The Flu, Prostitutes and My Childhood Hamsters

Friends, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. I’ve been biting my tongue about it (or biting my fingers? Is that what you do when you don’t type words about something?) while we scraped and clawed our way through YET ANOTHER bout of illness, but now that we’re out I just want to say that it was terrible. Dreadful. I mean, you know how I feel about colds, and this one hit the WHOLE family. Starting with the kid, who vomited on us, tried to catch her internal organs on fire with her rampant fever and kept us on our toes with her swollen airway leading to a trip to the ER. Have I mentioned how super fun parenting is? It’s fun and relaxing, I say. Like a good game of squash.

She scaled back her crazy sickness just enough for us to survive when we got it. Dreadful. There, I’ve whined enough.

And then, because the soul loves irony, my mind devolved into feeling bad about what we do and don’t have (after I wrote about how I’m not going to do that in 2012), and I started feeling really exposed and dumb about my writing/creativity/face/existence/t-cells (after writing about being bravely vulnerable). Life is funny. Ha ha ha. Hilarious.

Luckily, those were two relatively short-lived speed bumps in my mental landscape, and I cruised over them just in time to land myself neck-deep into research on prostitution and johns for a project I’m working on. People…that will bum the crap right out of you. I have far, far too many thoughts and feelings on the subject to share here (plus, for real, it’s a BIG bummer, and I don’t really want to assault you with that right now), but I’ll share one of the more insane tidbits I got from my research. Just one, then we’ll move on, okay? Okay, here it is: a participant in a study of johns in the London area shared this thought about prostitution:

It should be legalised over here. This is the way God created us. It is being human. If you don’t have a partner then you have to go to a prostitute.

Ummm…no, sir. No, that’s totally not…no. Just please shut your face forever. Arg. So frustrating. That’s just one of the mind-blowing things I’ve read in the last 24 hours, and I could go on and on until we’re all crying and gnashing our teeth, but instead I’m going to tell you a story about hamsters. Because it just feels like the right thing to do. Okay? Thanks. You’re the best.

Hamsters!

English: A short-haired hamster (named "E...

Hamsters are rad! Image via Wikipedia

When I was a kid, my brother and I had hamsters. We had a family cat, but my brother and I had our own hamsters to love, care for, feed, and, in my case, watch die varied and interesting deaths. At first, we each got a hamster. I named my Dale, and my brother named his Chip. I have a feeling that was a committee decision of some kind. I have just a few scattered memories about the critters, and as an adult I find them all very, very odd.

The first thing is that somehow they got pregnant (or maybe just Chip got pregnant?) and had babies, then ate them. Hold the phone, people! The cute mama ate her babies?! Yes, animals are freaky weird and sometimes they eat stuff that you’d expect them to love and cuddle. It is not a reality that you should be acquainted with at such a young age and yet…that’s exactly what happened to me and my brother.

Shortly after baby birth/breakfast, my hamster dropped dead. I don’t even know how. So, I think we buried it in a box or something in the yard. But seeing as hamsters were $1.05 at the pet store, my parents bought me another one. I don’t remember what it looked like or what I named it because it dropped dead pretty quick too. Apparently, I had a knack for killing the little guys. I mean, I didn’t kill them with my hands…I would feed them and make sure they had water and cleaned their little cage and then they’d die of, what I assume was an extreme version of the hamster vapors. (“My, my!” they’d exclaim before fanning themselves with tiny paper fans and falling to the ground, dead.)

After #2 died, my parents bought me yet another hamster, and it was big and white and fluffy and I named him Snowball in a stroke of creative genius. Unlike the first two hamsters that died at my hands, Snowball was in for a slower, more dramatic crawl to the grave. To begin with, he was going to bash one of his eyes out with the door of his cage. My little kiddie brain rationalized that he had learned this from my brother’s (still living) hamster, but was just unsuccessful at the execution of biting the cage door, and lifting it up until he can fit his little nose under it, then nudging his way to freedom. How Snowball would have “learned” this from a hamster in another room (which is like another continent for hamsters) I have no idea. Kid logic isn’t perfect. Regardless of the how, the what was clear: Snowball had poked his eye out.

Weihnachten

I never gave my hamsters cookies or tiny hats. Maybe that's where I went wrong. Image via Wikipedia

My parents, in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of me being a 3-time hamster killer, took Snowball to the vet. $80 later, the thing came out with one beady eye, and one stitched up hole. At the time, that exchange seemed pretty logical to me, but now, looking back, I wonder why they didn’t “accidentally” let Snowball out into the mountains to be eaten, erm…”healed”?…by a mountain lion.

