Friday, December 25, 2009

What Doesn't Kill Me Doesn't Kill Me

Whoever said "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," was a moron and a liar. What doesn't kill you doesn't kill you.

My body is so run down from antibiotics and antifungals, my arm pain is flaring badly, so it's hard for me to type. I'll resume blogging when I'm able.

Merry Christmas, if you celebrate the holiday!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sectionals



I'm still gushing over the Glee mid-season finale, and the season overall until now (for ease, this will hereafter be called "season", even though I know it's not a full season). Glee is on hiatus until the spring, when the back nine episodes will air. They were renewed for season two, which will start in fall 2010.

The first part of this season was a lot lighter than the end, but I really enjoyed the heightened drama. Of course I couldn't wait for Terry Schuester's pregnancy to be exposed as fraudulent. I fully expected Will Schuester to flip, but I was pleasantly surprised by the intensity of his reaction -- he was physically violent. This was very out of character for him, but because the reaction was appropriate, and Matthew Morrison played it so well, I found it powerful and believable.

The writers have done such a good job building up Emma and Will's attraction, I knew they weren't going to let her go and marry Ken, but I didn't quite anticipate him dumping her (good for him, btw). I have been gunning for Will and Emma this whole series, so although it made me sad that she didn't let him sweep her off her feet at her would-be wedding, it was totally the right thing to do. Anything else would've been too cheesy and inappropriate. I LOVED Will & Emma's kiss at the end, especially as it was set to the performance of "My Life Would Suck Without You." I wished their kiss weren't so chaste, but I guess Fox didn't want Sectionals to become "Sexionals."Realistically, mysophobic Emma wasn't going to let Will put his tongue in her mouth first thing anyway.

I feel bad for Finn that Puck, his best friend, knocked his girlfriend up, but I'm glad Rachel exposed Quinn's lie. I eagerly hope that Finn & Rachel will get together later this season. I'm not getting the sense that Quinn's going to change her mind about letting Puck co-parent this baby with her, and I don't really blame her.

I'm enough of a dork that the fact that Glee has had three overlaps with my other favorite show, True Blood, truly excites me. Patrick Gallagher, Coach Ken Tanaka, was Chow on four episodes of TB. Kevin McHale, who plays Artie on Glee, was the assistant helping the coroner at the scene of Sookie's grandmother's murder on TB Season one. Later, in another episode, he was at Fangtasia and Sookie overheard his mind worrying that she would recognize him from the crime scene. Finally, Anna Camp, who played the pretty sectionals judge, Candace Dykstra, on Glee was Sarah Newlin on True Blood season two.

With Glee and TB off the air for the moment, what am I to do for mindless entertainment? First, I'm still enjoying Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books that TB is based from. Luckily the Glee DVD for this season is out Dec. 29, and I'm re-watching TB Season 1. No news as to when TB Season 2 is coming out on DVD, but I look forward to it. TB Season 3 isn't planned until June 2010, but I'm thrilled HBO picked it up for a third season.

Update: I'm super-excited that Glee and TB got well-deserved Golden Globe nominations! I look forward to reading about them winning.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ticked Off: Installment III of my Lyme Disease Journey


Things have been majorly sucking here lately. I am being treated for suspected Bartonella, a co-infection of Lyme Disease. One of the reasons that Lyme is so debilitating now, versus 15-20 years ago, is that most people who get infected with Lyme now also are infected with 1-8 other viral or bacterial co-infections. Your immune system can't easily fight off that many assaults, so it goes haywire, which is how you end up with a perpetually ill patient like me. Additionally, I've been diagnosed with intestinal candida (yeast); we're working on how to treat that since the fungicide the yeast is resistant to is severely contraindicated with another pharmaceutical that I take. I have been feeling very down, angry, and cynical. I'm totally pissed off that I'm 33 and have been knocked on my ass sick for so long. My husband (and several other people) gently suggested that I might be here to be of service to others. My response to this is basically, "Fuck service! I don't want to be of service in this way. This really fucking sucks, and I'm tired of it. Tell me my life isn't merely to be an example to others." I still feel that way most of the time, but I think it would be a real pity if someone suffering in the same way I've been didn't get a chance at healing just because I'd rather write about vampires than the rough stuff I'm living with. So, in the spirit of service, I'm getting back to telling my Lyme Disease journey. See Installments I and II if you missed them.

IV Rocephin=Good

When I reflect on how sick I was at the time my doctor diagnosed my Lyme just before Passover in spring 2007, it feels like a hazy, bad dream. I could not wash my hair, because I couldn't lift my hands above my chest level. I don't know what I would've done if I hadn't been married; I have no family here whom I would feel comfortable showering with. I could not chop a vegetable. I couldn't always sign my name; I certainly couldn't write any more than my name without excruciating pain. I could not type. I could not turn on my computer without feeling an electric shock traveling up my arm, nor could I push an elevator button for the same reason. I couldn't open the door to a commercial office building because I was too weak to do so. My arms burned deeply all the time, and I felt like I was being tortured. I had constant numbness and pins-and-needles feelings.

I almost wept with relief when I finally got a diagnosis. My disease had a name, and it was treatable! I wasn't really looking ahead to a time of wellness; I just dreamt of some pain relief. My doctor first prescribed a month's worth of oral doxycycline, a really common antibiotic that I used to take for acne. That plus acupuncture got rid of the worst of the pins-and-needles sensation, but nothing more. I knew that intravenous (IV) antibiotics were usually needed to treat Lyme as severe as mine, but I was shocked when I had to suggest it to my neurologist. He shrugged, "You want to try the IV? Sure." Typing that kinda takes my breath away; it's one of about 1,500 health care moments that I can identify that if I wasn't who I was, with the resources (including chutzpah) I have, I would have a very different life than I do now. I will do a whole post on this some other time; I had such a moment earlier this month trying to get information about when to stop my drug for my digestive study.

Anyway, eventually I'm sure I would've sought a second opinion that would've led me to a truly Lyme-literate doctor who would've prescribed IV antibiotics, but any delay would have been detrimental. In hindsight, I wonder if I needed more than just a month of IV meds.

I had to get a peripherally inserted mid-line catheter placed in the vein in the crook of my arm (see here for drawing). It was a thin, plastic tube that snaked way up my arm, came out of the vein and was covered by a thin piece of plastic to keep it sterile. I remember driving to Reston, VA to have it placed; the nursing company would come out to my house for other care, but told me in no uncertain terms that I would not want to clean up the mess in my home that would result from placing this line. The nurse was very skillful, but it hurt like hell; yet, at the time, I distinctly remember feeling exhilarated, thinking it might be "the trick" to get me well. Sitting here two-and-a-half years later, I can see how naive that was, but I'm grateful for that innocence because it would've crushed my spirit to not have it.

I had a home health nurse who came every week to change the dressing covering the midline insertion site and check for infection. She showed me how to sterilize the cap, flush the line with saline, and hook up the IV Rocephin that was shipped here weekly from the nursing company's pharmacy and that was stored in our refrigerator. I'd be lying if I said I didn't like having the midline or using the IV every day; medical stuff is cool. When else was I going to get the chance to give someone an IV? My friend Dionne, God bless her, knit me a little cuff to keep the long line from blowing in the breeze; I could tuck the plastic tube up into the cuff when I wasn't mainlining. That was good because any time that tubing got caught, it pulled painfully at the skin in my arm and I lived in fear that I was accidentally going to rip it out.

Four weeks of the IV Rocephin had a noticeable impact on me. The pins-and-needles and electric shock sensations subsided. A lot of the other details of when I saw improvements have escaped David and me; was I able to wash my hair again immediately post-IV, or later? Who knows. I couldn't write well enough to take notes, nor did I care to. I lived one day at a time, trying to find a way out of this pain. I was heavily sedated by narcotics, which took the edge off the pain and made me sleep.

There was a lot more to healing; I need to go to sleep but will remind myself here to write about: Cathy, physical therapy, cranial-sacral therapy, etc. Good night.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Team Jacob!


I swear, if pharma is ever able to get a female libido drug on the market, I'd be willing to bet there's a little vampire mojo in there. I was going to write that if you are a straight or bi female you should definitely see "New Moon," the sequel to the "Twilight" book and movie, but I've since amended that sentiment to include gay and bi men.

I've been counting down the days until I could see "New Moon," and it didn't disappoint. In fact, it was a lot better than I thought it would be. The movie was very entertaining, and not just because Edward was gone for most of it. The film flowed well, and I liked the look and feel of the production. Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black climbs with the grace of Legolas in "The Two Towers," but manages to make Orlando Bloom look a little ordinary. Who knew that was possible? Even though I chuckled at the cheesiness, I liked the CGI effects of the werewolves, and how the ground shook when they ran.

The chemistry between Kristin Stewart as Bella Swan and Lautner was electric, and dare I say it, the acting was good. I have to give Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) props for the scene where he dumps Bella after correctly determining that he and his family are a mortal danger to her, and that it's in her long-term best interest if he leaves her and Forks, WA, altogether. In that scene, Pattinson manages to lie through his teeth, saying he doesn't want Bella, yet convey through his acting that he hates every second of it and that it's killing him to say it. This is a reasonable thing to expect from a principal actor who reportedly earned $12 million for this film.

