It’s true. I’ve denied it for years, not because I was ashamed of being a hypochondriac, but because I didn’t think the word applied to me. Why? Miss Snarky Pants, with all of her books, her degrees, her 4-year reign as FCS’s Spelling Bee Champion – don’t be a hater! – never bothered to look up the friggin’ word in a dictionary. Nope, I determined its meaning from overhearing its usage in every day speech. My parents, for example, used the word a lot, and, come to think of it, slewed their eyes towards me whenever they uttered it. For all these years, I’d been operating under the delusion that a hypochondriac was a person who believed they had many illnesses, when, in fact, they did not.
Color me red when I discovered the error of my ways. The cornerstone upon which the entire foundation of who I am and what I believe was crushed when I Googled hypochondriac, only to discover that Dictionary.com defines it as “an excessive preoccupation with one’s health, usually focusing on some particular symptom, [sic] as cardiac or gastric problems.” For a moment, I thought, That’s not me. I usually think I have cancer. I’m not worried about my heart…except for when I can feel its beat pulsing in my temples, and then I’m certain I’m suffering an aneurysm. Hey, it could happen. And my gastric problems are real. You can’t fake diarrhea.
I scrolled down to the second definition: a person who worries or talks excessively about his or her health. Crap! I couldn’t deny it. My health sneaks its way into every conversation I have these days. I get asked, “How are you feeling?” more often than Taylor Swift gets asked, “Who are you going to write a nasty song about next week dating?” For example, today while I was warning my outdoorsy neighbor about the recent mosquito-borne pathogen outbreak in Florida, she blurted out, “What the hell is dengue fever?” However, her next question was “How’s your stomach feeling?” This woman has never even used my bathroom, but she’s knows that my bowel has been distressed lately.
And yes, I’m terrified that I’m going to contract dengue fever. Why?
(1) Eight cases have been reported in Florida in the last few weeks, in two counties: Martin and Miami-Dade. Granted, I don’t live in either of those counties, but mosquitoes can fly. Fly! They aren’t constrained by the nightmarish gridlock on I-4 as families squeeze in a pre-Labor Day Disney visit. No, mosquitoes view that arterial roadway as, well, an actual artery. Moreover, the Aedes aegypti, the species of mosquito that typically carries the virus, prefers human blood to that of other mammalians. Did I mention that only the breeding females transmit the disease? Mothersuckers!
(2) Iknow someone who contracted dengue fever while in Central America. Obviously, the disease isn’t all that rare. His case was so severe, he prayed to God for death. And he’s an atheist.
(3) When it comes to mosquitoes, my blood is a bottle of 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Jeroboam. No, make that a FREE bottle of 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Jeroboam. Yeah, I had to Google that, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Their lust for my blood culminates almost daily in a feeding frenzy that’s convinced me that no vampire could ever resist me. Take that, Bella Swan.
(4) I’m an unlucky person. Sort of. In my mind, most of the good things that have happened to me in life resulted from hard work and perky breasts, not good fortune.
The problem is that I’m a recovering attorney, and my mind operates in a very specific way. When I assess that there is a threat within a 500 mile or so radius, I scour the Internet for evidence to support or dismiss that threat. After reading dozens of articles, blogs, Wikipedia entries, and a couple of double-blind, random, placebo-controlled studies, and determining that the threat is valid, I then begin comparing the disease’s list of symptoms with my current ailments. Dengue fever sufferers, for example, may expect fevers as high as 106 F, severe headaches, body rash, joint and muscle pain so draconian it can cause contortions, nausea, vomiting, eye pain, and minor bleeding from the gums and nose.
My gums bled this morning when I brushed my teeth. My lower back is killing me and I’ve had recurrent abdominal distress for over two weeks. Someone’s tap dancing on a nerve directly behind my left eye, as I write. I could be dying. But the only doctor I’ve seen in months is my chiropractor.
Why? Because I don’t really believe I have, or am going to catch, dengue fever, but the chance exists. In law, you might call it reasonable doubt or preponderance of the evidence. If there is any reasonable doubt that I could be bitten by an infected mosquito, then I have to take the necessary precautions to make sure that neither I, nor Hubby, my family, all my FB friends, all my Twitter friends, all the friends whom I’ve actually met, the lady in front of me in the checkout line who looks like she has a weak immune system, and each and every one of my adoring blog readers, contract dengue fever. Does that make me a hypochondriac or just a concerned citizen who believes that Benjamin Franklin was correct when he wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? C’mon, he nailed the whole electricity thing. The dude had mad smart skills.
