I Know You Are, But What Am I?

You know how when you were younger, you thought that when you became an adult you would know it?  Like something would automatically change within you that made you start acting like a grown up?  I’m turning 42 this week and I’m still waiting for that to happen.

I feel like an adult in approximately three situations:

1. When I buy postage stamps.

2. When I get my teeth cleaned.

3. When I get the oil changed in my car on time.

That’s pretty much it.

I can’t even go into very serious meetings and not feel like a tween who stole their mom’s smart pantsuit and is just wearing it around pretending to be 90s-era Madonna, who by the way, is my favorite Madonna incarnation.  The structured suits.  The bold red lip.  That weird lace shirt in the Vogue video that made it look like she had Barbie boobs.  That was the decade where Madonna truly became an icon.  80s Madonna?  Pop star.  90s Madonna?  BOSS.

I bring it up because someone just said, “I heard Publix has a special on boneless chicken thighs this week” and my first thought was, “I heard your face has a special on boneless chicken thighs this week.”

When someone asks, “Hey, can you hold that elevator door for me?”, my first thought is, “I don’t know, can I?”

I’ve had to literally leave a room on occasion because someone introduces themselves to me and their name is something like “Rod Burns” and I physically cannot stop laughing like Beavis and Butthead and I have to pretend I’m having a coughing fit.

It’s like every day of life I’m Dorothy just tra-la-la-ing along through the poppy fields in the Wizard of Oz, but the poppies are dick jokes that make me pass out from laughing.  And the Cowardly Lion is a dick joke.  And the Scarecrow is a dick joke.  Toto, tin man, the witch, monkeys – all dick jokes.  And the camera man, the on-set caterer, and the marketing rep at the movie studio – dick jokes.  I figure at this point, if the interior dialogue that acts like a 12 year old asshole is still the biggest part of my thought process, it’s a personality trait that’s pretty much set in stone.

I wonder sometimes how this came to be.  Is it because I watched Pee Wee’s Big Adventure too many times as a kid?  Is it because I didn’t have kids?  I would think having kids would kind of force you to start thinking like an adult, but who knows?

One of my favorite people, my friend Eric, has a kid and a similar personality to me with regard to comedy, which makes him 100% fun to hang out with, except for the next day when you feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach because he made you laugh so hard the night before.

Also because he actually punched you in the stomach.

Okay, not really, but I know the image of him telling a joke and then immediately punching you in the stomach is probably making him laugh right now, and making that guy laugh is like giving a birthday present to yourself.

Eric is also the owner of the funniest line I’ve ever heard in my entire life.  Ever.  Hands down.

(Sophia Petrillo voice):  Picture it.  Somewhere around 2008 maybe?  Eric is sitting on the back porch with me and a big group of friends at a house party.  Someone asks if anyone wants to leave the party to go to the goth club one town over.  A friend smirks and says, “No thanks, I’ve already gone through my compulsory goth phase.”

Eric looks at friend, then looks away in the distance towards the night sky and takes a long drag off a cigarette and casually says, “Your haircut would beg to differ” and then exhales the smoke.

I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in my entire life.  Not before then, not since then.  It was like watching Michelangelo hit an uncut block of marble with a hammer one time and the statue of David magically appearing when the dust settled.

Also, in case you still have any doubt, he currently has a personalized license plate that says “LUV2BM”.

You can follow Eric on Twitter at: @ericsmellsfunny or you can find him at any Flanigan’s eating a Banzai Brownie.  Unless that asshole Chrissy is serving, and then she’ll just take his order and then not put it into the kitchen for fifteen minutes and then come back and say the kitchen is closed.

Go forth.  Find kindred dick joke spirits.  Make the world a whole lot dick-jokier.  I know you all have it…inside you.

Heh heh.

The Kid Thing

Here we go.

I started and stopped and started and stopped writing this post ten times because discussions that involve personal life choices with regard to the decision to procreate or not procreate have been known to ruin friendships, generate death threats on “The Twitter”, and take down large monarchies.

To be fair, discussions about prepackaged caramel popcorn preferences have also generated death threats on Twitter, e.g. “You’ll be dead and buried in a dumpster at the Cracker Jack factory before midnight, you Fiddle Faddle cuck”, because Twitter is absolutely fucking terrifying.

Just to be clear, I have no stated preference with regard to prepackaged caramel popcorn, so I encourage you to please put down your weapons.  I’m just a lady writing a blog, there is absolutely no need for bloodshed.

So, like most women, when I was between the ages of 18 and 39, I was routinely inundated with judgey questions about when I was going to start having kids.  These unsolicited interrogations came from every category of people you can imagine.  Family, friends, coworkers, doctors, clerks at the convenience store, strangers on the street – it seems everybody makes it their business to inquire about whether somebody will be taking up shop for nine months in your uterus.  The conversations usually go something like this:

“When are you planning on having kids?”