I had no idea before today that Michael Sheen was cast as Aro for this movie. I find him delightful all the time, but even more so when he's playing an evil character -- basically the Godfather of the vampire mafia, the Volturi. I definitely hope they keep him for "Breaking Dawn," the final movie, where Aro and the Volturi are very pivotal. Sheen was a high point of the film for me.

Now let's get to the heart of the matter: As I've opined before, Edward Cullen is the Morrissey of vampires. He's so sullen, over-dramatic, and walks around like someone pissed in his Wheaties. He seems so depressed and self-absorbed that one antidepressant wouldn't be enough. Simply put, he's a whiny little bitch. I would love to hear a convincing argument that Edward is actually better for Bella beyond the teenage-girl refrain of "He's her true love!"

Jacob is in every way a better fit for Bella; he is safer, handier, warmer, better looking and, unlike Edward, does not seem to have a personality disorder. I was thrilled he got so much screen time because Lautner turned into a 100 percent hottie for this movie. A week ago I scoffed at the tween's mom who asked Lautner for his underwear at a promotional activity; now I get it (but hope that if I were a tween mom I'd be able to restrain myself even if I thought that). Cue the cougar music! One of the funniest moments in the movie wasn't in the movie: it was when Jacob took off his shirt for the first time to clean blood off Bella's head. There was literally a gasp heard across the theater, including from the two men in front of me. Oh my God, Lautner is stunning. I could barely look at anyone else in a scene with him when he was shirtless. I'm sad he cut his hair once his werewolf gene activated, but that was a major plot point of the book, and couldn't have been disregarded. The shorter hair also made him look older and more cut, which was an important part of the were character.

All that said, I'm not an Edward hater. As someone who believes in romance and who is fortunate to feel a soulful bond with her husband, I do believe in true love. Once it's clear that Jacob is not a real option, I do root for Edward and Bella.

Stay tuned. I'll try to write a short piece about why vampires should most definitely NOT sparkle.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Excuse Me, God, This Is Not The Life I Ordered!


You might be depressed if:

A. You cry whenever you hear REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore"
B. You watch the Pixar movie "Up" and tell your spouse "This makes me want to kill myself!" [not literally!!]
C. You've been chronically ill for nearly three years
D. All of the above

The answer is D. Thank you for all of your emails, phone calls, and text messages inquiring if I'm ok. People got concerned that the blog was quiet, and with good reason. Life lately has been very, very hard. I hadn't wanted to write about it, feeling like it drew me deeper into the depression that I'm fighting tooth and nail, but it's what's going on, so here we go:

I have not eaten a normal meal since Oct. 21, since I have been suffering from undiagnosed gastrointestinal (GI) problems. I have become a stalker at my GI doctor's office (I told him, "Hey, at least I'm nice and smart!" and he agreed), and have submitted myself to a battery of undignified diagnostic tests that mostly are coming up with no clear pathology. If you have never had persistent GI issues, you can't know that when that part of your body isn't feeling well, no part of your body can feel well. Of course, the GI tract is the massive engine that powers your body, and it's always working, so it's not like a sprained ankle that you can stay off of for a while. Even doing two days of bowel rest, which means drinking only clear liquids, calmed my system only a little bit. Until I had to eat again.

The depression that is nagging at me is a bigger threat than my GI problems, I think. I used to be a freakin' mess, to put it nicely, and at one point took 4-6 psychotropic drugs at the same time. It took me years of patience and determination to get off of them, and I have no desire to get back on them. If I have to, I will, but one day at a time, I've been giving my depression the middle finger and telling it it won't get me today. I've handled this by exercising, which hurts my tummy, but gives me yummy endorphins that stave off the depression. I've been very selective about my media, choosing light, fluffy, and funny over dark and depressing, which is part of the reason that the first half of "Up" threw me for a loop. I'm doing lots of service work for OA, which keeps me out of my head, and I'm doing my best not to isolate, though I'm not feeling social right now, to say the least. Prayer and meditation help, too.

The fact that it was December 2006 that I first started having serious pain leading up to my Lyme diagnosis certainly adds fuel to the fires of depression that I'm fighting. More on this later when I'm not giddy with the fact that David, unbidden, sought out and got me vampire erotica from the library. Could I be married to someone more attuned to me? I don't think so. I'm also giddy with the fact that I just watched and enjoyed "Twilight" in preparation for seeing "New Moon" on Sunday. I recognized the Stephenie Meyer cameo in the diner this time, and enjoyed the film a lot more since I didn't watch it immediately after reading the novel.

Back to brooding: In spite of everything crummy going on, I do sense the hand of God somewhere in all this. I have felt led to schedule a consultation with an integrative medicine clinic. This is a medical practice I've previously dismissed as being too expensive and too fringe-y for me to have an interest in it, but three years later, I'm willing. I have a friend who had great results working with them. I've surrendered myself to the several thousand dollars of debt that we'll accumulate if I decide to seek treatment with them, which I believe that I will. At this point I think they'd have to advocate overt idol worship for me to run scared.

After two years of being out of touch, two weeks ago I ran into the aforementioned friend who was healed at this clinic, and she urged me to give them a second glance. I checked out their Web site again, and saw they had a free Webinar about Lyme Disease with a naturopathic practitioner, which I attended. I found it surprisingly informative and credible, and began to seriously pray and meditate (haha, I just typed "medicate" instead of "meditate." Is that my Freudian slip showing?) about whether to seek a consultation with the practice. The overwhelming message I got was to go for it, so that's what I'm doing. David is going with me, and is being amazingly supportive, even though this type of health care definitely falls farther out of his comfort zone than mine.

Something that piqued my interest in the Webinar was the discussion of Lyme Disease co-infections. One of the reasons that Lyme has been so much more debilitating over the past 10-15 years than ever before is that when someone is bitten by a Lyme-infected tick, they usually are also being co-infected with up to eight or nine other viruses and bacteria. The naturopath giving the presentation said that in over a decade of practice treating Lyme, she has only had two patients who were not co-infected. There is not a lot of medical literacy about the co-infections in mainstream medicine; I was lucky to have had a neurologist who even knew how to properly check for Lyme. I was never tested or treated for any of the likely co-infections, and one of the most predominant symptoms of those lingering co-infections is GI trouble. In light of the fact that we have no other clear ideas about why my tummy is so upset, this theory is intriguing, so I am embarking on a different path to see if we can clear this up.

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In related news, I'm pleased the Lyme-documentary "Under Our Skin" has made it to the next round of consideration for receiving an Academy Award for Best Documentary! I have a few beefs with this movie, but overall I support it because of the incredible job it does spreading Lyme literacy. At some point, I'll formally review the movie on my blog, but I recommend it. Check it out!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Glee!


I've had a terrible few weeks due to GI problems that leave me very uncomfortable and depressed. So, I started writing about that in another post, but it was making me even more depressed than I already am, so I'm putting it aside for now to focus on a happier topic: Glee!

I am obsessed with this show. Part of this is unsurprising if you know me: I don't really do anything half-assed, other than house cleaning. I am totally into this show -- the last time I gave a damn about any non-cable network TV show was when Babylon 5 was airing circa 1996 when I was dating my husband. Now I'm a semi-regular (read 3-D Loser) on the Glee fan boards. So what has Glee done to win me over?

First of all, singing & dancing is just cool. I love musical theater, and since Glee follows the ups and downs of the Glee club at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, there is lots of singing and dancing. Their musical numbers are really fun, and so far my favorites are:

1. "Somebody to Love" (from the episode The Rhodes Not Taken)
2. "Halo/Walkin' On Sunshine" (from Mash-Up)
3. It's My Life/Confession (ibid)

I've been listening to the Glee Cast album on Grooveshark, and the only song from the show that I really can't handle is their version of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab." I think this was a poor choice on the part of the producers because the treatment of it by a high school chorus completely misses what makes that song so awesome: that everything about Winehouse's performance makes you totally believe what she's singing is plausible. She sounds like someone who needs to head to rehab but is saying "No, no, no." I'm sure this song was chosen because of its overwhelming popularity, but the overly-produced high-school glee club version just doesn't work.

The Glee overlords have done a bang-up job with casting. The producers auditioned 2,900 people; apparently it's tough to find people this age who are required to be good actors, singers, and dancers. I think the characters are believable as typical Mid-Western kids. I have found Lea Michele totally captivating since the first time I saw her, and she shines as the self-important, star-obsessed Rachel Berry on Glee. Jayma Mays is another stand-out on the show as the obsessive-compulsive guidance counsellor with more than a crush on Will Schuester (played by the charming Matthew Morrison), the leader of the Glee club.

The humor in Glee really appeals to me, and largely is driven by the brilliant Jane Lynch, who is cast as Sue Sylvester, the sadistic cheerleading coach who has a personal mission to destroy the Glee club and Schuester. You know Lynch, maybe as the lesbian handler of Rhapsody in White, the poodle, in Best In Show. More recently she was in Role Models, and she was the store manager in The 40 Year-Old Virgin. If you still don't know whom I'm writing about, you could just look up, since Lynch is in the icon at the top of this post. I listened to an excellent Terri Gross interview with Lynch that you can check out here. Lynch is so good, I literally can't imagine anyone else cast in this part.

