What I Know, What I Don’t Know

Okay, first of all, a very specific search appeared on my radar yesterday: “Indian sites for compression hose fetish.” Hats off to your freak flag flying proudly, whomever you are. Also, hats off to wanting your objects of desire not to have to suffer from varicose veins. I’m sorry that my mention is probably repeatedly bringing you back to my blog; I wish you luck.

Second, I got a diagnosis.

I’m going to start where I think I should, and that is May of 2009. I was living with the very controlling and very violent Drummer #2 in a beautiful 3 bedroom/2 bath on a man-made lake. My friend who is a CPA and has taken care of my taxes for 16 years as of this year flew down from Cincinnati. Drummer #2 was on the verge of nearly smashing my head with a drinking glass, but I didn’t know it. He made me feel like absolute dirt because my friend was visiting, so much that the friend had to stay at a hotel rather than in the spacious home we occupied.

My friend rented a car so that we could run around the state of Arizona, and most importantly to the Grand Canyon. We hiked down into part of the canyon; it was not easy for me because I had already had fibromyalgia since I reached adulthood, but I did my best to keep up. I was so happy that my friend had made it down to visit, even though the nastiness of Drummer #2 put a damper on things. Drummer #2 didn’t accompany us and that was absolutely fine with me. I wanted to be able to relax. My friend flew home and life went back to walking on eggshells to try to not make Drummer #2 angry – which proved impossible. The week after that trip was when everything went down with the asshole and I moved out in a hurry.

Fast forward to October of 2009: I went to the emergency room because I developed a stiff neck and excruciating pain. Every time I moved my neck I cried. I didn’t sleep for four days and was starting to hallucinate. The ER doctor had no explanation for me because I didn’t have any other symptoms like a sore throat or a fever. He sent me on my way with muscle relaxants. The pain didn’t abate for a full week.

Around the same time, the naturopath I was seeing started documenting new symptoms for me, mainly that I had a constant rocking feeling, and I was always nauseated. We tried different remedies including Dramamine, but nothing even made a dent.

Have you thought up a diagnosis yet? Just wait.

In July 2010, I developed crushing fatigue. I drove over to San Diego mid-month to spend time with a man from Germany who made yearly trips to Comic-Con, the big one. I struggled to walk a few blocks between my hotel and nearby restaurants. He was used to walking up to ten miles a day; I felt a bit ashamed because I felt as if I embodied the lazy American stereotype. I was also plagued by deep bouts of vertigo to the point where I nearly fell down an entire outdoor cement staircase.

During the last week of the semester at school in July, I had to drop out and not take any finals. Fatigue and vertigo ruled my life. My parents were concerned because I spoke like a zombie, no intonation – very unusual considering I was a theater major in school. My speech was slurred, the top portion of my face became paralyzed, and my head began to nod uncontrollably. Because my body was under so much stress, my cortisol levels shot up to ten times the normal amount.

Have you guessed it yet?

In July of 2011, I finally started getting relief from the pressure in my head because a neurosurgeon installed a shunt. However, I had a total of 10 shunt surgeries in 46 months because my body fights them, clogs them, breaks them, strangles them. I have had horrible abdominal pain since July 11, 2011, because that is the first day a drainage catheter began living within my peritoneum and my small and large intestine, and there is a war being waged 24/7.

46 doctors and two states later, a naturopath in Saint Paul suggested I get some blood tests for Lyme disease. I ended up having to pay full price for them up front because they were not covered by insurance/medical assistance. I will admit that I didn’t think I had Lyme but I just wanted to rule it out like I had done with everything else up to that point. Two of the tests had inconclusive results; the third one lit up like a motherfucking Christmas tree.

I have late stage aka chronic Lyme, and have had it for nearly seven years. It wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Why should it be? I didn’t have a bull’s eye rash. I lived in Arizona, a state with a very small tick population compared to other states. The CDC has very strict guidelines about what can be reported for Lyme and I may not fit their parameters; however, I am still going to contact the state health board and let them know I was infected while I was a resident in the state. I think that only 8 cases have been reported to the CDC for Arizona. I don’t even know if they will take my data because I was diagnosed based on antibodies specific to bacterial exposure, and they only want tests showing the bacteria, which may not be detectable because of the time that has passed.

I know that most of the doctor visits and labs are not covered by insurance, so I will truly be destitute in short order. They are not covered because insurance companies and even the government get bucky about late stage/chronic Lyme, sometimes refusing to acknowledge it exists. There are now temporary laws in place in Minnesota that allow physicians to prescribe antibiotics far longer than they have before, for years instead of months, and the law is set to expire in 2019. I feel like my diagnosis is sitting on the cusp of being dismissed and being accepted. I don’t know how they will deny that my facial paralysis ties into the positive results on the blood work, but I’m sure they’ll find a way to tell me I just need counseling. It wouldn’t be the first time I heard that.

I don’t know what will be irreversible with the neurological problems when treatment starts. I think the facial palsy and ptosis may go away. I think the tremors will take years to adios if they stop at all. The left side of my body has lost some sensation. For example, when I am descending stairs, I have no concept of the pressure my foot exerts on the steps (and vice versa) and so must go very slow. I have been doing exercises to counteract the bed rest and try to gain some of the muscle I have lost, but I always feel like my nerves are disconnected on my left side, and I tire much more easily when I work on that side. I’m also having some cognitive difficulty including word recall. As I type, I fight to spell words correctly – I have developed some weird form of dyslexia. If you knew how particular I am about spelling, you would be as alarmed as I am. Sometimes it takes me a dozen tries to write single words correctly that would have been a breeze previously. Ultimately there is a 50/50 chance that treatment will work, and it may take years to get any positive results.