So now I had a fluffy, one-eyed hamster. Snowball wasn’t dead, but he looked at me suspiciously with his one eye. He knew things were looking shady. I could hear him still trying to lift the little cage door with his mouth, and as much as I admonished him not to do so, I knew I couldn’t hold him back. A hamster wants what a hamster wants, you know? One day I arose in the morning to an empty, yet tiny turd-covered cage. Snowball had vanished.

Several weeks later, after I had assumed Snowball was gone forever, my uncle came over. I was retelling him my tales of the hard lives of hamsters, while we were also giving him a tour of our house. For whatever reason we stopped in the garage next to the dryer. “And I haven’t seen him since…” I said, with the fanfare that only a child can muster. He looked down at his foot and said, “Is this him?” and, by golly, it was. Snowball had returned!

I think he died a week later. We got rid of the cage. It was time.

The Five Stages of a Cold

Coughs and sneezes

Photo by peretzp @ Flickr

I have a cold. And I hate it. Like a whiny ridiculous baby. Good thing my husband is a way better person than I am because he’s taking care of my kid and letting me wallow in my bed. I thought I would share my experience with you, oh readers of the internet, because sharing is caring (also, my cold-mushed brain isn’t coming up with anything else). Without further ado, the five stages of a cold.

Stage 1: Fear and Panicked Prevention

This stage starts at the very first sign of any sort of illness whatsoever. A sneeze? Probably Ebola. A tickle in the throat? Throat cancer. A cough…werewolf syndrome. So what shall we do to ward off Ebola, throat cancer and werewolfery? We shall take a billion supplements. Now, research has shown that basically none of the things I do (which include taking copious amounts of vitamin C, a B12 complex, oregano oil, and zinc) have any effect, but I do them anyway, because the fear and panicked prevention phase has already begun and I’d probably drink monkey blood if I thought it would help. Then I go to bed early, but have a hard time sleeping for fear of the germs multiplying in my organs. I just pull the covers up to my nose and lay quietly to see if I can hear them plotting against me. (“Hey Jim, there’s some room here in her left nostril!” “Thanks, Archibald! This lady’s in for a doozy!”) Jim and Archibald, you stupid assholes.

Stage 2: It Begins

Any hope of preventing the onslaught of runny noses, scratchy throats and misery has now been squashed. Typically this stage consists of me dragging myself around the house, texting my husband a frowney face from time to time, then crawling off to writhe in the bed as soon as he gets home. Even though it’s clear that sickness has not been avoided, there’s still a hint of hope that it will only last a day or two. Yes, that’s right, if I sleep as much as possible and drink eighteen gallons of water, I’ll lick this thing quick. Pack your bags, Jim and Archibald.

Stage 3: Despair and Netflix

Jim and Archibald have taken over my body like the Cosa Nostra in Sicily (or like the Cosa Nose-stra. Get it? Nose? Runny nose? Meh.). After a time of being sick, when the realization that this is not a 24 hour thing sets in, stage three begins—the despair and Netflix stage. This is the stage in which I think things like, “I can’t remember what it’s like to be well” and “If I was feeling better I’d clean the whole house and exercise and make papier-mache and run for public office, but instead I’m going to die here, covered in snot with my peeling, crusty lips.” This is also the stage in which intermittent moaning occurs to remind the living that they should be leaving alms at my door. On the bright side, I’ve watched four seasons of Ally McBeal.

Stage 4: Faux-recovery

During this stage, the better-than-terrible feeling tricks me into thinking I’m healed and am also Superman so I should go run around the block as fast as I can to enjoy my newfound health. Two minutes of fresh air, however, reminds me that I am still a miserable mess and should lie down as soon as possible. Moaning resumes as my husband drags me back to the house.

Stage 5: Recovery!

Feeling well and chipper like a squirrel in springtime, I shower, do my makeup and head out on the town. I con my husband into taking me for coffee and plan out a day of grocery shopping and accomplishments. This lasts about three hours, until I remember that I’m actually a lazy person, and being a go-getter makes me sleepy. But who cares what I do? I’m well! And now I’ll sanitize my hands every hour and never touch an unclean thing again! Huzzah! And then my daughter licks the table at the coffee shop. Three days later she sneezes directly in my face. Countdown to stage 1.

How do you deal with colds? Are you the tough-it-out kind? Or do you experience these same five stages? Did you love that joke about the Cosa Nostra? (I know you did…don’t be snotty. Ha! Snotty! I’m on a freaking roll, I tell you. Or I’m sick and can’t tell the difference. Either way, I feel like a particularly spectacular brand of awesome right now. Don’t ruin it for me.)

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