It has been said that I've been going 80's. It has been a process, since late in the 90's. It could be argued that I never left the 80's.
In high school it probably started with the music. First the pop, then the punk, then the post-punk. I don't know how to talk about music, but it Did Things to me that any other music at the time didn't come close to doing.
In high school I also started shopping at thrift stores. Due to endemic disagreements with my parents about clothing choice, around the age of 11, I gained fashion independence, but at a price: I had to pay for my own clothes. This was no issue, as I had a miniature mint from my babysitting monopoly in the summertime. But I was perpetually on a budget, and would make a B-line for any sale rack at the stores where I'd go shopping. My involvement in a production of Steel Magnolias ensured a place for Aqua-net on my dresser for life.
Midway through high school, I was introduced to the Thrift Shop, and that was the true beginning of my downfall into 80's shame. I swiped up a pair of bitch heels and a synthetic, ass-cheek-short lace dress, and some large sunglasses and I was an instant thrift devotee. While I dabbled in other eras -- 40's-style prairie dresses, 60's big-button coats, peasant tops and wide-leg jeans from the 70's -- I kept coming back to the artificial candy-coated 80's. I also insisted on keeping my Sony Walkman, listening to tapes, "Because," as I've valiantly declared time and time again, "It is the only sound medium that actually preserves the integrity of the album, and frustrates any attempt at clicker-happiness."
In the past five years or so, things have gotten worse, people have started to comment. I've taken heavily to the high-waisted pants phenom, off-shoulder blouses, leotards, stirrup leggings. I've even outdone myself. Last spring, I started being "ok" with my frizzy hair. I even teased it once (with help from the ever-present Aqua Net). I purchased a button-up blouse with pleats on the front (no buttons) and did not remove the shoulder pads. I also very recently traded in my horn-rimmed Ray Ban glasses for an elegant, but oh-so-eighties plastic oversized Chanel frame (which, don't you worry, only cost me $50 after coupons and sales!!!), which has really taken the whole thing to the next level.
This, folks, was just the intro, and I'm sorry if I got diverted in an overly-effusive review of my own greatest hits of the 80's. It was all, all to say this:
Well, once again, I've outdone myself. I've taken my retro style even deeper. Yesterday I got fitted for a diaphragm.
Yes, folks, I'm going super-old-school-retro-fab with my birth control methods. And there are a lot of good reasons. I was on hormones for a few years during my last (and only) bout of regular sexual activity, and I suffered from a heavy depression which lifted about two weeks after I stopped the pill. By then, I thought that the depression was an inextricable part of who I was, that my gray outlook was just how I saw the world. Off the pill, I started to see the butterflies and rainbows again, and it was like a monumental weight had lifted off of me.
So, no, I'm not going back there! Sure, there are other methods. Condoms break and then I get freaked out and pop a few Plan B, which is back to the hormones which can be dangerous if over-used and also make fishes grow legs and extra eyes. Not ok! Then you have your IUD implant, which has the most horrific side effects known to man. Like. You could actually get pregnant. And the IUD would attach to your infant's head. Or it could merge with your uterine wall and cause infertility or DEATH. Oh, yeah, stick it up there! Sign me up!
In any case, I'm not sure why more women don't use diaphragms. First off, they come with their own case. That's awesome. They're an ugly color, and look like a condom for a horse, buuuut. They're as effective as condoms and pretty discreet (once they're up there). They do not kill the fishes, they do not kill the uterus. And they're reusable. Sooooo...
Apparently they're just out of fashion. They were invented around the turn of the century and were super cutting-edge through the 1940's. The numbers dropped exponentially when women started pumping themselves with hormones. Even though the stats started to show a decline in the usage of the diaphragm starting in the 60's, their aesthetic is undeniably 80's. The whole idea of beauty in the 80's revolved around women with tiny waists and but huge boobs, and a nice curvy butt. Pubic hair was in-style (at least in porn mags) as were bushy eyebrows and frizzy, teased hair. In general, the 80's female naked body was way more comfortable with herself, even though it would be eventually dolled-up and artificial-ized for the dance club. The thing also comes in a nasty-80's-pink plastic case. That's so you can put it in the back pocket of your high-waisted, acid wash jeans.
Unfortunately my aesthetically and ecologically informed decisions regarding alternative birth control methods was not met with much enthusiasm from the outside world. Let's just say, I've been blushing a LOT since I set upon my journey back to the future. First of all, I had no idea how to come about finding one. I pored up and down the aisles at the drug store, and without finding one, I approached the female pharmacist, who looked at me like I had three heads when I asked "Where are the diaphragms?" She informed me that I needed to see my ob/gyn and be fitted for one.
So I went, and armed with this embarrassing experience, I set up an appointment. I was so nervous to ask, I waited (of course) til she brought up the subject of birth control as she was burrowing with an oversized q-tip between my thighs. I told her that I got depressed with hormones and hated the idea of an implant of any kind, and asked whether I could have a diaphragm. She said nothing and looked to her nurse, and looked back. I tried to back pedal a bit, "I mean -- is it not effective or just out of fashion? Because I can deal with out of fashion, but I don't want to get pregnant..." This snapped her out of it, but not before my face turned crimson.
