Archive for January, 2012
Just finished paying bills. There are always too many, but now there are even more from our healthcare providers. Along with the usual sports physicals, school vaccine requirements, a couple of strep cultures and other routine things, we had a few more health care expenses this year. Nothing serious, just stuff. Nevertheless, in the short time since The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law, there are already signs “affordable care” may have hidden costs.
In the two years, since it’s passage, I’ve lost two gynecologists. Both were Canadians who had come to The United States, because they wanted to practice medicine without the inevitable restrictions of socialized medicine. With our system due to be radically changed, both made the decision to return to Canada. Once again, I would be looking for an ideal doctor within the confines of a healthcare plan.
In addition to the usual co-pays, our pediatric group started imposing a “surcharge” for office visits. Not long after, our famly’s pediatrician announced he would retire–early. At least I still had my long-trusted primary care physician.
I had developed a minor skin irritation around my eyes. When it didn’t go away, I made an appointment with a dermatologist, I’d seen previously. When I arrived at the office, they apologetically informed me they had pulled out of our medical group. The doctor explained, they could no longer afford to absorb costs for services reimbursed, at a rate less than what they cost to provide. With new restrictions soon to be enacted, he decided it was no longer worth the trouble or the expense. They were now going to focus their practice on services paid directly by consumers–elective procedures like tattoo removals and cosmetic surgeries.
So heartless, to deny care over money. Many believe it’s about time, doctors stopped being allowed to make obscene profits, at our expense. I had tremendous respect for this doctor, but that day my respect for him was increased. By cutting ties to the medical group(s) and their overseers, this doctor had reclaimed his right to practice medicine his way. Medicine is a science, but the practice of medicine is an inexact science, fraught with risks. It’s like life & death algebra, requiring its practitioners to solve for unknowns, with little room for errors. Doctors can’t practice good medicine, if their decisions are controlled by people less knowledgeable. Good doctors are as deserving of pay, as anyone else with specialized skills.
I would have preferred that my insurer would pick up my tab, but I like this doctor, so I agreed to pay for the visit. After the examination, he explained there was something that would likely eliminate the problem, but it was costly and not covered by my insurance. He prescribed an affordable alternative–a common steroid cream. It helped, but the condition would return as soon as I stopped applying it. One tube of ointment later, I returned to my trusted family doctor.
Though the steroid cream alleviated the symptoms, it had done nothing to eliminate the underlying condition. In fact, the problem had worsened and spread. He suggested cold showers, no soap. Cold showers? Maybe he thought I said “sin” problems, instead of “skin” problems. No tests, no prescription, no help. This didn’t seem like the doctor I’d become accustomed to seeing. Had the hassle of justifying treatment become too onerous for my previously proactive physician?
I left his office with skin that looked as awful as it felt, and a referral to a new dermatologist, who didn’t have an opening for more than three months. By now, wearing makeup would have been about as effective as trying to spit-shine tree bark, so I threw out all my make-up. It was going to be a long three months.
In the meantime, a family member who used to run a vitamin store suggested adding flax oil to my diet. Another swore by the therapeutic benefits of Argan oil. I bathed in oatmeal. I bathed in seaweed. I soaked in oil. I used hydrocortisone cream and salycilic acid to control the itching. I trekked to the beauty emporium, Sephora, searching for any kind of restorative moisturizer. Nothing helped. By now, the condition had spread and progressed to the point my eyelids were often cracked & bleeding.
Then came the stye. For those who have never experienced this, it is a dreadful condition consisting of equal parts pain and ugly. The first stye, was followed by a another about ten days later, the swelling of which caused me to resemble a prize fighter. I returned to my primary care physician, who sent me home with instructions to try warm compresses. Though this the commonly recommended treatment for styes, it’s not a very good one, so when the third stye appeared, I pleaded with my doctor to dispense something more effective than old-world advice. At the onset of the stye number four, I no longer cared what my insurance would cover. I made an appointment with an eye specialist. I was ready to pay whatever it cost to get relief.
I asked this doctor, if she thought there was any possibility the broken skin on my eyelids was making me prone to recurrent eye infections. She laughed as if that were the most improbable and ridiculous thing she’d every heard. Obviously, I was stupid for even throwing it out there. Nevertheless, she began grilling me about what I’d tried on my skin. I began listing all the things I’d tried. She was clearly irritated as she reminded me I didn’t have the expertise to be treating myself–something I was well aware of. She scolded me for using over-the-counter products, and told me I should leave the treatments to real doctors. I tried in vain to explain my motivation was despair, not arrogance. When I realized she had stopped listening to me, my frustration turned to tears.
