What's hot; what's not (aka something to offend everyone)

I was leaving the library when I saw her; I did a u-turn. She wore a short skirt with long stockings that had black and white horizontal stripes. The little bit of skin that showed between stockings and skirt drove me crazy. She looked at me looking at her, and it wasn’t a friendly look. I hate it when women dress to attract attention, and then become offended when they attract attention. Maybe if I too had been twenty…

I like women in boots too, but I would lose readers if I alluded to them in the way that Charles Perrault alluded to a cat who wore boots—even though I think it sounds funny. Anyway, I like women in boots. I like them A LOT. Short boots, tall boots, majorette boots, cowgirl boots, I don’t care; I just like women in boots. Only I like them a lot better if they’re wearing shorts or skirts with those boots.

Tattoos? No. Nose rings? Oink no! Eyebrow studs? God forbid. High heels? Only if you consider an ambulatory disability sexy. Make-up? A very little is okay. Skirts over pants? Latter day hippies just look silly and unoriginal. Torn jeans? Only a decadent culture affects poverty as a fashion statement.

What I look for in how a woman dresses is a mixture of funk and creativity. I call it flair. But not all women can pull it off. Some women who wear funky hats, vintage clothes, and oversize jewelry just look like they own a few too many cats. Cat women definitely aren’t my thing, but maybe that’s because I got burned by one. Before her, I didn’t think about cats much. Now, I’m more into women who have dogs, but no more than one or two.

Women with sad eyes—wow. Maybe this is because I equate sorrow with depth and happiness with superficiality, or maybe it’s because I think I can save them. Anyway, women with sad eyes make me crazy. I just want to throw myself at their feet and crawl up their legs, serpent-like. You might say, “Bullshit, sad women don’t have more depth; they just have a hormone deficiency.” Okay, whatever… Fact is, I’m in no mood for objective truth, so I would ask that you bear with me even if I sound stupid. After all, you probably sound stupid sometimes too.

One problem I have (okay, one among MANY) is that I like women who dress with flair, yet women who dress so provocatively that men will fantasy about them for 20 years after a brief sighting in the library are almost certainly extroverts, and I prefer introverts because, again, I think the latter have more depth. Extroverts are like pond skimmers that never really alight, and introverts are like fish that hangout in the mud and gloom at the bottom.

What else do you like?

You really want to know? I mean, REALLY?

I am in such suspense that I can hardly catch my breath.

Which brings me to panting women, which are another major turn-on. As are women who smell like human beings instead of like gardenias or some other crap that comes out of a bottle. It’s a really dirty woman who needs to shower to please me, and I have no problem with body hair either unless it’s so thick that it looks like it should be on a man.

Maturity, depth, and erudition also turn me on, but I’ll tell you the embarrassing truth. A silly and shallow fifteen year old can LOOK awfully good even though my paternal instincts outweigh my prurient ones.

One other thing, and it’s a biggie. I like a woman who has seen it all, and who is damn hard to frighten or offend. Maybe this is because I was raised by a mother who never stopped feigning the innocence of a child and who seemed offended by pretty much everything that had anything to do with sex. This turn-on is one reason that I like older women, although I quit writing off younger women after I read Carson McCullers. The accumulation of years is far less important than who a woman is inside; youth doesn’t have to mean innocence or naïveté, and age doesn’t necessarily imply worldliness.

Blondes are good because they look like they’re wearing halos when they’re in the sunshine, but then long-haired blonde men look that way too from behind, and I always feel cheated when they turn around (in fact, I want to slug them for getting me aroused over nothing). A woman’s eyes and shape are far more important than hair color. Besides, I think of brunettes and redheads as having more depth.

Mental problems and a history of suicide attempts also point to depth because the ability to adjust to this world would seem to imply a certain callousness and superficiality. Yeah, I know. Yet again, I’m confusing depth with hormone deficiencies. But then what ARE we, really? You might be right; it might ALL be a question of hormones, but that makes no difference. We all PRETEND that our lives have a deeper substance, a spiritual reality, if you will. I don’t think this is true, but I live as if it is. Cut us open, and we’re the same as pigs, but we don’t treat one another like pigs.

So, how does Peggy measure up to all this? Not so good, thankfully. You see, I recognize something of a gap between the qualities that look hot and the qualities that make a long-term relationship possible. It’s a little like wanting vodka when what you really need is a good meal. Peggy is the good meal. Besides, she has put up with me for 38 years, and I owe her for that. Besides that, what we lack in our ability to deeply understand one another is more than made up for by our love for one another. I can never again marry a woman when we are both young and stay with her until we are approaching old age, and that means a lot to me.

