Salome Valentine

42 posts
Salome Valentine is an American living near Puerto Vallarta, where she is the humble servant to two Mini Schnauzers. Her blogs are: Liberated Liberal Libertine, Conversations In My Mind, + Sensual Transcendence (NSFW). Email: [email protected]

Study Shows Most Baby Products Contain Toxic Chemicals

A study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has shown that eighty percent of baby products – from nursing pillows to car seats and strollers – contain chemical flame retardants that are either untested or already known to be toxic, according to a report released Wednesday.

The study focused on flame retardants because the chemicals have been closely associated with many health issues, such as heightened risks for thyroid and endocrine dysfunction, reproductive problems and cancer. Some of the chemicals have been banned or voluntarily removed from some products but not others. Read more here, at Comment.

How Flaky People Are Good For The Environment

Slobs, take heed: a recent study performed by a Danish chemist shows that the same dust we hurriedly remove from all the surfaces of our home when guests visit is actually helping keep the air inside clean, reducing ozone levels by 2 to 15 percent. The scientist discovered that oil in dead human skin cells can break down ozone, which can be damaging to human lungs.  Read more here, at Comment

Could These Be Better Than Prozac?

In a 2002 study done at SUNY Albany, 293 college women answered questionnaires about their sexual histories and took the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), a commonly used criterion for gauging depression symptoms. Women who always had sex with men without using condoms had significantly lower levels of symptoms of depression than those who never or infrequently had unprotected sex, as well as those who abstained from sex entirely. There was no noticeable difference in depression between condom users and people who didn’t have sex, indicating that intercourse itself wasn’t the mood-boosting factor.

Continue reading

Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

There’s an old adage that says, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But what about close friends who have relationships with people that you don’t like and—more importantly—don’t trust? It can put you in an undesirable position whether you consider them to be hostile to you directly or solely bad to, and for, your friend.

I had a much-beloved friend (I’ll call her Leila) who married a man after dating him for less than a year. Before her engagement she had asked me earnestly what I thought of her then-boyfriend (I’ll call him Robert). I decided to censor my intuitive assessment of him in favor of saying what I thought Leila wanted to hear. So I offered, “He seems like a really nice guy”, and neglected to add, “but he’s also got definite control-freak tendencies and he’s way too possessive of you.”

I’d watched Leila endure a bad breakup from a longtime lover not long before she met Robert. She seemed head over heels in love and I wanted her to enjoy happiness for a change. It was clear to me that Robert was her rebound relationship, but I felt that Leila needed positive reinforcement more than a reality check.

Fast-forward to three years after their elaborate fairytale wedding at a lush estate in the rolling verdant hills of California wine country. Leila spent several years discovering the depths of Robert’s petty, controlling ways. Nothing improved with couples therapy and Leila finally filed for divorce. Their convoluted disagreement was not only over pecuniary matters, but over far more poignant matters of the heart.

Since the couple had never had children Robert manipulated Leila the way that he knew would be most successful, he denied Leila visitation of their two dogs until she made financial concessions that she never would have agreed to otherwise. I sat with Leila numerous times over several months as she cried her heart out over missing her precious pups. There was never an appropriate time to say, even gently, “I told you so”; it would have added insult to injury and, to my regret, I hadn’t told her so to begin with.

In hindsight, I have often wondered if I did her a disservice by not revealing my honest assessment of Robert’s personality from the very beginning. Would it have made a difference in her decision to marry him? Would it have prevented her from drifting away from our friendship after her divorce? It’s impossible for me to say, but I do know that if I had to do it all over again, I would have definitely told Leila the truth of what I saw.

When friends choose friends who are more like enemies, what do you do?

Bipolar Disorder Beyond the Headlines

Author’s Note: It has been brought to my attention by an insightful reader that this post could be perceived as presenting psychiatric maxims and advice. I want to be clear for anyone reading this that I have no psychiatric or medical training. This post is written purely from the perspective of a layperson with bipolar disorder and is not intended to diagnose, treat or judge any illness or disorder. I apologize retroactively for any lack of clarity on my part.

