(21) Things I Lost While Drinking

Every hard drinker will tell you: you lose things when you’re drunk.   I am not normally a forgetful person, and if I’m wearing or carrying something expensive, I watch it like a hawk.  The person who leaves their cell phone on the table when they go use the restroom?  Or their Kindle on the control bar of the treadmill at the gym?  That’s not me.

Almost everything I’ve lost in recent memory–say, the last several years–I lost after I’d been drinking.  Some of these I misplaced after two or three glasses of wine and some of them I lost in blackouts.  A few were retrieved, or returned to me later.  A few were abandoned because I was unable or unwilling, for various reasons, to return to the scene of the crime.   Most were just….gone.

  • At least three different earrings, one of which was real gold.  Women who wear earrings inevitably lose them, but nothing will make it happen more often than booze.  Yeah, long hair + winter scarf + drinking = lost earring
  • A brand new pair of prescription eyeglasses.  They were dark pink wire frames in a cat-eye shape, and they were beautiful.  They were lost sometime over the course of a holiday weekend at The Kitano hotel–I think I left them in the pocket of a bathrobe, but I really couldn’t tell you.  I also lost a ring that weekend, which was found and returned by the housekeeping service (I gave them a $50 reward for that), but the glasses were never recovered.
  • Two brand new unopened tubes of Retin-A, a prescription-only skin treatment I’d just purchased from the dermatologist.  What better way to celebrate an expensive doctor’s appointment at 2 PM than a martini?  Bombay Sapphire, dirty, with olives.  I think that I left the Retin-A on the train.
  • One of my student’s midterm exams.  I only lost one exam or paper in my entire teaching career, but, yes, I did lose this one.  Left on the table (I think) at a sidewalk cafe.
  • Contact lenses.  Many, many contact lenses.  Usually at the end of the night, when I was trying to take them out of my eyeballs.  They never made it back in the case, and I’d find them on the floor or the bathroom porcelain the next morning, all sad and dried out.  Not unlike yours truly.
  • A pair of black knee-high Camper boots, lost at the Hotel Wales.  I liked that old-fashioned, stuffy hotel.  It saw a lot of action in 2010.
  • My first Kindle, lost at a bar on the Upper West Side.  I’m not sure which bar.
  • Two Fleck riding crops, each lost at a different location.  I am of the opinion that Fleck makes the best and most attractive crops in the world (but if you have another suggestion, I am willing to listen).   One of them, I sneaked into the Surgeon’s bag as a prank.  He pulled most of it out the next day, in front of his class (Oh boy, was I in trouble for that one.  I consider this crop lost-while-drunk because I hid it when I was drunk, and I never got it back).  The other riding crop was lost at a fetish party in Montclair, New Jersey.
  • Probably a dozen books or magazines.  You know that person who sits by himself at the bar and reads?  That’s me.  Oh God, did I read in bars.  Writing notes to myself in the margins.  Sometimes, the next day, I couldn’t remember what I’d read, but I know that I read it, because I saw the notes.  Off the top of my head, I left my copy of The Forger’s Spell at a bar in Boston.  I remember that one because this dumb Irish doctor kept trying to talk to me.  Hello!  If I wanted to talk, I wouldn’t be reading!
  • A switchblade.  I had to hide it because the police were going to search my bag.  Where I come from, it’s not a huge deal, but in New York I would have been arrested on the spot.  Anyway, I don’t remember what I did with it.
  • Umbrellas.  If you live in NYC and take public transit, you will lose at least one umbrella per year.  If you drink, you will lose four or five.
  • Cigarettes, before I quit smoking.  Marlboro Reds first, then Marlboro Lights. Yes, I smoked the cowboy white trash cigarette brand.  Don’t forget LIGHTERS, because I lost those, too.
  • Two debit cards, left at the bar with the check.  I got both of these back the next day.
  • A bag of treats for Parrot (Parrot RIP).  Lost between the pet store and home.  No idea.
  • The Power of Myth on DVD.   I had to replace it, and it was expensive.
  • A pink lace camisole from Express, lost on a date with Matt, this guy I used to date.  I have absolutely no idea what happened to it, because we tore the place up looking for it in the morning.  Maybe he stole it…?  Men steal clothes sometimes.
  • Money.
  • Metro cards.  Lots and lots of metro cards.
  • My dignity.

(7) On Drunk Driving

     In AA and the group therapy for recovering addicts I go to once a week, I meet a lot of people with DUI/DWI (in New York, it wasn’t nearly as common because most New Yorkers don’t have cars).  Some of them have two DUIs, and now they have to breath into a breathalizer in order to start their cars once they finally get their license reinstated after a year’s suspension.  And some of these incorrigible recalcitrant assholes have three DUIs and spent nine months in jail, and now they’re either on foot or having their long-suffering relatives drive them around.  

        Yeah, I’m not there to judge the other junkies.  Yeah, I shouldn’t “take someone else’s inventory,” as they say in the rooms.  I know, I know, I know. 

       I’m going to do it anyway: If you drive drunk, you are an asshole.  And 3-time losers need to somehow be kept off the road until they sober up and keep their shit together for a long time, like 5 years.  

           Unfortunately, I can’t think of any solutions.  Incarceration is the only way the State can prevent a person who wants to drive from driving.  Unless you want to start chopping off hands or punishing their family members, which isn’t going to fly under American jurisprudence.   

