essay, real life, thoughts

Relationship Status

love-600488_1920.jpg(image source)

(I wrote the following essay to enter in the New York Times Modern Love College Essay contest. I didn’t place, but I’m still really proud of what I wrote, so I thought I’d post it here! You can read the winning essay here, which I really enjoyed reading, too)

In fifth grade, my friend told me she wanted to marry her “elementary school sweetheart.” She was “dating” a boy in our class. Even then, I knew dating as a ten-year-old is moronic. I didn’t understand the “relationships” my classmates were in; they didn’t go out, they didn’t do anything. They held hands occasionally at recess or during lunch and maybe slow danced with each other at the school dance or sat together at a basketball game, but that’s as close as they got to dating.

I understood that it was really just a status symbol; the popular kids were the only ones with “relationships,” but that didn’t stop me from wanting one.

My first boyfriend was in seventh grade. His name was Jamie and he sat directly in front of me in Pre-Algebra. He was dating another girl, Cheyenne. She and I sort of became friends as I strove to hang out with Jamie, going so far as to join their lunch table. Eventually, she broke up with him, and the next week I asked Jamie out via note in math.

I tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a scrap of paper that read, Will you go out with me? Jamie turned around after reading it.

“Who is this from?” I rolled my eyes, pointing at myself.

He was hesitant but said yes, and we were official. Cheyenne was hurt, and I apologized but pointed out that she’d broken up with him. Typical Junior High stuff.

Jamie and I sat together during lunch with my friends instead of his. I spent the entire time sitting next to him, holding his hand, and completely ignoring him. I talked only to my friends, happy as a lamb that I finally had a boyfriend.

When I started writing this, I was going to talk about how he wasn’t a great boyfriend, how I had to beg him to go to the winter formal, and how he had a weird, kind of mean sense of humor, but it turns out I wasn’t a great girlfriend either. We only “dated” for about a month. I imagined during that time all sorts of scenarios where we’d go on dates or kiss, but none of them came anywhere close to fruition. We did, however, slow dance awkwardly at the winter formal, while fervently not looking at each other.

Eventually, Jamie and I had been sitting at different lunch tables and not really talking that much for a while, and I’d been considering how to end it with him; lunch tables are very important in Junior High. Then, a mutual friend came up to me and said, “Rachel, I’m sorry, but Jamie wants to break up.”

A smile broke across my face, and I thanked him.

“Well, that was not the reaction I was expecting.”

I thought again about how relationships seemed like they were nothing more than status symbols, and I didn’t want one anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I had crushes and liked the idea of a relationship, partners who have each other’s backs in everything, but none of them at this point seemed real.

I made the (possible) mistake of always liking my best guy friend. I was a tomboy, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt when a guy friend, whom I’d had more than just friendly feelings towards, told me, “You’re not a girl, you’re Rachel.”

But then I was friends with someone who liked me back.

His name was Chris, and we met my Junior and his Freshman year of high school. He was in marching band with me, and I thought he was funny, cute, and smart. He liked musicals and books, and I liked him almost immediately. We were fast friends.

Senior year, I was the TA for his English class and we carpooled to school. We’d done a lot together in the year since meeting, and even our mothers had become friends. We’d gone on shopping trips, watched movies, gotten dinner together, etc. In September, his English class was studying Shakespeare’s sonnets and writing love poems. The teacher picked his up and started reading, “Long car rides–”

“No!” he shrieked, turning red. I thought about how many long car rides we’d been on; even just coming home from band competitions in his mom’s big truck, it’d been more than a few. I hoped against hope, but thought, No, it can’t be me.

When I asked him about it later though, he sighed, closed his eyes, and said, “I wrote about you…”

My heart felt like a balloon, filling my chest and deflating quickly, taking all the air in my lungs with it.

When I asked him why, he said, “Well, I mean, you’re smart and you’re pretty and if I was going to date anyone, I would want them to be like you.”

