Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Most Annoying Facebook Friend on Planet Earth

In my "real life," I am pretty active on Facebook. I like it. It's also quite helpful. It's helped me find freelance gigs, helped me find reasonable contractors to work on my home, helped me to set some friends up on blind dates, and helped me to promote a friend's political hobbies. Very, very helpful. It's also fun. I can wax rhetoric on politics, religion, relationships, etc. Of course, I do that here too, but here it's anonymous. Over there it's me. And I do enjoy it when my friends jump into the fray. I love a good debate.

But I like to argue with thinkers. With people who are intellectually honest. With people who may not agree with me, but at least are well-meaning, intelligent, funny, and smart.

A while back, a guy, let's call him Ricky, friended me. I searched my memory banks for how I knew Ricky, and it seemed that we dated very briefly when I was in my twenties. Very, very briefly. I have a flash of a memory of throwing a perfectly good bouquet of roses in the trash. If it's the same guy, I think I dumped Ricky for good cause.

So Ricky friends me. It's a million years later and we are both married to other people, and I figure, ok Ricky, I'll be your friend. Ricky is a very green, very liberal, somewhat socialist-leaning, government-will-take-care-of-all-your-problems, very progressive lobbyist in Washington. But that's not the part that annoys me. I actually have one other friend who is a prominent member of a progressive D.C. think-tank, and though his posts are as leftist as the sun is bright, at least he is a thinker. I disagree with him on everything, but he considers before he posts. I actually enjoy shredding his posts and he enjoys attacking mine. We mix it up and it's good for both of us. But that's not Ricky.

No, Ricky is a feeler. Worse, he is totally in the tank and won't consider any other points of view. He posts long-winded, idiotic diatribes about how the earth is on its way to being destroyed because of carbon dioxide emissions, how George Bush is Satan, how Barack Obama will save us, how all Republicans (especially me) hold Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity up as their intellectual gods, how he feels practically orgasmic about recycling, etc. He cites left wing blog post editorials as facts, even if they are not and they usually are not. He has no sense of humor. He takes everything, EVERYTHING, seriously. He cites silly, irrelevant, source-free statistics that no one believes. He spouts seriously ignorant urban legends about Judaism (he's Jewish But Clueless). He is difficult to argue with because he discards facts as they become available. He argues like a child. I want to flick him off my Facebook friend list like a gnat. But I can't.

Why can't I? Because 1) I don't want him to think that I unfriended him because he is a liberal or because I disagree with him. I have been unfriended because people find me too conservative and I think it's small-minded of them. No, I want to unfriend him because he is annoying. 2) He is a very sensitive guy and I don't want to hurt his feelings. I know you think this is silly, but this is the kind of guy who would email me after the unfriending and ask where he went wrong (oh God) and along those lines: 3) I think when we were were dating, I dumped him badly. Very badly. I have residual guilt. Finally, and this is a side of myself that I don't particularly like: 4) a part of me is fascinated by how utterly annoying he can be. He comments on at least every other status update, and virtually every link I post. He "likes" almost everything. He has verbally insulted my husband in a political argument. My hyperintellectual husband loves to hate this guy and thinks I should keep him on just for giggles. But I hate myself for wanting to be irritated by him. He's too easy.

I wish there were some way to keep him from seeing my posts without unfriending him. Advice, dear readers?

Friday, November 13, 2009

WebGirl on the Dole

So, apparently, I've now worked long enough for an agency as a W2 employee to qualify for unemployment benefits. I've been taking odd freelance assignments and contracts here and there almost exclusively through this agency because they seem to have good work. But the company is reorganizing and now only subcontracting accounting-related work, so I have been officially laid off, and they've informed me that I can now file for good old unemployment. This is brand new territory for me; I received unemployment only once before when I was much younger.

Well, the world has changed! It is a rosy, cushy world for the unemployed, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as well as some other fun laws. I thought I'd share some of the new perks that await me.

