I read the letter with small graphics – pills, stethoscope, thermometer – in silence, tears in my eyes. I’m not sure if the pain is caused by the aching tooth or by the insurance company denying my claim. This time the reason is simple: did I really need to seek a second opinion? In vain, I tried to explain to them that it was not my idea. My doctor suggested that I seek a second opinion from a fellow physician. The insurance company disagrees. It is my fault. First, I am guilty for getting sick. As if this wasn’t enough I started walking around seeing more than one doctor and trying to get the best treatment for myself.  My arrogance and chutzpah did not go unnoticed and unpunished.

But…am I really guilty for being sick? As I need an unbiased view, I turn to my life coach and well being guru and not to a physician or insurance company. The well being guru confirms the diagnosis. Yes, I am guilty. He explains. Had I not let in the negative energy, I would have never gotten sick in the first place. Yes, it is entirely my fault; I had opened the gates to what he calls the great negative. Aha, I see. The Feng Shui specialist I hired to organize the medium-sized cans in my pantry agrees with the well being guru. He points at a dry wreath hanging on my wall. “This is sickness, and the symbol of death. This caused it all. No wonder you are sick.”

I throw out the dead plant but the pain does not go away. Swollen gums and low self-esteem I decide to go to a party just to forget about the freshly acquired guilt.

At the party, surprise! My girlfriend takes me on the side and hisses at me. I learn that I am wearing a hooker dress and red hooker lipstick. What is wrong with me? On top of that I dance like a clown, and I have followers too. Really? I left the house feeling pretty average, but after listening to the verdict of society – delivered via its representative – I am almost convinced I am a hooker. Soon enough I shall start having memories from my past lives as a hooker. Thank you.  Guilt loves company, maybe I am an alcoholic as well? I only had two glasses of wine, but why don’t I join AA just to be on the safe side? I’m thinking that if I am faster than them and feel guilty before they make me feel so, I might be a winner. Hmmm, this is worth a serious analysis.

The following day I am invited to a formal lunch offered by a friend of a publisher of another friend. I want to excuse myself politely, but I don’t want to feel guilty for not participating, so I decide to go.

For some reason everyone thinks I am gay, including the ladies I am being seated next to. I am not gay, but they know better. Not that I care really, not anymore. The only similar incident I ever cared about is the one with the hot football player from my college years. I remember staring at the ebony god with eyes full of hope, and feeling blessed that he picked me. However, he chatted with me the entire night only to introduce me later to his sister who had a secret crush on me.

There are people out there who have mastered the techniques of placing guilt on you and me, while getting away with really heavy stuff. Take my old acquaintance Lucille. She was cheating on her husband regularly but whenever my girlfriends and I asked her to join us for a drink she would reply blushing, “I am a married woman, why would a respectable married woman want to be seen having drinks?” She was right. Why would she want to have drinks and play cards with “hookers” like us when she could actually make the most of her husband’s business trips and have sex with her lovers on her way back home from church?

Speaking of sex, a friend calls me in great distress. He is again, heartbroken. I ask why? He is tired of women telling him that sex is bad. Is sex that bad? He admits that he likes to have sex now and then. I correct him respectfully. Sex is not only bad, it is gross as well. I ask him if he likes to sleep around. He says no. He just wants one woman. Is wanting just one woman that bad? Yes it is, and it qualifies him for being a sexual deviant. I proceed with explaining why wanting to have sex even with the man or woman of your dreams alone is a horrible Sin. I tell my friend that when he projects his sexual urges on more than one woman, that bad sexual energy of the Sin is dispersed, pulverized, dispensed like… particles poisoning the air. And when he concentrates his entire being and desire on one person that despicable energy is condensed like the dark matter of the Sin. In plain English, it is there and it is huge even if we cannot see it.

My friend starts sobbing. I urge him to stop crying and be a man. What am I supposed to say, huh? I am a woman, and as a woman I am not even allowed to think of sex. Who would want to be labeled as a hooker? We all want to be respectable, like Lucille.

We hang up after I make him feel really bad about everything. I discover I feel a… guilty pleasure putting people down. Isn’t this awesome? My thinking is simple: if I cannot be happily perfect, why should YOU be?

I think the best guilt specialists are those who make people feel miserable about things that cannot be changed no matter what like the color of their skin, their origins or gender. There is guilt and then there is guilt, my friends. I am thinking that the best way to do it is to inflict guilt and leave it there for generations hoping that it will never fade away – wink, wink.

As I take my daily walk to the post office I allow myself to be carried away by sweet old memories. Beautiful snapshots from the past show their teeth at me. Many an exquisite guilt lover taught me priceless lessons. I have felt guilty for everything and anything and there was never something good about me. From well deserved punishment for little imperfections – not synchronizing the front yard cleaning with the rest of the neighborhood – to major failures such as holding the coffee cup with both hands instead of using my right hand or accepting low paid jobs just to survive, I’ve tasted them all and they all have enriched my life.

And then there is my favorite ex, who calls me from the most exotic places just to remind me why we were not a match. Where is he this time? Guatemala? Oh, ok. And what is the news? The news is I have a big fat ass that he still hates. And I am stupid, too. Cool. I wonder how much he had to pay for this phone call. Luckily, his small-assed smart girlfriend needs him, and he has to go. Talk to you next week, my love!

Oddly enough, whenever I stepped forward and admitted to my mistakes the guilt patrol was not pleased. That was not enough. My grandmother – may she rest in peace! – once told me, that society is like a pack of wolves. I totally disagree. I wish she were still alive so I can tell her that a team of scientists discovered recently that unlike us, wolves actually have feelings.

Today’s walk is blessed. In the little neighborhood park three toddlers are playing with their new puppy. I tell them their puppy is ugly. I want to make sure they get the message so I lean towards them and point at the puppy, “Pu-ppy ugly!” Two start crying, but a daring third one asks why. Because all terriers are ugly, that’s why. There is nothing they can do about it, and they know it.

At the post office a new letter awaits me, not before I get the “guilty as charged” message from the postal worker for getting there at the closing time. It is another denial from the insurance company, this time for the visit to the dermatologist for my skin rash. Do I really need to go in the pool knowing that I have such a sensitive skin?

I smile in great relief. Life is beautiful. So many things to feel guilty about ahead of me, and so many people waiting to be put down! Just thinking of tomorrow fills me with excitement and anticipation.

The only thing I don’t feel guilty about is fitting in this greater circus we call society. If they are right and I am a clown, then I have earned my right to ridicule them and get away with it.

© 2011 by Oana