Monday, May 11, 2015

Is this romance?

I got asked to edit a friend's romance novel a few months ago, so naturally I started thinking critically about the genre and its moments of unreality. Here are a few observations:

1. What's with all the fake marriages/engagements/etc.?

Only once in my life have I known anyone to consider a marriage for some reason other than intending to be married thereafter (so everyone else has gotten married because they luuuurve each other or were arranged to be married). In the case of the considered fake marriage, they didn't end up going through with it anyway. In my recent reading of way too many romance novels, I'd estimate about 1 in 15 is a fake marriage/engagement that becomes real and about another 1 in 10 is what I'll call an accidental marriage (amnesia/too drunk to remember/etc). I understand that it's more interesting if they met some improbable way but those odds are over the top.

2. What's with every conversation about ditching condoms including her saying "I'm on the pill" and almost universally him saying "it's been a long time since I was with anyone else so I'm clean?"

Two problems here: I really hope more women are using some contraception besides the pill than the only one in about 100 romances I can vaguely recall from the last year or so (implant, IUD, shots are much more reliable and require much less attention from the user). Granted it may be cost, but I really hope women are using something better than just the pill at a higher rate than that.

Secondly, STDs do not magically vanish just because you haven't had sex in a long time. They need treatment and you need to be tested to know you had them. HIV is silent until you are late in the disease and have AIDS. I am strongly in favor of the joint testing visit and the reading results together and then swapping in a new relationship before you ditch condoms. No heat of the moment "oh, everything will be all right baby" conversations should be accepted either.

3. Why are all the strong female characters so interested in being dominated by a guy, often a guy who is of a very different status in life (ie she's a lawyer and he's a welder or a farmer)?

In real life, women tend to attach themselves to folk of a similar level of education and status within the community. This big disconnect that is very common in romances just doesn't happen nearly that often. See: CEOs married to CEOs of other companies. I'm not saying it's impossible, just so improbable that it bugs me. Likewise you see a lot of the big, powerful man (usually physically big and economically powerful) rescuing a plain and simple woman from her drudgery.

I get the appeal but it's a nasty heteronormative trope that even the most successful woman wants a man to take charge of her life (or some part of it).

4. The "jerk factor" gets overcome all the time. He's a jerk, she ditches him, they get back together because he apologizes. I feel like this kind of story is great for telling women who are in an abusive relationship to give the abuser just one more shot because this time things will be different. That makes it dangerous to glorify it as the only way a relationship could ever work (he screws up, she forgives him). I worry that this story tells women also that they should be forgiving of any transgression. It makes women doormats to be traipsed all over. Dislike.

5. Where are the "we met on the internet" romances? I don't think I've read any like that in the last year (again I read about 100 to 125 different romances in that time) or ever. Yet I know quite a few people who met their spouse on the internet somehow or other (ranging from a random blog hop to twit.ter to internet dating sites). I imagine this will be a growing area but I'm shocked it hasn't exploded already. I've been on the internet the majority of days in the last 15 years so it follows internet hook-ups have been common and getting more common that entire time.

So why does it matter? Romances are the one genre where you can get published because they sell better than hotcakes. My spouse buys me a grocery bag of them for a dollar at the semiannual library book sale and there's always a vast quantity left over after the sale. Many women read romances, lots of them. The magnitude of the messages that get repeated is therefore high just because the same things are being said over and over again.

Just like the way little girls get the "someday my prince will come" story stuck in their subconscious after hearing fairy tales about the prince saving the princess a thousand times, likewise these story lines matter because of sheer repetition.

Can we do anything about this? No idea but I think knowing the problem is a good first step. At the least it gives us all a chance to critically consider what media we consume so we know when someone is selling us something we'd rather not buy - ideas included.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Life with limited internet

It is very strange to be without the internet at home. It's been a good break from being excessively plugged in but also hard because it means no video chatting with my babies who are far away.

It's really weird to not have access to any social media or news. I'm in this bubble where the only news I get is from the local paper that is usually in the break room, and even then, they really only cover local things (police officer killed in the line of duty, family of dead shooter says he was a nice guy and leave us alone, upcoming school events, etc.).

I caught up on blogs today and it blows my mind how out of touch I have been and yet how nice it is to read a physical book too. I'm not sure I properly remember the time before I caught up with friends online.

The big challenge is applying for jobs. On weeknights my borrowed internet at a neighbor's house is too slow for most online application sites, on weekends I am either busy or fed up with more applications. I didn't match but I'm not done scrambling for a residency yet, so it's hard to feel super driven to apply for things like I really should. Then again after the grueling residency application and interview process, I'm also a bit burned out on the whole thing.

It's a very complex experience trying to keep how much I miss home in check so I can remain functional on this rotation. It has all sorts of awesome opportunities and projects (that mostly require the internet to complete... hmm...) and I need to keep my head in the game. Everyone keeps asking if I miss the girls, and I never quite know what to say. If I think about it too long, I just cry, and it's awkward to cry at work or during a party, so I've been not thinking about it much, only crying every couple of days. I did a lot more crying my first rotation away and then was only kind of successful at getting my head in the game for my first rotation after winter break, so I know what I shouldn't be doing...