In a recent Crasstalk comment thread, I made the mistake of writing the sentence “Catherine Zeta Jones is pretending to be in rehab for bipolar disorder.” Although it was certainly not my intention, my very poor choice of words made it seem that I was flippantly saying that Ms. Jones was faking her illness. Perhaps my comment is even worse considering that I do know much better than to make light (even unintentionally) of serious matters.

In hindsight, I know that I should have clarified my point by writing, “Catherine Zeta Jones’ publicist says that she is in rehab for bipolar disorder.” The point I was trying to make is that for an A-list actor, the stigma of admitting to treatment in a psychiatric facility is far greater than the stigma associated with going to rehab. My theory is that drug addicts – regardless of the severity of their addiction – can always say their behavior was a result of temporary weakness, whereas people with mental illness are often viewed as inherently and irrevocably defective. Chemical imbalances in the brain that must be treated with medication are deemed far worse than chemical imbalances in the body that require medication.

Ms. Jones has been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, which is markedly different from bipolar I. (Bipolar II is characterized by more lows than highs, and the highs are rarely manic. Bipolar I is characterized by less severe lows and intermittent manic highs.) But I think the media lumps the two together because it’s more “exciting” to potentially have a manic-behaving celebrity, as in the case of Britney Spears’ paparazzi-fueled meltdown and hospitalization. But regardless, I think that arguing over degrees of mental illness is both missing the point and enhancing the stigma. I also think that the media’s tendency to publicly “out” people as being bipolar – even if they are exhibiting clear symptoms of the disorder – is victim-shaming at its worst. (Charlie Sheen comes to mind.)

Not every celebrity can be as open as, say, Carrie Fisher, who publicly talks about taking 8 different meds to manage her bipolar I disorder. I can understand a famous person not wanting to be painted with the mental illness brush. I think Catherine Zeta Jones is to be admired for acknowledging it. Of course, the extenuating circumstances of the personal stress she’s been under have clearly been a factor, but she could have instead chosen to say that she was suffering from exhaustion and face far less public scrutiny.

The brouhaha which my crass comment regarding Ms. Jones created in the comments has made me rethink my own situation. Despite my ebullient friendliness online, in many ways, I am a private person. I didn’t want to offer up as a defense for my remarks the fact that I have bipolar I disorder, because I didn’t want to be perceived as (1) insane, (2) self-hating or (3) unsupportive of other bipolar people, none of which is the case at all. I was merely recognizing the social stigma of the disorder – a stigma so great that it leads to inpatient psychiatric care being euphemistically referred to as rehab, and creates a hierarchy between “good” bipolar (II) and “bad” bipolar (I).

Having dealt with bipolar disorder consistently for eleven years (I was diagnosed a decade earlier) I can tell you that it’s challenging at times, but as long as I’m on top of things, I can consciously forestall circumstances spiraling out of my control. I take only one medication and manage my moods and thoughts quite diligently. Sleep is the best leveler I know of, and I make a concerted effort to keep my body healthy and balanced in all other ways as well. Bipolar disorder does not have to be a dramatic, violent life-interruptor, although mania is often portrayed that way on TV and in movies. It helps to have supportive people in your life; everyone close to me is well aware that I am bipolar, and my family and closest friends don’t judge me for it.

It is my intention to clear up the misunderstanding I created by offering a piece of my personal experience. It is obviously my hope that those reading this will open their minds to the possibility that bipolar disorder – and mental illness in general – is not the death sentence many people have been led to believe. There are varying degrees of the disorder, and I know that I am fortunate to have a milder version of bipolar I. Rather than look at it as a curse, I prefer to look at it the way Jimi Hendrix did: “Manic depression is touching my soul.”

UPDATE: bens made a fantastic — and crucial — comment that deserves to be in the body of this post. He offered some explicit clarification regarding the connection between drug abuse and mental illness that I had completely missed. Here is his comment in its entirety:

Drug addiction is a mental illness. You are mentally ill if you are a drug addict, plain and simple. Not everybody who goes to rehab or goes to a psychiatric facility for “drug addiction” is a drug addict, but for those who are genuine drug addicts there’s no way you can say its not a mental illness.

