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Rebecca Adler REBECCA ADLER is from Sacramento, CA, where she is a grad student in applied linguistics and works as a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in Jane & Jane, Sacramento Business Journal, and Comstock's Business Magazine, among others. She also keeps a book review blog and can be found on Facebook or Twitter.

Recent Work By Rebecca Adler

When I think of runners, I don’t think of myself. I think of the elite athletes I see at races sporting just their sports bras and spandex shorts, muscles galore. These women run a marathon in the time it takes me to run a half marathon. They have sponsors and trainers. They have people cheering for them! I don’t have that. I’ve been running for five years, but I’m 5’2″ and weigh 155 lbs. I wear a size 10. “Elite Athlete” is not in my genes.

It all started in 2005 when a friend asked me to join a 5K with her. The feeling I had at that first race – the energy of the other runners, the rush of crossing the finish line, and the knowledge that I hadn’t walked any of those 3.1 miles – was enough to hook me on running for the past five years.

In the beginning I was only running about 15 miles a week, while signing up for at least one 5K or 10K every month. But when people asked me if I was a runner, I’d say, “No. I’m more of a jogger, really. I’m not a very fast runner.”

Recently though, I’ve been wondering: What exactly makes one a runner?

I mean, aside from the awesome body, I’ve got pretty much all it takes to be a runner. I’m a devout user of body glide, which I learned to use after an awful case of sports bra chafing that led to cuts all the way around my rib cage and prevented me from wearing a real bra for more than a week while the scabs healed. I’ve got the always flattering spandex capris, of which I own more pairs than jeans. I wear the ever-so-cool water fanny pack. I suck down those awful carbohydrate gels for long runs. I own more sports bras than any person should probably admit to owning. I subscribe to Runner’s World. I even read books about running.

And it’s not just the gear. Like the hypochondriac I am, I self-diagnose with any number of running disorders from shin splints to plantar fasciitis. I know what plantar fasciitis is. I regulate my pace depending on the number of miles I’m running. I talk about pace. I go to seminars about running. I worry about the amount of water I drink in a day for fear of getting leg cramps after a long run (and limit my alcohol intake, which, admittedly, was a bit out of control before I started running). I eagerly seek out the advice of other runners, with whom I could talk about pace and shoe fit for hours.

Then there’s the actual running, which has gotten into absurd numbers of miles since I started training for my first marathon in May (500 miles in 4 months!). I mean, really, who goes home early on a Friday night because they have to get up at 6 a.m. on Saturday to run 20 miles? Not normal people!

So why do I still, after more than five years of running, feel like I’m not a real runner? According to Claire Kowalchik, author of The Complete Book of Running for Women, this is a common problem among women, who are more likely to downplay their roles as runners, whether because of body image, speed, lack of experience, or fear of what other people think. But Kowalchik asserts that if you run then you are a runner. The key is to tell yourself that you’re a runner and see yourself as one. She goes on to say that one’s running will improve greatly with the belief that they are a runner – encouraging one to increase speed and performance to become an even better runner. In her book, she quotes Tim Gallwey, “I know of no single factor that more greatly affects our ability to perform than the image we have of ourselves.”

With that said, my name is Rebecca Adler and I am a runner.


Basak meets me at the airport shuttle drop off point in the busy city center. We hail a cab and we’re off to my new apartment. She shows me how to get in and gives me a tour of the apartment. I drop my bags in my room and then we’re off again. She wants to show me the neighborhood so I won’t be lost when I’m all alone at home during the coming weeks. We walk, and walk, and walk. Where we’re going, I don’t know. She shows me her workplace, says I can come there anytime if I need help with anything. And then our destination is in sight: Cevahir, the biggest mall in Europe.

She shows me to the grocery store so I can stock up on a few necessities. I feel awkward shopping in front of her so I try to make healthy choices. I throw a couple of nectarines and bananas into the handbasket, then I head toward the dairy section. Without having to tell her what I’m looking for, and before I can reach for anything, she stops me: “That’s not milk.” I look at her, completely befuddled. We walk over a few aisles to where the cereal is, and there we find a wall of milk boxes – the kind that would never survive in America, the kind that has a shelf-life of two years and needs no refrigeration. “Oh, the Turks do milk like the French,” I think to myself. I throw it in the basket, along with some cereal.

“I need shampoo and soap too,” I tell her. She takes me to the toiletries and I’m dumbfounded by the sheer number of shampoo bottles, not one of them with a label I can read. Right, first order of business: Find an English to Turkish dictionary. I look at her and say, “We need a bookstore.”

***

The next day Basak takes me to see the University I’ll be attending. We aren’t able to talk with the International Student Relations office because it’s after business hours so she heads home, leaving me to explore on my own. I wander the street in front of campus until I see the restaurant I’d seen in my classmates’ pictures back home. “God, I hope this is the place,” I whisper as I walk in the door.

A handsome man with cutting green eyes approaches the reception counter. Nervously I ask, “Is there someone here named Aşkın?”

With a charming Turkish accent he says, “I am Aşkın.” Now I’m really nervous. I’d hoped I could explain the situation to a waiter or someone and they could explain it to him in Turkish. But now here I am and he’s right here, and he has those eyes.

“Uhhhh….I’m a friend of Kristina…” I begin to say, but he cuts me off before I can finish my explanation. “Are you Rebecca?” he asks happily. “Yes!” I say with relief. With ease he changes into French and welcomes me, telling me that my friend Dana had been there earlier that day, but that he wasn’t able to speak with her because he has a very limited English vocabulary. He calls Dana and hands me the phone.

***

Dana and I barely knew each other at home but we’re practically inseparable here. We’re both so grateful to have someone to share this craziness with. We help each other navigate the buses, the cell phone companies, the campus, and the Turkish bureaucracy.

After three weeks of spending our days sightseeing or in the mall, wishing school would start so we could make friends here, we learn of a language exchange group that meets every Saturday evening for drinks and conversation. We’ve got only one week of Turkish lessons under our belt and this week’s meeting is on the Asian side, but we will not be deterred. We leave two hours early to ensure we’ll make it there in time, but when we arrive in Kadiköy we’re not in the right place at all. All we know is we’re near the shore of the Bosphorus. With several missteps and the help of a number of Turks – one of which walked us all the way to our location even though he and his girl friend were running late for some kind of family ceremony – we finally made it, half an hour late.

Dana and a Kiwi girl get wrapped up in a Turkish lesson, while I mingle with the French at the table. I eventually find myself at a table with three young Turks who refuse to believe my claim that I can already count to a million in Turkish. When I first sat down they had asked me what I’d already learned in Turkish.

“Well, I pretty much only know my numbers,” I responded.

“Oh really, so you can count to, what? Ten?” one of them patronizingly asked me.

