Feedback is not just for Hi-Fi Systems

Wanna tell me what you think? Email me at and I may just devote an entire entry to your comment.

Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Underneath it All

When I think about it, my obsession with underwear began when I was a little girl. I can clearly remember getting ready for bed each night and my mother would call out the check list from the next room….
Did you brush your teeth?
Did you wash your face?
Did you put on pajamas?
Did you change your panties?

She most definitely called them panties. Now the word seems either very fashionable or very naughty. Back then, it implied a pair of white cotton underwear with the correct day of the week printed across them.

I loved my “day of the week” underpants. You know the ones with a Monday or a Wednesday plastered across the backside. There was something we could rely on. The world made sense when on Tuesday you were wearing Tuesday panties. Under no circumstances did you mismatch days. Hell would freeze over before Friday touched your ass on a Monday morning.

We had control over the world with just a pair of a “day of the week” underwear.

As for the nightly changing of the panties… this was a ritual that has survived with me years later. In fact, my girlfriends, I am quite certain we all have the stories about how our mothers made us change our undergarments.

What is it about Mothers and underwear? Is this yet another generational education of the feminine mystique? Make no mistake, I do think my mother is a source of a wealth of information. I would never openly admit this to her and if she is reading this…. I will deny it in a follow up conversation. That being said, Mommy dearest had a thing about clean underwear at bedtime.

She argued that cotton underpants were the key to not getting a bladder infection. In fact at the time, the science did back her up. An article published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 1978 cited that “tight fitting undergarments made of synthetic material” increase the risk of urinary tract infections in children.

Unfortunately the article has no evidence or studies to back it up and thus I can safely say that Mama was in fact severely mislead. But with age comes wisdom and I would like to think that 30 years later, we are smarter about our bodies and the fabrics we place upon them.

Three decades of panties and briefs and thongs should be enough time along with a substantial generation of women to “shake the bacterial myths” from any tree of knowledge?

The generation before me spent a decade burning their bras. The generation of women after me has spent countless time showing said bras to the world. Shouldn’t there be a bit of evidence behind my mother’s urban underwear myth?

I ponder these life altering questions as I am now too near to 40 and still stuck in cotton briefs. Make no mistake, I call them “boy shorts” now so as to be cool. But really, the are just a small styling choice away from being “granny Panties”.

I have tried thongs. Hell I even spent $25 at Holt’s last week in the name of research on a pair of lacy “Hanky Pankies”. They have been recommended to me as the most “comfortable thong in the world”. I rushed home. I washed and laid them out to dry. The next day, I put on said lacy devils and realized that yes they may be the most comfortable thongs I’ll ever wear… however, I HATE thongs. Can’t handle the whole up the but thing. Never will. And if an expensive and trendy piece of clothing won’t cure my dislike for all things thong…. Nothing will.

It’s my dear Mama and her pantie rantings. I can not shake the need for cotton briefs. It’s as ingrained in my psyche as brushing my teeth before bed. I was hiking in the Andes mountains last winter and still found the water source to brush up before crawling into a tent for the night.

As for thong underwear, there is theoretical risk of increased urinary tract infections due to the fact that fabric from the underwear touches both the anal area and the vaginal area. That being said…. Good hygiene is everyone’s responsibility. To be blunt… wipe well and you have earned the right to wear a thong. There is in fact no hard evidence pointing to thong underwear as a source of increase bladder infections in women.

An 2003 study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology looked t risk factors for vaginal yeast infections in over 1100 Italian women from eight different hospital or university gynecology clinics throughout Italy. Of 1138 patients recruited in the study, 931 were evaluable. A recent history of vaginal yeast infection was documented in 43.5% patients (358/823) with a mean number of 2.9±2.7 episodes per patient (N=302). A total of 77 patients (10.0%) had a history of recurrent infections defined as four and more episodes in a 12-month period. Of these 77 women more than 1/3 were related to life style. Such risk factors as synthetic fabric underwear, vaginal douching and bike, training bike and motorbike use were cited. The numbers were too small howvere to calculate any actual risk.

