What I Learned About Judging a Book By Its Cover

If you’d told me a week ago that I’d dedicate a whole blog posting to the actress Krista Allen, I’d’ve told you that you were crazy…

I’ll confess: I first learned of Krista Allen from a softcore adult film role she did early in her career.

Just as she isn’t perfect neither am I, and that’s kind of why I like her.  In the past week or so, her podcast has become a favorite of mine, one in which she reviews – or more appropriately, discusses and analyzes – a different self-help book every week, as reading self-help books is kind of her hobby.  As it turns out, Krista Allen and I have three very big things in common: 1) we both dabbled in adult entertainment, 2) we both moved around a lot as children, and 3) we both have struggled with low self-esteem.  This is why Krista Allen reads so many self-help books, and in listening to her discuss them on her podcast, she’s reminded me of a key lesson I learned in my first relationship that I’d like to write about today: that I believe people are enriched by dealing with people who are different from them.

My first serious girlfriend and I were more different than we were alike.  She honestly had more in common with Krista Allen than she did with me.  She came from poverty; my father was an engineer and my mother was a doctor.  She was a pretty and popular girl in high school; I was the king of the geeks.  Most importantly, while we both shared a love of film, my ex wasn’t a nerd about it.  She didn’t know or care what a director was before she met me, and would get annoyed by the trivial “fun facts,” as she called them, that I would often share with her.  While I am so willing to share every detail about myself that I had to force myself to be anonymous in this blog, my ex didn’t even like having our curtains open because others could then peer in and see how we lived.  Yet despite our differences, I probably learned more about life, both directly from and just by being with her than I ever did in my decades of school and growing up in seven different places before I finally moved out and was on my own.  While I don’t miss her personally, I miss the astounding number of things I learned from being with her, and that’s kind of what I get from Krista Allen’s podcast too.

Allen has shared that she’s from Texas, the red state I call “California’s evil twin.”  It’s big, it’s rich, it has a huge undocumented population but it’s not friendly to them like California is, which I attribute to people like Krista Allen and her family: poor Caucasians, the Trump supporter stereotype.  Like me, Krista Allen was essentially raised by a single parent, but in that “country” way that I have typically find repellent.  She’s not super educated, and growing up these attractive redneck-type women never gave me the time of day.  Yet when I listen to her podcast I realize she’s sweet!  And funny!  And easygoing!  Open-minded!  And honest, like I said.  Like my ex, she strikes me as generally a pleasant person to be around, and although that relationship went south for me, I believe that had more to do with our youth and inexperience than any personal defect on my ex’s part.  Unlike my ex, Allen is inquisitive and interested in learning, but again, I’d never know any of that from looking at her or if I judged her by the roles she’s played.  Krista Allen strikes me as a person who’s made the best of what life has given her, both in terms of her appearance and her background, keeping her from being a cynic.  She stumbled into entertainment after a disastrous ending to her first marriage, and “Forrest Gumped” her way into a career as a working actress, one that got her on “Friends” and “Frasier,” and in movies like Liar Liar (Tom Shadyac, 1997) and Anger Management (Peter Segal, 2003).  Were they great, major roles?  Not usually.  Were they bimbo roles?  At first, yes.   But does she still work to this day, and without having to go back to doing nudity?  Absolutely yes, and as most actresses in Hollywood will tell you, “bimbo” or otherwise, that is not easy to do.  Regardless of her work not being my cup of tea, I have found that meeting and knowing people like her allows me to be more open-minded myself, and look at the world from new and unfamiliar perspectives.  That has made me better at making friends, coming up with new ideas, and surviving in a world so different from mine.

I also like Krista Allen because I feel that she’s a survivor and not a quitter.  Again, her career is indirectly the result of a failed marriage, and I’ve never heard her hold her success up as proof that she’s exceptional or better than anybody else.  Like me she’s very candid about her failures, and that authenticity is something I value in everybody.  In fact, I personally believe that an inability to be authentic is the reason so many human relationships fail and conflicts develop.  Moreover, despite her failed relationships, Krista Allen continues to get into them – she doesn’t become cynical and give up on the idea of love and companionship despite thus far failing to really achieve either.  As I’ve said in the past, like me she rolls with it and keeps going, and though this hasn’t brought her ultimate success in relationships as yet, I believe it’s why she’s continues to succeed professionally, thus buying herself time and money to ultimately achieve her goals.  I admire all of these qualities, and I believe that they are a big part of what draws people to her.  Many of her podcasts are co-hosted by her friends, and many women have taught me that women are generally a lot meaner to other women than they are to men, a sad reality that Allen herself has shared.  I think the fact that she has so many friends of both genders is why she succeeds, and speaks highly of her character.

Bottom line, if you’d told me a week ago that I’d dedicate a whole blog posting to my fandom of Krista Allen, I’d’ve told you that you were crazy.  I’m a film geek with a minor in cinema studies!  I consider myself an intellectual, and I’ve only had one girlfriend (who I didn’t usually get along with) that looked anywhere near as pretty as her!  What could I possibly get from engaging with a person like that?

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and Krista Allen’s podcast proved that to me.  And besides, it saves me a lot of money on books…




What I Learned About Jumping To Negative Conclusions

This week I was reminded of why, in part, I am no longer in California

The last time I lost a job, I was able to survive because of the Affordable Care Act.  The way the Affordable Care Act works is that for those of us with preexisting conditions, we immediately get enrolled into your state’s Medicaid program, which then becomes a free HMO.  Since it’s state-specific and I was in California at that time, I signed up on California’s plan, only to have something happen to me while visiting my home state. And I panicked.  I did what I used to do in a lot of these situations: I totally lost it and assumed that because I was out of the state I was covered in, I was doomed.

