage is often woefully inadequate. It’s been years since I last had a “civilian” health insurance policy, but I seem to remember that my coverage only allowed for thirty days of inpatient psychiatric treatment per year. And that’s if there were no pre-existing conditions! Outpatient care was somewhat more generous, but it was not covered the same way or to the same extent a physical problem would be.
In the United Kingdom, there is also a process called “sectioning”, in which people can be involuntarily hospitalized for mental health conditions. The Mental Health Act of 1983 allows for family members and physicians to act in another person’s best interests when it’s clear that they need psychiatric help and won’t cooperate on their own. Anyone who is being sectioned must be assessed by health care providers first, but it appears that a person can be sectioned for a much broader array of reasons than they can be in the United States. Someone who is starving to the point of death because they have anorexia nervosa could possibly be sectioned, for instance, even if they are over 18 years old.
In the United States, we do have the means for hospitalizing people against their will for psychiatric reasons, but it’s a lot more difficult to force an adult into psychiatric hospitalization than it is a child. A lot depends on the laws of specific states. Moreover, in the United States, involuntary commitment seems to be done most often in cases in which a person is clearly a danger to other people as well as themselves, and is not in touch with basic reality. Someone with anorexia nervosa is probably not going to pose a genuine threat to anyone other than themselves. They also tend to be basically rational in things besides their body image. Anyone who is curious about how eating disorders in the United States are treated may want to watch the excellent 2006 documentary, Thin, by Lauren Greenfield. As you’ll find out if you watch this film, a person’s insurance coverage is also quite important in their ability to access care. I can’t say that adult people with eating disorders never get forced into treatment in the United States, but I think it’s more difficult to do it there than it is in England and Wales.
In the 1960s, there was a big push in the United States to deinstitutionalize people with mental illnesses, which meant that a lot of facilities closed down, for better or worse. The emphasis is more on outpatient treatment. In fact, healthcare is more for outpatient treatment for regular medical conditions, too, mainly because of how bloody expensive it is.
As I was thinking about Danielle’s comment and chatting a bit with my friend, Alexis, who is herself employed in healthcare, I got to wondering how eating disorders are treated in Germany. I went Googling, and found a few items that didn’t tell me much. But then my eyes landed on an ad for a rehab in Switzerland– specifically, Paracelsus Recovery in Zurich.
I know Switzerland has really excellent medical care. I also know that it’s an eye-wateringly expensive place. I know healthcare is not cheap in Switzerland, either. I was interested to find out what this place in Zurich was like. I found out that it’s a family run business. Clients are treated one at a time, and have the option of staying in one of two huge penthouses.
The fees include five star treatment, to include a personal chef and a counselor who stays with the client 24/7 in beautifully appointed accommodations. There’s a medical staff, including nurse practitioners and physicians, a wellness staff, with personal trainers and yoga instructors, and therapists. If you access their Web site, you can take a tour of the posh penthouse, which includes a bedroom for the therapist. If you like, you can pay separately for accommodations at a hotel, although the accommodations are included in the price of the treatment and I’m not sure if you get a price break for staying off site.
This center treats several different psychiatric conditions, including drug addictions, eating disorders, mood disorders, alcoholism, and behavioral addictions (porn addiction or gambling, for instance). It’s a very discreet place and, judging by the fees they charge, is intended for helping only the very wealthy. At this writing, it costs 80,000 Swiss Francs per person per week to be treated at this facility. To put this price into perspective, at this writing, 80,000 Swiss Francs is equal to about $86,000 or roughly 72,000 euros. The fees cover everything related to the treatment, although if you fall and break your arm or get sick with COVID-19 and need hospitalization, you will have to pay for that medical treatment separately. Also not included is accommodation for anyone who accompanies you or a two day pre-assessment, which is an additional 20,000 francs.
As I was reading about this place, it occurred to me that there must be a market for it. I’m sure their clients are mostly extremely wealthy people, such as royalty from the Middle East, Hollywood movie stars, rock stars, or business moguls from Wall Street. Paracelsus gets excellent reviews online, but I wonder how many people have had the opportunity to experience this kind of treatment. Still, it’s fascinating to read up on it. I wonder what it would be like to work at such a place. I’m sure they deal with some extremely high maintenance people. I also wonder what would prompt someone to start such a practice, which seems to cater only to extremely wealthy people. To be sure, that population is unique and may need special accommodations, but I’m sure the cases are uniquely challenging, too. People with a lot of money are often used to hearing the word “yes” a lot. Maybe such posh surroundings are less effective for people with addictions. But again, I could be wrong. At the very least, it looks like a very competently run place, and in a city well known for psychiatric care.
I found another rehab in Switzerland, Clinic Les Alpes, that has a relatively bargain basement cost of 45,000 Swiss Francs per week, although the typical stay is for 28 days, so you do the math!. It looks like there, you can be treated for exhaustion or burnout or addictions. They seem to focus on addictions the most and offer care that emphasizes comfort, as well as the classic 12 step program to sobriety. It’s in a beautiful area, just off the shores of Lake Geneva, in an area with many forests and no sound pollution (which sounds wonderful to me). But this program appears to be a lot less private. There are 27 rooms for clients to stay in rather than two exclusive penthouses.
I would imagine that healthcare in Switzerland there is delivered expertly, especially if one is paying many thousands of Francs. My experiences in Switzerland have mainly been in a few hotels, a couple of which were high end. The Swiss definitely do high end hotels right, although on the whole, I find it a rather boring, soulless place, even if it is also very beautiful and scenic.
Well… I’ll never darken the door at one of those very special rehabs in Switzerland. I do find them interesting to read about, though. They’re not for ordinary people with big problems. They are for extraordinary people with big wallets. Obviously, there’s a need and a market for them, since at least two of them exist… and to think I found out about them because of a comment on my post about a Modern Love story I read in The New York Times over a month ago! I am always amazed by what inspires me to think and to write… and that’s why I like to hear from people. I’m sure Danielle never knew her comment about how wrong my opinions are would lead me to research luxury rehabs in Switzerland. You learn something new every day!
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