Still, nothing is perfect. My biggest complaint with Glee is that they use damn auto-tone on all their choral numbers -- luckily they haven't applied it to solo numbers. I'd take slightly imperfect harmony over the excessively-engineered, phony, auto-tone any day. My other complaint is that due to the !$@# World Series, Fox has deprived me and millions of other obsessed fans of new episodes two weeks in a row, but that will be rectified tomorrow.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bariatric Surgery for Children = A Terrifying Idea


Recently, I had a shocking conversation with two health care providers from Baltimore. They work in an inner-city hospital that soon is planning to do bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, on children as young as five, and it hopes to do the procedures on babies as young as two in the next few years. How is this horrifying? Oh, let me count the ways! But first, some background.

I am a grateful member of Overeater's Anonymous, which has helped me lose 99 pounds and has given me the support to not eat compulsively since Dec. 31, 2005. The program is patterned after that of Alcoholics Anonymous, but helps people who have any kind of disordered eating whether they are compulsive overeaters, anorexics, bulimics, or some combination of all three. All of the local OA meetings are under the umbrella of the D.C. Intergroup, which purchased a booth in the exhibit hall of the Obesity Society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. I was the co-chairwoman of this project, primarily taking care of scheduling and working with volunteers from OA who handed out OA literature and spoke with conference participants about the program and how it can complement their practices and help them help patients with eating disorders.

I felt like the Obesity Society booth was an amazing project to work on, because we were talking with doctors, therapists, nurses, researchers, nutritionists, and anyone who works to cure or manage obesity. They came from as far away as Argentina, Australia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. I asked each person I spoke with about their jobs so I could give them relevant information about OA. This is how I learned about the Baltimore hospital's plans for pediatric bariatric surgery. Until then, when I've heard the adjective "pediatric" modifying bariatric surgery, it has referred to teenagers aged 14-17. Note that it is controversial to do bariatric surgery on kids in this age range, and it's tough for teenagers to find docs willing to operate on them at that age. So, when the women told me they plan to do this surgery on two year-olds I repeated what they said to make sure I heard them right.

When someone has gastric bypass surgery, a surgeon sections off part of the stomach to make a tiny pouch that can hold very little food, and rearranges the intestines to join that pouch. There are other forms of bariatric surgery, like the Lap-band, an inflatable device that goes around the top of the stomach and that the doctor inflates with saline to reduce the amount of food the stomach can hold at one time. Bariatric surgery, especially gastric-bypass, is a serious procedure with a not-insubstantial risk of severe complications and death. Of course, since it's only performed on people who are morbidly obese (typically defined as being 100 pounds or more overweight), one could argue that the patients were dying from their obesity anyway and that their obesity puts them at risk for surgical complications. Even if it's true, I don't think even that warrants surgery with high complications and spotty efficacy.

People who work 12-step programs have sponsors, who are like your guides on your recovery journey. I have sponsored several women who have had bypass surgery, and guess what? They're all doing the same work I'm doing every day for my recovery, like making 3 phone call to other food addicts, doing a daily reading and writing assignment, and weighing their food, but they struggle with nausea and/or diarrhea and/or vomiting, and have to get intravenous iron infusions because they're anemic as a result of their surgeries. Moreover, all of my sponsees who have had bypasses have gained nearly all or all of their weight back, which shouldn't surprise you, because the things that cause someone to be eligible for bariatric surgery are not in the stomach. They are in the mind, heart, and soul, and no surgeon can fix those things.

I have several friends who have had gastric bypass, and all of them suffer complications -- some major. My friend, H, lost more than 200 pounds in OA and had so much hanging skin, she had to walk with a cane. She had to get that extra skin removed via a body lift, which is a really nasty and drastic surgery. She was hospitalized for nearly two months because her wounds wouldn't heal. Granted, they are enormous -- they cut from both sides of your navel and cut all the way around your circumference, stopping just before your butt crack. But one of the reasons she wouldn't heal is that she couldn't assimilate enough protein to heal because of her bypass surgery.

The women from the hospital in Baltimore told me that they have two year-old patients who weigh 80 pounds (normal is up to 30 lbs.) How did these babies get so fat? They're not in the kitchen baking lasagnas or going to CVS for Ben N' Jerry's and Oreos. Their caretakers are overfeeding the kids and making them obese, and unless these kids are reassigned to foster care after their bariatric surgery, the same parents are going to overstuff their kids post-operatively. Why would this be different with children?

I think if this trend of operating on very young children catches on, we're going to see a lot of kids who are both fat and sick. It's one thing for an adult to choose a life disrupted by potential diarrhea or vomiting, yet another to impose it on helpless kids. We also should be freaked out about this because we have no idea how weight-loss surgery will affect growth and development when done on a young child. What will be the consequences of limiting dietary calcium on bones that are still growing? Bariatric surgeons will tell you that patients will take supplements, but we already know that the body does not integrate nutrients from dietary supplements the same way it does from food (duh). Could limiting food quantities adversely affect neurological development? We don't know, and the professional hubris that says it's safe to do gastric bypass on 2 year-olds is really galling.

If you're thinking, "Kids are fatter than ever and getting comorbidities of obesity like Type 2 diabetes, which was unheard of 20 years ago. So, what would you propose instead of pediatric bypass surgery?" First of all, I'd tell you to chill with the obesity horror stories -- I think it has become the healthcare boogeyman, which I'll discuss in another post. I won't solve the obesity crisis on my blog, though I hope to explore its many facets. But I did read a summary of a clinical study with impressive outcomes that might be a step in the right direction. A facility in West Virginia created a summer camp for overweight kids that was followed up with family programming throughout the year. So after the camp, the entire family participated in healthy cooking and exercise classes. The kids responded really well, both losing weight and keeping it off. I don't think that cooking and exercises classes are of much use to true food addicts, but hopefully we can intervene with overweight kids before they become addicted. I strongly believe that bariatric surgery on two year-olds is most definitely NOT the answer to our obesity problem.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Liberal Graffiti Fail



Do you think that Obama has heathcare on his agenda? Friends, if you're going to graffiti, please spell correctly. This is at O and 34th Sts. NW.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Is Shit


My friend Rachel and I went to see the Michael Jackson (read Kenny Ortega's Big Cash Bonanza) movie, This is It. I think a more appropriate title would be This Is Shit. Watching it was like watching the last public video taken of Elvis a few weeks before his death; you're watching someone who used to be a vivid, electrifying entertainer, and now you're seeing a decaying, shell of a man, and it is uncomfortable. It felt invasive, like watching someone you don't know well get a private medical procedure.

The footage for This Is It came from Jackson's rehearsals for his farewell concert series in London; it was for his private archive, and clearly was not shot with the intention of having anyone see it, and it should've stayed that way. There was not enough material for a two-hour movie, nor was it high-caliber. MJ (as he's called throughout the film) looked frail and stiff -- almost arthritic. He didn't sing a lot of the lyrics to his songs, but whether that was because he was trying to save his voice or because he was bombed out of his mind, we'll never know. Well, actually, I do know that he was bombed out of his mind. MJ was barely coherent when he spoke; at one point he told his musicians to let the music "simmer" for a while longer. Another example showing how drug-addled his brain was: MJ filmed a new film noir-style concert video for "Smooth Criminal." At one point a nighttime cityscape fades into a movie marquis that says "Smooth Criminal." MJ and his dancers were trying to arrange a cue that depended on this video, and Ortega, the concert producer, asks Jackson how he can gauge the cue when he's standing in front of the monitor. MJ's response? "I'll feel it."

Rachel's opinion of the movie seemed to mirror mine; she said that about half an hour into it she was thinking, "It's dead. Now, can we eat it?" In spite of the half-hearted singing and arthritic dancing, many of the people in the theater clapped after every number! There were a few minutes of cool in the film: the new concert videos they had shot for "Thriller" and "Smooth Criminal" were neat, and his dancers and musicians were amazingly talented. They mentioned that the dancers did physical therapy and pilates a few days a week, which I thought was interesting, but makes sense in light of the physical demands of their job.

The movie left me no doubt that London concert goers probably were going to see the best performance of their lives; every aspect of this concert was completely over the top, and Jackson said so when he reminded his co-performers that they were going to show fans "talent like they've never seen before" and take them "places that they've never been before." Even the rigor of the rehearsals, let alone the concerts, would've been daunting to a healthy 25 year-old, let alone a 50 year-old addict (that last descriptor was said with compassion, no judgment). I left the movie feeling certain that if Jackson, emotionally and physically decrepit, hadn't died in June, he certainly would've died during this concert series.

I'm leaning toward the opinion that this movie never should've been released because Jackson, the epitome of a perfectionist, would not have wanted us to see this. However, I have sympathy for the Jackson family, because MJ was millions of dollars in debt, which is why he was doing his London concert series in the first place. No doubt This Is It will earn the three Jackson kids a nice royalty, but in the end, it's their dad who loses, and Kenny Ortega who wins. For shame.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Twilight: Unrealistic Expectations?


I recently finished the Twilight saga series, which is about a teenage girl falling in love with a male vampire. The books make certain people uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, including the fact that, ultimately, a teenage girl ends up screwing a 100+ year-old man. I shrug at that one, but a friend of mine has a concern about the series that I find far more potentially damaging and problematic.