So the evidence continues to be controversial at best. I really did want to like the lace underwear, my dear cybersisters…. Science be damned. There was no evidence to the contrary.

Do I feel better wearing cotton underwear? No. Not at all. For I wear said natural fibres while riding my bike to work and back each day. According to the Italians… I just can’t win. Perhaps this is why a generation of women burned their bras in the first place.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yo Dreamweaver

Confession time dear girlfriends… yes it’s Tuesday and I feel the need to spill. Who needs a shrink when you have the Internet I always say? I’m worried that in my older years I may becoming a little bit cynical.

Don’t laugh out loud…. I realize I am not the eternal optimist of our generation. I do have my hopeful qualities nonetheless…. I have faith that my perfect outfit is just around the corner.

Still somehow I have come to believe a fairytale is that bullshit story we tell ourselves in order to go to sleep at night. (Personally, I like to fall asleep to the sound of reality television playing in the background).

Remember when we were kids and the fairytale reigned supreme. Remember our role models growing up? Cinderella and Snow White and Rapunzell?

These bitches messed us up big time.

Good old Cinderella works her ass off for a family unit that treats her like a slave and one night POOF she goes to a ball in a great dress, leave her shoe at the door and walks away two days later as a princess.

Snow White cleaned up after 7 little men in what can only be considered a Disney version of a frat house. One day she meets a witch who poisons her (literally) but is rescued by a prince and with one kiss hits the mother load.

Rapunzel was locked in a castle with the need for a deep condition and sure enough she let her hair down and her world became magical.

Were these the women we were supposed to emulate? Work hard; suffer for the cause and one day your prince will come?

Remember the saying “Shoot for the moon and if you fall, at least you will catch a star’? Who in their right mind tells a child such horseshit?

Thereafter my bedtime fairytales became a series of aspiration indices. I remember from then on instantly thinking that the world owed me big time.

If I worked hard and paid my dues…. The world would stand and deliver. I studied hard in school and made sure I aced most tests. When you are in grade school doing exceptionally well on a scholastic endeavor is really not the sport of champions.

Let’s be honest- as long as you have a decent memory and are not into drugs and alcohol- junior high is pretty much a sure thing. Apart from my big hair, bad fashion choices and chubby misdemeanors, grade 7-10 were mine for the taking.

Years passed and I went on going to bed each night thinking that life was mine for the taking and I should in fact get a return on my investment whatever that may be.

It seemed like a logical thing in my mind- if I tried my best and worked hard and did what I was told…. Life would pay me back big time.

And then I learned that the world did NOT owe me and that sometimes…. Despite our best intentions we shoot for the moon and fall on our ass.

Case and point: I turned 16 and went for my drivers test. I had read all the manuals and practiced the drivers test until I was blue in the face. I was ready to be a licensed driver. I could parallel park for Canada. I was number one in my Drivers’ Ed class. I was the best student driver they had ever seen.

I failed my test on the first try. I hit the pylons trying to parallel park and was immediately ejected from the contest so to speak. I was crushed. Life was shit.

I shot for the moon and caught…. Shit. No stars, nothing. The world had officially let me down.

Yes, this was my right of passage and little did I know at the time that my first failure of many would not leave as big a scar on my psych as I thought.  

Now a days I am faced with the constant realization that life sometimes does not make sense. Good decent people get really bad cancers and Snooky has her own book deal. Enough said.

I don’t mean to burst your optimistic bubbles… I do still want us all to dream big. I just think it’s time once in a while for us to face the fact that  sometimes- our dreams are just that…. DREAMS.

Look- I would love to be a fashion stylist. I would love to spend my days sitting in the front rows of designer shows from Paris to Milan. But try as I might the closest I am going to get to New York City Fashion week is drinking a skinny latte while reading the fashion section of Sunday’s New York Times.

