Notes on a Painful Lack of Subtlety


Hold out your hand, palm up. Now curl your fingers over to touch your palm. I’m not even asking you to make a fist.
     There came a morning when I could not stand upright. Seeing me bent, and the wretched look on my face, she became somehow offended: “What’s wrong?” she asked, with a tone of annoyance. I was stunned.
     “I’m in pain,” I said. “My back.”
     It is a familiar discussion. I should get a massage. With what money? I should see a chiropractor; my insurance will definitely pay for that. Really? Okay, where is my policy packet? Where did we put it? We don’t know? Because I can’t look online; there is a technical problem and Molina has already told me they cannot help. And this is already known, already said many times before. And it is a handy little circle for anyone not me: Did you know people’s eyesight stops degrading after they get glasses? One prescription is all anyone ever needs. No, really, it’s not like people suddenly forgot something. But, yes, when I say I need new glasses, I’m asked why. And then the same people who doubt my eyesight degrades, such that they are puzzled by the idea that I might, after seven or eight years, need new glasses, suddenly think my health insurance will pay one hundred percent of the cost for this something that I don’t need. What it comes down to is that I need the family Costco card, and maybe a ride, and the answer is that nobody wants to outright say no, but I really should have learned to stop asking by now.
     A chiropractor? I don’t know if my policy covers that; we already know I don’t know. Which is the point of pretending we don’t know I don’t know. Because what I’m asking for is not exotic, or deep tissue. It’s a little bit of human contact, something I have done for other people many times over the course of these same years, and the answer is simply that nobody wants to come right out and tell me so explicitly, “No, I want you to be in pain.”
     Let’s not start on relationships; long before we utterly fell apart, my last partner simply refused because it was too stressful to help. For a little while, my daughter would walk on my back for me, but then my mother decided to start telling her, “Don’t do that. You’re too big. You’re too heavy.”
     So it has been over years since an adult has tried to help me with back pain. Oh, wait, there was the gift certificate for a massage, and while a scandal would later bring down the parlor chain, what was actually discouraging was the stress of pissing off the people who ran the place by using a gift certificate already paid for when I was too poor to afford the regular service subscription they wanted to sell me. There really isn’t anything to wreck a massage quite like upsetting your masseur by being having to repeatedly explain you are poor. Nor is there anything quite like trying to explain to those close to you that this sort of thing is discouraging; I don’t know why, but people around me think it’s a thrilling thing to have to tell people you don’t have enough money to buy what they want to sell you.
     But it’s been fifteen years since even loved ones have been willing to help. It’s just a little bit of touch, a little bit of pressure, just the slightest bit of relief. But it’s been over fifteen years since an adult human being has been willing to do anything to help other than tell me how to spend money that I don’t have.
     Hold out your hand, palm up. Now curl your fingers over to touch your palm. I’m not even asking you to make a fist. I’m not asking you to drive deep into my flesh, nor even to touch the skin. What I am asking is that you please help me. And for whatever reason, the answer remains, no.
     So, unable to stand erect, confronted as if I am committing some offense for not looking bright and chipper enough for not having slept as a result of writhing agony, there was nothing left to say, except, “I’m in pain!” And I cracked, faltered, and begged: Hold out your hand, palm up. Curl your fingers. There’s this thing people do. I’ve seen them do it, before. And you put your hand on their back and move it around lightly. Really, I’ve done it for other people, before, too. My God, it’s just a little relief, please, I don’t understand why nobody will help. It’s been over ten years, and nobody will help. Please. I’m … in … pain.
     And for all the humiliation of that plaintive, desperate tone, the answer left no room for doubt: “Don’t be silly,” she said. “Of course they will help. You just need to ask.”
     And then she turned her back and walked away.
     And I honestly do not know what combination of words will work. I mean, if all I need do is ask, then what kind of idiot am I that in fifteen years I have been unable to get anyone, friend, family, intimate partner, to help me with this pain.
     Really. I just don’t understand.

Futility


I don’t know; it’s just heartbreaking in its moment. I mean, fuck, somebody wants you to cook something you’re known for cooking, and guess what: No, don’t do what you always do! You need to do it my way or else it isn’t right!

Then fucking cook it, yourself.

Seriously, I’ve just been overridden in my own goddamn kitchen!

Fucking bullshit. You don’t want it, then don’t fucking ask. You want something else, then say so. But don’t fucking go out of your way to make me miserable in my own kitchen.

Question Time


With many thanks to Sean, a friend who pointed out this particular iteration of the morbid spectacle otherwise known as ¡Jesus’ fucking tits! Westboro Baptist Church―see Anna Merlan’s report for Jezebel about the latest Westboro wannabe Christianishesque clodhopping―a certain question arises, a reiteration that occasionally demands address:The Gumbys.

• Is it wrong that I only pay attention to WBC at all anymore because they’re like a comedy troupe performing a Christian version of The Aristocrats? I mean, it’s true: It was cruel of kids in my junior high to encourage the overweight, developmentally impaired kid to do stupid and humiliating things just so people could have a laugh. The Westboro heritage is similar; there is a tinge of guilt about paying attention to anything they do, as if we’re denigrating them just by watching.

But can they mope and write bad poetry? (Thinking plants)


via BBC News OnlineI once put a passage from Aldous Huxley’s Jesting Pilate in front of an associate who suffers a bizarre malady afflicting his objectivity. Now, obectivity, while important, isn’t the biggest deal in the world; people are subject to all manner of quirks about their outlooks. But it’s a particular object of pride for him. To wit, he doesn’t like religion because faith isn’t objective.

But when it comes to vegetarianism, he is completely bent. People who eat meat are akin to those who rape and kill children, by his “objective” logic, and when one dangles the excerpt from Huxley, or a passage from Douglas Adams in front of him, he goes into this long explanation of how plants don’t have a central nervous system, don’t feel pain, and are thus exempt from the moral considerations of the torture involved in killing and eating an animal.

So, yes, I think of him every time I come across one of these stories in the news. The latest comes from the BBC, and is no surprise to me insofar as I expected something along these lines. Not being a botanist, however, I could only guess at what the data would look like:

Plants are able to “remember” and “react” to information contained in light, according to researchers.

Plants, scientists say, transmit information about light intensity and quality from leaf to leaf in a very similar way to our own nervous systems.

These “electro-chemical signals” are carried by cells that act as “nerves” of the plants.

In their experiment, the scientists showed that light shone on to one leaf caused the whole plant to respond.

And the response, which took the form of light-induced chemical reactions in the leaves, continued in the dark.

This showed, they said, that the plant “remembered” the information encoded in light.

“We shone the light only on the bottom of the plant and we observed changes in the upper part,” explained Professor Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland, who led this research.

He presented the findings at the Society for Experimental Biology’s annual meeting in Prague, Czech Republic.

“And the changes proceeded when the light was off… This was a complete surprise.”

In previous work, Professor Karpinski found that chemical signals could be passed throughout whole plants – allowing them to respond to and survive changes and stresses in their environment.

But in this new study, he and his colleagues discovered that when light stimulated a chemical reaction in one leaf cell, this caused a “cascade” of events and that this was immediately signalled to the rest of the plant by via specific type of cell called a “bundle sheath cell”.

The scientists measured the electrical signals from these cells, which are present in every leaf. They likened the discovery to finding the plants’ “nervous system”.

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