The series is written with the teen audience in mind, and Edward Cullen, the vampire, is basically an adolescent girl's emotional equivalent of a wet dream. He is a SNAV -- Sensitive New Age Vampire. Forget Bram Stoker's Dracula, who treated his victims like the prey and vermin that they should be to a vamp. Edward adores Bella Swan, his love interest. He dotes on her. He doesn't want her to have anything less than the best in life, God forbid, like her beat-up truck that suits her just fine. He wants to buy her fine things, give her diamonds the size of golf-balls, and pay her college tuition to Dartmouth. Additionally, he is forever emotionally available, always letting Bella know how much he adores and loves her, and how beautiful she is. Edward is totally self-effacing and self-sacrificing. In fact, he's the vampire equivalent of the iconic Lloyd Dobbler in "Say Anything." It would not have been at all out of character for author Stefanie Meyer to write dialogue for Edward that would virtually mimic Dobbler's unforgettable, "Sir, I just want to hang out with your daughter. It's what I'm good at."

So, already we can see the problem: most men are not as generous in word or deed as Edward, and I can see that if a teenage girl expects her boyfriend to buy her jewelry or cars, or be effusive with praise and declarations of love, that girl will most likely be disappointed. When I was talking about this Twilight expectations issue with my husband, David, I admitted I had a little hesitation because he is the equivalent of Lloyd Dobbler in terms of looking out for me, his devotion, and his unending comments to me (and to everyone else, sometimes to my chagrin) that I'm beautiful and sexy. I know from talking to my girlfriends that most of their husbands are more reserved than mine, but surely there have to be some other guys like mine out there who leave a glimmer of hope for teenage girls that they'll find their Edward in shining armor, right?

Perhaps, except for this: Edward is content with being sexually abstinent with Bella, happy merely to stay in her bedroom all night and watch her sleep. It is Bella who is dying to do more with Edward, and she is the catalyst advancing their physical intimacy every step of the way. This really is the heart of the matter, and I believe poses the biggest problem of Edward's character setting girls up for disappointment. I don't know any straight men in relationships with women who would be content to be chaste (excluding men who might have other physical or emotional issues that interfere with libido).

There are certainly social factors that contribute to this, but simply put, testosterone makes people horny, and men certainly have a lot more of it than women do. I know of a female therapist who got a prescription for topically-applied testosterone for one week to see how it affected her sex drive, and she said it was revolutionary in terms of truly understanding the libido discrepancies that couples come to her with. She wanted sex all the time for a week. *sigh*

Anyway, Twilight certainly could mislead teen girls into thinking that teen boys are only interested in watching them sleep, but they have many personal experiences and cultural references reminding them otherwise. I don't think the covers of Maxim or Razor magazines leave any ambiguity about men's expectations of women. But girls aren't the only ones being lured into unrealistic expectations in our society; I feel like boys get misled by things such as pornography.

I fear for boys who learn about sex from porn, thinking that it's normal for women to have 24-inch waists and 50GGG circus titties. These same boys will become men who will believe that women will have ridiculous, screaming orgasms from one minute of intercourse, when many women can't come from intercourse at all. I have a dear friend who is a nurse, and a straight-shooter of a mom, and she is raising three sons. I give her a lot of credit because she has told them, repeatedly, why the porn she knows they're seeing somewhere is not realistic. Hopefully her kids will have more realistic expectations. For the many boys (and girls) getting their sex education from porn, I feel bad for all of them.

Whether its Twilight or porn, I feel like media should come with one big disclaimer, especially for teens: "Reader/Viewer beware! Ingest this with a big grain of salt. Real life is unlikely to meet your expectations."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spiritual Forecast: Clear and Sunny



I wanted to reflect a bit on the fall Jewish holidays that recently passed. This is the first year since 2006 that I've been able to enjoy them, because my Lyme-related pain interfered, and this time last year I was newly released from a hospital after being admitted for colitis.

Rosh Hashana: I used to really enjoy praying in a community when I was a teenager, but several years ago something changed that made it almost unbearable for me to sit in a synagogue. I had this crummy, self-conscious feeling whenever I attended services, like every part of my being was screaming, "Let me out of here!" I have no idea why this happened, but something magical happened on Rosh Hashana: it went away. I wasn't trying to get rid of my aversion; I suppose if I had tried, it would still be with me. But instead, sometime during services -- and not even at a point where I was particularly moved -- that discomfort went away. It was quite dramatic, as it was accompanied by physical feeling of going back in time. I felt transported through the last 15 years, and found my spirit back in synagogue when I was a teenager and I felt very connected during group prayer. I savored those few minutes, which cheesily brought me to tears, and then felt myself come back to 2009, very contented and not self-conscious. It was damn cool, and one of my new year's resolutions is to attend shabbat (sabbath) services more regularly, though definitely not every week. I am still Sarah, and I relish nothing more than reading the paper and falling back asleep mid-Saturday morning.

Yom Kipur: Yom Kipur was powerful too, because it was the first time in about 8 years that I fasted. I used to be on medication that could send me into kidney failure if I couldn't drink for 25 hours, and after I cut out that medication I was so sick from my current health problems that I couldn't fast. Add to that the fact that I'm a food addict in recovery who eats like clockwork, and I feared being triggered by fasting. But here's the kicker: if you're unable to fast on Yom Kipur for medical reasons, the way you have to eat is something like an ounce or two or so every 9 minutes (something like this), which actually triggered my food addiction worse than I thought fasting would, and I was right. So this year, I fasted, and enjoyed it in the sense that I felt very connected to God and my religious community.

Sukkot is my favorite Jewish holiday by far. I relish sitting outside in our sukkah, a cozy little hut, surrounded by friends and eating good food. Being close to nature always makes me feel closer to God and God's creations. David & I decided to honor this creation this year by not using a single disposable paper or plastic product in our sukkah. Those things are staples of entertaining in sukkot for reasons of convenience and ease, so foregoing them meant a lot of late nights washing dishes, but David & I both felt it was worth it, and high-fived each other for being totally sustainable this sukkot.

Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah: I went to a local service, Rosh Pinah, which describes itself as a "dati [observant] community built around a common commitment to halakha [Jewish law], tefilla [prayer], and equality." This group sprung up inspite of intense opposition from my Rabbi at Kesher Israel, who very actively lobbied against it.

I tried to attend Rosh Pinah with an open mind and no expectations, and I found I really enjoyed the service. Women participated in leading services and reading Torah much more actively than they can in my regular congregation, yet it felt very natural to me. I think that one of my difficulties with attending services in recent years is that in an Orthodox congregation, it always feels like I'm a spectator. Men and women sit separately, which doesn't bother me, but my choices are to sit on the main floor of the sanctuary where I feel crowded and there's a lot of talking, or to sit upstairs in the balcony. Looking down from the balcony feels like watching a play; I don't really feel as engaged as I'd like to feel. I felt much more engaged praying at Rosh Pinah, which had a modest mechitza (divider between genders) and equal access to the bimah (altar) from the men's and women's sides. Additionally, people were super-friendly and glad (and frankly, surprised) to see me, which was nice.

Really sorting through my feelings on this has led me to a somewhat freeing, yet also uncomfortable, realization: I am much more committed to observance than I am to Orthodoxy. For years now, when people have asked if I'm Orthodox, I answer, "Well, I'm not really orthodox about anything. But I am an observant Jew, yes, and I belong to an Orthodox synagogue." My husband is quite invested in the Orthodox community, but we manage to maintain a comfortable, congenial space around our religious differences, in part, because day-to-day our religious practices don't look that different! The acts I do to worship God like strictly keeping kosher, praying mincha [afternoon service] most days, and keeping shabbat and holidays are all things I do because I feel like they are God's will for me and I desperately want a connection with God. I don't do them because Jewish law says that I should. It's probably bad that I don't find that so motivating, but I don't. My spirituality is driven by something different, but no less powerful. But certainly less reliable; I realize I could decide that God doesn't care about me keeping kosher, and then it would go out the window, but it wouldn't. Because:

I don't entirely disregard halacha. It's important. I believe that God gave some form of oral law to Moses at Sinai, but I have a hard time squaring what that might be with some of the misuse of power (or, just well-meaning errors about things like how electricity works, etc.) that I think Rabbis have engaged in in the name of halacha. I realize, by the way, that this is not air-tight theology I'm expressing, nor do I claim that it is. I'm just trying to give voice to some of my thoughts around this.

I never want to be uncomfortable praying in an Orthodox synagogue, and I am inherently very lazy, which means I won't be huffing the 30 boring minutes to Rosh Pinah alone all that often, but I'm glad it's there and I do hope to go back to services there.

*****
Sorry I've taken so long to post; I've had a lot of physical challenges lately that have made typing time very cherished, and I'm spending a lot of time on the computer for a big community service project I'm working on. That will be over in 2 weeks.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

True Blood Season 2: The Good, The Bad, and The Sexy

Contains spoilers

I hope that season 2 of True Blood is the worst season of what I hope will be a long, fun series. I know this analysis is three weeks late, but hey, my pain was uncontrollable, and I was literally unable to write this then. Let's start with the bad: I hated that Maryann story line. I admit that in the beginning I was intrigued by this beautiful, mysterious, do-gooder who came to rescue Tara from jail and give her a new chance at life. But as she got more and more bizarre, she unequivocally ended up in the "too weird" camp. Even though season 2's numbers were twice that of season 1, all of my friends who watch the show agreed that the Maryann story line -- that she is a "maynad," a mythical, immortal god who wields humans like puppets for her own amusement and carnage -- was just too darn weird. This took up a tremendous percentage of the episodes, and frankly, it got old. It did provide some important moments to further the story overall, like illustrating that Sam, once again, genuinely loves Sookie and would even die for her. It was ironic for him to literally trust his life to Bill -- basically his arch-enemy for winning Sookie's affection. Sookie's grief when she thought that Sam died was palpable. Could this foreshadow Sookie ending up with Sam (God forbid) at the end of the series? Clearly, she cares for him deeply.

