Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lampshade Headwear



 Please feel free to cast your vote for chapeau haute couiture.

My brother and I are back at school. We decided to come back a day earlier than we absolutely had to in order not to have to fight the very worst of horrendous traffic, which we would have faced had we postponed our trip back until Sunday. It's technically already Sunday now, though I never consider a day to have ended and a new one to have begun until I go to bed and get up, even if it's only for a few hours that I rest. On those lovely days when I have so much studying to do that I never actually make it to bed, I arbitrarily look out the window at some point and see that the sun has risen, and I officially declare tomorrow to have happened. Isn't it delightful to have such control over one's environment as to decide if and when a new day is to start? This power exists, I concede, solely in my own mind. While I'm perhaps a tad delusional, I have at least a tenuous grasp on reality.

The trip home served as a sweet reminder that I genuinely love and like my parents. They're good people. Our relationships are far from conflict-free. My parents and I have always had disagreements, and Matthew's and my newly-attained adult status has in many ways only intensified this. The things about which we disagree, however,  are just that -- things, which money can buy. We're not Trumps or Gateses, financially or otherwise,  but we have enough money to pay for anything we really need. My parents (usually my mom, though neither is my dad shy about making his opinion known) may at times be a bit insistent about being heard when Matthew or I have decisions in this regard to make, but in the end, the decisions are made by whomever has the right to make the decisions, and we go back to the people we were before any disagreement interjected itself into our respective relationships. I acknowledge that it cannot be easy to bring children into the world and to be responsible in every way for them for eighteen years or so, only to cede that responsibility and everything that goes with it to those children. It's uncharted territory for all of us that we're navigating.

This week marks a milestone for my brother and for me. We turn twenty-one one Wednesday.  I plan to celebrate it by getting just a bit bombed. I have class the next morning, and I have a final exam three days after the big day itself, so just how deeply into debauchery I can afford to sink is greatly limited by the rather poor timing of everything. My mother could have planned the whole labor and delivery thing a bit more considerately. 

On the other hand, had Matthew and I been born six hours later than we were, we would have missed California's cutoff age for kindergarten entrance for the year. We finished school a year early in addition to narrowly squeaking past the cutoff date. This happened when we were promoted mid-year from seventh to eighth grade. There are probably very few circumstances under which any school system would have allowed my brother and me to be advanced two school years ahead of our chronological placement. It was arguably a bit crazy even to bump us up a single year when we were already the youngest children in the class. Regardless, had my mother dragged out the labor process any longer, right now we would presumably just be wrapping up our first quarter of medical school. First quarter now seems like half a lifetime ago. I'm glad it's in my past even if such means the I'll need to limit the magnitude of my twenty-first birthday drunken revelry in the name of academic sanity.

Up to this point, the most alcohol I've ever consumed at a time is when I drank one-and-one-half bottles of Guinness in order to deal with writing a particularly difficult paper. Those one-and-one-half bottles of Guinness gave me a noticeable buzz. This time I'm going for the ever elusive midpoint between buzzed and wasted. Here's to hoping I find that perfect stage of almost drunk.

P.S. If anyone who reads this knows Senator Marco Rubio and happens to run into him before Wednesday night, please tell him that he's invited to my birthday party. I'm not sure exactly where it will be held except that I know it will be in a bar somewhere around here. For the first time in my life, I will be allowed into a bar. Miracles occasionally happen.

 I may need someone to carry me home on Wednesday night.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Pass the Turkey

I'm most thankful not to have been a part of THIS gathering.

. . .  nor of THIS one . . . 
. . .  nor, for that matter, of THIS one . . . ***

I attended Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with approximately eight-seven other people. Eighty-eight was the closest count I could get of the total number of bodies present, but those being counted were not all that cooperative in regard to being counted; some may not have been counted at all, while others may have been counted multiple times. Additionally, the head count includes the heads of numerous babies, who shouldn't necessarily count as total, complete, and separate entities for practical purposes, but since I didn't have a factor to apply to infants, I counted them each in the head count since all of the babies that I saw had heads. Hell, the pro-lifers would say even the in-utero babies (I have no idea whether or not there were any of those, though no one was morbidly [as in in danger of popping out a new kid before the meal was over] pregnant) count as separate and distinct individuals since life obviously begins at conception, but I will not go there.

