Slide to Reply, Let the Reply Slide

By the time you reach your early thirties, chances are you know what makes you tick.

For example, while I support veganism and understand it, I am way too attached to yogurt to give up dairy. No longer do I periodically attempt to sacrifice my daily Siggis, using the excuse that, if I don’t eat it, I’ll probably get a yeast infection from the thing I did last night. Fuck it. I like yogurt, I like animals, I hate the dairy industry, I’m eating yogurt. #thirtythree

After spending my youth trying to feel sexy with my flat chest, I got an awesome pair of synthetic tits. Cleavage, v-necks, titty fucking = No regrets. #thirtythree

In my twenties, I thought that by thirty I needed to grow up, shed my alt-porn predilections, get comfortable with “mature” sexuality and settle down. Fuck that in the face with a glass tentacle. Kinkster with piercings and plugs for life. You can find me on FetLife. #thirtythree

nope nope nope

But when it comes to dating, I’ve enacted the same pattern for nearly a decade, and you’d think that by now I would have learned. Every few months, I go through the same scenario.

Log onto OkCupid. Jazz up the ol’ profile.

Filter through the matches for guys over 5’11” who like sports, who are old and not overweight. Toss out a few corny ‘likes’ and one-liners.

Wait.

Of course, I go on a date with whatever prospect seems tantalizing and, about ten minutes in, I’m bored and absolutely dry by the way he physically presents. Either he’s losing a fight against male pattern baldness, has exposed chest hair and is wearing a chain, is short even though the filter said tall, or he’s visibly nervous. A bunch of dealbreakers in a skin suit.

I know I’m judgmental and I shouldn’t be. I present as a lesbian party midget wearing Marilyn Manson’s hand-me-downs. My tits are obviously fake, my mouth and nose are too big for my face, I have tattoos that are as ridiculous as they are hideous, my always-skewed hair seems to indicate that I’d prefer Chastity Bono to Chris Pratt, and my voice sounds like a cartoon character that nobody wants to watch. But yet, when on a date, it’s like I’m a Victoria’s Secret model doing charity work.

I’m a 2 with 10 taste.

cold shoulder

One would think that by now I’d know how to get myself out of these situations with the same ease that got me into them. And yet, while I have the fishing aspect down to a two-week-long tailored formula, throwing the rejects back is met with the same THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK internal question mark every time.

I do not reject people well. I prefer to fade away and hope they catch the drift. Unfortunately it seems as though I attract guys who have less pride than they have vagina, and that only creates a whole kaleidoscope of conflict for me.

Case in point: Whole Foods Boy.

Whole Foods Boy is actually a twenty-seven year old man who works as a clerk at Whole Foods, but whose face resembles Johnny Depp in Dead Man. However, his body looks like a Portland hipster in desperate need of a shower, a few cheese pies, and a box of donuts. I went out with him because I figured he’d be a good bicycle to ride for a night, but it turned out that he’d taken a 90 day vow of chastity to “cleanse” himself…not to mention that he was conversationally as scintillating as a cardboard box. I took the chastity thing to be a means of rejecting me softly, which seemed both clever and a good thing, since the aversion to sex was, in this instance, mutual.

Well, five unanswered text messages later, it turned out that I was wrong. Whole Foods Boy wanted to bag my groceries after hours and, while I was flattered, I was unwavering in my desire to simply forget that we ever were in touch. So I didn’t respond to the first four solicitations to hang out over the course of a week, and then received a passive-aggressive, somewhat understandably angry send-off that simply read, “Goodbye.”

Fantastic.

Pro tip: Delete message threads from people you never plan on speaking to again. Better yet, delete them as a contact.

Me in Target

A few days after the final grey speech bubble sat collecting dust in my iMessage box, I was at Target, shopping for v-necks, thigh-highs, and cold medicine. I had come down with a mutation of bronchitis that left me more daft than usual and coughing with the force of a propane cannon. Waiting on line with my full basket, I decided to kill time by complaining, as girls are wont to do. I opened what I thought was the message exchange I had just been having with my friend Princess and typed the following:

Me
I CANNOT STOP COUGHING AND IT IS DRIVING ME NUTS!!!