           Honestly: what can be done?   The penalties for drunk driving are already severe.  The only way to make them more draconian would be increased jail time.   Jail is a very expensive way to deal with a stupid alcoholic. But what are the lives of the more than 10,000 people who die in alcohol-impaired driving crashes worth?  A trained insurance agent can quantify the value of an individual.  The suffering caused by a person’s maiming or untimely death is considerably harder to measure (although the courts try).  

         I was arrested for driving drunk.  Actually, it was Minor in Possession, because I was only 20 at the time, and my blood alcohol level was below the legal limit, but under state law, the penalties were the same.  I drove a few hours out of town to watch some illegal boxing matches, had five or six drinks, and then started to drive back.  I was pulled over in the middle of nowhere by a Highway Patrolman.  For a busted tail-light!  He arrested me and I spent the night in jail.  I wish I could post a picture of the jail and the town (if you can call it a town)–you’d die.  It was an awful experience.   When I posted bail the next day, I asked the bondsman why it was so fucking expensive, given that I had no prior offenses.  

              “The judge doesn’t think it’s a minor offense.  That’s why.  He knows that by the time a person actually gets caught driving drunk, they’ve probably done it twenty, thirty, forty times,” said the bondsman.  

             And he was right. 

             It wasn’t the first time I drove drunk.  I’d done it probably 10 or 12 times.  That’s the truth.  

             It was, however, the last time I drove drunk.  90-day suspension, jumping through hoops for the court, $500 in fines, the cost of the lawyer…getting my car out of impound…paying for the tow truck…I’d say that mistake cost me about $2500.  Plus all of the humiliation and inconvenience, of course.  

           What really convinced me to never drink and get behind the wheel, though, was the Victim Impact Awareness Panel I had to attend as part of my sentencing.  Five or six people stood in front of the room and told us what drunk drivers had cost them.   One was the mother of a teenaged boy who’d just been accepted to Notre Dame.  He was killed by a drunk driver with two prior convictions.  Another speaker was a guy who drove drunk and suffered massive brain damage from the impact when he wrapped his car around a telephone pole.  He was in a motorized wheelchair and couldn’t speak clearly.  

             I leaked tears through the whole thing, which is unusual for me, and that was it: I instituted a 1-drink policy.  I never had more than one and drove afterward.  I got a ride, or took cabs, or walked.  I was done.  It was not acceptable to me to risk bringing that pain and grief into other people’s lives. 

           Drunk driving is almost never an accident.  Habitual offenders display deep selfishness and callous disregard.  I feel very strongly about this.  

           I don’t know what else to say.  This essay is not very good.  I wrote it because I have to write and post something before midnight, and I was thinking about all the drunk drivers in AA on my way home.

The Antabuse Post

     Sometimes people find their way to my blog via Google searches for alcoholism or drunkalogues.  I write this one for them.

      I’ve been on Antabuse for ten days.  I needed a prescription to get it, and I don’t have a doctor in this town anymore, so I called a rehab center in the telephone book and asked them if they could recommend a physician who was open to possibly giving me a prescription.

      They gave me a few names, and I scheduled an appointment with the one who could see me the next day.  I rode my bike to her office on my lunch break.  She had a waiting room with toys for children and dried, pinned butterfly exhibits all over the walls.  

       I lucked out: the doctor was careful and serious-minded and didn’t try to rush me out the door in three minutes.  She asked questions about my symptoms and my drinking history and she took lots of notes.  I had a physical.  She took some blood and mailed it to the lab.  

        An hour and a half later, I walked out with the Rx.  I had to pay cash for the consultation.  Obamacare took care of the meds. 

        I took 500 mg the first 7 days, and then cut down to 250 mg.  It gives me a minor headache, but I knock that out with an aspirin.  It also leaves a weird metallic taste in my mouth.  Otherwise, I detect no side effects.  I take it in the morning, when I’m fresh and in my right mind and have tons of energy and willpower, before life serves me my daily ration of shit sandwich and/or soul-crushing boredom.  Then it’s done, taken care of.  No matter how nerve-wracking or demoralizing the day, I can’t forget to take the medication…and I can’t drink.  The house could burn down and I could be diagnosed with leukemia, and I wouldn’t be able to drink.  

        Personally, I wish I’d thought of this years ago.  Actually, I did–I asked for this medication from the health clinic at my last university.  The nurse practitioner told me that it was “discredited” and gave me a shitload of benzos and antidepressants instead.  We all know how that worked out.  

       I like the Antabuse so far because it removes the choice to drink.  It’s classic aversion therapy: if I drink on it, I’ll turn purple and throw up for hours and feel like I’m going to die.  The consequences are immediate and violent. I trust that this will happen, and I do not want to experience it.  Internet forums are full of anecdotes from Antabuse-users who wanted to “test” it.  I myself am not remotely curious about what that would feel like. 

       It is not a solution, but it’s a perfectly good tool for the alcoholic or problem drinker who earnestly wants to use it for its intended purpose.  I don’t think that it will be useful to people who don’t want to take it voluntarily–people who only take it because it’s court-ordered, or because their loved ones insist upon it.  They just find ways not to actually eat the pill.  One guy I talked to replaced all this Antabuse with white calcium tablets so that his wife would still think he was taking them.  Some people continue to drink on it because they are defiant.  

        It’s not a cure for the affliction…but it helps in the daily struggle.  People in AA make a distinction between being sober and being dry.  Being dry is a painful way to live, but it beats being dead and it sure as hell beats being drunk all the time.  

Life Still Sucks

      It’s Sunday night, and life still sucks. 

