Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Canada's Food Guide should have taught you, but I will instead, in a ranting fashion

Forget the Four Food Groups and learn about Nutrition instead.

Anyone worth their weight in salt can tell you why the Four Food Groups is a stupid system. Let’s start with the obvious - there aren’t four food groups. Where do grains begin and vegetables end - and what is a coffee bean, for that matter? Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable (actually, it’s both*!), is soy a meat alternative, or a dairy alternative, or a…grain? It grows in fields, right? And why do we devote a whole category to milk and it’s alternatives when 75% of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant? It’s true…also true, the cucumber is a berry. And the strawberry isn’t. I just blew your mind, didn’t I? Let’s start over.

Back in my third grade classroom, I learned the four food groups. And then I learned about ‘others,’ or ‘bad food choices’ like soda pop and chocolate bars, which were the essence of evil. This was during the last days of the Food Pyramid era, and a few years later, the Food Rainbow was introduced. The concepts are essentially the same, no matter what shape you put them in - we’re all supposed to eat milk (1. Milk products), potatoes (2. Grain Products), meat (3. Meat and Alternatives), and veggies (4. Vegetables and fruits). A number was assigned to each group, and you were supposed to eat a certain portion of each of those foods according to that number, which went up and down according to your age and size and sex and whether or not your were pregnant or breastfeeding. The portion sizes were different for each food group, though, and differed among foods within that group, and a single meal probably had about three and a half servings of something or other, but never mind that. Milk is good. Fruit and veggies are good. Bread and potatoes, good. Meat, good. No vegetarians. No vegans. No raw food enthusiasts, no culturally restrictive diets, no kosher, no lent, no not eating until the sun goes down because you’re practicing Ramadan. You just eat a servings of 125mL of vegetables, or 250mL of raw, leafy vegetables, or any fruit of any size, apparently, and you do it between four and ten times depending on your age and activity level, and you make sure something is orange and something is dark green, and then you’re done. For your fruit and vegetable group, for that day. Is that SO difficult?

Well, yes, apparently, it is. Never mind that the system doesn’t make sense, and isn’t culturally inclusive, and doesn’t account for economic factors or taste preferences, and ignores fun things like the fact that corn today is exponentially sweeter than it was even a decade ago, and that the size of the average apple has doubled due to genetic selection and modification - never mind all that. The real reason we should change the system is this: It doesn’t work.

It just doesn’t work. We were all taught the food groups in school, and we can all get Canada’s food guide for free from the government, or on their website, and it’s all very colourful, but…we’re still obese and overweight (or know who you are, Me). We still don’t get enough fibre. We still eat too much salt. Our cholesterol - sorry, our BAD cholesterol - is through the roof. Huh?

And worse still: we don’t know. We don’t know how many calories the average person is supposed to be consuming, or how much we ourselves are supposed to be consuming…because we don’t know what a calorie is. We’re prey to trends and fad diets and scared of carbs because the government spent billions of dollars on an education program that didn’t teach us what a carb is. (Is fibre a carb? Is fructose a carb? Is starch a carb? Or just bagels and…car exhaust?)

You didn’t teach us what food is made of, because that seemed too complicated. Instead you just gave us a menu. But the menu is still complicated, and oversimplified, and nonsensical, and when it doesn’t work, you just further complicate it instead of scrapping the non-functioning dunce of a system that never should have happened to begin with. Stop. Just, stop. The shape doesn’t matter. The groups don’t matter. The nutritional content is the only thing that matters, and you didn’t teach us that. You mandated labels but you didn’t bother to teach us how to read those labels, because ‘meat and alternative serving’ doesn’t appear on any label anywhere because it‘s just an arbitrarily made up thing that only you understand that has nothing to do with nutritional content…gah. You suck. You need to stop. You’ve failed.

I’m taking over now.

So, let’s return, once again, to the third grade. Your teacher is bitchy, your classmates are annoying, and you have no control over your day-to-day eating habits anyways. But today you are learning about Food & Nutrition, at it’s all brightly coloured on shiny, government produced posters.

So…what do you learn?

