“Normal?” – Not My Relatives! Wanna Pet My Kid’s Skunk?

steve-o and astro

Yes.  It’s a skunk. Yes. It is sleeping atop my offspring.

I am more of a dog person than anything.  I like cats too, and I have cats, but to me there is nothing like the relationship one can have with a dog.

I have no idea what got the POMC started in on skunks, other than he really doesn’t connect with cats, and he’s somewhat freaky about dogs. He was dog bit rather severely when he was nine.  His right hand might look normal now, but that dog chewed it up like burger meat and he has permanent nerve damage.  Dogs have pretty much given him the creeps ever since, which really sucks.

ferret

He had ferrets in high school, much to my mother’s disgust, because ferrets have a funk.  Even I can smell ferret funk, which means they must smell pretty nasty to most people.  Odor aside, they just never really thrilled me much.  I’ve heard them described as “cat snakes,” which is about right.  Dinky, sneaky little bastards as far as I’m concerned.

skunk

In the skunk’s defense, he is de-scented and the only thing about him that really smells is his shit.  Skunk shit is nasty, nasty, nasty.  The skunk himself, however, is very clean and doesn’t really have a smell to him.

Even so, I’d rather deal with a dog or a cat.  Skunks have sensitive digestive systems and special nutritional needs. They have to have their food specially prepared (sort of like feeding a toddler) unlike a dog or cat who can eat prepackaged dog or cat food and be cool with it.  It’s also a real pain in the hiney to find a vet who will deal with skunks.  Their anatomy and physiology is nothing like dogs or cats, so the vets that will work with them generally cost up the wazoo.

exotic vet

Most vets don’t want to see anything that isn’t a cat or a dog.  I can’t say I blame them.

Skunks are a vector for rabies in the wild, which is enough to scare off most people from owning them.  However, the truth is that the only way for any mammal to get rabies is to be bitten by something with rabies.   Domestic, captive born skunks don’t have rabies, and won’t get rabies unless something with rabies bites them.  Captive born and kept indoors, skunks are just as safe to keep as a pet (and not a rabies risk!) as an indoor cat.

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Harmless as Jezebel? I don’t give my indoor cats rabies shots because there’s no way for them to get bitten by something that’s rabid.

Lucy

The dogs do get rabies shots because a.) they go outside and therefore in theory can be bitten by something rabid, and b.) state law requires it.

I am one of those weird people who can really go off on bizarre tangents at times.  I bought – and read with fascination-  this book some while back- Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus..  It’s a compelling read on a rather off the wall subject.  I will have to let the illustrious offspring borrow this one if he’s in the mood for some enlightening late night reading. Of course my tastes in literature are mostly non-fiction (science and history) and often tend to gravitate toward the macabre.

I don’t think I have one “normal” relative.  Not one.  My son passes for normal most of the time, but they are all certifiable.

Mom is probably the one that’s the closest to the cuckoo’s nest- she’s bi-polar with a heaping helping of anxiety, OCD, and extreme naïveté to go along with it.  Jerry is a laundry list of fun beginning with adult ADHD, Helpless Man syndrome, and ending with a rip roaring case of what I call “functional drunk.”

Dad’s gotten a lot more fun since he’s gotten old. It wouldn’t surprise me that like his own father he decides now that he’s 70 years old that, “I’m not old. I’m middle aged.” Nobody had the heart to tell Grandpa when he turned 70 that it was highly unlikely he’d see 140, but he did live to be 91.   I guess it’s all about your attitude.

There’s a phenomenon with some older people where their frontal lobe (the “traffic cop” of the brain) sort of wears out and doesn’t screen one’s conversation as thoroughly as it once did, or probably should.

So Dad, who used to be rather tight-lipped and taciturn, has gotten rather cheeky as he ages.  His oh-so scathing commentary is starting to remind me of my grandmother and great-grandmother (ironically my mother’s mother and grandmother, go figure) and it’s a hoot. It drives Mom nuts, on the rare occasion she actually gets the reference and/or the double entendre. I’m glad that most of the time it goes over her head, for her own sanity and well being.

Mom has her own special brand of near-senility which is even more creepy than my Dad flipping off traffic.  She has always gravitated to the mega-weird parts of Catholicism which is downright scary, but the older she gets the more she watches EWTN, goes to Mass and Confession, and is grabbing on that rosary.  Normally I would say religious disciplines would be a good thing, but she gets Really Weird with it.  She thought that if she left EWTN on all the time full blast that the POMC would see the Catholic light and become a priest.  Never mind that he’s pretty much agnostic and really creeped by “men in dresses.”