      I cannot handle being unemployed another week.  I’m bored, flat broke, and I feel like a failure as an adult.  Today I returned a jar of pickles and a some paper towels to the grocery store (don’t tell mom) so that I could get enough money to buy some moisturizing lotion for my skin.  The climate is hot and dry here, which is nice, but it’s hard on my skin and I’m worried that I’m going to actually get a job interview and show up looking like a mummy.

       I found five new public service jobs in the newspaper, so that’s going to be my day tomorrow.  I also need to ride my bike down to the welfare office and check on my Medicaid application.  I feel bad about that.  I knew that moving back here was going to be a challenge, but I thought I’d find something to do for work within a month! 

      I keep having to call the people in New York that I’m using for references/writing me letters of recommendation–they are mostly former professors or employers.  Let me tell you something: I’m not proud, but it still doesn’t feel too good to be asking a tenured professor at Columbia who once paid me the respect of presenting our research at a conference in Washington D.C. if he can write me a letter of recommendation for a position as a legislative secretary out here in the sticks.  

       “Of course I’ll do it.  I’ll do it this weekend.  Who do I made it out to again?  What’s the address?”

        I told him.

        “Oh, Margo….” he said.  He sounded sad.  

         I wanted to throw the phone. Instead, I said: “Times is tough, Doctor, times is tough.  Tough for everyone.  I walked dogs in New York.”

         And paddled about a million old guys just like you.  And walked on them wearing stilettos.  And let them play with my feet.  And zapped them with a canine anti-bark collar.  And—

         My mother and I had a bad day today.  I almost don’t want to write about this, because I’m really trying to respect her and her privacy.  I feel sleazy sharing our dirty laundry.  I’m happy to throw my father under the bus, because he’s an awful person that nobody should feel sorry for.  My mother, though….I mean, I’m living in her house, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful or disloyal. 

          She pulled some really weird shit today, though.  Some really weird, judgmental shit, and it’s gotten under my skin and hurt my feelings and I don’t know what to do about it.  

          She had errands to run, so I asked her if she would drop me off at a nearby AA meeting on the way.  I walk or ride my bike places as much as possible so as not to inconvenience her, but it was 100* today, and that is too hot to be out in the sun, even with sunscreen on (I wear sunscreen every day, btw.  Everyone should do it, especially women, because it keeps the skin looking young.  Even my makeup has sunscreen).

         Well, she dropped me off, and I could see her checking out a few of the guys standing outside.  They were young guys and they looked a little rough, because they do manual labor, but I’ve talked to them before a few times, and they’ve always been friendly and polite to me.  One of them waved when we pulled up.

         Mom got a little tense.  I felt it.  I also could have sworn that I felt something else: she was embarrassed to be there.  

          Yup, definitely embarrassment and disapproval.  I guess having a child who is an alcoholic isn’t quite the same as having one who wins Gold in the Olympics, but, for fuck’s sake, I never drank in her house or around her and it’s not like I sold the TV set for booze or brought a drunkard boyfriend home.  Nor is it like I’m the only junkie in the family.  At least I’m trying to do something about it. 

         So, I go to the meeting.  It was nice and cool inside and I liked the people there okay, but  had to sit out the conversation because it was about spirituality in recovery, and I know this crowd because I grew up in this culture: The minute I drop the “A” bomb (atheist), I am going to alienate or offend half the group.   Some of the more well-intensioned ones will start bringing me Chick Tracts or invitations to church picnics.  I need to stay friendly with these people.  

         Mom picked me up after the meeting.  She’d run her errands and then taken her dog on a walk at the park across the street.

         She seemed weird.  She had the weird voice, the “We need to talk about something very important” voice.  This is usually the voice she has just before she lays down some sort of reproach.

          Uh-oh, I thought. 

          She drove over to the park.

          “I want you to pay very close attention to the woman standing under the tree,” she said.

           There was a sunburned blonde woman standing under the tree.  She was talking to herself and seemed upset.  There was nobody else around.  She did not look good.  She didn’t look like one of the hardcore homeless–I didn’t see any bags of property or cans, and her clothes looked sort of clean.  But she did look mentally unwell, and her mannerisms were not normal.  She was not talking to someone on a bluetooth.  I tried to listen to what she was saying, and I couldn’t make it out, but she sounded distressed.

         I watched her for a minute, waiting for Mom to say something, because I could not, for the life of me, figure out why Mom was showing me this woman.   This isn’t NYC, but it’s not a tiny little town, either.  We have homeless and mentally ill on the street here.  It’s a part of living in any community of size. 

          “Huh,” I said.  “Well, that’s sad.  It’s too bad.”  I didn’t know what else to say.

          “If you don’t quit drinking, that’s going to be you one day!  That woman is clearly an alcoholic.  I watched her while I walked the dog.  She’s been talking to herself the entire time.  That is what will become of you.”

          Well, well, well.  Where to begin unpacking this?

         I sighed.  “Actually, Mom, I’m not a psychiatrist–and neither are you–but to me, it looks like she’s mentally ill, maybe a schizophrenic suffering from hallucinations, and I don’t see her drinking anything, and, if anything, we ought to leave or call her an ambulance instead of using her unfortunate condition as some sort of morality-play figure to teach me a lesson.”

          I don’t get it.  For the life of me, I have no idea what was going on in her head for her to do and say something like that to me.  I found it troubling and rather harsh on her part, not to mention WEIRD, and I wanted to tell her that I’d kill myself before I was reduced to homelessness and frying on the lawn in this shithole town, but that could be construed as emotionally manipulative of me, not to mention sort of unfair to that poor homeless lady.