“I’m not planning on having kids.”

“WHAT?!  Why not?!”

“Well, it’s just not for me.”

“Why not?”

Then I will supply any number of personal reasons, like having zero maternal instinct, or loving my life just fine as it is, and the conversation will usually end like this:

“Well, I guess some people are just selfish.”

I used to try to argue with people that I was not selfish for not wanting kids, but after so many years of defending my personal choices (in arguments that I had not even initiated), I eventually just started saying, “Yes.  You are absolutely right.  I don’t want to have kids because I am selfish.  I am probably the most selfish person who has ever lived.”

This is the answer that works the best if you just want to shut down the conversation.  I’m of the opinion that these particular judgey types really do think people who don’t want to have kids are selfish, and even though I wholeheartedly disagree with whatever weird bullshit they’re trying to project onto me, I just agree with them so that they will go the fuck away.  It’s what they want to hear.  “Yep!  You bet!  I’m selfish as fuck!”

One of the glorious, wonderful, magical things that happens after you turn 40, is that people rarely continue pestering you about kids.  Occasionally, you’ll still get one that says, “So, uhh, tell me why you never had kids?” which is always astonishing to me, because Jesus Christ, that is judgmental as fuck and literally nobody’s business.

If you have kids, just imagine how fucked up it would be if someone asked you out of the blue, “So, uhh, why did you decide to have kids?”

Sounds offensive, no?

My journey down the road of childless-by-choiceness started when I was a child.  I did not enjoy childhood (who did?).  Not even one little bit.  I do not look back on it fondly, I do not think it was the best time of my life, and I do not long for the “good old days” of carefree youth, because I was a walking, shaking disaster of anxiety as a kid.

I was one of those kids who was so jacked up that I developed OCD by the time I was 6 years old, and spent an hour every night lining up my piles of stuffed animals in height-order in the hope that if I did so correctly, nothing bad would happen to anyone I loved.  I pretended that I just “preferred” to have them in order, because even at that young age, I knew adults would make you go to a scary doctor if you told them, “If my ET doll and Cabbage Patch Kid aren’t in the correct order, someone will break into the house in the middle of the night and kill my mother and it will be my fault”.

I was extremely good at either hiding my compulsions entirely or presenting them as harmless, kooky little things I liked to do.  I used to pretend I was just recreating a disco strobe-light when I flipped the light switches off and on (64 times), because confessing that you’re flipping the light switch 64 times in order to keep the house from burning down is a recipe for a visit to a guidance counselor.

I was a fifty pound bag of fucking anxiety, and spent more days hiding in the bathroom than I did running around outside playing.  I spent every waking moment of the day worrying, worrying, worrying.  What I wanted more than anything in the world was to have a sense of control over my life, but when you’re a kid, control is not part of the deal.

So, no, I don’t associate kids with carefree happiness.  I associate kids with a complete loss of control.

Allright!  So you’re still with me, right?  Sounds okay, and you’re happy I eventually got some therapy, right?  That’s good, because here’s the part where I will lose you.

I would be a terrible fucking parent. I mean, monumentally terrible.  The kind of parent that ends up being written into a memoir that eventually gets turned into a movie.  People are quick to think you’re just being self-deprecating when you tell them you would be a terrible parent, like you’re saying you look fat in your skinny jeans that day.  They’ll typically respond with, “Oh, no you wouldn’t!  I bet you’d be a great mom!” and while their hearts might be in the right place, they are dead fucking wrong.

Whatever the opposite of “nurturing” is?  That’s me.  I once returned a fish to PetSmart because I determined it was “too needy”.  Not being a nurturing person doesn’t make me a selfish human being, it just means that my talents lie elsewhere, as evidenced by my crack motherfucking skills at bar shuffleboard.

One of our favorite movies when we were kids was “Mommie Dearest”, the cult classic starring Faye Dunaway that’s based on Joan Crawford’s daughter’s memoir.  The movie focuses on the physical and emotional abuse inflicted on her daughter, Christina, at the hands of a clearly, mentally disturbed Joan Crawford.  When we watched this movie as kids, we were always blown away at how mean and cruel Joan was to Christina.  (It was horrifying treatment of a child, but Faye Dunaway’s over the top, wild-eyed performance made it hilarious and instant camp.  It’s a great movie.)

Joan Crawford beating Christina mercilessly with the Ajax can for not cleaning the bathroom to her exact specifications, the wire hanger scene, chopping off her hair when she found her making fun of her while she was playing in her expensive cosmetics, making her give away all but two of her Christmas presents.  All of it was just insane.

