Not To Be Trusted With Knives

I’m planning to donate blood.

OK, “stupid” probably isn’t the best word. Giving blood is important. People need blood and it has to come from somewhere. Blood doesn’t grow on trees, you know. Perhaps “paralyzingly terrifying” is a better term. You see, I am deathly afraid of needles. In fact, I’m getting woozy just writing this posting.

Sarah can attest to my unreasonable fear of needles. After all, she was present the only time I ever gave blood, way back in high school. I had recently turned 17, the minimum age for giving blood, and there was a blood drive at our high school. I felt that I really should give blood, despite the fact that I usually cry like a little baby when anyone comes anywhere near me with a needle. I distinctly remember Mr. Burt, one of the teachers and the director of the play that Sarah & I were in at the time, making fun of me for being such a big baby as I waited in line, white with fear. Sarah was still 16 at the time so, since she couldn’t give blood, she ran back and forth between my cot and the cot of another person who also had the deathly fear, trying to keep us calm as we sat there with huge needles piercing our veins, nay, piercing our very souls, sucking our life’s blood from us! She was also the one who pushed the chair underneath me as I blacked out on my way from my cot to the juice table! Mr. Burt later recounted to me that he felt like quite an asshole for making fun of me when he saw me collapsing from across the school gym shortly after calling me a big baby. As he should have.

Now, you may think that blacking out is a bad thing, but as they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonades, ya? I’ve parlayed that one second of unconsciousness into 13 years of “I can’t give blood, I black out.” And for quite a while, I managed to not feel (too) guilty about it.

But last year, Jay talked about giving blood on her blog. And the guilty feelings started to appear. Every so often, the idea squirmed its way into my brain – “You are fortunate that you are healthy. You could help out someone who really needs it!”* I even looked into it, but I discovered that I was below the minimum weight. So my excuse became, “I’d love to give, but they won’t let me!” That one’s even better than my wimpy “I black out” excuse, as it’s not my fault they won’t take my blood. But it has been on my mind. And since I’ve put on a couple pounds, I’m just over that minimum weight. Dammit.

So, last week when I saw a poster up on campus that a group from the Ag Sci faculty is getting together to give blood this Friday, I decided, against my better judgement, to email and say “hey, can I join you?” Of course, I have had a cold for about a week and if it isn’t better by Friday, I will have an out, as “full recovery” is required if you have had a cold, flu or sore throat. So the big baby in me is hoping that I still have a cough when Friday comes around. But the bigger person in me hopes I’m better**. Because I have blood and “it’s in me to give,” right?

Well, that brings me to one big problem I have with Canadian Blood Services – their discriminatory practices that mean that, for many people, their blood isn’t in them to give, despite what the commercials say. In particular, check out this question from the screening form:

Male donors: Have you had sex with a man, even one time since 1977?

If you are a man that has had sex with a man, even once in the last 30 years, you can’t give blood. Period. You also can’t give blood if you’ve taken money or drugs for sex (or paid someone money or drugs for sex). But there aren’t any questions to assess if you have had sex with lots and lots of people. The closest is question 28, which reads:

In the past 6 months, have you had sex with someone whose sexual background you don’t know?

But you could have unprotected sex with say, a different person every night, and as long as they didn’t pay you and you asked them about their sexual history, you’d be allowed to donate. Whereas a gay man who has been in a monogamous relationship for the last 30 years would not be allowed. Basically, hetero sluts can donate, but gays and whores cannot. And why only a 6 month limit on straight sex with strangers, but a 30 year limit on men having sex with men?

However, despite my dismay with their discrimination, Canadian Blood Services is the only provider of blood in Canada. And people get sick or injured and need blood, and it’s not their fault that CBS discriminates. They may suffer because perfectly healthy potential donors aren’t allowed to provide them with much needed blood, and I don’t feel like boycotting CBS and further decreasing the blood supply will help. Perhaps writing to CBS, to the government, and just raising the profile of this issue will help.

*and as the list of all the people I know who were injured or sick or died continued to grow last year, the idea seemed more and more important.
**that, and I’m sick of coughing and sneezing and being tired all day long.

My friend Phillip told me about this article called “Say Everything” in New York Magazine. It’s an article about how comfortable young people are with revealing information about themselves on the internet. If you want to read Phillip‘s take on it (and/or the comments on his blog from an educator cited in the article wherein I am legitamized as a “freelance scientist, educator, artist, model and social engineer*“), check it out here. But I want to talk about a slightly different aspect of the article.

