Are You Being Served?

in·ter·sec·tion·al·i·ty
ˌin(t)ərsekSHəˈnalədē/
noun
  1. the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
    “through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us”

    The state of Arizona doesn’t believe that I exist. I’m a woman with a bachelor’s degree, but I also have some rare diseases that have disabled me to the point that I am unable to work. I really had worked my ass off until I had my last shunt failure and surgery, when my neurosurgeon threw in the towel and gave up on me. The judge that I sat in front of for six minutes in March of this year noted in my paperwork that I had an exceptional work history. So my monthly pay is above the poverty level, because it’s based on the amount of take-home pay for the past 10-15 years (at the judge’s and state’s discrimination and calculation).

    Let me back up a little. I got my official judgement saying I’m disabled. Yay. Then my attorney told me that I might have to wait a number of months to see any money. But on May 24th, I got a call from the federal office saying that my money would be released on May 27th. I asked how it would be paid. They said it would be sent how I asked it to be sent. I asked how that was possible, since I hadn’t specified. They said, oh, it looks like we have info from Arizona. (Instant panic, since I haven’t lived there for 3 years.) I said no, absolutely not, I have all of my info updated for Minnesota, there’s no reason for it to be sent to Arizona. They said too bad, if you want it sent to Minnesota, you have to go to your local Minnesota office.

    So I did, on the morning of Friday, May 25th. I was a little worried because it was right before the holiday weekend. Luckily it wasn’t a long wait. But I found out that the money was already sent to Arizona – they didn’t wait until May 27th. It was sent on May 22nd. My former bank in Arizona reopened my account, accepted this rather large amount of money, and just sat on it. They didn’t tell me, and didn’t send the money back. For days. I was able to work it out so they could send the money to my current bank so it wasn’t lost. Anyway…

    So, while at the Social Security office making sure they didn’t send anything else to Arizona, I mentioned Medicare. The man helping me said, oh, didn’t you know, you’ve had it since January of this year? Another panic. I knew just from reading some info and talking to others that meant that I had a deadline coming up in just a few days. I had to sign up for a supplemental insurance policy and medication policy or I could lose out on tens of thousands of dollars. And Monday was a holiday. That meant that I had Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to make phone calls and sign up.

    This is no small task. I take 19 prescription medications, one of which is a weekly injection. The doctor that prescribes that had actually been working on getting an exception because my condition has been worsening. I reached out to the Minnesota SHIP office to talk about supplemental plans and medication plans. We found a supplemental plan that costs hundreds a month but could possibly transfer if I moved out of state. For the meds, I plugged in all of the names and we found out the injectable is not covered. It costs $37,000. Welcome to the world of rare diseases! So I had to call the manufacturer and talk to them about a patient assistance program, which might also allow me to get on a higher dose.

    So now back to Arizona. When I talked to their local office that helps seniors find supplemental plans for Medicare, they couldn’t believe that a disabled person under 65 had a disability check that was above poverty level. It isn’t a huge amount, mind you, but it doesn’t meet the standards for poverty. So I can’t qualify for medical assistance as my supplement, which is their only option in Arizona. I also can’t qualify for utilities assistance, transportation assistance or food assistance. The woman on the phone had very little experience but offered to find out more info and call me back. When she did, she told me to buy the policy in Minnesota and take it with me, as there was no hope for me in Arizona. 

    So Wednesday afternoon, I purchased the supplemental plan for Medicare and verified it could come with me (in writing) if I moved out of state. It’s possible it’s going to become much more expensive, but not nearly as expensive as having nothing.

    Thursday I finished sifting through all of the medication plans and tried to pick the best one. It was the least restrictive with the medications that I currently take (most of them wanted to restrict my Singulair, for some reason, of which I need double the normal dose). So I managed to get everything signed up before my June 1st deadline.

    However, while all of this is going on, there’s something else that’s been cooking in the month of May.

