The Child-Free Road Taken

I’m 53.

I’ve been trying to convince others that free choice is a right that shouldn’t be taken away.

Only by framing it in the context of reproductive health choices I don’t think a lot of people will ever buy what I’m selling.

Only I know this much is true:

Ever since I was 15 or 16 years old I didn’t want to get married and raise a family.

Since I didn’t want to be forced to choose to get an abortion I used birth control.

This is the road taken in my life: to remain child-free.

In 1987 when I was 22 my life changed forever on a single night.

Having a breakdown is like a right of passage for some women.

This sealed the deal for me: I didn’t want to bring into the world a kid who could have a chronic unremitting illness.

A kid who might not be given mental health treatment as soon as they need it.

A kid who could become an adult who thus wouldn’t recover because they didn’t get treatment.

Most of all I didn’t want to have to discontinue medication to be able to carry a baby to term.

Doing so would put my life at risk.

When I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral mental health website I wrote in a news article:

I’d rather be dead than psychotic.

Fighting words yet oh so true.

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Another Year Older

2018 sephora

I’m 53 now and I’m still here.

Contrary to the myth that everyone with SZ dies 25 years earlier.

Do I look like I’m ready to kick the bucket?

Going to Sicily is on my bucket list of things to do before my hair turns totally silver.

I’ve decided to get a Sephora makeover once a year at this time.

I was told I have a heart-shape face. So if your face is like mine you might have a heart shape face too: wide forehead and prominent cheekbones and narrow chin.

The rocker chick bangs haircut is courtesy of my new hairdresser: an old school Italian lady. I stopped going to my old hair stylist I’d seen for about nine years.

One day last summer I woke up and couldn’t take how my hair had been cut. I tried to wear a hat to my job because it was August.

“No hat indoors. It’s a sign of disrespect.” The supervisor put an end to my bad hair day cover-up.

Every day was a bad hair day. I just refused to get it cut again until the fall.

On the day after Columbus Day I went to the new hairdresser a Sicilian woman told me about. Finally: a great haircut.

This isn’t a matter of world peace or any other kind of injustice in terms of the significance of having had a bad haircut.

Yet I think all women have been there really not liking how their hair stylist has been going cutting their hair at some point.

Plus my haircut is now thirty dollars cheaper.

Paying too much to look like a bald falcon? I think not. Get yourself to a new hairdresser right away if it’s time for a change.

 

Radical Chic

I’m fond of this sentence Kim Gordon wrote in her memoir:

“I believe the radical is more interesting when it appears ordinary and benign on the outside.”

This rock star/artist/author (the former Sonic Youth singer and bassist) wrote a great book, Girl in a Band. I urge you to buy this memoir.

Sonic Youth are my favorite band–I played them on my 1980s radio show.

Her words are prophetic, because you can’t judge a person. How we look on the outside ultimately tells others nothing about our character, our personality, and the things that matter.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s dressing in trendy clothes was my way of telling the mental health establishment: “Screw you, I’m not going to conform to how you think a person diagnosed with SZ should look and act and live.”

That’s the truth folks: I rebelled the role of mental patient. You should do the same–and the sooner the better.

I think of this now as 53 beckons in a couple of weeks. Not all of us are destined to get dressed every day like we’re Nicki Minaj performing on a concert tour.

There’s a benefit in only looking like we conform when in reality we’re rebels, dreamers, and free thinkers marching to a different drum on the inside.

It can be liberating to fool others with our persona. We don’t have to be who they want us to be. We can and should only be ourselves.

Acting true to yourself will always be in style. Act true to who you are today. Reserve the right to be who you want to be tomorrow.

You don’t have to dress like a Pop Diva to make a statement. You can be radical dressed in ordinary clothes like Kim Gordon admires.

I too admire everyone for having the courage to get up in the morning, choose clothes, and get dressed in a way that is true to who they are.

The older I get I’m less impressed by what passes for normal in society. The mundane–in thinking, acting, dressing, and living–isn’t something I covet having.

Thus the title of my own memoir: Left of the Dial.

So you could say I look ordinary–yet I’ll always be a Girl on the Left Side of the Dial.

You can be radical and chic.

A woman in her fifties should leave people guessing.

 

Be Brave and Be Yourself

At the end of April I turn 53. I’m devoting a blog entry to a hot topic that no one else has ever talked about before. What I write is for peers to read first of all. If outsiders chance to read it I hope you will be moved to understand and have compassion for us.

It’s a reflection on how a friend is in awe of a woman with a formal serious office job. Yes I understand how she could covet another person’s life: that’s exactly what fueled my desire to have an insurance broker career: when my first boss developed a career plan for me.

I told my friend we should start a “F*ck You!” Club and dare to not conform to other people’s expectations. Who are either of us kidding thinking we would be happier being (or could even be) another person?

This I’m confident is the age-old dilemma of anyone with an MH diagnosis–going in the opposite direction to prove you’re normal–only to return to where you started as your original self.

I’m living proof that it all comes down to finding the job and workplace where you belong. I didn’t belong in insurance office jobs wearing “power-blue straitjackets” as I described that attire in my memoir.

The more I tried to prove I was normal, the more it backfired.

So it becomes imperative to find the place where you belong. That’s going to be a different environment for each of us. A good friend of mine rose up to be the CEO of corporations. He wore thousand-dollar suits and all that. More power to him for rising up. This is possible for some of us and not possible for others.

Either way it’s precisely when you turn 53 that it’s time to tell others: “F*ck You! I’m not buying what you’re selling about my worth. I’m NOT less than zero. I’m 24-Karat gold. Mess with me at your own peril.”

Or as a woman told me once: “You’re a diamond, not a rhinestone. Remember that.”

I’ll end here by telling readers:

Be brave and be yourself. There’s no other way to live.

Shine on.

The grass isn’t greener over there.