        I don’t know.  Weird.  In fact, I think it was mean.  Why would she be mean?  I pick up after myself and don’t ask her for anything.  I’m not exploiting her hospitality.  I am eating her food, but I don’t eat that much.  And if she didn’t want me here, she could have told me not to come, or ask me to leave…but she’s been nagging me to move back ever since I left for New York years ago.  

        Confused.  Maybe she’ll be better tomorrow.  She can be moody.

       But I can tell you this much: from now on, I’ll bike to the AA meetings, or get a ride from someone else.  

Miss Margo Offers Sensitivity Training

    After rolling out of bed this morning to find yet another email from a complete stranger informing me that AA and 12-Step Programs “don’t work” and that the recovery rate for addiction is only 5%-10%, I wanted to take this opportunity to offer lessons in sensitivity and tact.

     Repeat after me: It is not helpful to tell an addict who is fighting for her life, and whose last relapse almost killed her, that her recovery program doesn’t work.

     Let me reiterate: It is not helpful to tell an addict who is fighting for her life, and whose last relapse almost killed her, that her recovery program doesn’t work.

      I do not need YOU, random strangers of the internet, to “educate” me about alcoholism or the problematical aspects of AA.  Besides the fact that I am a highly intelligent woman and a critical thinker who has read the medical literature and most of the important books on these subjects, I have extensive experience as a fucking atheist in AA in New York.  I have been to almost every fucking meeting in Lower Manhattan.  I am intimately familiar with the “problems” of AA.  I do not need you to tell me about them, but thank you, so very much, for your unsolicited opinion about why I am a drunk and what I can, or cannot do about it.

       You don’t have to like AA.  I don’t like it myself.  But whatever you think about it, for most addicts, it is the only game in town.  If you want to spam your Salon and Psychology Today (truly august publications, btw, real top-shelf reading) about how AA is a useless religious cult to anyone, maybe you should send them to members of the psychiatric establishment, because unfortunately this is the best that modern medicine has to offer alcoholics.  

      More importantly, I want to ask: what is wrong with you to want to discourage or erode the hope of someone who is trying to survive and build a healthy, fulfilling life?

       Seriously.  What the fuck is wrong with you?  Do you have any idea how scared and miserable–and, indeed, desperate–most people are when they finally resort to AA?  

       If someone had cancer, would you forward them an article saying that you really hoped they survived, but btw, this is the success rate of the chemo?  5%–10% recovery rate?

      No?  You wouldn’t do that?

      Then why are you doing it to me?


    My mother picked me up from the airport.  She looked right past me.

     Because I was unrecognizable. 

     I’d had four drinks on the airplane.  I didn’t want them, but I had to do it in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.  I drank as little as possible and when the plane landed, I was getting the shakes.  

     I’d emailed her less than 48 hours before.  My first communication with her in months.  I was completely honest.  I can’t bear to read that email now–the terror and pain are too intense–but I remember begging her to let me come home because I thought I was going to die.  

      The relapse was the most hellish experience of my life.  I can hardly bear to think of it, but I need to remember.  I almost died.  If my mother didn’t take me back, I think I would have killed myself or ended up in the hospital.  I couldn’t eat food.  I could not sleep for more than a few hours at a time.  I kept my teaching job only because the winter was so brutal that snow days were constantly shutting the campus down.  I couldn’t drink before class and my hands shook as I handled the transparencies on that fucking overhead projector.  I was humiliated.  

       “Are you sick?” one of them asked me.

       “Yes.”  There was nothing else to say.

        When I emailed my mother, I put the odds of her helping me at 50%.  If she said no, I was going to ask my brother.  If he said no, I was going to have to ask the Surgeon.  The Surgeon probably would have helped me out…but anyone who reads this blog knows what his price would be.  Not that I looked particularly fuckable by the time I reached out for help.  I felt about 80 years old.

        Business was booming, however.  I made a lot of money in the previous weeks (and I do not want to think of how much I spent on alcohol).  Most of the clients were awful.  I have never had such a bad run.  I like most of my regular clients (that’s why they’re regulars, natch).  These were not regular clients.  These guys were mentally disturbed.  They were predators.  One after the other, it was fucking unbelievable.  I felt like my mind was breaking apart.  That fucking degenerate pedophile dentist was the worst.

      Mom came through.  Plane tickets home.  Her email was completely kind and non-judgmental, which, frankly, I was not expecting.  I am the most sensitive person in my family.  Mistakes are not really accepted.  And boy, had I made a huge fucking mistake.  Sorry, Mom, but I nuked my life and I’m about to die.

       I arranged for another teacher to give my lessons for the next week and hired someone to feed my animals (and I will never forgive myslef for relapsing when I had animals dependent on me for their care.  I killed my houseplants.), and then I went straight to the airport with the clothes on my back.  I took no luggage.  My driver’s license was expired and I was worried that they weren’t going to let me onto the plane.  If they didn’t, I was ready to kill myself.  I own weapons. 

       They let me on board.  

       I had a drink every two hours so that I didn’t throw up on the passengers sitting beside me.  I tried to read an issue of Harper’s, and I couldn’t read.  I could not concentrate.  I was starting to experience mild auditory hallucinations.  Everything was too loud.  I was shaking when the plane landed.

       My own mother didn’t recognize me.

