Saturday, August 29, 2009

The vapors

The fainting couch (a.k.a. recamier) is so named because it was an appropriate support for women who swooned. Swooning was one of the many symptoms of female hysteria, which you may read more about in my post on wandering wombs. The condition of female hysteria was identified by the ancient Greeks, but the Victorians preferred the expression "the vapors," which could consist of any combination of the following complaints: anxiety, behavioral problems, depression, digestive issues, fainting, fluid retention, insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite (for food or for sex), muscle spasm, shortness of breath, and tremors - many of which are now relieved by Pamprin. While some of these signs may indicate clinical depression or bipolar disorder to today's sufferers, "Currently, the vapors are not recognized as a medical diagnosis," advises The modern reader may also be led to believe that the expression refers merely to flatulence, but this is refuted on Fanny & Vera's Site for New Civilians. Nevertheless, there have been several cases of "the vapors" in the weird news recently:
  • Last Saturday, the wind shifted as pepper spray was released in a routing training exercise by the Mount Carmel Borough Police Deparment, provoking a severe asthma attack in a woman sitting in her backyard in Diamondtown, Pennsylvania, who required emergency services.
  • On Monday, a woman in Niceville, Florida, was arrested for battery after unleashing a 9-oz. can of Glade Potpourri Air Freshener on a neighbor who repeatedly smokes cigarettes outside her door. "I will do it again, and take it all the way to the Supreme Court," said the woman, "because I have the right to breathe fresh air."
  • And on Tuesday, a chlorine leak at a sewer treatment plant in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, prompted the evacuation of the sunbathers at clothing-optional Gunnison Beach, and their relocation to North Beach, which does have a dress code.
Hand me my smelling salts...

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