The Playboy Model, the Snake Oil Salesman, and Me

As no doubt many of you have heard, Disneyland right now is far from the happiest place on earth due to a measles outbreak that has reached 70 people at last count. State officials are urging people who have not been vaccinated to stay away from Disneyland, and local schools have begun sending unvaccinated students home.

Now you may wonder what this has to do with me, as I have been vaccinated. The problem is several-fold. First is my proximity to Disneyland — approximately 10 miles. Second is that one case of measles has been traced to somebody who visited my local grocery store, 1.5 miles from my house. Third is that the vaccination rate in some of the wealthiest schools in my county have a vaccination rate *equal to that of Chad or the Sudan.* (just in case you still honestly believe that this happened because of the “diseases those filthy brown people brought with them when they crossed the border illegally”).

The problem, in a nutshell, is that thanks to people who trust the medical advice doled out by a former Playboy model or a former doctor who got paid a princely sum for his fraudulent research that started this entire Mongolian clusterfuck of anti-science, I cannot even go as far as that grocery store without being side-eyed as one of those willfully ignorant idiots who “knows what is best for their family.”

To wit: Last week, I went to run errands and grab some lunch while I was out. Two women with babies sit down at the table across from me. One of them came over to me.

Woman: Excuse me, but would you mind moving further away?
Me (puzzled): Why?
Woman (making vague hand-waving gestures at my legs): Well, its your rash…and all the stories out of Disneyland.
Me: Uhhmmm…I don’t have measles. I’m not contagious
Woman (now making shooing motions at me like a fly): Well, could you move anyway? Better safe than sorry, right?
Me (in my best professionally polite voice): I have told you that I do not have measles and am not contagious. Which, actually, is more medical information than you have a right to, unless you are my doctor or my health insurance company. If that is not enough for you, perhaps you should instead move.

So let us recap what just happened there. Because of a Playboy model and a profiteering snake oil salesman of a doctor, my right to exist anywhere outside my own home has come into question. Furthermore, I am now associated with their slack-jawed acolytes who reject scientific fact in favor of some whackball conspiracy theory about big pharma making a fortune off vaccines.

Here’s a fucking clue — vaccines are dirt cheap. The CDC price for the MMR vaccine (that’s the one against measles, mumps, and rubella) comes out to a whopping…no wait for it…$21.22 for a 10-pack. Even the private sector price of $75.04 for a 10-pack is dirt cheap. Know where big pharma makes its money? *TREATING THE FUCKING DISEASES THAT VACCINES PREVENT*!!!

But no, by all means, you know what is best for your precious offspring, for whom the smallest chance of them being autistic is so unbearable that you reject common sense because you’ve “done your research” of reading a dumbed-down summary of Wakefield’s original article or watched YouTube videos of Jenny McCarthy’s impassioned pleas that a mother’s instinct is worth more than established scientific fact.

Meanwhile, I should just be expected to…what? Never leave my house? Provide complete strangers with access to my health status that federal law says is none of their business? All so that you can smugly declare that you have no need to immunize your kid because those of us who have been immunized will protect them, even though we are all dupes and sheeple for buying into the immunization scheme to begin with.

Fuck that. And also? Fuck you.

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Tyrion Lannister Motivational Thought of the Day


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Fuck ’em if They Can’t Take a Joke

Let’s be honest. Starting out in stand-up comedy is tough work. You have five minutes (if you are lucky) to get a roomful of strangers to find you funny enough to not tear you to shreds. Doing stand-up comedy as a woman only adds to the difficulty. This is the point at which I respect the recently deceased Joan Rivers. She started out in the mid-1960s, at a time when the only other prominent female comedians were Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett, and Lily Tomlin.  Much of her humor centered around poking fun at herself as a graduate from Barnard (one of the Seven Sisters colleges) doing stand-up comedy because that was not something that “nice girls” did.

And then something happened to her along the way. Maybe it was her break with Johnny Carson, or the failure of her late-night talk show, or the suicide of her husband. But she shifted from the nice girl in pearls cracking wise at herself to insult comedy turned toward other people, often based solely on their appearance, and without any provocation on their part. That is the point at which I have no love lost for her.

The jester’s role is to point out the foibles of humanity. To allow us to laugh at public figures who have done or said something foolish or silly. In that sense, jokes at other people are perfectly acceptable (and let’s face it, Jon Stewart would not be where he is today were it not for prominent people providing him with endless fodder). But Rivers’ “fuck’em if they can’t take a joke” attitude toward the targets of her insults for having the *gall* to merely exist rankles me to no end. That is not making jokes at the expense of the foolish. It is bitter cruelty.

My beloved Himself is an actor. I have told him, flat out, that if he ever gets to the point where he would be walking the red carpet, he can rent a date for the evening. I won’t do it. And a big part of that has always been because of Joan Rivers. I am painfully aware that I would be the perfect target for her brand of red-carpet humor, not just because of my weight, but of course because of the visible skin issue. I struggle enough with my own insecurities about it already — having them confirmed in front of millions of viewers for the laughs is nothing short of turning me into little more than the punchline for one of Rivers’ “can we talk…” insults.

And so, Joan, I salute you for your start in the business. But if you think for one minute that I should find your mocking people simply for existing is remotely funny and that I just need to lighten up? Fuck that. And by the way? Fuck you.

