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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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so you can blame this on self-examination and dear abby
children of dune - leto 1
So I have been reading advice columns recently. It's a phase I go through, and I found a comm that like, posts stories from these columns and discusses it which is pretty much my Platonic ideal of funness with those.

Which is why I decided I was having a moment of insight--a very useless one--while reading about one that was like, (example, not true) a woman marries a guy with three kids who try to kill her and their mutual child tortures cats and now the mother in law moved in and makes everyone sleep in teh living room and she's not sure what to do about all this.

...actually, maybe I actually read this, but not the point. The point is, advice columns seem to have a high proportion of stupid, stupid-crazy, stupid-scary, and boggling. There are very specific types that write to them, and in theory, I always thought it came down to three types: 1.) ones that want confirmation of something they already plan to do (and will do even without confirmation) 2.) people who just really want attention and 3.) really dumb. But I don't believe that anymore. I think there are actually four types. And the fourth type is what I call the WTF people. Because they aren't writing in due to being stupid, attentiony, or just confirmation, though they can be all of that. They are literally stumped on how the fuck they got to this, because they feel this isn't normal, but they don't know at what point they boarded the crazy train, because they've just been on it that long.

I'm going to explain this in the language of personal anecdata.

I have a child, whom I have called Child for pseudonymic purposes. I was twenty when I got knocked up and in that way that twenty year old girls are, I was dismayed, as I was y'know, twenty, and underemployed and the other half of the genetic material was God knew where, and also, I didn't like him at all. I cannot explain the series of events that led to this--I mean, yes, sex was involved, but looking back, there was a crazy train. You would think this would like, derail it, but no.

The first problem was I could not remember I was pregnant.

I had morning sickness all day for over six weeks. I had the morning sickness that meant I lost weight so fast I looked like I was on drugs. I was exhausted all the time. I took a pregnancy test. It's not like there wasn't evidence. I had tearful conversations with friends. There were talks. There was calling clinics. There was asking for advice.

Five minutes after those were over, I would forget again. I may be exaggerating a little here, but not by much. It wasn't denial--and trust me, I've thought about this part of my life a lot, as you know, it was crazy--so it wasn't denial so much as I could not put this in the framework of my life. It was like, and I'm just extrapolating this here from available evidence, that I'd been kidnapped by aliens and then returned to earth. Sure, it happened, but what are the odds? Because at that point, I had a very skewed notion of what, exactly, was going on in my life, which I will get to in a second.

{And hormones, I understand, but I digress, because this weird reaction has occurred in other situations, just none that were pregancy. Or were like, this insane.]

I had a mantra that I used for the first seven months, when I was indubitably pregnant in visible ways, attending school full time, had an ultrasound, and kicking kept me awake. It was, you are pregnant. And I'd get really depressed, but whatever, I also played SimCity and did well in class, so go with it.

I have never been able to explain to my own or anyone's satisfaction exactly what kind of disconnect occurred. But this is why when people on talk shows would be like "I didnt' know I was pregnant!" I can believe it. Because you can in fact know exactly how it happened, where, and even break it down into small words, and still. I never told anyone this, because I was one of the WTF people and I was self-aware enough to realize this isn't quite right.

I could have been a person who wrote to one saying, "I am twenty and I dropped out of college, I hate my job and my roommate is dating a married guy who makes us keep his ferret and sleeps in my bed with my roommate in our room and I sleep in teh floor of the living room and somehow, we have a cat and my new boyfriend and his brother got it high. I am pregnant by my ex and he vanished and I'm not sure I ever liked him, and teh sex was boring. Also, the roommate's boyfriend's wife keeps calling and my new boyfriend is trying to get back together with his ex who is pregnant by a guy who is in prison. What do I do here about the cat and the ferret getting along? I'm worried about their relationship."

You would think I would know the obvious answer, but sadly, I didn't write to an advice column and abruptly moved to Houston, which is a whole different thing.