The one scene that’s the most striking to me, though, that I invoke often when my choice not to have kids has come up, is the scene in the dining room, when Christina and Joan are having lunch, and Christina is pushing on the bloody-rare steak and making a face at it, complaining that she doesn’t want to eat it.

Joan says to her assistant, “She negotiates everything like a goddamn Hollywood agent!”  Then she turns to Christina and says, “Christina, eat your lunch. You are not getting up from this table until you have finished that meat.”

Christina responds by making that face kids make when they’re starting a battle of wills, and shoves the plate away and glares at her mother.  (Oh, heeeeell no.)

Joan responds by making Christina sit in front of that bloody-rare steak at the dining room table all day and all evening until bedtime.  The steak eventually gets put in the fridge, so we assume the saga will just continue into the next day.

We thought this was so mean when we were kids.  Joan Crawford is a monster!  What kind of an asshole makes a kid sit at a dining room table for hours and hours just because she didn’t want to eat her lunch?  That woman should be kept in a cage!

So here’s a good example of one of the reasons I know I would be a terrible parent.  As much as I was outraged by Joan Crawford’s behavior when I watched that scene as a kid, the first time I watched that scene in the movie as an adult, the one thought that plagued my mind was, “Man!  Why’d she let that kid off so light?”

If I put food – that I bought and paid for – in front of you at the dining room table, and it’s not even something gross like squid or the macaroni with the powdered cheese, if I put an actual steak in front of you on a plate?  Guess what you’re gonna do, kiddo?  You’re gonna eat it. 

If you don’t eat it, and instead make a stinkface and shove the plate away?  Prepare to sit at that dining room table for the rest of your life, because, unlike Joan Crawford, I wouldn’t even let you up from the table to go to bed that night.  I wouldn’t let you get up from that table to go to school.  You wanna learn how to read and write and do arithmetic?  Then I suggest you go ahead and eat that steak.  Don’t come crying to me when you’re illiterate.  You should have thought of that before you decided to take it to the mat with me on this steak business because I will make it my life’s mission to wait your ass out.

You’d be wearing your prom dress ten years later, still sitting at that table in front of that steak.

Your wedding photos would feature your spouse on one side of that dining room table, and that steak still right there in front of you on that plate.

You would give birth to all of your children at that table.

You would become a grandmother, and a great-grandmother at that table.

Your first social security check when you reached retirement age would be addressed to “Christina Crawford, Dining Room Table, Hollywood, CA”.

I would pre-pay for a headstone for your eventual burial at a ripe old age, and the epitaph would read, “Just for the record, my mother buried me with that fucking steak.”

Joan Crawford?  Joan Crawford let you off light for that shit.

As Nicolas Cage says to Cher in another of my favorite movies, Moonstruck, “I don’t care if I burn in hell.  I don’t care if you burn in hell.”

I guess what I’m saying is that if somebody tells you they don’t have kids because they’d be a terrible parent, you should go ahead and believe them.

How To Not Be a Relentless Dick in The Makeup Store

There is nothing more cringe-worthy than when someone says something that they believe to be funny, and then they didn’t think enough people heard it, so they say it again.  And again.  And again.  I think the main issue is that they think nobody laughed simply because they hadn’t heard the allegedly funny quip, when in reality nobody laughed because what they said wasn’t funny.

If you say something you think is hilarious and nobody laughs, let it go.  If you have to convince someone that something you said was funny, you’re not making yourself look any better.  It’s like trying to talk your way out of being dumped.  Not only does it not work, now the person who’s dumping you also thinks you’re pathetic.  It works the same for music.  If you play a song and nobody claps, it’s because your song is bad.  It just is.  Now, to be truthful, even though I’m a pissy little so-and-so, I clap for anyone and everyone when they finish a song, even if it was terrible, because I know that gross, sick feeling of finishing a song and receiving crickets back.  But generally speaking, if nobody claps, you need to let it go and go back to the drawing board.  Chastising the crowd for not clapping just makes it even worse.  The world doesn’t automatically owe you applause for your creative endeavors, you have to earn it.

Bobby and I were walking through the makeup store, Ulta, one day and there was a guy there with his wife and teenage daughter, trudging through the aisles like he was being dragged off to his own hanging.  They were on the same aisle as us, so I guess this guy saw Bobby and thought, “Oh thank heavens!  Another man!” and loudly proclaimed to the air, “I’ve got a million dollar idea!  They should put a gun store next to this place so men can get away from all this girly crap!  I’m serious!  Is that a million dollar idea or what?!  HA HA HA HA HA!”.  We ignored him.