Besides notifying the board of health in Arizona and Minnesota, I have decided to write letters to my team of doctors in Arizona to let them know about the diagnosis. I am not trying not to think in terms of, “Oh, if only someone would have tested for Lyme, I wouldn’t have had to have 10 brain surgeries.” Honestly, the disease has really fucked up my body, and it’s possible I would have needed the surgeries even with the right diagnosis.

If my symptoms do abate, I’m going to have a serious conversation with some neurosurgeons about removing the current shunt. It has adhered to my chest and the abdominal pain is still constant, and I just think I would have an easier time without it. However, that also leaves me more vulnerable to CSF leaks – and I don’t ever, ever want that pain again.

Lastly, I don’t know if this is a “rare” disease. The data is poor. On a survey of health, chronic Lyme rated the worst for quality of life as outlined in this article – worse even than congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, diabetes and depression. In other words, I truly won the shit cookie.

Chronic Lyme Disease

 

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I Can’t Feel My Face!

I had two live-in boyfriends during my time in Cincinnati. The second one was Drummer #1, introduced by the guy who was in charge of our servers at the law firm. Apparently Drummer #1 had a weakness for women from Minnesota, with our light-colored hair and blue eyes (except mine are green). In theory he seemed like a good match for me too because of his musical leanings – besides drums he also played guitar – and he was a tech guy, which was my new field at that time.

I still remember our first date vividly. Drummer #1 was very tall (6’3″) with a big, toothy grin, deep-set blue eyes, short brown hair and a flannel shirt. He was very, very nervous about meeting me. We went on a double date with my friends, and we started off sitting across from each other at a crappy table with bad vinyl chairs while a band set up. An hour later the band was in full force and Drummer #1 managed to down four shots of Jaegermeister and two Jack & Cokes. He got up to go to the bathroom and when he returned, he sat down next to me instead of across from me, started rubbing my back and then poked his cheeks and said, “I can’t feel my face! I can’t feel my face!” Before the night was done he had four more Jack & Cokes.

I agreed to go out with him again, even though the drinking wasn’t ideal for a first date. I knew it was his nerves. Plus he kept telling me how cute I was.

It was another one of those things that turned into us spending loads of time together immediately. After the third date when he found out where I lived, he would throw pebbles and sometimes even dimes and pennies at my apartment window to surprise me and let him in. He was living with his parents at the time. After about eight months, Drummer #1 and I moved in together.

I didn’t have the easiest time with meeting his parents. I never went over to his house, he just met me out or came and picked me up. One time during the summer we were at a blues festival and Drummer #1 knew his parents were there as well, and they wanted to meet me, so we set off through the crowd looking for them. We walked back and forth and back and forth in mobs of people but weren’t able to find them, and I had no idea who to look for anyway. However, his parents saw us and didn’t call out to us every time we passed – because, as it turned out, his mother thought I was too fat and ugly for him. (Disclaimer: I was around size 8-10, pretty darned okay by today’s standards.) When they invited me to join them for Christmas that year, I absolutely did not want to go, but I did anyway. His parents ended up loving me.

Anyway, up to that point, Drummer #1 had been an irresponsible bill payer and so I had to have all of the utilities put into my name when we moved in together to avoid having to pay large deposits. For the first year that we were together he was one of the sole tech guys for a small manufacturing company. At this point my hair was falling out with a vengeance. He always wore a blue fleece pullover to work and every day he managed to pick up thousands of my blonde hairs on it like he was wearing velcro. At one point the guys he worked with asked if there was something wrong with me based solely on the volume of my hair that would show up on his clothes.

After the first year Drummer #1 switched to a job at the University of Cincinnati. For some of his time there he happened to work with a doctor who was researching cures for alopecia universalis. He would come home and tell me about seeing others like me who were examined under a magnifying glass so they could be determined to be the most extreme hairless cases for the studies. I still would never qualify because no matter what falls out I manage to retain a few sprouts of hair on my big toes. And for some of the time, Drummer #1 said that he was being sent down to the “hole” – some underground network where he would have to suit up in a big yellow suit for 2-3 days while he ran programs. He also claimed to work with some cops and even some FBI agents.

Drummer #1 made the mistake once of claiming that I was not doing enough to keep my hair. You know that old tired tune of “Why don’t you just _____?” like everyone else is the expert on your body? I made him go with me once for a session where the dermatologist injected each patch with a combination of Lidocaine to numb my head after the shots were done and prednisone to inhibit the white blood cells from taking over my hair follicles. Every session would be about 75 injections; that time, Drummer #1 said, with big eyes, that he could see the doctor flicking the needle up slightly after each injection so it looked as if he was tearing my skin a bit every time. After that, Drummer #1 never told me I wasn’t doing enough.

