Just beneath the surface of normal

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New Blog Name

So I finally found a name I’m happy with – hooray for crowdsourcing! And thanks, Fritz, for being awesome. But now  this means that instead of being productive, I have to figure out how to rename my url or transfer all the data in WordPress. I will probably entirely screw this site up, and possibly even delete all my posts.  I really hope not. Wish me luck!


UPDATE: I’m pretty sure I did it. All new posts will be at snarkeling.wordpress.com & all old posts can now be found there. Doing my part to keep it complicated!!

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From The Archive: Fun With Plastic Surgery II: Wound Care

The follow-up to yesterday’s post from 2006, in which I tentatively venture into the world of plastic surgery for the first and last time. The update at the bottom is from then, not now.

Last night I decided that I’m not really the sort of person who suffers for beauty. I wear minimal make-up, I don’t pluck – heck, sometimes I can’t even be bothered to shave for months on end – why did I think that I would not mind tending to five bleeding holes in my head?

The answer is simple: I didn’t know I would have five bleeding holes in my head.

See, when I went to my initial consult with Dr. Nippentuck, I failed to hear the part about treating post-op wounds and skipped straight to the bit about it leaving a little pale spot where the “mole” had been.

So what I imagined is that underneath the undesired lumps of brownish flesh my real skin would be waiting, all pristine and pale and ready to go. Much like when I was a child and I was sure that my real parents were wealthy and patient and would come for me one day and take me away from the horror of this poor, struggling single woman who called herself my mother, and even had the (clearly doctored, I thought) graphic black and white pictures to prove it.

In neither instance did that bear an even passing resemblance to reality.

What I have, instead of five flat, pale ovals, is a volcanic mountain range: steep, swollen edges which plunge at the center to a deep crater spewing forth blood at the slightest agitation.

Without access to mirrors all day yesterday, I was not aware of the masses of crusty blood forming around my band-aids, making me look like a soccer mom who thought it might be fun to take up street fighting.

So imagine my horror when I arrive home and stroll into the bathroom to check things out in the mirror, a mere twenty minutes before the start of my daughter’s holiday concert.

In a panicked rush of fantasies about huge disfiguring scars resulting from my four hours of wound negligence, I grab a bottle of peroxide and, in an act of charmingly optimistic self-delusion, a single cotton ball with which I will somehow sop up half a liter of dried blood at night in a drugstore parking lot in under five minutes, without glasses.

I dash through the drugstore like a contestant in Hospital Supermarket Sweep, grab up some of those subtle little round dot bandages and some antibiotic ointment and rush my loot to the car, where I proceeded to rip off the band-aid over my eye wound, which then begins to gush blood.

I clean this up as best I can with my lone peroxided cotton ball, dab some ointment on it, and whisper a little prayer as I slap a bandage on it.

Two seconds later the bandage is soaked with blood and sliding down my eyelid.

Running out of time and not knowing what to do, I shove the bloodied cotton ball between my eye and my glasses and tear off to the school, deciding that my appearance will just have to suffer.

I skid into the school parking lot at two minutes to seven, dab some more ointment and stick on another dot, which promptly falls off and hits my glasses because there is now too much gooey ointment to adhere a half-gallon of superglue, much less a few millimeters of non-latex adhesive.

I give up and go inside, wound gaping, and sit down next to the ex just as the first notes of the band began. About halfway through the second song of the choir’s performance, I feel a trickle on my eyelid. I look at ex and ask as casually as possible, “is my eye bleeding?” to which he shakes his head while I spend the rest of the concert dabbing at my eye in paranoia. Ah, some things never change.

Fast forward to the end of the concert. Corinne comes out to hug me and immediately recoils with a horrified, “mom, what’s wrong with your face?! It’s scary!”

I try to say soothing things and show her my open wound on my eye, which I’ve yet to see in the light, to show her that it’s no big deal. The look on her face indicates that it is, in fact, a big deal and that she will be sleeping with the lights on at dad’s tonight.