“No, I can count to a million!” I replied with confidence.

So they proceeded to quiz me by writing down numbers, first easy ones like 99 or 25. Then moving on to the hundreds, and finally giving me what was to be their “Gotcha!” number: 126,573.

Yüz yirmi altı bin beş yüz yetmiş uç!” Success was mine!

***

My pasta and cereal rations are running low and I’m tired of wasting my money on restaurant food, so I finally head to the grocery store on my own for the first time. I have  a personal mission to buy and then cook actual Turkish food. After all, one cannot survive on pasta, cereal and white wine for six months without wanting to jump out a window at the thought of food (or so I reasoned). I see the bread for Dürüm and it’s decided that this will be my first foray into Turkish cuisine. I head to the meat section and inspect everything, trying to decide whether I trusted myself to cook chicken or not. I decide on spicy pre-cooked Kebab meat (or at least it looks pre-cooked and the picture of peppers and fire on the package clued me into the spicy factor).

Then I’m off to conquer the cheese section. There are hundreds of cheeses, none of whose names I recognize. I finally just decide to grab any white cheese and hope for the best. Somehow my random grab landed me with cheddar, for which I will be forever grateful. Tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, and a couple walks through the aisles for good measure and then I’m done.

Elated by the fact that I didn’t die from food poisoning, I invite Dana over the next day to try what I have now coined “The Turkish Burrito.”

***

I’m sitting on a bench with my earbuds in, waiting for the metro to arrive. A pre-pubescent boy sits on the other end. His younger brother sits between us – his little kid arm, sticky with sweat, resting against mine. “Pardon,” he says as I inch over so we’re no longer touching. He looks up at me and asks something in Turkish. I look down at him and say, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand Turkish.” He looks confused and his brother gives him the 411. “Ah, Ingilizce?” he says, looking back at me. “Evet,” I say.

Now, excited to practice his English, he points to my earbuds and says, “What is this?”

“Music?” I say, confused by what he’s asking.

He looks thoughtful for a moment, then says, “Where are you from?”

“California.”

Ah, Kalifornya.

And we have now exhausted this eight-year-old’s English vocabulary. So we sit in silence, until, just as the train arrives I see his face light up. He’s remembered something. “I love you!” he shouts over the sound of the train. I look down at him and laugh. I walk away to catch my train and as the doors close I know for the first time that I’m really going to miss it here when I leave.

SACRAMENTO, CA

It’s been a week since I last saw you. Almost two months since we stopped sleeping together. Four months since you started dating someone new. Seven months since you moved out. Eight months since you shattered my picture of our future. One year since we moved into our new apartment together. Sixteen months since you photographed my sister’s wedding. Eighteen months since we returned from France. Nearly two years since I greeted you at the airport in Paris. Three years since we first moved in together. Three years and some months since you first told me you loved me. It was during the same trip when I took you to meet my parents. It had already been two months since I had first met yours. Further back in our history was our first fight: three and a half years ago (still one of my most memorable St. Patrick’s Days).  It was more than three and a half years ago that we first had sex. Almost four years since we began hanging out. And, it was nearly five years ago when we first met.

These are the events by which I have been marking my time – something I have been doing for far too long.

And well past when it should have ended. Yet I find myself sitting here at this computer with tears falling fast because I know that this is the true end of the era of you in my life. I first noticed it last week when person after person asked me when I am leaving. It is no longer the question of how long it has been since us. It is now only a question of me and what I am doing. And I realized that for a number of weeks now I have ceased to mark my time by you and have begun to mark it for the future instead.

It is less than one week until I board a plane to Frankfurt. One month from now I will be arriving in Istanbul and meeting my future roommate. Six weeks until my orientation. Two months until school begins. Six months until my return to Sacramento. From there on out it gets a little bit hazy. The one thing of which I am certain, however, is that I will be coming back to this place with all new experiences, none of which will contain any memory of you.

And when I return, my time will only be marked by when it was that I left.

SACRAMENTO, CA

I come from a family of dreamers. My dad was always chasing some harebrained idea or another. One week he’d be talking about starting his own business, and the next he’d be obsessed with buying a motor home to travel cross-country. My mother spent many a weekend humoring my father as he dragged her from mobile home lot to mobile home lot looking for the perfect vehicle for this crazy adventure that has yet to materialize – twenty years later. At some point my mom took to saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it, Grant,” to just about every idea my father came up with.

Granted, my father made these things all sound wondrous and doable, but when it came to the logistics of trying to do any of the things he wanted to do, it just wasn’t going to happen with nine children in tow. In more recent years he has been far more productive in following through – like when he convinced my mom to get her truck driving license and the two of them drove big rigs across the country for a year or two. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the two of them happier and more close than when they were living out that life. Unfortunately, family drama made them have to quit that and my dad went back to his old dreamer self. I don’t talk to them much these days so I have no idea what he’s dreaming up these days, but I’m sure it’s something big.

The thing I’ve always admired about my dad’s big ideas is the enthusiasm with which he first approaches anything. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve inherited his big dreaming, as well as the enthusiasm that only lasts until the idea gets put down on paper. Somehow once I’ve thought something all the way through I no longer have the energy to actually put the pieces in motion. This is why I try very hard not to tell people I’m going to do something until I’ve actually got everything in place to make it happen. Many times I’ve heard the advice that you should tell people you’re going to do something because then you’ll feel obligated to follow through with it, but that’s just not the case with me or the people in my family. It seems that once we let our secret desires out into the ether, they escape never to be seen again. And so it is that I have been planning a move to Istanbul for the past six months but have not put it down in writing until now.

I’ve wanted to write about it here a million times over, but I would hate to become one of those people who sees everyone’s eyes roll every time she mentions another crazy adventure. I want to say, “I’m moving to Istanbul,” and have people actually believe it, rather than them saying, “I’ll believe it when it happens,” you know? I want to be a doer, not just a dreamer. So, now that the plane tickets are bought, my storage is beginning to fill up, and the funding has been secured, I feel it’s safe to come out to you all about my plans.

The most common question from people when I tell them I’m moving to Istanbul is: Why Turkey? The answer seems simple to me. I’m going to Turkey on a study abroad trip. My only other option for my major (MA TESOL) was Germany, which I felt was far too safe of a decision, considering I’ve already lived in Western Europe, have been learning German, and have been to Germany a couple of times. I wanted to explore someplace completely new and foreign to me. And, really, why not Turkey?