1. You learn about the foundation of it all: calories. Calories are the energy inside of food, which becomes energy inside of our body. Calories are like gas in a car - it’s our fuel system, and we need calories to live, and play, and think, and breath. Every day, every thing that we do burns calories. We need food to replace those calories - if we don’t get it, we’ll lose weight or get sick. All food has calories, but some have more than others. If we eat more calories than we burn off, our body stores the extra energy for later - as fat. So, fat inside of our body is just extra, stored calories. It’s good to be balanced - eat as much food as your body needs, and not less or more. The healthiest people usually eat a lot of calories - but they burn these calories off because they live active lifestyles - doing sports, exercise, and complex mathematical problems.

2. You learn about the three components of food. THREE. Three, three, three. You learn their names, you learn the basics about them, and in later years you can add to this knowledge at any point, because this is actually the science of what food is made of, instead of an arbitrary classification system. Crazy, I know. So…Carbohydrates. Protein. Fats. They make up all food…good food, junk food, processed food, ethnic food. They all give us calories. Learn with me now…

i) Carbohydrates are all based on glucose (plants get it from the sun!), and depending on how you shape and combine the glucose together, you get different types of sugars: simple sugars, like sucrose and fructose (which usually taste sweet) to complex sugars or polysaccharides, sometimes called starches (which make up foods like rice, and bread, and potatoes - they don‘t usually taste very sweet). Sometimes glucose is combined in a way that is so complicated that our body can’t break it down for fuel - this is called cellulose, or fibre. Most people don’t eat enough fibre, but they should - even though it doesn’t give us calories (fuel), is scrapes through our intestinal tracts and keeps us from getting colon cancer. Fun!

ii) Protein is made up of amino acids. When we eat protein, our body makes a choice - we can use it for its calories (fuel), or we can break it down and use its amino acids to build our own bodies. Most of our body is made out of protein - our muscles, our organs, our skin and hair, and our immune system, which keeps us from getting sick…yay! Different amino acids are used for different things inside your body, so you need a variety of protein to stay healthy - most people get the protein they need from animal sources (from the milk of animals, or their eggs, or their meat), but there are also a variety of sources from plants (like beans, and nuts, and peanuts).

iii) And fats. Fats get a bad reputation, but they shouldn’t - fat is good for you, and an important part of a nutritious diet. The important thing to know about fat is that it has TWICE as many calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and proteins - it’s also delicious. So if you eat too much fat (and a lot of us do), then it’s easy to eat way too many calories…and if we don’t burn all of those calories off, our body stores them, making fat inside your own body. Of course, you don’t need to EAT fat to GET fat - you just need to be eating more calories that you’re using up (there are calories in carbohydrates and protein, too - a person can get fat from eating just vegetables, as long as they add up to more calories than that person is spending). There are lots of different types of fat, and they all do different things, and it’s all very complicated, but the gist is this: most people don’t get enough Omega 3, and most people get too much cholesterol and trans fats.

3. And finally, like the sesame seeds atop a hamburger of nutritional information: vitamins and minerals. There are lots of them, and they’re all important. Different vitamins come from different foods, and in your body they do different things - that’s why it’s important to eat a variety of foods. Different coloured plant foods sometimes have different vitamins inside of them. Missing out on just one important vitamin can make you sick - that’s why some people take multivitamins. BUT you should never take a bunch of multivitamins at once (or drink 5 litres of orange juice in a single sitting) - you’re only going to pee away a lot of money (in the case of water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C), or make yourself really sick (in the case of water insoluble vitamins, like Vitamin A, which you can’t pee away). You need a small amount of all vitamins every day to be healthy.

While vitamins are made by plants and animals, minerals are not - they come from the earth, and the type of ground that food is grown in can affect its mineral content. Like vitamins, you need a small amount of each one every day to stay healthy, and missing out on a single mineral can make you sick. (Menstruating women lose iron every month due to bleeding, so it’s very common for women to have low iron, or anemia. I take pink coloured iron supplements every day. Now you know.)


Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s actually okay. Because, you see, this stuff is actual scientific fact, which means you can add on to it without having to rewrite the entire system. You can learn stuff about probiotics, and artificial sweeteners, and mercury, and metabolism, and bio-availability - just as long as you understand the basics, first.

And if they seem too complicated…well, tough luck, that’s just the way it is. But every minute you spend figuring it out is a minute spent learning about the actual content of your food, as opposed to a government-invented diet of classificational nonsense, and one less minute you‘ll spend vulnerable to fad diets of ridiculousness…so it’s actually, really worth it. I’m sure it can be explained differently, and better, and by someone with a nutrition degree…but it deserves to be explained, because it’s the actual nature of the food you put in your body. And if a person who eats very little knows all this, then you should, too.

