Archive for the ‘Today’s Tirade’ Category

Gots Me Some Opinions

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
Media Consumer

Media Consumer

Books (lots!) have been read. Movies (plenty!) have been seen. Television shows (Transparent! Is absolutely as fantastic as everyone has said!) have been watched, albeit belatedly. But here is what I want to talk about: the supposedly feminist arguments against Trainwreck*.

I keep hearing/reading people say that Trainwreck is a non-/anti-feminist copout, because instead of allowing the Amy character to live a happily single life, it pairs her with a man in a heteronormative relationship, invalidating her previous choices in the process. And . . . argh. I feel frustrated by this view.

Because Trainwreck isn’t a about a woman who wants to be single (totally valid life choice, I hope it goes without saying but will say anyway) or who wants to be partnered but doesn’t meet anyone worth partnering with. In either of those cases (great example of the latter: Whip It), sure, any film with integrity, let alone a feminist consciousness, would leave its protagonist single at the end. Trainwreck, au contraire, is about a woman who does want to be partnered but is terrified of intimacy. That’s a real thing. And it’s not feminist or anti-feminist; it’s just psychology.

At the beginning of the movie, it may seem as though Amy is living a liberated life, and to some extent, she is; she has sex casually with any number of partners without feeling bad about it. I’m glad to live in a (part of the) world where that’s possible (for some women), but it doesn’t mean that every woman wants that, or should want it to be considered a feminist. In fact, I think it’s fairly evident from the git-go that Amy is terrified of real connection—as opposed to, say, having sampled both real connection and emotion-free sex and chosen the sex.

But even if you see her character as initially having made the conscious lifestyle choice of non-attachment, that point of view is soon dismantled—and dismantled a good while before Amy spells it out for her sister by saying something along the lines of, “I made fun of your marriage because marriage is something I thought I could never have.” Because by the time Aaron (Bill Hader) comes along, the movie makes it abundantly clear that Amy likes him and wants to be with him. What’s in her way is not a desire to be single and keep sexin’ it up with people she’s too drunk to remember**; it’s a terror of being truly coupled.

It’s not anti-feminist to want authentic emotional connection with a man—especially a kind-to-the-core, egalitarian guy like Aaron, who cares about Amy’s feelings and wants to support her***. It may be feminist to prefer being single over an unhappy partnership with a man . . . but I don’t know about even that. Because isn’t feminism simply about gender equality? And doesn’t that mean that we want all the same rights and privileges that men have? And isn’t one of those privileges making our own decisions about our romantic lives, whatever those decisions are?

If you want to have random sex forever, yay! If you want to be monogamously coupled, yay! If you want to stay in a bad relationship with a woman because of the kids, yay! (I mean, ouch, painful, but yay!) You can do whatever, because those decisions are yours. Feminism does not exclude monogamous heterosexual relationships anymore than it excludes polyamorous lesbian relationships.

*I do agree that there are problems with the portrayals of people of color in the movie; here’s a good place to start for more on that.

**I may have betrayed a slight personal bias here.

***Here are my feelings about Aaron: He is perfect.

Fin.

 

 

And a Few More

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

I went ahead and read Maggie Shipstead’s first book, after enjoying her second. It’s even better, skillfully weaving a web of intersecting characters and plot such that we’re constantly shifting perspective and affiliation to excellent, witty end. In other words, she justifies every swerve, rewarding the reader with ongoing revelations, all of which are unexpected and enriching. Plus, Shipstead manages to find sympathy for her protagonist, a bumbling, emotionally dead patriarch of a high-WASP family with utterly superficial and bankrupt values. Really well done. I enjoyed every page of it, despite feeling slightly sullied by the company it required me to keep.

I also read Dave Eggers’ book The Circle, whose disrespect for its reader was so massive I could almost not make sense of it. Does Eggers actually believe in a readership who can’t understand even the most basic concepts of technology and privacy? Can he honestly use the line “Release the drones!” with no irony and expect his reader to believe that his characters would not see the horror (and hilarious cliche)  in it? Can he truly kill off a character with said drones and still pursue the idea that his protagonist, that character’s former girlfriend, would not be affected? Does he think that women swoon at “being taken from behind” or would in any case swoon at that phrase, used to describe a sexual encounter that is given no other appealing qualities?

