Sunday, March 31, 2024

What It's Been Like

I remember that when I first got diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer, I worried that I would lose my hair. "That's such a little thing," my mother scolded me. "The hair will grow back." But one of the first times I visited the cancer ward for a round of chemotherapy, I saw a young, extremely thin man coughing into a handkerchief. He was not only bald but also had no eyebrows or eyelashes. I felt sorry for him, but I also tried not to cry, thinking that I would soon lose my hair too. 

I didn't. "You have enough hair for three people," more than one hairstylist told me. My hair is long and thick, and even after multiple rounds of chemo, I still have all of it. Or I may have lost some hair, but since it's so thick, I didn't really notice. 

I remember that my doctors told me, "You're younger than most of the other cancer patients. That could prove to be an advantage in your recovery." When I went to the cancer ward for chemo every three weeks, as well as to receive fluids through an IV twice a week for three hours each time (the chemo was bad for my kidneys, which is why I had to receive fluids), I noticed that most of the patients were decades older than me. One old man sat next to his wife as she received chemo, and he held her hand for hours as she slept. All the patients looked so sad and scared, and I dreaded going to the cancer ward each time. 

What I dreaded most was the lobectomy, a surgery where they would remove part of my right lung and the lymph nodes, the area where the cancer was. It was scheduled much sooner than I expected. I was in the hospital for five days. I remember being in the operating room on the day I had surgery, with the nurses and doctors moving around briskly. And then I remember waking up several hours later, being told that the surgery was over. "On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?" the nurses asked me. 

"Twelve," I said, as I struggled to sit up in bed. Every time I sat up or even moved, it hurt like hell. A physical therapist had to help me walk for the first time after surgery; I could barely stand up, and when I did, I felt dizzy and tired. I had to use a walker the first time, and I kept wobbling as I walked. 

I remember that it was difficult to sleep in the hospital. The nurses woke me up several times a night to give me medication and to take my vitals. During the day, doctors and nurses kept coming in and out, and the woman I shared a room with, who also had a lobectomy, kept complaining the whole time.

The lobectomy was successful. They removed the tumor. A few weeks after the surgery, my oncologist had me start taking Tagrisso, which is a targeted therapy for cancer patients; he described it as "oral chemo". It's a pill that I have to take every day for three years. 

I took the spring semester off from teaching; fortunately, I had accumulated a lot of paid sick leave since I'd never taken a sick day since I first started teaching in College Town. I didn't want to take time off from my job because it was the only thing that made me feel normal when everything else in my life had turned upside down. But it was difficult to teach during my cancer treatment last semester. I started chemo last fall, and I felt nauseated after each round of chemo. I usually don't sit down while I'm teaching because I'm often writing on the chalkboard, and I move around the room as I talk. But because I felt tired and sick, I stayed seated most of the time. My students were understanding; they felt sorry for me, and one of them told me that they were praying for me. Another student gave me a card after the semester was over, and their classmate gave me a coffee mug and a card.

It was the right decision not to teach for the spring semester. I was in a lot of pain after the surgery; the surgeon said the pain would last for months, which it has. I ended up with a large scar on my body from where they operated on me.

The bad cough that lasted for months, which was what drove me to seek treatment in the first place and proved to be the first symptom of my lung cancer, went away after I started getting chemo. But after the lobectomy, I started coughing again. It's now been almost two months since the surgery, and I'm still coughing constantly. It's worse than before because due to the surgery, I still have pain on my right side from where they operated on me, so every time I cough, it aggravates the pain. My surgeon said the cough could last at least two more months and that it's a common side effect of a lobectomy because my body is adjusting to the fact that I am now missing part of my right lung. I often wake up coughing in the middle of the night. My oncologist prescribed me some cough medicine, but it doesn't help much. 

I get winded more easily now; shortness of breath is another common side effect of having part of your lung removed. I used to be able to work out for hours at the gym at a time, and now I am out of breath just from climbing the stairs of my apartment building (there is no elevator). I feel tired almost all the time, even after getting a full night's sleep. I've lost weight because I struggle to finish meals; I just don't feel hungry most of the time. Food and drinks that I used to love, such as chicken tenders, Frappuccinos, and chocolates, now make me feel sick. My oncologist said that cancer affects your appetite and even your taste buds.

I remember that my oncologist ordered tests to be done on me once a month, to monitor my kidney function among other things because I have kidney disease. The most recent test showed that my kidney function has gone way down since last month. It was always expected that my kidney function would decline because that's a consequence of having polycystic kidney disease. But it's gone down quickly and significantly since I first started cancer treatment. 