Call me a hypochondriac, but it won’t stop me from hiding indoors after dusk for the next couple of months. After all, I live in one of the warmest, wettest places in the country, and that doesn’t take into account Tampa’s strip clubs, which are a hot mess all on their own. My yard breeds mosquitoes the way those Duggars spawn children. Our 1920’s bungalow rests on bricks stacked a foot high – and, based on the bites that pepper my calves and ankles – the dark, sweltering space below it is probably the largest Aedes aegypti neonatal unit in Florida.
Today, I’ll be calling our local mosquito control center and requesting that they do a drive by drenching. Likewise, thrice-daily DEET baths, and mesh body armor after dark are probably in order. I’ve considered sending Hubby outside 5 to 10 minutes ahead of me as a decoy of sorts, but that would involve stepping over a serious moral line. One I’d readily cross (hey, his immune system has my lymph nodes mounted on wooden plaque hanging on its wall), but those pesky, little bloodsuckers won’t touch him. It’s like his mother bottle-fed him a diet of Off! mixed with Skin So Soft. I thought spouses were supposed to have each other’s backs, but mine won’t even donate a pint of blood.
Prevention is the key to beating hypochondria. If I’m not bitten by a mosquito, I won’t worry that my headache is indicative of blistering fevers and aching muscles to come. Or, if I don’t leave the house until Thanksgiving. Or if I temporarily move to Antarctica.
Plus, I have bigger concerns. Did you know that spices can carry salmonella? The FDA will be releasing a study that shows that 15% of coriander, 12% of both basil and oregano, and 4% of regular ol’ peppercorns imported to the United States are contaminated with the potentially-deadly virus. Americans are particularly at risk because we tend to add pepper to our food after it is cooked – and the heating process is what destroys the salmonella virus.
Now ask yourself, Have I sprinkled a little fresh, ground pepper to my food recently? When did the chef add that coriander to my curry? What about the basil I use in my homemade Italian vinaigrette?
Now who’s the hypochondriac?
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Unless you’ve been living in cave in North Korea, you’ve probably heard that the orange buffoon Donald Trump has a big SECRET about President Obama which he’s planning to unveil this week. During a Monday phone call with Fox and Friends, the Trumpster said, ”It’s going to be announced probably on Wednesday. But I have something very, very big concerning the President of the United States.” When probed for more information, The Donald would only add, “It’s very big. Bigger than anybody would know.”
Having been led down the birther path by this pompous, tanorexic blowhard before, I’m hesitant to give the Trumpomatic a single inch of space on my blog. However, being a humor writer, I can’t ignore a golden opportunity to explore the possibilities. What could this important news be? Hmm. Let’s consider what we know: (a) it’s very, very big; (b) it’s about President Obama; (c) it’s coming from the least credible source since Chicken Little.
Top Ten Possible BIG Secrets About President Obama To Be Revealed By The Dumpster
1. President Obama shaved his fro down a couple inches, effectively reducing his height from 6’3″ to 6’1,” in order to avoid being labeled a “big, angry black man.”
2. President Obama is actually Bill Clinton in black face and, thus, his presidency is invalid as no person may be elected to the office of the President of the United States more than twice as per the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.
3. President Obama doesn’t meet the “natural born citizen” requirement of the Constitution because he was actually hatched – the offspring of an advanced race of seven foot tall alien bunnies who settled in the United States in the hopes of saving the world from apocalypse under the leadership of President Mittens.
4. President Obama will appear on Celebrity Apprentice if he is not re-elected. Television execs predict that The Dumpster will be fired and the name of the show will be changed to Socialist, Muslim, African, Liberal, Gay-Loving, Fetus-Murdering Apprentice with President Obama at its helm. Democrats and repentant Republicans will tune in in record numbers.
5. President Obama’s nickname in the bedroom is “Big Barry.”
6. The reason no photos exist of the President before the age of 13 is because President Obama used to be a vampire. A complete transfusion of human blood at age 14 reversed his blood-lust symptoms.
7. Bigfoot exists and President Obama is in possession of the only genuine photograph, contained within the president’s Book of Secrets.
8. The paperwork making Hawaii a U.S. territory and, later, the 50th state were all forged; thus, President Obama is not a natural born citizen of the United States.
9. All those emails you’ve been getting from President Obama – he didn’t really send them; his staff of sharp-fanged, winged faeries did.