See, I can read that paragraph and say, that's a crazytrain. That is a really fucking crazy train and holy shit, why did you give them your bed? and also--well, the cat, I don't even know. At the time, I could not figure out what about this was wrong. That's because it was all wrong, so you see why I was kind of disconnected from the pregnancy? It was the only normal thing that had a clear cause and effect. The rest of it I couldn't even tell you; it just happened. Also, the married man and roommate asked me for a threesome, and there was some stuff in a bar betting one night stands on pool, and a roommate who kept saying she was a lesbian but kept trying to sleep with my boyfriend and/or his brother.

Actually, I'm reading this now and just realized I'd never actually seen this all written out before. At this point, I have to say, that is a disturbing part of my life. But I digress.

Crazytrain. When you have somehow gotten on it, it's usually at a non-crazy stop, and then just escalates. The events described above happened in a six month period Most of it--a lot of it--was in a three month period. I had a very fast crazytrain. It becomes, in a word, unbelievable to sane people. It is in fact unbelievable to me, but I have written journal-proof and Child to remind me. And to put this in perspective, I had a functional family who I was talking to regularly and who came to visit and who would have loved it if I moved home, because they could sense the crazy, like perhaps the smell of that goddamn free-range ferret, but it was really difficult to talk to me, because I was worried about the cat and ferret relationship and the ex-wife calling. This is what I was thinking about. I was throwing up all day, every day, I fainted--fainted!--at work, I was apparently in a relationship that was bad, and I think I broke up with him once or twice and yet he was still there, and I was worried about the cat.

This is the essence of the WTF people. Sure, they could be stupid, or attention-whorey, or already have a solution, but it really comes back to they are writing in because something normal happened and it's fucking with their crazy. Which the more advice columns I read, the more I have started trying to work out what catalyzed the realization that something was off, because when they write it, they will have a laundry list of red flags of terror, but their question is like "But I wonder if this is a bad sign that he hates my sister." The thing is, yes, it is, but that's not the answer a WTF person really is looking for. They are asking "Why am I worried about this when he's calling himself Xanga King of the Titans and I'm starting a religion in his name? We're also being evicted because we didn't pay rent."

I mean, yes, it's all stupid and everything, but only out of context. It's not an excuse for stupidity, more a context for why sometimes stupidity seems like a lifestyle choice. Sometimes, it helps if you are indeed pregnant, go home, return to school, and start watching X-Files regularly while playing SimCity. Then thirteen years after the fact, you write it all down and realize you had a certain phase of life in which you probably should have been one of those people who wrote to advice columns, because you still don't know why you were worried about the cat and ferret relationship. Because now that you are thinking about it, they got along pretty well.

Seriously, I am reading this and I cannot remember the ferret and the cat fighting. I think because it was a cat who was high, a ferret who was free-range, and I was pregnant, and working on couples counseling for a cat and a ferret was more believable than an actual consequence of sex. Because really, what are the odds?

I'd like to submit I have read a lot of advice columns in the last twenty-four hours. It's like a disease. And from my totally unscientific observations, the WTF people outnumber everyone.

You know, at this point, I feel the need to lie down and reconsider my twenty year old self's relative decision making capabilities. I remember being stupid, but I'm now wondering if I was like lobotomized briefly and there was slow but steady regeneration.

That truly sounds like you were on a crazy train, if that would have been fiction you would have died for the cat poo decease (toxoplasmosis?) in the end. But you had an excuse; you were pregnant. Only that the crazy usually strikes after the child is born. I have followed closely that happening, and boy, that's crazy.

Edited at 2009-09-06 07:29 pm (UTC)

Post-pregnancy was mostly me alternating desperate sleeping with feeding and brief periods of wakeness to eat and go to class. Retrospectively, it was a very peaceful period of my life.

hey, I used to think that in all those advice columns the letters were made up by journalists (and some of them are, as I know someone who gets paid for writing them...) but the really outrageous ones? I'm not sure journalists CAN make that stuff up. Not to diss journalists or anything...

And... I wonder what all our lives would read like if spelled out in such terms? Part of mine would read: "I am 25 and living with my TV-Bi husband in a studio apartment where he has sex on the floor (while dressed as a woman) with his BF (who is in the army but DADT). Neither of us make much money though at least I have a job, of sorts - he only makes music (with anyone).

