Suicide Prevention is More than Just a Hotline

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 | 0 Comment(s)

(Trigger warning: This post deals almost exclusively with the topic of suicide. Knowledge is power.
If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. )

Suicide is once again in the news. Between Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, and Kate Spade (and since I started writing this piece Anthony Bourdain) -- the public is reminded that no one can buy out of depression. Fame doesn't protect people from loneliness or helplessness. A number of weeks ago Boston "shock-jock" sport radio host Kirk Minihane shared, publicly, his recent brush with suicidal ideation, and the help which he luckily received. It was a burst of raw humanity from a man who often spends his hours on the radio waves spewing sewage, which aims to tear others' humanity away. Nobody is all one thing.

The greater truth is that suicide is a major problem in the USA. For Americans aged 10-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death after unintentional injury. For those 35-54, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death after unintentional injury, cancer, and heart disease. In 2016, there were more than twice the number of suicides (44,965) than there were homicides (19,362, NIMH). More than twice.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 | 1 Comment(s)

I've been wearing hats since my parents let me leave the house in them.

By high school, a ball cap atop my dome was a staple. I vividly remember my excellent all-business 12th grade calculus teacher, may she rest in peace, who wouldn't allow hats in her classroom. At the time I was an observant conservative Jew (I know, I know, things change) who wore a yarmulke and tallit katan under my shirts. Most teachers in my completely Christian town didn't want to touch the whole "Jewish thing" with a 10-foot pole, and they let me wear my hat instead of my yarmulke. But not Ms. Murphy. She was way too smart for that shit. 

She said, "If you require a head-covering for my class, it has to be a yarmulke."

And, for the record, she was totally correct. She had a strict "No Hats" rule. She had no problem with my religious practices, but she knew that the Jews didn't command baseball caps in Math class, and she put her reasonable foot down firmly. Man, she was an amazing teacher. 

Anyhoo. I want to regale you with stories of my deep love for head coverings, the aesthetics and aerodynamics of brimmed outerwear, and how wearing caps changed my life for the better. The truth is, I've been waiting for my hair to fall out since I was 14. 

The Babysitter's Club

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 | 1 Comment(s)

(The names of all non-family members have been changed)

There are some family stories that get retold so many times, to so many different people, that at some point the tales cease to be a collection of facts and instead morph into lore. There was the time my mom swam way way out in the ocean with kid me in a raft. There was the time my pre-puberscent brother put on a historic Hannukah magic show for the family.  The time I told the telemarketers that my dad was dead. And, when we were slightly older, this.

One of my parents' favorite bits of Mattiti lore is that, as a kid, I declared loudly and proudly that when I grew up, I wanted to be a professional babysitter.

Now, I wholly agree that's funny. I mean, right off the bat, who did I see as the amateur baby-sitters?  Those people taking care of me for free weren't babysitters, those were family members. Where did I get the idea that babysitting was a a competitive occupation where only a chosen few reached the elusive peak of going pro. Additionally, I didn't arrive at this choice of occupation after many successful babysitting experiences. No. Rather, I made this declaration well before I had any actual child-care experience. So, in essence, one of two things has to be true:
1. I loved the experience of my parents leaving the house so much that I wanted to make a career out of it.
2. I loved the time I spent being taken care of by my babysitters so much that I wanted to provide that service to other kids like me.
Maybe it was a combination of the two.

Finally, when I was about 15, I got my shot at the big time. Sophie Rosenthal, mother of two and one of my family's close friends from the synagogue, was looking for someone to stay with her children while she and her husband went out for the night. Sophie asked my mother if I would be interested in looking after David, age 10, and Anna, age 6.

Hells yah I wanted to babysit. I don't think my mom even asked me before she told Sophie that I'd love to.

Poland in Black and White

Monday, June 25, 2018 | 0 Comment(s)

Somehow my parents convinced me that visiting Poland before going to Israel was, like, the Harvard of summer trips. My warped, dorky, overachieving mind was easily tricked into writing the EXTRA ESSAY portion of the application to this particular Jewish teen tour, all to be part of the most esteemed of summer trips. What a deluded little pissant I was. I don't think I ever considered that the preverbal ring I was reaching for included tours of five concentration camps and countless gravesite, the most powerful of which would have no gravestones at all.

The normal kids, and I say normal as opposed to my abnormal in this case, went straight to Israel to get down (teen-tour style) in the promised land for a full month and a half. In retrospect, that was the move. Somehow these other kids all realized right away that doing extra work to get the opportunity to see some of the grimmest shit in modern human history was about as appealing as . . . I don't know . . . going on a trip to visit concentration camps!!! I can't actually think of anything grimmer than the actual thing in this particular case.

I still remember my first impression of Poland from back in 1995. As our bus rolled away from the cement structures of the airport, I couldn't get over how beautiful the vistas were. Fields of wildflowers lit up the green hills that rolled like waves up to and over the horizon. How could this be Poland, I remember asking myself. Every image I'd seen of Poland was black and white. The photos of prisoners. The old grainy video of living skeletons being ushered into a building or across a yard. All black and white. Even the Hollywood depiction, Schindler's List, was in black and white. You'll forgive me if my mental image of this country was drawn in shades of grey.