(Note: I am not your science teacher...but you should ask him to confirm all this, too. Because there are a lot of nuts out there, and you need to arm yourself with the basic facts before you listen the what they have to say. And stop drinking lemonade cleanses for fourteen days. That's just stupid. Enough.)

*The tomato, according to its nutritional and biological nature, is a fruit. It’s actually a berry - like the cucumber! But according to import laws, governing how we label and tax foods, the tomato is a vegetable. Now you can sleep at night.

Me of the Day

Mood: Hungry. Yes, it is a mood.

Also: Sobbing. Just watched the latest episode of Big Love, which manages to tromp a little on my heart every time. Also watched Bob Flanagan, Super Masochist shortly before that, which was equally depressing, though involved far more penises being nailed to boards.

Why Am I Watching So Many Depressing Things? Because it's my day off, and I'm bored, and it's raining outside, so what else am I supposed to do but watch depressing shows, stare out my window morosely, and otherwise be as malcontent as possible?

In Other News: Tried my first batch of home-made kefir. I've tried kefir from the store before, and while it was not my favouritest thing in the world, it was not terrible, either. My own home brew...well...the best word I can use to describe it is Evil. Evil in a curdled dairy product form. Apparently your first few batches are supposed to suck,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Angsty Writing of Doom

Warning - depressing. Do Not Read if you are in a good mood, or a particularly bad mood, or do not have a stuffed animal and kleenex on hand. Oh, and you should eat first. The angst contained herein is enough to spoil even the healthiest of appetites, and promote some nausea, but not enough to actually induce vomit. I think. Just...proceed with caution.

Also, this posting was entirely inspired by a Slate article on the experience of grief. So, I blame the Slate. You should, too. And they have happy writing, too, and it's all very informative, so you should probably just go read their stuff instead. It's Go, go now.

Now, on to the Angst.


When Daddy died, all I felt was anger.

I was angry at my mother for her howling histrionics, and how she cried on the phone when I told her, and how she, later, put her hand on my leg with her tear-filled eyes and asked ‘Are you okay?’ I rolled my eyes. She didn’t even like my father. She’d separated from him when I was two, and for good reason - he beat her physically and emotionally, and when I was six he threatened to smash in her face (she had asked him for child support). She did not love him and would not miss him, and had no right to cry or pretend to console - we did not have that sort of relationship.

I was angry at my grandmother, who was the first person to see me after I’d heard the news. I’d been at home when the hospital called, and my grandmother was driving me to the dentists. I told her awkwardly - I was seventeen - how do you casually mention your parent has died? She was silent, then sighed. Well, he was in pain. I stared out the window. The car ride was long. When we pulled into the parking lot, she turned and stated, meaningfully, that it showed there was order in the universe - that my father had treated my mother badly, but that he had suffered, and now it was all even. I turned, and blinked, and inside I made small talk with the hygienist about how the school system pushes smart kids into Bachelor degrees instead of skilled trades.

My Daddy was a rapist, and a wife beater, and at various times was addicted to various substances, notably alcohol and cocaine. My Daddy had left home at fifteen and wandered across North America, worked at the Fairmont Springs Hotel in Banff, and pointed out the bridge that he had slept under, for a while. My Daddy died, functionally blind, his left leg amputated, when they stopped his dialysis pump on request. He had been kicked out of his nursing home because of a fight - I think a fight - and, homeless in the hospital, alone, he had asked that if it all could stop, please. His brother was with him, flown in from Alberta, but I didn’t go to say goodbye, because no one would drive me. My Daddy was forty-five.

I was angry at my teachers, who said my work had suffered lately and that they wondered what was wrong. My work had not suffered, my grades were identical, and my teachers were full of shit. A guidance counselor called me to her office to stare, sympathetically, and ask if I was doing okay. A month before, she discouraged my application to a national scholarship, for which I was selected and earned six thousand dollars. I wondered what I was supposed to do or say…thank you? No, I’m not okay, but not because of what you think…or yes, I’m fine, as always? You don’t know me, what gives you the right to pretend to care?