We got ice cream on our first date. We dated for almost two years, until right before the beginning of my sophomore year of college.

Chris was a lot of things to me, a lot of firsts: my first real boyfriend, my first kiss. He made me more confident and sure of myself where I’d previously been insecure.

But at some point, as in most relationships, we passed out of the honeymoon phase. He wasn’t controlling, per se, but he wanted me to do things I didn’t want to do, like join a sorority, things that made me feel like he was living vicariously through me. And I felt like he always wanted me to prove myself, prove I trusted him, prove I loved him. We argued sometimes. I always thought it was stupid when people in high school relationships said they argued, like what could you possibly have to really fight about? And it was stupid. We argued about the most petty, jealous subjects like me having male friends or us not being able to make plans because of family or school. One or the other of us always apologized though, and he’d say something vapid like, “I think we’re stronger for this.”

While I was away at college, Chris and I talked on the phone at least once a week and texted almost every day. He came to family dinners at my grandma’s and I went to as many of his concerts, plays, and competitions as I could. I’d visit him at home and we’d spend all day watching movies or playing video games. He would hug and kiss me, and the first time we said I love you, he whispered it so softly, and my balloon heart blew up so big, I thought I’d burst.

I look back to our last summer together with mixed feelings. I was more happy and independent than I’d been in a long time. I don’t think Chris liked that; I think he wanted me to need him more, but I didn’t notice that until later.

At the end of summer, as my birthday approached, I planned a date, which Chris was very noncommittal about. I thought that was strange, he usually had an opinion about everything, but chalked it up to his tiredness from being busy with band and work. The day before my birthday, I was at my best friend’s house when Chris called me.

I answered and started talking about our date, asking about his day, and generally just babbling happily.

“Rachel,” he interrupted, “…I think we should stop dating.” I had a moment of floating disbelief, where nothing felt real, and I stared into space, disbelievingly.

“You’re serious?” I asked, shakily, “You’re not joking?” Sometimes he pulled terrible pranks just like this.

“No, I’m not joking,” his voice shook a little, like this was hard for him, too. He continued, but I wasn’t listening anymore.

“Okay, well, bye,” I said numbly.

The phone call lasted less than four minutes. Four minutes, also known as less time than it takes to order a pizza.

During my relationship with Chris, I never really thought he was the one or anything, but I’d still imagine our future together. I imagined making dinner together or wandering around our neighborhood in the middle of the night to look at the moon. But the person I imagined wasn’t Chris. He was not the kind of guy to help cook or even stay up past 9 p.m. He was not the one and even worse I wasn’t even in love with him anymore by the end; I was in love with the idea of the relationship and where it could go. Also, his mom was awesome, but I digress.

My point is, after all those years of not being in a relationship and witnessing bad examples, I had been in a relationship just to be in one. Not initially, but towards the end, it was still all about the status of it, the idealizing of it.

A few months later, I started hanging out with Rich. We worked together and would get lunch or dinner during the week. We’d sit and talk for hours after we’d finished our food, laughing and sharing stories, until we both hoped the next meal we shared would be a date. Then, in February last year, it was, and again, we stayed long after our food was gone. It just felt so real.

Rich is witty and funny and caring. He’s a great problem solver and an even better bullshitter. He plays with my nephews, jokes with my family, and still talks with me for hours on end. He makes me feel beautiful, smart, and important. He encourages me to do whatever makes me happy and never asks me to change who I am. He loves me and all my flaws and never lets me doubt that. He’s someone I want to share everything with, who I’m completely honest and silly and me around. He is who I imagined making dinner and going on midnight strolls with.