Luckily for me, I was staying with a family member who doesn’t panic much.  They suggested I call “Medi-Cal” (California’s Medicaid, because like me, Callie always wants to be different) and explain the situation.  Sure enough, Medi-Cal reassured me that in an emergency, I could go to the Emergency Room of a hospital that takes out of state Medicaid and have them bill my care to Medi-Cal.  My family made some calls, found one, I went, and I thought that was the end of it… until I got a huge bill this week.  And I panicked again.

One of the things I hate about the health care system in this country is that even if you have private insurance, any medical care you get often involves multiple parties – your doctor, the lab, any specialist you might have had contact with – so bills come slowly, at different times, and tend to add up.  For this reason I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the doctor, received a bill, paid it, and then weeks or sometimes months later would get another bill for what seemed like that same service.  I hate the multiple billings as much as the lack of coverage,  because I never feel “safe” – to me it always feels like another bill is around the corner, waiting to send me to financial ruin.  I had that same feeling when the bill for my emergency visit showed up this past week, even though Medi-Cal said they’d cover it.  So again I panicked, and felt miserable until it got resolved once again. Because the funny thing is, most negative solutions work themselves out in one way or another anyway. When you worry about them however, they feel a lot worse than they are, and you run the risk of making them worse too.

The thing is, in the months prior to my leaving California I saw what might be my final therapist, who tried to teach me never to jump to a negative conclusion. In essence, she said that it’s better to wait for the bad thing to happen before assuming that it’s going to be a bad thing.  Worry about it when it happens, in other words, not beforehand. And for a long time, I’ve struggled with that. I think that in general, intelligent people try to anticipate everything, so we have a tendency to try to be one step ahead of any impending danger, often to our detriment my therapist said, because nine times out of ten, either the bad thing won’t happen, or won’t be as bad as we feared.  Indeed, I struggled in California after losing my job because I assumed that I didn’t qualify for unemployment because I had gone back to my home town out of state and worked a seasonal position, despite working in California for over a decade prior to that.  It was only when I “hit rock bottom” and tried to apply for food stamps (“CalFresh” – California being different with food stamps) that they  convinced me to at least try to get unemployment benefits first, and sure enough, I learned I had thousands of dollars banked that I could’ve used, thus struggling for nothing.  I forgot all that when this latest bill came though, and tossed and turned all night in fear and anger at how I was going to pay for this latest bill with no job and no help from family and no benefits in my new state…

…until I called the hospital the next day, they took the Medi-Cal information, and said they’d take care of it.

See, what I’ve come to realize is that what’s better than complaining and assuming that every situation in life is a disaster is actually trying to solve it.  In my case, I’ve been amazed at the truth in what my therapist taught me, that either the problem is not as bad as I was assuming, or that there was some reasonable way to handle it if I just looked for it.  With medical bills, an ex of mine who was a nurse pointed out to me that at the office where she worked, there was a lady who sent them five dollars every month.  Her bill with them was for much more, but because she was making a good faith effort to pay, they could not send her to Collections.  All medical debt I’ve learned works this way.  So that’s not really something to fear, just do something about it.

You know what else isn’t?  Student loan debt.  Not only do student loans have far better interest rates than any other loan a person will get in their life, but as long as you keep the Federal student loan corporation informed of your financial situation, they will work with you, give you endless payment deferments, temporary forbearance, and even let you pay based on your income level.  As long as you don’t stop paying completely, and don’t assume you’re screwed, they’ll work with you.  You just have to try.

Finally, you know who I believe is on your side the most?  Your friends and family.  Recently a good friend of mine came to visit me, and I was saddened to hear that her fairly recent marriage was going poorly.  As I listened to her complain about everything that was wrong I didn’t want to say anything, because I’ve learned that others’ relationships are none of my business and I hate meddling.  To me however, it sounded like she’d just stopped talking to her spouse and vice versa, and that was what was causing their problems.  Worse, I felt like she judged them very harshly, not seeing or even trying to see things from their perspective.  I believe that more than likely, if the two of them just communicated openly, without assuming what the other person felt or thought, they might be able to reach a compromise.  I realized the same about my past relationships that failed.  In my opinion at worst I could have ended those relationships amicably, with nobody suffering as a result of the breakup, as was the case in my relationships that did end the right way.  I find that as long as you don’t believe the worst about the other person, don’t make negative assumptions about their beliefs or intentions, and remind yourself why you came together in the first place, or in the case of family, remember what your relationship is, you can resolve most conflicts.

For me, a big challenge in life is overcoming my mother’s negative worldview, which she learned from her mother, and instead listening to my father, who I thought was an idiot growing up for endlessly telling me to be positive.  The thing is, my therapist showed me that our existence of life is less about what physically happens to us and more about how we perceive it.  A friend once challenged me to find ten positive things in every negative experience I have, and sure enough, I always could.  And I ain’t that bright (there I go, being negative again!)

As I said, the first step in overcoming adversity for me has been not jumping to the negative conclusion.  The next step has been just trying to solve the problem rather than giving up in despair.  Doing this hasn’t led to a perfect life, but for a victim of abuse with bad kidneys, no job, and a chronic illness to last this long, I think I’m doing pretty well…