All caps. Three exclamation points. Maaaaaybe an emoji of an explosion or two.

In the context of Princess and I, this was totally appropriate, as we are the type of female friends who relay the minutiae of every free minute we have. Princess is cold in her living room? I know about it. I’m having difficulty cracking the knuckle of my big toe while I’m in the bath? She hears about it first. So my coughing fit was breaking news that she needed to hear, obviously.

When I got to my car, I looked down at my phone and saw:

Whole Foods Boy
Let me make cough syrup for you.

I thought to myself, “Is he stalking me? Was he just shopping at the same time in Target, listening to me cough?”

As a narcissist, this seemed very likely, as I am, in my mind, a prime candidate for stalking, a reality show, and a future second wedding for Jaroslav Halak.

I opened the message exchange I saw that, after four unanswered texts asking to hang out, and a passive aggressive “Goodbye” as his final send-off two days prior, seemingly at random I had decided to scream a complaint at him about my respiratory tract.

Somehow I had sent the message to Whole Foods Boy, not to Princess.

And instead of thinking, “Bitch is crazy. Good thing I dodged that bullet” and deleting me into oblivion forever, he decided to offer me homemade cough syrup.

Mortified and confused I didn’t respond. Because that is what I do. Avoid and hide when I’m uncomfortable.

Ten minutes later.

Whole Foods Boy
It’s organic.

By this point I had shared the one-sided accidental exchange with Princess, and we were laughing to the point of tears. Actual tears, actual ‘lol’s.

Twenty minutes later.

Whole Foods Boy
I just made it. Enough liquid should separate by tomorrow. I can give it to you then, I’m free after 2.

I still hadn’t responded. But instead of just saturating in my mirth and shaking my head, it was only a matter of time until I fell into the sinkhole of self-hate.

easier than responding?

Why do I do this to people? Repeatedly! Instead of simply saying, “I’m sorry, I’m really not interested. Nothing personal, good luck,” I avoid what, in my mind, is conflict but what, in reality, is just being honest. And this is after coming across as captivated during the date because I am polite and internally churning in guilt and shame for not feeling as enthusiastic as the dude is clearly coming across. I am either a really good liar or a really horrible person or both.

Attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety are common touchstones for narcissists; and for us there’s nothing quite like introspection, it’s second only to masturbating with a mirror. And while I’m much more in the ‘vulnerable narcissist’ camp, as opposed to the ‘grandiose narcissist’ team, I’m prone to the paradoxical dismissive attachment and negative attributional biases that plague each bunch.

While it’s great to do some research and to figure out that, yep, “individuals high on vulnerable narcissism may behave in hostile and distrustful ways due to heightened affective dysregulation and negative interpersonal schemas that are linked with traumatic childhood experiences,” (hi!) there’s little by way of a manual for how to disengage quickly and painlessly from failed dating experiences as a self-involved lunatic.

Unless you include WikiHow, the portal for useless advice. In the case of their guide for “How To Tell Someone You Don’t Want to Go On Another Date” there totally is a well-mannered play-by-play of disengagement in theory, but it doesn’t exactly work for a neurotic perfectionist like me.

According to the Wiki, it’s six simple steps.

1. “Minimize possible damage from first dates. Don’t sleep with people on your first date.” Um, if I feel like boning, I’m gonna bone. Moreover, I’m not going to be an asshole if the other person is paying for coffee or, God forbid, dinner. I’m a fairly okay listener when prompted, especially if I’m reasoning with myself that I will never speak to the other person again, no matter how many passive aggressive texts they send.

2. “Be kind.” Not a problem, as I’m kind by not being. No answer, no cruelty, right?

3. “Take the high road. There’s no need to make an enemy , just be direct and don’t get hostile.” This isn’t helpful.

4. “Don’t beat around the bush. Your phone rings, it’s him/her…Don’t let it go to voicemail, answer it. Don’t give in to the temptation to say things like, “Sure, I’d love to do it again sometime, call me next week.” You think it’s harmless and vague enough not to matter, but it’s not. That’s a lie, and it’s wrong.” This is not as easy as you make it out to be WikiHow. And the way you worded that makes me feel shitty. Besides, my hands are wet, I can’t answer the phone right now. Or answer the text ever, because I’m busy alphabetizing my dog and brushing my CD collection.