       “I’m sorry,” I said.  That’s what I babbled in the car on the way to her house.  I kept repeating it over and over, and I was sobbing, and I never cry.  

       We stopped at the supermarket to get some pedialyte and gatoraid.  I threw up in the parking lot.  There was nothing in my stomach, so I wretched up foam.  I’d been throwing up all week.  I threw up blood.  It had been days since I’d had a bowel movement, and when I did, there was blood in my stool.  You know the warning on the back of the Tylenol bottle that tells you not to take it if you consume more than 3 alcoholic beverages a day?  Take the warning seriously.  Don’t be like me.

      My mother has seen in all and she’s a take-charge woman, a woman of action, but I have to tell you: she looked scared.

      She asked me how long it’d been since I urinated.

     The question startled me.  I was so fucked up that I’d failed no notice I wasn’t passing urine.  It’d been well over 24 hours.  More like 36.

      “If you don’t pee soon, we’re going to have to take you to the hospital.  You might be experiencing organ failure.”

       (I managed to pee when we got to the house.  My urine was the color of orange juice.)

       The withdrawal was awful…and I didn’t even have full-on DTs.  My symptoms passed within 48 hours.  The first night was the worst.  I was shaking and sweating.  I could not keep down water or gatorade.  I vomited constantly.  I could not keep still.  I had auditory hallucinations: I heard white noise and static, and it sounded like a television was on in another room.  I had an awful headache and muscle aches.  I had a fever.  

      I went through the detox without the benefit of medication.  A visit to the ER would have cost hundreds of dollars.

    Two days later, I could think again, and it was time confess.  My family wanted to know what happened.  How did  it come to this?  When did it get out of control?

       I couldn’t tell her about the Studio.  I told her, and my brother, that I’d taken a job bartending as a way to make ends meet, and ended up working as a cocktail waitress in a topless nightclub.   I figured Mom would find this to be bad, but not unforgivable.

      “You weren’t a stripper though, right?” she asked.

      “Nope.  I just delivered the drinks.  And drank them.  We were encouraged to drink with the customers.  It was depressing and it got out of control.”

        Mom bought it and let me stay in the house on the condition that I quit the fictitious waitressing job immediately.  She and my brother thought it would be best not to tell my Uncle, the retired cop.

       My father knows nothing.  We don’t speak with him.

      I stayed with my mother for a week, flew home, and checked into rehab.  It cost all the money I had.  I go three nights a week.

      If I go back out, I am going to die.  I would rather die than repeat that experience. 

       Of all the mistakes I’ve made in life, drinking is #1.  I wish to God I’d never started.  When I hear people in AA say that they are grateful to be alcoholics, I think that they sound crazy.  It has almost killed me, completely stripped me of my dignity, and has retarded my progress in life.  And it just might kill me yet.   

That Awkward Moment

      That awkward moment when you’re sitting in group therapy with the rest of the losers in Rehab, and the lady next to you is complaining bitterly about her ex-husband divorcing her to be with a girl your age.  

       Another woman jumps in: “I hate it when men do that!  It’s not fair!  I just hate it that an older man with a little money can get a 25-year-old.  He doesn’t even have to have a lot of money.  Just some.”   

       You just sit there awkwardly, staring at the floor, feeling like there must be a blinking neon sign above your head that says “HOME-WRECKING WHORE.”  

       Yup.  It’s an ugly fact of life for women, and the resentment is, I think, completely reasonable.  It sucks.  It sucks shit through Hefty bags.

         Buuuuut…men have their own Hefty bags of shit to suck in their lives here on Spaceship Earth, too.  The last thing I want to do on this blog is go, “But what about TEH MENZ? They suffer, too!” BUT…I think that the resentment women feel about the guy running off with the much-younger woman  is probably comparable to the resentment men feel about women tending to prioritize men who have wealth and high social status.

       I don’t have a ton of sympathy for men, but I’ll give em sympathy for that.  That must really suck.  

       (It also must suck for a man to be short.  I’ve never understood why, but a lot of women I’ve spoken to just will not date short men. It’s a deal-breaker for a lot of women.  Me, I don’t care about that…maybe because I’m as tall as a man myself.)

        If I was a guy, I’d either die a little inside or have a rage-stroke every time I was reading a woman’s online dating profile and saw that she’d checked the box that said “I prefer only to be contacted by men who make more than $200,000/year.” (when I was on match.com, there was, indeed, an option)  Especially if the woman checking the box was just an average chick with no education and an average, boring job.  I’d be screaming at the computer screen, “Bitch, you have two kids from a previous marriage and you work at a Honda dealership!  Who the hell do you think you are to tell me I’m not good enough?”

         Yup.  That’s got to sting.  

          Do men discuss this phenomenon amongst themselves?  Surely they must.  I am not privy to those conversations, but I have seen high-status men with very attractive partners sort of gloat about it or rub it in around other guys.  The Surgeon got a huge kick out of it (though, to be fair, he is sort of an asshole).  He was so smug about it that it was actually a little embarrassing.

        Another point to be made, tangentially, about all of this: the power of looks. 

       Talk about unfair!  I think everyone gets fucked over, somehow, by the overwhelming human preference for beauty.

