Hey, Peter Pan, I’m Going Home Now

An article was posted in a local paper about a woman, an attorney for a meat packaging plant, who was trying to adopt a teenage girl out of the foster system and provide her with a stable home and a brighter future. She had never met the girl but rather read about her, and something in her was motivated to change her life completely to give this girl something she had never had before. The woman went through parenting classes for a year in order to learn how best to help this girl who had suffered neglect and abuse. The article bemoaned the fact that though this woman had jumped through all of these hoops, the state was dragging its feet on placing the teenager with her simply because of bureaucracy and red tape.

I shouldn’t read the comments section of ANYTHING published ANYWHERE, I know. But I did, and it was just as frustrating as I expected. Instead of the commenters being outraged about this teenaged girl’s case not being accelerated to be adopted by this woman who obviously wanted to give her stability, structure and love, the majority of the commenters left nasty statements about this woman’s hair and weight. This woman, an attorney, had a bright turquoise streak of hair at the front of her otherwise “normal” brown hair, and she was overweight. I did not receive any intelligent replies to questions that I asked that were to the tune of, “What does her appearance have to do with her being able to provide a loving home to this child?” Some people told me that I was stupid if I couldn’t see it, others said she obviously lacked self control. One young woman remarked that the turquoise in her hair shouldn’t be allowed in someone her age. I have to say that that really got to me.

The first and obvious problem I have with all of these trolls is that this woman is clearly intelligent – her company is obviously not bothered to be represented by legal counsel who happens to have an unusual color in her hair – and financially stable, and strongly committed to giving this girl the best possible start to her young adult life after being mistreated and neglected for so many years. Second, why is she “too old” for something fun like putting a turquoise streak in her hair?

Over and over I’ve seen advice columns about what not to wear over ages 30/40/50. (One of the funniest items was advice not to wear “suntan” pantyhose, because no one is going to believe you have a suntan after 40.) There are some things I agree with, like it’s weird to see an middle-aged woman trounce around in sweatpants with “PINK” written on the ass. Then there’s the whole class of women who think their only value in this life is to compete with their daughters (and even their granddaughters) for the attention of men, so they dress in tank tops and short shorts that would normally show up on a 14-year-old. But a turquoise streak? Maybe it’s because my father was a hair stylist, or maybe it’s because I have always been a little rebellious, but I think the day I swear off experimenting with color in my life is the day I die. I haven’t worked up the balls to get a blue wig, but I’m getting there. And I’m 41.

So this leads me to the next question:  At what age or event did you feel as if you were truly a grownup? I posed the same question on my Facebook page and received interesting answers. Of course there were a bunch of men who declared that they still hadn’t grown up, all over the age of 40. One man said it was the day his eldest daughter was born. One woman said that her wedding day made her feel like an adult; another said it was when she gleefully anticipated canning, making bread from scratch and putting out a big spread for the holidays. One woman said, “34, maybe?” Obviously this is a small sampling, and is by no means scientific, but I think it enforces the concept that you are only as old as you feel mentally. And this attorney with the brightly colored streak in her hair obviously was not giving in to old age and mediocrity just yet.

For me, I felt like an adult at 16, because it was my first year living away from home. From that point on, I threw myself head first into the world, paying bills (on time!) and finding new places to live around the country without seeing them in person first. Creating a circle of truly close friends is a totally different playing field when you aren’t in school anymore.

Lastly, I am pondering this because I think it demonstrates the challenges of dating. I, as a 41-year-old woman who hasn’t lived at home since I was 16, have felt like an adult for that amount of time. I might want blue hair, but I think that’s a shout-out to my artistic tendencies, not my level of maturity. None of the women claimed that they still hadn’t “grown up” and the majority of the men said they were never going to “grow up.” So whose job is it to change in order to make a relationship work and endure?

(Title by Patty Griffin, first line to her song “Peter Pan”)

Not Sick Enough?

September often signals everyone buckling down to business again in Minnesota because summer vacations have wrapped up and everyone is back to school. My mailbox has been stuffed every day with paperwork too – mostly having to do with filing for medical assistance and getting all of my records sent to me by various facilities. I’m not even trying to get housing or food assistance. I braced myself for a challenging week.

It started out nice enough. My uncle helped me to connect with a stylist who has a lot of experience cutting wigs (both synthetic and human hair), so I finally got some really pretty pieces to go incognito when I feel up to it. Monday night to Tuesday afternoon a friend visited from another state, so you know I had to scrub my toilet for that. Today I was supposed to be wheeled around the state fair, but that outing was canceled due to rain. It’s probably good that I stayed home anyway.

My first call of the morning was from the Maryland office for Social Security benefits, notifying me that my request for disability was rejected. I know, I know, 80% of cases are rejected the first time, and I’ve been telling friends the same thing when they have asked about filing. I still wasn’t prepared to hear it about my case. I used to never cry, but now that I get anxiety because my brain is being crushed, I cry over everything – the Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials, the dogs greeting their vets coming home from war, the fact that I have to get another new mattress after only 4 months because I’ve worn this one out already…well, you get the idea. The lady who called me was not unsympathetic and probably gets upset people on the phone all of the time, but I’m guessing it’s not how she wanted to start her day either. She told me to file the request for reconsideration within 60 days of the date of the letter being sent to me and that the next person might view my 300+ pages of documentation differently. I was so choked up that I could hardly speak. You know when you hang up and you think of all of the things you could have articulated or asked? Yeah, that.

After I pulled myself together again, I called legal aid for my county and the attorney I spoke to confirmed that I should file the request for reconsideration. After that if I had to request a hearing, I would have to secure my own attorney – and no one wants these cases because the attorney doesn’t get paid if I don’t win my case. It’s discouraging to hear things like this because I’m having a hard enough time trying to be my own advocate with the health care professionals who are supposed to be helping me to find out what it is that’s going on. I envy the people who live in countries that don’t demonize their citizens for becoming sick and needing assistance.

I’ll see my new neurosurgeon tomorrow to talk about the possibility of another surgery now that I have jumped through all of his hoops, and I’ll meet a new neurologist on the 15th of September. Who needs a job when you have to coordinate everything for your very own Carousel of Crap?