My friends and family also want to know why I’m going anywhere at all. Why not just stay in the states and finish up my MA quickly so I can move on with my life? Well, the easy answer is that I’m going because I can. If you had an opportunity to move to Istanbul, would you not take it? But the more true answer is that I applied in haste after having my heart shattered. All I wanted was to escape all of the memories of me and him. There isn’t a bar or restaurant in this town that doesn’t have some memory of us. And this apartment – it’s overflowing with promises not kept and things left unsaid. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve both had trouble letting go and I truly think a forced separation will allow us to move on in ways that we haven’t been able to over the past six months.

Also, it will give me the chance to be alone with myself and my thoughts while I get lost in the beauty and history of such a wonderful city. It’s only going to be for six months, but I’m hoping it will be enough time to explore Istanbul and some of the lesser traveled parts of Europe.

Already, I’ve been discovering the vast amount of history that has taken place in Turkey. Did you know Troy is in Turkey? I feel so ignorant for having thought it was in Greece all this time. I’m reading a huge travel guide on the country in the hopes of not seeming completely clueless upon arrival, but there’s so much to learn and so little time. It’s seriously unbelievable the layers and layers of history there – even just in Istanbul itself. I hope to send more regular updates from Istanbul with plenty of pictures for you all. Hopefully we’ll both learn something from the experience.

Any advice, suggestions, must-sees, or phone numbers of hot guys are more than welcome. Well, contact information for just about anyone living in Turkey (aside from creepy stalkers and serial killers), is welcomed.

So now, how many of you have that They Might Be Giants song stuck in your head?

SACRAMENTO, CA –

When you left I lay there for nights on end, staring up at the ceiling, memorizing the shadows cast there by the street lights outside, listening as the heater clicked on and blew too-hot air at me and then waiting for it to turn back off.

I lay there listing in my head the reasons why you left, filing them away, stacking them up, shuffling them around, reorganizing them, examining them, turning them over and over again, all in the hopes of seeing the why more clearly.

I lay there night after night, unable to sleep, crying, waiting for the world to wake up, listening for the sounds of life outside so I could know I wasn’t alone, thinking to myself that I was unloved, unlovable.

I lay there in our my bed feeling pathetic and lost, blaming myself and thinking I was the one at fault, thinking if I had just done this or that differently, you’d have loved me enough to try.

When you left, I lay here, broken. But since we stopped being “we” I have come to realize I have been freed – free now to do all of those things I thought I’d never do because I was with you.

I lie here now, changed.

I lie here knowing I don’t owe you anything.

I lie here thinking that you were just as much at fault as I was, that it wasn’t only I who wouldn’t change.

I lie here now, hopeful, listening to the world outside my window, knowing I get to be a part of it, thinking that one day I will find someone who deserves my love, and I will be loved, am lovable.

I lie here with the sun casting bright morning light onto my covers, thinking this is my chance, my chance to make my life anything I want without having to worry about how it will effect the someone else in my life.

I’m here! It’s happening! Let’s get this thing moving. No more moping. No more crying over you. No more dwelling on everything you ever did to hurt me.

No more.

SACRAMENTO, CA –

Anyone who has a younger sibling knows what it feels like to be loved unconditionally. If you have enough siblings, you may even know what it’s like to be loathed unconditionally. Me, I’m lucky to have two younger sisters who would have done just about anything I asked them to do when we were younger. It might be said that I made them into my own personal slaves. Kati was about 16 years younger than me, so her tenure was short-lived and she didn’t get into nearly as much trouble as my sister Jess.

I would get Jessica to break into my mom’s secret stash of M&M’s. Or I’d have her steal my sister Melissa’s favorite doll so we could torture it. We’d also dress up my brothers as girls and take photos of them. Or we’d convince the youngest child of the moment to eat bugs, or dirt, or rotten grapes. And if we ever got caught, or if someone tattled on us, Jess would always take the blame. She never once told my mom that I made her do it. Of course, she was (and still is) adorable, so my mom was never too mean to her. Sometimes she’d get her hair pulled or be forced to apologize or sit in time out. But as soon as her punishment was meted out, she’d be back in my room hoping to play barbies (which I was always able to talk her out of because I didn’t ever want to take my barbies out of their boxes).

In my family we all had what I guess you’d call a “soul sibling.” Jess was mine. Even though we were six years apart with two other girls between us we were paired together from the time she was born. When she was a baby, I’d hold her whenever my mom would let me, and as she grew she became attached to me. She would beg my mother to dress us in matching clothes and we’d talk incessantly about how we should have been born twins.

Jess and I also shared a room, and a bed, for as long as either of us can remember. Even when I finally got my own room at age 12 Jess would sneak down in the middle of the night to sleep in my bed with me. I was afraid of the dark and of killers hiding under my bed, so I appreciated the company.

I managed to get over my fear of the dark and I bought a bed under which nobody could fit, but I’ve never been able to get used to being in bed by myself. In fact, I’ve never been able to get used to being alone at all. Since the time I moved out of my parents’ home, I’ve had one boyfriend or another to keep me company. When they weren’t around, I’d turn on the TV and the stereo at the same time to fill up the silence and loneliness threatening to envelope me. Then, two weeks ago, the other half of my bed was vacated, with nobody new waiting to fill the void.

And so it is that, at age 28, I’m learning how to be alone with myself for the first time.

SACRAMENTO, CA –

My dad is pretty infamous within my family for his over-the-top hobbies and do-it-yourself home improvement projects. In the early 90’s, when my family still lived in Modesto, Calif., my father decided he was going to try his hand at woodworking. He then proceeded to purchase approximately 30 books on the subject, subscribed to Woodworking Magazine, and began researching all of the tools he would need to be an expert woodworker.

We spent a lot of time at Sears in those days, as my dad began purchasing every saw, workbench and sander known to man. He cleaned out the garage, which, by the way, was the first time I think I’d ever seen the garage floor in my lifetime, and set up his “workshop.” There was a pile of wood in the garage that took up a good third of the floorspace. For all of his efforts though, my dad only ever managed to make little tchotchkes. You know, the little “Home is where your heart is” signs and whatnot.

There were many projects that followed this one, but the one that’s been on my mind lately was his attempt to put a pond in our backyard a few years after I had moved out of my parent’s home. This was when they still lived nearby and I saw them on a weekly basis. When I heard that my dad was starting another home improvement project I just rolled my eyes and laughed with the rest of the family. I got to the house one day to see my dad surrounded by books about building a backyard pond, along with some tubing and pumps that he was busily testing. Weeks passed and I quickly forgot about my father’s plans for the pond.

Then, a few months later I arrived at my parent’s house to discover my youngest brother seated on a giant rock next to a gaping hole filled with rainwater and mud. The picturesque pond my father had envisioned had never materialized. Instead, it was more like a swamp, which suited my then 4-year-old brother just fine. My mom told me that Peter would spend every afternoon out there playing in the mud and watching the frogs and toads who were loving this new habitat my father had seemingly created especially for them.