       I can’t stand to look at myself because I’m sick in the head, but I know that I am objectively good-looking.  My face and figure have been my fortune in life.  Since I’ve been an adult, and especially since I moved to New York, I have been stunned–fucking stunned–at the number of very wealthy, powerful men I have gained access to just because I was good-looking and willing to fuck them (and the brains to keep my mouth shut about it), or even just be seen in public with them.  For a woman, youth and beauty are hard fucking currency.  They’re money in the bank for men, too, but I think that good looks mostly just help men get laid a bit more often and make people in general treat you a little better.  A woman can totally transform her entire socioeconomic status if she’s beautiful and plays her cards right.  Men have given me economic support, access to their experience and professional resources, and a hell of a lot of expensive entertainment, just because they wanted to have sex with me.  I know that I’m pretty fun in bed, but let’s be honest: I would not have gotten any of those things, or been around any of those men, had I been ugly. 

      The education and the fact that I have a few brain cells to rub together helps, without a doubt.  These men don’t want to be embarrassed in public or around their colleagues by a bimbo when she opens her mouth.  I’m white trash, but I can pass myself off as bourgeois. (As an aside, that is the advice that I give to pretty young women whose retirement plan is “marry up:” get your fucking education.  No rich guy is going to marry you if you don’t have at least a bachelor’s degree.  He might love you, might keep you as a mistress or a girlfriend, but to marry you, he has to be able to integrate you into his life.  If all of his family and friends went to college–and they went, believe me–then you need to go, too.  Beauty school ain’t gonna cut it.  A woman at the Studio managed to reel in a zillionaire, and I’m begging her every time I see her to make him pay for her education and go back to school while he’s still around.  He’s married, so it’s not going to last.  The education is the only thing he can invest in her future, unless he’s stupid enough to knock her up.  Which could happen.  Some guys will do anything to get out of wearing a condom.  It boggles my mind.

      “Guilt-trip him with it!  It’s the least he can do for you!  You’re wasting time and youth on this married douchebag who makes $10 million a year! Believe me, he’ll want you to go back to school!  It’ll assuage his guilty conscience about running around on his wife and kids!  Suddenly, his cheating is an act of benevolence cause he’s helping the girl with her tuition!  What an act of selflessness!  He is the gracious benefactor of the Cheating Asshole Scholarship Fund for Homewrecking Whores with Self-Esteem Problems!  What a guy!  Nobless Obligue, or whatever it is! He gets to get out of feeling like a scumbag!  And you’re indebted to him and he doesn’t have to worry about you calling the wife in tears when you’re drunk at 3 AM!  See how that all works out?  The Surgeon covered me for two semesters, and it was the best thing he ever did for me!  And it’s fucking Rutgers!  It’s not even that expensive!  Get your ass back in class, woman!”  I wail.  

       If she doesn’t do it, in ten years, she’ll wish she had.  Because beauty is ephemeral.  Education lasts a lifetime and it is the only thing in life that nobody can take away from you.  If you’ve got the credentials, you’ve got the credentials forever

        I don’t know where I was going with this, so I guess I’ll end it with another awkward moment:  when you trip in the subway station and you drop your bag and it explodes with all this sex worker stuff: condoms, CBT rope, clothespins, nipple clamps, and a riding crop.  Extra points for a dildo.  Double extra points if the dildo is attached to a strapon harness.  

        Occupational hazard.

        I had to take my sex-work bag of gear to Rehab the other day.  I stared at it guiltily the entire time.  It was like The Tell-Tale Heart, except that it was The Tell-Tale Gear Bag.   But that’s okay.  At least it’s not booze.  

Omitting the Crucial Fact

      On Thursday the nice doctor is going to tell me if I have damaged my brain, liver, and kidneys.  

       Yesterday during one of the intake interviews at rehab, I was asked how I make a living.  I omitted the fact that I work as a prodomme.  

        I don’t know if I made the right decision.  

        On one hand, the cat’s out of the bag: I checked myself into a rehab program and my family knows about it.  So do my close friends.  So do my 8 blog readers.  My college doesn’t know, but I chalk that up to being a completely irrelevant member of the faculty (though I did find a letter from HR in my mailbox yesterday and almost had a heart attack.  Fortunately, it was just spam).  I could teach in a gorilla outfit and they would not give a fuck as long as I turned in the grades. 

       Additionally, I am paying about 30% of my yearly income to gain access to a bunch of professionals.  Common sense dictates that the more they know about me, the more they will be better able to help me.  Neglecting to tell them that I work in a high-stress, quasi-legal job  with a lot of people who routinely drink and use drugs is a pretty serious omission.  

         But, to quote the Mathematician, our favorite philandering borrower of his neighbor’s Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo, “It is true that I omitted the crucial fact, but I was worried that you would be mad.”  (gee, you think?)

        You see, other than my analyst (and, I suppose, the Surgeon), I have told exactly one other health care professional about my Secret Job…and it was a bad experience.

        It was a drug and alcohol counselor at the school where I attended my Ph.D. program.  I went there when I decided that I had a problem.  I had a few sessions with her and then told her that I worked as a prodomme.  It seemed topically relevant.

         It angered her.

          She told me that I was doing it for attention and to receive the validation of males, that I was dating the Surgeon because he gave me money for textbooks (HA!) instead of doing the responsible thing and taking out a student loan, that I was not a real feminist, and that I was throwing all other women under the bus by letting men think that all women are sex objects for sale.

         Can you believe it?  Can you?  I was completely vulnerable and turned to this woman for help.  The state probably pays this woman with a Master’s degree $75,000 a year!  

         In retrospect, I should have reported her and formally complained, but I was worried that if I made a report, I’d have to say exactly what it was that made her so angry, and I didn’t want my Secret Job on any official record. 