10. The real reason Mitt Romney has promised to cut funding for PBS is because the part of Big Bird has secretly been played by President Obama since 1972. Yeah, he was only eleven at the time, but he was tall for his age.
What do you think? Please feel free to cast your vote for the most likely big, fat whopping lie SECRET that the Dumpster will reveal this week – or suggest your own in the Comments section below. Yes, you CAN!
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Mitt & Trump: Abcnews.go.com
Obama’s Afro: Latimesblogs.latimes.com
Obama With Bunny Mama: WashingtonPost.com
Baby Obama: Telegraph.uk.co
Big Bird Obama: Wikipedia
ignorant: (adj) lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated
stupid: (adj) lacking intelligence or common sense; can’t be fixed
dumb-ass: (adj) see stupid
– Oxford Dictionary
A couple of weeks ago, while celebrating my 1,000th subscriber, I hosted a contest in which my readers could post topics for me to write about. Though many intriguing suggestions were submitted, the clever and insightful blogger, Wandering Voiceless captured my interest by proposing that I pen a tutorial on “How to Deal With Stupid People When They Don’t Know They’re Stupid.”
Initially, I was puzzled. Are there stupid people who know that they’re stupid? You know, ones who don’t wake up one morning and say to themselves, “I shouldn’t run for President just because Pa did it; I’m a dumb-ass.” If so, I’d like to photograph them and, perhaps, write an entire book – a tome, if you will – dissecting the psyche of the stupid animal who possesses the self-awareness to recognize just how stupid it is. For years, I’d always assumed that, by definition, stupid people are clueless to the fact that they’re stupid. That’s what makes them stupid as opposed to ignorant, a condition which can be cured with information and a few episodes of The Rachel Maddow Show. And, as my grandmother never actually said, but it sounds folksy to say, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Case in point, the other evening my hubby and I were meandering around downtown investigating every nook and cranny of the most historic section of the city that we have recently decided to call home. A serial photographer, I was snapping away at the most banal things: chained doors, abandoned fast food bags crumpled in the dying light that seeped through an abandoned, spiderweb-draped shop window, local street art, and a turn of the century building constructed of coquina stone. A few yards ahead of me, a car pulled up and parked on the side of the road.
Since we were standing directly across the street from a small, fenced park where the homeless tend to accumulate on its shaded benches during the day (known by locals as the Hobo Gardens), I hesitated, curious if the vehicle owner was the as-yet-unseen person who chases the vagrants from their zoo-like existence in this little corner of respite, before locking the gates each night. God forbid, a transient dude should fall asleep on one of the benches. In the dark. I mean, it’s not like the City didn’t give him all day to catch up on his sleep. And I’m pretty sure they provided him with lavender-scented eye masks to block out the searing brightness of the sun. But like most urban outdoorsmen, he’d probably wasted his daylight hours in conversation with his homeless buddies or weaving dead palm fronds into rosebuds to sell to the tourists.
Allowing an intinerant to enter into REM sleep at night in an unlocked park that is entirely avoided by non-housing challenged locals during the day would certainly be a travesty. Clearly, the highest and best use of such a space is to snap a Master lock on it and force the drifters to wander the streets as shadowy figures who can then be enjoyed by downtown bar patrons. After all, when you’ve just finished off a few yards of Guinness, what better than to take a swing or two at a ragged, old man with spittle in the corner of his mouth who is enjoying a conversation with the three other voices in his head? Big fun, I say.
Moreover, by forcing the homeless to roam the darkened streets, our city is providing a once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline rush for many of the tourists visiting from places like Dubuque and Wichita and Billings, who rarely are assaulted by a request for spare change accompanied by the aroma of cough syrup mixed with the eau de parfum of general stankiness. In fact, it is said that many visitors return home with gallant tales of near death experiences which invariably involved the tourist tossing bills or coins at the bare feet of a transient – who, as per their description, was likely black, male, 8 to 9 feet tall, angry and foaming at the mouth – then running as the drifter chased them down a back alley, pounding his chest and bellowing, “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of a Caucasian man.” Hey, moments like this are what vacation memories are made of.
I began to wonder what a person would say in order to extricate the vagrants from their little Garden of Not Eatin’. Dragging a billy club along the fence, would the Evictor-in-Chief evoke the memory of every prison movie ever made before sneering, “Git yer bum asses up and moving. This ain’t no Holiday fuckin’ Inn.” And he’d be right. The park is much nicer than a Holiday Inn.