I do what seems to be the right thing to at this point, which is to take my hideous disfigurement and slink home, where I find myself peering into the smoldering depths of Mount St. Laser, with a flow of blood crusted all over my eyelid.

Oh, no – what had I done? This could never possibly heal over as a nice pale, smooth spot formerly occupied by the Wart That Ate Manhattan, like I had so often imagined.

‘Well,’ I sigh encouragingly to myself, ‘I can at least minimize it by keeping on top of my wound maintenance.’

It takes me seven cotton balls to clean up all the dried blood, and four wasted spot bandages before I give up on the fantasy of forcing tiny discreet bandages to adhere to my hemorrhaging eyelid and resort to mounds of gauze and surgical tape, which, combined with the spot bandages on my cheeks and forehead, make me look like someone who had been sucker-punched while shaving the upper half of her face.

Forty five minutes after I began, I finally walk away from the sink.

Less than two hours later I am back to see what the wetness leaking from the bandages on my cheek might be.

Why, oh why, had I even bothered to wonder?

Sighing, I wipe the blood from my cheek, tape a monster hunk of gauze to it, consider again Jim’s suggestion about wrapping my head like the invisible man, change the other bandages for good measure, and go to bed.

This morning I wake up extremely early for some reason. If you know me at all, you know that there are only three reasons for me to wake spontaneously: 1) it’s one o’clock in the afternoon, 2) there’s a vomiting child hovering over me, or 3) I have told myself exactly what time I’ll wake up before going to sleep, which is an extremely useful subconscious ability for which I have no explanation. This is none of these to the best of my knowledge, so I roll around under the covers for a while, looking for the right position to drift back to dreamland for another hour.

After thirty unsuccessful minutes I sigh, trudge out of bed and return to my new altar, the bathroom mirror.

Thirty minutes later, once all the bandages are changed and the old ones are flowing out of the bandage-wrapping-filled bathroom trashcan, I it occurs to me that my subconscious knew just how much time all this wound maintenance was going to take, and had roused me for just that purpose so that I might make it to work at a reasonable hour.

The bleeding seems to have largely stopped, which is a relief, but the tedium of maintenance is far from over. I find that it’s lunchtime now, which means it’s time to peel off the morning’s dots, add a new glob of ointment and put on a new one, yet again. Such is my fate for the next two weeks.

Except I forgot the gauze and tape for my eye. Perhaps this time I’ll run over to the drugstore *before* I remove this morning’s handiwork.

I beg you: If I ever begin to fantasize again about unnecessary procedures, please, please, please, stop me. No matter how enthusiastically I show you how small and invisible the currently giant spewing craters of doom have healed to become, just remind me of the wound maintenance before they got that way. That should bring me to my senses.

UPDATE: I’ve determined that there is a variation on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which explains that an adhesive may stick to skin or hair, but not both. The dots stuck to my eyebrow only and were pathologically repelled by my skin. The “sticks to anything” adhesive tape I bought at lunch sticks to anything BUT my eyebrow, which is still an important anchor, given the crater’s proximity to it. Maybe I could apply for a grant and something good could come from this after all.


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From the Archive: Fun With Plastic Surgery, Part I

Instead of actual writing, here’s a piece from 2006 that I was pretty proud of at the time. I’ll post Part II tomorrow.

It all started in October, as we were dressing for my boss’ wedding. I was putting in my contacts, because my glasses aren’t suitably styled for formal occasions, and touched the mole on my eyelid as I raised it to insert my right contact lens.

“Man, I hate that thing,” I mutter to myself.

“You DO?” asks Jim, intruding on my internal conversation. “I always thought it didn’t bother you.”

It mostly doesn’t, except when I’m not wearing glasses. But I hate how everyone I meet spends the first ten minutes staring at my eye, which has this giant, vascular lump protruding from above it. Even Jim admitted that it had bothered him a bit when we first met.

“Well, why don’t you get it removed?” he asks innocently, as though I hadn’t wished for just that a million times. Unfortunately, mole removal is considered elective plastic surgery and my HMO won’t have anything to do with it.