I finally started wearing wigs when I knew trying to keep my hair or grow new stuff was completely hopeless. At one point I purchased a styrofoam head with a super long neck so the longer wigs wouldn’t rest on the counter tops when I took them off. I would perch the head form and hair on the back of the toilet at night. Every morning for a week, Drummer #1 was so out of it that he would scream when he got out of the shower because he thought someone had sneaked into the bathroom while he was bathing. I would lay in bed nearly pissing myself laughing.

After a few months of living together, things started to slip with the bill paying for Drummer #1. We began receiving calls that our electricity and water were going to be shut off for non-payment and every time I’d have to hurry and pay them, with him promising to investigate why his payments hadn’t been processed. He claimed to be clueless as to why there always seemed to be lost payments.

Then one day in June we were supposed to be flying back to Minnesota for my 10th high school reunion. The flight was out of Columbus, a good hour and a half away, and at night, so I told Drummer #1 what time he had to be home from work in order for us to catch the plane on time. When the time rolled around, he was nowhere to be found. This was prior to the time of cell phones, so I had to call his office. When I got no answer, I called campus security and asked them to cruise around to see if his car was there. After striking out again, I opened up his top dresser drawer where I knew he put all of his receipts and mail. I was stunned to find six months worth of bills in there, all unopened, including all of the utility bills he had told me he had paid. I was incredibly angry and still panicked about not being able to make our flight in time.

The kicker, though, was when I went to get the mail before trying his work phone again, I received my credit card bill with another nasty surprise. When I had been sick the month before with strep throat and stuck in bed on my birthday, he had taken my credit card and charged up hundreds of dollars. I was LIVID.

Drummer #1 showed up an hour late at home and not ready for the trip at all. He hurriedly threw things into a bag. The entire drive up to Columbus I only had my demon voice to use on him. I told him that if he touched the mail in any way including just taking it out of the mailbox, I would get a post office box and he would have to wait for me to give him his mail. No more hiding and lying.  I hated him.

Five months later Drummer #1 made arrangements to buy a car through a program with the University; the payments would come out of his check directly so he wouldn’t have to worry about making timely payments. However, “something” happened where payments were still missed and his car ended up being impounded. Drummer #1 promised to pay me back but it required about $1200 to get his car back.

I had vowed to return to the southwestern U.S. about two years into our relationship. I didn’t feel any real connection with the city and the winters were depressing. I told Drummer #1 that I was moving with or without him. He seemed enthusiastic about a major change and we even took a trip out to Arizona to check it out. When we were driving back from the Grand Canyon towards Phoenix, we were stunned by a quadruple rainbow that glowed across the sky. I know now that it’s an extremely rare phenomenon, and believe me when I say that even truckers pulled over on the highway so they could snap pictures of these four perfect arcs filling the sky. I took it as a sign that I was making the right move.

When we returned from the trip, I went into working and saving mode. I put in about 70-80 hours between two workplaces to make sure I’d have money for the big move. Drummer #1, however, was still not being responsible for his bills and wasn’t making any effort to pay me back.

In January of 2003 I received a strange phone call from a girl who addressed me by name and informed me that she had been fucking Drummer #1 for at least a year. I kept calm and asked him about it when he returned from work. He said that the girl was calling all of his friends and trying to make their girlfriends freak out. I had no way to verify this because I didn’t know any of the girlfriends.

In July 2003, Drummer #1 missed more car payments. I was at the end of my rope. I told him he was on his own with figuring it out because I had to save money to move. Then in September, I received a call from the landlord who told me that he knew I was leaving, but Drummer #1 asked if he could stay on. Drummer #1 never had any intention of moving.

I bagged up all of his belongings in garbage bags and threw it all to the bottom entryway stairs. I went over to his parents’ house and told them he would need a new place to live. They revealed to me that he had borrowed $1600 from them, telling them it was to pay me back. None of the money made it to me, though. His parents told me that he had been a pathological liar his whole life and they hoped that living with me would have cured him of that. I wish that they would not have remained so loyal to their son and instead warned me.

My friend’s dad, an attorney, wrote a letter of intention to file suit if he didn’t pay me back all of the money by October 29th. On October 29th he appeared at my workplace with a cashier’s check for the entire amount he owed me, nearly $5,000.

I used that money to pay for the moving van and my new apartment in Phoenix.

WWJD

Drummer #2 coulda been Jesus. He grew out his hair to his lower back, dark brown with tight natural curls, and had light grey-blue eyes. He even had a full beard and mustache. The overall effect was Jesus, at least the Anglican version of that religious figure. Funny thing is that he was raised Jewish and was basically an atheist. Drummer #2 grew up in Manhattan in a lower middle class family that was ruled by his father’s violence and his mother’s indifference.

We met when I accepted an invitation from a guy I didn’t know well to join a group of people I didn’t know at all to hang out at a dive bar and sing karaoke and talk politics. Jeff worked at GoDaddy and he had rounded up some co-workers for a night out, and Drummer #2 was there. The joint’s decor was sad vinyl chairs from the ’70s and even sadder regular drunks sitting in a circle around the bar and staring vacantly into their drinks. I have never really shied away from meeting new people and hearing their stories – I mean, how else are you supposed to make friends as an adult? So we had some great conversations going around the table, but then Jeff had too many drinks and became a little belligerent. I was explaining to him some of the volunteer work I had been doing (being a “hugger” at a children’s hospital), and I was a little baffled to find that I had to defend myself to him when he wondered why I thought my work was benefiting anyone. Drummer #2 jumped in and that as difficult as it was to see very sick children, I was doing a great thing in comforting them. That immediately endeared him to me. In the parking lot, he gave me his business card and told me that he would like to stay in touch and his website was the easiest way to contact him.