Fans have reacted pretty harshly to Queen Sophie Ann; many have said they expected her to be much meaner. Produce Alan Ball's hilarious response to this was, "You don't want to blow your wad the first time you introduce a character!" I'm keeping an open mind about Queen Sophie Ann; Evan Rachel Wood is beautiful and talented. I really liked her in the beginning because she was witty, classy, and cool. I loved the line, "I haven't enjoyed sex with men since the Eisenhower administration." Did anyone else notice how quickly she seemed to change her tune? By the last episode of the season it looked like she wanted to rape Eric! Do you agree?

Another bad move: Bill, what in the hell were you thinking proposing to Sookie so soon? Season 2 took place over the span of eight days. During those eight days Sookie, while travelling to an unfamiliar city, was: kidnapped, at the scene of a suicide bombing, almost raped, and totally traumatized by the scene in the finale leading up to Maryann's death, when she thought Sam was killed. And at the end of this, Bill proposes to her? The plane tickets to Vermont threw me until I remembered that Vt. was the first state to legalize vampire-human marriage. To her credit, Sookie didn't do the lame heroine thing and immediately said yes. She had a nervous breakdown and excused herself to the restroom, where she had an epiphany that she really, truly loves Bill and wants to be his wife. By the time she got herself together to come back and tell him that, Bill had been very obviously abducted. This was a great setup for the next season, so I can't rate the proposal as all bad!

Now, for the good stuff: it started with the Best Apology Ever that Bill offered Sookie in episode 1 after she confronted him about killing Uncle Bartlett, who sexually molested her as a child. After Sookie threatens to break it off because of his casual disregard for human life, Bill blocks her exit at the door and says:

"Sookie, I cannot and I will not lose you. For all the ways I have dismayed, aggrieved, or failed you, I swear I will atone. But I am not sorry. I refuse to apologize for what you have awakened in me. You, you are my miracle, Sookie. For the first time in 140 years, I felt something I thought had been lost to me forever: I love you. And for that, I shall never feel sorry."

Men, memorize this. Tattoo it on your arm. I really think this is the absolute Best Apology Ever. It was, of course, followed by an amazing make-up-sex scene. Wow. David just asked me that since Bill cries blood, does he also ejaculate blood? I told him that hadn't been discussed, but it wouldn't surprise me.

More good stuff: I loved Jessica's evolution this season. "Making" Jessica, meaning turning her from human to vampire, was Bill's novel punishment for killing Long Shadow, the bartender at Fangtasia, who was about to kill Sookie when Bill staked him. Vamps killing vamps is very taboo, and the usual sentence is 500 years chained to a coffin in silver. But since Bill has never been a maker (due to his ambivalence about the lifestyle), the Magister wanted to play with him and force him to turn Jessica, a sheltered, home-schooled child of abusive, right-wing Christian parents. I hated Jessica last season; she was such an impetuous brat. But she's growing up to be a sweet vampire, and really coming in to her own. I have always loved Hoyt, the good ole' boy in Bon Temps who is intrigued by vampires. I love Jessica and Hoyt together, and hope that in season 3 they can reconcile. I also really liked the little detail that for Jessica & Hoyt every time they have intercourse is like the first time -- literally! Vampires quality of immediately healing anything that is breached or injured sadly applies to her hymen too. Poor Jessica! I'd investigate other sexual outlets if I were her.

Oh, Godric! He was a fan fave and for a very good reason. Godric, Eric's maker, was seemingly kidnapped by the rabidly anti-vamp Christian group The Fellowship of the Sun (FOTS). It turns out that ethereal millenium-old Godric is sick of the hatred and ways of the world. He's tired of vampires acting like sociopaths, and we learn that he willingly turned himself over to FOTS as a sacrifice, since they were hell-bound determined to torch a vampire come hell or high water. The drama around Godric going missing, which was the whole reason Eric summoned Sookie to Dallas in the first place, led to another great line in the season. Sookie asks Eric if Godric is his maker, and Eric replies, "Don't use words you don't understand." Sookie retorts something like, "Well, whoever he is, you clearly love him." Eric dryly replies, "Don't use words I don't understand." Loved it! I want to quickly mention that I liked the show's treatment of Jason in FOTS; I think his character grew as much as poor, witless Jason can grow.

Episode 9, "I Will Rise Up" was a high point in the thick of that Maryann-Maynad crapola. When Eric and the Dallas vamps foiled Godric's suicide plot by "rescuing" him from FOTS, Godric decided to literally stay up and watch the sunrise, which would kill him. I sobbed at the exchange when Eric bid goodbye to his beloved maker. I was touched by Sookie's innate kindness and devotion, staying with Godric to the end since Eric couldn't, and then trying to comfort Eric for his loss. Godric proved so popular, Alan Ball hinted that there might be many Eric flashbacks with Godric -- after all, they have 2,000 years of history together, so there's a lot to mine.

In conclusion, I strongly preferred season 1, but the high points of season 2 still made it a worthwhile use of my rec time. I can't wait to see where things are going in season 3. I plan to catch up on some of the Sookie Stackhouse novels until then, and of course, the Eclipse movie comes out at Thanksgiving for more of my vampire needs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Not Dead ... Only Resting

Sorry it's been a zillion days since I've posted anything. For the past week, I have been in the worst pain cycle I've had in months The hard work leading up to Rosh Hashana, and in fact, some of the celebration, pushed my body over the edge. I was back on narcotics round the clock and everything. Yuck! I'm feeling better after a restful shabbat, and plan to write about vampires soon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Feldenkrais Evangelism

My friend Sandra says that everyone who does Feldenkrais is evangelical. I think she means it pejoratively, but I don't, when I count myself among the zealously converted. Even though I still struggle with the after-effects of my devastating Lyme Disease infection, I have had some dramatic healing the last couple of months since working with Steve Shafarman, an amazing Feldenkrais Method teacher who lives nearby.

I have always experienced all movement, including walking, as awkward and uncomfortable. Even when I was four years old, I had these special shoes to correct some kind of walking problem. As an adult, I blamed my unease on my obesity. Losing 94 pounds made moving easier, but it still felt forced and awkward. So David and I have always known that I needed some kind of movement re-education, but we couldn't imagine who did that kind of therapy. I first heard of Feldenkrais Method (hereafter called Feldenkrais) while reading up on Fibromyalgia when I was diagnosed with that pain condition in 2004. Simply put, the goal of the modality is to use gentle movement to increase awareness of one's body to learn how to move it optimally.

Feldenkrais was born out of Moshe Feldenkrais' need to rehabilitate a sports injury, and was inspired by watching how young children in his wife's pediatric practice organically learn to move comfortably and efficiently. We all started out with the flexibility and curiosity of babies, but as we grow up we pick up bad habits and settle into ineffective and uncomfortable ways of moving. Can you remember the last time you thought, "I wonder if there's a way I could do [fill in the blank] that would exert less energy and be more comfortable than the way I do it now?" I certainly didn't think about this until I started working with Steve, whose version of Feldenkrais is called FlexAware.

FlexAware exercises are designed to be playful and simple, but if you have images of mindless exercises, think again. This work has been far more challenging than I thought it would be, both somatically and cognitively. My body tires from using under-used muscles. My brain gets a workout as I connect how a slight change in my positioning makes movement more or less efficient, thus learning to erase decades-old patterns of tension and unskilled motion.

I actually have a 10-minute old example of how FlexAware is making a difference in how I feel. I just got home after being out for five hours. Since I ran out of time to do so this morning, I sat down to meditate and my lower back and neck were stiff. When I got up from my zafu (meditation cushion), I knew exactly which exercises I needed to do to make myself feel better. I tell people that my body now "talks" to me since doing Feldenkrais; it's more accurate to say that it has been talking all along, but I haven't understood its language. Now I do. I spent a few minutes practicing some exercises that I do standing up that have been marvelous for everything from my neck to my lower back, and followed it up with a few more exercises I do on my yoga mat. There is a lot of emphasis in FlexAware on working with gravity -- not wasting energy fighting gravity by holding your body up in some artificial position -- and on breathing more fully and comfortably. When I got up to come write this, everything felt nicely well-adjusted. This reminds me that I haven't seen my chiropractor, whom I used to see at least once a month, since I started working with Steve. FlexAware exercises essentially let the body become self-correcting, which is saving me time and money. Hooray!

I've noticed that in bodywork, even more than in medicine, the quality of your practitioner or instructor makes a tremendous difference in your experience. I saw another certified Feldenkrais practitioner, "Jill," for a few sessions, and sought Steve out because although Jill was pleasant, I felt like something was lacking in our sessions. However, since I had never done Feldenkrais with anyone else, I had no basis of comparison, which is why I decided to book one session with Steve. Within an hour, I knew that he was totally the person I needed to work with.