My nephrologist, who I met with recently, said it's most likely due to the cancer treatment, especially because the type of chemo they put me on was bad for the kidneys. But as I stated in my last post, he reiterated that I had to prioritize the cancer over my kidneys at the moment, which is why I had to take the risk with the chemo. He said that they would continue to monitor me. He thinks that my declining kidney function might be due to the Tagrisso pill that I have to take, and if it is, I'll have to stop taking it and take a different medicine. But Tagrisso has a high success rate of enabling cancer patients to become cancer free.

I'm scared that I'll be on dialysis years earlier than expected. It's bad enough that I have cancer, but to have to deal with this on top of that is almost more than I can bear. When I saw the results of my most recent tests, I cried in my car in the Walgreens' parking lot; I go to Walgreens often now to pick up yet another medication I have to take or to buy another bag of cough drops. 

I honestly never thought that this would happen to me. You hear stories of people with cancer, but unless it runs in your family, you don't think it could happen to you. And I never expected lung cancer, especially because I never smoked or did drugs and none of my blood relatives have it. 

Whenever people hear that I have cancer, they say, "I'm sorry," with a worried look on their faces, because they all seem to know someone who suffers from it or someone who died from it. There is no cure for cancer, and there's always the fear in the back of my mind that even after going through all of this, it could come back. And if it does, I'll be stage 4, and there won't be half as much they can do for me.

I try to have hope. I was raised Catholic, and they taught us to have faith. But sometimes, it feels like I'm losing mine. 

What about you? How do you hold onto hope when bad things happen?

Monday, January 8, 2024

I Have Cancer

It started with a cough. 

At first, I thought it was allergies. Then I thought it was a cold; I often get sick when the weather changes. But the cough started in June, and by July, it had gotten worse; I couldn't go five minutes without coughing. It was difficult to work out because I couldn't stop coughing, and people moved away from me in public because they thought I had the coronavirus. But I tested negative for the virus, and I'd already received two doses of the vaccine and the booster shot. 

There aren't that many specialists in College Town, so I wasn't able to get a doctor's appointment until August. My general care provider prescribed me some cough medicine and listened to my lungs, which he  said sounded clear. He also recommended that I stop taking one of my blood pressure medications (I take two because I have high blood pressure due to my polycystic kidney disease) because he said it might be causing the cough, although I'd been taking both meds without any problems for more than two years. His supervisor dismissed my concerns when I got upset that he didn't call for any tests and made it seem like I was the one with the problem (I wish that witch nothing but the worst, including a lifetime of stepping on Legos and being stuck behind tall people with big hair at every movie and concert they ever attend.) But my cardiologist, who I also met with in August (I regularly have appointments with my cardiologist and nephrologist to monitor my health due to my kidney disease), also recommended that I stop taking that blood pressure medication. "I don't think it's anything serious," my cardiologist said.

They were wrong. Two weeks later, I went to urgent care. I literally fell to my knees in the shower one day because I couldn't stop coughing. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and cough for several minutes straight. The nurse practitioner prescribed me an inhaler and a week's worth of prednisone and amoxycillin, which helped slightly. 

I went to another doctor, who ordered a chest X-ray. It showed a dark mass on my right lung, so then he ordered a CT lung scan. It showed that the mass was either an infection...or cancer. So he ordered a bronchoscopy, which meant they took pieces of my lung and examined it. 

If it had been an infection, I would have only had to take some pills and go to the pulmonologist a few times. But it wasn't an infection. The bronchoscopy confirmed that I have stage 3 lung cancer. 

I got the test results right before I had to go to work. My voice broke while I was teaching, and I swallowed hard so that I wouldn't cry in front of my students. I didn't understand how this happened. I had never smoked or done drugs. I didn't hang out with people who did. None of my blood relatives have lung cancer.

They did genetic testing, which confirmed that I have EGFR, a mutated gene that causes cancer. They said it was from an "acquired event", which means that something happened to me that caused me to get cancer. But they don't know what it was. 

After that, things happened really fast. I had to get a port surgically implanted into my chest for chemotherapy. I started chemo a week later, and the doctor said I would need at least 3-4 rounds. I also started taking cancer medication for nausea because the chemo made me feel sick and tired all the time. I've been going to bed earlier, but I still wake up tired. I went shopping, and I felt tired just walking around the store. 

Through it all, I struggled to keep up with my work. I was back in the classroom two days after the bronchoscopy. I also had the port placed into my chest on a day I wasn't teaching, and I was back in the classroom less than a week later. I only cancelled two classes because of my cancer treatment. When I got ready for work in the morning, I kept having to lie down because I felt so sick.