To top that off, she’s also blithely ignorant that it’s really, really gauche to ask someone who is a confessional Lutheran and who has done a lot of theological and spiritual soul searching to come on down to the Catholic cathedral to venerate some dead saint’s bones.  Apparently the Catholic school she went to didn’t teach too much about Martin Luther, the 95 Theses, and the Reformation.

I had to decline the bone-gazing and necromancy out of conscience, but as far as she knows I declined because I had to do laundry.  I’d rather tell a little white lie – though I really did do laundry- than go through a detailed theological dissertation on why I don’t venerate saints’ bones.  I don’t need to hurt her feelings.

Even the POMC is borderline OCD. His car and motorcycle both are testament to that.

Both of my sisters could be called “castrating bitches,” due to the fact that they both can run a man like a railroad.

And here I sit with my own frailties and funky wiring.

People Are Frustrating and Vexing, but Solitude Brings a Strange Kind of Fun

  warmandfuzzy

I am not the poster child for things touchy-feely.  I loathe strange people touching me (even getting my hair cut is an adventure, though I endure it because I can’t cut my own hair with any degree of accuracy) and generally I’m not too thrilled about being groped by those I do know.  Unless they’re dogs, and that’s OK.  Why, I don’t know, but dogs are safe, at least for me.  Even when I was a little kid and was terrified of the world, from my sadistic oldest sister to unauthorized insect life, I had no problem climbing the fence and snuggling up to a 120# Rottweiler.

rottweiler

It’s not usually the big dogs you have to worry about.  Unless you’re up to mischief, that is.

The only dog I can remember having any kind of problem with was Andy the Chihuahua, but he was likely the product of many generations of inbreeding, and from the moment he was whelped he was certifiably messed up in the head.  He was my cousins’ dog, and even they couldn’t touch him.  It’s a good thing that pathetic little Andy, with his  high-pitched, constant and annoying yappy voice, severe underbite and thick cataracts,  (I think the wretched thing was born blind) didn’t live past the age of five. I’m surprised he lived as long as he did.   I think the only thing that saved him was that he was too evil for the cats to eat him.  He reminded me of a wind-up toy with an over-wound spring.  Such a toy will go like blue blazes- for a little while- then it just dies suddenly.  I think it was reported that poor Andy bit the big one mid-yap.  I don’t think he was very much missed.

psycho chihuahua

Andy the psycho Chihuahua is the exception, not the rule in the canine world.  Humanity is the exact opposite.

There is a sad irony that I feel safer with animals that technically are the same species as wolves (canis lupus familiaris is not far removed from canis lupus lupus after all) than I do with fellow humans.  But I do.

I’ve gathered from my own observations that “normal” people (begging the question, “Who defines ‘normal’?,” though I know I am most certainly anything but “normal”) generally have an easy time relating to other “normal” people.   While I’m usually looking for excuses to avoid excessive social interaction, as too much of playing that game wears me out, the “normals” blithely seek out more opportunities to be in each others’ faces.    I have to work at the communication game.  Really. Hard.  I have to consciously know which façade to pull out, and what (figurative) costume to wear for which occasion.

I have to pay attention to things that come instinctually to most, such as eye contact and body language and tone of voice. Otherwise, if I’m not paying attention, I just stare straight ahead and bellow out everything in a loud monotone.  I have acquired social skills- and over the years I’ve trained myself to practice them well- but that whole hoo-hah wears me down, just as the social dance energizes most people.

hermit

Sometimes I’d like to tell the whole world to bite me sideways and say screw it all, (and I would if I had the scratch to live as a recluse) but necessity dictates that I have to put up with other people and their shit.  Maybe it’s wrong or arrogant or selfish of me to see things that way, but that’s just the way it is.  That’s my reality-constant vigilance and constant anxiety, because I have to pay close attention to every word and every movement, at least when I am under others’ scrutiny.

Maybe that was where Shakespeare got the notion that all the world’s a stage.  Performing is hard work, and sometimes I just don’t wanna.

I don’t have to play the game with dogs- or even cats for that matter.   With them I can just be.