Now, I know that I don’t want to be with someone just for the hell of it; I want to be with someone who unequivocally loves and accepts me.

burning questions, research, thoughts

What happens to amputated limbs and similar disturbing questions

(OBLIGATORY TRIGGER WARNING AND AN APOLOGY OR TWO: This blog entry contains content that may disturb some readers, including but not limited to surgery and some violent imagery. I apologize if this bothers you and implore you to stop reading now and look at these puppies and kittens instead, unless baby animals also offend you, in which case go bang your head against a wall until that part of your brain gets jumbled back into place. If you or a loved one is an amputee, I apologize for my utter ignorance and possible insensitivity, I tried to be as clinical and factual as possible, but this is also an opinion piece above all else since it’s posted on a blog, not a medical journal. I hope anyone who is still reading, enjoys what I wrote and finds it interesting and informative. Hugs and kisses -Rachel)

 

Okay, so sometimes a question plagues my brain, and I don’t know where it comes from, but once it’s up there, it won’t fucking leave. So that being said, the question I had was: what happens to amputated limbs?

I think it may have started with my recent addiction to audiobooks because I’ve listened to Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson like three times and in one chapter she described her experience with a fucked up gall bladder. She mentioned wanting to keep her gall stones to “make a necklace out of them,” but the doctor told her that regulations forbid it. But I seemed to remember William Shatner keeping and selling his kidney stone (which totally happened in 2006, when I was 11). He sold it for charity for $25,000, (who is in the market for celebrity kidney stones anyways?) but I’m getting ahead of myself. My base question before I started looking into it, was what happens to removed parts after surgery?

It had been bouncing around and around in my head, so I asked my best friend, Haleigh, who is studying pre med and works in a hospital as a scribe. According to her, things that are removed from the body are sent to pathology, then either incinerated or if the patient so desires, sent to their funeral home to be buried with them when they die.

So, that got me wondering, what if someone wanted to keep it? Like just keep it themselves, at their house, to do whatever with? Is that possible? Is that legal? What would they do with it? Taxidermy? Just a ton of new questions to plague my brain, so I did some research.

So, first, are you legally allowed to keep yours or any body parts? The answer is yes! According to this PBS article, “there is no U.S. federal law preventing the ownership of body parts, unless they’re Native American” (so then what if you’re an amputee Cherokee? Hmmm…). A few states, including Louisiana, Georgia, and Missouri, have some state laws restricting it, but in general it is not against the law in the United States.

Haleigh was completely correct, as usual, about what happens to removed body parts. Once something is removed from the body, it is sent to pathology for a number of reasons, one, to have samples taken for hospital records. Another reason is to verify the doctors were correct in their assessment of what was wrong and what was removed (if they are proven wrong what happens? Like “whoops, we accidentally removed the wrong organ, our bad, please don’t sue us?”) and another to test for pathogens. Removed body parts are then considered medical waste and usually incinerated. However, some people, because of religion or just preference, have their part sent to their funeral home so they can be buried as one whole person when they eventually bite the big one. For example, many Orthodox Jews believe they need to be buried wholly (Does that include foreskin? A question best left for another time.). There are also accounts in history of removed limbs being buried separately with their own little headstones and everything, the last half of this article documents some such cases.

Some hospitals though, have internal rules forbidding the return of body parts. Also, when pathology takes samples, the process can destroy whatever was removed. Even the surgery itself can damage it, especially with endoscopic surgery, where the organ or stone is removed in pieces without cutting open the patient (if you need more explanation, Google it or something, I’m not a doctor). Then, even if they aren’t damaged or destroyed, if they contain any dangerous pathogens or communicable diseases, they need to be destroyed or at the very least contained.

Haleigh asked a doctor while she was at work about it, and the answer she got corresponds with much of what I’ve read. Haleigh was told that a limb is too big to take home because you couldn’t preserve it in a jar or seal it off completely (implying that smaller remover body parts like a finger or an ear wouldn’t be a problem, right?) so it would get gross, decomposing or whatever. Also, breathing all the chemicals like formaldehyde would be unhealthy so that’s a moral no-no in the least for a hospital. It’s different than like a gallstone which would just be a gallstone regardless of where it was. Also, they are hesitant to give back organs so people can’t sell them on the black market. However, if you have a foreign body (like a screw or something) taken out that isn’t inherently “human tissue” you can get that back. Most of the time they say no to questions about keeping limbs unless it’s for religious or legal reasons (at least at the hospital where she works) because the paperwork is a pain in the ass, but not necessarily illegal.