Even though I didn't feel good, I kept teaching. My work has always been very important to me, and it frustrated me that I couldn't put in a hundred percent like I normally did. It also frustrated me when I got emails that said stuff like, "Sorry I missed the last three classes, but I have a cold, so could you email me everything I missed?" I wanted to say, "I have freaking CANCER, and I'm still getting all my work done, so DON'T EVEN, okay?" But I didn't.

The chemotherapy they put me on is harmful to the kidneys, and it made my kidney function go down significantly in just three weeks. But my nephrologist told my oncologist, "What good is it to protect her kidneys if she doesn't survive cancer?" He also told me to do what my oncologist said. Because of the effects of the chemo, my oncologist kept me on the same type of chemo but reduced the dosage. He also required me to come to the hospital twice a week, every week, and be hooked up to an IV for two hours in order to receive fluids. It did help my kidney function recover, somewhat. 

I met with my oncologist recently, who told me that I have to do a fourth round of chemo. Then they'll do another chest scan to see how much the tumor has shrunk, and about a month after my fourth round of chemo, I'll have a lobectomy and a lymph node dissection. Basically, they're going to remove part of my lung and the lymph nodes where the cancer is; the surgery will be done at a hospital several hours away because there's no thoracic surgeon in College Town. 

The doctors told me that I'll have to stay in the hospital for at least 4-5 days after the surgery. I won't be able to drive for at least a month. I'll be in pain for weeks, possibly months. Because the surgery and the recovery from it will take up so much time, I made the very difficult decision to take a leave of absence from my teaching job. I will not be teaching for the Spring 2024 semester. Fortunately, I have a lot of paid sick leave because although I have been teaching in College Town for more than six years, I've never taken any sick days until now. It's harder for teachers to take sick days because if we're not there, there is no class. It's not always possible to find a substitute at the last minute, and even if one is found, they won't necessarily teach the class the way I want. 

My mother is angry at me because I won't let her be there for the surgery or the recovery. It's one thing when she's ranting/screaming/crying on the phone or when I visit (I visit my parents for a few days twice a year, although this Christmas I didn't because my doctors say I can't travel; the cancer has severely weakened my immune system). The phone call or visit will eventually end. But when I'm recovering from the surgery, I won't be able to escape her. She hasn't been any help anyway. The other day I was at the hospital, and she called me crying; she was upset because some distant relatives had found out that I have cancer and demanded to know if I'd told them, which I hadn't. She conveniently forgot that she was the one who broadcasted my diagnosis on Facebook. I told her that I was receiving chemo, but she just kept crying and ranting. 

My father got mad at me because although he'll be there for the surgery, I won't let him come with me to meet with the thoracic surgeon beforehand (my sibling will accompany me). He has given me some money to help pay my mounting medical bills, but he said that if I wasn't going to accept his help, he might as well not help pay the bills either. I told him fine and to keep his money. 

My last blog post made me wonder who would be there if I ever ended up in the hospital. All I know now is who I don't want to be there. My oncologist told me, "You have just one shot at beating cancer. If it comes back after all of this, there won't be much we can do." So now, I'm doing everything my doctors tell me to do. After surgery, I'll have to take Tagrisso, which is a chemotherapy pill, for three years. 

I don't want to die. There are so many things that I never got to do. I want to live a better life than the one I've had. And I hope that cancer won't prevent me from experiencing that.

What about you? Do you know anyone who's had cancer? Do you know anyone who's had a lobectomy and what their experience was like? 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Who Will Be There

This past winter, I was talking to a guy, who I shall refer to as Disturbing Fetish Guy, on Bumble who said, "Is that really you in your profile pictures?"

"Yes," I said. 

"I'm just asking because I've been catfished before," Disturbing Fetish Guy said.

"I'm not a catfish," I said.

"But you look really young," he insisted. "How old are those pictures?"

I've been told by many people that I look young for my age. I went to the movies recently, and the cashier asked to see my ID because I bought a ticket to watch an R-rated movie (Everything Everywhere All the Time - awesome movie! I love Michelle Yeoh!). Apparently, although I am forty-one years old, I still look like a teenager. Or maybe it was my Mickey Mouse T-shirt. 

"Well, people often say that I look young," I said. "But they're all pictures from the past two years."

"You do realize that I'm eight years younger than you, right?" I didn't like how he made a point of mentioning that, as if I'd done something wrong. If he'd matched with someone eight years younger, I doubt he would have said, "You do realize I'm eight years older than you, right?"

"Yeah, it says so in your profile." 

Then Disturbing Fetish Guy asked me what my racial identity was (he belongs to a different race). I told him, and he said, "YES! My friends and I all want to date women of your race. You're like the Holy Grail of dating." 

