Part 4

Rufus has the worst fleas. We bathe him. We dose him with Frontline every month and still, he is flea-riddled. And they’re nervy. Last month they went on strike for better working conditions. Seems I had created an unsafe workspace for them with all the flooding and the poisoning and their boss expected them to pay for their own safety equipment.

Well, why should I give a shit if my dog’s fleas go on strike? Sounds like Heaven. They refuse to do flea-things to my dog and I don’t have to think about how much money I’m spending on failing to eradicate them. Strike away, fleas.

My enthusiasm was ill-thought-out. Because, of course, they don’t need all 8,452 fleas on the picket-line at any given moment. Twenty of them would take their signs and follow behind the dog chanting their slogans and the rest of them would crowd onto the couch to watch TV. You think, well, how hard can it be to take a remote from a bunch of fleas? But then, you reach over for it and they swarm all over your hand, down in between your fingers and up your arm. It’s just so gross.

Lesley was all, “Just get some diatomaceous earth and sprinkle it on the couch. That’ll fix them.”

Oh, sure, for regular fleas. One day I sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the couch, the next day UPS shows up with 8,452 very tiny boxes. Inside each one? Protective suits. Worse? They bought those suits on Amazon using my account. Each order had its own shipping fee, so they drained my bank account. Why does Amazon even sell protective suits to fleas? I tried to get answers, but all Amazon would tell me is that they don’t pass judgments on their customers. Eventually, I got the bank to handle it—since the fleas stole my identity and bank information in order to place the order. But I know for a fact that not one of those fuckers got anything more than a slap on the wrist.

So, it ends up being me who has to go back to their boss and try to negotiate some kind of settlement, because I just can’t have all these fleas loitering on my couch. You can’t even imagine the difficulty of this. I had to sneak up on Rufus when he was asleep and then dig around in his fur to try to find the flea management that was still on the job and then talk to them softly enough that Rufus wouldn’t wake up. Otherwise, he’d put his head on my lap and insist on scratches or think we were about to go out and start hopping around. And to hear a flea, you basically have to let it crawl in your ear and then shout to you the things it wants you to know. Your ear never feels clean afterward.

But we make the negotiations happen. And I agree to issue general warnings before we bathe the dog. In return, they agree to cease trying to unionize the cats’ fleas. Soon enough, I can sit on my own couch and watch my own TV. But my dog still has fleas. What can you do?

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Not Seeing What Side You’re On

I’m really glad that Mallory Ortberg wrote this response to Elizabeth Ellen’s utterly confounding post from last week. I mean, when you’re nervous about writing a post because you’re afraid it’s going to piss feminists off and not because you’re revealing that you molested three children when you were a child (when he was talking about his new memoir on NPR, Charles Blow said that, actually, the majority of molestations happen between children–the average age of a molester is 14 and the average age of their victim is 4. Doesn’t make it any less traumatic.), you are not operating on the same plane as the rest of us.

This whole part:

When I was a young person I molested three children younger than myself; a boy and two girls, one of which was my half-sister. Granted, I was, to the best of my knowledge/memory, nine or ten and the children were all about three or four years younger than I was. I know you’re going to say this doesn’t count. But think of finding me in your five year old’s bed. Think of my grandmother finding me on top of my sister in hers. I was shunned. Rightfully so, I thought. Separated from my sister (I was never caught in the other two cases). I remember being sent down to the swimming pool (who knows the logic behind this) while my grandmother comforted (?) or talked to my sister. I remember feeling like a monster. Ashamed. Crying alone in the water (in my memory it was evening, dinner time; maybe there were other people but in my memory I am alone). I don’t remember if this was the last time it happened. I don’t remember being molested myself (that is the logical next thought, I realize). I don’t know why I did it. I still don’t understand why. (My sister and I don’t talk. I never see her. I don’t know if this is based on what happened then or if this is based on any number of other reasons why half-siblings or any siblings may or may not talk as adults. I have often wondered how much or if she remembers; if it was a traumatic experience for her. I have never asked. I’m still too afraid; feel too much a monster.)

