Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aviator Goggles, or how The Simpsons made me the woman I am today

I want aviator goggles. I want them so freakin’ bad.

Also, I was tiny, matching aviator goggles for my two dogs.

This all started with an obscure fantasy of buying myself a Vespa scooter and perusing the French and/or Italian countryside. There would be bread, and cheese, and wine, and my puppies, because where most women will insert a scantily clad gentleman into their far-fetched European fantasies, I often choose puppies instead.

And then, as the fantasy evolved, I decided that I would be wearing a flowy yellow skirt, and a classy white blouse, sensible brown tie-up boots with only an inch or two (or three) of heel, and on my face would sit an oversized pair of aviator goggles. And possibly an aviator cap, too. (On my hair, not my face. You understand.)

The Vespa scooter dream has all but died away, and trekking across Europe with puppies in tow is a bureaucratic nightmare, what with the various quarantine and vaccination requirements. I have all the skirts, blouses, and sensibly-healed boots I need (using the most modest interpretation of the word), but one part of my longing remains: the desire for adorable, steam-punky, oversized aviator goggles. And maybe an aviator cap, too. And then matching adorable aviator caps and goggles for my two adorable puppies.


Maybe because Steve McQueen and Memphis Bell were integral part of my formative childhood years. Maybe because a small part of me never stopped idolizing vintage fighter pilots, and Amelia Earhart, and all the airplane scenes of Indiana Jones. Maybe because all glasses are a little bit comically oversized on my tiny, hobbit-like face. I just don’t know.

Or maybe it was that episode of the Simpsons where Lisa, for a science project, starts putting Bart and a pet hamster through a series of intelligence tests (with the hamster continually coming out on top). In the end Bart bests her by dressing up the hamster in aviator goggles and placing him in a toy plane - the judges are awed by the hamster’s cuteness and award Bart the top prize (angering Lisa).

And really, can you blame them?

Why are lesbians bipolar?

As I was sitting up at 8am on a workday, munching on some Haagan Daaz rocky road ice cream and reading a biography of Angelina Jolie from the Billy Bob Thorton years ( one does), one of life’s Important Questions occurred to me: Why are so many lesbians bipolar?

The answer is, of course, that I have absolutely no idea.

I don’t even know if more lesbian and bisexual women are bipolar than the general public, only that I know of a great many women who are both bisexual or lesbian and bipolar. But I also know several Jewish people with schizophrenia, and at least two Jewish lesbians with post-traumatic stress disorder, so really, I shouldn’t be drawing any demographic conclusions from my personal experience.

...Please don’t hate me.

Beginning with what I DO know, I have brainstormed the following list of true facts.

True Fact #1: Only about 1% of the general population has diagnosable Bipolar Disorder.

True Fact #2: Bipolar Disorder is a psychiatric illness characterized by wavering periods of intense mania and/or hyperactivity and periods of low mood and/or depression.

True Fact #3: Men and women are equally prone to bipolar disorder, but experience it differently. Women are diagnosed later in life than men, and often have ‘rapid cycling’ bipolar disorder, which means they switch between high moods and low moods faster than men.

True Fact #4. Some psychiatrists have noted similarities between rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (a disorder also characterized by big, rapid mood swings, and almost exclusively diagnosed in women). Many psychiatrists have theorized that Borderline Personality Disorder may be a subform a Bipolar Disorder.

True Fact #5: My roommate, who is a lesbian, has been asked out exclusively by women with bipolar disorder, as in, every woman who’s ever asked her out or shown any sexual interest in her whatsoever has had bipolar disorder. Strange.

True Fact #6: Bipolar and Bisexual both start with the letters ‘bi.’

True Fact #7: According to my tabloid-informed research, Angelina Jolie has shown signs of being both bipolar and bisexual.

All of which caused me to draw the following helpful and colour-coded chart, with accompanying legend of emotional lability. I drew it on a napkin for added clarity.

Behold! A mood chart!

(Note: this chart has been adapted from one which was drawn by an actual psychiatrist, with actual medical credentials. I’ve adapted it, using my keen understanding of the human condition, coupled with my unadulterated sense of whimsy. Enjoy.)

Legend... (starting at the bottom)

0 (Dark blue)
Psychopath. No emotion. (No response to painful stimuli. May, however, kill you, and your pets, and then eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.)

1 (Light blue)
Manly man. No discernible emotional reactions, however, this man will shed a single symbolic tear when talking about the Vietnam war, or some such crap. (Response to painful stimuli: “I feel no pain, for I am Manly Man!” Later, quietly to self, “ow.”)

2 (Aqua-marinish)
Womanly man / Manly woman. Prone to occasional emotional outbursts, for which they feel great shame. The sort of person who gets choked up and retreats from the room, muttering things in a high-pitched, nasal voice. (Response to painful stimuli: “Ow! I’m not crying, though, that’s just my allergies. My eyes are very sweaty today. Shut up.”)

3 (Light green)
Woman. Cries sometimes. Offers socially appropriate comfort to others who seem upset. (Response to painful stimuli: “Oww!”)

4 (Light blue, again. Except maybe more of a turquoise. Colour-code fail.)
Woman with PMS / Man with Issues (Donald Trump, Chef Ramsay) Liable to fly off the handle with little notice. May cry. May yell. Often makes others cry. Colloquially known as “moody.” Approach with caution. (Response to painful stimuli: “Fucking oww!” or “Why does everyone hate me?”)

5 (Orange)
Borderline Personality Disorder. Characterized by dramatic emotional instability, as well as self destructive tendencies and marked shifts in relationships, seemingly at a whim.(Response to painful stimuli: “I hate you! Life is a hopeless chasm of despair! Also, I love you. Hold me?") Sometimes will inflict painful stimuli on self, just to distract from the great emotion pain he or she feels inside. Sad.)

6 (Red)
Bipolar Disorder. Highs that are so high that you may or may not believe that you are Jesus and heir to the jellybean conspiracy of the lost ark of the covenant. Lows that are so low that you cannot get out of bed for days or years at a time. It’s all about maintaining balance, and that balance that can be thrown off by: too much or too little sunlight, citrus fruits, exercise or lack of exercise, caffeine consumption, or no discernible reason at all. (Response to painful stimuli: Depression or mania, or both at once, which you’d think would be good, but is actually very, very bad [psychiatrically known as a “mixed episode.”])

So, my questions become...

Are the strength of people’s mood swings relative to the shitiness of those people’s experiences? And if this is true, can we redefine stoic manly-men as sheltered nancy-wimps?

Are lesbians more likely than other women to have been abused as children? Or do some of the genetic and environmental factors that go into making a woman a lesbian also up her chances of being bipolar? Or, are lesbians more likely to be diagnosed at an early age as bipolar, as opposed to borderline, by virtue of their manishness? No?

Or is my roommate just some sort of strange beacon for bipolar lesbians, no matter how rare they may be? Do they sense her by smell, or pheromones? Do they travel thousands of miles, years at a time, compelled by a strange force of the universe which causes them to inevitably make her acquaintance?

...The answers remain elusive.