And then you get to the problem whereby many different mental illnesses mimic symptoms. You could be doing drugs because you’re depressed, have bipolar disorder, have a geniune addiction to drugs, because you’re self medicating anxiety symptoms, etc. There’s a lot of overlap and misdiagnosis.

The first thing anyone will tell a patient seeking help at a rehab is that “you can’t easily put the toothpaste back in the tube.” Its something that doesn’t go away.

For CZJ, she probably went to a dual-diagnosis rehab, to get the appropriate level of care. She’s most likely abusing substances, hence the rehab. Just going to a psych facility not tailored to treat her addiction would only be treating part of the problem.

On Being Bullied

Author’s Note:
I’ve added some links throughout this post to bring a little levity to a serious subject.

There has been much in the news in recent times regarding the increase in bullying in schools. My heart goes out to the children of this generation, because with text messages, Photoshop, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (among many others), the possibilities for being tormented have drastically increased since I was in high school. This is my recollection of being harassed and intimidated in a time before technology made life utterly unbearable for the bullied.

When I was fourteen, I attended a progressive high school in New York City for my freshman year. While I loved the unusual format and variety of the classes, I was something of a social outcast and a hermit. When I did interact, I usually hung out with other socially inept nerds who were also good students. But mostly, I ensconced myself in self-imposed isolation.

Unbeknownst to me, I had a stalker, a girl in my grade who would follow me around and try to make friends with me. My intuition said to avoid her, but I quickly learned that this was not appeasing her at all. Stacey got progressively more aggressive as a result of my ignoring her, to the point where she scrawled “Witch! 666!” all over my hall and gym lockers. She repeatedly tried to take pictures of me undressing in the locker room.  I received several late-night phone calls from her where she would whisper in sinister tones that I, the “stuck-up bitch” was going to “get what I deserved.” Things came to a head in gym class, when she hurled a basketball at my stomach with such force that I spent the rest of the day under observation in the nurse’s office.

Fortunately for me, my mother became aware of what was going on. (I was too mortified to tell anyone.) She made an appointment with the Assistant Principal and calmly informed her that she was going to sue the school system if my tormentor was not expelled. My mother’s ire was effective, and Stacey was indeed expelled. I later learned that her entire motivation for trying to get my attention – including her extreme tactics – was because she had an unrequited crush on me. I had been completely clueless that this was even a possibility.

As a result of the trauma I’d endured at my Brooklyn high school, I moved in with my grandparents to their house in Sullivan County (roughly 75 miles north of NYC).  For my sophomore year, I enrolled at the local school, which — given the much smaller population — was a combination of junior and senior high school, which encompassed grades 7 through 12. Given the lack of stimulation of the rural area, many of the students entertained themselves with drugs and promiscuous sex. It was tremendous culture shock to be around so many decidedly non-serious students. One of my 10th grade classmates, a charmer named Butch, was eighteen years old at the start of the school year.  He would routinely serenade the class by pounding on his desk and singing the chorus of “White Lines”, a cautionary song about cocaine abuse.  (Butch had clearly missed the cautionary part.)  His disparaging nickname for me was “Goody Two Shoes.”

I befriended my teachers and a couple other nerdy/smart kids in my class, and I thought I was doing fine.  In fact, I was doing fine, until I encountered the wrath of a classmate who appropriately shared a name with the killer car in the Stephen King novel. Christine was a pretty and popular but less-than-bright girl who hated me on sight. She scorned my big city background, my large vocabulary, my comparative innocence — I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs or have sex — and my fondness for the lone Asian kid in our class (who was one of only a handful of minorities in the entire school). In addition, Christine openly mocked my favorite light pink hooded sweatsuit that I wore to gym class. This quickly earned me my second nickname: “The Pink Panther.”

One day, in the soccer field during practice, she kicked the ball and deliberately hit me in the face, resulting in a déjà vu visit to the nurse’s office. The gym teacher chalked it up as an accident, but I knew it definitely hadn’t been one. It wasn’t until Christine pushed me down a flight of stairs that the administrators finally acknowledged there was a problem. (Thankfully, they were stairs with a landing in between floors, so I was bruised but not seriously hurt.)