I didn't even fully register what he meant at first, but eventually, I thought to myself, "Annnd we're done here." I don't like anyone who tries to fetishize my racial identity. I put my profile on Bumble on "Snooze", which means that you can make your profile invisible to everyone else on the site. It also means you can't see anyone else's profiles until you deactivate the Snooze option, but at least you can take a break for as long as you want without deleting your profile.

When I first joined an online dating site, I was still in my twenties. I felt excited, nervous and hopeful that I would meet someone special. Seven online dating memberships and countless bad dates later, I don't feel hopeful anymore. 

I thought I was finally ready to date again, which is why I set up a coffee date with a guy last fall, who then stood me up at the last minute and didn't even explain or apologize. 

Ever since I turned forty, I've become a lot less tolerant of other people's b.s., like the guy who wrote this in his profile: "Respectfully, if you're vaccinated I don't want it. The nano particles from within it transfer person to person. Your DNA/bloodline is forever changed. Welcome to the new life of a cyborg." (I WISH I made that up, but I seriously did see that in someone's profile.)

I am vaccinated. I got the booster shot too. If I am a cyborg, does this mean I now have superhuman strength? Does it mean that I can pick up people who cut in front of me in line at Starbucks and toss them out the door? Because that would be awesome. (Whenever people cut in front of me, I revert back into my Chicago persona and start yelling scary nothings in their ear until they move back.)

I put my profile on Snooze not just because of Disturbing Fetish guy but because I'm just sick of it: online dating, the weird stuff that people put in their profiles, the awkward/bad/boring first dates, the unrequited crushes, etc., etc.

I spent the last few months binge-watching House on the Peacock app, where you can watch certain shows for free. I was able to watch literally every episode of the series for free on that app while I was working out. In one episode, called "One Day, One Room," a patient played by Katheryn Winnick tells Dr. House, "I'm going to base this moment on whom I'm stuck in a room with. That's what life is. It's a series of rooms, and who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives are." 

Another thing I noticed about the show was who stayed with the patient in the hospital room while they were receiving treatment. Sometimes it would be family members. Other times it would be the patient's friend, and in one episode, it was the patient's dominatrix. It made me wonder who would be in the room with me when I go into end-stage renal failure and end up in the hospital.

I have to get tested every six months to ensure that my kidneys are still stable. I was tested recently, and the results showed that my kidney function has declined since last December. I am still at least a few years away from the end-stage, but I know that eventually, I will be hooked up to dialysis machines three times a week, for hours at a time, until I get a kidney. 

I think that the right person for me would be someone who would be "in the room" and willing to be there for me at my worst moment, and who wouldn't judge me for it. I recently binge-watched the TV series Girls (they have the complete series on DVD at the public library in College Town). I watched it and thought, Was I as self-absorbed and annoying as these characters when I was twenty-four? 

Nevertheless, it was a very good show, and my favorite scene in the show is the one (FYI: Adam is cursing a lot at the beginning of this scene) where Adam literally runs across the city to be with Hannah when he finds out she's having a nervous breakdown. (Side note: do you notice that in romantic movies and TV shows, the guy often starts running when he wants to be with his love interest? Harry did it in When Harry Met Sally, for example.) 

I thought that scene from Girls was really romantic and moving because it showed how much Adam loved Hannah, and how he was willing to be there for her at her worst moment.

There were other patients on House, M.D. who didn't have anyone in the hospital room with them, and that showed a lot about what their lives were like too. It made me wonder if I would be one of those people who would end up alone in a hospital room. I definitely wouldn't want my parents there. They would just make it worse. They always do. I still haven't told my mother that I'm sick. My father knows, but he recently told me that he doesn't want to hear about my health anymore; he thinks I talk about it too much, and he doubled down in an email he sent, where he berated me for how I'm dealing with this disease. 

My parents have been unhappily married for more than forty years. When you grow up witnessing how much your parents hate each other, it tends to warp your ideas about love and marriage. I think that's a major reason why the idea of remaining unmarried for the rest of my life does not scare me as much as the idea of being married to the wrong person just so I won't have to be alone. I think if you marry the wrong person, you will still be alone in a sense. Being with the wrong person makes you feel like you can't fully relate to them or like they won't be there for you when you need them to be. My parents were wrong for each other from the beginning, but they will never get divorced because they're both too stubborn and proud to do so. 

My mother said to me on my birthday a few years ago, "But aren't you ashamed to be an old maid?" 

"No, I'm not," I said. I wanted to say, I think you should be ashamed for asking me that question, especially on my birthday.

I try to picture myself with someone in the future, and I can't. I've been alone for so long that I've gotten used to it, and I even prefer it sometimes. As I've stated before, being single comes with a certain kind of freedom. 