5. “Address the situation directly.” Cute, WikiHow. Now you’re just repeating some of the previous garbage steps you’ve given me, only with different verbiage. Still not helpful.

6. “Keep to your decision.” But you haven’t told me how to execute my decision. So I will keep to it by not answering. Fuck you.

yeah no

Blame it on my anterior hippocampus, or physiological reactivity, or the fact that I have a differentiated superego and daddy issues. Whatever. At this age, while I should know better than to so much as keep an OkCupid profile, let alone agree to go on a date with someone from the site, at least I know how I work. Passive avoidance of potential threats is my thirty-three year old m.o. And at least some research has made me feel better:

It appears that conflict avoidance is not necessarily dysfunctional…Negativity appears to be dysfunctional only when it is not balanced with about five times the positivity, and when there are high levels of complaining, criticizing, defensiveness, contempt, and disgust.

So maybe the solution is as simple as continue to avoid responding to the pot-bellied mustache man with the vanity plates, and to do the same with my negative self-talk. And to masturbate, a lot, while taking non-organic cough syrup.

Nothing More Than Feelings

One of the problems I’ve found with having a brand new set of tits is the question of if and when to tell suitors prior to any shirtless situation. I still have scars, so I know that the topic should be broached prior to any upper-half undressing, lest I have to stutter some explanation about falling down a flight of stairs with a set of steak knives. Because I haven’t had playtime with anyone who didn’t know me and my body before surgery, addressing the issue hasn’t been more than a fleeting bout of anxiety prior to arriving on a first date, anxiety that inevitably ends with me bestowing a bro hug and affixing the dude firmly in the friend-I-don’t-text-back zone.

All of this changed last week.

I’ve been seeing a new guy, and while it’s nothing serious (and judging by my robot-like failure at pair-bond formation, it won’t be) it has progressed to the point of me tailing his car back to his house after dinner in order to catch the third period of an Isles game we were watching at a bar.

I might be small, but I’m not dumb. I knew what would happen, I just hoped it would occur after the shoot-out heroics of Okposo. I’m lucky I have good ears and a pretty good imagination. While having Howie Rose play my personal Barry Manilow, my new fellow went to work trying to get me to fuck him.

Wasn’t gonna happen. He plays offense and I only put out that easy for goalies.

how to connect cords!

As we made out, and my cochleae tried to process the overtime action I couldn’t see on account of the action happening in my face, it occurred to me that this dude didn’t know my boobs were made via medicine. When should I disclose prior to the big reveal? Would he feel their unnaturally round and hard shape and think I was a goddess, or just a really piss-poor liar? Or, worse, and most untrue, that I had some sort of shame surrounding my surgery?

“I…I have something to tell you. Two things, actually,” I awkwardly stammered, his face mere millimeters from my own.

Already aware of how boy brains work, and I knew that, at this point, if he was savvy, he thought I was going to mention

  1. a) a boyfriend
  2. b) a divorce
  3. c) an STD or STI

“I want to go slower than I usually would,” I said, which, while true, sounded slutastically stupid. “Because I like you,” I hastily added, lying like a shag carpet. It was actually because I didn’t want to leave the room with the television and because I was lukewarm on the turned-on scale. “Also, my breasts? Aren’t real. And they’re new.”

His face was that of a kid finding the red Schwinn under the tree at Christmas.

“That just makes me more excited to feel them!” he replied.

I went from lukewarm to just below room temperature, and snuck a quick glance at the television. Final zamboni run.

Another two minutes into making out and his hand was up my shirt. While I didn’t really want to, I let him, because I had brought them up. And, hey, why not. He wasn’t so much as stealing second as being walked due to the following batter being hit by a pitch.

And that’s when I noticed something. I could feel his forearm on my belly, and his mouth on my own, but his hand was suddenly missing, like he was an amputee. Was my bra still on? Was he under it? Was I suddenly suffering from frostbite? I couldn’t tell.