I’d been kicked out of my house at least ten times in the last five months. There were screaming matches at least three days a week, usually more, and my step father was a scary creep who sexually harassed me and occasionally hit my mom. He had beaten my brother once, severely, but social services had not cared because my brother was sixteen then, and was now nineteen, in the military, and drinking heavily. My mother blamed me and my stepbrother for the marital arguments. My house was isolated, I rarely saw friends, I poured myself into my school work, and my arms were criss-crossed with scars from my exacto-knife.

Right, and yesterday, my father died. Today you suddenly care. Uh-huh.

My mother was wailing about how my uncle would be at the funeral. She did not like my uncle, my father’s brother, and how he was rude to her, and how he was handling my father’s estate. To be fair, my uncle was not the nicest of men, but he was my father’s brother, and the executor of his will, and had arranged the whole funeral. My mother refused to go without my step father there, to ‘protect’ her. My step father hated my father - actively, truly, hated - and the sentiment was returned with furor. There had once been a fight, which had ended with my step father hitting my father in the forehead with a lead pipe.

My step father has no place at the funeral. I tell my mother so, defensively, and she rolls her eyes at me and says he’s coming. I will not be in the same room as my step father and have not spoken to him in months. Our closest contact is when he stares at me creepily through doorways, or shines a flash light in my eyes when I’m watching TV in the evening. I don’t feel comfortable in a room when he’s there, and my mother may feel the same way about my uncle, but…it’s My father’s funeral. I’m the next of kin. I’m the one who stands by the open casket and shakes the hand of his friends and thanks them for coming. I won’t be able to go if he’s there, he has no right to be there anyways, and I should be there, because…it’s my father’s funeral.

My mother disagrees. She is going, my step father is going, and if I don’t want to go, so be it. I am informed differently a few hours before the funeral start-time - my step father has decided to be the Bigger Person and stay home. I drive with my brother and stand by the open casket. I shake people’s hands and think about how they stick people’s eyes shut with chewing gum, and how my father’s face is covered in make-up and looks less like him than a photograph. I shake hands of friends of my father’s, who played pool with him, who I’d met ten years ago and barely remember, who are my cousins but who’s names I always get confused. I thank them for coming.

My mother is sobbing hysterically because my uncle has placed my little sister on his lap and hugs her. My sister is crying quietly through the entire ordeal, and I hold her hand. The ceremony is evangelical - they want us to stand up and be saved by Jesus. No one does - it is awkward - and my grandmother is righteously offended (she still brings it up, to this day). My brother and I crack jokes, and on the way home almost get killed by oncoming traffic; we’re driving too fast and it’s snowy outside in the dark.

I don’t know if it’s just a stage of grief, to feel this angry, and eventually it fades enough to let in waves of guilt - for not being there when Daddy died, or during the last couple of days, after he decided that he’s fought enough and wanted to be done. And eventually that fades, too, and I feel like I’m all done up inside. Then suddenly, one cold day, it’s winter again, and I’m shrunk back down to seventeen, and I feel like I could scream that I’m so angry, and than gnashing teeth and cutting knives and cracking pipes on faces sounds like just the right amount of violence to capture how I feel.

Things I'm Growing

1. Contempt for humanity

2. My theoretical and probably fictional brain tumor, who deserves a name - I shall call him 'Alice,' or maybe 'Steve.'

3. Unspoken anger towards my boss - who today posted a job for an office position which pays a full $11/hour higher than my current rate of pay...while all of my front-line coworkers and I earn a wage significantly below industry standards with no potential for a raise. Our centre coordinator is only paid $3/hour more than me, in a salary which is so low that it guarantees that no one with appropriate skills is going to apply for the job...which further adds to the lack of support, and then my boss complains about how high our staff turnover is, which all leads to less support for the women we are desperately trying to serve...gahhh! Rage!

4. The size of my puppy's belly...but...he likes can I say no to that face??

5. Two avocado seeds, in a bag, which have yet to sprout. I remain hopeful.

6. Cecil the Lemon Tree...but only if 'grow' can be loosely defined as 'fret over and hope you will not kill...please, live, Cecil, please.'

7. Kefir grains, which are not so much grains as clumps of Russian bacteria which turn milk into a thick, probiotic drink which tastes a little like yogurt and beer. It's my hippiest pursuit to date.

8. My yam vine, in a glass. She is a pretty yam vine.

How to Not be an Asshole: What to do when your friend's cat dies

God…I hate people.

Perhaps I’m being a tad over general.