Of course, what I wanted to say to him was, “I know, right? And maybe a titty bar and a wack shack and a movie theater that only shows the Die Hard franchise so that we all know you’re not into putting penises into your mouth! Good thing you’re working so hard at letting all of us know that’s not the reason you’re in the makeup store! HA HA HA HA HA HA!” And then I would pull out a shotgun, cock it with one arm Terminator 2/Linda Hamilton-style and yell, “Now let’s see if we can get these Clinique bitches to bust out some titties, cowpoke!  Woooooo hoo!  Dangle jangle!!!” And then have Bobby start playing a wicked banjo.

😐

We heard this relentless dick repeat his gun store quip over and over and over throughout the store.  Nobody laughed any of the numerous times that he said it, and pretty much everybody rolled their eyes with a labored sigh.  I can only figure that:

A.  He thought this was a hilarious quip and wanted to make sure everybody heard it, because who doesn’t like a lot of loose gun talk in the makeup store (especially these days!); and

B.  He wanted to make sure nobody in the store thought he was there to buy makeup, as if the Guy Harvey fishing shirt, camouflage cargo shorts, and cop sunglasses around his neck on Croakies weren’t enough proof that he wasn’t there because he had a personal interest in lip gloss.  His leathery turtle skin told me he was the kind of guy who would have called someone a pansy for even wearing sunblock because a well-weathered sunburn is the only thing that keeps “The Gay” from seeping into your skin.  I’m sure he thinks that if you touch your face with anything but a razor and Barbasol, you might as well just go ahead and draw a dick on your chin.

And I know, isn’t it the WORST when the women threaten your life to make you walk around the makeup store with them?

Oh, that’s not how you ended up in the store?  You’re not being held against your will?

Then either shut it or get the fuck out.

News Flash:  Women would LOVE IT if you would go find something else to do while they walk around the makeup store, especially if your plan is to whine like a shitpants toddler the entire time.  You’re not doing yourself any favors with that behavior, by the way.  No woman has ever sat around a brunch table with her girlfriends and naughtily whispered, “So when we got home, I surprised him with a BJ because he was so good at whining while we were at Ulta!”

Feel free to stay in the car, stay home from the shopping trip, walk over to Walgreens and read some magazines or something, see if the Radio Shack is still there because, yes, it does take us “that long” to compare red lipsticks. It’s a tricky color that, while it can be flattering on most skin tones, if you get the wrong one you can end up looking like Diane Ladd when she went crazy in Wild at Heart, which is a lose-lose for everyone.  Aside from all of your bathroom towels and bed sheets being ruined with lipstick stains, people will be like, “Hey, when did your wife become a GODDAMNED DEVIL GOBLIN?”

So either be cool or get out.

How I Bought My Very First Boyfriend

I’ve recently decided that it was time I learned how to play well with others.  I’ve had this problem for a little while (since birth) where people just annoy the shit out of me by, you know, existing and stuff.  It’s not their fault.  I realize that it’s not them, it’s me.  Chances are good that if you’re annoyed by pretty much every other human you encounter, you’re the one with the problem.  I get that.

One of the ways I’ve been trying to be more of a “people person” is by working on a solid fake laugh, because apparently people like it when you give them laughs, even if they’ve done ZERO work to earn them.  (Bitter?)

Too often I find myself completely stone-faced in a room full of people who are laughing at something unfunny that someone said, and I’m just standing there thinking, “This does not merit laughter.  Why are you people laughing?”.  I know, what a fun quality for a person to have!  As Sergeant Hulka would say to Psycho in the movie Stripes, “Lighten up, Francis.”

I started to wonder in these situations if people are just fake laughing.  I mean, they would have to be, right?  Is that it?  Maybe they’re ALL fake laughing?  And if they’re all fake laughing, how do they all know when to do it?  The cue for laughing is something funny happening.  If nothing funny has happened, then what’s your cue to laugh?  Is it just peer pressure?  Is it just ONE person who decides to fake laugh and then everyone else joins in because they think they’re supposed to?  Would nobody be laughing were it not for that ONE person who started to fake laugh?  Who is this person, and how do we root them out and put their head on a pike?

The whole concept is particularly tough for me because I am so, so, so morally and vehemently opposed to fake laughter.  To be honest, I am morally and vehemently opposed to even polite laughter.  Like most people who are total dicks, I have a high personal bar for what I consider laugh-worthy.  You want a laugh?  You better put the work in for it.

Don’t even start on me with my love for lowbrow comedy shows like Perfect Strangers and Just The Ten of Us, because that’s kitsch, and kitsch television is DON’T MAKE ME EXPLAIN WHAT KITSCH TELEVISION IS.

