I was my hair in the bathtub. The cat sits on the back of the toilet to get a good view. I wring my hair out, and before I reach for a towel, I let him sniff my wet hair.
Sniff. He looks me in the eyes. “You know you have evil in your hair, right?”
And then he hops off and tries to lead me back to his food bowl.
This week a former Etsy employee weighs in on why women stay in jobs longer than men, even when they know it’s time to go. And Harvard Business Review writer Whitney Johnson talks about women and power, and her unexpected path from music major to Wall Street equity analyst.
The Broad Experience is a podcast by women for women about women and the workplace. It’s fantastic—ladies, please do listen.
Ooh. This sounds good.
I listened to a bunch of episodes of this podcast earlier this week, and thought, “Amy would love this. I should tell her about it. You know, I’m sure she’s already heard of it because she probably knows what all the public radio people are up to.”
And also, +1 to everything they say in this episode. Ugggggh.
Sixth grade. Have to run the timed mile. There’s a time limit, so I pace myself to come in less than ten seconds under the deadline. It sucks. Why try harder?
Seventh grade. Gym teacher makes some of us run laps because when he said the homework was due Wednesday, we didn’t intuit that he meant Tuesday.
He comes out to check on us a few minutes later and tells me I can go back inside. I must look like I’ll surely die.
Summer before ninth grade. The nerds are advised to enroll in summer gym because either we don’t have room in our rigorous academic schedules or we won’t survive the locker room.
We start every day running laps.
The day before the timed mile, they make us run extra laps. A lap shy of my requirement, the gym teacher tells me I can go back inside. I must look like I’ll surely die.
My best friend, who finished long ago, observes that I look strange when I run. Strange how?
Well, horses are very good at running.
“Maybe not like a horse.”
My shoes are full of blisters.
The next day, we have to run the timed mile. There’s a time limit, so I pace myself to come in less than ten seconds under the deadline. It sucks. Why try harder?
It rains the next two days. There is no more running.
Three years after college. In the car with my parents and sister, going out to dinner. Mom tells a story of a woman who started running marathons at 65.
Maybe I’ll be like that, I say.
“Seriously?” My sister refuses to believe there could be a universe where that might happen.
A year or two ago. I’m at the Y, in another of my twice-yearly, soon-aborted fitness attempts. Trudge on the elliptical for thirty minutes, bail and get Taco Bell.
I go enough times to notice a man in the front row who runs hard on the treadmill, accelerating into a strong final sprint, then throws his arms up in victory as the treadmill brakes at the end of the program.
I feel his joy at achieving whatever goal he reaches each time. I envy his joy. I want to feel that joy at the end of my own hard run. I want to throw my arms up in victory and not be ashamed that everyone else knows I’ve never had a victorious finish to a workout. Bail and get Taco Bell.
Around the same time. Really push myself on the elliptical. Do something almost worthy of victory arms. Realize that night that I actually popped an aneurysm along one of my reconstruction scars. Fear that I’ll die if I ever have a decent workout again.
Sometime last year. I read enough positive comments about Couch to 5k on Ask Metafilter that I get this idea that even I could do it.
Do nothing for months.
Go to the gym to try the first workout. Sounds easy enough. I sorta make I through the first fast interval, if fast can be slow. Trudge through the slow interval. App chimes to speed up again. Jog around the lap straight to the exit, bail and get Taco Bell.
Upon moving to Tehachapi. Discover there is a gym in town. And a Taco Bell between it and my home. Can’t end well.
A couple weeks ago. People seem to be waiting for an open elliptical — two of the five are broken — so I hop off mine and tentatively approach the treadmills.
I tap tap tap the + button on the speed part of the touch screen. Sometimes it registers the tap. I have no idea what kind of speed is my kind of speed. I get to where I have to actually pick my feet up, feel like nonononono cat, slow it back down to a trudge. Hate treadmills. Wish I didn’t so I could run and then throw my arms up in victory.