I joined my brother out there and he told me all about the “magic” frogs that lived in the pond. At first I couldn’t see any frogs. I actually thought they were my brother’s imaginary friends. After all, he was 20 years younger than me and five years younger than the next youngest child. Unlike the rest of my brothers and sisters, he spent a lot of time on his own.

But then I flinched as I saw one of the frogs hop out of the pond. Peter thought this was hilarious, but, unlike any of my other brothers, he didn’t begin trying to catch them and taunt me with them. Instead, he showed his sensitive side and explained to me that the frogs were “really nice” and that they wouldn’t hurt me. He picked up a couple of the frogs, and petted them to show me I had nothing to fear.

Since then, my brother has formed a very complex personality. He loves to do lots of the things stereotypically reserved for little boys, like riding his bike and playing in the dirt. But he also loves putting on performances in which he sings and dances to his own songs. He’s comfortable around girls and loves to show off by doing cartwheels and walking around in my sister’s high heels. Like any big sister, I think this is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. But the rest of the world associates his more “feminine” behaviors with him being a homosexual. While I’m totally fine with this and would absolutely love to have a gay little brother, other people have stigmatized the gay lifestyle to such a point that even at 8 years old, my little brother, who has absolutely no concept of gay or straight, cannot feel comfortable with being himself out of fear of being marked as an outsider.

See, unfortunately, my family no longer lives in California, which, until Prop. 8 passed, seemed to be a more tolerant state than others. Instead, that pond was filled in a few years back when my parents sold their home and moved away to Idaho, and later Utah. Now I rely on updates about my two youngest siblings from my other family members and I heard the saddest news last week about Peter. My sister, Jess, called to fill me in on the latest family gossip about me, while at the same time giving me the scoop on the rest of the fam. This is when she told me that my little brother is avoiding school because he’s been being harassed and beaten up for being gay. She said he asked if he could transfer to a school near her so he wouldn’t have to go back to his regular school. He also asked her if doing cartwheels would turn him gay – apparently one of the accusations of his persecutors.

It’s obvious to me that the other children in his school are getting some skewed educations at home on what it means to be gay, along with the message that it is something to be avoided at all costs. And worst of all, they are somehow coming to the understanding that it is OK to discriminate against and harass gays. Each time a state passes another law discriminating against gays – no matter how trivial the issue may seem to the larger population – this message is reinforced both in the minds of adults and in the minds of our children. My younger brother is only one of a great many children who are being harrassed at schools across the nation for not conforming to gender norms. I only hope he can make it through without adopting the same mindset as his peers.

SACRAMENTO, CA –

Early on in the battle against Proposition 8 here in California, I told one of my lesbian friends that I was fiercely opposed to the initiative, but that I felt like it wasn’t really my place to be angry since it wasn’t really my battle.

“Are you kidding? We need you and other straight people like you on our side. We won’t win this proposition without that support,” she told me then.

At the time I thought she was only humoring me. I didn’t realize how true those words were until now. Statistically, the LGBT community really did need us straight people to vote down that proposition. Only 1 in 10 Californians are part of the LGBT community, which means, of the votes cast on Nov. 4 in opposition to the now-infamous Prop. 8, more than 4 million of them came from heterosexuals in support of their gay neighbors, friends and family.

There were also plenty of religious people and clergy who voted against this proposition as well – the few who were able to look past the flurry of lies thought up by the proponents of this measure. This is important to note as the LGBT community continues fighting for equality in California and elsewhere. Churches all over California have been targets for protesters, including a church here in Sacramento that fully supported the No on 8 campaign, and even spoke at a rally here on Sunday. I understand the desire to blame somebody for this egregious error in Californian voters’ judgment, but not all churches took part and it’s not any more fair for us to put them all in the same boat (no matter how much I find myself doing the same thing most days) than it is for them to do so to us.

This proposition has brought out some ugly sentiments on both sides of the ticket, but I have to say I feel like the gays are more justified in their distaste for the Yes on 8 people than the other way around. The utter hypocrisy of the proponents of Prop. 8 is what really gets to me. Every day I read about someone calling the pending lawsuit “frivolous,” or someone saying boycotts against companies and churches that supported proposition 8 are “witch hunts,” as though they wouldn’t have taken the exact same measures if the proposition had failed. I’m sure they would have called for a boycott of Google and Apple (as though anybody could resist these corporate favorites). Even worse, they would have put the gay marriage ban back on the ballot for next year (just like Prop. 4 seems to appear every year even though the majority of Californians have voted against it three times now).

I think what really bothers the supporters of the gay marriage ban is that they didn’t think the gay community would come together and get organized so quickly after the election. Granted, it probably would have helped to be more organized before the election, but the point is they’ve come together now and they don’t show any signs of letting up. And I think it scares the anti-gay people even more than gay marriage did – especially because it seems to be working.

Just yesterday, the CEO for a local theater company here in Sacramento had to resign because a boycott was called against the theater company (which is largely staffed and supported by the gay community, I might add) when word got around that the CEO donated $1,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign. All this fuss is still making headlines more than a week later as gay rights activists put together daily rallies throughout the state.

More than 5,000 people showed up to the rally on Sunday, Nov. 9

More than 5,000 people were at the Sacramento rally on Sunday, Nov. 9

It’s exciting to see this movement gain momentum. And, I think, it’s also important to note that this isn’t just about gay marriage. For some reason, marriage and adoption rights have stolen the spotlight on gay rights issues – perhaps because these are issues whose consequences are felt immediately and effect the biggest LGBT population.

But there are a number of other equality issues where all of us should be standing up for the gay community: First, let’s talk about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Does it seem ludicrous to anyone else that you can be fired from the military for coming out as a gay or lesbian? These people have volunteered to fight for our country and we’re giving them walking papers because we don’t agree with their lifestyle? In a time of TWO wars?

Of course changing DADT might extend to the Employment Non-Disrimination Act – you know, the thing that keeps you from facing workplace discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability? The only thing not covered in that act: sexual orientation. In 31 states it’s still legal to refuse to hire someone – and be fired – because of sexual orientation. But hey, if DADT’s good enough for the U.S. Military it’s good enough for corporations right?

At the rally I attended this past Sunday, one of the speakers made a great point on just this topic. He was urging everyone at the rally to come out – not just to their family and friends, but also to their co-workers. I remember him saying that one of the strengths the community has right now is that they’ve been able to hide in the open for so long. They’ve been able to become doctors and lawyers and educators without anyone standing in their way – as long as they keep it secret. And he said now’s the time to show everyone that the LGBT community is just as normal as any other community in this nation, not something to be afraid of.