You want to know what depth is in a relationship? I’ll tell you, my child. It’s not hot sex or heart-to-heart talks. Well, maybe it is. But more than these, depth is when you put someone else’s name on your bank account (assuming there’s anything in it) knowing full well that that person could walk away with everything you’ve worked a lifetime for, yet trusting that she won’t EVEN IF she should come to hate your guts. Peggy looks hot, AND she’s deeply affectionate, AND she has unquestioned integrity. It’s a hell of an attractive combination, yet it has never dampened my desire for other women. The new and unknown is appealing because it is new and unknown, and there’s no depth to such an appeal. It’s mostly—maybe exclusively—a matter of hormones.


At Belief-o-Matic, you answer 20 questions and get a list of how closely your beliefs align with those of 27 religions and denominations. It gets a tad ridiculous at the bottom where you learn how closely you match up with groups that would like nothing better than to burn you at the stake, but I found it accurate enough at the top. Here’s my top five.

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (96%)
3. Liberal Quakers (79%)
4. Nontheist (77%)
5. Neo-Pagan (70%)

Let me know how you come out. (http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Quizzes/BeliefOMatic.aspx)

Last visit

I’ve been seeing Mark (my orthopedist—that’s him in the photo) every six weeks since my surgery in March, and I always take a written update in order to better describe any changes. This is yesterday’s update.

“Until ten days ago, the pain in my right shoulder was worse than when I last saw you, and the pain in my left shoulder had increased to the point that both shoulders interfered greatly with my sleep. They hurt similarly, as if someone were jabbing them with broomsticks. Percocet only quieted the pain enough for me to sleep an hour or two at a time, and it made me itch considerably even with the Benadryl. My middle back below the shoulder blades continues to hurt day and night, and I can’t sleep comfortably in any position.

“I had long feared that the shoulder pain would become bad enough that I would have to sleep in a chair again. I dreaded doing so, but was glad to know that I at least had a way to escape the worst of the pain if all else failed. All else did fail so, two weeks ago, I returned to a chair only to find that the pain in both shoulders was as bad there as in bed.

“I saw no change after my thirty days on a raw food diet, so I stopped both it and the acupuncture three weeks ago, and started taking SAM-e, MSM, glucosamine, and raw ginger. I am also drinking an extra gallon of water each day and have doubled my intake of fish and fish oil.

“Ten days ago, the nighttime pain in both shoulders began to decrease, and I have since been able to sleep three or four nights without medication, although I still use ice packs all night every night. During the day, my right shoulder, at its worse, still hurts as if a bee were stinging me deep inside the joint with the pain radiating down the outside of my upper arm. At its best, the joint itches so badly that I feel compelled to scratch it, although scratching does no good. The left shoulder feels slightly stiff during the day but is seldom painful.

“The following is a comprehensive list of factors other than arthritis that can cause continued pain after tendon repair. I’m enclosing it on the off chance that you might have overlooked some rare problem.”

“Brachial plexopathy, Cervical radiculopathy, Long-thoracic neuropathy, Neoplasm, Reflex sympathetic dystrophy, Spinal-accessory neuropathy, Suprascapular neuropathy, Thoracic outlet syndrome, Adhesive capsulitis, Articular cartilage defect, Bicipital tendonitis, Instability, Lateral tears, Acromioclavicular arthropathy, Deltoid insufficiency, Rotator cuff defect, Subacromial impingement”

The fact that the right shoulder seems to be improving precludes a joint replacement on that side—the side he operated on in March—and only in my worst moments do I contemplate one anyway because, once the bone is gone, it’s gone forever, and the replacements just aren’t that good. The 70% tendon tear in the left shoulder doesn’t justify the risks of sewing it up in the absence of significant pain or disability. I have had both, but since they seem to be lessening, Mark suggested that we hold off, and I happily agreed. We didn’t schedule another visit.

I left his office with mixed feelings. Although he hasn’t been able to do anything to help me—other than narcotics and sleeping pills—since my surgery on March 27, I took comfort in having at long last found a doctor I could trust and talk to, and I feel a little lonely now that I can no longer say, “I’m under the care of a physician.” Or a physical therapist for that matter. I’m entirely on my own, and I fear that I still have a long way to go. Fortunately, what I have already gone through has made me stronger on the inside even while debilitating me on the outside.

Something of substance

When I was a Mississippi teacher in a school that was half black and half white, nearly all of my black students and half of my white students qualified for free lunches. In a school where no one was rich, picture one quarter of the student population having to buy that which the other three-quarters get for free. Now, picture the parents of that one-quarter having to pay for their own children’s lunches and, through their taxes, for the lunches of the other students. Such situations build resentment. When I asked in a previous post why it might be that the very parts of the country that have the poorest people are also the parts that so vehemently oppose a national health care system, no one answered. I think that one reason is just such resentment. The South contains a lot of seriously pissed-off people, and I can’t bring myself to put them down too harshly because I’ve seen the world through their eyes.