The other big thing I miss now that the internet is mostly unavailable is library downloadable books. My mobile doodad only connects to the interwebz over wifi and my borrowed internet is wired only so it means no new books for me. Given that I have a remarkable amount of time to read on this rotation (when I'm not working on projects or actually at work or theoretically studying for my boards) this is HARD. Luckily I have a heap of physical books I could be reading, but few have struck my fancy and there are no libraries or book stores here...

Next weekend I'm going to the city (6 hours away) and I am certainly going to get some new books, either digital or physical, so I don't get stir crazy and start hiking in ill-fitting shoes or something. Any suggestions? I'm interested in just about anything but especially sci fi/fantasy, romances that aren't awful, and non-fiction related to science or sociology or history (but not WWI) or maybe even parenting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Check your privilege

It's easy to get lost in the shuffle of daily life and forget just how much you have.

This rotation I'm in a very rural area with a very high poverty rate. It hits me over the head pretty often that I am incredibly fortunate.

For example: I own an iDevice. Usually I make my grocery list on it. This week I opted to copy it onto a piece of paper because it is incredibly rude (in my view) to flaunt that wealth here. Half of people don't have cars and people live very spread out, sometimes an hour from town (where there's a grocery store, one restaurant, a gas station, post office, and two churches). The post office here is the trailer that has a blue mailbox in front of it, and it's in slightly better shape than almost everywhere people live around here. This is not saying all that much. I spent $30 on supplementary groceries (milk, meat, cheese, frozen green beans, hand soap) and got about half what I would at home. No wonder everyone is broke. There is a wall of canned meat. 10 feet across the bottom and at least 12 feet up. I couldn't find any plain chicken breasts in the store, but I saw the price tag and it was double what I'd pay at home. Chicken thighs with the fattiest skin I've ever seen were on sale for a nearly affordable price.

There is no internet at my place but I can go visit some neighbors and plug into their internet. It's patchy and reasonably slow (no streaming video is possible) but it connects. It's the fastest around here by far, probably double what most people have access to. I have a computer and it works and I get to use it to connect to the world and apply for jobs.

I have this incredibly huge floppy sun hat that I wear when I walk to work. It's objectively hideous in olive green and I love it because it keeps the sun off of my face and I can skip the sunblock since it's UV protective. It blocks my peripheral vision almost totally though. I can see only what's in front of me when I wear it. Then I get to work and take the thing off and I get it. The blinders are off and I see the pack of stray dogs and the spirit behind the people who have a hard time keeping hope.

It's beautiful and raw and painful and hopeful all in a single glance. The blinders are off and my vision has expanded. Privilege checked.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Waiting Place

On my first day of high school, our principal sat us all down in the gym for some various "rah rah welcome to high school" announcements and such. Then our principal read us the Dr. Seuss book Oh The Places You'll Go. It was a nice reminder that we were in charge of our destiny based on what we did with each day.

I also have fond memories of our principal announcing it was time for classes in the morning 5 minutes before the first bell, first yelling to everyone lounging in the cafeteria and then to everyone just off campus lurking while smoking. Ah to be young and idiotic with few consequences...

But I digress. Ever since then, I have loved Oh The Places You'll Go. If anyone had read it to me or I'd read it before that first day of high school, I don't remember it. I'm sure someone got me a copy when I finished high school (maybe even my parents) and I have it somewhere or other in physical form. I also have the audio book and I've pulled that out to listen to it a few times lately. The part that strikes me now is so different from what I'd caught reading it before.

The Waiting Place.

I'm actively (mostly) looking for jobs and applying to things and have an upcoming interview. I miraculously got several residency interviews and am about to submit my ranking for the match. This match business is a complex way of ensuring that as many people as possible fill residencies and get offers. You might have heard about medical school residency matches and it's the same deal but their match day is the week before ours. First the applications happen, then the interviews (long interviews, some with several panels of interviewers, most with at least one presentation and sometimes multiple presentations, some with pop quizzes even), then everyone ranks (places you interviewed and people you interviewed, depending on if you're a candidate or a program), then there's some magic behind the scenes, and on March 20th the results are released. Hopefully I get a third miracle and match, but if I don't, I'm honestly not that stressed out about what will happen after that. (The first miracle was a single interview, the second was MULTIPLE interviews, at about half the places I applied, because WHOA that really happened and I am so fortunate to have this chance to seize.)

It is such a strange place, to be waiting. I look forward to the Boom Bands at the end of the Waiting Place. I am trusting that this is a moment in time and on the other side is whatever awesomeness comes next. Because this is certainly Another Chance and I am going to seize it.

