Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Sperm Tie: Adventures in Neurology

I’ve always liked bowties.  Bowties can look dapper, sleek, hipster, or just plain silly.  I prefer silly.  I picked my neurologist based almost entirely on the fact that he wore a bowtie.  He had an “emergency bowtie” on his book shelf.  I thought this was weird… in a good way.  I was pretty sure he, like, knew things, too.

I think his bowtie had a sperm design on it.  I’m really not sure because I couldn’t ask him.  You can’t just ask someone if their tie has multicolored sperm on it. That could go one of two ways:

Me: Yes, I’m paying attention, areas of inflammation, etc.  Quickly, though, DOES your bowtie have a sperm design on it…
Dr. Brainy:  Um… no? These are just squiggly lines with pointy oval shapes on one end.
Me: Okay, sorry, but it looks like you have multicolored sperm on your tie.
Dr. Brainy:  Oh.  Sad. 😦 I’ll probably hate you forever now.


Me:  ….does your bowtie have a sperm design on it?
Dr. Brainy:  It does!
Me:  Okay, yes, carry on.

I spent the majority of that appointment staring at his neck like a serial killer.

I guess I should explain the neurology thing:  I have malfunctioned.

On November 23rd, while I was watching Doctor Who and his bowtie save the universe with my friends, I suddenly smudged my glasses.  I couldn’t get the smudge to go away, even though I’d cleaned them.  When I got home, I went to change into my contacts to find that I hadn’t smudged my glasses at all.

The entirety of the central vision in my left eye was gone.  In it’s place was a fuzzy, grayed-out almost-circle, like when someone takes a picture with a bright flash and there is a spot where you cannot see.  I completely panicked, as you do when you suddenly go partially blind.  I can’t see. (Insert alarm bell noises here.) BAD. VERY BAD. 

And so began the two weeks of my life that I existed in a near constant state of fight or flight.  That night, I chose flight.  I decided that it would go away and went to a party.  I stand by that decision. It didn’t go away.

Since then, I’ve chosen fight.  Two MRIs,  four doctors, five botched spinal tap attempts (and one blood patch,)  twenty seven needles, and five thousand milliliters of steroids later, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Essentially, what that means is that my immune system has gone rogue and occasionally attacks things it should really not attack.  Asshole.  In my case, it appears to be rather fond of my optic nerve (which has since been kind enough to stop being inflamed, allowing my vision to return to normal.)

I debated writing this post for a long time.  I have this really intense fear of people thinking I’m playing the sympathy card for attention, of being defined by it in the eyes of others, or of making people upset.  Really, I would prefer if everyone would just NOT act like anything because I have to live another sixty years with this.  I can go to work, I can get married, I can have babies, I just might sometimes have a little trouble seeing out of one of my eyes (or some other symptom but we’ll cross that bridge when and if we come to it.)

I allowed myself a one day pity party.  Clearly, the list of things I wound up stressing about did not include actually having an autoimmune disorder.  I didn’t even make it through the day.  Feeling sorry for myself was so incredibly boring.  Plus, I was on steroids and much more interested in yelling at everyone. Roid rage is real.

The way I see it, things can always be worse, way worse.  I don’t see being diagnosed with M.S. as some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing that’s happened to me.  Now I know.  I know why I get tired easily.  I know that if I ever lose my sight again, I don’t need to be scared.  I will have medicine that tells my immune system to calm the hell down.  And at the end of the day, I know that I’m going to be okay.  So many people don’t have that security.

This is probably the last post I’ll write explicitly about M.S., for the reasons I state above.  But now, perhaps my life and attitude towards it may make a little more sense — even if it was just a post for me to gather my thoughts and make a little more sense to myself.

My Pop always said “Live the shit out of life.”  That’s the plan.  I always liked adventures and bowties anyway.

P.S. Going to see Dr. Brainy now.  PLEASE PRAY FOR MORE SPERM TIE.



The following stories are true.  Any resemblance to real people is not at all coincidental.  It’s definitely about exactly who you think it’s about.  Names have been changed to code names that are not subtle.