I am bothered when people laugh at something that isn’t funny, because it personally offends me.  I know, why the hell should I care?  I suspect this is the reason why so many comics hate each other.  It’s because someone getting laughs for something that isn’t funny is like watching someone walk into a Starbucks and pick up a coffee and leave without paying while you’re standing at the register with cash in-hand to pay for your own.  Even though Starbucks is the one who’s getting ripped off, it just seems unfair.  You get all indignant like, “Excuse me, sir!  If I have to pay for this coffee then you should, too!”  That’s the deal.  You pay for a cup of coffee, you get a cup of coffee.  You put in the work, you reap the rewards.  You say something legitimately funny, I laugh.

Laughter is transactional in nature.  It’s a form of social currency.  Okay, fine.  It’s a form of social currency for people who are emotionally-stunted assholes who are trying to keep their distance from you while barely holding themselves together because their entire self-worth is just rickety scaffolding that is entirely dependent on exterior reinforcements to stay up.

Uhhhhhhhh…

So ANYWAY, believe it or not, laughter was actually the currency that bought me my very first boyfriend.  Ooh, SASSY!

His name was Lou, and he was one of those boys in middle school who was actually nice to girls, instead of the usual variety who threw rocks at us and hid under the staircases to look up our skirts.  Lou was half Filipino and half eastern European Jewish, kinda nerdy in a cute way (he went to Space Camp – in the 80s!), wore those borderline-pervy “Big Johnson” surf t-shirts but actually tucked them in like a nice boy, had a group of fun guy friends who got along with everybody, and he played the saxophone in the marching band.

If you want to know what kind of saxophone he played, I can’t help you there.  When it comes to the musical instruments of men who have disappointed me, I can remember various brands and types of guitars, amps, and drums, but that’s pretty much it.

(Now I have to make a website and Instagram called “The Musical Instruments of Men Who Have Disappointed Me”.  I’ll go talk to my literary agent (my neighbor’s dog Cooper, therefore, Agent Cooper) about it after I finish writing this post.  Don’t steal my idea in the meantime, jerk!)

Edit:  I just bought the domain for it, drew the first four cartoons and wrote the first four captions, and you can now visit it at: themusicalinstrumentsofmenwhohavedisappointedme.com or TMIOMWHDM.com, so screw you!  Please also follow on Twitter and Instagram at: TMIOMWHDM and  thanks!)

So ANYWAY, maybe I would have noticed saxophone details if I’d ever seen someone rip out a solo at 200 decibels on one and then smash it onto the ground and set it on fire.  Because while the saxophone may be the bad boy instrument of the marching band, post-St. Elmo’s Fire it’s the straight-up Urkel of the rock ‘n roll world (unless you’re Clarence Clemons, who was a damn genius).  Little did I know that dating Saxophone Lou would kick off several unfortunate decades of dating musicians, but this kid was in the marching band, not Poison, so I had a misplaced sense of security about what level of dickhole he would turn out to be.  False advertising is what it was!

I know my dear friend Emily, who is a middle school band teacher and is much more acquainted with the personality types of marching band-folk, is reading this right now and saying, “Are you kidding me?  You didn’t know that the SAXOPHONE PLAYER would turn out to be a jerk?!”  Shout out to that woman, she’s one of my favorite people and I’m extremely fortunate that I get to be friends with her.

Saxophone Lou and I had been friends for a couple of years and got along really, superbly well.  We really liked each other, and were lucky that our last names were close enough alphabetically that we often got seated next to each other in class.  He was one of my favorite people to shoot the shit with, which mostly meant that I worked tirelessly every day to make him laugh.  I kept my material fresh, while pretending that I wasn’t working off material (that’s the con!), because my brain writes material 24 hours a day and sometimes wakes me up at night and I have to write it down in the dark.  It sounds like fun, right up until you sit straight up in the middle of the night and go, “Wouldn’t it be funny to call Patrick Swayze a dumpster-possum in dick-pants?” and then you can’t fall back to sleep for three hours.

When we were in eighth grade, sitting in Mr. Werdman’s English class, I was sitting next to Saxophone Lou, and I was quietly but savagely ripping on Mr. Werdman, a teacher we both couldn’t stand.  To be fair, literally nobody could stand him.  Mr. Werdman was one of those teachers who when you saw his name on your schedule on the first day of school, you groaned and grimaced and pouted over it for weeks and tried to get the front office to change your schedule.  He was a raging asshole.  Just everything you don’t want out of a teacher.  Mean, rude, unaccommodating, looked like Joe Piscopo, and constantly looked up my skirt.

Constantly.