Now that I'm in my forties, most of the single men my age who live in College Town (and there aren't that many of them) are divorced with children, and many of them don't want to date me because I'm too "old" for them. In movies where middle-aged women date younger men, the men are often very romantic and sensitive; they genuinely want relationships with those women, like in the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back. But in real life, or at least in my life, younger men just want to hook up, like the thirty-year-old guy on Bumble who asked me what my bra size was and the twenty-nine-year-old guy who immediately asked what my address was and whether he could come over within two minutes of our first (and only) conversation. 

Also, now that I'm in my forties, I somehow feel less anxious about being in a relationship. For me, the "happy ending" was never really about a guy. For a long time, it was about my work because I'm a workaholic. Now it's about living my life on my terms for as long as I can. It's about getting a kidney sooner rather than later so that I don't have to be on dialysis for too long. It's about making the most of the time that I have now, while I still have it. And I think that's nothing to be ashamed of.

And I suppose it's just as well that I'm single, considering the idiotic and horrifying decision made by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. But I could go on for several posts about that. I'm still full of fury and fear about it.

What about you? Do you have a favorite romantic story or movie? (One of my favorites is While You Were Sleeping, partly because it's set in Chicago and also because I love Sandra Bullock.) 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The New Rules of Teaching

 1. If you're teaching online, do not make your students turn on their cameras during classes that are taught on Zoom. They may feel self-conscious about their living situation, so do not damage their self-esteem by requiring them to show their faces during class. Never mind the fact that they can use backgrounds provided by Zoom to hide their living situation. And yes, it's true that you don't know if they're actually paying attention in class or if they've logged on and then gone back to bed or are sending flirty emojis to their "bae" on Snapchat, but we should really not make their situation even more difficult than it already is.

2. If a student says they have the virus, do not require them to show proof, like a positive Covid test or a doctor's note. Why would they lie about why they have to miss class? Yes, students have falsely claimed that their grandparents/friends/hamster died in order to avoid attending class for years but we're in the middle of a PANDEMIC. So they would NEVER lie about this.

3. If students do miss class because they caught the virus, it's your responsibility to get them caught up by meeting with them outside of class. Yes, that takes extra time, and yes, you may need to drink your weight in coffee in order to stay awake for all those extra appointments. And no, you won't get paid extra. But the satisfaction of being there for your students should be payment enough.

4. All faculty should volunteer to help their students move into their dorms at the beginning of the semester. Yes, it's manual labor, and no, you won't get paid. But we'll all be showing the students and their parents that the faculty are there to make them feel welcome. And by "we", we are referring to the faculty, not ourselves, the administrators. You can't expect the administrators to do all that sweaty work in ninety degree weather! Do you know how much our designer clothes cost? Well, I guess not, since most faculty's salaries prevent you from shopping anywhere but places like Target or Walmart. But still!

5. Be lenient about late work. In fact, you should strongly consider eliminating the late work policy altogether. It is unfair to expect the students to turn in their work on time when they're already going through such a difficult time because of the pandemic. It's important to show compassion to them, even if it means that it will take them six weeks to complete a five-page paper. 

6. Be lenient about absences. The students are going through SO MUCH right now, so it may be too difficult for them to attend a class that they (or their parents) are paying thousands of dollars for. It isn't fair to penalize them for missing class when they may be suffering from depression, the virus, family problems, or maybe they just don't feel like coming to class. And THAT'S OK. They should not be required to do more than they can handle. 

I've neglected blogging (and writing in general, unless it's for work) for months now mainly because of the rules above (and no, I'm not exaggerating; they sent out emails pressuring us to help the students move into their dorms, which I refused to do). One of my students missed more than a month's worth of classes, and my program director and the dean says I have to let the student come back to class and not penalize them for their absences because they had a medical reason for missing class. They also said that I should meet with the student as many times as they need outside of class in order to get them caught up and extend a bunch of deadlines for them. The student said that they hope to get "at least an A- or B+" in my class. 

A few months ago, I told my program director that certain students kept turning in blank documents and then would email me several days after the deadline of an assignment, claiming that it was a "mistake" and wanting to turn in the correct assignment late without any penalty. The director told me to let them and when I balked at this, they accused me of being too harsh and lacking empathy for the students.

I understand that the students really are going through a hard time. The pandemic was difficult for everyone, but especially teenagers, who had to miss out on things like school dances, their senior trip, and in-person classes. But at the same time it's incredibly frustrating and stressful to be forced to bend over backwards and do all this extra work for students who aren't even doing the bare minimum, like show up to class or turn  in their work on time (or at all). The teachers are also going through a hard time, but we don't get any leniency. We're just basically told to suck it up and keep working.