My grandparents took me out of school, since expelling Christine only solved part of my problems with the school.  My teachers helped me out by arranging a home-school program for me to finish out the school year. In the summer, I returned to Brooklyn, and I nearly kissed the ground there when I arrived. The experience taught me that it was far better for me to live in a challenging but intellectually thriving place than to try to retreat to rural isolation. After that point, I was fortunate in that I never had another problem with bullies or mean girls.

I have tremendous compassion and empathy for all the kids who have to deal with unprovoked attacks on a regular basis just to get through the school year. I hope that some of these children are fortunate enough (as I was) to have parents and family members who are advocates and supporters. To any of you who’ve dealt with similar difficult circumstances, I hope that it’s helped you and in some way made you a stronger person.  As always, you are welcome to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

In closing, the following clip is a beautiful, gently cathartic song designed to raise your self-esteem. (You may be crying by the end of it.)

“How could anyone ever tell you
you were anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you
you were less than whole?”

Romance Novel Improv For Beginners

This odd improvisational experiment began as a dialogue in the comments between me and Mothergooch, and has grown into… something else.  After you read the beginnings of our improvisational romance novel, feel free to add your own input to the story in the comments. Don’t worry about consistency, just try to stay true to who you perceive the characters to be.  We’ll see where — and in how many different directions — it winds up, but this is how it began:

Mothergooch: Sinner or saint, we can never be sure which Salome we are going to get.

Salome Valentine: This sounds like the opening to a deliciously trashy romance novel.

MG: His body was hard — not hard like Milosevic, the Serbian strongman, but hard like the marble on your shower floor, when you fall and bang your knee.

SV: His member was hard: not hard like marble, but hard like he’d taken a fistful of blue pills roughly four hours earlier.

MG: He tore open her blouse like a Publisher’s Clearing House letter in which he and some guy named Steven Bouber from Stockton, California, were potential finalists for the ten-million-dollar prize.

SV: She felt no self-consciousness when he tore open her blouse, because her plastic surgeon had assured her that the implants she recently purchased could withstand a direct fall onto a marble floor, or the hardness of a Serbian strongman.

MG: He awakened her slumbering womanhood with his double tall loin latte. “Starbuck!” she cried.

SV: “No, my name is Santiago,” he replied in an irresistible and nearly incomprehensible accent as he moved her to operatic ululations with his manly thrusts.

MG: Claire felt swept away by this dark stranger, a helpless dust bunny in the roaring cacophony of his gas-powered leaf blower.

SV: Internal explosions like really bad gas – but far more pleasurable – coursed through her body as Santiago played her body like a master playing a cheap violin.

JohnDoeche: Sated like pensioners at a cheap Chinese buffet, they lay and stared into each others’ eyes wondering who would go to the bathroom first.

ChipsRafferty: As Santiago took the cigarette from his lips, its glow was reflected in his gold teeth making him look like an Inca deity.

MG: He gently doubled her entendre like a powerful and mildly awkward simile.

CR: Claire moved closer but Santiago moved away.  She slid in closer still, only to find he was just giving up the wet spot.

CR: As they drifted off to a sated slumber, Santiago heard Claire whisper in her last semi-waking moment.  It was the name of a long lost lover, or perhaps the man who drove her to despair.  It sounded like…. El Goooche. Santiago turned over, disappointed, and ever so gently farted, while thinking, “Man, I gotta lighten up on the Mexican caviar.”

Alluson: Claire, uncomfortable by the growing dampness against her hip, started awake as she imagined the distinct aroma of dead fish eggs. She stared at the soft outline of Santiago’s hairy moob and began to ponder if she had in fact made a grave mistake.

SV: Santiago’s moob was, in fact, a carefully sculpted pectoral muscle, but Claire was too inebriated from orgasms to recognize this fact.  Eventually, he knew that she would succumb to his charms, stay with him even without the restraints, and allow him to make sweet love to her again, once the effects of the chloroform wore off.