I could go on. The point I’m trying to make is that this novel is shocking in its arrogance and elitism. It’s not just a poorly written, poorly conceived story that doesn’t achieve its very obvious goal of saying that, WOW, surveillance is bad, and that we’re all complicit of we’re offering ourselves willingly to corporate intrusions into our privacy a la Facebook. (Duh.) It’s actually extremely offensive in its utter disregard for how people feel and act—and also in its failure to imagine how his readers will understand what he’s saying. There’s honestly no way to comprehend how Eggers could simultaneously publish this book and believe that his readers have the capacity to think.

I was flabbergasted.

Ooo, look who just earned herself a little “Today’s Tirade” tag!

Happiness as a Choice

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

It’s been over a month since I jumped on my high horse (that long? why, yes), so I figured it was time to get back in the saddle. Although actually I’m a little loathe to tackle this particular bugaboo, because it involves a link that’s currently enjoying a bunch of Facebook play by people I respect and admire. So I’ll try to tread lightly.

(Chances that I will succeed: 17%. Nellies, I am not a light treader. More like a giant-footed floor-thumper.)

Here’s the story: 22 Things Happy People Do Differently.

I suppose the first sign of errancy is the website/blog itself, which is called SUCCESSIFY! (Yes, caps and an exclamation point.) “Success” as a concept sounds so appealing and is so over-hyped in our culture that I think it’s easy to miss how problematic it is. But if your intentions in life are to be present for your experience and to connect, both with yourself and others (Hint: those are my intentions), it’s not a word you’re generally going to endorse. Or use. Or like. It’s not compassionate, the idea of “success.” It sets up a good and a bad. It puts some people above other people, or at least some outcomes above other outcomes. And in a world where we’re not in control of most of what happens to us, that seems unfair at best. Why do we have to be successful? Can’t we simply be here for what is?

Then there’s the idea of “happy people.” This one is a little more slippery. I identify as a happy person, so it’s a concept that makes some sense to me. But I’m committed to experiencing all of my feelings as they come, and that means that at any given moment, you’re likely to find me excited, relieved, pissed off, joyful, in a state of wonder, deeply sad, anxious, enraged, delighted, curious, content, etc. I’m certainly not happy all the time, or even close to it. I know a lot of well adjusted people with great life skills, and neither are they. In fact, full-time happiness seems like a pathological state to me. So I worry about what the concept of “happy person” means to the writer of “22 Things,” particularly given what comes next. Wouldn’t it be more useful to look at the idea of essential emotional well-being, where you have plentiful and robust tools to deal with the chaos that life inevitably brings?

Then there’s the opening paragraph:

There are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within. The richest person in the world could be miserable while a homeless person could be right outside, smiling and content with their life. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

Let’s start with the tone, which is fairly unkind, no? It’s like, first of all, you’re either happy or you aren’t. (Sorry, anyone who feels happy sometimes and not others! You don’t exist. Apologies, people who feel numb! Neither do you. And if you feel mostly happy but also kind of consumed by one giant issue you’re afraid to deal with and which is really dogging you . . . yeah, we can’t categorize you, so you must not exist, either!) And then, if you’re unhappy (God forbid), it’s your own fault. In fact, it goes farther than that. It says that you’re actually choosing to make yourself unhappy. As in, you’re engaging in an active and perhaps even intentional process to make yourself miserable.

Oy.

Let’s consider a few of the possibilities for why people might be having a hard time in life:

  1. They were born into a war zone and have experienced repeated, ongoing emotional trauma—without enough time between events to fully process their feelings.
  2. They were born into poverty and have experienced repeated, ongoing trauma—without access to the emotional and spiritual tools that would help them work through their feelings or the people who could help them do so.
  3. They were born into an abusive family and . . . same as above.
  4. They’ve been bullied for years and . . . ditto.
  5. They have a mood disorder.
  6. They have a physically painful disability or disease.