This was coming from Chris Cabaldon, the Sacramento region’s first openly gay elected official – the mayor of West Sacramento. And here’s a sad fact: Just as his community was re-electing him by 16 points, they supported the gay marriage ban by a 6-point margin. He said something to the effect of: “This community can trust me to run the city, but they can’t trust me with a marriage license?”

I know there are a lot of people out there who are “sick of” all the noise the gay community is making right now, but I say it’s for good reason. Same sex marriage probably wasn’t their first choice as a right to fight for, but it was made their issue when states throughout this country started banning their right before they even asked for it. We saw in Arkansas that the religious right doesn’t plan to stop at same sex marriage when they’re taking away rights from the LGBT community. Marriage was just the beginning. So, really, they’ve been given no choice but to fight. And I plan to stand right there with them. The minority always needs others to stand with them, and I sincerely hope those of you who have been waiting on the sidelines thinking it’s not your fight will decide to join us too.

SACRAMENTO, CA-

For the past several hours I’ve been staring into the darkness and begging myself to shutup so I can get a bit of needed rest. But I’m too anxious and my mind is racing. I don’t think I’ll be sleeping until this damn election is over. It’s not so much the presidential election that has me worried. It’s all of these ballot measures that are so important but have somehow been forgotten in the higher ratings mud-slinging and fear-mongering of the presidential candidates (Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still completely freaked out about the presidential election, especially after seeing all the crazies on TV and YouTube).

I cast my ballot about three weeks ago by mail and was then able to convince myself that I had done my part and I would just have to wait for the results. That was, until tonight (or, last night, as it were). I went to a Proposition Party with my boyfriend. No, this was not a party where people proposition you. It was a party where each person was given a ballot proposition to research and discuss with the group so we could each make educated decisions about how we will vote on Tuesday. And that’s when I realized how truly scary this election is, at least here in California.

The people who write these ballot measures are probably happy as pie that the presidential election has stolen the spotlight because some of their propositions are going to get passed just because people don’t know enough to vote them down. Before I voted I took the time to read the voter’s guide so I had a pretty good grasp of the issues when I voted (and I’m proud to say that I didn’t change my vote on any of the propositions after having them explained in more detail). However, those initiatives on which I voted ‘No’ are much scarier to a left-leaner like myself than I had previously thought.

Take Proposition 4, for instance. This initiative is a California constitutional amendment to make it illegal for anyone under age 18 to get an abortion without the doctors first notifying an adult relative. Or, in extreme cases, the girl can take her case to court and ask a judge for permission to get an abortion. Now, I can see how parents would think this is a great idea. And, really, it does sound pretty good on paper. I know I’d want my daughter to tell me if she was going in for an abortion.

But then, I’d hope my daughter and I would have an open and understanding relationship and that she’d be coming to me to help her through such a difficult decision. There are girls out there who don’t have that type of relationship with their parents (I know I didn’t) and whose parents would likely punish them and force them to make a different decision. And there are the cases of abuse. Or the cases where the girl would rather commit suicide than to face telling her parents.

Even so, I can see how parents can be worried that their daughters wouldn’t come to them with such a serious decision. What bothers me about this amendment is the small print (well, OK, the big print too. I obviously voted on this before I knew about the small print, but the small print would have changed my mind had I been leaning toward a ‘Yes’ vote). Small print: This amendment gives parents the right to sue doctors up to four years after they find out about an abortion, even if their daughter tells them after she’s an adult. This will likely raise legal and insurance costs for those doctors who perform abortions – even before they ever get sued. Also, this amendment would make public all judicially decided non-notification of parents, putting judges’ jobs in jeopardy if they judge too often in favor of girls seeking abortions.

And what about the whole going in front of a judge to ask for an abortion? Even though I know I have the right to choose, I still know abortion is an unpopular decision in America and I would not want to face the protesters and the public on my way to court. Nor would I want this to become a public matter. I can imagine that making the choice to abort a fetus is not an easy decision for anybody. And I, for one, would want it to remain a very private matter (isn’t this what got Roe v. Wade passed in the first place?). Forcing teenagers to make this public, even if just to their parents seems to violate everything the Roe v. Wade decision put in place.

Californians voted against this proposition in 2005 and 2006. Both times I sat at my computer refreshing the results screen every two seconds to reassure myself that the measure would be defeated. Luckily, this time around Proposition 8 (the gay-marriage ban) has somehow usurped the attention of the religious right and has kept the anti-abortion legislation out of the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t still going to be voting on it. And the fact that we haven’t been hearing much about it really scares me because it could be keeping the closet pro-choicers in the dark as well.

And this is just one of the issues that’s been going through my head all night. I’m still horrified by the abundance of anti-gay-marriage people there are still in this state – one of the bluest states in the union. In 2008. When I first saw the gay-marriage ban on the ballot I thought, “Yeah, but this is California. There’s no way that would pass.” But the last few weeks have really shown me how wrong I was. I’m terrified of these Yes on 8 people – not just because they’re voting Yes on 8, but also because so many of them seem to believe taking away civil liberties is the only important thing on the ballot this election season. I’ve seen interviews with some 8 supporters who say they don’t even plan to vote for president because that’s not what’s important right now. The presidential election. Not important. But taking away the right to marry is?

There’s also Prop. 3 and Prop. 9. And Prop. 6 and Prop. 7. There are so many propositions that sound great at first, but just below the surface there’s something there saying, “Neener, neener, neener! We got one past you!” And now I can’t sleep at night.

I know the world will keep turning if the election doesn’t go the way I want. I know all of the propositions will be challenged in court, regardless of which way they go. Or they’ll end up on the next ballot, yet again.

And I know we’ll survive four more years with an ineffective president.

I just want something more.

-Becca

P.S. I’m curious about what’s going on in other states. What are some of the big propositions you’ve got on your ballots?

SACRAMENTO, CA-

For a couple of months now I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts regarding the same-sex marriage issue, which is appearing AGAIN on the California ballot this November, despite anti-gay-marriage laws having been found illegal by the California Supreme Court in May.

And yes, I do realize that Californians showed their true colors back in 2000 by voting against gay marriage, so I understand why all of the fear-mongering has started up again regarding this issue. I’m sure they too thought they’d put this baby to bed when they won a 61 percent vote in support of marriage being between only a man and a woman. But here we are California, we’ve been given a second chance – and I think there’s a high probability that gay people will be able to rest easy about this issue (at least until next election season rolls around).

But then, I’ve been wrong before.

There are so many things that bother me about this issue. First, there’s the idea that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people shouldn’t be treated as equals in this nation that pretends to put freedom and equality above all else.