There are times I do enjoy the relational hoo-hah and find it a strange kind of fun, but it’s fun that I really only need in small doses, and even when I do enjoy it, it wears me out.  Right now I’m exhausted, and in a way I wish I could beg off human contact for a few months or so.

14corolla

What I really need is a nice, long solitary road trip.

I could use one of those trips where I leave, go somewhere randomly, do whatever, and then come back.  The last time I really did that was back in 1987, and I caught hell for it.  Of course, going 500 miles out with $150,  in a car that had no air conditioning, leaked oil horribly, had 4 balding (different sizes and treads) tires and a top speed of 45 MPH wasn’t a good idea and I wouldn’t dream of trying it today, especially without a phone, but those were different times.   Cell phones were expensive toys hard mounted in expensive cars back in 1987.  I was a young punk and wanted to do what I wanted to do, even if I didn’t have much scratch and my car was a very distressed, high mileage ’79 Subaru DL.   Today I would be afraid of being raped and robbed (well, in my case, probably just robbed and shot) if I would happen to get stranded.  Today I have plastic (though I am quite loath to use it) a modern car, a phone, GPS, roadside assistance and a (always loaded) .357 Magnum.

I’m not nearly as trusting as I used to be.

Jerry would have nine kinds of fits if I did something like that.  He would accuse me of being out trysting with some smoking hot young stud even though he (especially) should know I have the sex appeal of stale saltines and wet socks.    In reality he would miss subjecting me to his tirades, and would miss me fetching his food and beer.

Yes, a solitary road trip would be most delicious.  Even a day trip would be good.

Neal Schon Rules, Bad News and Silver Linings, and Other Ephemera

I’ve adored this guy’s work for 30 years so I’m biased, but this album is good!

I’m glad that I’d agreed to take my sister-in-law with me to the Journey show last night, because when I woke up yesterday I was damned depressed.  Somehow there’s got to be a silver lining in four more years of the worst president in American history, but yesterday morning I sure as hell couldn’t see it.  I still can’t, but part of the Serenity Prayer is accepting what you can’t change.  That being said, I will work like hell to change what I can, and I will still keep on telling the truth about the Naked Emperor.  I have a moral obligation to call out evil for what it is.   I hope and pray that the history of Richard Nixon will repeat itself.  The difference between Obama and Nixon, however, is a.) Obama is evil and corrupt to his rotten core and his deeds far exceed the treachery of Nixon’s, and b.) unlike Nixon, Obama thinks he’s God, and he will not peaceably resign.

The media (who remember have covered for Obama and his slimy cronies all along) are going to say that the GOP needs to move toward the center.  Bullshit.  The GOP needs to move- and stay- more to the right.  Many people didn’t bother to go out and vote for Romney because they couldn’t see a clear difference between the plan Romney proposed and the slimy bait and switch tactics that Obama’s been passing off.  Obama won partially because he’s a liar and adept at deceiving the American people.  He’s played the race card, apparently to the point of making people believe that just because one is black that their race gives them free rein to be completely inept but still get a free pass.  I say equal opportunity also means that every race has the equal opportunity to SUCK- and to be called out and face the consequences when they suck.  My black friends don’t get that, and most of them still think Obama is the best thing since sliced bread.

My black friends don’t believe me when I tell them about Obama’s complicity and approval of black genocide (40% of all aborted babies are black, but black people are only 12% of the population,) and how it works in his best interest to keep as many people as he can uneducated and governmentally dependent.  When I criticize Obama and call out his hatred of our country to them – and even to some white people I know who have inexplicably jumped on the Obama Titanic- the first response is that I’m a racist.  Though I also point out that I would vehemently oppose a(n) (all) white guy who has done and said what Obama’s done and said, my rational arguments against him fall on deaf ears.

Apparently these two ass-clowns were so funny that people wanted an encore.

It’s never too early to impeach, although Obama would really have to do something outrageous to cheese off Harry Reid and that crowd.  If it were possible for the public outcry against him to be so overwhelmingly loud that even the Dems in the Senate would have to hear and fear for their cushy positions, they would throw Obama under the bus, but the problem so far is even with all the egregious errors and trampling on the Constitution and the impeachable offenses that Obama’s committed, the media covers for Obama.  They’ve done a really good job of putting a ribbon on a turd, but let’s face it, even when you put a ribbon on a turd, you don’t make the turd not be a turd anymore.

