Thursday, June 29, 2006

A New Stigma?

The FDA has passed it, now the government agency in charge of such things has handed down its recommendation that it become routine for all girls. It's the new HPV vaccine. I think it's a great idea. Doctors have long known that HPV, the virus that causes genital warts, can cause cervical cancer, but only recently have they announced that almost all, if not all, cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. But if this vaccine works as planned, cervical cancer may be a thing of the past. The key words here, though, are As Planned. The vaccine isn't against cancer but rather against a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer. And people tend to get funny about sexually transmitted diseases.

How many parents, when looking at their sweet little 11 year old girl, are going to decide that she is too good for some VD vaccine? How many of the religious right are going to puff themselves up and declare to the doctor that only sluts need THAT shot? Some parents refuse to provide access to condoms to their children; are these parents going to pay for a VD shot, or put their little girl through one more pinprick because scientists in Washington only know the statistics, not their little angel? And will the self-righteous now stop getting pap smears, because they don't see themselves as being at risk anymore?

And what of the millions of women who are too old for the shot, or who already are carrying the virus? Is the local American Legion hall going to be as willing to host a benefit pancake breakfast for the loving mother of 2 when it becomes public knowledge that there's a sexual link to the cancer that's killing her? Will the public adopt a "She brought it on herself" attitude towards women with cervical cancer? Will these cancer patients go from being heroic fighters to sluts whose past caught up with them? I think back now on the women I know who have had precancerous cells found during routine pap smears, and I wonder if they would have held up so well through the news, or had the same support from their families, had it been known then that it was probably caused by an STD. I picture people being alone with the news of their cancers, embarrassed to tell their loved ones. I imagine women being ostracized at cancer support groups, told that they don't have the same right to sympathy because they caused their cancers. I imagine rape victims who have finally gotten past their traumas being needlessly reminded of it at a doctor's office years later. Cancer has to be hard enough to deal with without blame and doubt. I'm all for this vaccine and I plan to have it given to my daughter when she's old enough. I'm just waiting for the backlash to hit those who have or have had cervical cancer. It seems to me that all the media about the link to HPV may give cervical cancer patients and survivors a new stigma, like the one faced by people with HIV.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sink or Swim?

I have been wondering lately if perhaps we don't live in a nation of life preservers. It seems like "sink or swim" isn't a viable life philosophy anymore. I'm not talking about the homeless here; I can't even begin to understand what they go through and therefore will offer no points of view. I mean the people who struggle or don't, who use welfare and food banks because they qualify, whether they really need it or not. I live in a very small town in Illinois, where $400 a month will rent you a decent house with a yard, or at least half a duplex. But since it is Illinois, all of the state-set income levels have to apply to people in Chicago too. And obviously, Chicago has a much higher cost of living. So, I see many people who make enough to pay their bills and buy their food/clothing/gasoline, but then find that they cannot afford to go to the bar twice a week, or pay babysitters when they want time away, or get the 200 channel package from the cable company, so they go get the welfare card to pay for the necessities so that the income can go to the luxuries. When you see 3 brand new mini-vans driven by parents in leather coats pull up to the food bank for government cheese and powdered milk, it makes you wonder where your taxes go.

I believe the problem is pride. Not enough of it, to be exact. Or at least, not the right kind. People seem to have confused an entitlement attitude with personal pride. The same people who are willing to spill blood over a dirty look are perfectly happy sometimes to spend food stamps on a bag of Doritos. What happened to the pride people used to feel in providing for their families? When did walking into the public aid office become providing? When was the shame wiped off the Link card?

I know a girl who had 2 kids with her live-in boyfriend, and then told the state both times that she had conceived at a party while drunk and therefore could not provide a name for a paternity test. She knew that her boyfriend was the father of both kids, but she didn't want the state to take any of his income out of that house to reimburse the welfare. So she had it written in her children's government files that they not only had no father, but that they were the result of one night stands so random that not even a first name and a hangout could be provided to track them down. What's worse is that because of people like this, other people who really do need the help, because they've fallen on tough times not sat themselves down in them, sometimes don't get it. Charitable organizations run out of money to give. Food banks run low or empty. Taxes go up and that puts more people in the position where they might have to consider welfare. I am very glad that I can afford to stay home. But it wasn't that long ago that I had to go without so that my daughter didn't have to. I took what family and friends offered me; my house was decorated in hand-me-downs and my closet was full of clothes other people had tired of, but it was offered and the taxes that pay for welfare aren't. I couldn't afford to buy clothes or cd's or even rent movies. I could have done all that if I'd gone on food stamps and Medicaid, but I didn't want to raise my daughter to expect a free ride. I just wonder when that mentality became rare. What happened to the work ethic?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

On Hold or Over?

I had my daughter when I was 21. She was conceived during an immediately regretted fling with an ex and when I found out I was pregnant I knew that keeping the baby would be tantamount to using a sperm bank. I would have no help. I have always known that abortion was something I could never do unless testing showed tay-sachs or some other horrific disease which would cause extreme pain and then childhood death. So I thought about adoption which wasn't odd since many members of my family are adopted, and decided on that. It would be best for the baby, since I couldn't support a child enough to give it any of the things I thought babies should have. And welfare wasn't an option. I figured that if I knew from the very start that I couldn't take care of the child myself that I had no business expecting the tax-payers to foot the bill. Welfare is a last resort, not a first resource. But my mother told me about guardianship. If someone volunteers to become legal guardian of a child, the mother does not have to give up rights and the other person's medical insurance would cover the baby. So I kept my daughter, bought cheap diapers (they were the only thing I asked for at my shower), breastfed for the first year, and made babyfood in the blender.