Or would he approach the men and their assorted knapsacks and overflowing plastic bags with fear in his eyes, but the law on his side? “C’mon guys. You know, it ain’t up to me. Look, don’t make me pull out my cell phone. I’ve got 911 on speed dial.” When they ignore him, does he whip the flip phone out of his pocket, point it at them threateningly and say, “The safety’s not on. And once I dial the cops, that call will be recorded for quality assurance.”
Perhaps he’s read about Pavlov’s dog and has trained the park’s transients to simply haul their aching bones up at the rattle of his chains and lumber towards him, drooling like a lesbian at a sorority pajama party, their hands extended in anticipation of the small bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 he gives each one as they exit Vagrant Village. Regardless, this is a person tasked with a stupid job by stupid senior government employees who are told what to do by stupid politicians who think that locking up a lovely park at night makes my community better and safer. And I doubt any of the parties involved have a clue that they’re stupid.
However, after taking several more photos, no one emerged from the parked car. My husband strolled away to examine the old lettering on the side of a building, leaving me standing alone on the sidewalk. As I rounded the corner of the building, a young man wearing a knitted winter cap in 85 degree weather (I’m Stupid Clue #1), a tee shirt and plaid grandpa shorts hung so low the most experienced limbo dancer couldn’t squeeze between their hem and the asphalt (I’m Stupid Clue #2) jumped out of the car, skate board in hand, and began serenading me in a brash, intoxicated voice. “How can I get just one fuck? How can I get just one fuck? I guess it’s got somethin’ to do with luck…” (I’m Stupid Clue #3)
At this point he leaned towards me, dropped his skateboard and stretched out his arms, as though he was preparing to lunge at me, but I deftly sidestepped him, turned around and crooned, “But I waited my whole life for just one…,” before spinning back around and walking away. Behind me, I could hear his friends howling with laughter. The woman whom skater boy had figured was so white-bread that she’d shrink from him like a penis at the sight of a butcher knife could not only finish the lyrics to his crappy rendition of the Femmes’ “Add It Up,” but clearly wasn’t intimidated by the miniscule lump in his Scooby Doo boxers, either. Hell, that song had been my mantra when this kid’s mother was still smoking pot and giving out free hand jobs under the high school bleachers. I was tempted to return and inform him that until a decade ago, I’d regularly worn combat boots, but then I remembered my niece’s response when I’d told her the same thing in an effort to prove how cool I had been in my youth.
Me: Of course, I know who Jack White is. I used to wear combat boots practically every day of my life.
My Niece: (incredulously) Why?
Okay, now who’s stupid? It was a momentary lapse, I swear.
When I found my husband a moment later inspecting a chunk of exposed coquina shell, he asked, “What was that about?”
Shrugging my shoulders, I replied, “Just some stupid ass serenading me in the street.” It was obvious that the aforementioned stupid ass didn’t think he was stupid. He and his friends, I’d surmised, found him to be amusing, much in the way my orange tabby finds rubber bands endlessly entertaining. And my cat is stupid. We love him, but he’s a dumb ass. Everyone knows it…except for him. Just last night, while our other two felines – both infinitely more intelligent than our short bus kitty – were hanging out by the water bowls, one of them rolled her eyes and exhaled a deep purr before saying, “I caught Dumb Ass eating one of the fake plants. Again. I mean, there’s fresh fucking basil growing in a pot in the living room window and he’s chewing on a plastic cactus.”
“Well, at least he didn’t keep you awake last night licking the outside of the kitty litter bag,” the other cat replied, twitching his whiskers. “If he pulls that shit again, I am so gonna bite him on the nape of the neck and dominate his ass. Fucking retard.”
Considering that the plastic cactus in question has more bite marks than all the characters in The Twilight Saga combined, it’s apparent that stupid isn’t an affliction that can be easily cured. Trial and error has zero impact on those impacted by this disease.
As I thought about the subject of stupidity even further, I began to realize that stupid people not only fail to recognize their own stupidity, but they assume that everyone else is stupid. For example, yesterday afternoon, I’d traveled to the beachside town where we’d lived until recently for a doctor’s appointment. After having lunch with a friend of mine, I’d stepped out into the bright afternoon sunshine, smart phone in my hand. For those of you who’ve read my most recent post, you may recall that my husband and I recently met a couple from Atlanta who chose to move to this particular beachside town because they believed it to be sosafe. For the record, they also turned out to be pretty stupid.