But the Affirmative Action president gets a pass!  Apparently if you’re black (or half black) you don’t get the equal opportunity to face the consequences when you fail.

Sadly, while I liked Mitt Romney more as I listened to him, even I have to admit that I didn’t so much vote FOR Romney as I did AGAINST Obama.  That’s not a really great motive, even when you are voting against evil.  I think what this country really needs is to have someone really great to believe in, and who can explain his/her plan in a way that connects with the majority of people. Unfortunately the last one we have seen like that is Reagan, and he’s dead.  Romney is a good man, and I thought he had a much better plan than Obama, although I freely admit my mentally challenged deaf Husky could do a better job in the Oval Office than Obama.  At least Sheena is housebroken.  The problem is that Romney is not a Reagan, as much as people like me who are so disgusted and appalled with the Marxist-in-Chief would have liked him to be.  Romney appealed to those who really had it with Obama, but Romney didn’t appeal to those who for whatever (bizarre and whacked out) reason were neutral toward or favored Obama.  Therein lies the problem.

I don’t think that being less conservative and more politically correct is the answer at all, unlike the MSM pundits who want the American public to shut up and be good little socialists like they are in Europe.  I think being American, not accepting the status quo, and standing up for the truth is the only way to fly.  The challenge is how to get the right message across, and finding the right person to do it.

All I know is I will keep on telling the truth, and maybe one person might get it.  I’m too crass and to the point to even think of pursuing political office.  For the most part, I vent, but maybe my venting will make someone stop and think.

Back to Neal Schon.

I am so glad I got to hear his rendition of the National Anthem.

The Journey show last night was awesome, and so were the other bands- Pat Benatar and Loverboy were excellent live, and the whole show was certainly worth seeing.  If anything it lifted my mood and got my mind out of the dark funk.

This too shall pass.  I don’t like to let political views stand between friends, even though I believe very strongly in what I believe in.  At least I care.  I may not be 100% right but then again neither is anyone else.

Everyone has to believe in something.  I believe I’ll get back to jamming to The Calling and stay out of trouble for the afternoon.

Scary Bad Parenting, “Functional” is Not the Same as “Normal,” and Don’t Stifle My Creativity

Just blow that second-hand smoke all over your child’s developing lungs!

I have to admit, nothing contributes to the desire to chain smoke more than dealing with infants and toddlers, unless it’s dealing with automotive technicians.  At one time I had to contend with both, though in the end, chain smoking just feeds the nervous tension.  Thankfully I had taken a three-year hiatus from smoking, beginning a year and a half before the illustrious offspring arrived until about a year and a half after the illustrious offspring arrived. At least I didn’t knowingly contaminate the child whilst he was in the womb- mostly because I feared giving birth to a drooling slack-jawed cretin should I indulge in an aspartame-laden Diet Dr. Pepper, or a hit off a cigarette, or God forbid, a cup of coffee.  He’s potty trained, literate and gainfully employed, and he can pick his nose with his tongue!

I blame the tongue thing on the Sudafed.  One stinking Sudafed in week 3 of gestation, and the kid’s born tongue-tied.  Let that be a lesson.

Lávese las manos!  In NC, the obligatory employee bathroom instructions are only in English. In some parts of Ohio there’s 14 different languages on the sign – and there’s still millions of crusty people who don’t wash their hands in the bathroom.

I always wondered, since there’s dippy pictorial signs everywhere, either for the illiterate or the non-English speaking or both, why not a universal “wash your hands after using the crapper sign? ”  My art skills are pretty rudimentary, but here’s a thought:

Here’s my contribution for the betterment of humanity.  Enjoy, and wash your damned hands!

The cigarette jones is a strong compulsion, though. I know what possessed me to pick them back up.  I was stressed, sleep deprived, working a very shitty job with very shitty pay after I’d been promised all kinds of things that never materialized, and in the process of getting a divorce.  I was driving back from some backwater town running titles (which wasn’t what I was hired to do, but getting out is getting out) and happened to stop at a gas station for more coffee when I saw the Marlboro sign.  After three years of no smoking at all- from 1989-92, I bought a pack of Marlboro Menthol Light 100s and hot-boxed half the pack on the way back home.  I was a two-pack a day smoker for the next ten years, sometimes lighting one right off of the butt of the one I’d just smoked.  I apologize to Steve-o for letting him think that smoking was OK.  Strangely enough, he took them up three years after I’d quit (God willing for good) in 2002.  But he won’t smoke his cigs in that high faluting Audi, because he doesn’t want to “stink up the leather.”