Second, I’m seriously bothered by the religious right’s insistence that this is a case of the government forcing them to accept something against their beliefs, when in reality it’s vice versa. The California Supreme Court decision found that the state could not deny civil unions to same-sex couples. This means the state can now issue marriage licenses and will recognize those marriages. HOWEVER, the Supreme Court also said – and this is where my real confusion comes in when people try to say the government is forcing churches to perform gay marriages – that churches in California can still deny marriage to same-sex couples. It’s perfectly legal for them to say no to marrying a same-sex couple. They can keep their hatefulness and fear intact. No problem. Because – BECAUSE – we have a separation of church and state.

And what about those couples who have already said their vows? Are we going to send a government official around, knocking on their doors and asking them for their marriage licenses back? I bet the religious right would love the privilege to be the ones to rip up those “sacred” documents in front of those heathen. What an emotional up and down that will be for those couples. To finally be considered equal and then to have that right just yanked back from you. I can’t imagine something more painful.

Next on my list of qualms are the ads and the propaganda out there making it sound like legalizing gay marriage is akin to destroying all wholesome families and the sanctity of marriage. Can we just get one thing straight right now? The sanctity of marriage died a long, long time ago. The divorce rate in this country is well-above the halfway mark. Maybe the real fear is that the divorce rate will increase tenfold if we allow gays to get married AND divorced along with us straight folks. And wholesome families? I think those died out with Leave it to Beaver. Puh-lease. This, to me, is by far the biggest illusion the Yes on 8 people were able to dream up – well except, of course, the the idea that gays choose their gayness.

I don’t know about you all, but I sure wouldn’t choose a lifestyle that afforded me few rights – not even the right to be hired without discrimination, a law that currently covers race, ethnicity, gender and origin but NOT sexual preference – and seemingly gives others the right to hurl hateful, hurtful words at me as I go about my daily life.

Side story: One of my friends was walking out of a liquor store the other day and was stopped by a man who was explaining to his young son that this here (my friend) was a follower of Sodom. She said she was horrified by the confrontation and didn’t know how to react, especially considering she’s a lesbian and therefore doesn’t practice sodomy. Apparently that was lost on the man, who was so intent on teaching his son how to hate at a young age.

I don’t know, it just seems like a clear choice for me: easy street or tough love? Uh, I’m gonna go with easy street, thanks.

The only other thing I can think of that makes people so eager to constantly fight against gay rights is fear. I think that fear is what this all really comes down to. People are uncomfortable with things they don’t know much about, so instead of learning more or getting to know some LGBT people out there, they’d rather try to quell the supposed threat. I can’t think of any other “good” reason to be so opposed to gay rights.

And, although this post is geared toward Californians because of Proposition 8 on the upcoming ballot, this is a nationwide issue that needs to be addressed. I have questions about the legality and reasoning behind these laws, so I can only imagine how confused the LGBT community must be about all of this. I’m curious to hear the “valid” reasons out there (And please don’t argue God. God is only valid if I believe in your God, which I don’t.) for why we should continue this quest to keep gays down.

And, please, if you are in California pay close attention to the wording of each proposition on the ballot. I know the Obama/McCain spectacle has taken hold of most media outlets, but there are so many more things on your ballot. Be sure you know what you are voting for because that wording is confusing. Semantics could easily lead you astray – for instance, on Prop. 8 if you vote “Yes” you are actually voting against gay marriage, whereas the “No” vote legalizes same-sex marriages. See how they try to trick us? All I’m saying is pay attention.

And please, someone explain to me why this is still an issue in the 21st century.

SACRAMENTO, CA

It wasn’t until I was about 23 years old that I was able to face my family with the fact that I no longer believed in the Mormon religion. And even then I didn’t really face them. They found out in bits and pieces. The most obvious sign was the divorce, which I never told my parents about directly. They heard about it from my younger siblings. Through my siblings they also learned of my tattoo (oh my!) and my drinking (this hasn’t been verified, but I’m pretty sure they’ve heard about it by now). And of course the whole living in sin with my boyfriend for the past two years probably tipped them off as well.

At first they would try to get me to come back around. They’d question me about my beliefs and ask when I had been to church last. When I avoided their questioning or outright changed the subject they’d get upset, angry even.

But then they just backed off. I don’t know what it was that made them stop asking – perhaps the realization that I wasn’t going to change my mind based on their prompting – but they did. And now they’ve taken on a new tack: Acceptance. Well, sort of.

When I see them now, which isn’t often, my parents will gingerly ask me about my boyfriend and whether we have plans to get married. We don’t. Conversation over. If my tattoo is showing, my mom will complement me on it, even though I know she doesn’t approve of it. I’m always tempted to remind her of what she used to tell me when I was a teenager and I’d ask to get a tattoo or a belly button ring, which was, “You can do whatever you want when you turn 18, but not until then.” I never do say this. Instead, I just reach back and pull down my t-shirt so it’s covered again, and try to act as though she hasn’t said anything at all.

I often wish I had a better relationship with my parents (and my siblings for that matter), but when the opportunity to forgive presents itself, I find myself acting like a bratty teenager. I’ve spent many of the past ten years trapped among guilt, self-loathing and regret as I worked my way out of a religion in which I’m not sure I ever believed. My parents seem to have forgiven me, or at least are willing to look past my breach of trust, for leaving the church. But somehow I still haven’t been able to forgive them for judging me so harshly in the first place.

I’ve begun trying to make amends, but years of bitterness and hateful words have made it a difficult path. I find myself constantly having to bite my tongue when I’m with my parents so there won’t be any flare ups. In the past I’ve been able to spend no more than a few hours among my family members without a huge fight breaking out. But my last visit with them was actually somewhat pleasant, aside from the constant praise from my dad, and one particular sibling, that I’ve really grown up. Apparently acting civil toward people you can barely stand is a sign of maturity.

I don’t know how long the civility will last though. Each perceived wrong brings back the bitterness. Things like when my sister Katijona calls me to ask if I’ll be visiting this weekend for Peter’s baptism. I told her I didn’t even know about it so, no, I wouldn’t be there. Four days really isn’t enough time to plan for a trip to Utah. I couldn’t stop myself wondering if my parents didn’t invite me for fear that I’d turn another child against the church. After all, Katijona, of whom I’ve written before, remains unbaptized (which, of course, is my fault) and shows no signs of accepting Mormonism. When we spoke yesterday, she told me that the bishop asked her if she’d like to get baptized along with Peter this weekend. Her response? “I barely even come to this church, why would I want to get baptized?” Ha!

But I shouldn’t be laughing. I shouldn’t be proud that this 13-year-old girl has more gumption and resolve than I did at age 23. This is the thing that drives a wedge between my parents and I. But how can I not want to give her a big hug and tell her I’m OK with her decision?

I fear my parents (and some of my siblings) will be at odds with me for many years to come.

SACRAMENTO, CA-

Awhile back my boyfriend told me a story over dinner that pretty much put me off my food. I then proceeded to tell just about everyone I know about said story and then just as quickly forgot about it. That is until it came up again tonight.