Jill also is certified in The Alexander Technique, which is often compared to Feldenkrais. I've done a fair amount of Alexander both with Jill and my old cranial-sacral therapist, and although Alexander can feel good, I think there's no competition between the disciplines. I perceive Feldenkrais as so much more robust, cognitive, and nuanced than Alexander. Feldenkrais focuses a lot on the pelvis, since it's the center of gravity and the largest part of your body. Alexander focuses mostly on the head and neck, so Jill pushed the Alexander Technique on me because of my serious neck problems resulting from my Lyme infection. I've found that Feldenkrais more than adequately takes care of my neck problems, and because Steve teaches me exercises I can do at home, I don't have to wait to be manipulated for relief.

Steve continues to coach me to move gracefully, an adjective that I can't imagine could apply to me, but I persist. And I'm determined that one day, it will feel truly natural to walk.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Twilight



Warning, contains spoilers. Thank you to Alisa, for the entertaining photos she took on a recent trip to Forks, Wash., where the Twilight series is set.

This shabbat (sabbath) I finished "Breaking Dawn," Stephenie Meyer's last book in the Twilight Saga. I picked up "Twilight" in the library earlier this year, way behind in the fad, which is why I could get it at the library at all! I was very contemptuous of the novel, assuming that anything that had teenage girls so captivated just had to suck. For the two people left on the planet who don't know the premise, it's that Edward Cullen, a teenage vampire, falls in love with a mortal girl, Bella Swan. I had an instant aversion to Bella in the first 70 pages of Twilight, then light dawned on my marble head: the reason this girl is so whiny, self-centered, and obnoxious was because she is 17. Meyer is accurately portraying a teenager.

Edward's attraction to Bella presents a problem, because she's technically his prey. But the Cullens are "vegetarian" vampires, subsisting on animal blood and abstaining from hunting humans. Edward has to go through an incredible acclimation to be able to be around Bella at all. This is where, bizarrely, I got very interested. My friend describes "Twilight" as "abstinence porn," and I think he's totally right. Most of the novel is a painfully slow ramping up of Edward and Bella's emotional and physical relationship. Basically, it's one very long tease, and I found it titillating, to put it mildly. I'm not sure what it says about me that I was drawn to teasing, teenage lust, but I'll leave that to the professionals. When Edward finally kissed Bella, I distinctly remember sighing aloud, "Thank God!" and feeling a palpable sense of release.

"Twilight" and the two books following it, "Eclipse" and "New Moon" are mostly fluff fiction. Here, I need to diverge: it has become apparent to me living in D.C. for 15 years that people here are as snobbish as they come about literature, with the possible exception of the New York City intelligentsia. For example, take Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." I thought this book was hilarious, moving, and enlightening, as did the millions of other readers who have kept it on The New York Times Best Seller list for multiple years. The general impression among my friends ranged from incredulousness (with a strong undertone of jealousy, I think) that Gilbert got an advance large enough to travel for a year around the world and write this book. They seemed to allege that this somehow made her experience less credible, which I disagree with. Then there were the snarky comments about Gilbert's "Oprah-esque" spirituality. I've seen that sentiment about "Eat, Pray, Love" echoed in popular culture.

I don't think "Eat, Pray, Love" was fluff. But the older I get and the more complicated life gets, the more good fluff appeals to me. Reading is a much healthier escape than television, drugs, or food, right? What's wrong with writing fun books that people want to read? James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens might be brilliant writers, but no one other than my father-in-law wants to read their work! I feel the same way about Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." Again, people were so down on this book. I'm not usually into the thriller genre, but I found "The Da Vinci Code" a really fun, fast-paced read. This book isn't as pure an example as "Eat, Pray, Love," because a lot of the heat surrounding it came from Dan Brown's stalwart defense that the sordid secrecy of Opus Dei that he alleges in the novel is real.

Anyway, back to the Twilight saga. I didn't enjoy "Breaking Dawn," as much as I enjoyed the first three books. Partially because once Edward and Bella are fornicating regularly, the tease and the details were gone to keep it salable to a teenage audience, and the other literary tension of if/when Bella is going to be turned to a vampire is resolved early in the novel. I am a slow reader, but I flew through the first three books. I read "Breaking Dawn" much more slowly; partially because I wanted to savor it since it's the last book of the series, and partially because I didn't find it to be the page-turner the earlier books were. However, I gained a whole lot of respect for Meyer as an author who could write more than just fluff. I thought she spends way too many pages on the unplanned half-mortal/half immortal daughter of Edward and Bella, Nessie. But this is where Meyer's writing shines; she aptly captures well the fierce, maternal protectiveness moms feel for their kids that I can only imagine from the 1/100th of a percent that I feel this way about Kacy, my dog. I can't help but stroke her as I write this. Meyer could easily stay in realm of intense emotion, but she puts Bella's devotion to the test by having her emotionally and practically prepare to send Nessie away and never see her again.

Something else that gave the Twilight series depth is Meyer's exploration of what it means to be a family, exemplified by Garrett's speech on the last paragraph of page 717 to the Volturi, kind of the martial royal family of vampiredom. I might have just invented a word! This notion of family was especially interesting in the context of vampiredom, where at best most vampires live in covens, not families. I'm not suggesting that Meyer has written some brilliant social treatise; only that there was some depth in this ultra-popular series that made it more than great fluff.

My next post will be an exploration of the unintended consequences that Twilight might have on adolescent girls' expectation about male sexuality. Good night, or more accurately, good morning!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ticked Off: Installment II of my Lyme Disease Journey

The Diagnosis Continues ...

In March 2003, my neurologist was open to anything being wrong with me. The MRI of my cervical spine didn't show any orthopedic problems, so my doctor zeroed in on other things known to have detrimental effects to the nervous system, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, syphilis, diabetes, etc., and Lyme Disease.

This is really, really important. If you ignore anything else I ever write (probably a good idea), you should commit this to memory: If you ever have a Lyme Disease test, insist that your doctor follow it up with a Western Blot test, which is an analytical technique designed to test for specific proteins in blood or tissue samples. This test will find things that the regular Lyme Disease titre will not catch, because the Lyme test has a 50% false negative rate. Think about that -- half of all people who are told they do not have Lyme Disease, really do, so it goes untreated. To put this in perspective, can you imagine a pregnancy test on the market with a 50% false negative rate? No one would stand for it.

You might think that doctors would automatically know to use the Western Blot test, but you'd be mistaken. Unless they are experienced in diagnosing and treating Lyme, most doctors don't know how unreliable the regular titre is. The Western Blot is what confirmed my Lyme diagnosis. Thank God my neurologist did his residency at Yale, near Lyme, Conn., so he was a pro.

When we got the result from the blot, pieces began to fall into place. As I foreshadowed in my first installment , I experienced neurological problems in 2004, after I was plagued with aches and exhaustion starting shortly after I bought my house in 2003. I was in so much pain, I essentially took two months off work to rehab. I was ultimately diagnosed with fibromyalgia when the Lyme Disease and other tests came up negative. This is purely conjecture, but my neurologist and I believe that the 2003-4 event probably was my initial infection with the Lyme bacteria. My doctor at the time did not understand the terrible handicap of the Lyme test; it is especially unreliable if you're newly infected, which I presumably was.

Lyme is a tricky bacteria. If you catch it quickly, a 30-day course of oral doxycycline -- an innocuous antibiotic commonly prescribed for acne and periodontal infection -- can nip it in the bud, and you might get a yeast infection, but be no more worse for the wear. If left to do its thing, however, Lyme takes its time invading your tissues, which is why it can wreak havoc on all of your systems including your neurological system and gastrointestinal tract. Have you ever heard about syphilis making people crazy? It's true that it can, and the bacterial species that carry Lyme are most closely related to the bacteria that carries syphilis. In fact, much of what researchers have learned about Lyme has been gleaned from syphilis research.

The mysterious pain and exhaustion I had experienced for three months apparently was the result of total systemic breakdown due to Lyme Disease that had gone untreated for years.

I have more to say, but no more time or energy to say it. So, good night until next time. I'm about to finish the last book in the Twilight series, and I have a post brewing on that, and I'll certainly have something to say after the finale of season 2 of True Blood. And a rant about manners/bad parenting. Good stuff!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ticked Off: Installment I of my Lyme Disease Journey

My friends know that I have been severely incapacitated by Lyme's Disease since winter of 2006. Because I have several new readers, and I've never been able to write about my illness in-depth, I'm going to do a series of posts describing my experience of the past two and a half years, culminating in a post about why I abandoned my old blog when I was able to start writing again.

Onset and Pre-Diagnosis

In December 2006 my forearms started to hurt me during and after typing. Since I was working as a journalist, I assumed I had developed carpal tunnel syndrome, so I took a week's vacation from work that December, during which I kept my personal typing to a bare minimum. When discomfort persisted, I made an appointment with the head of arm and hand orthopedic medicine at a major medical center. After a cursory exam, the doctor concluded that I had some nerve irritation and prescribed occupational and physical therapy with a hand specialist.

By February 2007, I started getting pins-and-needles sensations in my arms, similar to the ones you get when your feet fall asleep. Not comfortable! By March, when I touched a button, such as pressing a button in an elevator, an electric shock would travel from my hand and into my upper arm. At my doctor's suggestion, I took two weeks off work in March and refrained from typing while I got a crash-course of occupational therapy (OT). In spite of the rest and the therapy, my pain worsened. I took various medications and had some fancy wrist braces made, but the pain persisted. and My occupational therapy got increasingly painful, and I began to doubt the competency of my occupational/physical therapist (OT/PT; these are not the same field, but she is dually licensed). I asked the orthopedist for a referral to a new PT, whom I saw in March 2007. She was just out of school, which perhaps made her humble enough to acknowledge that something was gravely wrong with me that she couldn't fix. She asked an OT colleague of hers, whom she held in high esteem, to evaluate me.