Once we learn that not everyone gets what she deserves in life we can in fact soldier on.  I think it’s okay to dream as long as I realize it’s only just that- it’s me in my head and not me planning ahead.

Do remember Barbie? The bitch had everything? She had a great body and a perfect boyfriend and she looked good in polyester sparkles? Hell she even had a pink camper van. Did I want to BE Barbie? Not really…. But for the hour or so each night that I dressed that blonde bombshell up and pranced her around my basement- I was okay with a world where a broad like Barbie just did not exist.

Back then my expectations were suspended and I could just dream.

I wonder when it all went wrong…. When we no longer just wanted to play with the blonde in the sequence ball gown- instead we got it into our heads that we wanted to BE the blonde in the sequence ball gown.

Remember how I told you I failed my drivers’ test the first time out? Three months later- I took the test again and passed. Twenty-five years later- I hate driving and would prefer a driver to a license any day.

As study published in the New York Times in 2010 showed that 70% of women were disillusioned with their sex lives, 30% were disillusioned with their relationships and 45% were disillusioned with motherhood. 65% of women were disenchanted with their jobs and career… there is a unity in what we want to do over, no?

Should we tell our daughters to just settle in or should we still encourage them to “dream big”? I wonder. I have two nieces whom I love to death and I am always telling them that they can be whatever they want to. Am I doing them a big disservice? Should I instead tell them to balance their expectations with their level of commitment taking into account their own limitations from a socioeconomic standpoint?

What the Fuck? I catch myself saying those words out loud; dear girlfriends and I want to smack my own mouth.

Here I am working it through. Most of the time this blog is for my cyber sisters… to learn and be entertained… Today this blog’s for the little girl in all of us who lost her way along the way… for the one who forgot to dress up last week just because she could.

For even I, on this moist cynical of Tuesdays, I have learned that I should still dream. I can still put on a great pair of Dior boots after a bad day and walk around the house and pretend I have somewhere fabulous and important to go. I can forget about matching my expectations with my reality and I can suspend belief for long enough to know that although that skirt is not age or work appropriate…. I am Cinderella and my time is now.

Thanks for listening to my rant, my sisters of mercy. If you will excuse me- I must fetch old Barbie out of storage and go dwell in the possibilities.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fear No Evil

My dear girlfriends, shall I be so bold as to confess to you that I am, shall we say, a bit of a “fraidey cat” so to speak? Let’s me clear- when it comes to fears I realize that I have some of the usual ones that most human being share. For example- dying.

I’m not so much afraid of dying as I am not eager to do it just yet. Furthermore- if I go, untimely or not- I hope it’s not really painful. Yes, I’m afraid of the dentist (I hate the whole needle in the mouth thing) and most definitely I’m not a little scared of really small plane that could fall out of the sky at a moments notice. I suppose however that ties into the whole painful untimely death thing.

But lately I’ve been thinking about more the irrational fears that people all have and what makes one person scream in terror from a spider while another can own a tarantula for a pet?

Perhaps some background for my cyber sisters….. A few months ago my beloved asked me to go see a horror movie with him. I will mention the movie (Cabin in the Woods) only to enrich the plot of this story and not to provide a plug for this film. Girlfriends- I don’t support this flick. Look- I’m not saying DON’T see the movie- go for it- you are grown girlfriends- this just isn’t an endorsement, that’s all- let’s move on.

I am not a fan of horror films. I never understood the point of sitting in the dark and being frightened for sport. No judgement to those of my girlfriends who like a little terror in a formal setting. I never understood the point of paying for fear. As my girlfriends know I’m a fan  of racking up a credit card bill for chic Italian boots and not something that makes me shake in them.

But it got me thinking about fears and phobias. I don’t mean the big fears so much as of the irrational fears. You know, the things that we are scared of and have no reason behind it. Have you ever wondered about the things that give you a chill up your spine and for which you can’t explain?  Sure there are the usual ones…. Spiders and snakes and horror movies. But what about the weird phobias?