After the dinner, my grandmother called us. She was appalled at the dinner that we attended and said that we must not attend another such Thanksgiving celebration and must instead have a smaller gathering at our home with just the fifteen- or-so biological relatives who might show up, that we or must attend her Thanksgiving meal in Utah. My grandmother is a nice enough person, but she's growing every bit as senile as many of her age-level peers. For that matter, her Thanksgiving meal, with just her husband and Utah-based children and grandchildren, wouldn't have been much smaller than ours would have been. I happen to know that the gathering she held was too large to take place in the home of any of the attendees and instead was a catered affair held at some rustic LDS-owned mountain location in Utah. At least all the food we ate at our over-sized gathering yesterday was home-cooked.

After the meal, my immediate family (my parents, my brother, and my cousin who lives with my parents when he's not away at college because his parents kicked him to the curb after he failed to complete his LDS mission because of grave health concerns) discussed the merits of continuing to participate in the gargantuan Thanksgiving Day celebration versus having a more intimate gathering with just ourselves and the families of whatever biological uncles and aunts happened to be in the area. The conclusion we reached is that we genuinely want to spend time with all the people who attend the large gathering. (Half of the attendees are only there every other year, as they spend alternate thanksgiving Days in Utah.) we have the option of inviting anyone we'd care to invite to the event. If we wish, we can have a smaller and more intimate gathering the previous day, the following day, or whenever.

One of the main things for which I give thanks is not having been forced for much of my life to attend the family Thanksgiving affairs in Utah, where the food grows cold waiting while for long-winded relatives to finish praying before we can eat. 

 *** shout-out to Knotty and to textile-free Thanksgiving Day celebrations (which, for the record, Knotty did NOT have)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When it rains, it pours.

Fate had not been sufficiently cruel to me in calling an end to the longest relationship of my life (only three months and a few days but still a long-term relationship by my standards). Fate decided to call it quits on another significant relationship in my life and in the lives of three others when its fickle fingers claimed the life of my dog yesterday. The loss of the boyfriend is nothing in comparison to the loss of my dog.

Pope John Paul III, less formally known as "The Pope" and "Pope," passed away yesterday during what appeared to be a massive heart attack. His suffering was very brief according to my brother, who witnessed the episode. He groaned and fell to his side, then lost consciousness, which he never regained. He seemed to stop breathing shortly after keeling over.

Pope John Paul III first joined our family not long after my brother and I turned ten. We never knew his exact age because he came from the SPCA; their veterinarian estimated his age at approximately six months, which would have him roughly eleven-and-one-half years at the time of his death yesterday. That's almost par for the course as golden retrievers go these days. It's too short a lifespan for a dog in my opinion, although I would have chosen to have The Pope for the amount of time we had him versus any other dog  (except for our first dog, Our Lady of Fatima, who had equal status to The Pope) for one hundred human years.

The Pope initially slept in a spot roughly equidistant between Matthew and me. From the time I suffered the assault in my final year of high school until the present, however, he slept next to my bed whenever both the dog and I were in the same house at night. If I worked through the night on school assignments, he rested on the floor next to me wherever I happened to be working. How did he know that I needed him to sleep next to me? I didn't tell him.

I was in Merced (a few hundred miles north of here) when The Pope died. I have mixed feeling about not having been here. There was obviously not much I could have done either to ease The Pope's suffering or to provide any care that would have increased his chances of survival. Seeing him go through the fatal cardiac event would have been traumatic. Still, I would have chosen to be here had the choice been mine to make.

The family waited until I returned home today to bury him. No one told me about his death until I got here because my mom thought that crying all the way home might have impaired my vision and my driving ability. My brother had already dug the grave. All that was left was for us to say a few prayers and words of farewell and to sing "Amazing Grace."

Will Rogers once said, "If dogs don't go to heaven, when I die, I want to go where they went."  He expressed my sentiments perfectly.

Thanks, Judge Alex.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Eye Rolling, Tongue-Twisters, Hard-to-Pronounce Words, and Telephone Harassment

On Friday in lecture, the lecturing professor hit upon the topic of difficult-to-pronounce words in our current topics of study. He then brought several tongue-twisters up on the overhead monitor for all the students to practice. I admit to rolling my eyes. I'm sorry, Judge Alex (the judge doesn't believe in eye-rolling, as in he feels that it's inappropriate, not as in he places it in the same category as the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy), but at the prices we, the students, are paying for medical school, wasting even fifteen minutes of our time on puerile tongue-twisters is eye-roll-worthy behavior.