There are people I like. There are people I respect. There are people that, in my book, seriously kick some m*ther f*cking ass, take names, and then go drink a banana-mango smoothie of awesomeness. In fact, there’s a lot of such people - and this is a rant built in defense of one such person.

Mary is amazing. She can hold her own in an argument but never holds grudges, she is unfailingly generous with others without sacrificing herself, and she dances along the strict path of decorum in such a way that she can break all the rules she wants without ever losing her image as tactful, polite, and classy. She may be my hero. She is also the age of my grandmother, and has been volunteering with sex trade workers for over ten years. Amazing.

Yesterday, Mary struggled to hold back tears as she told me about a loss in her family. Mary couldn’t bear the thought of going home. Her friend was gone, unexpectedly, and the only person who she shared her home with, and her bed with, was suddenly missing from her life.

The week before, Mary had needed to put down her cat, and she was still reeling from the loss. Adding insult to injury, she stated quietly, was that no one understood or offered sympathy. At best, they told her to buy a new cat, and at worst they made fun. Of a sweet, retired widow, who had lost a member of her family, and a friend, and was hurting. Frack, I hate people.

Yes, her friend was a cat. Yes, you may not understand that relationship or want it for yourself. I myself am not a ‘cat person.’ They shed and scratch and may or may not only appreciate you for your body heat. I do empathize with the love that people can have for pets - when I try to explain how I feel about my dogs, it is somewhere between a best friend and a child, and the fact that they are furry and a different species doesn’t change the fact that, to me, they are family, and people, and I love them as much as anything or anyone can be loved.

I know that relationship is strange, and as anything strange, it is an opportunity for ridicule. I know that, to some, pets are a demonstration of loneliness put on a leash for all to see. And yes, I may be lonely. In fact, I probably certainly am - but that does not mean I don’t have human friends, and I don’t have human family members I love, or that I don‘t hope to have a significant other of the human variety. All that my dogs demonstrate is that I share my life with two furry little guys who love me unconditionally, who I love unconditionally, who give me kisses when I come home from work, who interrupt my typing with demands I throw their disgusting toy frog for them to fetch, who look up to me and want to make me happy and who I would gladly do anything to make happy…because I love them, and they’re my family, and my friends, and when they wrestle each other and make sounds like beached walruses, it makes me happy.

Where dogs are small, furry people, cats may be small, furry, autistic people. They are slower to warm, endlessly quirky, and much more open with displays of hostility than affection. But for Mary, when her cat watched for her when she came through the door, she knew she was loved, and missed. When her cat climbed on her lap when she was trying to read, she knew that her cat needed her attention. And when her cat curled up beside her on her bed at night, she felt like she wasn’t alone in the world, and that she mattered, no matter how many years ago her husband passed away, and how independent her grown children became, and how many friends and siblings inevitably got sick and faded away.

Mary’s loss is a loss. I know it is not the same as losing a human companion, in part because no two losses can be compared, but it is still unexpected, and intimate, and painful. It is not an opportunity to judge. It is not an opportunity to advise. Getting a new kitten will not solve Mary’s problem, because there is no solution to losing a friend and a family member. It is a loss, and it hurts, and it needs to be grieved.

I don’t care if you like cats or not. I don’t care if you like pets or not. I don’t care if you particularly like people or not, actually, and I have my own mixed feelings on that subject. When someone is hurting, you empathize with their pain, and you offer to give them a hug or a tissue, and you ask if there’s anything you can do to make it better. You listen and you treat them with respect. You do NOT insult, or talk down, or minimize their pain. That is called Being An Insensitive Asshole, and Mary deserves better than that.

God…I so fricken hate people.

Monday, February 23, 2009

God Hates Me: A Memoir

This story is refurbished...I wrote it about a year ago when the events transpired, so apologies if you've heard this sad tale before. BUT as my first glorious writing on how God is out to get me, it deserves a second perusal. Enjoy.

Part I: Hair

It was not so many months ago that I, in a fit of sunny philanthropy, decided that I would shave off my hair. The hair would be collected to make wigs for small, cancerous children (a good thing); I would be shaving my head in support of other friends who were also donating their hair (a good thing); my bald, brazen head would be a show of solidarity for current sufferers and survivors of cancer (a good thing); and finally, I would be raising several hundred dollars which would be donated towards cancer research (a good thing). So, overall, I thought this was a good thing. I was nervous, self-conscious, and generally girly with anticipation, but the good simply outweighed the bad ten-fold. I would be sacrificing vanity for the pursuit of selflessness, committing what in many cultures is a religious right of passage, and generally displaying through my hairless head that I, Ivy Donegal, thoroughly kick ass.