I don’t remember how or where our next outing was, but we ended up spending a lot of time together, at least a couple of times a week. I had vowed to remain celibate for a year when I met him, so I did not see it as a dating opportunity. We would look for new and unusual (and inexpensive) things to do. I took him to the Paper Heart in downtown Phoenix, which is no longer in operation, but it was a multi-purpose art space for performances and poetry jams and live painting. It turned out that he was a photographer as well as a musician and I knew that that place would be right up his alley. For a one-month stretch I had a wild hair to go play some bingo – but not at a casino – so I tried to find places where we could hang out in a church basement with a bunch of blue hairs. All of the events calendars were outdated so we would end up driving up and down these streets where bingo should have been, and eventually we’d give up and go to a restaurant instead.

We carried on as friends for an entire year. Eventually I trusted him enough to talk to him about an idea I had for photographs, which was to paint my face, bald head and neck in white, and then make swirls on one side of my face with gold paint, quite like a Klimt piece of art. I went to a costume shop and found some really great face paints and we invested in an airbrush for the base coat. The photographs turned out better than I could have ever hoped. Some were black and whites, where my torso and shoulders were wrapped in white gauze, and that combined with the white paint and black backdrop made me appear as if I were a marble statue. Another was a full body shot of me wrapped in a quilt sewn with intricately printed fabrics where the gold swirls on my face contrasted with the white base paint, and the overall effect was stunning. We laughed over the fact that at times when I tried to look serious and intense, it really came off as a resting bitch face.

My lease with the current roommate was ending, and Drummer #2 and I decided to become roommates. We wanted to look for a house we could comfortably share that would have enough room for him to do his photography, and we settled on a 3BR/2BA on a little man-made lake, complete with ducks. We even acquired a paddle boat from his best friend. I had the bedroom at the front of the house next to the garage, and he had the master suite with enough room to shove his bed into a corner and set the rest up with black backdrops for his sessions. The middle bedroom was our office where we set up dueling computers. He was often working on editing his most recent photos or moderating a heavy metal website.

Not long after we moved in, we were laying on his bed talking about our days, and he raised up over me on one elbow and leaned down and kissed me. This is one of those times where ignoring my instincts resulted in dire consequences. I loved him as a person who was a large part of my daily living, and he seemed to accept me as I was, even with my quirks and less-than-conventional appearance. But I had all kinds of warnings going off in my brain and I wasn’t sure why. I fought them. I told myself I was being stupid. So at Drummer #2’s insistence that he wanted to be close to me, intimately, I broke my self-imposed celibacy.

Drummer #2 insisted that he wanted to show his affection for me by being intimate, but he absolutely did not want to get into a romantic relationship. I couldn’t reconcile that in my head; we were friends, and we were lovers, and we were living in a house together. Why couldn’t it be a romantic relationship?

I found out the hard way that I should have trusted the warning bells. As soon as he stuck his dick in me, everything changed. I became a possession to control. He didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, but he certainly didn’t want me to find anyone else. He also became incredibly critical of me and tried to control every emotion that I felt. Drummer #2 claimed that he was really “in tune” with me and could sense my thoughts and feelings. There were so many times I would come home from work and it hadn’t been a particularly good or bad day, but he would insist that there was something bothering me and that I should tell him everything. He wanted me to have bad days. Sometimes I would just make up stupid shit to get him off my case, like, “Oh, yeah, you’re right, this thing happened at work today.” Then he would make a big show of comforting me, as if he was the only person on the earth who could help me.

I was starting to feel really smothered. Every look on my face was scrutinized, and he was constantly telling me what I should be feeling instead. The only way I can describe that feeling is like he had is arm constantly over my shoulders, and I couldn’t shrug him off.

The co-habitation started in September of 2008. In February of 2009, I went to an event that involved group meditation. I had had many bouts of bronchitis for the prior 12 months and was fighting another round at that time, but I really wanted to get out of the house and find some peace. I got home and found him waiting on the couch with the TV and computers turned off. He was furious that I was gone for two hours, even though he knew I was going and where I would be, and he started raging. I don’t normally just sit back and accept someone screaming at me; I yell right back. It was a long, drawn out fight that lasted for four days.

We had opposite schedules and would sometimes leave notes for each other by using dry erase markers on our tile counter tops. On the fourth day I awoke to find all of the counters in the kitchen covered in black dry erase marker, telling me how horrible I was and that he had wasted his time with me by doing all of the fun things we did like try to find bingo and take photos. That was about 46 sq. ft. of counter space covered with tiny black letters. He told me that if I would just allow him to guide me that I would become a better person. He told me no one would accept me or love me like he did. At that point I was emotionally exhausted and hurt, and I apologized to him for yelling. But after that first big fight, there was always tension.

In March of 2009 I went on a date with a guy from work. That triggered another drawn-out fight, and more hate messages on the counter tiles. Drummer #2 claimed that he wanted to be in a relationship with me and that I was cheating on him by going out with someone else. It was news to me, but I agreed to stay exclusive with him. Again, I apologized.