No smoking in the Steve-o ride.  It might make the leather stink.

I’ll never make any sort of claim that I’m “normal.”  Functional, yes, but that’s not quite the same thing.  Rednecks piece together machinery and devices that are functional, but not exactly in the ways the designers had originally intended.

I don’t need no stinkin’ latches!  Though I think the bungees are holding the decklid and the rear fascia on too.

The Marion Walmart never disappoints as far as the panoply of redneck engineered motor vehicles in the parking lot.  Sadly this poor Pontiac is 1.) likely totalled and/or the one who hit it had no insurance or 2.) the one driving it when it was hit had no insurance, and making a police report would have cost him/her his/her license. Or, 3.) the driver of said Pontiac took the insurance settlement and spent it on crack.   If I were a betting person (which I’m not) I would wager on #3.  Perhaps it’s mean of me to photograph others’ misfortune, but it’s funny in a tragic sort of way.  I’ve driven my share of shitty cars, but that was in the days before digital photography made the disasters so easy to share.

What I don’t get about this 70’s Midol ad is the guys deserve some of the aggravation right back at them.  Especially Jerry.

Another thing I discovered about menopause is that you don’t need Aunt Flo as an excuse to channel your inner bitch.  I can be bitchy all month long AND wear white pants while I’m bitchy, even when I’m sitting in the freezer.  The hot flash thing isn’t nearly as bad as it was a year or two ago, but it’s still bad when I’m watching polar bears on TV and at times I wish I was hanging out on the icebergs with them.   I don’t think I’ve worn a sweater for years, or more PJs than light PJ pants and a t-shirt.  I would probably be smothering to death if I had long hair.  Now I know why old women have short hair.  It’s easier to color, yes, but it’s also a hell of a lot cooler.

I have every right to keep on bitching!

So Easily Entertained, Laments of the 13%, and Country Music IS Noise Pollution

Those of us in the automotive industry aren’t exactly noted for being paragons of virtue, sad to say.

Last night I realized just how easily entertained I can be, and it’s sort of sad.  Jerry has been complaining about the slight vibration in the front end of his truck since the tires were rotated, so I had to follow him over to the dealership last night so their service department can tell him the same things I told him.  1. You have a 4WD truck.  It’s not going to ride like a car. 2. I personally don’t care much for Dunlop tires- at least not the ones Toyota uses as factory equipment tires.  They are OK if you drive the vehicle every day, but we are talking about a 2010 Tacoma with 9,000 miles on it.  When these tires sit, they cup.  When tires cup, you get vibration.  I had to deal with complaints about Dunlop tires (granted these weren’t the same exact model tires) 20 years ago when they were original equipment on Camrys- and the ones who bitched about them always had low mileage cars that would sit for long periods of time.   Most people aren’t fussy enough to even notice a slight vibration like that in a truck, but Jerry is sensitive enough to smell the fart someone just cut up in Moose Dick, Alaska (which is a hell of a long way from beautiful Central Ohio, for those ill-acquainted with geography.)  He notices anything even slightly off with that truck, even if it is well within the realm of normal tolerance.  I pity the service advisor who’s dealing with him.

Maybe I should not take sadistic enjoyment in tormenting car salesmen, especially when buying a new car is about the furthest thing from my mind, but I couldn’t resist wandering the new car lot as I’m waiting for Jerry to drop off his Tacoma with yet another whiny diatribe about the Dunlop tires.  I’m sure he thinks if he whines enough they’ll give him a free set of Bridgestones of his choice, but I highly, highly doubt it.  They’re not a safety issue or even a wear issue.  You have a bit of a vibration at 70 MPH.  Whoop de doo.

Just buy yourself a new set of tires if you are that damned fussy.  I told you to make them swap them out for Bridgestones before you took delivery of the truck…

Anyway, I didn’t even really get a chance to peruse the first two three-door Yarises- other than to glance and keep on walking because they were automatics- on the lot before a thin, sort of ferret-faced salesman starts chasing me down.  That’s what I get for perusing a new car lot on a weeknight.  The first thing I tell him is that I’m just checking out the new cars while I’m waiting on the old man to drop off his truck and that I’m not looking for a new car.  But of course, he persists, so I ask him if they have any (Scion) XDs or 5 door Yarises with manual transmissions.  Mr. Ferret gives me a sort of a weird look and asks, “You aren’t interested in an automatic?”