In fact, I couldn’t tell anything.

If faking an orgasm is bad, not being able to tell what you’re faking is worse. Was he tweaking the nip? Was he even on it?

While I hate seeming like a wet blanket in bed, and credit myself for very rarely getting into situations that require forced theatrics at this age, I was at a loss. I didn’t know whether to moan even though I was absolutely numb, or do I call time out on account of needing to have another huddle.

I opted for neither, instead seeming more silent in the sack than a mute Amish girl on her wedding night.

When I got home that night (and actually watched the period that I had conveniently DVRed) I wondered why that was. I feared that like a sequel to The Little Mermaid I made a trade, only instead of voice-for-gams it was one of nerves-for-curves. I feared that this condition, like tattoos or my new tits after death, could last forever.

numb from the neck down

Neurapraxia, or nerve injury, is common in cases like mine. I mean, after all, some dude with a fancy degree opened me up, severed my muscles, and shoved orbs of silicone somewhere near intercostal nerves three and four. The anterior branches of these fibers supply the sweater puppies with sensation. (“…to the side and the forepart of the chest, supplying the skin and the mamma…” Swoon.)

So what’s the deal? Will I forever be a sensory slave to my prostheses?

As with overpriced education systems, fantasy football leagues, and the level of spice in Thai food, there are classification systems. In the case of nerve damage, the degrees are rated one through six. The first two have stripper names, the aforementioned Neuropraxia and the second-degree, Axonotmesis. Both recover over time, and are the most likely culprits for what’s (not) going on in my new additions two months out from the OR, at least in my understanding.

http://plasticsurgery.wustl.edu/en/Patient-Care/Nerve-Injuries/Nerve-Injury#Figure_1

[table via]

The cool thing about nerves is that, like Real Housewives programs and TuPac’s discography, they continue to grow and generate new units at a fairly steady pace, especially following first and second degree injuries. In order to restore nerve function, these new nerve units have to establish the right connection, may it be motor nerves to muscle or sensory ners to skin. At a rate of one inch per month these new bundles are produced, and thankfully sensory function is usually reestablished within three to six months after surgery, fully being restored usually after a year.

In the case of augmentation, sensory function is only permanently lost in 10-15% of patients. (I recognize that “only” is probably not the best word to use here, and my heart goes out to my synthetic sisters who can no longer feel their nipples for good.) What’s kind of cool, and hella interesting, is that, even after long stretches of time where there’s been a loss of nerve supply, sensation can be recovered. Unfortunately muscle reinnervation can’t happen after a while without nerve innervation, so if nerve-to-muscle connections aren’t reestablished in time, you can say sayonara to that function.

That said, the risk of a definitive and forever failure of the tit nerves is low. Sensation changes due to stretching of the nipple and areola are common but, again, I can cope with that, especially with a new push-up bra.

http://instagram.com/p/ts8ofAqJDc/?modal=true

[via Instagram]

On December 5th, I’ll be up to month three, and should start sensing more in the area, if I’m on the three-to-six month regeneration path. Unfortunately I don’t think that the other night’s right wing will be on the lucky front line of nipple nips that I can actually feel in my bits once the sensation is (hopefully) reestablished.

But, hey. There’s a silver-lining. If I do permanently have nerve damage, getting the girls pierced again will probably be painless…

(You’re welcome.)

Sweet Child Not Mine

I do not possess a maternal instinct. Blame it on me being an only child, or growing up at the end of a long road in the boondocks of the north shore where no kids lived, or maybe that I fell face-first out of my crib more than once before the age of three, but I have never been a “kid person.”

My mother handed me off to a caregiver as soon as she got home from the hospital, so perhaps this lack of bonding capabilities is genetic. I don’t know. What I do recognize is that I’m better equipped to write a research paper on particle physics, create a new kind of fire, or thread a needle with only my left hand in the dark than I am to be left alone with a child under twelve for even a few minutes. I don’t have patience or the ability to refrain from talking about things like anal fistulas or skull fucking, let alone to pretend I know anything about diapers or playsets or that blonde trollop from that animated movie Freezer or whatever.