1) As one of my working benefits, I had allocated $2,500 into a medical flex account. I figured with all the unreimbursed medical expenses coming up with my fertility treatments, I would zip through that in no time. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it basically means that as long as I spend down this amount on approved medical expenses, the money is tax free. They had been deducting this from my income a little bit at a time off of my sporadic paychecks. To date, they have only withheld $250. Well, guess what? I can still spend down the rest of the account, even though I haven't contributed to it. That's $2,250 coming to me (for use only for medical expenses, but still) that is not only tax-free, but utterly unearned. Free money. Net perk, $2,250.

2) I was using this company's medical insurance and I am now eligible to COBRA it. But monthly COBRA for my husband and me will be in the neighborhood of $700. Ah, but guess what? As long as we don't jointly make $250,000 this year (we won't), the government will fork over 65% of our COBRA payments for 9 months! For nuthin! That brings our medical insurance down to $245, a mere song. And since I have a lot of other 1099 income, COBRA payments are tax deductible for me. Why thank you, federal government. And thank you, readers, since that is your tax money paying for my health insurance. Net perk is $455 x 9 = $4,095

3) Assuming I qualify for the highest unemployment payout, which is about $500/week, and figuring on about 7-8 weeks left to the year, the first $2,400 of that is TAX FREE as long as I receive it during 2009. Talk about incentive not to work! Tax free $2,400 is almost like taxable $3,600 gross, for basically doing, well, nothing. I'll take that. Net perk is the taxes I would have paid on the $2,400, or around $800.

4) While you're collecting unemployment, you can actually work and earn up to 25% of your unemployment benefit, and not lose a penny of the unemployment money. So say my weekly benefit is $500. That means I can still work small contracts as long as they pay $125 or less. Incentive to work, but not to work that hard. Net perk if I decide to take small contracts for the next, say, until the end of the year will be around $875.

All told, my perks will be a little over $8,000 (excluding my actual unemployment benefits). Thanks fellow taxpayers! That's your money.

I have mixed feelings about taking these benefits. One part of me is screaming "you've paid your taxes and if the government wants to give you a perk-filled unemployment period, enjoy. It's not in your control." On the other hand, I feel like some of these perks are almost ridiculous, and I don't want to be a hypocrite. It's hard to turn down legal, string-free money though. We'll see. Will you respect me in the morning?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Want You Back

Sometimes, you mix weird ingredients together and get a really, really good dish. I give you KT Tunstall doing the Jackson Five. It's REALLY good. Who'da thunk.

Monday, November 9, 2009

On Being an UnMom

So now that I am miraculously, unbelievably, but quite apparently happily married, (I'm happily married! How did that happen?), one would think my life would be, well, good? Yes?


I'm in my mid-forties. And we don't have kids. And it sucks.

Pretty much 98% of all my married and divorced friends have kids. I live in a world of parenthood. One of my volunteer gigs is at the local day school. My synagogue is crawling with children and pregnant women. I have siblings and siblings-in-law who want and expect me to have a great deal of involvement with my nieces and nephews. I have children and children-related stuff coming out of my ears. But none of these children are mine. I am an UnMom.

So I finally sucked up my courage and made an appointment with the best reproductive endocrinologist in the state. Literally. Apparently this man has gotten half my shul pregnant. So to speak. I have to wait about a month for the appointment, but he is supposedly The Man.

I've been married for more than six months now. I put off the whole fertility treatment thing because for some reason, I thought that since I was actually in a good, honest, wholesome marriage now, maybe God would just toss me a pregnancy or two. But it's not happening. I've never been pregnant. Ever.

It's gotten to the point where, in consoling a friend of mine for her third miscarriage, the following incredibly stupid sentence came out of my mouth: "well at least you know what it's like to be pregnant." Yeah. I said that. She is a good enough friend to understand the place of extreme narcissistic pain from which that comment emerged. She actually sort of laughed and said that was the first honest thing anyone has said to her since she lost the baby.

The funny thing is, there is nothing medically wrong with me or my husband. We got tested in the first version of our marriage. Nothing wrong but our ages, that is. But all my chemistry was supposedly in good working order, even considering my age. It just didn't happen. I figured if you added the stress of a horrible marriage into the equation, that probably kept me from conceiving. Or maybe it was the lack of magical pixie dust. Who the hell knows?