Yet here I am, almost sane. Almost passing as normal...

There is nothing stranger than life. This fact.

The crazytrain, it is a subtle thing with room for pretty much everyone.

It also occasionally tosses people off for reasons known only to itself, leaving them beside the tracks, luggage strewn over the countryside.

Yes. And you kind of watch it go and later, come ot terms with the fact it was a crazytrain of crazy. And you wonder why you didn't see it before.

*croggled* I'm awfully glad you and Child survived your youth. O_o

See, the thing is, I don't remember being unhappy. I was in a state of general acceptance of whatever the universe was doing. Looking back, it wasn't even that I was passively participating, more that I was observationally unaware of like, most of what was going on around me.

I still can't get over I would wake up to a ferret on the floor of the living room and be okay with this.

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Well, my boyfriend suddenly ran off with his ex--and by that, I mean, to take her to prison to visit the father of her kid--and she like, destroyed all my CDs, and I moved to Houston. It was about three months later that I moved home, started school again, and realized that I was almost halfway through this "pregnancy" thing and probably needed to work with the theoretical knowledge it could in fact be happening.

It's not that I look back adn think, oh my God, how could I do that? But more, how did I have enough good judgment not to go clubbing with my roommate on e and end up in bed with them or walk out in front of traffic? How did I know to put shoes on in the morning? Those are the kinds of questions I ask myself.

I always remember this one friend of mine, who'd gotten married, pregnant, and given birth. She always said that a few times in the first months, she'd be, like, sitting on the couch and hear a noise and look over and see a baby. At which point she'd jump a foot in the air and be all "THERE'S A BABY HERE! HOW DID THIS BABY GET HERE? WHOSE BABY IS THIS?!"
That was her disconnect.
(I of course would say, "ok, I understand, but what was on television at the time?")
The great thing about the crazytrain is that you can buy a monthly pass on it, and the government has a program whereby you can purchase your monthly ride with pre-tax dollars.
So in a way, society itself is underwriting your ride, wherever you go.
And we all take more than we can carry, and really, more than we need.
Ah, if only the crazytrain had a bar car....

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Possibly not. I knew a cat who liked inhaling marijuana smoke.

Um. Married people who have previously had planned babies, when surprise!pregnant have the same problem.

With the freaking out and the phone calls and the shock and the forgetting you're pregnant..

I don't have the rest of the trainwreck, but that part? I'm sitting here nodding.

Yes, this. It's so hard to explain that pregnancy really resembles alien abduction more than it should.

Then thirteen years after the fact, you write it all down and realize you had a certain phase of life in which you probably should have been one of those people who wrote to advice columns, because you still don't know why you were worried about the cat and ferret relationship. Because now that you are thinking about it, they got along pretty well.


You're absolutely right. I've been in some odd situations, and it's possible to get so overloaded by craziness, that you just can't pull apart what the really strange parts are any more. Some parts of my first stint in grad school are like that (stupid landlord stuff, I think my neighbor was a dealer, the GUYS I dated, the classes, the thesis, the weather, the asthma...)

As for the pregnancy thing, I've never been pregnant (knock on wood, knock a FOREST THANKS) but I think that's one thing guys will never get. Our uteri? Pretty much function separately from us. We don't really get warnings for the crap that they do. They just do it. Whether it's cramp like crazy, bleed profusely, ovulate, or, you know, produce a child? They do it on their own, without our control or guidance. So the idea that it's easy to forget you're pregnant? Not so strange. I don't know how many times in my life I've forgotten I was going to get my period, after all. From the people I talk to, there is no one "pregnant" feeling. Just sort of a conglomeration of sucky symptoms.

I hear not all symptoms of pregnancy are sucky, even. So you get that too. Where there isn't anything that says I AM PREGNANT, but more that enough symptoms match enough other people's symptoms that you go "Hm. I *wonder*."

But, yeah. I track my period? Sort of. I mean, I'm on the NuvaRing birth control, I have to remember to take the stupid thing out. So I have a rough idea where I am. But I just -- FORGET where I am in my cycle, unless I just put it or took it out. I have look at my ticky-marks of how many weeks into it I am, you know?