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I Feel for Ya, Sista!

I spend a great deal of time in this blog talking about how NOT to approach me about my disability. Every now and again, I will get the exact opposite reaction. Even more rarely, I will get both in the same day, which serves to remind me of how a simple change in words and tone can make all the difference.

Scene 1: Fully packed waiting room of a radiology lab. I was waiting to get my head examined (no really, a CAT scan in preparation for sinus surgery). It was a hot day, and the AC was doing next to nothing to cool down the room. The staff was working at a snail’s pace, so everyone was hot, cranky, and packed in like sardines.

I managed to squash myself into a corner, but I must move whenever the door opens in order not to block people from coming in and out. The door opened, so I moved aside. An older woman, still in the doorway, came to a stop to loudly proclaim “WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU????” The entire room of people turned to see what she was talking about. Which was, of course, yours truly. And…cue me as the Sideshow Freak.

Scene 2: Later the same day. Having wasted four hours at the radiology lab for what was meant to be a one-hour appointment, I finally pulled into the Trader Joe’s parking lot to do the shopping. As I was leaving (still in a bad mood from Scene 1), a woman coming into the store said, without breaking stride, “Oh, I feel for ya, sista! Gonna get better, right? Gotta get better!” And continued on past me into the store.

Yanno what? She was absolutely right. It did get better. Because of her.


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Not Your Cash Cow

By now, most of you have probably heard all about the little girl allegedly kicked out of a KFC due to her scars as a result of a pit bull attack. After KFC pledged $30,000 and other cash donations and offers of free surgeries came pouring in, it turned out that the story was most likely a hoax, perpetrated by the family to raise money to pay for her medical care (as an aside, props to KFC for keeping their monetary pledge).

I will be the first to admit that at first I was angry on that little girl’s behalf because I also have been asked to leave business establishments due to my disability. However, in light of the results from the KFC investigations, I was again angry on her behalf. But this time for how badly she was exploited by those people who were supposed to be looking out for her best interests.

The saddest part in all of this, however, is that this girl’s family has just made it that much harder to believe any future stories that come out about businesses discriminating against people with disabilities: “I call shenanigans! Just like that KFC girl! Obviously running a scam!”

And at some level, I cannot say as I would blame people for saying that. I mean, fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…

But those of us with visible disabilities have probably at some time or another been treated just as this little girl’s family claims she was treated. And just because we say something about how we are treated does not mean we are looking to be handed a big payout (or any payout really). We just want to be treated like anybody else.

Now this little girl will have to live with both the physical scars from the attack and the emotional scars from being exploited as little more than a sympathy ploy or a cash cow. She deserves better. Those of us with visible disabilities all do.



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Open Wide!

This week, I had to get a root canal. What was already going to be an unpleasant procedure took a left turn into Comedy of the Absurd. The endodontist came in, looked at the x-rays of the culprit tooth in question, then turned around to say hello.

And he lit up like a 150-watt bulb: “Oh my! Do you mind if I take some pictures??” As he gestured at my legs.

I must have looked suitably puzzled because he went on to explain that his daughter was finishing up a double residency in dermatology and internal medicine, and she would be very interested in seeing some pictures. He was so enthusiastic that I figured anything that made him that happy would make a better experience for me, so I agreed.

He took some pictures with his cell phone, then set it down on the counter and we got down to business. Just as the novocaine hit, his phone buzzed. It was his daughter, asking questions, which he then relayed to me.

Now by this point, I was laying back in the exam chair, with a plastic frame thing, draped in sterile latex, holding my mouth open. And the dentist was asking me questions that required more than a yes or no answer. The only sound I could make was somewhat akin to that of Frankenstein’s monster, and the entire right side of my mouth was completely numb.

You try answering questions about your medical history under those conditions and see how you do. What ensued was a frantic sort of pantomime on my part, with the dentist and his assistants making guesses as to what my wild gesticulations could possibly mean.

If they guessed correctly, I gave them the thumbs-up, and he then relayed my answers back to his daughter. This back and forth game of charades went on for a good 20 minutes as he drilled out the tooth, and cleaned and filled it. At the end of the process, I had a filled tooth and the dentist was pleased that I was willing to help.

At least it kept me entertained while the dental drill was going.

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On Privilege, Politeness and Not Hiding

Several weeks ago, a friend linked to this Robot Hugs cartoon as a primer on how those with privilege should treat those without. It sparked a rather lively debate, including one person who took great offense at the notion that they should be told to “shut the fuck up” if they are in a position of privilege. They felt that it was better to politely ask them to keep quiet, rather than needing to be so confrontational.

Here’s the problem with that. If somebody is going to question my health status, they have already decided that they have privilege before they even say anything to me because my disability is visible. Which leaves me in the more than a bit awkward position of hiding myself.

Anybody who has even casually read this blog knows how I feel about being forced to hide my disability in order not to offend other people.

If somebody has taken offense to my presence before even saying anything to me, I am left with little option but to tell them to shut the fuck up if they use their outside voice to ask about my health status. And at that point, I have little interest in hiding myself so as not to offend their delicate sensibilities.

Ultimately, I am not responsible for your hurt feelings over my disinterest in sugar-coating the fact that my health status is not fodder for public debate. If you cannot understand that, then yes, you DO need to sit down, shut the fuck up, and pay attention.

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