Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why I Couldn't Be Homeless or in Prison

As I was brushing my teeth I realized something. I couldn’t go to prison or be a homeless person. It just wouldn’t work—I have too many special needs.

I recently complained to the dentist (hey, he regularly hurts me, so he has to listen to my whining) that toothpaste burned my tongue long after I’d quit brushing, that I was like a small child crying, “Too spicy! Too spicy!” Were there any toothpastes that wouldn’t make my tongue feel as if I’d built a bonfire on it and roasted a couple hot dogs?

“You want a boring toothpaste,” he said.

“A boring toothpaste?”

“Yes. In the old days we had plain old boring Crest paste. Then manufacturers started adding a foaming ingredient. Look for SLS-free toothpaste.”

He was right—no mad-dog foaming. Kind of boring. And I had to add mouthwash (diluted, of course) to my routine because after brushing with my health-food-store toothpaste, my mouth feels like I’ve just brushed with Crisco.

I also need special body soap and laundry detergents that don’t make me itch. They used to make colored toilet paper and I had to ask a boss’ wife to switch to white or I would have to bring my own. Don’t ask why.

Even though I think of myself as low maintenance, I started adding up all the little specialty items I use, and I realized I’d have a terrible time in prison or homeless. You can’t be picky about what you get when you’re taking handouts. Is the homeless shelter going to buy my special shoe inserts that keep me from crying with each step? (Arthritis. I’m sure I’ve whined about it before.) Are prison guards going to care that my thin fingernails need a special nail hardener?

I was telling my daughter Amber about my worries, and added, “Toothpicks! I bet they wouldn’t even allow toothpicks in prison, and with all my dental work I have to pick food out of my back teeth all the time!”

For a moment she stared at me with that “I hope my sisters plan to take care of her when she’s old” expression. I see it far too often. Then she said, “I guess I have a similar problem. My legs are so sensitive I have to use a non-alcohol lotion, and can’t use it until the day after I shave.”

“Are you crazy?” I said. “What prison is going to give you a razor in the first place?”

Some people have no sense of reality.

How about you? Would you be a good prisoner or homeless person? How “special” are you?


  1. Valerie, could it be you are realizing you a bit high maintenance? Just a touch? A tad?

    Keep going, you're too funny!

  2. Ha! I'm the Queen of special needs. :) Some people might call it high maintenance, but really, my needs are quite reasonable. The biggest ones are unlimited supplies of hand sanitizer and lotion. (Yes, I'm one of those germ nuts.) But then, there's my sinus rinse supplies and equipment, my sensitive skin body wash, and--oh--all the little things that help me keep migraines at bay: Sleep mask, lavender and peppermint oil for my temples, microwaveable warm compress for my forehead, et cetera.

  3. Valerie and Susan - you have made me feel so much better! I guess it's true that misery loves company. I, too, have to use special everything, and have been wondering if I'm a hypochondriac because I constantly react to all sorts of products, and as for trying a new prescription drug - forget it! Right now I'm struggling with a skin rash brought on by sun exposure. (No, not a sunburn, just exposure.) Also, the Vitamin D capsules that I have to take because I'm so low in Vitamin D seem to make my tongue prickle. Ah, for the days of my youth when I wasn't allergic to anything, slept like a log, and best of all - wore a size 8!

  4. Well, let's see ... I'm allergic to almost everything. Makes life really difficult, I know. I've been using the same soap since I was 15. Why? Because it's the only one that doesn't break me out. Got to go with the no dyes, no fragrance detergents and softener, too.

    And Valerie, you've eaten with me before: "Can you leave this off? I'm allergic." "Is it possible to get it without this? No. Oh well. I'll pick something else."

    My doctor has just about given up on finding prescriptions I can take. Oh, and I have to have MY pillow ... no matter what! I've heard you don't even get a pillow in prison.