That's the thing about this whole fertility thing. Lots of it comes around to plain old mystery. And helplessness. And pain. Long, deep, pain. It's a whole other kind of abyss from the pain of divorce or singleness. It's sharper and nastier and makes jagged, messy cuts. You wake up every morning, and the pain says to you: you think you're in control of your body? Hah! Guess again, loser. No baby today. No baby for you. Loser! UnMom!

And the pity. Good Lord, the pity from my friends is the worst. The look-exchanging. The offers of being called "Auntie WebGirl." Seriously, if you know a childless woman, don't offer her auntdom of your kids. It's so demeaning. Think.

In-vitro fertilization treatment cost between $20-25,000. And in some states (like mine), none of that is covered by health insurance. Yeah. It's like they are saying, not only are you a loser because you can't have a kid on your own, but now we're going to gut your savings account. Ha ha.

Ha ha.

And what does The Husband have to say about all this? Well, he's confident that if we do IVF, we'll have a kid. He's completely, ridiculously confident. Even when I quote the horrible, bleak statistics, he just ignores it all. He won't say anything negative. He won't think anything negative. He just tells me we should go in there, throw money at the doctors, inject me full of hormones twice a day for two months, etc. and the baby will happen. It just will. Of course it will. Why would God get us to this point and then not give us a kid? Why indeed.

My favorite part of being my friends' token Childless Woman is hearing the stories of miracle babies. Yes, I'm being incredibly sarcastic. "WebGirl, my sister-in-law's best friends brother's wife just had twins at 47. 47!! Isn't that amazing?" Yes sirree Bob, I've heard all the stories. You would think that women over 40 are just exploding with babies, based on all the stories I hear! Why, we are just dropping babies like bunnies, aren't we!

The reason these stories are dumb is because all of them, every single one of them, are exceptional. For every woman over 40 who has had a healthy live birth, there are dozens of others who are having multiple miscarriages, or can't conceive at all, or have had babies with birth defects or genetic disorders, etc. The urban legends are the rare successes. So please. Again. You know that friend of yours who is over 40 and is childless? Don't tell her any damn stories. The stories don't give us hope. They just make us jealous. And they even reinforce our hopelessness. Frankly, everything reinforces my hopelessness. Yeah. I'm not an upbeat kind of gal.

So I have an appointment in a month. My friend who did IVF at 35 warned me that the first thing this doctor will do is recommend that I use donor eggs. I'm not doing that. Forget it. I almost don't see the point. I want my own children. My own genetic children. Doesn't everyone?

I'm scared of the appointment. I'm scared that I'll get tested and the doctor will tell me that my chances of getting pregnant are next to zero. That my eggs are not viable. That my body is broken. That I will never be a mother, (but good news, I can always be an auntie!). I'm so scared.

I took one of those (probably useless) home fertility tests, because I have strong masochistic leanings. It came out fertile. But what does it know? I'm old. I'm so freakin old.

My friend from high school is marrying off her daughter next month. Another friend who is a year older than me is a grandmother, three times over. You cannot imagine how much cognitive dissonance this creates in me. And how much it hurts.

One of my friends is begging me to go see this mekubal guy in New York, who apparently will give me ruby dust to drink and get me pregnant. See, this sort of wacky segulah stuff tests the limits of my faith. Will God, who holds the key to conception, give me a child because I drink ruby dust? I'm thinking, no. My faith doesn't include magical potions.

So what do I do, dear readers, ask you to pray for Webgirl bas Webgirl's Mom? I have so many friends praying for me, baking challah for me, saying Tehillim for me. Will it break through? Will it help? What will change God's mind? Will He remember me? Can God really forget someone? Is God waiting for me to drink ruby dust? Pixie dust? I don't think so. I don't know what to think. I sort of go a little cognitively and spiritually gray when I think about my infertility. It dulls the pain a little.

And will my life have any value if God decides not to give me a child? Hmm. I guess that's the big giant question, huh. Who will I teach things to? What about when I die? Who will be my heir? Who will inherit my stuff? Who will say kaddish for me? Who will remember me? Who will care?

Infertility cuts like a knife. A nasty, serrated, rusty knife. So, enough wound opening for today. Time to go gray again.