She said, "Oh, no no, I mean, we just don't get a lot of requests for them anymore. So it's just out of fashion, but they're very effective." Then THEY started back-pedaling saying that they had both used one "once" at one point in time [in the late 70's].
What ensued was a bit of a fiasco. They had to dust off the ole fitting kit, and shove one or two up there to make sure it was the right size to plug it all up. Then I had to demonstrate that I'd grasped the concept, and the thing kept squirming around ... I dropped it twice and both nurse and doctor were horrified and told me that I could just take my time and they'd check up on me in a little while. I swear I've never turned so red in my whole life...
Well I did manage to work things out, and then I sat back and wondered whether all of this was just wishful thinking as the most action I'd gotten in over a year had taken place in the last half an hour. The nurse eventually poked her head back in, and asked how things were "coming along."
"I got it." I said.
"You got it in there?"
"Yeah, it works."
"I mean, did you feel it at all?"
She sent for a different nurse to go over my little instruction book with me. I realized that the questions were more for her own benefit than mine. She was curious.
The nurse that came in was a total trip. She had a thick Pittsburgh accent and looked herself like she hadn't quite emerged from the 80's, but not out of choice...When she walked in she said, "Holy shit, those things are HUGE!!" Just when I thought I couldn't possibly blush any more...
She referred to sperm as "all those little spermies" or "Those nasty little guys" or "the little buggers." "Ya gatta kiw'em AW, 'em liwgaz." "When you're tha-rough, you should wait at least SIX HOURS, and then clean it and put it in your case...aw I guess you get a little case!" As she read on, it became apparent that she was (again) reading more to herself than to me. "Whoa you gotta reach way up'air! I don't even know if I can feel my cervix. That's what it says, though,'Reach back and feel your cervix. It should feel just like your nose.'" I pondered who the fuck wrote that little pearl of wisdom, but touched my nose for good measure. After every phrase she told me, she would bulge her eyes and say "If you don't do this, then YOU COULD GET PREG-NANT." I almost peed my pants I was laughing so hard.
On my way out, the nurses were all howling, and they hushed when I walked past their meeting room. The nurse who'd instructed me came out and said, "Naw, If you get PREG-NANT, don't blame your teacher!" She covered up her name tag which read Karen, and told me her name was Michelle.
I almost died of embarrassment. I left clutching my script, in awe that they couldn't just hand me one then and there.
The agony was NOT over yet, as I was met with similar disbelief from the pharmacist, also female. "Uh," she said, awkwardly looking up from the piece of paper, "We don't ... carry those. We'd have to order them in. And it might be expensive, it's not always covered." It was, and she told me I could pick it up in a day.
Put briefly: what the fuck?
1) What's the deal? Why are they out of fashion? They're cheap, they work, and there are no bad side effects. 2) Why don't women (and female healthcare professionals) know anything about their bodies or feel comfortable about talking about it with other women? 3) Why the FUCK did I need a prescription for a fucking female condom, which will cost me $25 COPAY with my insurance, when BOYS can go buy condoms over the counter? 4) How long is it going to be before they come back with a vengeance (like my Ray Bans which everybody made fun of eight years ago but now are like everywhere)? and 5) Why the FUCK did I need a prescription for a fucking female condom, which will cost me $25 COPAY with my insurance, when BOYS can go buy condoms over the counter?
This country is so fucked up. I'm going back to the future...
I applied to four MFA programs, admittedly to really top notch, reach-for-the-stars programs, and it looks like I've been rejected from all of them (the last one has yet to come, but on an online forum people have already heard back about interviews in my department). I also applied to and was rejected for a second time from a local fellowship program. The only one left right now is my application to a residency program in Maine, which I was rejected from last year.
Lots of rejection. And I am ok with it, really. It would have been exciting to turn a new page and plunge headlong into something new and different, but this is not my year, it is what it is.
What I know I need to do now is make more work. Lots of work. I need to put my head down and work, work, work. I need to make more things, more often. Better things. Because eventually whatever I've been trying to say will come through, and I know it will be through my work. Always has been this way, and always will. The best part of this whole thing is: there is no doubt in my mind what I have to do. I don't feel lost, or directionless, or forlorn at all. The only thing that has ever been sure in my life ever -- has been my work.
I went to the dermatologist today, and I could have punched her. For the record, doctors, like plumbers or baristas or persons from any other actual skilled profession are NOT all created equal.
Some have brains, for instance, and others don't. The dermatologist asked me why I was taking Plaquenil, and I told her that it was because I had a mysterious illness that had me down and out for about eight months or so. I had a strong family history of auto-immune disorders. Eventually I ditched my PCP who laughed at me and patted my shoulder as he was leaving the room, chuckling "You aren't depressed, now, are you?" And had I been depressed, I wouldn't have told him then, that's for sure. Yes. I left HIM, and went to a doctor with a brain, who listened carefully to what I was saying and gave me a plan which actually worked, and I'm feeling much better.