But like I said, assuming someone could manage to take their bigger body part home with them, I got to wondering if some people just wanted to take their removed part home, just for fun or to use as a prosthetic or halloween decoration. I don’t know, would someone want to taxidermize their removed limb?

When I googled “amputated limb taxidermy” a result came up called “The 5 Most Disturbing Things Ever Done With Taxidermy” and even that list did not include anything human, which I know would surely be horrifying, but hey, I’m curious, and the question is stuck in my brain, man. Even if someone wanted to, say, taxidermize their leg, apparently it’s nigh impossible, since human skin, to put it gently, does not go through the process of tanning and all very well, according to Katie Innamorato, professionally trained, award-winning taxidermist in answer to this question on Hopes and Fears. There are a few examples like “El Negro” and English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham, which are the most famous cases of human taxidermy. Other than that, I didn’t find many examples of amputees wanting to do this exactly (though some did similar things, but we’ll get to that). I did find my same question on Yahoo Answers from 2010, which proves I’m not crazy (because people asking weird questions on Yahoo Answers are the epitome of very, very normal).

So, do people keep their amputated body parts? And what do they do with them? Fret not, I have done some research (Okay, so it’s nothing super academic, and I only have a few examples, but this isn’t a fucking term paper or something.).

I already mentioned, Shatner sold his kidney stone for charity. Jenny Lawson wanted to make gall stone jewelry. What about amputees? Who has been successful and how did they do it and what have they done with their limbs once they’ve brought them home?

One woman from Oklahoma was simply persistent and “told everyone involved in handling [her] leg to not throw it away.” After pathology studied her removed leg and took samples, they sent it back to her. She then sent it to Skulls Unlimited, a company that cleans skeletons, which defleshed it, whitened it, and attached all the bones together. So, now she has a part of her own skeleton, which I personally think is like the awesomest thing. You can read more about her here.

A man in the UK had his club foot removed and wanted simply to donate it to science, but was denied because it wasn’t “perfect.” After that, he decided to hold a charity fundraiser competition to have people guess the weight of it. Then, he had it cremated and spread the ashes himself. His story is in this article (the same one with all the foot graves).

A man from the Netherlands wanted to turn his amputated leg into a lamp a la A Christmas Story. He had trouble at first, but eventually got in contact with a pathologist who was willing to help safely preserve his leg in a large glass jar and return it to him. Then, a designer heard about his desire to make a lamp, and reached out to help. It’s very different from how he envisioned it, as the leg is in a jar surrounded by metal bars with the light atop it (think less A Christmas Story and more Frankenstein’s Laboratory). He planned to sell the lamp (for a whopping €100,000, ~$108,000) to pay for a prosthetic, but eBay took down his offer after just two days since they don’t allow the sale of body parts. As of this article in 2014, he kept the lamp in his home, waiting for the highest bidder to find him.

All this, somehow led me to another fucking question: if a person were to donate their body part or even their body after death to be eaten, could that be considered sort of vegan of sorts? I just mean because part of the moral dilemma of eating meat, for some people, I certainly can’t speak for all vegans or any really because I’m not one, but the moral dilemma as I see it is the fact that cows or chickens or whatever can’t consent to you eating them, we can’t communicate with them or anything (also, terrible living conditions, and chemicals, and a litany of other horrible things I’d rather not think about in the meat industry, perhaps another time). BUT, if I, having had my leg removed, said, “If you’d like to eat this, you can, I give you my consent,” then it’s free game (game? Get it?), right? As a note, I read somewhere that it is not illegal to eat human parts, namely your own, but in theory anyone’s so long as you have their permission, IF it is not medically/procedurally removed, e.g. in the hypothetical situation above, my leg was somehow accidentally taken off because I dropped a chainsaw on it or something (is that too graphic? Sorry). I seem to remember a news story of someone eating like their own big toe or something after it was accidentally removed, but when I started googling things like “person eats own body part after accidental removal,” the results got a little disturbing (yes more disturbing than this entire blog post, shut up).