I’d just made it to my car, when I was accosted by a hysterical woman with bleached blonde hair, smudged makeup, wearing hootchie mama shorts and a tank top sans bra stretched across her ample bosom, accompanied by a disheveled, tattooed, middle-aged man who smelled like a Mexican restaurant dumpster in mid-summer on the last day of a long, holiday weekend. “I just lost my iPhone!” the woman screeched, pointing a dirty fingernail in my direction. “I have to use your phone to call it.”
This was one of those moments in life in which I wished I’d had the time to order a coffee and sit down to ponder all the reasons why my phone would never, ever be released into the custody of Ms. Hootchie Mama Hot Pants. However, as the ho-with-no-phone was demanding the use of mine asap, I only had time to consider a few:
1) iPhones are expensive, but the color of this chick’s brittle tresses appeared to have been achieved by soaking the bottom ¾ of her hair in a sink filled with Clorox;
2) Neither of these folks looked like Mac users, though I was pretty sure they were using something that began with the letter M;
3) If Tits Mountain was to be believed, she’d already lost one phone. Why in the hell would I trust her with mine? Let her start with something small. Something no one would miss if it were misplaced. Like an infant.
“I’ll call it for you,” I replied, as my fingers curled themselves tightly around my phone. “What’s your number?” Tits Mountain’s face drew a blank.
“Okay, I’ll run over there and listen for it,” she finally said, trotting across the street and stopping at the corner. Her friend reached out his grimy, crusted hands, seemingly very anxious to hold my phone – as if it would make the iPhone reappear or, even better, turn into a naked breast.
“The number?” I repeated. Again, the man reached for my cell, his index finger actually stroking its corner this time. Clearly, he believed that his touch would magically relax my iron-clad grasp on my Android. Like I said before, not only do stupid people not know that they’re stupid, they think everyone else is stupid. However, the chances of me allowing him to dial a single digit on my phone at that moment was up there with the odds of Tori Spelling winning a Pulitzer for her 17th memoir entitled, MasturbaTORI. Taking a step away from him and the pervasive stench of rotting refried beans, I waited patiently. Finally, the man rattled off a seven numbers.
As the phone began to ring, Mr. Grabby Hands leaned towards me, greedily eyeing my phone, his fingers twitching like an amateur poker player’s eye. Ms. Hootchie Mama Hot Pants watched from across the street as I lifted my cell to my ear, then she proceeded to run around in several small circles on the sidewalk – not unlike a dog locating the best patch of grass upon which to squat and poo – before throwing up her hands in frustration and dashing back across the street towards us. Apparently, she believed – or wanted me to – that she’d lost her iPhone somewhere in the four foot radius of that particular corner. I mean, you never know. Perhaps she had an invisibility app on her iPhone? Maybe she was beta testing the iPhone 5 for Apple and the new phone was so slim, it was possible to lose it in a hairline crack in the sidewalk? I almost asked her, “Where was the last place you saw it?” but I had the feeling the answer would involve a motel that charged by the half hour or the discarded mattress lying next to the dumpster behind Mi Pueblo Restaurante.
When it became clear to Dumb and Dumber that the phone would have to be extracted from my hand with the Jaws of Life, they quickly dropped the charade, half-heartedly thanking me for my help. Within seconds, they approached a group dining outside – not more than three yards away – who, having just witnessed the World’s Lamest Scammers Ever Getting Hosed, picked up their steak knives and shook their heads. After unsuccessfully hitting up two biker types on the sidewalk with the same story, the couple finally admitted defeat. As I drove off, I passed them strolling hand-in-hand down the street – headed in the opposite direction of the corner where the alleged iPhone had been lost.
I couldn’t decide what was worse: that these grifters thought that I would fall for their scam, or that they continued to press forward with the hope that others in the immediate vicinity would not see through a story as transparent as a cheap dry-cleaning bag? Clearly, these were stupid people who thought everyone else was more stupider and, like George Dubbya, figured that we would misunderestimate them too.
So as it stands, I have failed Wandering Voiceless because there is no tutorial for dealing with the stupid. There are things in this life that are simply immutable. Sarah Jessica Parker will never have a petite, up-turned nose. Anderson Cooper will never marry…a woman. Kim Jong-un is never going to appear on the cover of Playgirl.
What you can’t change, you must accept. So stop sending dictionaries to New Jersey Real Housewife, Teresa “Ingrediences” Giudice. Don’t waste your time arguing with Trump about the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate. Desist with the petitions to have Ann Coulter lobotomized.
Unless Stupid is the name of your new puppy, you can’t fix stupid.