I get writer’s block a lot.  Mostly, I think because I haven’t ever taken writing “seriously.”  I have always done it to make people laugh or to gather my thoughts in a way that actually makes sense.  “Seriously,” it was always something I did when I had a paper due that morning the next morning.  I wasn’t the best of students.  Not that I wasn’t smart.  I wasn’t lazy either.  I was bored.

I went to Catholic high school.  We wore kilts made of Teflon and rolled the waist hems to make them shorter.  I stopped rolling mine around the time I realized that if I didn’t, I only had to shave my legs up to my knees.  We went to mass once a month in our gym, and as a member of concert choir, I was frequently tasked with set up.  No one can set up a row of folding chairs as quickly and neatly as I can.  It’s a life skill.

In high school, I had a solid group of friends for the first time.  I’m still friends with some of them.  Actually, my brother married one of them.   I felt like a grown up and had grown up things to worry about, such as (ranked in no particular order):
  • Getting a part in the musical. I played Liesl in the Sound of Music before my dreams of being on Broadway were crushed forever by a certain university in New York — LOOK AT ME NOW, BITCHES!…. wait….
  • Boys.  A constant source of anxiety.  As if any of them were even remotely acceptable dating material.
  • Physics class. Totally got an A.
  • Everything. Still an issue.
  • Not getting into a good college.  I did.  I graduated, too.
  • My dog getting old.   He died… as dogs are wont to do.
  • Web MD.  Also still an issue.
  • Being in the same grade as my big brother…

I once had a teacher say to me, “if you were more like your brother, you’d have done better in this class.”  I’m serious.  I am very close with my siblings.  You have never met three more different people.  The people who loved us never made us feel like we were being compared.  But complete strangers did.  I cried about it in the car ride home that day.  My brother said that it was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard and reminded me why I really didn’t do well in the class.  I didn’t do well because it was religion class and the teacher and I disagreed on some fundamental issues, like how not to be a horrible person.

Religion teachers and I have a history.  My freshman year, a different teacher, Mr. Matrix, threw a coffee mug at my head.  Let me take you back with me a bit:

Mr. Matrix:  If I wasn’t Catholic, I would be Atheist.

Baby Aislinn (thinking): Extremism.  Love it.


Mr. Matrix: Kissing before marriage is wrong.

Baby Aislinn (thinking): Oh. My. God. Yessss.  This will be hilarious.


Mr. Matrix:  Women are the cause of original sin.  There is a long, intricate ‘thread’ about this in the Catholic Latin Chat room that I met my teenage girlfriend on.  I wear her hair-elastic around my wrist.  We’re getting married in the fall.

Baby Aislinn (thinking) Do you make it rub the lotion on its skin whenever it’s told, too?


Mr. Matrix:  When a woman sits on a man’s lap, she is emulating the devil putting man through temptation.

Baby Aislinn (mutters aloud):  Well, no.

Mr. Matrix: Excuse me?

Baby Aislinn (realizing I said this out loud, figuring there was no going back): That is the most misogynistic comment.  And you said it in a classroom made up almost entirely of teenage girls.

Mr. Matrix: Go to the office.

Classroom immediately descends into chaos.  Classmates begin yelling at Mr. Matrix.


Mr. Matrix throws mug. Mug misses my head and the girl behind me, shatters on blackboard. Silence.

He didn’t get fired.   I got detention for a week.

Besides getting detention a few times, high school was fairly uneventful for me. I never got asked on a date; wasn’t a star athlete, the valedictorian, or the prom queen; I didn’t even get a superlative!  I’m sure those things upset me then, but I don’t even remember now.  It didn’t really matter to me.  I had friends who loved me.  In the grand scheme of things, high school is purgatory (oh my! religious references galore!)  It is where you wait.