The professor took exception to my eye roll. "Don't you roll your eyes at me, young lady!" he barked. I wasn't entirely certain he was speaking to me, as I was far from the only student who rolled my eyes at his complete and total disregard for the value of our time. "Yes, I'm directing my words to you, Alexis!" he clarified.

At this point, Cool Guy came to my defense. "Anyone who just rolled their eyes [sic], raise your hands. . .  Be honest." Almost half the class raised their hands, some presumably because they actually had rolled their eyes. The others were acting in solidarity against a totalitarian regime.  The professor ignored them.

"Why did you have to call me young lady'?" I asked him.

"You have a problem with being called 'young lady'?" he questioned me. "I've never even heard of anyone being offended by being called "young lady." That's a new one for me."

"Probably because you don't often refer to medical school students as such," Kal Penn interjected. "Young lady is something a person calls a female child when the person is reprimanding her."

"If the shoe fits. . . " the professor opined.

"It doesn't," I countered in my most monotone voice, all the while maintaining eye contact with the lecturing professor and exercising utmost caution not to roll my eyes again. "The shoe is too small."  

"So what would you prefer to be called?" the lecturing professor asked pointedly. I assumed his question was rhetorical. "I'm waiting for your answer," he told me. Meanwhile, the more easily amused among us were babbling asinine things like "I slit a sheet. A sheet I slit," thoroughly mangling their tongue twisters and saying the sh- word all over the place in the process, then laughing hysterically as though they were second-graders.

I continued to stare at him, channeling my inner Aubrey Plaza, though being extremely careful not to roll my eyes, as I pondered his question. He eventually looked away. For the record, it's the same professor who, months ago, questioned my used of the words debacle and fiasco, and who also asked my brother about my religion. (Matthew told him I was starting my own church.) After a moment, i answered, "Alexis would be perfectly acceptable, as would either Cutthroat Bitch or Madame Rousseau. Take your pick."

He declined to state his preference. Time will tell. For the record, this lecturer doesn't assign grades to us. Duh. I may be a bit stupid at times, but I'm not going to slit my own throat.

My phone has been non-functioning because someone created several bogus Twitter accounts, linked my cell phone number to all of them, and turned on notifications to a whole bunch of the people she followed using the bogus Twitter accounts. The moron was dumb enough to follow only people whom she followed on her for-real twitter account, so it was easy enough to find her. After complaining to the Twitter people, I took it up with her brother, who initially denied her involvement, but then said he would see to it that she ceases and desists.

Her awesomeness is incomparable.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rubric, Schmubric!

I'm not entirely sure this is a parody. 

I just received a text from a woman who was my middle school counselor and who worked in the district office with my mom in our previous town. She wasn't  my personal counselor or anything like that. For that matter, I do not recall her ever once counseling me except maybe for the time she had cafeteria duty and she told me I was wasting food because I threw away what she said was a perfectly good apple. Perhaps that would be considered counseling. I just thought she was being a busybody.

The woman was soon thereafter promoted from being a middle school counselor to being a district English curriculum director. What I and probably everyone else remember most about her was that when she came to our high school to model or critique lessons for English teachers, her favorite word was rubric. The woman wanted to create a rubric for every stinking thing under the sun. Does one really need to consult a rubric to know if he or she has a sunburn? I don't know about the rest of you, but if I've been in the sun and my skin looks red and hurts, I probably have a sunburn. If it's not and it doesn't, I probably don't have a very significant sunburn no matter what the damned rubric has to say about the matter.

Some kids eventually started calling this woman "Rubric Head." That was after my friend Brendan said that if she were to have another baby (she already had five kids; I don't know if she had another child or not after that) it would almost certainly be named Rubric. With high school students' typical difficulties in keeping their mouths shut about anything, someone told her what Brendan had said. She looked hurt, but she didn't stop saying "rubric" roughly once for every nine other words that came out of her mouth. My friend Nate said that when she was getting frisky with her husband or her trainer at the gym or with whomever was her main squeeze, she probably called out "rubric" at the moment of climax --  either that or she scored her partner's performance after each act of coitus based on a rubric she had created.

My dad had to work with Rubric Head on a joint parent/teacher/administrator task force established for the purpose of  selecting exemplar writing samples for each possible score on district writing benchmark exams. My dad couldn't have been much less interested in the committee's task at hand if the committee's defined purpose had been created based solely on what my dad had said would be terminally boring to him personally. He was on the task force because no one else would sign up,  so my mom volunteered him. It was one of the times I feared my parents might divorce. In the end, my dad dealt with the issue by downing two rum and cokes before he showed up for each of the four meetings of the task force.