She had examined me, but she clearly didn’t have any idea what she was seeing. I on the other hand, recognized her condition immediately. It was easy to diagnose her as suffering from the vanity that afflicts some graduates of medical school. She gave me a prescription for an antibiotic and told me to come back in a couple of weeks, but I won’t be going back. I don’t have much confidence in a physician who doesn’t recognize the helplessness a patient feels when the medical system can’t or won’t help them.
I am still waiting for the appointment with the new dermatologist, giving me time to reflect on all of this. Looking back, I realize what I spent on co-pays and out-of pocket doctor’s visits, would have been generous compensation for an office visit with a doctor of my choosing, and what I’ve spent on things that didn’t help would have surely have paid for something that would have. I would have been better off, if I’d relied on the expertise of the first doctor and paid for the medicine he would have liked to prescribe. My my time & money would have both been better spent, if I had chosen how to spend them.
Our medical system is in a troubled state. We are all affected by the rising cost of healthcare, but there isn’t any way to get around what should be obvious–somebody has to pay the bill. Those who believe we can continue to get quality care without being charged for it, risk pain and suffering as they come to terms with the new reality. We are yet to fully realize how the implementation of our our new healthcare system will impact us, but one thing is certain, the untold costs of affordable healthcare will be paid by us, not our government. I hope we can afford affordable healthcare.
Less than a century ago, women in The United States hadn’t yet been granted the right to vote. Though it was allowed in some states, it wasn’t until 1920, when the constitution was amended, that women were guaranteed this right. Without the ability to voice their viewpoints via the voting booth, perhaps our country would be different today. I shudder to think of the improbable possibilities for laws [bad] men might have tried to pass. Would there be a Barefoot & Pregnant mandate? A Mall Prohibition Act? Failure to Chill Beer ordinance? Tax deductions for men who wished to claim both their wife and mistress as dependents?
Fortunately, women have made amazing strides and this country is one of the better places in the world to be female. Despite this, women still struggle, because there are some things even progress can’t change. It is possible to update our wardrobes, refurbish our furniture, restore old cars, or remodel old homes, but men are always AS-IS.
Which is why, while most of us like having a man in our lives, finding one that doesn’t make us crazy or worse, can be near impossible. Lest people mistake this for a diatribe from a man-hater, I wish to assure readers that I am a BIG fan of men. Women are almost always more and better company, but I still find the company of men irresistible. I especially like them, because they are different than women, but the more manly they are, the stronger the urge to change them. It’s like this:
I want a man who works hard enough to sweat, but I’d prefer not smell the sweat.
I want a man who knows how to use a gun if he needs to, but dislike men who need to remind others they know how to use a gun.
I want a man who can and will fight, but not a man who wants to fight.
I want a man who shows skill in the bedroom, but I’d be really turned on, if he were as eager to show off his kitchen skills.
I would like it if my man looked like one of those attractive gay models, but if I were to find out he was gay, I doubt I’d still find him attractive.
Men think women are hard to please, but it’s actually quite simple. We want manly men, who are sensitive, soft, gentle, and sweet, like women.
Women like me, have succeeded in confusing men. Are they supposed to be he-men or metrosexuals? Are they supposed to open doors for us, or just leave us a key? It’s all about balance, as we struggle to eliminate the confusion over who wears the pants and who wears the panties.
Blame feminism, because as women gained more equality in the workplace, they sought more at home. Women were changing, and in the process they were inadvertently changing men. This made me wonder if more powerful women, meant less powerful men. Was the Great American male becoming an endangered species, teetering on extinction after having been emasculated by well-meaning feminists? Had The Great American man become as frail as the California Coastal Sand Gnat, struggling to survive in the face of environmental change?
Women would love it if men were more like girlfriends, sharing their enthusiasm for things like cashmere and Italian shoes. If we had our way, men would learn to enjoy long meandering conversations and realize the joy of shopping, but while there have always been women who wanted men who were as easily controlled as children, the majority of us still want a man with a nicely defined backbone. There are men who enjoy shopping or grooming as much as women, but most men are simply not interested, because despite everything, they are still men.