I explain this, and he sweetly offers to pay for it, as long as it isn’t prohibitively expensive.

So I make an appointment with a plastic surgeon with experience doing eyes, just to be on the safe side.

I feel really embarrassed going into his office. It is full of posters advertising such vanities as permanent hair removal and makeup tattoos. Of course, I know in my heart that this is no less vain.

I sit on the table and after a single glance he points out FIVE moles on my face. Suddenly I’ve gone from one hideous growth on my eyelid to having more moles than the CIA.

And of course, it works like a charm because now I want them ALL gone – I want to rout out that pesky mole infestation that has so clearly prevented me from experiencing true happiness all these years. Never mind that I hadn’t really noticed them thirty seconds before; now they HAD to go.

He offers to remove them all for $250, so I make an appointment for this morning.

This morning I arrive early for my appointment, I sign a paper and leaf through an old issue of Glamour, and thank goodness it’s a “men’s point of view” issue, in which the readers are implored not to take themselves so damned seriously and to just eat a cheeseburger once in awhile for chrissakes, so I do not begin to look seriously at the various posters on the doctor’s walls.

Finally I am called in and seated on a table/chair contraption, next to an articulating chrome arm with what looks like a telescope strapped to the end of it. It is humming ominously at me.

The doctor comes in and jovially asks if I have any questions.

I do. I sheepishly pull up my shirt and show him another mole on my belly, which Jim finally admitted he wouldn’t mind seeing disappear as long as the laser is fired up anyway.

The doctor suppresses a giggle and tells me he can’t laser it off – because it’s a nipple. I now have a third vestigial nipple below my right breast. He tells me they’re very common (some even have an ariola) and that he can cut it out, but I shield it protectively and tell him I would like to keep my freakish semi-mammary intact thank-you-very-much, so that just in case I ever run out of work options I can at least join a circus.

I lie back in the chair/table, he puts metal goggles over my eyes to protect them from the laser, and proceeds to inject lidocaine into my various moles. This is the most painful part of the procedure he tells me, especially the one over my eyelid. Feeling the sting of the needle, I believe him.

Extra lidocaine goes rolling down my cheek, making numb little tearstains. My eyelid feels numb and puffy like I just lost a prize fight and I’m not sure I’ll be able to re-open it anytime soon. I wonder quietly how I will explain this to the police officer who will be handling my car accident on the street in front of the office.

I am then handed a squeezable head, which manages to drain any confidence I might have had in his assertion that the worst is over.

He starts with my forehead. It sounds like a machine gun firing, and it occurs to me that the ominous humming was the build-up to a full-on assassination attempt. It stings just a little bit, but not near as much as it jangles my nerves. He asks me if I want more lidocaine, and I resist but he injects more anyway. I still feel it a little. I decide that’s fine – it really is better than the injection.

He moves on to my cheek. Takatakatakataka wipe. Takatakatakataka wipe.

A question starts knocking around in my brain, like a stray bullet from the machine-gun laser. I try to keep it there, where it is safe, but it ricochets right out of my mouth: “what…do you keep wiping up with that cloth?”

“The skin explodes when the laser hits it,” he tells me, as casually as if I’d asked what was for dinner.

“Oh,” I say, going along with the dinner theme, “like chicken in the microwave.”

Long pause.

“Yeah,” he confirms tentatively and far less casually, “kinda… like… that.”

He does my eyelid last. Due to the drooling dose of lidocaine, it doesn’t hurt at all.

Then he tells me the worst thing of all: “these aren’t moles – they’re all warts. They might come back.”

I feel horrified. Betrayed. Embarrassed. Somehow the idea of having lived through the peak of my youth with a face full of moles is okay. It was fine for Cindy Crawford and it’s fine for me. But warts – ew! And now it’s too late and my chin is starting to sag and before long I’ll be old and wrinkled and the warts will come back and I’ll be just like the old cartoon witches. Oh, alas!

I am then covered in band-aids, given cookies and water for my adrenaline shakes and sent on my way. My eyelid works again, but all the little lesions sting. I have to keep them covered and moist until they heal; scabs are the enemy.