And now I just can’t resist sharing it with you good folks.

But first, a disclaimer: This story was told to me by my boyfriend, who heard it from his coworker. Therefore I cannot guarantee its veracity, nor my accuracy in its telling. It could be an urban legend for all I know. But, really, who makes this stuff up?

Now for the story:

My boyfriend’s coworker and his roommate were sitting around one day when the roommate’s girlfriend came over looking incredibly distraught.

The two men of course asked her what was eating at her. And she told them her best friend had just been hospitalized.

Naturally, they wanted to know why she’d been hospitalized.

She told them it had been for a possibly fatal case of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

You may not have read my post about it, so I’m just going to tell you here that I’m completely paranoid about TSS, which means even by this point in the story I was totally terrified.

“Did she forget to take out a tampon?!” I asked my boyfriend.

“Oh no, it gets worse,” he replied.

The two men ask the woman what caused the TSS.

She hesitates for a minute, maybe bites her lip. She reminds them that her friend, let’s call her Betty, is a little bit overweight.

And, well, apparently she’s a little more overweight than her best friend would like to admit because good ole’ Betty got pregnant and didn’t even realize it more than six months into the pregnancy.

Nor did Betty realize that when her period finally came again, it was actually her having a miscarriage.

Which is why she was shocked when the doctors asked her how long she’d been pregnant. And even more shocked when they told her the baby had died more than two months prior to this emergency room visit. And probably horrified when they told her that her Toxic Shock had been caused by the rotten fetus still inside her.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, a rotten fetus. This is what my boyfriend brought up at the dinner table.

And the moral to this story is: If you’re a sexually active obese woman who has irregular periods, keep some home pregnancy tests on hand.

SACRAMENTO, CA-

I’ve noticed lately that I think a lot more about my health in real terms.

I don’t just think about the cold I have or the weird pains in my legs as something that will cure themselves in the next couple days. Instead I find myself wondering what the cause is, what it means in the long term.

Most of the weird things I see happening to my body lately can be traced directly back to birth control pills. The pain in my legs, which I swear is hypertension or blood clotting, is listed as a possible side effect of the pill. So is the melasma, or sunspot, found on my upper lip that makes me look like I have a mustache.

Maybe these things are also just caused by a poor diet and general aging. I’m not so sure though, so I’ve decided to do an experiment. I’ve decided to go off the pill. And in this decision I realized that, holy cow!, I’ve been taking birth control for nearly 10 years. No wonder the “possible” side effects are becoming a reality.

When I was 18 and started taking birth control to regulate my menstrual cycle I didn’t think anything about it. After all, my doctor wouldn’t prescribe me something that could hurt me, would she?

But today, I find myself questioning medication more and more often.

I’m very skeptical of the pharmaceutical industry. Whatever happened to trying to live a healthy life, rather than trying to medicate yourself to health?

I’m especially skeptical of medication taken to “prevent” anything. Why medicate yourself when you’re perfectly healthy? I feel like all of this medication is actually making us weaker and more dependent on medication than if we just let our bodies work it out like nature intended. But then I worry that I sound like some crazy herbalist fanatic.

I’m just saying I’m skeptical.

Medication

Let me give you a for instance: Tamoxifen.

I’ve been doing research for an article about medications to treat and prevent breast cancer. Tamoxifen has been the longest standing competitor in this field, having been used since the 1970s to treat breast cancer. The problem now is it’s being used to “prevent” breast cancer in women age 35 and older with a 1.67 percent risk of getting breast cancer.

One of the most common side effects in women who take Tamoxifen is uterian cancer. Although the risks of getting this cancer are low, I’m not sure I’d like to trade in my 1.67 percent chance of getting one cancer for the risk of another cancer. How about you show me my cancer before you start giving me dangerous medications to treat it?

I don’t see doctors offering chemotherapy to “at risk” patients. But because something can be taken in a pill form it’s somehow deemed less dangerous.

This is where my new aversion for the birth control pill comes in. I’m already seeing weird side effects and I’m only 27 years old. New studies show that the pill doesn’t contribute to any kind of cancer, but older studies state the opposite. Having a history of cancer in my family, with both my paternal grandfather and grandmother having had cancer, I’m just not willing to take the chance that the new studies (probably paid for by the manufactures of the pill) are wrong.

Our food already has enough hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals in it, do I really need to be adding more?

My biggest hope though is that this experiment turns out to be beneficial. I hope the damage from the pill isn’t permanent. I want to be able to sit in a car for an hour and not have my legs feel like they’re going to explode. And I really want this damn sun spot on my face to go away. If these things continue however, I’ll have to admit that it wasn’t the birth control pill after all, which means admitting I’m wrong. And I hate admitting I’m wrong.

One last thing and then I’ll shut up. I was telling a couple of my friends about this the other day and both of them said they recently went off the pill for similar reasons. It made me feel less weird and less worried about doing it. Weird that at this age we’re all starting to feel/see/imagine the effects of what we’ve done to our bodies in the past. Next thing I know we’re all going to be health food freaks, eating flaxseed with everything …

PARIS, FRANCE-

I leave humbled.

Humble. It’s a word I never understood as a child. A word I don’t think I ever really understood until very recently. It’s a word, like bitter, that needs to be lived before it can truly be understood.

Although I’d lived in Paris before this experience, I came here with a very naive and cocky attitude.

Gargoyle

I thought nothing could touch me. I’m an American, I told myself. If the au pair thing doesn’t work out I’ll be able to find other work teaching English. After all, I’m qualified. I have a degree in an English subject and I’m certified to teach English as a foreign language. There will be no problems.

Plus, I know this family, I told myself. They’d never screw me over. I worked for them before. The youngest son was a pain back then, but four years has passed. I’m sure he’s grown out of his brattiness. Plus, how can I pass this job up? They’re offering me an apartment, a car, and 800 euros a month in exchange for 20 hours of work per week. I’ll have enough extra time that I can even continue writing if I want to!

I was wrong about all of it. Every one of my assumptions was wrong. And not only have I not had much time to write, I haven’t been able to write because I’m so bitter and hateful I would have ended up sounding like one of those people I’ve always wanted to strangle: “France wouldn’t be so bad if they’d get rid of all the French people.”

Really, that isn’t a fair statement. It’s not ALL French people I hate. It’s only two French people whom I utterly and fully despise. Yet, somehow every time I find myself being slighted now, I think, or scream, “Fucking French!” And then I have to remind myself again that not all French people are the devil incarnate. It’s not their fault I came here thinking, “I’m American, nothing bad can happen to me.”