I can immerse myself with the acts that create babies, but I cannot even approach an actual baby.

Which is why it was a decidedly poor choice on my part to have my first continuing education class following my massage licensure be a four-day long course to become a Certified Educator of Infant Massage.

Foolish, foolish move.

To my defense, I took an incredible class during massage school called Prenatal & Infant Massage. Blessed with a capable, witty, soft-spoken teacher, I got hooked on the idea of prenatal massage, even if the first class convinced me that birth control should not be optional.

Soothing the bodies and psyches of mothers-to-be? Laudable, purposeful, and fun. Massaging the parasites after they emerge from those bodies? Terrifying, purposeless*, and dumb.

Science break! There is indeed a point to infant massage. Countless non-woo studies have shown that applying gentle touch to newborns, especially preemies, serves numerous benefits for the child, including improving growth rates, aiding thermoregulation, and being a viable option for treating nasty digestive troubles like colic. But when it comes to healthy, full-term babies, after taking this course, I don’t think there’s much of a need for having massage as it is to be taught. While we were instructed in a routine to demonstrate on a doll and teach new parents, I believe any soft touch and affection given to a tiny human is beneficial, but it’s my opinion that this is something that doesn’t need to be instructed in a class setting, let alone for $150 a pop.

fuck this

My experience with rubbing babies prior to the course was antiseptic enough; I had rubbed a three-pound, twenty-inch, baby-shaped lump of fabric and plastic for a handful of minutes during my Pregnancy & Infant Massage class during school…and I’d been lucky enough that a friend who had taken the class before me had let me have her doll.

“I don’t need this,” she’d said as she haphazardly handed the mock baby to me from the trunk of her car. “I was gonna throw it out anyway.” I continued the tradition, passing along the infant stand-in to another student who I knew would need it during the following term.

So when the instructor of the CE course contacted us to see if we needed a doll for the class, at the cost of $49, two things came into my mind:

  1. We would be massaging dolls.
  2. After spending nearly $700 on the class itself, bitch should have thrown in a free doll gratis.

The cost of this endeavor was high, and apparently going up, but I figured it was worth it. I mean, there’s science behind the practice, and it would be helpful to those new moms who I’d (hopefully) massaged during the course of their pregnancy. Besides, it was a CE course that seemed easy, unlike the real shit I was interested in. I liked the idea of aiming low to begin my career. Rubbing dolls in a room filled with strangers in Manhattan for less than a week didn’t seem so bad.

Grumps' commute
Baby in a bag.

Let’s start with the basics: massage therapists, on the whole, are weird. I am not exempt from this description. But while the snarky, medicine-obsessed, tattooed midget is a rare form of bizarre, the probably-gay, married white guy is not.

He was there. So was the out-and-proud male equivalent of Rosie Perez, who was taking the course to be able to teach, as well as to prepare his husband for their eventual family. The rest were women, not all of them MTs, some of whom were occupational therapists. One student was an early childhood program director, and there was one retired old lady who strongly resembled Roz from Monsters, Inc. who was taking the course as something to do.

There were twenty-one of us in total, just enough for me to be able to text during the lectures without seeming too rude, and just few enough that I would seem like an antisocial asshole when I refused to talk to anyone during our breaks. Both of which were what happened during the duration of the four interminable days.

Allow for me to state a few facts about myself. Other than being devoid of any motherly qualities, I am not cute and cuddly on the whole. I show affection by remembering details and worrying excessively, and when I truly love and care I will get extremely angry for no reason and say things that make me seem like I feel the opposite about you. I do not snuggle. I do not nest. I do not sing lullabies or cry in front of groups of strangers when relating stories of things I found “beautiful,” as the male, effeminate therapist did.

Among the activities of the week that I can still recall from the traumatized vortex of sticky, screaming PTSD that is in my skull, there was the instruction on such massage techniques as “Ears, Cheeks, and All Those Chins,” “I Love You!” and “Sun and Moon,” which included singing.

Oh yeah, and actual babies.

Babies. There in the room. With their parents. Next to me. Behind me. Around me. Babies…everywhere.