Anyone who knows me, or has been reading my blog for a while know that I am a bit of an internet junkie. And just the other day (before having read this article), I was mentioning to Danielle how easy it would be to stalk me – you can probably find out where I am at any given time from my msn tagline, my facebook status, or my blog. I’m pretty willing to share a lot about my life with the world at large**. And of course, the “prevailing wisdom” of “anyone over the age of 30,”*** as mentioned in the article, is that doing so is dangerous. But, as Dani pointed out to me, we’d be easy to stalk regardless – it’s not that hard to follow someone and see where they go, what their routine is, when they are alone, etc****. Similarly, the article points out:

“Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones.”

The idea of maintaining your privacy by not putting yourself out there:

“… might be an artifact—quaint and naïve, like a determined faith that virginity keeps ladies pure. Or at least that might be true for someone who has grown up “putting themselves out there” and found that the benefits of being transparent make the risks worth it.”

That is the part of the article that really spoke to me. That the “benefits of being transparent make the risks worth it.” As you may know, I recently got divorced****. And as you probably only know if you are one of my close friends, I kept my separation secret for a long, long time. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to end my marriage or if it could be saved. And I didn’t want to be influenced by what other people said, I wanted to make up my mind on my own. But mostly, I felt humiliated and didn’t want my family and friends to think less of me. Even when my ex moved out, I didn’t tell my parents, my sister, my closest friends. But the longer I kept the secret, the more isolated I felt from everyone I cared about. At the same time, I was reading blogs – blogs of people that I didn’t really know who put their lives out there for all the world to read. And I yearned to be even half as open as they were. I came to realize that I couldn’t truly be close to anyone unless I let them in, unless I made myself vulnerable, unless I took that risk. Eventually, when I had spent enough time deliberating and going to counselling to work through things in order to make my decision that the marriage was truly over, I told my friends and my family everything that had gone on. And that step, that openness, brought me closer to them than I ever had been before. Taking that risk, becoming transparent, despite the fear, despite my insecurities, despite having never really opened up like that before, were so unbelievably beneficial to me. Putting myself out there and saying “this is who I am, this is what I’ve been through” really helped me to connect with others, because I was letting them in, letting them know me more deeply than I had before. And my friends and family were there for me 100%. No one thought less of me, no one blamed me and every single one of them told me how much they loved me and understood me and supported me*****. I know this seems like I’m getting way off tangent from the article I am ostensibly discussing, but this is what the article got me thinking about. And it does relate – putting yourself out there, while risky, is, in my opinion, worth it. And putting yourself out there to a worldwide audience is just an extension of this. I’m often surprised by how many people out there will say something on their blog and I think I know exactly what you mean. Or how I will say something on my blog and it will resonate with others. And I’m sure there are moments where I say things that spark something in someone that I will never know about – after all, the people whose blogs I read that taught me how to be open probably have no idea that they had this profound effect on me.

Other quotations from the article along the same lines include:

“…the potential for self-documentation to deepen the intimacy of daily life.”

“This is Jakob’s [the co-founder of Vimeo and co-creater of] vision: a place where topless photos are no big deal—but also where everyone can be known, simply by making him- or herself a bit vulnerable.”

“In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with friends.”

Another quotation from the article that spoke to me was:

“All sorts of opportunities—romantic, professional, creative—seem to Xiyin to be directly linked to her willingness to reveal herself a little.”

Again, this is something to which I can totally relate. I have friends, including the aforementioned Phillip, that I have met through online ventures (Facebook, blogging, etc.). I even scored myself wicked cool free pens and a signed copy of the Heathen’s Guide to World Religions****** based on my blog postings. You never know what opportunities may arise. Although I have often wondered if I have no job because potential employers have Googled me and found this site… which brings me to this quotation:

“It’s a form of communication that requires a person to be constantly aware that anything you say can and will be used against you, but somehow not to mind.”

I’ve said before that if someone Googled me and didn’t hire me based on something they read on my blog, then that is a person I don’t want to work with. This is who I am and if you can’t deal with that, then perhaps it’s best we not try to collaborate. Of course, as my bank account balance rapidly approaches 0, my opinion on this may change.

And finally, one of the young people in the article says,:

“To me, or to a lot of people, it’s like, why go to a party if you’re not going to get your picture taken?”

So true. See here, here, here, here, here, here and here for more.

*that’s right, a site on the internets that is *not written by me* says that I’m a model. And that I have model friends.
**although there are a few things that I never talk about here in the blogosphere. Things that I have consciously decided to keep out of the public domain.
***of course, I take exception to the constant use of the phrase “anyone over 30” to represent “old people” in this article.. wait a sec, I’m not over 30… nevermind, it’s all good =)
****please don’t stalk me
*****dammit, that was one of the things that I never talk about on my blog!
******I should say here that I had no rational reason to think that my friends and family would not be supportive. This was all my own issues, not theirs.
*******That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to blog the story of my signed copy of the Heathen’s Guide.

I think I’m going to post a version of this on IndieBloggers.

et cetera