Um, but you’re still a foreigner here. And without a visa to be here. That makes you an illegal alien. In America we don’t treat our illegal aliens any differently. In fact, I’d say we treat them much worse, but maybe that’s me being hyper-critical of Americans.

Farmworker

Basically, let me break it down for you:

Because I knew this French family from my stay here in 2003, and had worked for them before, I trusted them. Therefore, I accepted a job from them based on their word alone. I didn’t ever get a contract or actually anything in writing.

Because I didn’t get anything in writing, they have cheated me, and continue to cheat me, at every opportunity, starting with having never gotten me a work visa so I am automatically unqualified to get any other job regardless of my “qualifications.” Trust me, I know, I’ve tried to find other work. And despite getting calls back from every single place within less than 24 hours, I’ve never been offered a job because the second the visa question comes up they say, “Oh, well, thank you for your time.”

In addition to not getting me my work visa, they have cut 200 euros a month off my salary and added 25 hours per week to my agreed upon hours. They did this from the very beginning and without telling me. I just got my first paycheck and it was missing 200 euros. Up until then I hadn’t complained about the hours because I felt I didn’t have a right. I felt like I’d accepted this job so I have to do what they ask me to do. Plus, I’ve heard of far worse situations from other au pairs, so I figured I was lucky.

I did ask my boss about the discrepancy though. She said, “I don’t remember ever offering you that much money. And the hours will even out. We’ll balance it out so it works for both of us.”

Despite several conversations since then and a number of promises from her, nothing has changed.

Oh, oh, and I’m not working as an au pair. I’m working as a personal assistant. I see the children maybe 10 hours of my 45-hour work week. The rest of my time is spent grocery shopping, going to the post office, making her coffee, picking up laundry, making photocopies, and anything else my boss can dream up. My life is essentially the life of the girl from “The Devil Wears Prada,” only I don’t get the free designer clothes to make up for my psycho boss’ attitude.

So I’m giving up. After only seven months of what was supposed to be at least two years abroad, Tony and I are going back to California. I made one last attempt to get my boss to understand my point of view and she said to me, “You act as though we’re exploiting you here.” Um, yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say.

On to bigger and better things. And I sincerely hope that one day I can return to Paris and love it like I used to. Maybe I’ll come back here with Tony in a few years and we’ll laugh about the time we tried to live here without visas. And I’ll say, “God, do you remember that devil child and his crazy mom? I wonder how they’re doing,” and I might really mean it.

Montmartre5

It’s three o’clock in the morning and I’m panicking.

I woke up with the worst pain in my abdomen.

To be more specific, it feels as though someone has reached inside me and is squeezing my innards as they attempt to rip them from my body.

I’ve already woken Tony up twice.

The first time was to ask him where it would hurt if I were about to die from appendicitis. He assured me it would be in my side.

He has a scar where I would approximate the appendix to be, so I’m pretty sure he knows about these things.

OK then, it’s not appendicitis.

The second time was to tell him I think I need to go to the hospital because I think I’m about to die of Toxic Shock Syndrome. And to apologize for being such a bitch last night.

If you’re about to die, it’s always best to apologize for things like that. Especially if you’re me because I’ve always wronged somebody in some way.

Tony assured me that I’m not going to die and I don’t need to go to the hospital.

Ambulance

And so I took some Advil and continued to lie in bed awaiting my imminent death.

“It’s probably just indigestion. Maybe you ate something bad,” he said.

Yeah, maybe he’s right.

But, oh God this hurts!

No, no, why isn’t the Advil working? Advil always works when I have cramps.

No, surely this is Toxic Shock Syndrome. Or something much worse.

Should I get out of bed and look for the information pamphlet? I’ve read that information pamphlet 600 times. How do I not remember the symptoms of Toxic Shock?

Yogapose

I try to stay calm.

I try yoga positions.

I try lying on my stomach and massaging my ab muscles.

I try lying on my back.

I lie in the fetal position.

Nothing is making this go away.

And all I can think about is the plight of 20-somethings and middle-income workers in today’s world. There are hospitals all over the city. There are firefighters, doctors, policemen, paramedics, all waiting for a call for help.

And yet. And yet, we can’t call. We can’t call because all we can think about is: What if I’m wrong? What if I’m not dying of TSS? I’ll have wasted all that money. I’ll never be able to pay the bills. I’ll be in financial ruin, especially here in France where I have no Social Security to reimburse me.

No, it’s better to risk death.

If there’s no fire, no blood, no mangled limbs, then there’s no reason to call 911.

Oh God, I don’t even know the number for 911 in France! Jesus, how do I not know this? What if this is serious?

OK. OK. Calm down.

Let’s go get that pamphlet on Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Here it is.

I look at the pamphlet. It’s in at least 10 different languages, none of them English.

Tampax

Wait. What?! This is an American brand!* I’ve been using this since I was 16!** They have to have this information in English somewhere.

Surely this can’t be right. Calm down and check the languages again.

See there, there’s an “E” over that one.

Phew! OK.

Shit. No, I was wrong. “E” is for “Espagne.” What you need is “GB” for “Great Britain.”

Yep, that’s not here.

OK. OK. All is not lost. You speak French. Do you remember you speak French? You’ve been speaking French for 10 years! You can figure this out. And even if you can’t, remember that you have that giant English/French dictionary next to the bed.

Img_6544

Whoever thought of using a universal language for scientific words is a genius! Hm. I never knew Toxic Shock Syndrome was caused by Staphylococcus. No wonder it’s fatal.

Rebecca? Rebecca! Did you forget what you were looking for?

Oh yes. OK, here we are: symptoms.

I don’t have any of the symptoms, although I’m pretty sure I am blanched, but maybe that’s because it’s 3 a.m. But no vomiting so far, although I’m suddenly feeling nauseous. Um, nope, no diarrhea, no sore muscles, no feeling like I’ve been sunburned, no dizzy spells when I stand up.

So I take some Midol. I hate Midol because it has caffeine in it and it gives me the jitters.

I lie back in bed and try to concentrate on anything but the pain.

As I’m lying there I begin to be more logical. I rethink my original self-diagnosis, and I’m pretty sure this is actually just a really bad case of menstrual cramps brought on by having started taking the pill again this month. They say that can be a side effect, even though the commercials always promise less cramping and lighter periods.

Ah yes, the Midol is taking effect. Thank goodness Tony wasn’t easily talked into going to the hospital this morning. I’d hate to be in financial ruin for nothing but paranoia.

*Side note for you doubters: Tampax is indeed an American brand. It was started in Denver, CO, according to their Web site.

**Since the age of 16, I have been freaking out at least two or three times a year about Toxic Shock Syndrome. In fact, TSS is the reason it took me five years to start using tampons in the first place. I would have never changed over if it hadn’t been for joining the water polo team in high school.