18 December 2011

I Don't Feel Sorry for You, Ms. Spelling

The other day I made the unfortunate decision to spend almost an hour of my time watching a spectacle of consumer greed and conspicuous consumption on HGTV. This "special" hour-long festival of wealth and ridiculousness was called SELLING SPELLING MANOR . Yes, I admit it, I watched it.

The show is ostensibly about Candy Spelling and her 56,500 square foot home in Beverly Hills, and her struggle to emotionally detach from her ostentatious home. Having sold the "Manor" to some British heiress for 85 million bucks (65 million below her asking price), she has only 30 days to move out! Oh My!

But back to the important facts: yes, you read that right: 56,500 square feet. That's big enough to house 18 of Mitt Romney's 3009 square foot homes. Yes, 18. The average house in the United States, according to the National Association of Home Builders in 2009, is 2700 square feet. In 1970 it was 1700 square feet. My house is 1800 square feet, and often seems way too big for me.

The show is a spectacle of disturbing statistics and imagery. It is fascinating that anyone would ever actually construct such a monstrosity, in my view. Who fucking needs that much space? Who needs a bowling alley? A gift-wrapping room? A climate-controlled doll storage room? Not to mention the 17,000 square storage foot attic. (The attic space is NOT included in the 56,500 square feet of the Manor, by the way.) Anyway, I was just stunned at how much space this monstrosity actually has, and how anyone would ever think it was a good idea to create such a hulking and bourgeois display of wealth. What is the purpose?

Here is HGTV's description of the show:

Candy Spelling had just 30 days to move out after closing the sale on Spelling Manor, the 56,500-square-foot family home where she and television producer, the late Aaron Spelling, entertained presidents, royalty and Hollywood legends. Join us as Candy gives an exclusive tour of the mansion's more than 15 specialty areas, including a bowling alley; a billiard room; an arcade; a collector's gallery with more than 700 dolls; a projection room with a large-scale screen and full surround sound; a china room; a silver room with place settings for more than 50; a gift room with accompanying custom-designed gift-wrapping room; a design studio to capture photos of jewelry and other personal items for online auctions; and a collection fine-art originals, including one of the famous Dogs Playing Poker paintings.

At the end of this show I found out that there will be a second hour of SELLING SPELLING MANOR which will involve the trials and tribulations of Ms. Candy Spelling and the process of downsizing her possessions so that she can comfortably live in her new 16,000 square foot condo on Wilshire Boulevard.

Perhaps I'm being mean. Perhaps I should have sympathy for her struggles. But I don't. I think she is one of the most over-privileged humans I've ever seen, and her "struggles" are laughable in light of real problems suffered by people all over the world. Yes, I'm over-privileged too, in my own way. I'm not starving, nor do I lack for heat or comfort. I suppose we could all see Ms. Spelling's quandary as a lesson in mindless consumption and use it to reflect upon our own privileges. I'm still just disturbed that such domiciles exist. Think about it: her previous home, the 56,500 square foot structure, could easily have housed 25 families or more. What awesomeness would it have been if she had decided to make Spelling Manor a waystation for refugees, or a temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence, or even a place for stray dogs and cats? Why on earth does anyone need all that space to themselves? They don't.

14 December 2011

What We Talk About When We Talk About Hysterectomies

Here's what happened when I decided I was going to have a hysterectomy: everyone, I mean everyone, had something to say about it.

I had been having really disturbingly heavy periods for a while, starting three years ago. Then the clots started coming. Really big, unwieldy, variously shaped blood clots just arrived and literally fell out of my body. (see above).

We discovered that I had a benign fibroid that was likely causing the giant clots and occasionally tremendous severe pain. I had given up on tampons to quell the flow, and now even the biggest most absorbant pads were no match against the giant squid-like formations that my body was excreting. My helpful mother suggested adult diapers. Not funny, Mom. Anyway, after various attempts at hormonally altering this menstrual trajectory, my physician and I decided upon (which really means I gave in to her idea that she had suggested years ago) a hysterectomy.

So, we scheduled it, and I looked forward to a menstrual free, clot free, invading alien fibroid free life. My doctor said we could leave my ovaries in so I wouldn't have so much hormal adjustment to deal with. That was a good thing. Anyway, here's what happened.

Every person I talked to about this procedure had things to say about it way above and beyond what anyone would say if I had told them I was having gall baldder surgery, for example. Here's a list of stuff people said:

Oh--are you sure you're okay with that?
Oh, my mother in law had a hysterectomy and she was never the same afterwards.
Really? I'd be careful if I were you. When I had a hysterectomy they did
something to a nerve in my leg and now I always feel numb.
Why do you want this surgery? You'll never be the same.
I don't think you should do this--those are your organs.
Isn't there anything you can do to save your uterus?
Oh, you must be cursed!

These are a few of the most intriguing examples I can remember. I should also say that I have many supportive feminist friends who said nothing remotely like the above comments and who were all very kind and helpful. It's just intriguing to me that the removal of an organ that is so distinctly affiliated with what it means to be a female (or is it a woman?) prompts these kinds of responses from usually thoughtful humans.

I realize that there is a lot of controversy about hysterectomies in the culture--and that in the past there have been too many performed for probably specious reasons. But can I just say here that I'm glad and grateful that I could end my suffering? I was miserable with blood gushing out of me at random and seemingly for no reason. And the pain was, at times, unbearable.

I'm lucky, in fact, that I have health insurance. I'm lucky the surgery went well, and that my recovery has been relatively not terrible, although I'm still tired. And weirdly enough, I'm still reluctant to tell everyone about this surgery because I don't want to hear any more bullshit about my uterus, and how I might be changed in some way because I no longer have the ability to reproduce.

I am changed, because I will no longer menstruate. Yippee! But I, myself, am not changed in any way that sexist people might think removing a uterus would change a person. I feel fine, I feel liberated, and I feel like me. I have four little scars where the laparoscopic incisions were made, and I have a new appreciation for modern surgical techniques. I am grateful for my doctor and the my caring, thoughtful nurses. But I'm still me. So there.