I heard from on of my teachers who was also on the committee that a particular  writing sample was distributed for scoring. The particular piece of high school student work had no paragraphs, no punctuation or capitalization, atrocious spelling, nonexistent sentence structure, and didn't come close to addressing the assigned topic. My dad and several others instantly gave the sample a "1," which was the lowest possible score. Rubric Head immediately rebuked them all for failing to consult the rubric before determining the score. My dad, whose inhibitions may or may not have been diminished by alcohol consumption, countered her objections with, "Rubric, shmubric! I don't need to consult a God-damned rubric to recognize a piece of shit when I see it!"

The district superintendent reportedly muttered, upon witnessing the interaction,  that Rubric Head probably couldn't force herself to flush a toilet after using it until she rubricked the toilet's contents to ascertain that what was inside was, indeed, urine or fecal matter [though he didn't say "urine" or "fecal matter"]. My mother was mortified to learn the next day of my dad's outburst the night before, but everyone else I knew who either witnessed it or heard about it sympathized with my dad.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, Rubric Head is in town and wants to have dinner with my brother and me tomorrow night. I would have loved to make excuses except that A) my mom is already a bit irritated with me and B) Rubric Head is taking us to a really great restaurant. Matthew wanted to send in his place a guy named Emil from out cohort who looks like him and who will do anything for food. The only problem with Matthew's plan is that Emil is from the Basque region of France and has a fairly strong accent. Matthew is going to have to come to the Rubric Head  dinner with me. I told him we can decompress afterward by rubricking the whole experience.

We're going.  We may be expected to rubric the waiters, the meal itself, the quality of the toilet paper in the restaurant's bathrooms, and God knows what else.  I may need Prozac before the night is over.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cut the Cord

My mom is a micromanaging helicopter parent of the utmost degree. When i was still a minor, it was her absolute  right to parent in such a manner if she so desired. Now that I am an adult, she can still say whatever she wants, but I don't have to listen all that closely if what she says does not suit me. 

One could argue that because I'm living rent-free in a structure that she jointly owns and am subsisting mostly on food that she has financed, she still should have a say in what I do. I interpret it somewhat differently. If I were engaging in behaviors that went against everything she and my father ever taught me, she would have the right to ask that I either live within the rules of polite society or move out of the condo that she owns. I've banked enough money that I could support myself throughout the remainder of medical school if she pulled the financial carpet from beneath my feet. It's money that might be better spent on expenses when I am in an internship or residency and am not earning much money, but the vast majority of interns and residents survive on what they earn in their rather marginal positions.

Still it's good that I have the money that I've stored away. It allows for a level playing field in negotiating this game of territory as I'm finding my way to adulthood. It gives me freedom, in the event that a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce me under absolute despotism, so that I might  throw out such government and provide new power for my own future security, to borrow a few words from Thomas Jefferson. My mom can give me all the advice she wants. I can take it or leave it. If she doesn't like it when I leave the advice as opposed to taking it, she can evict me from the premises. If she evicts me, I can used my savings to live wherever i want. It works for me.

The situation in which my brother and I find ourselves is a bit unnatural. Brothers and sisters do not typically go off to medical school together. The fact that we did lends itself, sometimes through the most casual sharing of information with our parents on the part of either my brother and me, to intentional or unintentional blurring of boundaries. It's uncharted water for each of us to navigate. 

When i first began seeing the person I dated this fall, I asked my brother not to mention the relationship to my parents. It that I felt I had anything to hide from them so much as that I wanted to deal with the boyfriend on my own terms without any parental interference. I'm not sure how or even if they might have interjected themselves into the process even had they known, but it was easier with them not being in any way involved. It was not a hasty decision. I would do it again the same way if I had the chance to do it over. I probably will do the same thing again at least once. I won't marry a guy without allowing my parents to meet him first, but I can easily see myself carrying on a relationship of equal or greater length without their knowledge. My parents simply do not need to know every single thing I do.

In a few short years, my brother and I will each complete internships in cities away from each other and our parents. At that point the invisible tie that still provides a not-all-that-age-appropriate connection will likely disappear once and for all. Both my brother and I will always be connected to one another and to our parents in some intangible way. Right now, however, we're all a bit too connected. The metaphorical umbilical cord binding us all has entered the final countdown phase.