He seated me directly in front of his desk both years that I had him as a teacher, even though it threw off the alphabetical order.  He would pull his rolling chair out from behind his desk and put it right in front of me and then lean waaaaay back into it so that his eyes were basically at my crotch level, and then look horizontally down his nose at me, with his legs spread completely apart and one of his legs thrown up over the side of the armrest, airing out his Dockers-clad teacher-wiener directly downwind of my face.  Every day of English Lit felt like I was visiting a khaki salami shop.

He started doing this when I was 11 years old, by the way.  I hated that fucker.  You should hate that fucker.  Everyone should hate that fucker!  It’s a party!  If it’s any consolation, my friends and I prank-called him relentlessly for years.  I’m thinking about prank-calling him when I get home tonight, actually.

Did I mention how much he looked like Joe Piscopo?  Fuck!

After I got done with that day’s rant about how much Mr. Werdman totally sucked, Saxophone Lou eventually stopped laughing and got this look that was completely unfamiliar to me.  It was this sort of drunken, sleepy-eyed look, like he had just woken from a dream.  I was confused, and thought maybe he was having one of those motionless seizures that you hear about.  You know, the kind where you just sort of freeze in-time?  I tried to look around for things to shove into his mouth so he wouldn’t bite his tongue if he fell on the floor and started seizing uncontrollably.  I had seen someone do it on an afterschool special or something.  A chalkboard eraser, maybe?  That seemed like it would work.

I’d never seen him make a face like that before.  I’d never seen any man make a face like that at me before.  There was a moment of silence between us that felt like it lasted an eternity.

Then Saxophone Lou sighed, rested his chin on his hand like they do in Shakespeare plays and said the best thing I’d ever heard in my young life, “My god, Maggie.  You are so funny.  Will you be my girlfriend?”

Holy.  Shit.

So that was how I bought my first boyfriend.  Of course, Saxophone Lou would be the same boy who later broke up with me because I was too afraid to French kiss him, but I kept that guy laughing for weeks before he dumped me.  There is no way he walked away from our relationship thinking I wasn’t hilarious, so I chalked that up as a win.  Granted, at the time when he dumped me, I was so devastated that I put on my purple Oakley sunglasses so nobody would see my cry-puffy eyes, crawled under the covers on my bed for a month and cried non-stop to Chicago’s “Look Away” on repeat (that I had taped off the radio), but I look back now on that relationship fondly.

Come to think of it, that’s the only past romantic relationship that I’ve ever looked back on fondly?  Ever?  I typically tend to flamethrow past relationships to the ground when they’re over and then throw the ashes into the dewd’s eyes like sand in a ninja fight, but that’s because I have a never-ending bloodthirst for vengeance and a penchant for holding grudges until the end of the universe.

And, I’ve gotta tell you, I know it’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to be proud of or anything, but I really do have a natural born talent for it.

I mean, I’ve never been one of those bad-ass bitches who burned anyone’s house down or anything, but if you’ve ever wronged me and then “coincidentally” found a gigantic wad of half-chewed Big League Chew jammed up under your car door handle and melting stickily into the crevices of your door in the hot Florida sun, that would be me who put it there.  Good luck scraping that shit off your car, asshole!  (I’ve done the research, and Big League Chew is the most effective for this purpose.)  Have you found a lot of junk mail in your mailbox lately and tons of unknown numbers blowing up your phone and email?  I hope I didn’t put your name, address, phone number, and email into every “Win a Free Personal Training Session” box in town.  Oh wait, I did.  Petty?  Sure.  Immature?  Yep!  Pay me back all the money I spent on your stupid guitars and apologize for trying to bone all of my friends and I’ll consider a truce.

Also, no I won’t.

Hmm.  Is it possible that the compliment of Saxophone Lou telling me I was funny actually superseded the insult of him dumping me, thereby leaving him squarely on my good side?  Not that 14 year old boys are a tough audience or anything, but when you’ve heard your entire life that girls aren’t funny, when you’re able to make a boy laugh and he actually tells you, out loud, in front of people, that he thinks you’re funny, it feels like someone handing you a goddamned trophy.

You know what?  Screw it.  I changed my mind.  No fake laughing.

We Went to Jail to Try to Pick Up Guys

Anne and I had one major requirement when it came to dating in the 90s.  The guy absolutely, positively, must, must, must have long hair.

It didn’t have to be Sebastian-Bach-from-Skid-Row-long to their waist or anything (although that was the ideal), but it definitely had to be at least Whitfield-Crane-from-Ugly-Kid-Joe-shoulder-length.  We would often come home from high school, pop on MTV, and sit around and have conversations that went something like this:

“I just don’t think I could ever be attracted to a guy who didn’t have long hair.”