There were so many fights and so many hate messages written on the tiles. He would also send me emails whose word counts were in the thousands. To this day I have a folder dedicated to him and all of the correspondence is in that folder, but I can’t bring myself to read it, so I can’t give you any specifics, but the fights always ended with him insisting that I should feel what he told me to feel and if I would just let him guide me, everything would be okay.

In June of 2009 we had another fight. That time, though, something sent him over the edge. I can’t remember what exactly – I probably raised my voice back at him – and he threw a drinking glass across the room at me. I do remember him calling me a fucking piece of shit, a bitch, a whore, yelling that I had made him try to kill me. I had been cooking something on the stove and there were thousands of pieces of glass all around me and in the food. The glass had ended up breaking the wooden blinds at the window next to me. I didn’t say anything but went straight to my room and locked my door. I called my friend and made arrangements to move into the empty third floor of her house, and I hired shitty movers off of Craigslist who broke every piece of furniture they moved.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. It rarely is in an abusive relationship.

It took three months, but he worked on me and wore me down until I agreed to go back to him and try again. At first he cried and tried to make his eyes as big as possible (a trick he admitted later as one of his go-to moves for manipulation), and then he started back in on telling me that if I would just feel what he told me to, everything would be okay. The fighting was constant. I remember curling up into a ball and sobbing because he told me I was worthless and that he should just leave me, and it was my fault that he was falling apart again after never intending to get into another romantic relationship in the first place.

Still, I tried. I constantly walked on egg shells around him, afraid that if I showed the “wrong” emotion, he’d freak out. We even tried to celebrate the holidays. I bought Christmas gifts for him based on what he had mentioned in casual conversation as wanting, and I jokingly told him to try not to buy anything for himself for a few weeks because it might be in my stash for him. He responded by saying, “What kind of piece of shit person do you have to be to tell me what I can buy?”

We didn’t make it to Christmas, though. I can’t remember what prompted me to leave besides the obvious, so maybe I was at the end of my rope. I emailed him and told him I would be at the house on Saturday, December 12th to get the remainder of my dishes from the kitchen and other odds and ends, but I didn’t want him there and I made that very clear. He was supposed to be working the early shift that day and should not have been there when I arrived.

When I let myself into the house carrying a brand new monitor still in its box that he had given to me, the house was silent, and I didn’t see his car. I took off my shoes and walked toward the back to the office to return the monitor. The rooms were dark and I didn’t see him in the corner of the office until I set the box down and I saw movement from the corner of my eye. He had called in sick to work and had been waiting for me. I ran through the kitchen towards the front of the house and had to pause to try to slip my toes into my shoes while opening the front door. He caught up with me there. He hugged his arms around me so that I couldn’t move without dragging him and I couldn’t raise my arms – and he also knew enough to not put too much pressure on one area to leave bruises, like grabbing me with fingers. We struggled at the door and he repeated over and over, “Don’t leave!” I finally managed to get mostly free of him and then I tried to get to my car, but he was pulling on anything he could get his hands on, mostly clothing. I got my flip phone out and managed to dial 911 but then hung up immediately when we continued to struggle in the driveway. The operator called me back and I was completely panicked and shaking, and I told her that he wouldn’t let go of me. When he realized I was on the phone with 911 he let go of me and allowed me to close the door. I started the car and tore out of the driveway, the operator asking if I could get to a safe place and wait for officers.

When the officers arrived (one male, one female), they questioned me. I couldn’t show them any bruises because I knew he hadn’t left any. When they went to the house to question Drummer #2, he gave them the big eyes and worked himself up to force his eyes to water. They came back to me and said since there weren’t any witnesses (this was too early in the morning for people to be out in the neighborhood) and he didn’t leave any marks, they weren’t going to haul him in AND if I called in another report, they were going to arrest me. I was absolutely dumbfounded. This is the stuff you read about but can’t imagine happening until it actually does. I started shaking and sobbing, and they told me to call a friend if I wanted to whine to someone.

After crying in my car for a while, I drove back to my friend’s house. A few hours later I received a call from Drummer #2 wanting to know what I wanted to do. I told him to get the fuck out of the house and stay gone for two hours. He told me he could stay and help. I told him I never wanted him to be there while I got the rest of my stuff and I never wanted to have any contact with him again. That was the last conversation we had.

Drummer #2 always bragged that he was smarter than everyone else, that his IQ tested off the charts and that he could get away with anything he wanted to because all cops and lawyers were stupid – and he proved it when I called 911. In 2010 I lived in two different apartment complexes. Every night of that year, I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I was afraid he had somehow tracked me down and broke in and was standing over me, waiting for me to wake up.