To name just a few. Here’s the thing: Life hands a lot of people a lot of shit. And while it’s entirely true that we can acquire plenty of great tools for working with the shit that life hands us—and while I absolutely believe in seeking out, learning, and using those tools, as I have done and continue to do—I would prefer not to blame anyone for not having access to those tools or for not being able to use them even if they do.

Healing takes time, which some people don’t have. It takes safety, which, ditto. It usually also takes at least one person who can help witness and hold your suffering. Again, a lot of people don’t have that.

To me, the situation (which involves a great deal of luck and a smidgen of choice*) is more this: Have you been given access to emotional and spiritual tools to help you process your trauma, and are you in a place where you are able to take advantage of those tools? Because if the answer is no to either of those questions, it might be awfully hard to do any single one of the “22 Things” the article lists.

*Then there’s the biological/genetic component of personality, which I’m not going to enter into here.

Let’s set aside the very real and frustrating absence of awareness about non-privileged people in the article and take a white, middle-class person as our example. Let’s say that this person is in her early twenties and had a rough time both in high school and in college, including feeling objectified by boys, having a group of friends suddenly turn on her and reject her, and being pressured by her parents to perform academically while they ignored the increasingly visible signs of her emotional distress. How might she experience the directives in this article?

  • Don’t hold grudges. It’s a lovely concept, but she’s in a lot of pain ever since her entire friend group suddenly dumped her. She’s hurt and angry. She doesn’t understand what happened. And if she believes that she should just “let it go,” what happens to those feelings of pain and anger? Very likely, they get shoved down, and she loses an important and tender part of herself, a wound that needs addressing and healing.
  • Treat everyone with kindness. Again, it sounds great. But how does this play out for her? Does she treat the guy who says a lewd thing to her in the hall as though he’s a friend? Does she call up her ex-buddies and try to get them to hang out with her, even as they laugh in her face?
  • Never make excuses. Ow. That feels harsh. Quite often in life, we have good excuses for why we do certain things and not others. For instance, if the young woman we’ve taken as our example doesn’t get her homework finished one night because she’s been crying into her pillow, missing her former friends and feeling ashamed that they rejected her while not being able to turn to her parents for support, that sounds not only like a good “excuse” but like an appropriate and emotionally sound way to spend her evening.

No matter who you are in this world, you’re going to have trauma. Everybody does. And until you have the tools to work through and heal from that trauma, dark feelings may dominate. And as long as those feelings are dominating, it’ll likely be extremely tough to assume the behavior of people whose wounds are already healed. From what I can tell, ”22 Things” is taking the behaviors of (so-called) happy people and telling everyone else to emulate them, with no regard for how the happy people got that way—or for what might be standing in the way of people who are unhappy.

Success, as I pointed out, is a problematic concept. And when you apply it to the realm of the feelings—i.e., that some feelings are the “right” or “good” feelings to have, and you’re failing if you have the others—you end up not merely being unkind (and, um, causing unhappiness) but cutting out a large and important swath of human experience. Bad shit happens. Dark feelings are real. You’re making yourself smaller, and you’re trying to get other people to be smaller, too, if you seek to deny them.

I would prefer to live in a world where we open to the reality of whatever feelings arise, where we learn how to befriend them and let them happen in ways that are healing for us and safe for others, and where we move through them as best we can. I would prefer that we all acknowledge how hard life can be, share in the difficulty, support each other through the dark places, and not pressure anyone to be happy. Ever.

A V-Day Mini-Screed

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Here’s my favorite thing about Valentine’s Day: Sarah F., who is one of my bests and favorites, was born today. Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Otherwise, eh. I am in mad, deep, spiritually grateful love with John, but I don’t need a day like this to remember that. And when I was single (for 4/5 of my twenties), V-Day was always a fight against The Big Mope. I knew it was a waste of energy to feel bad just because the card company whipped up a regular old Saint’s Day into a national froth of red-dyed unCool Whip, but how could I not? And that was before, like, a bunch of the Internet happened.

That’s why I much prefer the Parks and Rec-invented Galentine’s Day, which was yesterday and which went unacknowledged in my blog and largely in my life, due to massive work deadlines. I love you, ladyfriends! (Also, I think the men need one of these. How about we declare February 15 Valenguy’s Day?)