       Which brings me to another reason I didn’t tell the people at Rehab my entire employment status: if it’s on the record, it’s on the record.  Other people would be able to see it.  Insurance companies.  Lawyers.   What happens if I get married one day and have a kid, and then divorce and have the guy claim that my history as a sex worker makes me an unfit parent?  Some of the dommes at the Studio are mothers.  Every one of them I’ve talked to about it expresses concern that the state could try to take their children away.

       The last reason that I didn’t tell them is that I’m going to be in a cohort.  The “I Flunked Out of Life Class of 2014,” Fall Semester.  It’s co-ed.  My experience has been that if some men find out you’re a sex worker (not all men, just some, don’t get defensive), they immediately objectify you and use it as an excuse to treat you poorly.  I spend enough energy emotionally managing drunk guys and chester molesters at work.  I don’t need to do it at rehab. 

      (On the other hand, I’m sure that the rehab is full of degenerates who did degenerate things when they were using, like sell grandma’s TV set for heroin.  I am positively a goody two shoes in some of the rougher AA meetings.)

        I hope I’ve made the right decision.

                              *                           *                         *

       Oh, and a quick complaint: I saw a new potential client the other day.  I didn’t like him much.  He was sort of a jerk.  He asked me if I would undress if he gave me more money.  I thought about it and decided that no, I didn’t want to be topless around this guy.  I make decisions about nudity on a case-by-case basis.

      “Nope, sorry.  I don’t think that I can do that,” I said.

      He stared at me and blinked a few times, as if I’d just said something completely unreasonable. 

      “Why not?” he asked.  “Why won’t you?”

       What is wrong with some of these men and their empathy deficit?  They can’t all be sociopaths; they’re too many of them.  Good god, it must be nice to go through life without having to consider any situation of exchange from another person’s point of view.  Any human being who was not a completely self-centered moron should be able to understand why a person might want to keep their clothes on in front of a stranger they just met.

        “Because I don’t feel like it,” I explained calmly. 

        “Why not?”  Like a little kid!  And he had nice clothes and a briefcase and a company keychain!  Someone HIRED this dude!  He passed a job interview!

        “I just don’t like it,” I  said.

       “But isn’t that what you’re here for?”  The self-absorption knows no bounds.

       “Let me ask you something,” I said.  “Why do so many men completely ignore any sexual boundary they find invalid?”

        He looked puzzled, like a dimwitted student trying to make sense out of Being and Nothingness.

        “Uh, can I meet someone else?”

        Yes, I think that would be best. 

Hiring a Housekeeper and Reader Mailbag

     I’m about to start treatment at an outpatient rehab program.  If I could afford to do it I’d happily check myself into an inpatient facility for 30 or even 60 days, but that’s not in the cards.  I spent all my savings on the outpatient.  I’m not complaining–it is, after all, an investment in my life–but if I get slammed with a health crisis or major expense, I am going to be up the proverbial shit creek without a paddle.  I had to put Parrot’s necropsy hospital bills on my credit card. 

     When I got back to NYC, I hired a housekeeper for the first time.  I have a deeply ambivalent view of housekeeping, which I’ve blogged about here.  My home is never clean enough to suit me, but since I’m measuring my efforts against my mother’s, I’m just setting myself up to fail.  My mother’s house is the cleanest house I’ve ever seen.  

      Having someone clean your house for you is also admitting that you are a failure as a woman.  It is just plain disgraceful not to maintain your own household (my brother feels the same way about shoveling snow, washing his car, or doing oil changes.  Oh boy, does he have contempt for men who don’t tend their own lawns or wash their own cars!). 

      I did a two-hour shame cleaning before she arrived.  I do not want another human being to clean my hair out of the drain in the sink.  That is not a relationship I want to have with another human being (although, presumably, I’ll be doing it for a dude if I ever get married, which tells you a lot about the role of women in that patriarchal institution).  

       I assumed that the housekeeper would be Latina or Eastern European.  Where I come from, American-born whites still do most of the manual labor.   That’s almost never the case here.  

       Well, I got a nice American lady my mother’s age.  She was friendly and wanted to chat about my aquarium.  She had an aquarium, too.  

      I felt so guilty that I tipped her $100 up front and ran out to buy her bottled water and an energy drink.  Then I hid in the gym for two hours, because the thought of a grown woman cleaning my bathtub was humiliating to me. 

       I told the women at the Studio about my experience. 

      “You tipped your cleaning lady $100?  When you’re broke?   Are you crazy?” asked one.

     “I cleaned houses when I first came to New York,” said another.  “The worst were the obnoxious men who would try to hit on you and talk to you while you’re working.  Like, I’d be doing their dishes, and they’d ask me out on dates.

       Sometimes, they’d try to test me to see if I was doing a good-enough job.  It was always women who would do this, never men: They’d put some dirt or a scrap of paper underneath the middle of a big floor rug or carpet…and then check to see if it was still there when they came home.”

      I have nothing else to say.

      So, let’s answer a question from the Reader Mailbag: 

       “Here’s a question: What is your favorite place/spot/location in New York City?”
                                                                                          –Mike in Minneapolis 

               The Metropolitan Museum of Art, followed by the New York Botanical Garden and the Frick Collection. I like museums very much.

            Del Posto is probably my favorite restaurant in NYC.  I cannot afford to eat there by myself–a client takes me once or twice a year.

           If you were in the mood to talk politics with diplomats, there are several places in Turtle Bay i’d steer you toward. 

        So many others.  There are some great little fish stores in Chinatown where you can buy excellent aquarium stock, like Golden Tetras…but the stores don’t have websites.  You have to reach them through word of mouth.