Yes, I Have a Type

I like men. Tall ones, short ones, fit ones, cute ones, nerd ones, “dad body” ones, I can find something to appreciate in many. However, there are certain things that make me stupid – panty-droppers, if you will. They are:

  1. Firemen. I mean, c’mon, this should be a no-brainer. Granted, some are cuter than others, but family and friends alike encourage this particular addiction by sending me photos and buying me calendars. Even my realtor sent me a picture from a property she was renting to five firemen in Tempe, AZ – one of the guys was posed naked on top of a bicycle out back at the pool, helmet on his head, cigarette in his mouth, and holding a rifle. He was quite fit. His leg very coyly covered up his frank and beans. It was my dream photo minus the rifle and the cigarette. He had it blown up to poster size, which made it easy for the realtor to capture and forward to me. Nearly every day someone posts a half-naked fireman (or if it’s my lucky day, fireMEN) on my Facebook wall. My best day was just a few days after I got Dumb and Angry to move out of the house, I had to call 911 to get help because I thought I had popped my shunt out of the little hole in my cranium, and I was in heaven because I had a house full of firemen. They were all running through my house telling me how much they loved it while a couple stayed with me to work me up, so as I was being wheeled out of the house, I told all of them that I was looking for a roommate. Pass that up? Not me! Of course, I was in crazy pain and had just taken a big dose of painkillers so I was high as a kite, so who knows what else I said to them. I’m pretty sure I didn’t try to stuff dollars down their pants.
  2. Tall men. My first two live-in boyfriends were 6’2″ and 6’3″, and a former boyfriend was 6’4″. I tried twice to make a date happen with a guy who was 6’6″ (he wussed out, had just gotten divorced and was too damaged to follow through), and I think the guy who told me I looked like his dead wife was at least 6’3″. What is it about the tall guys? I’m not sure. I mean, yeah, they can see the top of the fridge, but big deal. I think because I’ve never been considered small, I don’t feel like Godzilla around the tall guys, as in, “Me smash little puny men and snap their thighs like twigs!”
  3. Musicians. I’m talking real musicians, like the ones that can play seven instruments or don’t rely on electronic alterations like auto-tune. I’ve lived with two drummers who could also play other instruments. I think I would give my left pinkie finger to go out with Glen Hansard (at least until I figured out the hard way that he’s a nutter or something). I think this stems from playing a few instruments while in high school and teaching myself a little piano, because I understand what is needed in order to be really good. Kid Rock can kiss my fat ass, he’s as talent-less as they get.

What I miss the most is being able to flirt, especially when I encounter a guy who would normally be somewhere on this list. If I attempted to flirt, any reciprocation would be along the lines of, “Oh, look, the sick lady with the cane and the droopy face is trying to get some action!” I can’t walk down the street with confidence while simultaneously looking for strong biceps or shapely buns because I can’t see further than a few feet in front of myself. You could parade a tall, naked fireman playing a guitar in front of me and all I would be able to see are his toes. All of my good years are being wasted in this bed while a whole new dating pool churns in the world outside my door. It seems criminal.

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

There didn’t used to be a catchy phrase assigned to it when I first entered the dating pool roughly 25 years ago. You think everything is going well and you’ve made a real connection with someone who seems just as enamored with you, and then suddenly they disappear. That’s all we could say – “disappeared” – and shrug our shoulders, and wonder what in the hell happened. Back when all we had were street addresses and land line phones to go off of with information, it was much easier to disappear, especially if the person disappearing didn’t travel in the same circles as you. There was no chance of someone coming back to you and saying, “Oh, I heard about Ben – turns out he ran off with a stripper, and I know where they’re living – wanna TP their single-wide trailer?”

Here is the Urban Dictionary definition of ghosting: “The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject’s maturity and communication skills. Many attempt to justify ghosting as a way to cease dating the ghostee without hurting their feelings, but it in fact proves the subject is thinking more of themselves, as ghosting often creates more confusion for the ghostee than if the subject kindly stated how he/she feels.”

Our current technology has made it nearly impossible to disappear like we used to. We can pay for electronic searches, we can search online public records, we can search for friends of friends on Facebook, we can…wait, I don’t want to give everything away. But it can be done. (Disclaimer: If I am looking for an ex, it is usually to find out if he is staying put while I move around so I feel a little more safe.)

I have become a lot more forward and plain-spoken than I was in my 20s, and so I’m much less likely to ghost someone. In other words, I’ve learned from being both the person on the receiving end of the ghosting as well as being the ghost, and I’ve evolved enough to know that it’s better to communicate than to leave the other person wondering what in the hell is going on. Do not mistake this for other situations where you have given the other person reasons ad nauseum as to why you’re not interested or you don’t want to be contacted again, because that is not the same as a ghosting.

The worst ghosting that was ever done to me was from a guy whom I dated for 6 months from 2004-2005. We met through an internet site – maybe Lavalife? – and bonded over our love of the arts and singing. He was going through his second divorce and at the time had a 3-year-old son. He worked for a credit union, but that only paid the bills; his real passion was doing voice-over work (he was hired for the animated show “The Critic” to perform 30+ voices shortly before it was cancelled), and he liked to write children’s sci-fi. He LOVED the movie “The Incredibles,” and in fact, one of the books he wrote (and copyrighted before the movie was created) was almost exactly like “The Incredibles,” so from this point forward I christen him Mr. Incredible.