    Actually, this started in March. I had a crown fall off. A bunch of decay was discovered – first on that tooth with the crown, then the tooth next to it, then two teeth above it, then a bunch of cavities all over my mouth and it’s painful to eat or drink. I actually had to file a complaint against my dentist that I was seeing for about 2.5 years because he was physically abusive. When he was examining or treating me, he would pull my mouth roughly – so much so that the last time he left bloody fingerprints all over my exam napkin, and I had a swollen face for five days after. It was only after my massage therapist asked me who had been abusive with me that I filed the complaint.

    The complaint was supposed to have been anonymous, according to my insurance. However, they revealed all of my info, and the dentist counter-complained (like I was the asshole, because I was the one sitting in the chair with my mouth open). Then my insurance told me to go to two other dentists, which I did, and then they told me to go to my original dentist, and he refused (DUH), all to get this decay and a root canal taken care of. The two new dentists told me that they wanted me to go fully under and to be in an oral surgeon’s office or hospital because of my anaphylaxis history as well as my inability to numb with Novocaine. They referred me either to the U of MN or to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC).

    I called the U of MN for five days straight, and got different answers each day. They would say they didn’t do sedation, or didn’t take care of complicated patients like me, or were too booked. In the end, I got nowhere. So I turned my attention to HCMC, which happens to be a trauma 1 hospital. They told me they weren’t taking new patients (a huge lie). Then they told me to get a note from my doctor specifying which medications I’m taking – but that was only after they refused to answer my messages for 3 weeks. They wanted to see if my medical assistance would run out before they had to do anything.

    Well, ta da! First day of no medical assistance, June 1st! That means I get absolutely no dental coverage. So even though they have been aware of this issue for a few months and I’ve done everything they told me to do, I got zero help. By the way, it’s likely I’m having the trouble with the decay in my mouth because the abusive dentist put metal back in my mouth even though I told him in writing and verbally many times I’m allergic. I found out after the two other dentists examined me that he put metal-based crowns in my mouth after I paid thousands to remove all the metal in my mouth because of my allergies.

    I’ve already talked to my dental office that I used to go to in Chandler, Arizona for 11 years, and they have an in-house plan. For $100 a year I can have my cleanings, checkups and x-rays, and then 20% off of fillings and other stuff. So that’s the route I’m going to have to take. Plus I like them and I know they’re not going to rip me up and make me bleed on purpose.

    If there was ever a time that I have felt the impact of being poor and being female and being ignored completely, this is certainly one of those times. I’m sure I’ll have many more opportunities.

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Saturday Morning Thoughts About Friday Nights

Last night was a babysitting night for my nephews, ages 11 and 7, while my sister and her husband attended an art opening for a friend. I got permission to initiate them into the world of the musical “Grease” and all of its dirty references with actors who were very obviously not teenagers – the boys immediately picked up that Stockard Channing was “old” (33 when the movie was filmed). The 7-year-old said the actors were “creepy.” But they still got up and excitedly danced along with “Greased Lightning.”

I told my sister that if any questions came up about dirty jokes, she was getting all the queries. I didn’t want to get in trouble for giving them any answers.

Back in 1997 to 2003 I was living in Cincinnati, and during that time I worked in a very large law firm that expanded from 50 people to 350 people by the time I left. If you’ve never worked with lawyers, just know that they can drink. It was a great place for me to be really social. I did a lot of dancing. Sometimes I can’t believe that my Friday nights now are so different from 20 years ago. TWENTY YEARS.

We used to bring our going-out clothes to work on Fridays (if we weren’t already wearing them), and then all pile into the bathroom with our curling irons and hair spray and perfume and body glitter and high heels and makeup. We were a core group of four but sometimes there were more, and we’d rent a hotel room to stay in so we wouldn’t drive home drunk. If there were 8-10 of us, the hotel room would only end up being $10-15 downtown for a decent room, and maybe even a suite with a living room and pull-out couch.

