Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bending the rule

Parenting drives you crazy.

I'm just gonna let that sit there for a moment.  Put that on the back-burner of your consciousness for just a few minutes.

In 2001, there was a fifteen year-old boy in Australia.  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He, his parents, family, friends, and caregivers all realized his mortality and that his time was short.

He was also a virgin.

The laws of Australia state that the age of consent is sixteen.  This teenager's last wish was to have sex.  To experience the love of a woman before leaving this Earth.

Before I continue, I'll posit the question "What would you do in this situation?  If this teenager were your son/nephew/cousin/brother/patient/friend?"  Clearly, he is asking you to violate a longstanding law of the nation.

But we've all been teenagers.  We've seen and felt the raging hormones (yes, whenever you talk about them, they're ALWAYS RAGING).  Most of us have experienced great sex.  Some of us have had bad sex.  If you asked fifteen year-old me what "bad sex" was, I probably couldn't have told you - I thought it would've all been great.

Cancer is such an ugly disease.  You hurt, you ache, you are constantly tired.  You look bad.  You smell bad.  You bleed and vomit.  You are angry and sad and afraid and confused and frustrated.  You are told to fight each hour of each day without clear reward.  Every needle, every poison, every radiation beam TAKES and you're never really sure what it gives back.

This teenager's psychologist and the teenager's friends did arrange for him to visit a prostitute.  I would have done the same.  Call me crazy.

The Child Psychologist classified the trip as therapeutic.  There are "comfort dog" services for trauma patients which have a significant effect on rehabilitation and healing.  The Dutch have a policy of using sex-workers to help newly-disabled individuals cope with their injuries.  Prostitution itself is legal in Australia and many would say it is safer than in cities where it is not legal.

Another interesting detail of this story is that the boy did not want his parents to know.  I can actually understand this from the boy's perspective.  Sex is a private thing.  We put up these mental-shields separating thoughts of loved-ones from thoughts of love-making.  As a parent, I'd still want to know EVERY aspect of my child's treatment and hopefully convey that nothing would be considered shameful or embarrassing and that we all want him to have the best of life however long or short it is.  But maybe those parents weren't like me.  Maybe they had a more-conservative mindset and would've been against this whole operation.  It puts the child psychologist in an interesting position, though - weighing the benefits of therapy against the parent's need-to-know.

The teenager eventually succumbed to his illness - but he did not die a virgin.  May he rest in peace.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Brazilian Bugs and their No-No places

The journal Current Biology documents the discovery of four new species of Brazilian (how much is a brazilian anyway?) insect.  Of particular note is in these four species - the females have penises and the males have vaginas.


During mating, it was observed that the females use their penises to enter the male and gather his sperm packets to fertilize her eggs.  The article also notes the presence of spikes or barbs on the penis to ensure secure transfer of the packets (which may take upwards of SEVENTY HOURS) and that the packets also contain nutrients that are crucial for the survival of the female in the harsh Brazilian cave environment.

Rodrigo Ferreira, co-author of the article states "This elaborate female penis is completely unique."

So I salute you, Genus Neotrogla, for taking a Honey Badger-esque attitude toward everything we previously knew about sexual roles.  You saw a need to grab that genetic material for reproduction and devised your own Dyson sexvac.  Female Penis-envy might become a thing and males across the planet can wonder whether this is a harbinger of things to *cough* come.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Lingxi Lu
Krystle Campbell
Martin Richard
Sean Collier

The 264 injured.

Yesterday, the city of Boston observed the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  We paid tribute to those names I just listed as well as the first responders, medical personnel, physical therapists, rehabilitation specialists, and the overall generosity of people in New England and around the planet.  Even the Red Sox were acknowledged.

This I understand.   I understand how beautiful a thing it is to watch Keith Lockhart conduct the greatest orchestra in the world.  I understand the pride I feel seeing Tom Menino carry a binder with my alma mater on the cover, right before giving that awesome, yet barely-intelligible speech.  I understand being quiet at 2:49 says something to so many so far away.

I do not understand how a 14 year old girl in the Netherlands conceives the idea of tweeting a terrorist threat to American Airlines.  I do not comprehend her thought-process of valuing her popstar fan-account over scaring ordinary people.  I do not understand her race-laden apologies or how she planned on hiding all of this from her parents - when the Netherlands police came to arrest her.

I do not understand how a 25 year old male from Wakefield thinks to put a rice-cooker inside a backpack and place it on the Marathon finish line the very same day we were honoring victims.  I don't understand why I wanted to know his name.  In fact, I wanted *EVERYONE* to know his name.  I wanted every school administrator, every bartender, every cabbie, every person he would ever interact with in New England to know his name.

Is that strong?

I won't blame the waitress for any unexpected delays for his food order.  That's reactionary.  Private businesses have the right to cater to their clientele.  I can't fault the clerk at the 7-11 for not accepting his money and asking him to kindly leave the store.  I can't find any wrongdoing when so many exhausted MBTA riders with aching knee joints can't find the strength to give up their seat for him.

It's petty.  It feels good.  *SO* good.  But it is petty.

Boston Strong means acknowledging this.  Accepting this.  Just one MORE thing on top of everything else to put behind us.  He will have his day in court.  Justice will be meted.

I don't understand how it feels to be ashamed of your child.  That unfortunate family in Wakefield must be inundated with phone calls and news crews.  If it were me, I would apologize profusely on camera for what happened, state how great a country it is to have freedom of expression, and reaffirm my love for my child - even though we do not understand each other.

We'll all put this behind us, taking another step farther away from this while getting closer to the finish line.  I've never wanted a Monday to come so badly.