Mr. Incredible and I talked on the phone every night – or rather, HE talked about himself for 2-4 hours every night. He moved out to Queen Creek because it was the only place in the Phoenix area where he could afford a house like many others being priced out of the market during the housing bubble, so that meant I had to drive an hour on back roads from my apartment in southeast Phoenix to get to his house even further southeast of town. It meant a lot of driving for me – and I can’t remember why I agreed to do most of the work on that. Also, shortly after we started dating, he acquired two cats for his son because he thought it was really important for him to have pets, never mind the fact that his son tried to kill a cat the year before by throwing it off of a second-floor balcony. (The kid was two. He didn’t know better and they didn’t bother teaching him.) I’m deathly allergic to all animals furred and feathered and it was hell to sleep over. I had also taken a huge pay cut when I relocated from Cincinnati to Phoenix so I didn’t always have cash to buy dinners or even groceries. More often than not, I found myself stopping at the grocery store buying food for Mr. Incredible that we would sometimes eat together, but sometimes it would just be for him and his son. Also, I let Mr. Incredible borrow furniture and blankets for his new house. I met his mom and brother, and he met my parents.

I remember that Mr. Incredible was sad the weekend he found out his divorce from his second marriage had been finalized. I understand that feeling even though I haven’t ever been married or divorced myself, because it makes the split so final. Or so I thought.

Some things changed our dynamic. One was that he accidentally saw me full-Mr. Clean in the bathroom because he walked in on me getting dressed after a shower. This was about four months into the relationship and I could tell it bothered him. Up to that point I had slept in full wigs to try to spare him – and got very little sleep because I would worry about moving around too much and ruining the hair fibers of the wigs, and these wigs in general are miserable to sleep in. The materials they are made of scratch up my tender skin and rub it raw. Around this same time, Mr. Incredible was letting his always-cheerful facade slip. I think he got it in his head that he was a dad and therefore had to be all little league instead of a little dirty, so every time he would suggest something slightly sexually deviant or tell me about his marathon coke-snorting sessions of the past, it was disturbing. That is not to say that I was demanding that he always be cheerful, but I felt as if he wasn’t being his true self.

Mr. Incredible lost his job at the credit union; he said it was a layoff and I have no idea if that was the truth. Our marathon phone sessions began to revolve around revamping his resume and searching for jobs. When we weren’t doing that, he pulled out his Incredibles-esque book for me to edit for both grammar and content. I remember we had another 2-hour phone session on a Saturday night and I knew he had his son that weekend, so I didn’t expect to talk to him until at least Monday. We also traded emails daily up to that point. I (thought I) knew what to anticipate.

I didn’t hear from Mr. Incredible Monday or Tuesday either by phone or email. I left him a message and also emailed him and got no reply. I tried the same again Thursday with the same results. For all of the time we were together, a single day didn’t pass without us communicating, so I knew something was happening. Email and phone weren’t getting the job done, so I decided to stop trying to ask what the fuck was going on.

I drove out to his place on a Saturday morning at around 7 am, when I knew he would still be in bed. I was sick to my stomach and shaking. I rang his doorbell, and I heard some rustling around, and Mr. Incredible came to the door, his hair sticking up all over as if he had just peeled himself off the wall like velcro. He had horrible circles around his eyes and what looked to be three cold sores around his mouth, and all I could think was, “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!”  I said, “I don’t care what is going on. I came to get my stuff.” (Mind you, a lot of my belongings were forever donated to him and the house, but I definitely wanted to get back a quilt my mom had made.)

I waited outside while he gathered what he could. After I slammed the trunk shut and got into the driver’s seat, he hung off of the half-open window and said, “I know you were concerned about me finding a job, so I just wanted to let you know that I have some interviews coming up.” Nothing at all about why he had gone radio silent. I told him I didn’t give a shit and I tore away from the curb. I blocked his email and de-programmed my phone so that his number was no longer in my speed dial.

I really didn’t have any idea what happened until I went searching on MySpace a year later and discovered that while we were together, he was also messing around with his most recent ex-wife and got her pregnant.

In 2009, while I was living with Drummer #2, I got an email through YouTube. I didn’t even know that YouTube had an email system! There was a letter from a screen name I didn’t recognize, which started with Mr. Incredible saying that he was using YouTube because I had blocked him everywhere else. At the time he was writing the email he was in the process of divorcing wife #2 a second time (divorce #3, for the record), but the best thing that came out of their second marriage was their second child. It wasn’t an apology. Rather, it was a way for Mr. Incredible to talk about himself yet again. Drummer #2 was actually in the room with me when I got the email and told me I looked as if I had seen a ghost. All of the old emotions came right back up again, dominated by hurt and anger. I wrote back a scathing note basically telling him he was a piece of shit to treat me so poorly after all that I had helped him with, and why did he think it would benefit me in any way for him to tell me that he didn’t regret anything and that he got a daughter out of the deal to boot? Drummer #2, dick that he was, told me that I shouldn’t be upset because at least the guy tried to find me again. The reply I got from Mr. Incredible said that I was right and he was sorry, and he wouldn’t try to contact me again.

And he hasn’t. But every once in a while, I check his Facebook page, and I confirm he still sucks at dating.

Ping Pong and Other Sports with Balls

I’m at an age now where I’ve had a chance to really build up a history with a man. In fact, I’ve done it with a few, though this person is by far has racked up the most time with me.