Nevertheless, the metrosexual is often exhibited as evidence that men are becoming feminized. I’m not buying it. It’s just the latest incarnation of “The Sharp Dressed Man.” It’s not like men don’t care about their image, but image is different things to different men. For some image is grooming, for others it may be a car, a fat paycheck or a perfectly manicured lawn. The term metrosexual may be new, but his type is not. A hundred years ago, a man who embraced fashion and a refined lifestyle, would have been called a dandy.
Some argue that feminism has diminished our respect or the strength of American men. Many point to the examples of television fathers–like the difference between Ozzie Nelson and Ozzie Osbourne as evidence, that our view of men has been diminished. The media often portrays men as bumbling incompetents, relying on women to guide them, but this is nothing new. Literature is full of hapless henpecked husbands. Even during The Golden Age of Radio and early television men were often the brunt of jokes. It makes for good comedy, and men are surprisingly good sports about jokes made at their expense. Make fun of a woman, and you’ll likely regret it, but men are easy targets.
Because in the war between the sexes, there is no cease-fire. Women will fight for every hill, to make sure that their wisdom, competence and superior taste in almost everything is acknowledged, but men will easily surrender or declare victory, if they get respect, appreciation and regular demonstrations of affection–AKA sex.
Feminism changed sex and the economy of sex, because it enabled women to move between supply side and demand side. Women now had demands and were controlling the supply through a kind of rationing and price-fixing. As the supply began to change, men sought new suppliers, and there were always more suppliers. Promiscuity became common and porn became mainstream. Wives no longer held the monopoly on sex, and men were suddenly contenting themselves with the kind of cheap, easy, readily available women they’d previously disdained. The one woman one man ideal was outmoded, as men began sharing their pulp princesses with countless other men, and women found themselves competing with mens’ make-believe mistresses.
It simplified things for men, as they no longer needed to please a woman emotionally or sexually just to get a little, but it was hardly the brave new world. Pleasure-seeking and erotica have always existed, and it isn’t as if internet porn destroyed the sexual utopia that existed before feminism. Marriage took some hits, and intimate sex between people who loved each other fell victim to friendly fire, making some wonder if sex within marriage or would soon be obsolete. Doubtful, as long is there is one person alive who remembers that the solo, is nothing compared to the duet.
Men still need women, and women still need men. Feminism changed our world, but it has yet to change men into women or women into men. The war between the sexes continues, because some things never change, even in the face of progress.
At the bank, a woman walked past me. Correction, a man walked past me, wait, no I think it was a woman. On closer inspection, I’m no longer sure. It was one of those moments, when my brain was scrambling to process the input it was receiving. The visual input was so confusing, that my brain and I could not decipher it.
This individual was dressed in rugged jeans and a tunic-length sweater, coiffed with a modernized Mohawk, grown long and swooping over one side of a shaved head, providing one of those come hither curls which seductively obscures one eye. The body was lithe and feminine, the face whiskered, his or her fine leather handbag? man purse? was the epitome of good taste rendered from top-grain leather.
I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a woman who was embracing manhood, or a man who had turned his back on it. He or she seemed to be hovering in the nether-land between the gender they were born and the one they preferred. Gender stuff isn’t always so confusing, but even among those who have settled comfortably into a traditional role, it sometimes is. For most of my life, the roles of the sexes have been evolving.. The movement to expand opportunities for women, has caused the roles of both genders to become more elastic. Women are now able to compete with men in most every field, and men are no longer diminished by choosing careers once held only by women.
Only a few decades ago, home was the “proper” place for women and difficult situations had to wait until father came home. Back then jobs that were dangerous, outdoors or dirty were mostly considered to be “men’s work” and self-respecting chauvinists would sooner change jobs than work for a woman.
Feminism was about redefining women, but in the process, it also served to redefine the role of males. As women become more used to calling the shots in the workplace, they wanted more control at home. The traditional roles of men and women were becoming more alike. In an effort to equalize apples and oranges, apples were required to develop thicker skins and more fiber, while experiments were conducted to see if oranges could be turned into applesauce.
