Michelle Tea: "The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything"

I call Planned Parenthood and they refer me to the local teaching hospital. A review calls the hospital ‘almost a non-profit’, and I’m sold. I make a call and their financial person calls me right back. I get off the phone feeling like it’s less expensive than I thought – maybe not even expensive after all! This is a phenomenon already known to me as the Barneys Effect.

Jul 6, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

I should be doing my taxes but I’m back on Yelp! and the Berkeley Parents Network looking at fertility specialists. I call a bunch of health centers (“Can I have your husband’s name? ….. I’m sorry, is that your name or your husband’s? Your husband is female…?”).

I call Planned Parenthood and they refer me to the local teaching hospital. A review calls the hospital ‘almost a non-profit’, and I’m sold. I make a call and their financial person calls me right back. I get off the phone feeling like it’s less expensive than I thought – maybe not even expensive after all! This is a phenomenon already known to me as the Barneys Effect.

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The best outfit I didn't buy at Barneys

You spend an afternoon drifting around Barneys in wonderful altered state of consciousness that is a mélange of anxiety, desire and fantasy. You take in all the price tags. You read the numbers again and again, until they cease to mean anything. They’re just some sort of code. Some numbers are higher and some are lower. Slowly – slowly – the lower numbers start to feel . . . low. $1,000 is a lot less expensive than $10,000. After looking at Rodarte ball gowns, a Philip Lim shift seems to be AN ACTUAL STEAL. It’s not. It’s like $800. That’s expensive. You are a moron. But you know what? It feels good to be a moron. Sort of drifting through an enchanted forest of shit you want, feeling your brain become addled as the fairy dust the salespeople must be sprinkling on you takes affect and items that cost as much as your actual rent seem totally reasonable.

At this point, you should have a moment of clarity and get your ass out of Barneys NOW. Run, don’t walk, to the sale rack at Urban Outfitters, where items you off at $39.99. Barneys has made the sale rack at Urban Outfitters look like a tag sale at a small-town church in rural New England. YOU CAN HAVE ANYTHING YOU WANT. Leave with five new items that cost you, total, less than a pair of socks at Barneys. For reals.

I think the Barneys Effect is coming into play now, as I shop for fertility help. Too much time dwelling on large sums of money has made it all seem like gobbeldy-gook, like when you say ‘Bubble gum bubble gum bubble gum’ five hundred times until it’s just a sound. But I can recognize that the large sums of money at the teaching hospital are smaller than the large sums of money elsewhere, so I suddenly feel like I’m at the sale rack at Urban Outfitters and can have ANY FERTILITY PROCEDURE I WANT.

I make an appointment with a fertility specialist and hang up the phone. When I come back into my body I find myself on the verge of tears. So much for the Barneys Effect! Spending money terrifies me. And I don’t think it matters how much money I’ll ever have or won’t have, because it’s not rational. That at least helps me go forward.

I remember reading some article in a gossip rag about how Madonna, a billionaire who knows how many times over, is actually anxious around spending money. The tone of the article suggested we should be outraged by this decadent person who has become so rich she has lost all touch with reality, but I just felt bad for her, the girl who grew up motherless in Detroit. You don’t have to be rich to lose track of reality when it comes to money.

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Even Madonna has scarcity issues!

The appointment is for the end of the month, and my anxiety is revving my normal impatience into overdrive. What will I do between now and then? How about do some internet research on how Clomid doesn’t really work on women over the age of 35. You’re kidding! Who the fuck even needs Clomid if not women over the age of 35! Or are all women just super infertile now from pesticides and BPA in our canned foods and whatever endocrine disrupters are leaching from our bottled water or just the air itself?

I tell my sister that I’ve made an appointment at the teaching hospital, and she’s excited for me. But my sister is an ace researcher. She has the patience and the desire to sit and compare, to read the fine print, to investigate. This is one of her more prominent qualities, and one that makes her qualified to, I believe, hold any position available to a human being in our world, including president of our nation. Madeline would have easily figured out health care like years ago. She quickly gets to work on my behalf, researching fertility clinics even though I already have an appointment.

“Did you look at this one in Berekely? It offers acupuncture, too.”

“I’m already doing acupuncture,” I tell her.

“Yeah, but it just has great reviews, you should look at it.”

“I don’t want to have to go all the way into Berkeley,” I say.

“It’s not far from you,” Says Madeline, who lives in Los Angeles and has to spend one hour in the car to get anywhere. “I mean, if it’s the best clinic you might think it’s worth it to go over the bridge.”

“I already have my appointment,” I say.

“But you’re going to look around and compare a bit more, right?”

I feel like the thirty minutes I spent calling two other clinics plus Planned Parenthood was all the research I can handle. I made up my mind, and feel good about the teaching hospital. Also, I hate doing the research. It provokes inside me the feeling that I’ve got to make the very best decision for myself and if I don’t I could possibly be FUCKING UP majorly, and so I just want to choose something and make it all go away.

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Kill me now.

I know that’s not the best way to be about things, so I often just default to picking whatever is top ranked on Yelp! This is how I picked the woman who gave me Botox, and I felt pretty good about it the first two times, but then when I got it again last summer she did such a quickie on me I had this Botox-bruise above my right eyebrow that looked I went to church on Ash Wednesday and the drunken priest missed the center of my forehead and left a smudge of black above my eye.

Nothing makes you feel like a decadent, anti-feminist bad person with fucked priorities like a Botox bruise.

I tell my sister that I already looked around a bit (not a lie) and that the teaching hospital really seems like the best bet (also not a lie).

“You’re already parenting, doing all this,” She tells me. “This is the sort of thing you’ll have to get used to, comparing pre-schools, pediatricians, etc.”

Of all the things people have suggested to deter me from this path – the grotesque changes in my body, the physical pain, the possibility that my child might become a serial killer (Thanks, person who randomly posted a link to We Need To Talk About Kevin on my Facebook page. Really?) – the reality of banal consumer research makes me briefly reconsider my path.

“The way you deal with things like this is also the way you’ll parent,” Madeline continues. “What’s that Buddhist saying?”

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything,” I mumbled. One of my favorite phrases except for right now. It’s true. The way you do anything IS the way you do everything. I’ve found this statement to be profoundly true. So, will my child suffer from sub-par services because I can’t handle the drudgery and anxiety of comparison shopping? Perhaps. But hopefully my strengths will compensate for my weaknesses. Plus, between Aunt Maddy and Papa Dashiell – another ace investigator – such boring details as where the child will be schooled will hopefully taken care of by the people in her life that excel at such tasks, while I can focus on what I’m best at – playing dress-up and teaching her how to read tarot cards.

“I’m more likely to think about doing things for Olivia than I am for myself,” Madeline says. “Maybe if you think that you’re doing all this fertility research not for you but for your baby it will be easier.”

I love my sister for trying to help me improve this upon this important and neglected area of life. Before I get off the phone I sincerely pledge to investigate the cool fertility clinic in Berkeley with the acupuncture. But when I get back on my computer I get distracted with a bunch of communication, and forget to do it forever.