Ok, so ferrets are cute.  This guy wasn’t, but you get what I mean.

Hell, no, I think to myself, but then I have to wonder how many of the 13% he has actually encountered, and if he has had the rare opportunity to encounter one of the 13% who happens to be female. So I decide to take it easy on him.

“Sorry, but I only drive manual transmissions.  I won’t buy an automatic, which I know sort of narrows down my choices,” I replied, thinking that might make him give up right there.

It must have been a slow night, because the poor guy was running around all over the lot to see if they had any XDs or 5 door Yarises with manual transmissions.  They didn’t, but he did insist on getting my phone number (I gave the home number that I never answer) and e-mail. I don’t entirely want to piss these guys off because I’ve bought my last 4 new cars there.  Even though I pretty much despise car salesmen, I don’t want to be that much of a bitch.  I’m not interested in a new car right now- especially because Toyota isn’t building the Yaris sedan which is what I already have, and am perfectly OK with- anymore.  The XD is intriguing and even though it is a hatchback, that might cross my mind, but good luck finding one of those with 5 on the floor.

Yes, the manual trans is available, but have fun finding one with it!

I hope that I don’t have to resign to driving a farking Volkswagen just so I can get a sedan with a manual transmission the next time I buy a car.  It’s not that I dislike Volkswagen- as far as performance goes there’s no one like the Germans, and VW’s recent models (especially the Jetta and Passat) are interesting- but they are more expensive, and from what I’ve seen in the past, much less reliable than Toyotas.  Who got the farking idea that people who drive manual transmissions only like hatchbacks?   Who got the idea that everyone who likes a manual transmission can afford a European car, even if it does end up being a Volkswagen?  I know it’s hard to cater to the 13%, and I don’t mind that most of the available vehicles are econoboxes, but dammit, there is a market there!

The Jetta GLI could be fun, but I still wonder- how reliable?

I’m not enthralled with buying any car that isn’t made by Toyota, and I’m not buying an automatic anything, even if it means I drive my current Yaris until I drop dead.  So there.

I’m also wondering who around here is getting such a taste for oat opera.  Unless I put my headphones on, I am accosted to a rather foul auditory garbage dump of twangy tunes that make me think I’ve died and gone to redneck hell.  I try to be polite and use headphones if I want to listen to music outside of the privacy of my own car, because I understand that not everyone wants to hear Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” cranked up.  It’s a cool song but sort of gross when you think about it.  I know I have unusual tastes in music and don’t aspire to inflict them on others.   But why do others think I want my auditory channels violated by Conway Twitty or Shania Twain?

Please, please spare me from bad country music- and most of it is IMO, incredibly bad- unless you want me to start playing David Allan Coe.

Definitely Not Normal, So Adjust, (and Learn When to Say “Tough Titty!”)

I never really liked the word “normal,” because “normal” is a most subjective word.  What is normal for me is probably not normal for most other people, and vice-versa.  That’s OK, because I’m comfortable with the way I’m wired, and I can navigate with it pretty well.   The problem for me is that the rest of the world isn’t wired the same way, so I have to modify my methods and approach accordingly in my interactions with the rest of humanity.  My peculiar wiring gives me some advantages (for instance, for me, speed-reading has always been a mechanism that is both automatic and near and dear to my heart) but my wiring also gives me disadvantages when the only route I’ve been given is not the well-traveled road.   I see much that others miss, but I miss much that others see.  I miss the subtle cues of facial expression and body language that most people cue in on automatically.  I have to make a conscious effort not only to read non-verbals, but also to be sure that I’m sending the right non-verbals, both of which are vexing for me.  I’d much rather communicate in print so I can revise as necessary and say what I mean to say.  I also have to make a conscious effort to do anything requiring gross motor skills.  I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was almost 8 years old, and in spite of intense physical therapy when I was 3-4 years old, and my mother’s misguided attempt to force me into ballet lessons a few years later, (too bad they didn’t have video cameras then, because my abysmal attempts at ballet dancing would have been a hoot to watch) I’m still doing good to walk without falling. 

