Wednesday Advice Smackdown
June 22, 2005
(Also an interlude to say HAPPY 29th BIRTHDAY JASON! Whee! Whoo! I hope you love the new fancy camera that you bought for yourself, because really, I am very thoughtful like that.)
BUT FIRST, A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SMACKDOWN
Y'all, the Advice Smackdown was never intended to become an actual advice column. Really. One Wednesday, back in April 2004, I was bored and without inspiration so I bugged some friends to send me funny and fake questions so I could answer them with The Worst Possible Advice in a somewhat humorous fashion. This continued until we all got really sick of it.
Then somewhere along the line, people started sending in REAL questions. I think it all started with a question about hair. And then I started getting questions about things I knew nothing about, but felt obligated to sort of fake it, so I'd do some Google University or fashion mag research and bullshit my way through.
And now the stupid thing is a full-fledged advice column thing. And a weird mix of hair/shoe/purse chatter and actual life problems. I don't know how to solve actual life problems. I don't even know how to solve some hair problems, like why my bangs are doing that weird thing again today.
Yet still, the questions roll in, and the advice sputters out. And almost every week, someone comments about how much my advice sucks or that I'm ripping off The Vine or that basically, I sound really, really dumb.
So, essentially, the whole point of this introduction is to say to those people: I KNOW, OKAY? I TOTALLY KNOW.
Hello Smart One,
I love your site, but if I'm writing you I guess you already know that. Congrats on the pregnancy, your baby boy will be beautiful! My question is pretty much the opposite of all your good news. I was diagnosed with Uterine Cancer about two months ago and had an emergency hysterectomy, I'm 29 with no children and now will never be pregnant. I am beyond devastated and overwhelmingly sad, but now for my question.
I have an amazing boyfriend who has been so supportive and we will probably marry in the near future but I can't but feel that I'll be cheating him out of one of life's greatest experiences because of what I can't give him. He says he's ok with it, we've talked about it at length, he loves me not my uterus, we can adopt, go for surrogacy, ect. Do you think a man can really, truly love a woman who can't become pregnant with his biological child?
Sorry for the downer of a question.
(See? SEE? I used to get questions about Beverly Hills, 90210 vs. Saved By the Bell and now I get questions like this, and I swear to God, I have NO IDEA HOW THIS HAPPENED.)
Anyway. Kate. I'm so sorry. I hope you're doing okay, both physically and emotionally.
To skip right to your actual question: Can a man really, truly love a woman who can't carry his biological child? Absofuckinglutely. Yes. Without a doubt.
No man (assholes aside) sizes up a potential mate by the state of her uterus. I don't think the e-Harmony personality profile includes any questions about regular menstrual cycles or PCOS or blocked tubes. "Could I accompany you to your next pelvic exam? I have a few questions for your doctor." Just...no.
And hello: "Male factor is identified as the primary cause of infertility in 40% of cases and a female factor is identified 30%-40% of the time. In 10% of cases, both partners have detectable abnormalities and the remainder are unexplained." Translation: it can just as likely be his problem as yours. You just don't know until you start trying, as millions of couples find out later.
In your case, you know now. And it hurts. And you need to give yourself time to grieve your loss and heal your body. And find a way to accept your body and all its shortcomings and realize that you still deserve to be loved for everything that remains.
I could go on and on about men and women and the power of love over our physical limitations and how great adoption and surrogacy can be, but I know you've heard all this. Your boyfriend (who indeed sounds wonderful) has told you all this. I imagine friends, family and your doctors have told you all this. You just need to get to a point where you can believe it, and I don't think some crazy random girl on the Internet is going to get you there.
If you haven't already, find a good therapist who specializes in treating cancer survivors and a uterine cancer support group. Your doctor or hospital should be able to give you several. There are also online groups and resources. Voice your concerns and your hurt with women who have been there. And who are there. Cry and hug and be as Oprah-cheeseball as you need to be.
Finally, check out the Cancer, Baby blog, the journal of an absolutely amazing woman who will make you laugh and cry in a totally non-Oprah-cheeseball way.
And her husband sounds like he really loves her a lot. So there you go.
(Okay, now I need a moment. And I want to buy Kate something pretty. And maybe I need another moment.)
Here is my story: A few months ago, when my beautiful baby boy was about 8 months old, and I had lost all that pesky baby weight, I realized that I hated all my clothes and felt very frumpy. I obviously needed to buy a pair of fabulous jeans. I decided I was willing to spend $100 of these jeans and I went to Nordstrom's on a mission. And lo, I found the perfect jeans (Salt Works "Mulberry Street") for the obscene price of $130. They made me feel sexy, so I forked over the cash. Now, a few months later I've lost a bit more weight (yay for breastfeeding!) and my fabulous jeans are too big. They're all gappy in the back. Thanks to eBay, I found a smaller pair of the same jeans for @ $50. My question for you is, what should I do with the gappy pair? Should I take them to a tailor and have them altered, thus turning them into a $150 pair of jeans? Should I pack them away just in case my butt expands again? Should I keep buying more pairs on eBay until my average cost per pair is low enough that I don't mind that the first pair doesn't fit? Please, Amalah, give me guidance.