I want to say, "I'm going through a hard time too! I've been to the hospital dozens of times in the past year! I've already paid hundreds of dollars for prescription meds and medical bills, and I owe hundreds more! In a few years, I will be hooked up to dialysis machines three times a week until I get a kidney, and if I don't get one, I will be hooked up to those machines for the rest of my life! But I don't get to skip any of my classes. I don't get to turn in my work whenever the hell I want."

I also think that it isn't harsh to require students to show up and meet deadlines. If they don't learn this now, they will become the bad employees that annoy everyone else in the workplace, the ones who constantly call out "sick", show up late, and don't do their work, thus forcing everyone else to do their work for them. 

I keep hearing stories of teachers who've grown fed up and left the profession altogether. I've thought about it too. When I taught in Small Town, it was frustrating sometimes, but not to the extent that the job in College Town is. Even before the pandemic, I was struck by the entitlement and unrealistic demands (e.g., "Professor, are you available to meet with me on Saturday?" or "I don't think I should be penalized for missing class because my boyfriend just broke up with me, so I think you should take that into consideration" or "I know that the paper is due tomorrow, but I forgot to work on it. Could you just email me what the paper is about and how to write it?") of so many of the students in College Town. Not all of them are like this, but too many of them are. 

"Are you feeling stressed?" the dermatologist asked me when he examined my face, which has been covered with a scaly, peeling rash for months now (this is why I'm actually grateful that I could wear a face mask to cover it up). "I think you have perioral dermatitis, and it's triggered by stress."

I became so stressed out that I sought out short-term counseling, which is provided to faculty for free by the college. I told the counselor that I considered leaving College Town for another teaching job. "Well, you have to think about whether you're running away or running towards something," the counselor said. "If you're running away, you're hiding or avoiding problems. And it's quite possible that you'll face the same problems with students and administrators at the next college. But if you're running towards something, it means you're moving towards something that you know will make your life better."

And what he said struck a chord with me. Now, I have to figure out what will make my life better. I also learned to silence my phone so that I wouldn't keep hearing the notifications every time I received an email from my students. One day I got up early to write, and my phone went off not once but more than twenty times in that one day because of emails from my students asking questions about things that they would know the answer to if they'd bothered to listen in class or read the syllabus. And this is something that literally happens on a regular basis. It got to the point that I wanted to smash the phone and shriek, "MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP!"

What about you? How has the pandemic affected you or your work?

Sunday, October 3, 2021

As Deana Carter Would Say, "Did I Shave My Legs for This?"

Last weekend, I "matched" with a guy on Bumble who seemed nice enough. He was cute, although I had doubts about messaging him since at thirty-one, he was nine years younger than me. But on the other hand, I had already matched with four other guys, and I never got to meet any of them in person. They either did not respond to my messages, or they responded briefly once or twice and then disappeared. 

This guy actually seemed interested in getting to know me, and we talked online for more than an hour. I suggested that we meet the next day for coffee. He lived about an hour and a half away from College Town, so I offered to drive out there to meet him, and he agreed. 

On the day of our date, I woke up early and put on makeup, did my hair, and tried to find an outfit that didn't make me look like a nun or spinster librarian from the 1930s. Note to self: start buying clothes in colors OTHER than black, and stop buttoning your blouses all the way up to your neck. But on the other hand, I really am happiest in rooms filled with books, and I just want everyone to be quiet all the time, so maybe I really AM like a spinster librarian from the 1930s.

I drove out to his town, feeling nervous, scared, but excited too. This was to be my first date since the Model, and it felt like I was taking a positive step in moving on with my life. I used the GPS on my phone to direct me to the coffee shop where we agreed to meet. I state this to indicate that I periodically checked my phone as I was driving (though I was careful to keep an eye on the road and did not text and drive).

This is important to know because it wasn't until I literally pulled into the parking lot of the coffee shop, about twenty minutes before the date, when I received a message from that guy: "Something came up. I can't make it." That was it. No apology, no explanation.

I was listening to country music on my car radio at that moment, and I suddenly thought of that Deana Carter song, "Did I Shave My Legs for This?" I felt deflated, disappointed, and foolish. 

I wrote back, asking him what happened. No answer. I wrote that I wished he had told me he couldn't make it before I drove an hour and a half to meet him. Still no answer.

I kept thinking that maybe there was a rational explanation for why he couldn't be there. Maybe he had gotten sick. Maybe one of his relatives was in the hospital. Maybe he was married and his wife had found out he was messaging other women and subsequently threw his phone (and possibly him) out the window. 