This OT took the time to do what the orthopedist should have done but didn't: she had me perform simple tasks to assess the neurological function of my body, such as holding my arm above my head and seeing how long it took for my hand to go numb. It's supposed to take minutes, and it took my hand about 8 seconds. "This is not an orthopedic problem," she said as she shook her head. "This is a neurological problem. A big one. And you need to see a neurologist tomorrow."

This is a good time to diverge for a minute and talk about the pitfalls of what traditional, Western medicine has become. I think there was a bygone time when people were looked at as whole human beings, with interconnected parts and systems working in harmony to function, heal, and thrive. I am not knowledgeable about the history of medicine, but somewhere, somehow, we lost our way. Medicine became more and more specialized, which means our bodies got broken down into more and more "distinct" parts; so much so that now the adjective "holistic" (whole-listic) usually refers to complementary medicine, when really all medicine should be whole-listic. So when I saw the orthopedist, he only thought of my arms in the orthopedic context and neglected to do a very basic exam that would have tipped him off that I was at the wrong specialist's office. This will probably be the kernel of another post, because it needs exploring further.

Back to the sickness. Unfortunately for my close friend, she had a traumatic brain injury and was able to refer me to a neurologist who could see me quickly. He's a jerk, but he's also a brilliant diagnostician, thank God. He began the diagnostic process with neurology's favorite toy, the electromyograph (EMG), which is a nerve conduction test. Unfortunately, I knew what I was in for because I had one of these in 2004 (remember this in a few paragraphs). The exam is comprised of two parts. In the first, the surface EMG, the technician takes a little wand and administers electric shocks to your body; the patient is hooked up to electrodes, and the EMG machine transmits and captures nerve conduction data. The shocks feels like someone is taking a rubber band and repeatedly smacking it, hard, on your skin. That's the good part.

The intramuscular part of the exam involves inserting the longest needles I've ever seen into your muscles. They have to be long to get deep in your tissue. It hurts when they're inserted, but the real torture begins when the test administrator tells you to flex your muscle with the needle in it. My doctor was doing this on all my cervical vertebrae, and I ordered him to stop before he finished because I couldn't take it anymore. I was sore for two days afterwards.

The EMG showed some significant nerve damage, so my doctor ordered a battery of laboratory tests, and sent me for an MRI of my cervical spine. At this time, because of the excruciating pain in my arms and neck, I could not: drive a car, chop vegetables, push a grocery cart, open a jar, turn on the computer, open the door to an office building, use my fingers to hit an elevator button, write, type, or wash my own hair because I couldn't lift my hands above my shoulders. David, bless his heart, washed my hair for two months. I was so tired that I slept all day, which I guess is good since I couldn't do anything other than watch TV. I couldn't read laying down because my arms weren't strong enough to hold anything in the air. Simultaneously, I was bedeviled by random pins-and-needles feelings and the sensation of my arms being electrocuted. It was torture.

The only thing worse than the pain was not knowing what was causing it.

Stay tuned for the next installment about my diagnosis and beginning treatment.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Like I Needed Another Reason to hate PETA?



I can think of few institutions that I abhor more than PETA, which ostensibly stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But don't let them fool you; PETA is much more interested in perpetrating cruelty to humans. I'm embarrassed to say that I used to be a dues-paying member of PETA in high school. I was a vegetarian and regularly spent my weekends protesting the local department store that sold fur. I don't know if PETA was a reputable, beneficial organization back then, or if I just thought so in my youthful naivete.

I adamantly believe now that PETA not only doesn't help animals in any meaningful way, but that they actually harm both animals and people. Let's start with the billboard that is the inspiration for this post. It's just plain cruel, mean and nasty. It reeks of PETA's sense of humor, which tends to be either vicious or sexually explicit (I hesitate to link to this Bad Cats commercial, but if you haven't seen it, it's very funny. If only PETA stuck to such unambiguous animal rights issues!)

My second issue with the billboard is that it's totally false and misleading. Here's the bottom line: you can be fit or unfit regardless of whether you eat animal products. I was a vegetarian for 4 years in high school, and again after college for a few more years. I was also very very fat. It is possible to be a thin vegetarian, of course, but many of them aren't. An old friend I recently reconnected with has to weigh between 350-400 pounds, and brags that he hasn't eaten meat since he was 13. I would even argue that it's easier to lose weight or stay trim if you're not a vegetarian, because they have to rely on many carbohydrate-heavy foods like beans for protein. But what about high-protein meat substitutes or tofu, you may ask?

Those veggie burgers and fake meat products are full of soy, a phytoestrogen. Estrogens have profounds effects on the human body, many of which are not well understood. It would not surprise me if our ridiculously high rates of female-related cancers are partly because we take in far too many estrogens beyond what our bodies naturally produce, such as through oral contraceptives and hormones, and even eating large quantities of non-organic dairy products. All of the vegetarian and vegan propaganda stating that cancer rates are so much rarer in Asia, where soy foods are very common, completely omit the important disclaimer that in Asia soy is used as a condiment! They eat a few pieces of tofu on top of a dish, not soy-products for main courses for two or three meals a day. Most of their protein comes from fish. As for tofu, it's decent quality protein, but not nearly of the same quality as meat. For example, I get four protein exchanges at dinner per my food plan, which delivers seven grams of protein per serving. Four exchanges means I get 4 oz of beef, chicken, or fish, but I have to eat 16 oz of tofu to get the same protein value!

I'm saying this merely to shed some light on vegetarian propaganda. I'll reiterate that I think you can have a perfectly healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight anywhere along the spectrum from vegan to omnivore.

But, back to hating on PETA. PETA certainly does not act in the interest of animals; PETA members routinely adopt dogs under the auspices of the group and then euthanize the animals themselves. I remember when this happened in my area. In 2005, PETA arranged to adopt dogs that would have been humanely euthanized in Virginia animal shelters; they told the shelters that they would find homes for the animals and arrange for the unadoptable ones to be euthanized. Instead, PETA employees who were not trained in animal medicine took 100 dogs to the backwoods of Virginia and killed them. PETA continues to euthanize animals and openly defends this on its Web site.

PETA also has a history of theatrical, dramatic, and offensive "advocacy" campaigns. Remember the "holocaust on your plate" exhibit which juxtaposed images from Nazi death camps with photos of factory farming? Let's not forget PETA's President Ingrid Newkirk's quote, "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." I think that quote accurately captures PETA's position, which makes it very scary.

I love animals, and not just because they're tasty! I love my dog. I slow the car way down to avoid hitting squirrels. I take spiders outside instead of killing them. I go out of my way to try and buy body products that weren't tested on animals or that don't have animal ingredients. I spend three times as much money on the eggs from cage-free hens, and one day hope to have it together enough to get in on the kosher, grass-fed, organic beef that is now being sold in the D.C. area to groups who arrange to purchase the meat from the cow. I'm actually quite a reluctant omnivore, but I feel so much better when I eat animal protein, especially beef. I wish there were a way to have widespread better treatment of food animals; factory farming disturbs me, but I maintain a cognitive dissonance around it so I can eat food that nourishes and sustains me without feeling superbly guilty.

So, I love animals, but I can't stand PETA equating humans with other animals. "It's not that they bring animals up to the level of people; it's that they bring people down to the level of animals," my husband wisely says. I am truly sad that animals (especially primates) need to die for medical research, but I view it as a necessary evil. PETA unequivocally believes that there is no difference between a laboratory animal dying for research and a human dying from untreated diseases. I can't get behind that. I think we have a moral imperative to treat those research animals as humanely as their circumstances allow.

This brings me to my conclusion that the real heroes, the real animal rights advocates are the Temple Grandins of the world, who dedicate their careers to making animal lives as good as possible given the reality of our world. Grandin is a doctor of animal science who consults with the food industry to create humane animal livestock "best practices." On a smaller scale, I think the volunteers walking the dogs at the Humane Society make more of a contribution to animal welfare than PETA does. Some organizations have outlived their usefulness, and should just go away. Like PETA.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

V Is For Vampire

I think about vampires a lot. Not as much as men think about sex in a given day, but probably more than most women think about sex in a day. I think about how vampires, if they were real, would function in society. For example, would they need to go to the dentist? Would enterprising dentists start offering night hours to treat vampire patients? I think about whether they'd want human companionship other than for food. The title of this post comes from the fact that I spontaneously started singing "V is for Vampire" to the tune of "C is for Cookie." Vampire, vampire, vampire starts with 'V.'

These thoughts come out of my mouth at weird times, to my husband's amusement. The other night, when he walked into the bathroom to brush his teeth, I spit out my toothpaste and said, "It would be really hard to go back to human sex once you've had sex with a vampire." I wasn't trying to be funny or cute; it's just what came out. Its been a long time since I heard David laugh as loud as he did when I asked last night if we could go to ComicCon next year if there was going to be another True Blood panel. David takes all of this in stride, playfully biting my neck, trying to imitate the sound of fangs extending, and inventing the vampire smiley for texting :[. He's used to my obsessions and tolerates the harmless ones with good cheer.

Before you write me off as a poseur, I will write in my defense that although I never jumped on the Dracula bandwagon, I voraciously read Anne Rice's books in high school and probably watched "The Lost Boys" about 100 times. I am new to Twilight, True Blood, and Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels, which True Blood is based on.