Whew. You should know this is way more than I ever thought I’d write about this subject, and honestly I could probably go on, but I’ve been thinking about this and writing for about a month and a half and I should probably stop before one of my family members punches me for asking them for the fourth time what they would want to do with their limb if it had to be removed. So, I guess I’ll leave you with this, what would/did you want to happen to your removed body part (be it if you been shot or had your spleen removed or you arm or your toe or your leg)?

Linked Sources (in no particular order, ‘cause I’m lazy and most, if not all, of them are linked in my post anyway):

http://www.hopesandfears.com/hopes/now/question/215065-can-you-taxidermy-people

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negro_of_Banyoles

http://www.cultofweird.com/medical/jeremy-bentham-auto-icon/

http://www.amputeelawyer.com/2015/06/10/do-i-have-the-legal-right-to-keep-my-amputated-limb/

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110417205801AAS03sr

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2006/01/how_much_for_that_kidney_stone.html

http://www.hopesandfears.com/hopes/now/question/168921-can-you-keep-a-removed-organ-where-does-it-go

(Also, my original draft referenced an article called “Woman Has Husband’s Penis Stuffed By Taxidermist After Untimely Death” but then, looking at it again, I realized it’s from one of those literal fake news sites, like the Onion, that are “for entertainment purposes only.” I was disappointed. Still a fun read though)

real life, thoughts

Mac ‘n Grilled Cheese and Failure

So, I don’t think I’ve said anything about this before, but a big hobby of mine is cooking. And I mean, I don’t wanna brag, but I’m pretty good. In general, I have good instincts, especially with adding spices to recipes. I usually start with a base recipe of my grandmother’s or mom’s or one from Pinterest, and let my instincts guide me. Sometimes, though, I come up with original recipes on my own. Last week, I decided I wanted to try to make Mac ‘n Grilled Cheese (which is mac ‘n cheese inside a grilled cheese sandwich, genius, I know). I had a really good idea of how to it with this cheap, canned mac ‘n cheese that I really like.

I got all my ingredients together, and mixed, and cooked and just completely failed. Man, they tasted terrible.

But I didn’t mind. Yeah, my idea didn’t quite work out, but what’s the big deal? Richard and I just ordered pizza instead and moved on with our lives.

When it comes to food, I’m not opposed to trying new things. I mean what’s the harm in it? When Richard and I first started dating, I asked him how adventurous of a foodie he was. He said he was willing to try anything once, if we didn’t like a restaurant, we could just pick up burgers on the way home, right? If I hadn’t tried Dragon King’s Daughter, I wouldn’t have known how much I love sushi (oh my god, I love it so much). If I hadn’t tried Habana Blues, I wouldn’t have known anything about Cuban cuisine and tapas or how delicious it is. If I hadn’t tried baking chicken, I wouldn’t know that it is literally my super power. If I hadn’t failed at making pork roast and tried again I wouldn’t have made one of Rich and mine’s favorite crockpot meals. Literally all my favorite foods were completely new to me at one time, whether it was a restaurant or a recipe, so there’s literally no reason not to try everything! And if a place isn’t good, don’t go back. If you don’t like a recipe, try a different one. The world is literally your oyster (hmm, have I tried oysters before?)