When we were talking the day before, he asked me if I'd ever been catfished. I said that there were many men on Bumble who stole pictures from models' Instagram accounts or from online advertisements and stated that I thought it was pathetic that they did that. He said women had tried to catfish him too. But as I sat there in the parking lot, realizing that I'd just been stood up, I wondered if he had been a catfish. Maybe he wasn't who he said he was. Maybe he had used fake pictures too. Maybe he panicked and realized that he wouldn't be able to keep up the lies in person, and that's why he cancelled. Or maybe he never had any intention of meeting me in person, and he only made the date because it boosted his ego. 

I never found out the reason. I drove back to College Town, but I waited to see if he would message me with an apology or explanation. He didn't. Finally, several hours later, I blocked and unmatched him on Bumble, but not before messaging him to say that it wasn't okay for him to blow me off at the last minute and that he should have told me if he changed his mind or wasn't ready before I wasted a three-hour round trip and half a tank of gas. 

The whole situation made me feel sad, but also angry. It's one thing if there really was an emergency that prevented him from showing up, but the least he could have done was apologize and explain what happened. He didn't even do that and chose to ignore my messages instead. And it also bothered me that I wasted all that time getting ready and driving out there for nothing, especially since I had a lot of work to do that I could have finished instead. 

If he really was a catfish, then he really is pathetic. Sometimes, when I come across pictures in a dating profile that look like a professional photographer took them, I use Reverse Image Search to see if I can find those pictures elsewhere. Almost every single time, it shows that the pictures have been stolen from someone else. I don't understand why people catfish other people on dating sites. Maybe it's so they can get money or naked pictures from other people. Or maybe they're just selfish jerks who enjoy deceiving and manipulating everyone else.

It made me wonder if I should even bother trying to date anyone anymore. I'm in my forties and still trying to make a connection with someone, and even after seven online dating memberships and several other attempts to find my "match", I still ended up alone every time. 

Also, Bumble has not been sending me any good profiles lately. One guy wrote in his profile that "my personal hell is a conversation with a liberal". Also, for some reason, Bumble keeps sending me pictures of men dressed in full drag, complete with makeup, wigs, and dresses, who state in their profiles that they are straight men who like to dress as women and hope to find love on Bumble. If they want to dress up as women, that's their prerogative, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I don't think it's wrong for me to not want to date someone who looks better in makeup and a dress than I do. 

However, there is one silver lining in all of this. I had refrained from dating for a long time because I felt scared to put myself out there again. The fact that I drove all that way to meet this guy is proof that I really can do this. Unlike that loser, I do have the courage to date in person, and that's something. 

What about you? Have you ever been stood up? Did your date ever explain why? 

Monday, August 16, 2021


"Um, I think it's time we talked about highlights," my twenty-five-year-old hairstylist said brightly as she looked down at the white roots in my hair. 

"You're going to need bifocals soon," my thirtysomething opthalmologist said. "It's fine. My mom wears them too."

"Oh, you're looking for anti-aging products?" the teenage Ulta salesgirl asked. "They're right over here, and we're having a sale on the anti-wrinkle cream right now, you know."

Two years ago, I met two young women in their early twenties at a Meetup event for a board gaming group that I used to belong to. The women had recently moved to College Town and had enrolled in a graduate program at the college where I teach. We hung out a few times, and they invited me to a bar with their other grad student friends.

I remember how the bartender carded everyone, including me, which surprised me, because the last time I got carded, MySpace was still popular and no one could watch videos of people eating Tide Pods on their cell phones yet. The young women I met and their friends were nice, but I remember sitting there and thinking, I feel so OLD. I literally was the oldest person in their group at age thirty-eight because the rest were in their early twenties. I didn't understand half the things they were talking about and I felt tempted to ask them who this Billy Eyelash guy was that they liked so much. (Apparently, the correct name is Billie Eilish, and she's female.)

One of the young women made a date with some guy she literally just started messaging on Tinder, and they made plans to meet up that night. I remember checking the time and thinking, It's 11 P.M. How is she not tired yet? How are none of them tired yet? I should be in bed right now, looking online for coupons for anti-wrinkle cream. 

I never saw any of them again after that because those two women who were initially so eager to befriend me ghosted me once they made more friends and got boyfriends. One of them took two weeks to respond to my text, only to say that she couldn't hang out like we originally planned but that she would let me know when she was free. That was two years ago, and I haven't heard from her since. 

Being ghosted by them hurt my feelings, but at the same time, I wasn't sure I could take any more late nights at bars or the feeling like I was closer in age to everyone else's parents than I was to them. 

