Self Diagnosers

May 16, 2014

When I was young, my mostest favorite thing in the whole world was when my mom would rub my back. I’d lie across her legs for hours, listening to her and my grandmother trash talk our relatives as she gently rubbed my back, occasionally pressing her fingers down firmly in mid-rub. I’d ask what she was doing and her response was always ‘Nothing, just counting.’ At the time I didn’t know what she meant.

Cut to 15 years later.

I was living with HH and braving the congested New Jersey highways to and from work every day. It seemed that I would get into near collisions weekly with a Garden State-er because I couldn’t concentrate on my driving, instead counting the number of highway median stripes I drove by and trying to match them to the beat of whatever song was on the radio. I’d always try to get three stripes per beat of the music. Thinking that was totally normal, I told HH. Her response was that it was completely not and I should see a doctor stat.

I did and the doctor diagnosed me with a minor, minor case of OCD. He prescribed some meds and my counting stopped.

Until I stopped my meds.

After that, the obsession continued, morphing from three to nine (three times three), then 27 (nine times 3) and the eventually 39 (3 and 9). I’d count everything: the number of times I breathed, the syllables of a sentence I heard, the number of times I chewed my food and even how I masturbated (I won’t go any further as my mom is probably reading this).

I read up a bit on OCD and it said that very often it’s genetic, so I asked my mom about it. When I was home one visit, I sat her down and told her that I had OCD. ‘What’s your number?’ she asked, as if she had been waiting for this question my whole life. I told her I was a 39 and she told me she was a former 10, but now a 22 and that’s why she was always pressing down on my back. She counted everything, too.

So, I had finally figured out where my obsession came from and what it meant. That was, until a few years ago…

It when I was in architecture graduate school and I was working on a project with a girl we all un-affectionately referred to a Horse Laugh Girl (that should be self-explanatory). We were trying to determine the location of some punched windows in a concrete wall and, out of the blue she says ‘I’m sorry this is hard for me, I’m totally OCD.’

‘Oh my God,’ I exclaimed,’ (this before people said OMG) ‘What’s your number?’ I asked, thinking I had found a sympathetic spirit. She looked at me the same way I imagine the Israelites looked at Moses when he first told him God had spoken to him via a burning bush on top of a mountain. Realizing she didn’t know what I was talking about and that she totally didn’t have OCD we went about our project, never to speak of her lie again.

Then I started listening…it was as if everyone was declaring their self-diagnosed OCD. Someone was late for class…it was their OCD; a professor broke up with her boyfriend…it was her OCD; there was an eclipse…it was the Earth’s OCD.

I thought it was an isolated incident…until HH met her soon-to-be husband.

I was visiting HH and we went over to her boyfriend’s parent’s house, where his brother’s baby-mama was living. The three of us were in their basement looking through old pictures when she found one of her baby-daddy. She holds it up and with a white-trash smirk said ‘Look at him, total skater fag.’ HH looked at me and I scowled at baby-mama.

‘I’m so sorry.’ she said, knowing she had totally fucked up. ‘I’m bi-polar.’ I couldn’t help myself, so I asked ‘What does being bi-polar have to do with being a bigot?’ Of course, she had no answer, so she slinked upstairs and hid in her bedroom the rest of the day.

What is it with people now a days? I feel as if nothing is ever anyone’s fault anymore. Their lack of design capability can be attributed to OCD and someone’s narrow mindedness can be simplified to a rather serious mental illness.

You hear it all the time. Someone doesn’t hear what you say…it’s their ADD; someone’s having a bad day…they’re schizophrenic; I cry when Trinity died at the end of the third Matrix movie…it’s because I’m depressed.

We’re a society of self-diagnosis and I say it’s time to stop. You don’t have OCD, you just can’t make up your mind; you’re not bi-polar, you’re just an ignorant redneck, and I’m not depressed, I just really liked the Matrix trilogy and didn’t want it to end.

I’m not trying to minimize mental illness. Luckily, my OCD has faded into oblivious, but I know there are a lot people out there that deal with some serious struggles every day, but I don’t think they use it as a crutch to defend their inadequacies.

My advice to all those self-diagnosers out there…

If you think you’re OCD, watch ‘As Good As It Gets’…that’s OCD.

If you think you’re schizophrenic, watch ‘A Beautiful Mind’…that’s schizophrenia.

If you think you’re bi-polar, watch any season of ‘Real Housewives’…that’s bi-polar.