Here is a laundry list of things I am afraid of:
1.     SHARKS. Yes, I have an irrational fear of sharks. I cannot look at a picture of a great white without losing my shit. Make no mistake, I do not mind swimming in the ocean- in fact I rather enjoy it. For some reason I never even think about the sharks when I do an open water swim. But stick me in front of a photo of jaws and I’m reduced to a whilly nilly. Go figure.

2.     PLANETARIUMS: Crazy, no? I cannot sit in a planetarium and look up at whatever night sky show they are showing without holding someone’s hand and taking an ativan. Yes, it’s truly bizarre but something I live with.

3.     MINISKIRTS AND STIRRUP PANTS. My legs are not my best feature. I do love wearing skirts and dresses but a miniskirt is never my dress of choice. I fear that a day may come when miniskirt or leggings will be the only selection available. Then will I have to raise my hem length in the name of fashion? On that day my sisters…. Stick me in a shark tank in the middle of a planetarium. I’m done.

Studies show that somewhere between 5% and 12% of Americans have experienced some sort of phobia. Women are two to three times as likely to have phobias than men.

The three basic phobias are social phobias, agoraphobia (fear of open spaces or item specific phobias THE DSM-IV (psychiatry bible so to speak has separated specific phobias into four basic categories:
Animal- my shark issue
Situational- flying for example
Blood injury- such as needles or giving blood
Nature-environment- such as thunderstorms

Though the experience of phobias is relatively common and their physical characteristics are generally well understood, there is no real consensus on the neurobiological basis of phobias. Scientist can’t really agree on what makes a phobia come to being.

There are a few psychological models that exist to try and explain why for example I pee in my pants at the sight of a shark and another sister pays hundreds of dollars just to go swimming with them.

Most people do not recall having an initial negative interaction or trauma associated with their phobia. Similarly, there are many cases where people never come in contact with their phobic stimulus (that which they are afraid of ). For example, many people who have flying phobias have never actually been on a plane. In fact, almost half of all phobic people have never had a painful experience with the object of their fear.

Dr. Martin Seligman a scientific authority on phobias suggest that there is a primitive evolutionary influence to them- we are conditioned to fear certain things over centuries in order to ensure our survival. He proposes that phobias exist as a result of certain preexisting neurological connections that exist evolutionarily. These connections are turned on with relative ease.

The most convincing evidence in support of the evolutionary model of phobias is provided by fear conditioning experiments using rhesus monkeys. Wild rhesus monkeys fear snakes while domestic rhesus, unless conditioned, do not. In the experiment the scientist filmed wild rhesus monkeys being exposed to snakes. Needless to say the wild rhesus monkeys went ballistic.  The scientist then showed domestic rhesus monkeys snakes and nothing happened. However after showing the domestic rhesus monkeys the videos of their wild brothers and sister losing it over the snakes, the domestic monkey became afraid. When these now conditioned domestic monkeys were shown a snake, they lost they became some pretty frightened monkeys. And again in the name of science we scare the shit out of a bunch of perfectly happy monkeys…. Go figure.  

Many people have turned to the brain in order to understand the biological circuitry behind phobias. The amygdala is located in the dorsomedial portion of the temporal lobe, has been proved to be intricately tied in with the brain's perceptions of fear. A portion of the amygdala known as the lateral nucleus is particularly responsible for fear responses. The amygdala receives signals from such areas as the olfactory system, the hypothalamus, the cerebral cortex, and the brain stem.  

This means that our “fear centre” of our brain gets influenced by our smell centre, our pleasure/pain centre,  our cerebral cortex which controls higher thinking and our brain stem which controls our body’s innate functions such as heart rate, breathing, etc.

