It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Maybe in some offbeat way it is.

To find topics for this blog, I set a Google Alert for the phrase “middle-aged woman”. Each day I get a headline and snippet of web articles that contain this phrase. Rarely do I find a topic I want to write about.

What comes with frequency, however, are the headlines that turn my stomach and make me wonder what is wrong with the world. I recognize that there are cultural differences worldwide, but we are all human. Don’t we all deserve equal respect?

Do gruesome headlines play on the same innate curiosity that makes us turn towards, rather than away from, accident scenes? Witnessing an accident leaves me unsettled for days, wondering what happened to the injured. No good comes of my observation. Don’t gruesome stories have the same effect?

Perhaps reading an ugly story is like watching a horror movie. Some psychologists believe that people enjoy watching horror films because of how they feel afterwards. The physiological arousal, that is, the increased blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate, that viewers experience during the movie can carry over to any positive emotions felt afterwards. The next day the focus is on the fun the individual had following the film, not how scared they were during the movie. It’s also possible that if you have a bad time after going to the movies, you might attribute it to the movie and turn down the next invitation you get to see a horror film.

So what kinds of headlines upset me? Yesterday’s are a prime example.

The first headline is “wanting male child, husband and in-laws set woman on fire.” Can you imagine? I know in some parts of the world male children are prized, while females are not. I think this is horrible. But burning a woman who is carrying a girl? Barbaric! Don’t forget it’s the male’s contribution that determines whether a fetus is male or female. I wonder if the husband and his parents considered that. Maybe they ignited the wrong person.

A headline about a cemetery thief followed that story: “Woman caught on camera stealing decorations from a child’s grave.” The victim was a large stuffed duck. You might ask, “Why was a camera pointed on the grave?” Because memorabilia have been stolen repeatedly from this grave in a several-year period. How sad is that? Leaving such items on a grave is therapeutic for family and friends. It’s their way of saying the person is not forgotten. What would make someone take away such things? It’s vandalism. A photo of the perpetrator accompanies the story. I hope someone turned her in.

The third headline, from England’s Daily Mail, not only made my stomach turn but left me uttering a large “EEEEWWW.” “Blackburn businessman squirted women with water pistol filled with his URINE.” Gross, and yet I find myself wondering how he got the specimen into the water pistol. Double gross.

And last, this one from Africa: “My Husband Beats Me Before Sex, Woman Tells Court.” That’s the oddest form of foreplay I’ve ever heard. As a woman, I’d like to inform men everywhere that this kind of behavior only works to arouse Anastasia Steele wannabes, and I don’t think there are many. Try flowers or candy instead.