In other news, I’ve been seeing a lot of references to the Aziz Ansari interview on the A.V. Club, in which he references the Sonja Lyubomirsky piece in The New York Times (stay with me here) about the supposedly short shelf-life of love. And here’s what I have to say about that: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGH.

In case you don’t want to wade through all of the backstory, here’s an Ansari quote from the A.V.:

This Sonja Lyubomirsky essay in The New York Times is well worth a read and discusses a lot of the fears I have about love and marriage that I’ve discussed in my recent stand-up. In summary, research shows when you first get married, you experience the intense longing, desire, and attraction described as “passionate love.” However, after an average of two years, this wears off because of our tendency to get habituated to positive experiences. Then couples enter what researchers call “companionate love,” which is a less impassioned form of love that is a blend of deep affection and connection. Basically, the research shows—love fades.

This makes sense to me even in relationships that aren’t as serious as marriage, though. I’ve seen it in myself, and in friends’ relationships. There are things in that piece that really make me think about relationships, findings like, “Surprise is apparently more satisfying than stability,” and we are “hard-wired to crave variety.” It all goes against the romantic notion of meeting someone and falling in love and being happy with them forever, which is all that’s been ingrained in our heads since we were young.

AZIZ. We need to talk. I read that article, too, and here’s what I thought: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGH. Because when oh when oh when will researchers (and everyone else) learn that there is a difference between infatuation and love? And that infatuation, while it is thrilling and wild and heart-thumpingly enjoyable, is not to be trusted or desired and that we should therefore be grateful that it doesn’t last?

Real love does last, and grow, and deepen, if you pay attention and stay connected to your partner. Sure, there is a big caveat, which is that if you have kids, you’re going to struggle a bit, because it’s pretty much impossible to stay connected and process all the conflict when you’re wiping poop off of everything. But if you stay with it, just as the research Lyubomirsky’s article points to shows, that will pass. (And if you don’t have kids, you’re out of the woods on that one.)

Either way, it is NOT a universal truth that “Love fades.” The rewards of long-term, consciously tended love are huge and powerful and exciting and even, yes, surprising. I’m here to testify! 11+ years and more ferociously in love than ever.*

Soapbox going back under the desk now.

*Please may I not be smote with lethal marital conflict for saying that.

Maureen Corrigan and I Are Officially Over

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Did you hear her review of George Saunders’ new collection a couple of weeks ago? In which she refers to the NYTimes Magazine cover piece? And reveals that until she saw it, she HAD NEVER HEARD OF HIM?

I mean, it’s one thing if you’re a regular Sheronda who doesn’t, you know, review books for a living. But . . . what the freakin’ freak?

I knew about Saunders, and began reading his magnificent work, in 1997. Sure, I was at an MFA program in fiction writing, and I heard about it from another fiction writer. But Corrigan teaches English at Georgetown. Presumably, she is surrounded by people who read. How is it possible that they are not talking about Saunders?

And anyway, even if the entire community of Georgetown has decided to stay mum on the genius of Saunders, he’s been publishing in The New Yorker for at least a few years now. Yes, you could argue that New Yorker fiction ain’t what it used to be—that it is, in fact, disappointing about 9/10th’s of the time—but if you are reviewing books, you have got to be reading it.

I’ve never been fond of Corrigan’s reviews, but I at least assumed that she was staying on top of the field. Now, ugh.

Terry! Hire someone else! At least in addition to Maureen!

In Which I Must Assert, Once Again, That David Denby is Emotionally Illiterate

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Sometimes I have a fantasy that I write a novel, and it gets made into a movie, and smart people like it. (Like I said: fantasy.) Anyway, recently I had the realization that if that miracle were ever to come to pass, I would have to actively wish for a poor review from David Denby. Because the man DOES NOT UNDERSTAND FEELINGS.