I mean, I generally WANT to forget that my uterus exists. I never remember it exists because it's doing something I LIKE. So. Yeah. That disconnect is actually really common, I think.

And, you know, I read a story once about a woman who went into labor suddenly in the parking lot of a grocery store. She doubled over in pain, clutching her car, then dropped her bags of groceries, screamed and fell to the pavement. Several people came to help her while at least one called 911. A couple of people noticed she had passed bloody mucus (mucus plug) and water (her waters broke) and one person asked, "When are you due? Who's your doctor??"

She looked up in shock and said, "I'm not pregnant, what are you talking about?" Seriously. She wasn't in maternity clothes, didn't look especially pregnant (she was heavy, but not really, you know, fat in that special way we get, like a hippo with a gland problem), and denied she was pregnant until the ambulance came and delivered a baby from her. A small-ish baby (something like six pounds, I think, I mean, no pre-natal care), but a baby nonetheless.

I thought it was an urban legend, but I've never seen anything to refute it. I read about it when I was in college in Indiana. So, no, crazy making is apparently universal.

And I have NO IDEA how the cat got into the dishwasher. It wasn't like it was ON, anyway.

Oh dude, there's a whole show called "I didn't know I was pregnant".

Because, as pointed out above, not everyone has the same side effects or signs. Also add in (among other things) weight issues, the tricky stop/start of menopause and the fact that contraceptives aren't foolproof, and I'm kind of impressed that we know as often that we do that we are pregnant.

The strange things is that I'm sitting here nodding as I think of my own crazytrain from various parts of my life; things that when I stop to think about I have to wonder if they really happened (even though I certainly know that they did). And then I think about my current living situation and realize that in its own special way it's still crazytrain station just with less danger at the moment.

It's funny the way that life works and that your brain can pretend that things aren't happening.

Yes, this. Or even--not so much pretend its' not happening, but like, just accept it without sitting down and going "Okay, what?"

Well, as crazy trains go, I generally prefer Dan Savage to Dear Abby, but that's just me.

Personally, it was always my job to bust everybody else out of their crazy trains, for a decade, in four social groups and two states, and a more thankless job has not been invented. Which means I never had a crazy train of my own, exactly, which is probably a good thing. (Although I do ordinarily like ferrets.)

Actually, this story sounds vaguely familiar- I don't suppose you ever went by Pattie in the Stephanie Plum fandom?

I hit so many advice columsn it was hystericla. Though granted, Dan Savage is my regular reading, he doesn't really often get letters that hit the WTF level for me, though they come close.

I'm kind of dying of identifying-with-you over here. I was 21, moved into a house full of crazy roomates, including my best friend (who I was sleeping with), her boyfriend (who didn't know) and ended sleeping with the Anarchist From BC who lived in the mudroom.

And then, of course, I got pregnant. And best friend went to the States for three weeks, came home and married her new American boyfriend, and we ran out of oil for the furnace, and would play board games or hearts until all hours of the night, or snooker (with or without optional cat obstacle on the pool table) and one of the crazy roomates stole a dog from a car, and it bit a Russian dancer, and nobody did the dishes ever, and oh yes crazy train, how I remember you.

*wistful* You look back and think to yourself, wow. A Russian dancer?

See, this is why I always wish everyone would just sit down and write out their crazytimes.

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And you look back and you go, wow, it's kind of a miracle I'm even *alive* and also I hope my kids don't do half the stupid stuff I did but you know of course they're going to.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Kudos to you for pulling it out and giving your child wonderful parenting. That's what matters.:)

I look at Child with this combination of horror and hilarity. I mean, this is why his kneejerk reaction to me saying anything about sex is "condom!" Literally.

And from my totally unscientific observations, the WTF people outnumber everyone.

They do, but that's because it's so easy to become one of those WTF people. It's not something you're born to; it's not even something you intend to happen. But you get on the perfectly ordered, nice and easy sane-train, except suddenly there's a change in direction and it's the crazytrain.

Yes, this. It's little crazy to big crazy, then accumulated little crazies like some sort of insane breeding crazy rabbit until normal things seem suspicious. It's just--there. *blank*