In life, I try not to be afraid to try new things, but it doesn’t always come as easy. But the same rule applies. If I hadn’t taken the AP Computer Science class my school offered just to try it at my sister’s urgings, I would be in a completely different field, I don’t even know what. If I hadn’t applied for my job even though I thought I wouldn’t get it (I did), probably the same thing, I don’t know where I’d be. If I’d been too afraid to tell Richard I thought he was cool and wanted to hang out, and if he’d been too afraid to ask me on a date, where would we be? If I didn’t try bookbinding or makeup or writing, what would my creative outlet be?

I’ve messed up school assignments, and tests, and work deadlines, and signed up for clubs I’ve never gone to. But every time, I try to bounce back

Failure is not a bad thing if you can honestly say you gave it your all, enjoyed yourself, and kept on trying.

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(My sandwiches looked pretty good at least)

thoughts

Goddamn Beautiful, pt. 2

In response to my post, “Goddamn Beautiful” (I can respond to my own posts, right?):

No, sadness, pain, and depression are not beautiful things. They aren’t anyone’s favorite chapter, or chapters, in their life. But I’m not saying they aren’t worth talking about or that they’re not important. I’m not saying I don’t need to talk about my own problems and read and relate to others’, I just want to see the good times, too.

I stand by my viewpoint that we shouldn’t try to make sadness beautiful, that is to say, romanticize it. Yes, it should be talked about in the right times with the right people. But I don’t want someone random to come up to me on a good day and say, “Hey, you were depressed, right? Why?” That’s different also from someone, even someone random, saying, “Hey, I’m having a sad day, and I know you’re all too familiar with these, what do you do to feel better?” In one, someone is interrupting my good mood to make me think about my insecurities because they’re curious or nosy or something???? In the other, they are reaching out to me and seeking help. As I see it, if I can use my experience to help someone, then that’s me turning a negative into a positive. Other than that, it can be hard to see the positives, and it’s easy for me, and everyone, to only think about the negatives.

They aren’t the best parts of our lives, but the lows in life are just as important as the highs. In fact, I think they make you more grateful for “good times.” I think I’m able to appreciate the beautiful moments in my life, like the one I described in “Goddamn Beautiful.”

I guess what I’ve been trying to say is everything in life can’t be beautiful, but the times that aren’t make you more grateful for the ones that are.

thoughts

Goddamn Beautiful 

Why do we have to make everything out to be so goddamn beautiful? Not everything is a basket of roses (is that even a phrase? Whatever you get what I’m saying).

I know a guy who when I was first getting to know him seemed so interested in my history with sadness, and not in an inspiring, overcoming kind of way. Maybe he was just trying to relate, but I’d try to steer conversation to something lighter and more comfortable, and he’d steer it right back to literal depression. That, among numerous other things best left unsaid (eh, for now, anyway), really bothered me about him.

I think trying to make everything, especially depression, into something beautiful takes away from the truly wonderful moments in life.

I don’t think there’s beauty in sadness or pain. I think it’s like a belt that’s too tight. You feel like you can’t get rid of it, it’s what you have, it’s not like you feel like going out and getting a new one, you need one right now and a new one might be worse than this one, more shoddily made or even smaller, but even the first hole is too tight and uncomfortable and makes you feel like a busted biscuit can. And sometimes you get used to it and forget about it for a while, but suddenly you shift your weight, and there it is again, digging into your gut.

I’ve been having a really good week, though! Like my belt feels almost just right. In fact, right now, I’m feeling maybe the happiest I’ve felt in a good while. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with my family this week, I’m on spring break, and I just spent the evening with my best friend and am spending the day with her again tomorrow! And as I’m typing this on my phone, lying in bed, my boyfriend is asleep behind me. He’s kind of half spooning me with his arm and leg thrown over me and his head nuzzled into my back, breathing in slow and deep. Every once in a while he half wakes up, readjusts and cuddles closer. I don’t know what it is but this is so comforting to me. I know soon he’ll get too hot or have to roll over, but right now I feel wonderful and happy and light and this moment is so goddamn beautiful.