Witness:

First, his capsule review of The Sessions, in which he not only misidentifies the era as the 1960′s (it’s the 1980′s; fact-checking, New Yorker?) but completely fails to experience the sweet, sweet wonder of the sex scenes and instead calls them “sanctified” and “creepy.” WRONG. My guess? They’re too emotionally intimate for Denby, and that makes him squeamish.

And second, his cap of the hilarious and compassionate Silver Linings Playbook (yet another winner from David O. Russell, who is incapable of making a bad movie), which Denby calls a “miscalculation from beginning to end.” Has he never met a person with bipolar, or at least someone in the grip of mania? Does he not understand the immense energy that Cooper’s character is expending in the attempt to manage his outsized feelings while also behaving in a way that people can tolerate? Has he never heard of obsessive heartbreak?

I’m sure I would mind less if Denby were a mediocre writer. But the man can put a sentence together, and he often looks at things in ways I wouldn’t—and which I therefore appreciate. But OH MY GOD I want to shake him awake. His heart is a walnut!

In Which I Explain Bay Area Weather

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Here’s the thing about Bay Area weather: It’s the same. Every year.

And not just a little the same. It is VERY MUCH THE SAME, right down to the week, year after year.*

So I’m completely befuddled when people are surprised by it. Complaints? No problem. If you’re not into it, I won’t argue with you, since taste is subjective—and as my beloveds know, I am 100% okay with complaining. (Also known as: Jewish.) But being surprised by Bay Area weather is like being surprised that puppies poop in shoes and oranges squirt you in the eye. Because while it may be many things (foggy, damp, bone-shivering), one thing Bay Area weather is NOT is surprising.

For your reference, a primer:

LATE OCTOBER

The rains start. Just a few, at first. The weather’s still pretty warm, though.

NOVEMBER

Some rain, but often surprisingly warm. Moving to chilly by the end of the month.

DECEMBER-MARCH

This is winter. Winter in the Bay Area is characterized by temperatures in the 50′s, overcast skies, and plenty of rain. Is it more rain than last year? No. Is it more rain than ever? No*. True, it may feel like a lot of rain. It’s not. It’s the same. As always. It’s called winter. Also known as The Rainy Season. You’ve been here before. Now you’re here again. Welcome back!

APRIL-MAY

Spring’s a’ comin’. Things are getting warmer, but they’re not warm yet. Rains are still happening, though less often. You will want it to be warmer than it is. It will not be warmer than it is. Was it warmer than it was last year? No, it was not! Fancy that!

JUNE

There is a very weird thing that happens every June, and that is this: For about two weeks, we have hot weather. 80′s and 90′s! Yes! I know! It’s weird! And it feels like it has never happened before! But it happens every year! Just like it is happening now! And will happen again! It has a name! And its name is June!

JULY-AUGUST

This is summer. Summer in the Bay Area is not like summer in other places. Summer here is like this: foggy and cold in the morning, warm in the afternoon (when the fog burns off), and foggy and cold in the evening (when the fog rolls back in). Do you need a scarf and hat at breakfast? Sometimes! Are you using your down comforter at night? Probably! Are you upset that you’re not getting a “real” summer? That’s insane! Because you never get one of those! We don’t have those here! They simply do not exist! No matter how much you want them to! Not until September and October, anyway. Which brings us to …

SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER

This is when things get warm in the Bay Area. How warm? 80′s, very frequently. Sometimes 90′s. Sometimes for a week at a time! There’s a great meteorological reason for this, having to do with the ocean temperature and the fog, etc. But we don’t need to worry about it. We just need to know that it will be warm, and sometimes very warm, during these two months. It’s not shocking! It’s not a surprise Indian summer! It’s not a miracle that you need to cherish, lest it never happen again! Because it WILL happen again! It happens every year! It’s just BAY AREA WEATHER!

LATE OCTOBER

Repeat. Verbatim.

*Exception: El Niño, 1997-1998. That was a fucking disaster.

Grrrrrr

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

I say it every four years, and I’m going to say it again: WTF is up with the women’s beach volleyball uniforms? WHY AREN’T THE WOMEN DRESSED LIKE THE MEN?

It’s obvious from the fact that the men wear giant board shorts and floppy basketball jerseys that you don’t need a bikini to play beach volleyball. Ergo, the ONLY possible reason for the lingerie wear is objectification and sexism.