I go for coffee and feel the compulsion to explain to the convenience store lady why my face is covered in band-aids. “Had some moles removed,” I say, covering the truth of my shame. Because somehow telling the convenience store lady is far more humiliating than announcing it to everyone on the internet.

But now I have moved on to imagining the mortification of attending my daughter’s band and choir concert tonight with my ex, looking like Bride of the Swamp Thing.

Jim suggests a hat. I remind him that Mush-Mouth hats are not currently available at the local Target. He suggests a scarf, wrapped all around my head a la the Invisible Man.

I’ve settled on a Guy Fawkes mask. I think it will still scare the children less than my face.

UPDATE: I have since learned that a dermatologist could have identified and removed them and my insurance would have covered it. Plastic surgeons are assholes. I am probably the only person surprised by this realization.


The Pit of Despair

So this is my third attempt at writing a new post. I keep trying to be funny, but I’m not really feeling it at the moment, so everything seems strained and not like anything you would feel compelled to pass on to your friends out of its sheer awesomeness. I’m feeling navel-gazey. I’m feeling like taking myself seriously, and I know that I asked that you post something absurd like “balls!” when I do that, so I’ve been trying to avoid it, but I guess sometimes you just have to take your testicles like a good girl when you line yourself up for it.

The trouble is, Seasonal Affective Disorder – and who gave it that pansy-ass name, anyway? It should be called something like Seasonal Anxiety, Hibernation, and Emotional Evisceration Disorder, but I guess SAHEED isn’t as catchy and it sounds kind of like you’re kidnapping Muslims to say “I have Saheed”. What was I saying? Oh, right. SAD. Remember when we all used to think it was really funny when Howie Mandel would inflate a rubber glove on his head with his nose? SAD feels sort of like what you might imagine it’s like to walk around with a translucent, inflated latex glove on your head (it doesn’t have to be a glove, though, it could also be a condom. Or, you know, whatever. What I’m wearing on my head is entirely beside the point. Unless it’s the leggings hat-scarf. Everyone should wear one of those).

On a good day the glove comes off, and you get to connect with the world in vivid clarity; your wit is sharp and life is fun. The rest of the time everything feels cloudy and distant; you’re tired and nothing is funny, least of all Howie Mandel. Trying to write from there is excruciating. Everything looks rambling and whiny. It might be funny, but you wouldn’t even know it for all the fog. When I first started writing this blog, I had just come home from a trip and the novelty brought the glove off for a few days so it all came easy. But I can’t just keep endlessly pursuing novelty, because the next thing you know you’re doing lines with Charlie Sheen and his sister-wives, and nobody wants that. Least of all Charlie Sheen, come to think of it, since he’s clean now. Or at least, as clean as you can be when you’re made out of cocaine.

what happens when you pursue novelty? You turn into a fucking bear, that’s what.

But writing is important to me, and building this blog is important to me, and posting nothing at all for a week does not convey that, though I totally did predict this in my About post. So here: I’m writing. Even if it’s shit, I’m writing. I’m writing about how hard it is to write, which is the writerly equivalent of musicians making whiny meta-songs about how much it sucks being on the road, but it’s writing. Let’s just consider this my sophomore slump & hope it’s short.

We just passed Groundhog Day, which is midwinter, which means that there are literally six more weeks to the first day of spring regardless of what some coddled rodent does or does not see outside his paparazzi-plagued front door. Which means I have about 5 weeks remaining before the fog lifts. If you will stick with me, I promise to keep writing.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t even the lowest I’ve ever gone into the SAD pit. When I was 19, I got it so bad that I stopped going to classes to sit at home in the dark and watch golf on television because it was slow and everyone spoke in soothing voices. Imagine having to explain on your college re-entry applications fifteen years later that you flunked out the first time due to golf, and you don’t even play.

Now that I’m older, I have a gym membership and the ability to cook vegetables. And good antidepressants. And a light therapy box. And even so, some days are more coherent than others. Oh well, at least the company’s good.

don’t even think about trying to escape.