Along with their parents who we were to teach how to massage their real, live children on our dead-eyed dolls as though we had an emotional attachment towards them. And we were to continue to instruct, even when the tiny terroristic sound cannons went off one by one or if they stole a size 6.5 black ballet flat and crawled off, sticking the shoe in their mouth, while the shoe’s owner – me – was to look on, frozen in fear and shoeless.

When I tell you that the highlight of my week was hitting a UPS truck on 33rd Street while in traffic, thereby giving me a viable excuse to arrive over a half-an-hour late on day number three, believe me.

On the first day we had to name our dolls. Then we were told to sit in an intimate circle, where we were to say our “baby”’s name and the reason why we named them as such. We went around: Violeta, because it was a family name; Vincenzo, because her daughter had named the doll at the breakfast table this morning; Sarah, in honor of a pregnant friend…The circle got to me.

“Grumps. Because he looks like a Grumps,” I said.

Dead silence.

My doll was wearing a pink onesie and a pink hat.

After a moment the circle continued, but clearly my role in the tribe had been set. That is the Crazy One. Let her make her braid invisible licorice inside of her yurt in peace.

I started going to the bathroom for longer and longer during the duration of the course, and while I concocted a brilliant excuse having to do with PCOS and diarrhea, nobody questioned, nobody seemed surprised. My incessant reaffirmation as we went around the room that I both did not have and did not want children, along with my constant citation of studies instead of warm-and-fuzzy baby stories, and perhaps my choice of baby name, led to the group as a whole to decide that I shouldn’t teach any actual infant massage to, well, anyone, and allowed for me to lead the discussion segment of the session at the very end of the class.

Grumps
Grumps.

Obviously everyone but me knew that I shouldn’t be there. But I was enlightened to this fact, and quickly. It took no more than one sharp, shrill, hour-long scream courtesy of a seven-week-old named Desi for me to consider walking out and giving up while gaining $700 of relief…and that was before the shoe incident. (Different baby.)

Instead I stuck it out, even after one of the kids urinated on a pillow that the mother handed to me before proudly adding, “He went twice!” Even after my SI joint fired off searing angry memos to my brain after sitting on the floor for so many hours in a row. Even after the mandatory team-building exercise and instruction to treat our dolls like actual babies at all times.

The final stand-off between my self-will and conformist tendencies came during our practice session before the parents arrived for the class. As we performed our stomach ‘routine,’ the instructor taught us a lullabye in Hindi. We were to sing it to the rhythm of our strokes. It meant something nice and benign, like “you are loved, precious baby” or “I love you, sweet baby,” I don’t know. What I do know was that the word “baby” was present in the three-sentences that made up the song’s lyrics, among the mumbo-jumbo of syllables and consonants I did not understand. It sounded like an incantation summoning the devil.

Hard limit: I do not sing. Especially not lullabies. Especially not in groups.

The instructor soon noticed that I just sat, staring at Grumps, rubbing is seamed, cloth belly, with lips joined in a hard, unmoving line.

She sang louder. The class continued their chorus. Everyone was lullabying to their dear quasi children but me.

She made eye contact with me but I was unwavering. She swayed and rocked to the song, and the other students followed suit, pitching and heaving their torsos as they sat cross-legged, chanting and petting their dolls.

After the lullabye went on for long enough that students started looking around wondering if this was some sort of initiation rite and we were going to have to start sipping some Flavor-Aid, the Mexican standoff came to a close. We were done. No more singing. I had won, my fully-grown, non-reproducing body still silent and still.

Fuck this, I thought to myself.

Fuck you, the instructor probably thought.

grumpsmiddlefingerup

So that was my last week, a lesson in how aiming low can sometimes cause the bullet to ricochet back into you. I won’t be teaching five couples how to massage their new infants on my own, which, along with a test packet, is part of the certification process. (Nobody fails, by the way. One of the more astute students had asked.)

I will never, ever become a Certified Educator in Infant Massage and, as it turns out, those CE credits won’t count towards my extended licensure anyway. But, hey, at least I can feel confident the next time I have the argument that, no, even though I’m getting into those biological alarm clock years, I will never be delusional enough to consider having children.