A better term for “normal” in my world would be “neurotypical”- meaning the vast majority of humanity, i.e. people who can walk across a room without tripping on their own feet, and whose perception is not perennially “cranked up to 11.”   Neurotypical people have to learn to read the written word the hard way (something I still don’t understand, because I can’t remember a time in my life when I couldn’t read) but for the most part they automatically pick up on empathy and relating to others, while I have to consciously develop and practice those skills- the hard way.  I also have to train myself to narrow my focus, otherwise I would be kept awake by a star’s reflection in my window or by the whistle of a far off train.  The danger in this is if I turn down the perception knob too much or hone in on one tiny spot for too long I truly do shut off the rest of the world.  One of my greatest talents is the ability to ignore. I have to consciously keep a balance between the two extremes.   I can go from near-catatonia to panic attack in a heartbeat if I fail to keep the “need to shut down” and “need to experience everything” parts of my mind balanced. 

I have suspected for a long time that I have Asperger’s Syndrome- the description of Asperger’s explains much about my rather “abnormal” intellectual and social development.  I understand how easy it is to simply shut down.  It’s hard for me to describe, but I can see both how and why autistic people do shut down.  It’s easier than the constant fight to maintain the balance, and it beats panic attacks and/or manic rages.  Leave me alone in the ivory tower, because it’s a lot easier that way.  Yes, that I most certainly understand.

I remember all too well Mom used to backhand me for “being rude” or “staring” when I couldn’t see what was wrong with a.) stating the obvious, or b.) making an observation.  Then again I may have had some advantages in such a harsh upbringing.  Mom was a big believer in operant conditioning, and more specifically the negative reinforcement component of operant conditioning.  She would backhand you for a dirty look, or for missing a response whilst doing the Catholic calesthenics during Mass.  In her economy one’s behavior better be appropriate at all times, and to flying hell with any reason you might provide for behavior she deemed inappropriate.   My sisters had a different MO for beating the hell out of me, (unless they could beat me and make me scream so Mom would also beat me- for screaming) and they beat me a LOT more often than Mom ever needed to.  They beat the hell out of me because I was an easy target and it was something to do when Mom locked us outside and cranked up the volume on the TV.  Who knew sadism could be so entertaining?  Today they have video games for that, but not back in the 70’s. 

In my opinion, “telling it like it is,” is simply being honest.  You can be honest and tactful, but tact is an acquired skill, and not necessarily one that I excel in.  I acquired a good measure of tact with the quickness when I was about five- after I commented that one of Dad’s friends was getting really fat. Gotta love that operant conditioning. You will shut up after being backhanded into next week- but it didn’t change the fact that Dad’s buddy was getting downright lardy.  One of the nice things about cougardom is that I don’t have to be as tactful as I was required to be when I was five.  Age buys one at least a slight bit of gravitas in some ways.  I can call a lard ass a lard ass and get away with it, though if I must comment on someone’s superfluous girth, I generally just say “large” and move on.  I’m not consciously trying to be rude, but I do call it as I see it.  I can make commentary as much as I want to at my age without having to be as paranoid about offending people. 

One of the reasons I really hate political correctness is that it gives people excuses to be wussies.  I was never allowed to simply follow the path of least resistance and shut myself down to the point of being cloistered away in a padded room with a stack of adult diapers (though I think I would actually have to leave my little private enclave to at least use the toilet and bathe) and vast selection of reading material.  No one catered to me.  I had to adjust to everyone else and if I didn’t like it, it was tough titty.  I was held to a higher standard because of my IQ scores, with no mercy or accommodation for my motor deficits or emotional and social deficits.  My family forced me to be social and to function in the neurotypical world whether I wanted to or not.  I was not given the choice to withdraw from human interaction.  The best metaphor I can think of is that I was thrown in the pool and left to sink or swim.  No water wings, no instruction, no floatie for me.  Use what you have and figure it out.  I probably could have done without all the beatings and likely the attempts at ballet lessons too, but for the most part I don’t think that I would have the ability to function in the “normal” world today had I not been forced to do so. Sadly, today no one has the audacity to require kids to adjust and to learn how to navigate the world with the wiring they’ve been given. 

Granted, I am probably not an exemplary picture of mental health.  I freely admit I have Issues.  Then again, had I not been thrown into the fire I can guarantee my Issues would be far more profound and limiting.

So, just shut up and make it work.  That’s what has to be done sometimes.