The amygdala then sends signals in turn to the cerebral cortex and the thalamus and brain stem. In the cerebral cortex, the thinking part of our brain, the fear becomes crystallized in our memory. In the brain stem and thalamus the fear elicits  physical response (nausea, palpitations panic). This is one proposed theory about how our brain’s chemistry is involved in making our fears a reality. But like most things in science there is much work to be done.

And so my sisters another week ends. I’ll never know why I’m scared of the things I’m afraid of. Maybe its brain chemistry or my ancestral brain sending me a survival message for the future. When it comes to my fear of miniskirts, I am certainly grateful to my sisters before me for the head’s up.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Sands of Time

As I write this, my girlfriends, I am within spitting distance of the Alberta Oil Sands. No my girlfriends, I am not working the rigs... instead I am doing a little Intensive Care Medicine in Fort McMurray, ALberta.

For those of you who have never been to Fort Mac- heads up- it is the Sodom and Gomora of Canada. No disrespect to this little town who treated me so kindly and was the best medicine I've seen in a while- but here's the deal, my girlfriends- the town is full of young men who work on the rigs and make an obscene amount of money. Put a bunch of 20 somethings ina town with nothing to do on a saturday night but illicit substances and give them enough money to take more than the daily requirements of ecstasy and you have a fascinating study of what the human body was never meant to do.

Enter yours truly, my cybersisters- just a city girl in search of a place to practice good medicine and well- what my eyes have seen. One week on call in the Intensive Care Unit with an August long  weekend thrown in for extra medical fun. I will not delve into the effects of too much alcohol consumption on the mind of a 25 year old man.

What I do want to delve into is the fact that the town I am working in is built around an oil plant. What, dear girlfriends, does living in the close proximity of a sea of fluorocarbons do to a girl (or boy or cow for that matter)?

A study published in Environment International in May, 2004 looked at the rate of Preterm delivery in Taiwanese women. The study found that women living near oil refineries in Taiwan were 20% more likely to have preterm deliveries than those living in other areas.

Given that I am not and never have been pregnant, this does not phase me in any way shape or form.

The International Journal of Epidemiology in 2002 published a study looking at the geographical differences in cancer in the Amazon basin based on proximity to oil refineries. Since 1972, oil companies have extracted more then 2 billion barrels of oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The relative risk of cancers of the stomach, colon, kidney and skin were dramatically higher in those people living in close proximity to oil fields in Ecuador.

Again, the fact that I am nowhere near the Amazon is not lost on me.

A further Italian study in 2002 published in the Archives of Environmental Health looked at the cancer rates in Italy between 1980 and 1997. When controlling for all other risk factors (such as family history and smoking) there was an increase risk in cancers of the lung, colon, bladder and increased rates of leukemia in association with living proximity to industrial plants.

There is little data on the health risks of “visitors” to the refinery but I am assuming there has to be a bit of a “dose response”. In other words, when it comes to cancer risk…. one week at a time is a relatively low dose of exposure relative to living next to an oil refinery… It’s a nice place to visit but I would not want to live there.

Forgive me if I am on an “oil rampage” right now.

Perhaps I am a little paranoid these days- I've switched my Melatonin supplier and have found that it is making me have the most reassuring but mind altering nightmares...

I must admit- I feel a bit guilty over the fact that I take full advantage of these oil sands in my daily life but worry about their proximity to me in the real world.

Yes, I continue to try to do my best to reduce my carbon foot print but really- I suspect my shoes do expend some earthly resources in order to come to be.

I know there is no comparison. I can only hope this planet will heal. I know I am a hypocrite. I participate in the benefits of the industrial revolution but hate to accept when the risks take hold. My BTU’s alone are an insult to humanity. I will try and do my little part. I will try and be as “green” as possible. I will carbon offset my ass off.

And every time I stand over a young man in the Emergency room in Fort McMurray and ask him how much cocaine he took in order to cause his heart attack, I will remember that everything in this world has a place and a purpose. As for mine? The line's a bit fuzzy right now.. perhaps it is the fumes from the pits.