One of the things I think about is why vampires hold so much mystique in our culture. Vampire myths have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We never tire of vampire media, though its popularity certainly ebbs and flows. What is it that holds our interest through centuries? One possibility is that vampires usually mingle sex and death, which have always been inextricably twined. All the TV shows and films showing grieving people losing themselves in sex to numb out? It's real. Heck, look no further than the phrase "la petite mort," the little death, as a euphemism for orgasm. Sex and death are linked. I so wish I could take credit for the following, but my friend MB gets the glory. When I shared my sex-and-death theory of vampire persistence, she said, "And food! It mixes sex, death, and food." That's a pretty good summary of our id, right? Of course, since vampires are practically immortal, their lore also touches on humans' deepest fear and greatest weakness: death. If you combine this with the fact that it's hard to resist a scary tale (notice our persevering interests in zombies, werewolves, etc.), I think it's pretty clear why humans heart vampires.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post about why I love True Blood, and why Bill and Eric totally kick Edward's whiny ass.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Obephobia: The Last Acceptable Bigotry

Megan McArdle has written a couple of intriguing blog posts arguing that obesity wrongly has become the new boogie man for everyone to get worked up about in the name of public health and lowering the costs of health care. She and the author she interviews assert that all of the "data" warning about obesity's dire health consequences and the impact on health care's bottom line are bloated, false charges.

Some day I might write about McArdle's posts, but now I want to approach this from the perspective of being a formerly morbidly obese person living in a world of obephobes: people who dislike, fear, and/or discriminate against fat people.

As of today, I have lost 92.9 pounds. When a reporter asked the first Survivor winner Richard Hatch why he lost so much weight, he allegedly said, "because being fat sucks." Having weighed nearly 250 pounds at 5'1, I can attest that indeed, it very much does.

I am nowhere close to thin, but if I never lost another pound, I'd be happy in my current body after inhabiting the morbidly obese one for so many years. I went from truly standing out in a crowd and barely being able to buckle my seat belt on an airplane to being just another average, overweight American. The difference in how I was treated at 250 pounds and how I am treated at my current size is pretty stunning.

"Fat" in this culture is synonymous with or represents lack of self-control, gluttony, and laziness. No one speaks up when fat people are humiliated for their weight. In a Washington Post review of Fox's new reality show More To Love, which is simply a super-sized version of The Bachelor, the reviewer refers to the plus-sized contestants as "porkers." This astounds me.

Frankly, the existence of the show astounds me, and further proves my point: when we're not busy ridiculing fat people, we're busy gawking at them. Note the 15 or so rotating shows on Discovery and TLC that offers you an hour's glimpse at the super-obese. These shows do nothing to educate or help either the subjects or the viewers; they exist merely as a kind of gross cultural pornography.

Obephobia is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination in this country. In fact, Washington, D.C., is the only province in the U.S.A. with laws to protect employees from being wrongly discriminated against because of their weight. People routinely denigrate and shame overweight people with no social consequences. It reminds me of my mom's stories of growing up in Memphis at the height of Jim Crow. Please do not tell me that black people are born black but "fatties" choose to be fat; I'll decimate that argument in another blog post. This one is already too long.

I could write for hours about the embarrassment that I endured because of my previous size, but I want to point out a select few:

1. Calling a restaurant that advertised the need for a hostess. On the phone they were enthusiastic and interested, and when I showed up for the interview about an hour later, the boss looked at me from head to toe and told me the position already was filled.

2. There are all these scam charities in D.C. where canvassers approach you on the street asking for a donation to "help save the children from violence." They get cagey and defensive when you point out that they have no non-profit status or address. Once when I was approached downtown, I said, "I'm sorry, I don't give money to this type of charity." The canvasser replied, "You need to be spending your money on Metabolife."

Sometimes obe-phobia is blatant, like the examples above, but I think the more socially acceptable form is the kind McArdle writes about; people justifying ludicrous behaviors that punish obese people in the name of public health. A junk food tax? Please. Under its Customers of Size policy, Southwest Airlines, which I still haven't forgiven for this, began requiring obese people to pay a discounted rate for another half seat if they're large. I just sat on hold for 11 minutes to verify that this policy is enforced. See what I do for my readers? I asked the rep at SWA how they'd handle it if you did not book the extra seat for whatever reason, and she told me that if you were really in the way of another customer they would require you to buy the extra seat on the spot if you wanted to complete your flight. The Rep tried to stress that it's not really an obephobic policy; she said her brother is a professional body builder with huge shoulders that creep into the neighboring passenger's body space, and he has to buy the second seat. I actually see the rationale here, but those types of policies really devastate fat people; I just wish the airlines could deal with this more delicately. One of my husband's super-obese relatives hasn't flown in decades because she's afraid of navigating the airlines at her size. I haven't been on a full flight in years; is it that hard to rearrange people, so maybe a fat person ends up with an empty seat next to him? Reading SWA's forums on this topic, people seem to have no compunction referring to overweight folks as "hippos." If this doesn't remind you of racists referring to black people as "monkeys" or "water buffalo," it should.

I want to close with a quote attributed to Plato, James Barrie, and a dozen others: "Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." This is so true. Obese people know they're obese. They are embarrassed. They know they're taking up too much room on the train, plane, or stadium seating. They have probably spent thousands of dollars on dozens of diets trying in vain to lose weight and feel hopeless. A warm smile from you goes a long way.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Virginity

A friend told me how she recently attempted to lose her virginity: to a man who sounded really creepy and manipulated her into letting him have intercourse with her after she cried when he told her, "I don't go out with women who won't have sex with me by the third date. Clearly it means there's no spark, and no potential." I felt really sad for her that her first time almost was with a creepy guy who clearly didn't care much about her or her best interest. I'm sad that she chose to date this creep even though the warning signs were so clear that God might as well have swooped down and said, "Run!"

I've been thinking a lot about virginity lately because I've fallen in love with Alan Ball's HBO series True Blood. In season 1 episode 6, the protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse, loses her virginity to the sexy Civil War-era vampire Bill Compton. Everything about that scene (and the beginning of episode 7, which is the post-sex hot-tub cuddle) is perfect. The setting is gorgeous: Sookie and Bill are in front of a fireplace with zillions of candles lit around them (of course!). Their tenderness and passion are balanced perfectly. But what really takes my breath away in this scene is how this couple interacts when Bill's fangs come out because he's one turned on vampire. The actor, Stephen Moyer, looks at Sookie (played by Anna Paquin) with such a look of fear and vulnerability. Her response is incredible. No more spoilers for you -- off to your Netflix cue!

But I digress. I've watched this scene now more times than I like to admit, and it's made me so grateful to the first man I slept with. He was a trusted friend; kind, gentle, sensitive, and knew the gravitas of what I was doing. Basically, he treated me and the situation with the respect it deserved. Sex is difficult enough without the burden of having a lousy first time! I can't imagine how messed up I'd be about sex if my first experience with intercourse came about from fear and coercion like it did for my friend.

In my informal interviews with friends about their first times, it seems clear that losing one's virginity is an important life passage that has the power to affect future sexual experiences for better or for worse. I used to think only women could be traumatized by their first times, but I've heard men talk about their disappointment with less-than-ideal encounters.

Because it's a pretty momentous occasion that I believe has the capacity to influence one's future sex life, people and society need to treat virginity seriously. Men and women should choose their first partner (and hopefully other partners) carefully and try to set the stage for a positive first experience with intercourse. However, Americans also have taken respect for virginity too far. There are virginity parties where teenage girls pledge to their dads that they'll be sexually abstinent until marriage. This seems yucky to me. Besides the pledging to their fathers part, this type of thinking holds virginity out as some holy grail. Worse, it seems to directly connect girls or women's' self-worth with whether they're virgins. Hopefully parents will love their children regardless of their sexual choices.

It would be interesting to see how I would handle this issue if I had children. I don't really believe in waiting until marriage to make love for the first time; if you plan to stay married for life, I can't imagine signing up for a lifetime of bad sex. I think you can get a good idea of how someone is as a lover from intense fooling around, but most of my religious friends who hold out for marriage aren't seriously fooling around with their fiances. It just seems like purchasing an expensive car that would be a huge hassle to return without taking it for a test drive, so I can't see exhorting a son or daughter of mine to wait until they're married. But, I still would want a child of mine to make sex-positive decisions about whom to make love to and when. I would certainly counsel them that most teenagers (meaning under 18) are unprepared for the intense emotional issues that come up when you make love. But, lots of people have sex much younger than that and end up ok.

I also don't know how realistic it is to ask kids to wait until marriage. Do parents forget the intensity of puberty? Your whole being is basically radiating, "Go forth and propagate this species," and most parents either conveniently forget to acknowledge it, instill their kids with shame about sex, or tell them to subordinate the desire without offering an outlet. I can say for sure that I could not, in good conscience, try to defend or endorse Judaism's prohibition of male masturbation. All I can think of is this from Monty Python's Meaning of Life: "Every sperm is sacred/Every sperm is great/If a sperm gets wasted, God gets quite irate ... Let the heathens spill theirs on the dusty ground/God shall make them pay for each sperm that can't be found."

I wish I could wrap up this post in some nice little package. In summary, virginity needs to be kept in perspective: it's important, but not all important!