That’s my take, but in fact, there are currently some who wish to eliminate gender classification completely. They suggest gender is too limiting, because we all possess a combination of male and female traits, with some leaning more heavily one way or the other. That makes sense, after there are all kinds of women and men. According to this reasoning, we all fall somewhere on a broad continuum between male and female. I’d probably be classified as a female with male traits–or what we used to we used to call “tomboy” because somewhere between girls who live to crochet tea cozies and female bounty hunters are plenty of feminine women who aren’t intimidated by auto-mechanics or power tools.
Another popular notion that it is our society, not our biology which causes us to be masculinized or feminized. I read recently of two families who have refused to disclose their child’s gender, so that the children could be self-defining. Another group says more gender classifications are needed because male and female are too limiting. Ironically, these labels make no allowances for the transgendered, because it is assumed they will choose one of the two existing labels.
In the ongoing war between the sexes, it’s impossible to know who is winning. Sun Tzu’s art of war suggests we must know our enemy, but is the enemy still the enemy when they begin switching sides? The next edition of de blog will be devoted to the current condition of the endangered American male. Stay tuned.
The New Year’s celebration is one of my favorites. Though my own celebration of New Year’s eve is minimal, I am very fond of this holiday which starts loudly in one year and winds down quietly in the next. It isn’t a religious or memorial holiday, yet it has a thoughtful profundity and an illogical optimism. Like Fat Tuesday, it is a day when we absurdly indulge in things we hope to give up. It is a mile-post on life’s journey, a point at which to assess how far we’ve come and speculate about what lies ahead.
Then first newspaper of the New Year is my favorite. It usually features the best and worst of the previous year– including reminders of all the famous people who died. It often features predictions for the coming year and an abundance of ads for stuff to help us keep our resolutions, like work-out equipment and organizers. Perhaps there are folks who wake up the morning after drinking too much champagne, raring to buy a treadmill, the latest pair of New Balance, storage bins or shelf units, but I suspect most are more like me, who wake up thinking about stuff like mimosas and Eggs Benedict.
Regrettably, most of us meander through life with little thought of how our time is passing, but like birthdays, anniversaries, illnesses and deaths, each New Year provides another measure of how quickly our lives pass. It is a valuable reminder not to squander what will be gone too quickly, whether it be our vitality or our time with those around us.
We need those benchmarks. There was a public figure the same age as I, whenever that person accomplished something newsworthy, it reminded me of how much a single individual can accomplish, but more importantly it reminded me of how little I had accomplished. That person died a few years ago, and now serves only to remind me how suddenly life can end.
However, like those times when it isn’t feasible to remodel so we settle for new paint or new curtains, sometimes overhauling our entire life isn’t practical. Though there are many things I’d like to completely redo in my life, I content myself with making small changes I can manage, like setting the tone for the one to come.
Started the year with a new manicure and pedicure. Nothing unusual about that, except since I tend to choose the same polish, month after month, I let my mani-pedi girl pick for me. I would have never have chosen what she chose for me, as a result, I left her shop feeling like I was wearing someone elses’ fashion. Two colors of glitter polish, may not sound that radical, but to me it was symbolic of being open to the whims and advice of others–especially those with more experience.
Though I am a naturally lucky person, I rarely gamble. It seems gambling is a pastime which makes more losers than winners. Nevertheless, I bought a lottery ticket. Had it been a winning ticket, I could have told myself it was a fortuitous omen for the coming year, but since it served only to make my pocket lighter, I discarded it along with the many other disappointments of 2011.
I bought myself a new coffee maker, a sort of Christmas gift to myself, but in keeping with the “out with the old and in with the new” thing, I waited until Jan, to try it. Trying to figure out how to disassemble and reassemble it, the first time, could almost fill another blog post, but this first challenge of The New Year, was a good reminder of how important it is to be open to change and ready to learn new ways of doing familiar things.
As I drank my coffee, I reflected on the past year, a Christmas season in which I gave myself a vacation from the expectations of others and allowed myself to do things to restore my sense of self. I replayed events in a year, including many dealings with tradesmen and tenants. Reflecting on those experiences inspired me to make a single resolution.
Having been often taken advantage of by those to whom I was too nice, I resolved to be meaner. Not more assertive, not more aggressive, just less nice. I don’t like mean people and certainly don’t want to become one, but people take advantage of nice people. I can’t help being kind, it’s in my nature, but after having too many experiences in which I felt I shouldn’t have been so nice, I decided to try harder to be mean. Chances are I’ll fail, but I’m guessing I won’t be the only one who doesn’t keep their resolutions.