As the day approached, most friends applauded my bravery. Some feared for my sanity. And still others came up with a myriad of far-fetched excuses explaining why they, too, could not shave their heads. And it was good. On the day of sheering, many gathered in support and awe as the ominous razor was raised to my head and…done. Well, that was easy. Actually, I don’t look that bad, really. And I feel really good for doing a good thing. Yay, me!

But such cheerful naivety is not long for this world.

It was some time a week or so after the event that I, admittedly, became cocky. My short buzz cut was such a success that I felt the need to pursue an even shorter, more radical haircut. So, alone in my home with my mirror, razor, and post-adolescent angst, I shaved my head. Completely. So not a single nub of hair remained. My smooth head, covered in razor burn, about seventeen cuts of various depth, and my own sense of pride, was bic-ed. And, still, it was good.

As the razor burn faded and my cuts healed, however, I began to sense that something was going wrong. My head, while still totally awesome in its bic-ed glory, was looking somewhat…angry. I tried my best to convince myself that it was, of course, nothing. Perhaps my skin was reacting to its first-ever exposure to the sun, or maybe this was simply an outbreak of normal, albeit embarrassing, hairline acne. Or maybe, perhaps, there is some special kind of razor burn that shows up a few days after all your other razor burn has healed and looks red and rashy and generally gross but goes away because I did a good thing and surely bad things don’t happen to good people who shave their heads for cancer?

According to my sunburn theory, I wore sunscreen. This made the rash worse. According to my acne theory, I used a loofah and cleansing creams and avoiding my beloved chocolate. This made the rash much worse. And while I was still hopeful that nothing was really wrong, an encounter with my fellow head-shaver, Meaghan, served to all but quash my hope completely. Her scalp was beautiful and white and intact. Mine was…not.

As the events above were slowly transpiring, my hair was, equally slowly, beginning to grow back. I thought this was a good thing. I looked forward to regaining the ability to use shampoo, I looked forward to the hair growth covering my confusing and uncomfortable scalp rash, I looked forward to rediscovering my natural hair colour. I was hopeful and optimistic, and so, quite naturally, God felt the need to intervene.

When I first noticed the circular area lacking in hair growth, situated near the front of my hairline, I assumed that I must have shaved there a bit more deeply there than the rest of my head. The term ‘bald patch’ did not even occur to me, even as the quarter-sized, hairless area was made increasingly obvious over time. I marvelled at how hair growth, like so many of God’s wondrous miracles, works in patchy and mysterious ways. I was increasingly wearing a hat or decorative babushka whenever I left the house, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t proud of my shaven head. I was simply…confused. As the rest of my hair grew, several other, smaller bald patches began to emerge. My rash continued to itch and spread. I considered buying a wig.

I booked a doctor’s appointment warily after encountering the term ‘ringworm’ on Web MD. Chronic psoriasis, alopecia, and possible permanent baldness were equally alarming possibilities discovered shortly thereafter. I reassured myself that, whatever this was, it could not be that serious. In psychology class we learned that hair loss could be precipitated and exacerbated by stress: surely that had to be it. I now began to wonder if all of my symptoms could be psychosomatic – could the stress of shaving my head cause temporary or permanent baldness? Could my continued stress over my rash cause a…rash? The timing didn’t quite make sense, but I was nonetheless intrigued.

I began to wonder what had happened to my original, donated hair. Apparently, it takes an average of five hair donations to make a single wig and my hair, which was dyed, would only be usable for wig-undergrowth, if at all. Web MD helpfully informed me that hair loss caused by chemotherapy (iatrogenic alopecia) is almost never permanent, but many other forms of hair loss, hypothetically affecting my own scalp, could be. I began to think of small, cancerous children as crafty, hair-stealing masterminds at the centre of a large multinational crime syndicate dedicated to the black-market hair trade. I saw my own hair, or what was left of it, being traded in back alleys by mafia overlords while small, cancerous children the world over sat in their hospital beds, counting stacks of money, laughing maniacally…at least, those that were still strong enough to laugh. Or sit up.