Jeans, for the most part, don't do well at the tailor's. The stitching never matches and you lose the natural fading and distressing. Thus, altered jeans always look altered. Yick.
There are lots of tips for getting jeans hemmed (have the tailor make a tuck or reattach the original hem, soak the jeans in water and rub a bleach tablet through a cheese grater, etc.), but not a lot of people attempt altering the seat and/or overall shape of jeans. Unless you have a tailor who specializes in denim, this seems insanely difficult. And I think there's a high probability of the jeans looking like total ass afterwards.
So I'd save the gappy pair and continue to buy the bargain ones on eBay. You never know when you might need a nice pair of fat jeans (and we alllll have them and hate them and also love them).
(And incidentally, while I was packing up all my non-maternity clothes a few months ago, I held up a pair of gloriously hot Miss Sixty jeans and announced to Jason that, "I will wear these again next spring. As God is my witness.")
(Jason: "Suuuure you will.")
(I think he was making fun of me. Bitch.)
Okay, oh wise Amy on all things pregnancy related.
I am totally freaking out here, I am 13 weeks pregnant on Friday and am already showing. And what I mean by that is while looking at a 2 bedroom apartment the woman asks how far along I am and when I told her she *gasped*, that was not comforting. She asked if we were expecting twins! Last time we checked there was only one heartbeat. Now, I know you started showing early so thought I would turn to the only person I know who was scrounging for maternity clothes the first day of the 2nd trimester! Is this normal? I realize that this would be a crappy question for smackdown....but from one D.C.'er to another, any encouragement would help!
Lordy, I was in maternity pants by eight weeks. At nine weeks, I posted this picture, and my comments section erupted in gasps and cries of twins and triplets and horror.
Luckily, my belly did not grow exponentially from there. It kind of stayed the same for a long time and then started growing in earnest again around five months. Now I look just like any pregnant woman at six months, possibly a little smaller.
So don't stress about showing early. It happens. There is no "normal." And it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be a beach ball by four months and Shamu after he ate the beach ball by nine. It's just the way your body is carrying right now. So buy clothes that fit, and ignore the "trimester guidelines" on the tags. (I decided it was better to just wear the baggy maternity pants early than be "that" pregnant girl who still thinks her non-maternity clothes look okay when lo, they do not, and THEY AREN'T COMFORTABLE FOR YOU OR THE POOR SQUISHED BABY, SO SUCK IT UP AND BUY SOME STRETCH PANTS.)
And be happy that you look bona-fide pregnant and not just lumpy. The lumpy phase? Not fun.
Ok Amalah. Here is the situation: I am an acupuncturist in a fledgling private practice in Portland Oregon. If you have never spent much time hanging out here, you will not know that this place is a haven for "casual" dress. It is perfectly acceptable to wear jeans to the symphony, and if you go downtown? Not so many ties or suits. I think that my business will improve if I stop wearing the "Oregon Uniform". The Oregon Uniform is this: Pile or fleece tops or knit tops in earthy colors Jeans, khaki pants Chaco sandals or flipflops in summer, any outdoor type shoe in winter. I mean, duh.
I need to attract people like you to my practice--stressed out folks, ahem, with a little disposable income who want to feel good. So my question, Amalah Queen of Everything, is this: What should your acupuncturist be wearing?? I'm a little slip of a thing (5 feet tall and flat as a pancake) but I have an unruly mop of red hair which is in good shape. I like black. I do not like gaudy prints. I must exude health and confidence...in a down to earth way that says "I'm competent, but not an asshole." I wear very little makeup, and I daresay I don't need much--a little mascara, occasional lip color. Help!!!!
I like my acupuncturists like I like my masseuses: fashionable yet a little earth-mothery. Hippie yet hip. Professional yet free-spiritish.
I'm thinking Anthropologie. The stuff is made for little slips of things with unruly mops of hair. Long flowy skirts with a simple tank. Distressed jeans with a lacy top. Simple jewelry made from mother-of-pearl and tumbled stones. It's a cool, vintage look that says, "I'm serious enough to not follow fads, but I also don't buy my clothes at the health food co-op."