I support national health care because I also see how miserable and hopeless my own precarious health situation would be if I were to lose my private insurance in a state that has a waiting list for Medicaid. If you become too sick to work, you lose your job, and when you lose your job, you lose your insurance. You can’t buy more insurance because you’re sick and you have no job. What is the message in this? That your life is worthless aside from your ability to earn money with which to buy insurance? I would be astounded if you could find a single person who is desperately ill and can't afford treatment who opposes national health care. If I am right, what you have here is a situation in which those who have their own needs met simply don’t care a whole hell of lot about those who don’t. Perhaps, they blame them for having the problem.

I have been corresponding with a man named Aaron who opposes national health care, and I promised him that I would address the issue here for the simple reason that I feel better about spending inordinate amounts of time writing for my blog than I do writing letters. Aaron’s argument is that private charities should take on the problem. When I pointed out that they’re already unable to do this, his response was that government is to blame, not just for their failure, but for the soaring cost of medical care. He offered two primary reasons for this. First, by pumping taxpayer money into Medicaid and Medicare the government guarantees healthcare providers an income. This stifles competition, and no competition means higher prices. Second, government sets standards for medical facilities, procedures, personnel, and so forth; and the necessity of meeting these standards also runs prices up.

I spent five hours in McKenzie Willamette Medical Center last March for outpatient surgery, and I was comforted to know that my caregivers met government standards. Those five hours cost $18,695, and that didn’t include the surgeon’s bill, the anesthesiologist’s bill, or anything else. When medications, x-rays, blood tests, follow up doctor’s visits, physical therapy appointments, three MRIs ($1,300 each), and so forth, were included, that one outpatient procedure cost more than $40,000, and the bills are still coming in because I’m still needing follow-up care.

Let’s say that Aaron is right, and that if government stopped paying for any medical care for anyone and got out of the business of setting standards for doctors, drugs, procedures, and facilities; health care costs would drop. He didn’t give a percentage, but for sake of argument, let’s imagine that they would drop by two-thirds. Instead of $40,000, my bill would have been $13,333. If I were among the many who work a 40-hour week for the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, I would have to work almost a year (46 weeks) to pay for that one surgery. Since I’m in worse shape now than I was before the surgery, I would be unable to work at all if I were a manual laborer, and no work would mean no income and no income would mean no insurance.

Under Aaron’s proposal, I would be obliged to appeal to private charity for help. This would mean filling out applications for one or more charities and going through what would surely be an extensive screening process. Would I go to one charity for health care assistance and other charities for food, heating oil, and help with the mortgage? And if approved, would I be approved for whatever was necessary, or would I have to have every procedure, every drug, and every office visit to every specialist approved separately and in advance? Would the charity then comb through every bill and negotiate a lower price with the provider as insurance companies do? Would there be a yearly—or a lifetime—maximum that they would—or could—spend?

Now, let’s multiply my problem by the millions who would need help, and let’s imagine that instead of being sixty and needing shoulder surgery, I’m eighty and suffering from dementia and kidney failure and need round the clock nursing care and weekly dialysis. Talk about health care rationing! Talk about death panels! How else could it play out? Private charities could no more pick up the tab for health care than they could pay for building roads or maintaining the military.

Just think of the millions of people who are chronically ill or aging, thousands of them unable to even seek help on their own behalf, and tell me that a network of charities could work. A fundraiser was recently held at a pizza joint here for a little boy who was severely injured when a drunk driver hit the car he was in, killing everyone but that child. $10,000 was raised. Think of it. $10,000 for a severely injured child who might need a lifetime of care. How many pizza feeds would Aaron propose and for how many children? And what would become of people like the old man with dementia if no one wanted to hold fundraisers for them? Under Aaron’s plan, they would die. Those who were on top in our society would still drive their Lexus’s and live in their 5,000 square foot hillside mini-mansions with the five car garages, while those who were less fortunate would be left to suffer and perish, literally by the roadside. When we Americans talk about how much a person is worth when what we mean is how much money does he have, we’re not speaking metaphorically.

Yet, I do not think believe that my friend Aaron is heartless, or else I would not call him my friend. I actually think he is an idealist who sincerely believes that laissez faire capitalism would lead to a better world for everyone. I also suspect that he is a bit of an ideologue, but maybe I project. I was once a devotee of Ayn Rand because she made it all look so good on paper. In her books, the capitalists were creative and hardworking visionaries of uncompromising virtue; the socialists self-aggrandizing manipulators devoid of integrity; and there was no middle ground. Then I read about the Industrial Revolution, a time that came nearer to her vision of unrestrained capitalism than any other era. And what happened? The very few got very rich upon the backs of the very many. Human beings were treated like machine parts that were so cheap and plentiful that their welfare was not worthy of consideration.