I have been in and out of a relationship with this man that I will refer to as Ping Pong since 2008 all the way to 2014. We met because he was my trainer for the absolute worst job I’ve had to date – calling people to ask them to donate blood to a blood bank. Everyone we contacted had either previously attempted or successfully donated a pint of blood, so it wasn’t exactly cold calling, but often people screamed in our ears or made crazy sounds and then hung up on us. His job was to prepare us for the worst. For the week that we had training, when everyone else would leave the room to take a break, he and I would stay and chat. (You support human rights? I support human rights! You are a democrat? I’m a democrat! You used to love The Scorpions in 8th grade? I used to love The Scorpions in 8th grade!) At least fundamentally, it seemed like we were on the same page about a lot of things, plus he was very cute with big brown eyes and curly eyelashes, and we easily fell into dating. He was very socially conscientious, affectionate and caring. I always liked holding hands with him because we were extremely physically comfortable with each other.

This was not my first or even fifth try at dating someone with children from a previous marriage. He has two daughters and one son with a woman that he married very, very young – mainly because her boobs were so big that when she sat down, they nearly touched her knees (his words). She proved to be very unstable and had numerous affairs during their marriage. At the time that we started dating, she had moved back in to live with her parents to raise two more children with her current husband, a marine. The first sign of trouble started when very early into our relationship, Ping Pong left his phone on the counter at his former in-laws’ house. This was when phones were rarely password protected. So Ping Pong and I were eating dinner at my place and I got this call from a number I don’t recognize, and it’s her. Good lord, she was drunk. She was slurring her words and shouting, and telling me that I needed to stop dating her husband. Ping Pong left to go over to her house and get his phone back, but of course, she wasn’t too drunk to plan ahead and she programmed my number into her phone. For the next 8 months I received all kinds of calls and messages from her with strange accusations, mostly with her being drunk. Whenever she called while he was at my place, he always left to go to her house, ostensibly to talk her down or through the latest episode of bad choices.

Ping Pong explained to me that because his ex was such a nut job and cheated on him constantly, he wanted to take things slow with me. His definition of slow, however, eventually evolved to mean that he would only want to see me once a month for sexy time, and he would not introduce me to his children. I got tired of it and called it off.

(Pause for time with Drummer #2, to be told at a later date.)

Ping Pong kept in touch with me while we had over a year apart, sending random texts saying he was thinking of me and just wondering how I was doing. I ended up in the hospital to get an appendectomy, and he visited. When I saw him again after so much time had passed, I felt as if I was seeing my best friend again, and all of the good feelings of love and comfort returned.

When Drummer #2 was finally out of the picture, Ping Pong and I fell back into dating. But again, it didn’t take long for the old patterns to emerge. I would only see him once a month for sexy time and I was not allowed to meet his children. Again, I called it off.

(Pause for time with Dumb and Angry, also to be told at a later date.)

After the whole Dumb and Angry guy, I told Ping Pong that I would really like to try to make it work, but that things had to be different. I had to meet his parents and I had to meet his children. He said he would definitely set something up where we could all go to dinner, and I wouldn’t be his dirty little secret anymore. Again, the old patterns emerged quickly. Every time I tried to pin him down for a time to get together with everyone, he would give me excuses on why either his parents or his kids wouldn’t be available. (By this time, the kids were 21, 19 and 14. Saying that young children shouldn’t be introduced to partners would not apply here.) But on days he said they weren’t available, he would get together with them anyway and then tell me later. My parents flew down from the Midwest to help celebrate my 40th birthday as well as my graduation with a bachelor’s degree Summa Cum Laude, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for him to meet them, and I gave him about 6 weeks notice with reminders so he couldn’t claim he was busy. The day we were supposed to get together he texted me to say that he was playing a softball game really, really far away and he didn’t think he could make it. My lie-dar was going off big time.

Ready for something weird? Sometimes at night I would receive these garbled text messages that would always say something like, “Why don’t you love me apoigfdahsdf alhdfgpoia qweonigdfgh” or “You are the most lgpohierthg ghpoiu ahs gthpia”. It turns out that he would take heavy medications including Ambien before bedtime and if he didn’t hide the phone from himself before turning in, he would send drug-induced text messages. I tried to joke about them or tell him it wasn’t a big deal but he was always embarrassed – but not embarrassed enough to put his phone in a different room. I’m a firm believer that you say what you’re truly feeling when you’re drunk or high, but I wish that he could have been able to actually finish those sentences so I could get the whole picture.

Another factor that sometimes interfered with our relationship is that he is bipolar. When the downward spiral of depression would hit him, which it would often because he wasn’t on the correct dose of medication, the text messages would get more desperate and garbled and he would be on the verge of tears when I would see him. He was never interested in doing anything when he was in the throes of the sickness, and I could not count on him for emotional support for anything that I was going through.

The last breakup happened via text. First, I think it’s terribly disrespectful to use this method for someone you have known for 6 years. Second, I didn’t get any closure. His message said something to the effect of, “I’ve really tried, but I have put my heart into a castle and built the walls and moat up around it, so that I can never be hurt again.” I mean man, for a 43-year-old guy, that suspiciously sounds a lot like his 14-year-old daughter got ahold of his phone. I texted something back to the effect of, “Maybe you should be honest with the women that you date in the future and tell them you are just trying to get laid.” And that was it. I was left alone to process this breakup without being able to say anything else to this man who had a sizable history with me – but maybe it was not enough, or never would be enough, because we didn’t have children together.

So the lesson learned here is a very simple and short list:

1) Don’t look back or go back to someone that didn’t work out on the first try.

By the way, this is a recurring theme. I’m human.