I actually read somewhere that until recently, there was a regulation regarding how SMALL the bikinis had to be—i.e., that they couldn’t be ABOVE a certain inch size. And as if it weren’t apparent from their thong-ish appearance (which it is), we can also gather from the fact that Misty and Kerri are always picking them out of their butts that this size is WAY TOO SMALL for comfort.

This is a SPORT. It is not A FASHION SHOW or  A GIRLIE MAGAZINE or anything else I detest. Kerri and Misty, can you please get with the other women in the sport and refuse to wear this deeply insulting pile of oppression? I don’t see how you could do anything else.

Love,

Melissa

P.S. So, here’s a bit about how the bikinis are no longer required—not out of respect for the women, of course, but as a concession to more “conservative” cultures. And how many of the women will keep wearing the bikinis, because they, God help us, like them. Here’s a Kerri Walsh quote that makes me sad:

“We need to be wearing bikinis. You don’t want to be wearing baggy clothes and be lost in your clothes . . . we found something that is functional and sassy at the same time.”

Oh, Kerri. It’s not “sassy” to have half the world ogling your naked butt cheeks instead of marveling at your athleticism. It’s … gross.

Rat in a Box

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Last week rat Michelle dropped a precipitous amount of weight, and I wondered whether I should take her to the vet. But she was still active, and since her starting point had been . . . adorably obese, I hoped that she’d just bounce back.  Nope. On Monday, her breathing was labored, and I made an appointment.

Turns out Michelle has a respiratory infection, quite common in rats. In fact, 10 years ago, my rat Allison died from one, but Michelle is living pretty successfully with hers. Now she needs twice-daily doses of two antibiotics, plus a supplementary diet of baby food, which is easy to swallow and therefore more likely to get down the gullet of a congested rat.

It’s not easy to dose a squirming rat with medication, particularly if you get emotionally involved with your perception of the rat’s suffering.* But John is mastering an immobilization technique, so daily we’re improving. (Thank you, man-who-can-be-replied-upon-to-help-in-any-situation.)

*There are real signs, naturally: squirming, increased heart rate, tightened muscles, widened eyes, peeing, and shitting.

Meanwhile, I have some reflections about my experiences with veterinary medicine.

First, I generally like taking my rodents in for vet care. Why? All of the benefits of the waiting room—i.e., cute animals and friendly owners—and none of the stress of having a sick dog or a cat. Rodents live for only a few years, and I’ve taken that in stride, slowly accumulating a rodent graveyard à la Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State.

Even better, vets take every animal seriously. So even if you show up with a dwarf albino hamster that is essentially an anti-social cotton ball with teeth, they’re going to talk to you about the care options as though it’s a Very Big Deal. I always loved the High Import with which my vet would discuss my hamster’s over-long teeth, which had to be clipped every few weeks to prevent her from starving. No matter how much I giggled, he never even cracked a smile.

Occasionally, I could get him to veer off-topic by asking questions about other people’s rodents. And once he told me a story about  having flung a hamster who bit him across the room (It was a reflex!) right in front of the hamster’s entire human family, including children. (“Fluffy?”)

But that vet couldn’t see me Monday afternoon, so I was stuck with another office, where I’d had a not-great experience with gerbil Moomush a couple of years ago. This time, same deal. I could tell almost immediately that the doctor was a Science Vet, as opposed to an Animal Lover Vet. Witness the opening of the appointment:

Vet: Rat in a box?

Me: Yes, sick rat in a box.

Vet: How old is she?

Me: 15 months.

Vet: How old was she when you got her?

Me: 5 weeks.

Vet: How big was she then?

Me: [Hand gesture.]

Vet: Huh. So how big would you say she was at 3 months?

Me: [Another hand gesture.]

Vet: We’ve been thinking about when to tell people to get their female rats spayed. We know that when we spay dogs in time, they don’t get breast cancer, because breast cancer is related to estrogen. So we’re trying to figure out when to spay rats. Because rats get a lot of breast cancer. And maybe at 3 months they’d be big enough for it not to be microsurgery anymore.