Saturday. Realize the ArcTrainer is the only cardio machine without those unusable touch screens. Decide to commit to it, because fuck those touch screens. Go faster than I ever did on the ellipticals (realizing I should have had them on different settings all along), feel ashamed at the end of the timer that I still haven’t done anything worthy of victory arms.
Maybe I’ll start running marathons when I’m 65. Maybe I’ll be like that.
The good news that doctors might prescribe more pragmatic, less alarmist courses of treatment for breast cancer is instead being spun as my mastectomy was a huge mistake.
Fuck you, internet commenters, health writers and University of Michigan researchers, in that order. It’s me — the patient — who gets to decide how cautious or aggressive I want to be about my cancer. I think it’s super awesome that doctors might be less likely to tell a 24-year-old that a 4% risk of recurrence is just too much risk to take. I wish I’d had a time machine and could have visited a future doctor who’d tell me that 4% is an acceptably low risk and reducing it down to 1% is overachieving. But we didn’t have time machines in 2008, so fuck you, people who tell me that now that we have better information I should have decided differently back then.
This is what I posted in a comment on Jezebel, when I was trying very hard to sound rational and not overtly tell everyone to fuck themselves:
This is frustrating and complicated, but saying the majority of mastectomies are unnecessary is reductionist.
My diagnosis is a long story, but I had a bilateral mastectomy at 24. My mom had a lumpectomy two years before that, and my doctors were convinced — despite both Mom and I testing negative for BRCA1&2 — that a mastectomy was the only rational choice for me. One, because of the family history. Two, because otherwise I’d have to get mammograms annually for the rest of my life, and they feared that much cumulative radiation could cause a new cancer. I’m a pretty rational person and I enjoy not having to stress (much) about recurrence, but I sometimes wonder whether I should be angry that my doctors were so biased toward the nuclear option. If I’d been 20 years older, I think they’d have advised me very differently.
But how this story is being framed is a little ridiculous. What a mastectomy does is greatly reduce your chance of occurrence/recurrence. It’s insurance. It lets you get to spend the rest of your life knowing that, when you had to make a choice, you decided to be aggressive and remove what risks you could. The same way you get to choose how much car/renters/life/pet insurance to buy, you get to choose how much no-more-cancer insurance you want to buy. Don’t tell 1.3 million women — who went through something that was indeed traumatic and expensive and full of really complicated feelings — that they shouldn’t have bought boob insurance. It’s ugly to pour salt in that wound.
By all means, be pragmatic with new patients and discuss honestly whether reducing a 4% recurrence risk to <1% (those were my odds, your milage may vary) is worth the trauma of a mastectomy. Be excited for the women who’ll exit treatment with smaller scars and fewer hospital bills. That is wonderful, wonderful news. But to frame this as “the medical machine ruins 1.3 millon women’s lives” is cruelly pessimistic. We all understand that medical science is improving all the time and affords each generation better options and outcomes, right? Those 1.3 million are lucky to live in an era when they have effective, well-tested treatment for their primary cancer and get to decide what risks they want to take with a potential secondary cancer.
Can we go back to shitting on Komen and pink ribbons instead of actual cancer survivors?
Again, to be clear, any one who wants to retroactively armchair-quarterback other people’s healthcare decisions can go fuck themselves.
I am, sincerely, so happy for all the women who won’t have to get mastectomies in the future. That’s really, really fantastic.
Cards Against Humanity is a card game that’s like Apples To Apples, but offensive. It’s not offensive like “Ha ha, you wouldn’t see that in the newspaper!” It’s offensive like maybe you shouldn’t play it with your friends unless you want to hate them.
When you’re playing Risk, and you start to lose, you go “Man, fuck this game!” When the tide shifts in Monopoly and you’re paying your friends rent and they’re taking all your shit, you say “Fuck Monopoly, I hate this game!” But when you play Cards Against Humanity, you look your friends in the eye and say “Fuck you.”
Maybe you already hate your friends, though, in which case, go for it. See the blood vessels in their eyes pop when you pick apart their insecurities and jab at their soft spots, for the low price of $25.
I’ve played far too many hands of Apples to Apples with excessively innocent and humorless people. I resent those experiences less now that I know this version exists.