To quote The Seuss:

The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

For all of you out there who find yourself waiting, I hope you discover the bright places soon and get to enjoy whatever you discover in the newfound light.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Two and two

I can't believe it was two years ago that I was noticing my maternity clothes were suddenly much looser and that Little Monster would make her appearance so soon! That sneaky baby, turning up ahead of schedule. She has flouted all schedules ever since. She waited forever to get teeth, finally cutting her first, second, and third teeth within a week at 9 months old. At 5.5 months she stole a pizza crust from my hand so we let her eat food. She started walking very deliberately to get her favorite book from across the room.

She is using more and more words all the time. Tonight she was showing me the dried pinto bean she has been hauling around for a few days and told me "Look mommy! I have a peanut bean." Then my spouse took the bean from her to show me up close via web cam, and when she took it back, she pinched it perfectly between index finger and thumb. Her favorite things are equal parts adolescent turtles and princesses (sparkly dresses and skirts and brushing everyone's hair, even her fluff). When we read a flap book last weekend while I was home, she pointed to each animal and said, "Look mommy! This is the mouse, he's hiding in the flower (or tree or rock or whatever). What a nice mouse. Squeak!"

Little Monster, you're a pretty excellent toddler. Keep up the good work.

The other thing of note is how long we've now had two children. They get along really well sometimes and fight other times. The biggest struggle is keeping the Kid from over-parenting and over-helping with Little Monster. Once the Kid helpfully took Little Monster's diaper off to help her potty train... and after 5 seconds in the bathroom, Little Monster ran off and the Kid got distracted and forgot all about her. Often the Kid is very concerned with keeping Little Monster in line, usually to the point that she ignores taking care of herself, like when she demands Little Monster sit down while she eats breakfast but won't do the same and is reminded to stop dancing while eating.

The pair of them are super cute too. When we are in a parking lot, Little Monster is good about holding someone's hand better than 90% of the time (and she gets scooped up and carried if she won't). She gets to choose whose hand to hold and she nearly always reaches for her sister's hand first. It's amazing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A moment of classic sassy toddler

One of the other kids at daycare who is a bit older than Little Monster is potty training. They have similar verbal skills despite close to a year in age difference (I think?) so she has been inspired to want to potty train too. Due to a laundry emergency where some fool (aka me) went to bed without restarting the dryer to ensure the cloth diapers would be dry in the morning, she got to wear undies for a bit. There was so much excitement about the undies. She did a little stamping-in-a-circle dance while chanting "undies!" over and over for maybe a minute or so. They are actually really training pants that are highly absorbent, but she doesn't know anything else is an option. Then after a couple of hours, it was time to change out of the now wet undies. Little Monster had a full blown tantrum and tried very hard to prevent them from being pulled off of her.

Then we put another pair of undies on her (pesky dryer only running on low heat), and she immediately stopped crying and yelling and said "I told you so!" and then attempted to run away with no pants on.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Out of the old

Over at Not A Wasted Word, Noemi is working on moving toward minimalism. It's pretty awesome to behold. Around the Future PharmD household we are in a similar place where we have too many things and want to ditch most of them so we have enough room to be a family. There are plans to rent a dumpster when it's spring so we can easily dispose of the trash/junk/things nobody else wants. It's amazing to consider how much stuff we have in surplus. I'm looking forward to ditching it all and having more space.

It's been interesting how many experiences I've had with hospice or nearly hospice care this year. I didn't intend for that to happen but it has. There has been a case of a very medically complicated patient who is now in hospice after months in the hospital and the doctor in charge who has few hospice patients and maybe never any as complex as this one. The way things happen in hospice is very different than if the focus is healing for a patient and it worries the doctor a lot to be managing this level of suffering and pain, the patient's and the family members'.

A lot of the work that needs to happen in order to let someone who is ready die is about those around her. We need to get used to our mortality and accept that some day we will be at the end of our lives. It makes people panicky at first to see so much of the end of life. A rookie hospice nurse called the pharmacist on call at 3am  on one of my rotations with a rather simple medication question that any less rookie nurse in this practice would have handled according to protocol with no need of a pharmacist to reassure her.

I think a lot of the work of dying is about moving out of the old and into whatever is after this life. It puts things into a stark perspective to serve dying patients. At the end of life, before the sharp decline just before death anyway, the dying get to work clearing away the things that don't matter and reconnecting with those people and things that do matter.

I decided recently to get to work on doing that very thing, because we are all dying. There's no sense waiting for some mystery "future" when things will be different to get rid of things and people that are meaningless and reconnect with the ones who do matter. No day but today is guaranteed so I'm attempting to seize now and get to doing the things I really want - spend time with friends and family and less time managing the mess.

When I worked in a library once, we had a big donation that came with these stickers for us to put in the front in honor of the donor who died young. They had this Mary Oliver quote on them: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" I got really tired of reading it over and over for weeks as we got those heaps of new books, but now I like it again. I try to live with that outlook, that this is my one shot at life and I'm going to quit doing the things that don't matter and get busy doing those things that do. Nobody knows how much time they have left and I at least plan to get busy living well. No more junk crowding out life.