Where she seems unable to imagine that her grandmother might, indeed, be comforting her sister, unable to imagine that this might be why her sister doesn’t talk to her, and, frankly, unable to imagine that her sister might not want her to tell people what happened to her. It blows my mind.

And then the idea that you could know you molested three people, find yourself sympathizing with people accused of rape, and think you have some unbiased insight into the realities of these situations, instead of, you know, you identifying with the accused and not wanting to think that what you did was that bad.

The impulse to believe that, when you tell someone you molested three kids, they’re going to tell you that what you did wasn’t that bad… just holy shit.

The Dog Does not Process Negative Feedback

I try to imagine what the dog’s life was like before he came to live with us based on his weirdness now. The fact that he freaked the fuck out when I left for Memphis with a small suitcase, even though I leave for work every day with a large purse was weird. And, as I have now fictionalized, he’s not put off by negative feedback.

But the other thing is that I don’t think I’ve ever had a dog who listened so well and who worked so hard to figure out what I want from him. We had a couple of bad walks, where he just yanked on the leash and was ridiculous and so I started just stopping when I needed him to recoup himself. And that seems to have mostly fixed the problem. Yes, just me being consistent for a couple of walks.

Anyway, today, I let him off his leash once we got back to the AT&T yard and he ran into the yard and then turned back to look at me. Then he saw something behind me on the other side of the road and he started running toward the road. I was yelling “No, no, no, no, no” just like there was no tomorrow and he turned and stopped and put his tail between his legs. But then he came bounding over to see what I wanted. To make sure that we were okay.

So, I praised the shit out of him. Because I want him to always associate doing what I want with pleasant results.

Enemies and Truth

One thing I’ve realized lately is that a person’s enemies are rarely wrong. Your enemies do see some fundamental truths of who you are. The things they hate about you are most likely honest-to-god terrible and annoying things about you.

But what I find fascinating about enemies is that your enemies may have a legitimate complaint against you that obligates you to act–“That bastard killed my sister and I want him to face justice.” or “That woman wouldn’t hire me because I’m gay and I want her to face some kind of repercussions.” What your enemies want from you is not unreasonable, even if it’s incredibly disruptive to your life.–but a lot of times your enemies have a legitimate complaint against you–“God, she’s such a complainy douche!”–but the action they want to see taken against you–“Don’t hang out with her.”–doesn’t really obligate you to act. Just because someone doesn’t like that you’re a complainy douche doesn’t mean that you have to change to suit them. It also doesn’t make it right for them to try to separate you from your friends who also probably see that you’re a complainy douche, but find that outweighed by your undying loyalty and your willingness to drive them places whenever they need it.

It does seem to me like a lot of human interactions are about establishing who can force others to move without having to be moved themselves. Most of the time, I think we’d be better off if we all just agreed to either move together or not worry about whether others were moving but just on our own motions and the outcomes of those motions.

But I find the second kind of enemy so weird and fascinating because they’re arguing that their hatred of someone creates some kind of relationship that the person they hate should honor by trying to be less hated. I completely get why people who like each other come to understand themselves as being entwined in mutually beneficial obligations to each other.

But how does the person who hates you understand their claim on you if their claim on you isn’t, in part, “you are genuinely doing me wrong” as opposed to “you are annoying me.”?

I hate, genuinely hate, very few people in this world who I don’t feel have wronged me. The people who have wronged me, the obligation I think they have to me now is to leave me alone. But the people who haven’t wronged me, but who just annoy me into hatred, I don’t want to spend time trying to make them be more palatable to me. I don’t want to have to spend any more time with them than I do. If they were less terrible, I’d be under more pressure to tolerate them.

I feel like I’m missing some obvious thing here. There must be something pleasurable, even in a deeply twisted way, about trying to assert power over people you hate, but I just don’t see it. I mean, if you could guarantee that it would work–I can see how that would be pleasurable–to watch your enemies do your bidding. But real life isn’t often like that. Instead, you’re more often just struggling to try to get any hint of that kind of influence. Mostly, it’s just you and the person you hate yelling at each other and not doing what the other wants you to do.

Less The Godfather and more Real Housewives.