“I know.  When I see a hot guy with short hair, it just makes me sad.  I mean, how many years would it take to grow that out?  Would I be willing to wait that long?”

The problem was that we lived in South Florida, which wasn’t exactly Los Angeles or Seattle, where in the 90s you couldn’t swing a life-sized cardboard cutout of Chris Cornell without knocking over five guys with long hair.  In South Florida, post 80s, the long-haired man became a more elusive creature.  When Anne and I would see one in the mall, we would literally drop whatever clothes we were holding at Wet Seal and quietly chase after him like some kind of secret Beatlemania and then stalk him as he walked around the record store.  We would often be riding in the car with my mom, who greatly, greatly indulged us, and when we saw a long-haired guy walking down the street, we would force her to turn the car around so we could get another look at him and yell, “Woooooooo!” out the car window.  Also, about half the time it would turn out to be a woman.

“Being a woman” was about the only thing that would disqualify a long-haired person from being dating material for us back then.  We were willing to overlook just about anything in a guy if they had long hair.

Are you a jerk?  Yes?  Do you have long hair?  Then you’re not a jerk so much as you’re just “misunderstood”.

Are you unemployed and live in a van?  Yes?  Do you have long hair?  Then you’re not unemployed and living in a van so much as you are an “uncompromising freelancer nomad”.

I think it’s probably the same for men who chase after women who have those 48DDD Jessica Rabbit boobs, where you overlook your suspicions about her framing you for murder because tittaaaaaaays.

Anne and I would sometimes find ourselves in a dry spell, long-haired guy-wise, and on one particular night, we reached pretty far down the well to try to remedy it.  We went to jail.

My mom worked in a doctor’s office and had befriended the little old lady, Margie, who cleaned the office at night.  Margie was one of those little old ladies who had worked shit jobs scrubbing floors her entire life, and wasn’t even a little bitter about it.  She was a solid lady and was just delightful to be around.  She was so adorable, she used to run away from the lizards outside the office door while yelling, “I don’t like those bugs with tails!” in her thick, Pittsburgh accent.  Honestly, you couldn’t even write her as a fictional character, because nobody would believe it.  She was like a sugar-sweet version of Johnny Dangerously’s mom, Ma Kelly.

Unfortunately for Margie, she had a parasite named “Brett”.   Brett was her grown-ass, unemployed 30-something shirtless son who sponged off of her and sat around her apartment all day drinking and smoking weed with his fellow sponger-friends, routinely got arrested for drunk and disorderlies, and was an all-around low-life.  Margie worked full-time scrubbing floors, but had to be home by 5pm every night because that was when Brett expected her home to make dinner for him.  And do his laundry.  And give him pocket money for the bar.

Margie had a more forgiving view of Brett’s situation, which she often summed up as, “Brett can’t get no steady work”.

This somehow implied that Brett was looking for work, which he definitely was not.  We heard this refrain so often from her that we officially changed his name from “Brett” to “Brett Can’t Get No Steady Work”.  We lost touch with them over the years, but if I had to guess, I would say that Margie probably keeled over and died from exhaustion fifteen years ago while making Brett his favorite pasketti and he’s still storing her dead body in a freezer somewhere so he can collect her Social Security checks.

Late one Saturday night, Margie called my mom in a panic.  It seemed Brett Can’t Get No Steady Work had gotten arrested again, this time for starting a bar fight probably over whether it was produced “Viet-NOM” or “Viet-NAM”, and Margie’s vision wasn’t good enough to allow her to drive in the dark to go bail him out.

Anne was spending the night at our house, and when my mom said she would go pick Margie up and take her to jail to bail out Brett Can’t Get No Steady Work, we didn’t think that much of it.  That was, right before my mom was getting ready to walk out the door, and it dawned on me, “OH MY GOD.  DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY LONG-HAIRED GUYS THERE PROBABLY ARE IN THAT JAIL?”

Anne and I hopped up and threw on our sluttiest clothes and ran to get in the car with my mom, because teenage Anne and Maggie are idiots.  How our teenage years didn’t end with us being found in shallow graves or stuffed inside the septic tank of a tour bus is completely beyond me.

We figured that even if the long-haired guys were behind bars, they probably had friends or bandmates who would show up to bail them out, and being that this was county lock-up, some of those guys may have even been in there for a few months, so they would be hot to trot for a couple of barely legal types like ourselves, assuming their legs weren’t still shackled together.  Not that leg shackles would have disqualified a long-haired guy from our dating pool, of course.  We would have just said he was the kind of guy who “liked to take things slow”.

We primped and lipsticked in the car vanity mirror in the parking lot at the jail like we were getting ready to walk into a Warrant video.  We strutted through the parking lot, readjusted our bras for maximum push-uppedness, and flung open the door.