It's not the first time I felt old. There were the other times I mentioned above, and yes, I did take my hairstylist's suggestion to start coloring my hair to cover up the white hair. I get it colored every few months. It's expensive, but I'm not ready to surrender to white hair yet. Not to mention even my job makes me feel old, considering that I teach students who are literally decades younger than me and talk about things I don't understand. For example, I still don't fully understand what Snapchat OR TikTok is. I also realized that most of the freshmen I'll be teaching this year were born the year I graduated from college.

I've heard older people who say things like, "I'm sixty years young," and that's a positive attitude to have if you truly believe in it. I've often been told that I look a lot younger than I actually am. But the truth is, I don't feel young anymore. And I don't actually want to be young again, at least not most of the time, not unless I could go back in time with the knowledge I have now. When I was in my twenties, I was still uncertain about my future and what I wanted to do. Now that I'm in my forties, I have a better sense of what I want to do and how to get there. 

I wrote a post recently about giving up on dating. But after I wrote it, I started thinking that maybe I was too hasty and should try online dating at least one more time. So, I signed up for a free membership with Bumble, which I've used in the past. 

Bumble allows you to specify the age range you are looking for. I indicated that I was looking for guys in their thirties and forties. But because I kept swiping left on 99% of the profiles I saw, Bumble started showing me profiles of guys in their late twenties and fifties. The ones in their fifties stated things like, "I've got two kids and three grandkids," and I thought, Oh wow. Am I old enough to date a grandfather now? Does this mean I should start wearing cardigans and handing out butterscotch candy to kids? 

I swiped left on 99% of the profiles for several reasons. For one, many of the middle-aged guys were clearly lying about their ages, or they put their oldest pictures at the front of the profiles (so that those would be the ones that were shown first to prospective dates), so that when you scrolled down, their pictures showed them aging by twenty years. Others were lying about their looks and stole Instagram influencers' pictures for their profiles, and I know this for a fact because I actually follow several of those influencers on Instagram. (And I should add that I only follow those male influencers for their exercise and dieting tips. It has nothing to do with the fact that they often post videos of themselves lifting weights with their shirts off.)

Another reason was that some guys wrote things like, "My wife and I are looking for a special friend"; "The world would be a better place without people who wear masks"; "Liberal ladies swipe left"; "Trump 2024!" and "I hate it when women are drop dead gorgeous on the outside and drop dead garbage on the inside." Um, I feel like referring to women as garbage in your dating profile is not the way to go if you want to get other women to date you.

There are a lot of guys on there claiming to be pilots, which made me think of that Sex and the City episode where Miranda falsely claimed to be a flight attendant in order to get a date. 

I actually "matched" with a twenty-eight-year-old guy. (When you swipe left on someone's profile, it means you're not interested. When you swipe right and the other person also swipes right on your profile, you "match".) I was on the fence about messaging him (on Bumble, women have to make the first move) because he was more than a decade younger than me. I thought, Am I too old to date men in their twenties now that I'm forty? But men date younger women all the time! Why can't I do it too?

I did actually send him a brief message, but he deleted his profile soon after. You could have just unmatched me, I thought. It's not like I would have brought butterscotch candy to the date. 

I also swiped left on a lot of guys that I wasn't even a little bit attracted to. They don't have to look like those hot Instagram influencers, of course, especially because I do not look like an influencer either. But there has to be some physical attraction. I've tried dating guys that I wasn't attracted to before because I thought if I got to know them better that eventually I would become attracted to them. That never happened, though, especially because their personalities did not make up for the lack of physical chemistry, like the guy who spent twenty minutes explaining to me how the government was trying to control us through our cell phones. It got their hopes up for nothing, and it left me dreading dates with them and feeling like I wasted my time and theirs. Looks are not the only thing that matter, and they aren't the most important thing. But they do matter.

And ever since I turned forty, I started thinking more about how I spent my teen years, twenties, and thirties doing so many things that I didn't want to do, only because I felt like I should or because I wanted other people to like me. When I tried Bumble again this last time, my heart wasn't in it, and I thought about how much I didn't want to go on yet another awkward first date. Now that I'm in my forties, I've realized that if I don't have to do something, and I don't want to do it, then I'm not going to do it. And that includes hanging out with twentysomethings who make me feel old and toss me aside once they find "cooler" friends, and it also means I don't have to date guys I'm not attracted to just so that I don't have to be alone.

Now that I'm in my forties, I'm going to focus my middle age doing more things that I want to do. I also think I'm going to delete my Bumble membership soon, especially because one of the profiles I saw stated, "I love basketball, beer, and boobs!"

When I saw it, I thought, Annnd, I'm out. 


What about you? Do you ever wish you were younger? How do you feel about getting older? What is your opinion of May-December dating?