One of the nights that we had a larger group for a friend’s birthday, there were 10 of us total, and four people got two bedrooms, and the rest of us were out in the living room. Two of the girls were doing full body barrel rolls over one of the guys on the floor. Now, let me tell you that I have no idea how we got this guy to party with us, but we did. He was younger and he worked in the mail room next to our area and we built up a good rapport with him, and he was fucking hot. There’s just no other way to say it. He was hot and he had a big, tight body with muscles everywhere, and we all wanted to jump him. So at the end of the night my two friends were rolling around on the floor with him, and I was sure that at some point it was going to be a threesome and I was going to have to pretend to look away. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t happen. A few days later one of them whisper screamed to me that he had the biggest penis she had ever had the pleasure of bumping into and she might have been a little scared if she would have been sober. I was a little sad that no one deflowered the mail room guy. It was some sort of male dance review fantasy.

Every time we went out I managed to play kissy face with some random stranger. I’ve been accused of putting out a scent, but maybe it’s because I just shake my ass when I’m dancing. One time on the dance floor I was minding my own business when a guy who was exactly my height started dancing with me and immediately put his hands on my shoulders and started pressing down really hard. Maybe I was bouncing around too much? He was really drunk and it’s possible he wanted the world to stop spinning. My friends were watching this happen. They said they could see the instant that my face changed from “I’m going to see where this goes” to “Oh, HELL no!” After he succeeded in immobilizing me, he tried to suck my face off with his lips. I couldn’t move my body away from him, only my neck. Back, back, back went my head like a chicken, and his lips kept stretching forward like a cartoon. I finally pried his hands off and climbed over my friends to get to the corner of the booth and he eventually went away after he couldn’t figure out how to find me again.

A bunch of the bars in the Over the Rhine area of downtown Cincinnati change ownership and themes often, but back in the late ’90’s the popular ones were Banana Joe’s (a chain that some of you might remember in other cities) and a ’70’s disco place called “Have a Nice Day Cafe” and one of those light-up disco dance floors. I remember that some dumbass maced someone else on the dance floor and the whole bar had to be evacuated one night, and all of us were teary-eyed and gagging. It was not “nice.”

Banana Joe’s had $1 rail drinks from 5 pm to 9 pm, so we would race from the firm to get there as soon as possible and pound down those drinks before they became full price, and to dance before the floor got packed. I was often the first one on the floor. I can still hear my friend saying, “There go her hips!”

One night in particular we had a bigger group of about 7 meeting up for drinking and dancing, starting early as usual. It included a gay couple and it was on a chilly night; we were all partying on the cheap and there wasn’t a coat check, so we just piled our coats in the corner by the DJ booth and danced near it, per the usual. On that night, though, there was a guy who was coming up to all of the girls and humping all of us in a distasteful way and wouldn’t take no for an answer, so we were throwing him dirty looks and edging away from him – and further away from our coats.

Dumb move. Not much time lapsed when one of the guys noticed that the nice $700 leather coats he and his boyfriend owned had been stolen by the obnoxious guy. We looked at the front door and the guy was on his way out. We girls were pissed! We shot out the door and yelled at the doorman to ask which way the asshole went, then we split up – two one way, two another. We circled the building, running to catch up, and by the time I did with the person I had paired up with, the other two girls had already pounced on the loser and retrieved the two jackets. They had seen him slinging them into a dumpster when he was taking off down an alley. They were yelling at him and he was holding up his hands as if he didn’t know what they were screaming about, then he slinked off into the shadows. We celebrated a little the fact that we kicked ass while the boys waited inside to see if they would ever get their jackets back.

I think about my Friday nights now, when I have a few hours with my nephews, or when I am looking for some diversion on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon. I’m so glad that I embraced every opportunity to be social, that I chased after an asshole who stole my friends’ coats and nothing bad really came of it, and that all of us survived the Friday nights.

I realized, just this moment, that every generation thinks that they are the ones that discovered wild. That’s not true at all. My nephews are going to figure that out too. They have no idea what their parents did or what I did because they think of us as the adults that are pretty quiet on Friday nights.