So I moved to California because my engineer husband got a job building spaceships and no one turns down spaaaaaaaaaaace.
We’ll ultimately be living in Tehachapi, which is known for two things:
It’s up in the mountains and surrounded by a huge wind farm where you can see many generations of wind turbines. I drove through there on a road trip ten years ago, and the only thing I remember was the wind turbines. I’d never seen a wind farm at that point — only mentions of wind as an alternative energy source in text books in school — and I was mesmerized. Still am. It’s a small and charming town, our house is great, our landlord is great, our neighbors seem great, I found a place that has bierocks, I think I’ll be happy there.
But for the first week out here, we’re staying in a hotel in Palmdale until our moving truck catches up with us. Lancaster/Palmdale seems, on its surface, to be a lot of strip malls and racism (that the phrase “the city of Lancaster voted late Tuesday to be more welcoming toward minorities” has to be written in 2012 is disturbing, although it’s decidedly less disturbing than other things their mayor said during the discrimination lawsuit). The first non-service-worker I met here made it a point to immediately establish that she’s not racist like everyone else (“I have a lot of black friends!”). I hope that this town and I just got off on the wrong foot, because it’s a pretty uncomfortable one.
I had some incredible Armenian food last night, so maybe I’m starting to find a little depth here.
But California is weird.
It’s possible that Kansas is weird and California is relatively more normal No, California is just a really weird place. So I want to document the differences that have stuck out to me so far. This will likely be a series.
Lori, my penultimate roommate, left for law school two years ago.
Steph left for Cincinnati last year.
My friend and former roommate Andrea left for language school in Costa Rica this summer.
Now Katie is moving to the Mojave in a couple of weeks.
I need more friends.
Last one out, please turn off the lights.
One of the many friends who left me behind, who hated it here and could not wait to leave, who was not from here originally, told me something five years ago that I have not forgotten. He said I was lucky to have been able to find decent work in my hometown right out of college, to not have to slum somewhere else and not have to settle in order to return to my home, and that not everyone is so lucky to have that as a viable option.
I’d never thought of it that way.
I think many of my high school classmates who came back saw it as settling, as treading water in a safe place until we could get started on our real and better lives. It was, for me, perhaps a drably convenient choice and one that remains the subject of many what-ifs.
But it is not without hesitation that I leave Wichita this month. I made friends, I met my husband, I leaned on my parents for various favors. We put so much time and money into our house and I finally like it.
And the desert is, after all, the desert. I hate heat and wind and dirt. A Joshua tree does not have the beauty of an oak, a pear, a maple. There is no yarn shop. The west coast TV broadcast brings with it three hours of avoiding spoilers online. It’s a red part of a blue state, and that can’t be much better than a purple part of a red state. And what if there are no people for me to be friends with? I can’t be friends with just anyone.
But my husband got a job building actual fucking spaceships
I spent the past six months whiplashing between, “I don’t want to veto this prematurely, but I deeply do not want to move there and just tell me if I should veto it now instead of later when you’re more invested,” and “I need a fresh start so fucking badly, let’s move to the fucking desert.”
I had another friend who told me something I’ll never forget. He said when you have to make a difficult decision, you flip a coin. The flash of emotion when you see the result of the coin toss is what tells you what to do. It’s twee, but it works. And I know the right decision here because I know how I feel when anyone else leaves. “When will it be my turn? What will this be like when I’m the one leaving?”
So all of this is just a long way to say: It was my turn.
And I think that means you’re next, Amy.
In June or July of 2007, I went to the hair salon and handed the stylist two crappy bathroom mirror photos from high school and said, “This is what my hair looked like my senior year of high school, and I was happy then. I want that haircut again.”
I gave myself that haircut in high school, but I guess I’ve never been able to replicate it.
Last night I was clearing all exes and other terrible decisions (except one — possibly the most terrible one, but there has to remain some record of my all-over-the-place sophomore year of college) from my iPhoto albums last night, and found — surprise! — a batch of bathroom mirror photos of the redux haircut.
2007 was incredible.
I think that haircut is my talisman.