Now Tom and I have been married for about a year and a half, and as the plan to get his vasectomy reversed keeps getting pushed back (it costs like 7 grand) I wonder how old I will be when our kids are born. Medical reasons aside, I don't want to have kids past 35. I made the conscious decision to cut that chunk of my life from the middle. Lots of people have their kids in their 40s, and that's fine. They have the 20 years before that to take vacations and go out with friends, to be unencumbered. I, however, planned on doing all that from maybe 45 on. I want to retire someday and travel, go on cruises, take classes. I don't want to be 60 trying to put a kid through college. Tom doesn't understand that since he's almost 40 now. But he drives, he sees the country all the time, and he has had the freedom to run to the grocery store at 2am. So if we have kids, which is something we both want, then it's going to have to be in the next 5 years. I would like my child-bearing years to overlap for at least a little while with my kids'. I don't want to break my hip moving someone's CD collection into a dorm somewhere. I like the idea of putting the party years on hold for children, not of them being over forever.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cultural References

I finally found the title bar!

Tom came home this morning. After a short nap, he decided to make an omelet. I'm trying to get him to eat healthier so I'm glad he's having an omelet instead of Doritos or Cocoa Puffs. I'll work on the canned mushrooms he put in later. Doesn't he hear when I point out that they're cooked down to nothing and then packed in salt-water? With his blood pressure, he does not need the sodium. I feel like Claire Huxtable when I talk to him about food. He can't live off truck stop trash forever and I'm not tired enough of him to want him to stroke out just yet, but give me time. Just wait till he sees that during his last trip I switched all the pasta in the house to whole-wheat. And got rid of the blue-box mac and cheese. Brown macaroni may not appeal so much to a meat and potatoes Nebraska farmboy like him.

Not that I'm blaming the Nebraska public school system, or ex-jock farmboys like my husband, but why doesn't he know any cultural references? Am I the only one who gets the jokes on TV? Am I the only one who understands Dennis Miller? When some town on the news bans sex offenders from living within city limits and I say "Welcome to Verona", I get a blank stare. When we see a shooting star and I tell him that somewhere there's a bald headed group of neutered fanatics waiting for it, he says, "Huh?" One Jonestown Kool-Aid joke, one Call me Ishmael, one red m&m or arsenic-tylenol joke! That's all I ask. I tell him; I am a funny person, it's just not funny when you have to explain it. How can the same man who probably knows by heart the cup size of every female cast member of Buffy The Vampire Slayer have gone through 38 years of life without picking up any cultural references at all? Maybe it IS the Nebraska Public School System. Maybe I should fear for my daughter when we finally move to Omaha.

Mid-Life Crisis

Okay, so as you all know, I turn 30 soon. Too soon. I believe I am having an early midlife crisis. Or perhaps, I will die at 60 and this IS my midlife. Anyway, I have decided to hate Teri Hatcher.

Don't pretend you don't know why. We all hate her. I am 30-ish and she is 40-something and she looks a hell of a lot better than me. A while ago it was Susan Sarandon, but now the milf posterchild is Teri, so I hate her. But still, I want to BE her. So, still in touch enough with reality to realize I will never look 25 at 45, I have devised a plan.

I will start lying about my age. Not by staying 29 until menopause; that's been overdone. No, I will claim to be turning 50 this year. Yes, FIFTY YEARS OLD. That way, I will get to be amazingly young looking. I may never be a milf, but I can be a grandmilf. AND my 38 year old husband will instantly become my trophy mate. I considered claiming 40, but what if I told someone I was 40 and they believed me too easily? Then, I would have a much worse midlife crisis to work through. As it is, I am merely lying about my age and slathering on wrinkle cream like I was sealing the driveway. It's a perfect plan. Since we plan to move in the next year or so, I will have thousands of unsuspecting people to lie about my age to. I will graciously accept their compliments and smile at their astounded disbelief. Of course, if someone believes 50 too easily, I may have to lie down in traffic.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Just A Sidekick?

At not-quite-thirty years old, I am part of the sitcom generation. You know us; we wore flannel in high school and elected a president based on a saxophone solo on Arsenio. And we grew up on sitcoms. From Family Ties to The Cosby Show, from Roseanne to Will and Grace, we formed our lives' expectations around laugh tracks and slapstick. Our parents were the game-show generation, and our children will probably be the reality show generation. (Insert horrified scream here.)

So what do I do now when I look at my best friend/sidekick and realize that she is the star and I am the comic relief? Dr. Phil says to be the star of your own life story, but I am the dull one. Jame, the previously mentioned friend, is the Kate and I am the Allie. She is Alex P Keaton and I am Skippy. She is Grace while I am Nadine. It's depressing. She became my best friend, way back in the 8th grade, by being the rebellious tough one I wanted to be. She wore black eyeliner and tight acid-washed jeans and could get her hair to stand straight up in front without the acne headband I always got from hairspray. So now, ALMOST 17 years later, I look at her and see not the supporting role in my life story, but the starring role in a much more interesting one. She's the proud struggling single mother with the romantic and attentive soon-to-be-divorced boyfriend; I'm the stay-at-home mom pretending that picking up dog crap in the back yard makes my life busy and fulfilling. Either I need prozac (the housewife's REAL best friend) or I need to find someone somewhere who's maybe a little more boring than me to make myself the interesting character in the movie.

I want to be played by Shirley McClain, not Jessica Tandy, celebrity death notwithstanding.