Later this week, I will go to the doctor. And he will tell me that I have a rash and several bald patches, to which I will respond: I know. He will tell me that it could be stress, an infection, or psoriasis praying on my supple, tiny hairs, to which I will nod, because: I know. And then I will shuffle off, dejected and uninformed, promising to book an appointment in two weeks so that the medical community can learn whether my condition has improved or gotten much, much worse. But, by this time, I’ll already know.

Because, you see, God has a problem with me. He’s never been overly fond, if my childhood ear infections are any indication, but I think his general dislike of all things Ivy began some time around my nineteenth birthday. (Coincidentally, I think the exact date corresponds quite closely with my conversion to atheism, but no matter.) And while God may be known for many things - His generosity, His undying love, or His affinity for turning people to pillars of salt – his most striking feature, abject cruelty aside, is his sense of patient, exacting irony.

So, in two more weeks, I will have lost all my hair. And my scalp shall be completely covered in a wretched, horrifying rash, at which small children will point and scream. Society will eventually shun me and I, with only my disfigured head for company, will wander the Earth, unknown, unloved, and miserably alone. And God, atop his silver-lined cloud with his glass half full, will laugh and laugh. Because God, you see, is an Asshole.

Me of the Day

Mood: Tired. Morning is not my friend.

Reasons Why I'm Awesome: I won my family's Oscar pool...yay me! (My family does very little together, but somehow the Academy Awards became a tradition equivalent to this is a big deal for us. Yes, we are sad.)

Reasons Why I Suck: I burst into tears no less than three times at work yesterday. Three! For no good reason at all. Clearly, I am incompetent at life.

Best Work Story of the Night: At about 9:30, a huge man who was fairly high (and may or may not have been foaming at the mouth) came into our centre angrily looking for his girlfriend. Our centre is strictly women-only, so this was not okay. Being a 90-lb white girl wearing a Hello Kitty bandaid, I felt I was best suited to handle said situation - by blocking his path and telling him repeatedly that he had to leave. My awesome coworker backed me up by getting out a phone (in case I wasn't intimidating enough), and after a five minute stand-off the scary man retreated. I am clearly amazing...don't mess with me.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: You should give blood. Seriously. I know you don't like needles, and you may or may not feel dizzy afterwards, but...give blood. If you're poor like me, it's an easy way to feel good about yourself. And they give you cookies and juice, and if you go with friends you can race them to see who bleeds fastest, and then you'll get drunk more easily if you're into that...see? Worlds of good. Also, it's a chance to save three lives with about an hour of your time.

Can't give blood? Join the club...and by club, I mean, 'Bone Marrow Donor Registry.' It involves a form, and a quick blood test to get your DNA on file, and then maybe someday having the chance to donate bone marrow to a child with leukemia (or an adult with leukemia...or other types of cancer...just sign up). You can always say no when that opportunity comes up, but the more people on file, the better the odds of survival for anyone who needs a bone-marrow transplant. (Which could be you, someday...or more likely, me...God is not my friend.) If you really don't want to give blood (or can't for whatever reason), this is a kickass alternative. Ideally, do both.

But Ivy...why won't you come with me to give blood?? Aren't you just a big fat hypocrite?

Well, yes, in a lot of ways, I am a big fat hypocrite. But probably not in this case. I'm not supposed to give blood because I weight less than 110lbs...which means that, when they take a pint of my blood, I am left with few reserves and feel a little queasy. This didn't really discourage me, and I was gung-ho for giving blood anyways...except, I started working with a non-profit. And most of the women we work with have at least one blood-born illness, and lots are intravenous drug users. And one day I was helping one woman who was cleaning out an abcess and generally a mess, and then running around by myself on the floor because my supervisor was hanging out in the staff room for no good reason, and at some point my gloves broke and I took them off, and then I picked up some paper because I'm fairly stupid, and underneath it was a bunch of blood-soaked tissue, which got all over my hands. And into a cut on my thumb. From the lady with the abscess from the intravenous drugs. Crap. Also, I was carrying around a vial of crack at this point in the evening - my job is crazy. This was a few months ago, but I'm still in the year-long testing process for HIV and Hep C. So, I can't give blood, even though I really do want some cookies and juice and the centre is literally ten blocks from my house. should. I will live vicariously.

Bring me back some cookies?