I felt like punching the dermatologist, however, who then went on about how AWFUL it must be to be ill at 25 years old, and how her twenties were the BEST years of her life. And how she just couldn't IMAGINE having to take two pills every day. Ha ha ha. She THEN proceeded to list all of her medical problems, including dry eyes and dry mouth (which often accompany auto-immune disorders). I told her that I'd started to experience dry mouth and eyes as well. Then she went on for eight minutes about how she wakes up with sludge in her mouth and how her first husband couldn't stand to hear about it. "It's just so gross, and I have no idea what to do about it." Honestly -- ask me who wants to hear that stuff, especially after you've just put me in the pit of despair with your former comment!?
And THEN, worst of all, she sort of casually asked me what my "heritage" was, a rare question in a doctor's office, if you are WHITE. I knew why she was asking, because I happen to have a brain. So I told her that I was Irish. She looked up at me. I paused, and then said I'm also Italian on my dad's side. She nodded her head vigorously and shook her pen in the air, relieved to be able to tell me that it was "natural" that I had "more hair" because of my "Italian heritage." I looked at her fake-o blonde hair set in a poof on her head that was secured with a butterfly clip and her clumsily done blue eyeliner and thought of all the possible nasty retorts I might make at that moment, but held back. Again, because I have a brain. But I mean. Come on. Aren't doctors supposed to be ok with the body and all of the stuff that goes with it?? (Fluids, hair, etc.) Ugh. How utterly irritating. It made me want to grow my body hair down to my ankles in fierce rebellion of her bridge-and-tunnel-bred idiocy.
In any case, and this has nothing to do with the blondie brainless doctor from hell, I have over the past month or so accumulated an arsenal of hair-removing devices and solutions and have decided to take it upon myself to look into the whole hair situation. It should be interesting. I just find it really difficult these days to care much about my appearance or reputation ... or anything. I am sitting on an egg which is my little life. I realize that before too long it's going to bite me in the ass and I'm going to have to move, move, move. So I've just been sitting here in the meantime, growing a small forest on my body, and dreaming of all of the tiny creatures and wood nymphs that might possibly inhabit it. Because I'm in Pittsburgh. And the weather's nasty. And unless you REALLY like beer or sports on television, you have to WORK to do anything. And I'm sick of working. (Blah blah blah blah blah -- who cares, right?)
Well, 2012 so far has brought about two rejection letters so far. Not bad, considering we're just in the beginning of our second month. I usually feel a mix of and indignance and sadness when I'm rejected. I suppose it's the usual fare. The first one wasn't so bad. It was for this fellowship locally that I was already ambivalent about attending.
Then came Yale. I put my heart into the application, drafting so many different versions of a statement, and poring over my portfolio with insane attention to detail. I was denied admission not by email, but by an email that said something had been updated, and so I had to login to their website for the privilege of getting some bad news. I wasn't even invited to interview with them; the whole time I was saying, I know it's a crapshoot, but I just hope they invite me to interview before they reject me. Because the interview might dignify the rejection process, and also anybody who meets me would be out of their mind to reject me, or at least I could justify that they didn't prefer meyer lemon tarts to chocolate mousse. (I've determined that my dessert persona is a meyer lemon tart. It's dense, but not too. Sweet, but not too. And it takes longer to make so you don't always see it on the menu. Thinking of myself in this way has, since I was cast in the chorus in high school plays, helped me deal with rejection).
But no dignity was to be had. I had only just let myself look into the faculty profiles. I fantasized about super-deep conversations and life-long relationships with people who would be honest with me about my work, inevitably adore me. These people would become my network for my career moving forward. I might be able to practice in New York. Stay closer to the people who I know and love. Then, before anything got terribly out of hand, I was rejected and it was over.
It was hard for me to feel indignant because it was so quick. Clearly I hadn't come across in a way that spoke to them. Clearly the failure was mine. My friend pointed off that the Meyer Lemon Tart Analogy still held true. Which was right. If they weren't feeling my work, there wasn't much I could do in that domain. I was never about to change the type of work I do for anything. Not for fulfilling assignments, not for lack of money, not for lack of support from gallerists or lack of technical skills.
But part of me is still so curious about what they were looking for. What conversations were had over the work that I'd poured my income and SOUL into over the past four years or so. It is really killer. I did shed a few tears but then started laughing at the absurdity of it all. I drove simultaneously laughing and crying as Pittsburgh simultaneously snow-rained. Nothing seemed to be able to make up its mind.
Long story short, I skipped a few meals out of feeling ill. Then I was whisked away to an amazing shopping trip where I was doted on for hours. Secured an awesome new outfit, including, fittingly, a raincoat which I'm sure would make future such rainy days all the more exciting. In the end, it didn't hurt that much. It didn't hurt as much as having a gallerist who didn't turn on your work, after you'd spent years of your life and the equivalent of three years' rent on realizing it. It definitely didn't hurt as much as having my heart broken for the first time.
And I'm ready to move on, but mostly I am really insecure about what other schools will do. Everything feels like it's in flux, and while I try to remind myself that my situation right now is very stable, I have a roof over my head, "a song in my heart, food in my belly, love in my family," etc etc. And that living this way can go on the way that it has. I've already allowed myself to lust for something more ... both a good and a bad thing. So. Oh well.