Children were chained to work stations twelve hours a day seven days a week. Their emaciated bodies shivered wretchedly in thin rags in the winter and dropped from heat exhaustion in the summer. They became stooped from overwork; they got rickets from bread and water diets; they lost fingers, hands, and sometimes their lives to noisy and dangerous machinery. They died from breathing noxious chemicals or absorbing them through their skins. Laissez faire capitalism meant no fire codes, so they perished by the hundreds in burning factories. And when workers died because of the negligence of their employers, their families got NOTHING but poorer, sadder, and more desperate. Meanwhile, the children of the rich partied before moving from their city mansions in winter to their country—or European—mansions in summer, all while gaily dressed in the furs of slaughtered animals and the plumages of endangered birds. They might as well have gone all out like those Nazis who made handicrafts from the skins of laborers who died of exposure and exhaustion.

America then was like many of the so-called “Developing Nations” are today, and it would take a stretch of the imagination to imagine anything more cruel. But that’s what unrestrained capitalism looks like; a few ruthless men (mostly men) making more money before lunch than hundreds of their employees will earn in their short miserable lives. Whatever the evils of socialism, in theory at least, it holds human life as more valuable than limitless wealth amassed without regard for how many people are ground to dust in the process. Ayn Rand was wrong. There is a middle ground, and it starts with insuring that people aren’t left to die because they can’t afford to be treated.

And he spake unto them in parables saying, "Verily, a fag, a broad, and an infidel goeth up to the House of the Lord..."

I attended church for the last two Sundays after an absence of several months. Most churches don’t have much in the way of Sunday school during the summer, and since Sunday school is the only reason I go, I hung out with Buddhists instead. All they did was to sit silently, a practice that appeals to me more in theory than in practice. I didn’t go for the meditation though so much as for the people, particularly a man with whom I hoped to be friends. It doesn’t look promising. He suggested that we go for a beer; I proposed a date; the date didn’t work for him; and he never proposed another.

I think he has some mental health issues that are holding him back, but they were what caught my interest. I haven’t had a “normal” friend since childhood. I’m not even sure such people exist…well, I guess they have to because otherwise normal wouldn’t exist, and what kind of sense would that make?

Anyway, church. I went to First Methodist. I hadn’t been there in two years (I’ve been going to First Christian and First Congregationalist—no second rate churches for me), so it surprised hell out of me when one of the ministers said, “Hi, Snow,” before I even put my nametag on.


Yeah, I get one for every church I go to as quickly as possible. Otherwise, a dozen people a Sunday ask such predictably boring questions as, “What brings you here today?” “Have you lived in Eugene long?” “Do I detect the hint of an accent?” If I have a nametag, they still don’t know who I am, but they think they should, so they pretend they do. The preacher today was friendly but didn’t try to engage, and I appreciated that. I’m not going to contribute (much) to his salary; I’m not going to "find" Jesus; and I’m not going to join his church. I’m just there because I enjoy studying the Bible, and will jump ship in a heartbeat if another church offers a more interesting class.

First Methodist recently combined its traditional service with its contemporary service (due to falling membership, I suppose), and Sunday school starts right after it ends. I like to sleep in, so this will work well for me. I will get there early enough to pour myself a cup of coffee and select a good seat in the classroom. Then I will read. About the time I get comfortable, the doors to the sanctuary will open, and the people will file out to the strains of some New Agey hymn or another. Since they are all the same sugary pap, it hardly matters which one.

The only good thing about them is that they inspire pretty women in charismatic churches to sway back and forth while holding their hands above their heads. This elevates their breasts most appealingly, and when you add to that the fact that they’re in their best clothes, moving their lips ecstatically, and wearing expressions of orgasmic bliss…well, I find it inspiring to be sure. If I were a minister in such a church, I would sooner or later conclude my sermon with, “Let us lift our breasts to the Lord in prayer,” and my career would be over. I don’t know whether Methodist women lift their breasts in prayer, but I seriously doubt it.

First Methodist welcomes gay people, and I quickly spotted two gay couples, both of which were somewhat past middle age. One of the gay men asked insightful questions about the Bible, and I was touched by this, although it struck me as ironic since the Bible offers him nothing but stoning and hellfire. But then the preacher who led the class was a woman, and the Bible doesn’t have much good to say about them either. Finally, there was me (or is it I?), a nonbeliever who enjoys the Bible. What a group. But at least the church welcomes women and homosexuals just the way they are, whereas it views people like myself as needing a little work. Okay, a lot of work. But, you know, the Methodists of a hundred years ago would look at the Methodists of today and think they are all hellbound, so change is a’coming. Someday, the church might even live up to its motto:

“Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.”