My advice to everyone else…

When you have a self-diagnoser tell you they’re whatever they think they are, ask them when they were diagnosed, what medication they’re taking. I imagine they won’t be able to answer either.

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So, what do you do?

March 12, 2011

I really hate it when I meet someone and  their first question is “So, what do you do?” I always want to say “Well, I do a lot of things. I breathe. I walk. I talk. I sing in the car sometimes and, when I’m really bored in meetings, I push back my cuticles.” I understand that it’s like the least common denominator of questions, but I just hate the way it’s phrased, as if what I’ve chosen as a profession defines actually who I am and what I do with my life.

Since graduating from college I’ve only really had three professions: a video store clerk, a graphic designer and my current career as an architect. And with every one, that ubiquitous, ice-breaking question has haunted me.

I was living in Miami Beach, dating my loser ex-boyfriend (see Facebook and Ex Boyfriends for more information) when I worked as a video store clerk. That was when I was in my early twenties, which meant I ate nothing but McDonalds without ever gaining a pound and was able to go out every night of the week until 3am and still make it to work the next morning. Miami Beach in the late 90s was a hot bed of hot guys all high on something, which meant they were usually pretty chatty and nice. Night after night I’d go out and meet new people. Inevitably, they’d ask what I do and, when I told them, they’d instantly blurt out some schpeal about a late-movie fine on their account and ask if I could take it off for them. That, or they’d ask if I could give them free popcorn the next time they were in the store. Sometimes, if they were really cute or had a job that I could use to swap favors (waiters at good restaurants or bouncers at the hottest clubs) I’d say yes, but mostly, I’d just sit there and listen to how so-and-so wasn’t good in this movie or how everyone thought they shouldn’t have to pay for a movie they rented but didn’t like.

A little over a year of working in that job, I fled Miami for the oppressive suburbs to New Jersey to live with Homo Honey and work as a graphic designer in medical advertising. HH has always been extremely social and well-liked which meant we went to a lot of parties. As she is the cat’s meow and desirable in every aspect of the word, HH would disappear throughout the night talking to random girls or cute boys and I’d get stuck talking, usually, to the only other gay person at the party. I’d stand there, waiting for the question and when the homosexual would ask “So, what do you do?” I’d tell them that I was a graphic designer for a pharmaceutical company. Then, as if they were at a confidential doctor’s visit, they’d start asking me about what medication they should take for whatever ailed them. One guy asked me about the best fungal cream to remove athlete’s foot. At one party, this very homely lesbian asked about how to get rid of her chronic halitosis which was really, really bad. And one guy who, after several cocktails I imagine, asked if I had and Viagra on me. It was like they asked me what I did and then totally didn’t listen to the answer. I said I was a graphic designer, not an effing doctor, or even a medical scientist.

Although the parties sucked, living with HH was a blast, but like all good things, our time came to an end and I moved down south to become an architect. After three years of sleepless nights and horrible design reviews by my Ewok professor and his stupid role of playing the devil’s advocate, I graduated and started my third career. In that same time I met BF and made some good friends. My friends have friends and those friends have friends, which means I’ve met a lot of people. And all those friends of friends of friends only ever seem to be interested in one thing: what I do for a living. When I tell them I’m an architect, I don’t get asked for favors like when I was a video store clerk, or asked for medical advice when I was a graphic designer; instead I get one of three responses. The first is “Oh my God. I love Frank Lloyd Wright. He’s totally my favorite architect.” To that I ask “Who’s your second favorite architect?” Usually they can’t name another. The second response is “Neat.” And that’s it. I don’t know if they’re waiting for me to ask them what they do for work or if they don’t know exactly what an architect is, but that’s all I get. We stand there for a few awkward seconds until I excuse myself to get another drink or go to the bathroom. The third response I get and, this one fascinates me the most, is just a blank stare, like I just told them I was Jeffrey Dahmer’s cousin.

It’s taken fifteen years, three careers and a millions times beings asked “So, what do you do?” for me to realize a universal truth: people don’t care what I do. They ask me that stupid question because: 1) They think they’re being polite. 2) They don’t understand the concept of comfortable silence. Or 3) (and I think this one is usually the case) They only ask me, thinking I’ll ask them, so they can talk about themselves.

So, I’ve decided, the next time I’m at a party and someone asks me “So, what do you do?” I’m going to smile and say either “I’m a phone sex operator” or “I work in sanitation.”

My advice to those of you who feel the need to always ask “So, what do you do?”: First, stop asking that. Ask “What do you do for work?” Second, don’t ask unless you really care and are willing and able to follow up their response with at least two questions related to their career. And third, if you’re just asking so you can talk about your job…get a life. No one want to hear about your stupid job.