My Dearest Amalah:
As a long time lurker on your blog I’ve read about your past struggles with some emotional/mental issues, which I too have been experiencing in months past. I know I should be getting treatment in one form or another at least for the sake of my closest friends and family to whom I’ve been generally nasty or apathetic toward for some time now, but things like problems with health insurance have prevented me from doing so yet.
My boyfriend of a year and a half has probably suffered the most from my moodiness but has stuck by me and been uber supportive and loving this whole time, maybe in part because I moved cities to be nearer to him about 3 months ago and some of my issues probably stem from this change. For the past few months, however, I really just haven’t been feeling the same way about him. I have less to say to him and idiosyncrasies of his that never bothered me before have been driving me nuts. Not to mention that I’ve had negative libido for months and have generally been resentful of him more than I ever dreamed I would be.
If I wasn’t currently having some issues with depression, I already would have ended it...but as I’m acting differently in all facets of my life and given that I used to love him so intensely and am not quite sure what, if anything, has changed between us, I’m having a hard time sorting out what feelings I can really trust and which ones might be function of the depression. I’m not happy in the relationship as it is now, but I’m also not happy with much these days, so do I stick it out until I can get treatment (likely another 3-4 months) and make this important decision with a clearer head, or end it based on the way I feel now, and risk regretting it later?
ps...sorry this is long and not about something fun like shoes
(Annnddd, we're back to The Sad That Ate The Smackdown.)
I'm sorry you're going through this shit. It sucks, I know.
Good for you for recoginizing that you need help. Good for you for recognizing that you are not yourself and are not in the position to make major life decisions. And good for you for already trying to sort out WHY you feel this way instead of passively waiting for treatment.
It's entirely likely that your feelings towards your boyfriend are changing because of your illness. God knows I've been there. I even won a fucking Diarist Award for it. It's also likely that the big city-to-city move is forcing you to ask tough questions. Is he worth it? Is this really what I wanted? What did I give up for him? And IS HE WORTH IT?
Anybody would ask these questions. And anybody, once they start looking, could probably find enough faults with the person they moved for that could maybe lead them to a scary answer that no, he's not worth it.
The question is whether you are really coming to that conclusion based on a series of serious faults and actual problems in the relationship, or whether you're so afraid that you MIGHT come to that conclusion that you're suddenly focusing on all these little faults and idiosyncrasies and freaking the fuck out because oh my God, you moved for this guy and things aren't perfect and things NEED to be perfect and then the anxiety over the lack of relationship perfection and the fear of the Big Answers to the Big Questions drives you into a nice, dark funk.
But you aren't in any shape to start figuring out which scenario (real problems vs. anxiety-produced problems) you're actually looking at. And it might take more than a Prozac prescription to figure it out. And waiting three to four months is just not going to work. You're suffering. You need help. You need to find a way to get it NOW, before you hurt yourself and those around you any more.
Last summer, I saw a doctor who did nothing but prescribe pills for my anxiety and depression. Pill after pill after pill. I would show up, overmedicated and suffering, and she'd just add another prescription. She ended up treating the side effects of the medications more than what was actually wrong with me.
And I was okay with this, because 1) my health insurance paid for as many prescriptions as I wanted, 2) my health insurance wouldn't cover therapy, and 3) because I was scared of confronting Big Questions in therapy in case I didn't like the Big Answers.
I ended up in therapy, and it was wonderful. And I stopped taking all the meds and learned a lot about how I cope with stress. (Which is to say, not very well at all.) And I got some Big Answers and dealt with them -- even the really scary ones.
I'm not inserting my own personal story here because I think you should do exactly what I did or because your problems are just like mine. I'm just trying to show that the path to mental health is not always the easy one we'd like to take (which is usually: call doctor, request refill, drive to pharmacy, take pill with food or milk, feel happy better joy in seven to 10 days). Sometimes that works, but sometimes there are real problems and issues that need to be addressed before Prozac or Xanax will do its job.
So this is what I want you to do. I want you to call your doctor and tell them that you won't have insurance for a few more months, but you need help NOW. Ask them if they offer sliding-scale fees based on financial limitations and income. Ask if you can set up a payment plan. If they can't or won't, call another doctor, or find out if your city has a Community Mental Health Center that provides low-cost treatment (call Social Services to find out). Do the same for a therapist, or a doctor who will provide both medication with pyschotherapy.
I know, that sounds awful and a drag and probably the worst possible thing to suggest when you're feeling depressed and apathetic and Christ, getting out of bed is hard enough. But by DOING SOMETHING, getting out there and being an advocate for yourself, you'll feel better, your friends and family will feel better, and you'll start to pull yourself out of the self-destructive spiral of anxiety and doubt over your relationship.
And keep me posted, k?
I'm almost afraid to tell you that questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Warning: Am not a doctor nor even a snazzy dresser some days.