Of the memories I have from high school, the majority of them are good.  I actually keep in touch with a number of the teachers I had and liked.  We’re Facebook friends!  But the memories that I cherish the most?
Setting up folding chairs with my friends and crazy religion teachers.  And that thing with the crickets, but that’s another story for another time.
BONUS – embarrassing chubby pubescent photos!  Good thing I saved my birthday locker decorations!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Twenty Four is a great number. I like it not only because it is a nice even number, but because two times two is four. If you don’t understand that statement immediately I can’t explain it for you. When I turned twenty-four, I was pretty excited because, as I say, it’s a nice number. Way nicer than twenty-three.

Twenty Three was lame. My first “real” boyfriend broke up with me about six months into my twenty-third year. I say “real” as opposed to “fake” because he actually wanted to waste my time AND refer to me as his girlfriend to other humans, so this was really a step up for me. I assure you that every “fake” boyfriend I have ever had has been a real person who was aware of the fact that they were “dating” me. “Fake” boyfriends freak out when the words girl and friend are mashed together in a sentence in order convey that he “likes” you.

My twenty-third year for other people went well, so it was, at least, exciting. We had some big family changes. My brother got married a month after turning twenty-five, which obviously sent me into a tailspin of inner panic. When the people you grew up with from the womb start getting married and you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up or why boys are stupid, several questions tend to incessantly plague your mind. So, your mind starts sounding like this:

Me: But really, is there ACTUALLY something wrong with me?
Also Me: Probably, you are really weird.

Me: What am I doing with my life? Should I go to grad school? Should I run away to Europe…again?
Still Me: Euagggghhhhh. Too. much. deep. question… Let’s watch Dr. Who.

Me: Hey, this new guy seems to genuinely like me as a person.
Me: Nononono. There must be something wrong with him. What about that guy?
Me: Oh, that guy who texted me “How are you?”? My response was well-crafted. A short, but sweet “Hey 🙂 Good. How are you?” He ignored me.
Me: Yessss. Good. Him.

Me: More wine?
Me: No………………………..Yes.

Welcome to my brain. It’s a weird place. But it’s also kind of funny sometimes. I kind of like my little brain. I like that it decides to like things on fairly random criteria: the number Twenty Four, for example. I’m not sure, but I think I’ll keep it. And here-in lies the problem. What do you do when you like yourself, but the world around you tells you that you don’t have your life right yet? As if you didn’t know.

Well, if you’re me, you freak out, which looks a lot like not doing anything. And a lot like pushing people away. And a lot like bone-crushing anxiety.

So at Twenty Four, I moved back in with my parents. I realize how lucky I was that I could do this. After almost seven years of living in New York City, I moved home, I got a full-time job I actually like, and I still have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on.

On moving back home, some of the pressure I felt to be a “real” grown-up dissipated. Some new pressures arose, however, from not being on my own anymore. Like this:

Parent: Where are you going? What are you doing? Who with?
Me: Out. Not sure. Melanie. She is my only friend here, remember?
Parent: True. What time will you be home?
Me: Stop.
Parent: Don’t drink and drive.
Me: I am getting picked up.
Parent: Don’t drink and drive.
Me: What? I just said I’m not driv-
Parent: Don’t dr-
(I walk away)

Parent: Clean your room.
Me: This is organized clutter.
Parent: It’s being too lazy to put things in drawers.
Me: Yes, yes it is.

Living with your parents automatically makes you a grumpy teenager again. Even when you get along with your family like I do. When I was little and played house in the same room I sit in writing this, I thought I’d have had five boyfriends by the time I was sixteen. When I was eighteen and left for college I thought I’d have my career figured out by twenty-one. When I was twenty-one, I thought I’d be in a long-term relationship by now and be engaged by twenty-six. Because that’s what everyone else’s life looked like.

At some point over the past four months I finally decided to stop comparing myself to everyone else and once I did, I realized like 95% of the people my age have no idea what the fuck they’re doing either.

I’ve begun to wonder whether I’ll ever know what I’m doing and I’m kind of okay with that. I don’t need to have a ring on my finger. In fact, the thought gives me a feeling of claustrophobic panic… similar to being buried alive but, like, nicer. And I don’t need to know what I want to be when I grow up yet. Actively working on it is enough. Because I’m ONLY Twenty Four.