Me: Huh.

Vet: So next time you get a female rat, don’t bond with her before 3 months. Then if something happens while she’s under the anesthetic, it won’t be as bad.

Me: Wait. You’re saying not to love her for 7 weeks?

Vet: Oh. Well. Right. Okay, scratch that.

Yep, that’s how it went. And it wasn’t just that she opened the appointment by bringing up something entirely unrelated to what was happening in the room—though it was that, too—it’s that she was, to put it bluntly, Talking Crazy Shit.

In other words, if putting a rat under anesthetic is life-endangering enough to discourage people from becoming attached (itself an insane idea: What person in possession of an open heart can control feelings of love for an animal in her care?), then what the effing eff is the point of spaying rats to prevent breast cancer?

Let’s maybe-kill this rat so we can make sure it doesn’t die later!

JESUS. H. SCHWARTZ.

And another thing [wood-scraping noises as I adjust my soapbox for better comfort]: Never once, as we discussed Michelle’s care, did the vet mention that we are dealing with a rat, and that rats basically live for two years, and that given the givens, we might want to consider whether to treat at all.

For instance: The vet mentioned that if Michelle doesn’t do well on antibiotics, she should come in for x-rays, even though good x-rays of rodents are notoriously hard to get, since rodents do not stop moving. And if we do get a good x-ray, then maybe it shows that we need to do surgery, which is itself pretty complicated (again with the anesthetic), etc.

Sigh. It’s exhausting, really.

I appreciate that they take rodents seriously, as I said. What I also want them to do is take quality-of-life, expenses, and death seriously as well. This vet never seemed to consider that I might not want to, or be able to, pay for certain interventions; that the risk-benefit ratio of said interventions might not pencil out in their favor; or that the most humane thing to do to a rat who is suffering may just be to put her down.

Can I get a little reality here, Vet-Bot?

Some warm human interaction would have gone a long way as well.

And . . . Today’s Tirade finito completo.

Attached

Monday, April 18th, 2011

So, I read this book.

I had heard the authors interviewed on NPR (Tech Nation, which—stretch, but I don’t mind), and I was interested in the first half of the subtitle, i.e., “the new science of adult attachment.” I figured it’d be pretty cool to get a deeper understanding of the neurophysiology behind attachment, how it operates in a relationship, and what it can teach us about ways to build intimacy.

But Attached was so offensive to me in its reductivity (and, I believe, wrongheadedness) and so similar to other books I have read in that respect that it inspired me to coin a new genre: pseudo-scientific pop-psychology that uses one facet of brain biology to justify bad behavior.

Nu? I feel like we’re seeing a lot of that lately.

The basic premise of Attached is this: Our brains are wired for attachment. Therefore, we should form attachments. Therefore, if you are desperate for attachment, don’t worry: That’s natural. And also therefore, if your partner needs 5 phone calls and 7 texts from you every day to feel safe in the relationship, it’s your job to make those calls and send those texts. ‘Cause that’s attachment.

No . . . that’s insatiable need.

I mean, if you take a tiny sliver of brain biology—the brain forms attachments and then rebels when those attachments are broken, causing feelings of loss and desire—and use it to govern behavior, you’re going to end up with a lot of bad behavior. Because, for instance, the brain forms a really strong attachment to heroin the first time you try it, and as we all know, it’s pretty much a disaster to strengthen that attachment. In fact, that’s called addiction.

And if you’re in a relationship and you need your partner to call and email constantly to assure you that everything’s fine, that sounds like addiction, too.

The brain seems “wired” for addiction, right? At least, it responds quickly and powerfully to certain substances and actions, forming neural networks and releasing chemicals that make us want to repeat the behavior.

But addiction is not good for the body or soul. It’s probably not good for the brain, either. So just because the brain is “wired” for something doesn’t mean that we should reinforce said something. In fact, the opposite is true. We need to take special care to make sure that we don’t get addicted, as addiction is a kind of brain-biology prison in which a neurochemical cycle comes to control our behavior.

Right?

Feel free to correct me.

And that, friends, is today’s tirade.