        Grand Central Station. Hoboken/Lackawanna Terminal. 

       I’ve spent plenty of time in the libraries and the opera houses.

             NYC is adult Disneyland.  Everything is here, and it is the best of everything…if you can afford it. 

        Thanks for reading.  My tone should pick up soon.  

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 and Scotch on the Rocks

    I think it was Chopin who pushed me over the edge.

    I hate to say it like that, because it sounds like I’m blaming him for my decision to drink.  He’s an awful person and I’m sure the list of his sins and transgressions is very long indeed, but it’s not his fault that I picked up.

     I was well on my way by the time I saw him.  I’d had late-night (early-morning?) sessions twice that week and decided to sleep in the dungeon rather than run home in the blizzard at 4:30 AM.   We have cots and linens in back for the women to use.   Both nights I’d asked the manager for a hit from her bottle of Glenlivet in her locker before I went to bed (“bed,” ha…ha…ha).

     A drink before bed.  A bullet to the brain.   That’s really what I used to call it, you know.  As in: “Oh, I’ll turn in shortly…I just need one bullet to the brain.” 

     But I digress.  Where was I…? 

     Chopin came to see me.  I had no idea he was going to visit.  He didn’t book in advance.  I was sitting in back, chatting with my new Top via IM, and the receptionist came in and told me that Chopin was coming for me in 15 minutes and he was in a foul fucking mood.

      I didn’t have time to prepare myself.  I hate to rush preparation for a session.  I like to think about what I am going to do to him, and in what sequence.  If it’s a roleplay, I like to rehearse a bit.  It’s…professionalism.  I can definitely wing it if I need to, but I like going into session with everything in order, right?

    With sadists like Chopin, though, I like to have a little advance notice so that I can get my armor on. 

      I had no time to prepare. 

      I started to panic.  I wanted to run away, actually, but what could I do?  Where would I go?  Also, I wasn’t going to throw the new receptionist under the bus–he would have given her holy hell if he came all the way to the Studio in the snow and was told when he got here that I wasn’t available.  

      So, I went through with it.

      I don’t even know why this fucktard likes me.  I’m way too old for him–by ten years, at least.  He never sees women my age.  Ever. 

      Oh, wait.  I do know why he likes me!  He told me!

      (Get out your barf bags)

       “Do you know why I came back for you?” he asked me.

      I was strung up from the ceiling, standing on my toes.  He was playing Rachmaninoff on his tablet (and thanks for ruining the Piano Concerto No. 2 for me, asshole).  It was so dark in there I could barely see, which, I suppose, is just as well. 

      You came back for me because I did something really, really bad to sex workers or children in my previous life.  There is no other explanation. 

       He gave me a pretty sound caning, which was far and away the easiest part of the session.  I really don’t care about the pain.  I know that’s incomprehensible to most people, but even if I’m not turned on in the slightest and getting it from some douchebag I secretly despise, like our favorite piano-playing sadistic surgeon dentist here, enduring the pain is basically like manual labor to me.  I may we well be mowing someone’s lawn or helping them carry boxes down the stairs.   If he’d kept his mouth shut, everything would have been fine, but Chopin is a talkative motherfucker, and everything that comes out of his mouth, you’ll wish you’d never heard.

       He gave me hell about “leading him on,” as if any woman in her right mind would do such a thing.  He said that he’d like to make me cry, but there was no way I was going to give him that satisfaction.  Besides, I never cry in sessions.  I’ve left a few looking like I got hit by a bus, and I never shed a tear.  I didn’t even cry for the Attorney, which is probably why he’s STILL emailing me.

       Then he returned to the topic at hand.

        I could barely see him in the dark, but still wouldn’t look at him.  It’s a trick I have: when the going gets rough, minimize as much of the sensory input as you safely can.  It reduces the memory.  I wanted this man (“man.” ha, ha) to take up as little space in my memory banks as possible. 

        “I came back for you because you said you were a teacher.  I like that.  I need someone to help me train these sluts.  I have a new one coming up from Washington.  She needs an older, elegant submissive woman to look up to.  You can set a good example for her.”  

        He let me down and gave me his email address and $300.  Chopin is notoriously cheap–it’s one of the ways he fucks girls over–but he gives me a lot of money.  I take it because I earn it, but it’s a bribe and I know he’s just trying to manipulate me.  I know he’s not doing it as a gesture of appreciation, and that makes the money feel a little dirty to me, however much I deserve it. 

       Afterward, the receptionist asked me how it went, and I told her what he said to me.

       “Stop talking,” she cut me off.  “I can’t handle that.”

       Then you’re in the wrong line of work, I wanted to snap at her, but I didn’t.  Who knows what issues she has.  
        I told my English friend, Betsy.  She shuddered. 

        “Margo, I’m so sorry.  He’s vile, isn’t he?  Here, want to have a drink with me?”

        Why yes, yes I would.  An ocean of Scotch to wash it all away, please. 

        Ten days later I was standing at the bathroom sink in my mother’s house, wretching up Pedialyte.  I couldn’t keep anything down.  Withdrawal.  Physical withdrawal.  It finally happened to me.

        “What are those marks on the side of your thigh?”  asked my mother, concerned (she was holding my hair.  Bless her heart.).

         I hadn’t had time to put on pants when I rushed out of bed.  I was standing there in my underwear and a tank top.

        “I don’t remember,” I lied.  

         Ten days clean.