My advice to everyone else: The next time you’re at a party and some d-bag asks you “So, what do you do?” follow my lead and think of the most obnoxious career and see what happens.

Holiday Cards

December 17, 2009

In my pre-bf life, I lived with my Homo Honey in suburban New Jersey, working for a pharmaceutical advertising agency. If you’re not familiar with pharma advertising, ask yourself “Who designs those stupid clipboards in the doctor’s office, blatently advertising drugs that I don’t need?” That’s what they do, among other things.

One holiday season, our drug company client asked us to design their holiday greeting card. Salivating for a creative challenge, my boss eagerly accepted and, through a special Christmas miracle, she asked me to join the design team. We brainstormed on everything from orientation of the card, to the style and even if it should be two or three dimensional. After sleepless nights and even longer design team meetings, we decided on a hand-painted, clear glass ornament that housed a scrolled greeting card inside of it.

On the day of our design presentation with the client, our team walked into the meeting confident that our design was both visually sitmulating and seasonally appropriate. And we were right. Overall, the client was as pleased with the design as us, well, as much as a group of drug company executives can get about a design that won’t make them any money. They signed off on the ornament and wished us all a happy holiday season. As the meeting ended we all said our goodbyes, shaking hands and exchanging pleasentries about visting our families. Everyone was complimentary and polite except for one fat, suburban New Jersey-ite with feathered hair and transition prescription glasses. His contribution to the conversation was “Nice idea. Too bad no one gives a shit.”

Our bubble burst and we were left astounded as to how anyone could not care about what we had created. I went home and buried myself in a bushel of apples and the loving bosom of my Homo Honey. She agreed with everything I had to complain about and even convinced me that my feather-haired client didn’t like the ornament because he was impotent and angry that he couldn’t pleasure his wife any longer.

She always knows exactly what to say to make me feel better.

Despite her positive feedback, I spent the next day at work in a gray cloud of unappreciated depression, counting the nano seconds until five o’clock. I arrived home to find a bright green and red envelope with a return address in California. Hopeful that my wealthy great-aunt had finally started sharing her trust fund with the rest of the family, I tore into it with the same excitement I had on Christmas Day during those precious years when I still thought Santa was real. Much to my chagrin, the card was empty. She didn’t even sign it. Her “signature” was printed typewriter font. “That’s stupid.” I thought to myself and threw the worthless card in the trash. Hearing this, Homo Honey looked up from her apple strudel and opined “Nice idea. Too bad you don’t give a shit.” We erupted into a volcano of laughter realizing that, when it comes to Christmas cards, it’s not the thought that counts.

When you think about it, what purpose do Christmas cards serve anyway? The only ones I receive, aside from my family, can be categorized into three basic groups. First, there are the ones your receive from friends who never call or visit you, but find it necessary to correspond with you once a year to wish you and yours and magical yuletide season. Second, are the friends who send you greetings, not because they like you, but because you have mutual friends and they don’t want to start a friend feud. And lastly are the friends who are so caught up in etiquette and what’s proper that they send holiday greetings to everyone in their Outlook, fearful that someone may accuse them of being lower-middle class. (See my post “Manners and The Middle Class” for clarification.)

If you still don’t think that, at least, some holiday cards aren’t “the devil’s work”, according to my friend, Jarred, think about the ecological costs. If the Earth could divert the amount of energy, resources and money human beings spend every year on holiday cards, we’d never need another wind turbine or solar tube. Try this: instead of sending out cards this year, depleting natural resources and your wallet with no return on your investment, take the money you would spend on them and donate it to a needy family in your community. I imagine it will bring you more holiday joy than self addressing fifty envelopes.

Still not convinced? Ask yourself “How many non-familial holiday cards did I save last year?” As much as it pains me, I have to agree with my fat New Jersey client when it comes to Holiday cards…no one gives a shit.

My advice to those compelled to send holiday cards:

If, after reading this, you still want to send holiday cards this season, then there’s nothing more I can do for you. Go forth, mail and be merry. But watch the following clips and be warned.

My advice to everyone else:

Make a list of everyone who sends you a holiday card this year and check it twice. Send them a mass e-mail and/or text message suggesting they enter the new millenium and send virtual cards next year.

A special piece of advice to my Homo Honey:

Please send me a holiday card with a picture of my favorite peanut. As always, you are totally exempt from all pre and post advice.

Thanks Scott and Jarred.