Much to our dismay, rather than the virtual Headbangers Ball we were expecting to find in the waiting area, anyone who was there looked exactly like Margie.  It was an exclusive club of old cleaning women who were there to bail out their good-for-nothing adult sons.  I was surprised they didn’t all know each other and settle into a game of Mahjong while they were waiting.  Instead, they scrutinized the cleanliness of the floor and offered up homemade business cards for their cleaning services to the cop at the front desk.  They probably should have used the opportunity to unionize.

When Brett Can’t Get No Steady Work made bail, we sad-faced trudged out of there and back through the parking lot, in full-on sullen teenager mode.  As we got into the car, defeated, Anne looked up at the tiny windows that dotted the side of the building and saw a long-haired silhouette wave to us from inside the jail and said, “OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?!!!”.

I looked up and he was gone.  Like a shooting star, I had missed it.

Powder Bad, Broadway Bad

Antiquing.  This can be either: (a) a thing you do when you visit quaint towns on vacation, or (b) what happens when you heavily apply pressed powder to your entire face after the age of 40.

After you hit 40, pressed powder is something that must be lightly dusted onto minimal areas of your face as sparingly as you might sprinkle uranium into your drinking water.  It should be like a tiny lady fruit fly accidentally inhaled some powder and then coughed it onto your face through a tiny fruit fly handkerchief and said in a tiny lady voice, “Oh, I’m ever so sorry, I just can’t seem to shake this fruit fly cold!  Can I trouble you for a tiny teacup of hot water and lemon?”, and then you give it to her despite the fact that she is vermin, because she’s so goddamned adorable.

I mean, don’t let me stop you if antiquing is something you’re into, or if you work part-time as a ghost tour guide in a southern city and it’s your intent to frighten tourists from Canada (like that’s hard).  Or even if you just want someone to mistake you for Paula Deen, then feel free to spackle it on.  It’s not like you can really see her face under the pointy white hood anyway.  Go ahead, give yourself a biscuit face.  What the hell do I care?  I’m not the police!  (Yet.)

Now, if you must know, I am the oiliest person who has ever lived, so this antiquing thing creates a real dilemma for me in the oil-slick-on-the-face department.  Noooobody needs powder more than I do.  As it is, I am probably single-handedly financing the CEO’s yearly bonus at the blotting tissue company.  My face gets so shiny, birds fly into it like it’s one of those all-glass buildings.  If I don’t put any powder on at all, I will be as reflective as C3-PO within 20 minutes of putting on my makeup.  People will look at me and make clever remarks to each other such as, “Shit!”, or “Is it just me or does that tin man have A-cups?”

I’m thinking you’re catching what I’m throwing here.  I’m shiny.

That being said, if I do put powder on, it will gravitate and collect in my fine lines within twenty minutes and look like I have drawn whiskers on my face with white chalk.  Not that I don’t ever draw whiskers on my face with white chalk, but not usually for work, or casual evenings out, or any activities where I’m not in the Broadway revival of Cats.

Semi-related – and just throwing this out here so that I can set the record straight once and for all – I do not enjoy Broadway musicals.  Like, at all.  I’m not sure where things went wrong with regard to my feelings on the subject though, because most people I know wrongly assume that I enjoy Broadway musicals.

I don’t think Broadway musicals are a crime against humanity or anything, they’re just not my scene.  As soon as someone walks out onto a stage and takes that big “theater voice” diaphragm-breath, arms outstretched, with their eyes and smile all wide to really belt out that first note, I mentally go, “NEXT!”  If I could hit a button to make a trap door open under them before they could get the first note out, that’d be ideal.

When my chorus teacher took us to see the traveling Broadway production of Les Miserables in middle school, while everyone else was oohing and ahhing, I was sitting there going, “WHEN IS THIS OVER??”.  Then I bought the Les Miserables t-shirt in the gift shop, because I always have to buy something from the gift shop, because I’ve been told by society that women be shoppin’.

People have really tried to get me to come around on this, too.

“I know you say you don’t like musicals, but wait until you see Avenue Q!”

Hated it.

“I get it, you don’t like musicals.  But this one is different!  You’ll love Wicked!”

Hated it.

I know that even right at this second you’re thinking, “Well, I bet Hamilton would change her mind!”  You would be wrong.  Not because I’ve seen Hamilton and hated it.  I haven’t seen it.  I have no plans to see it.  Because I do not like Broadway musicals.  Because I know that no matter what, there is no way someone doesn’t walk out onto a stage at some point and do that big “theater voice” diaphragm-breath, arms outstretched, with their eyes and smile all wide to really belt out that first note.

This is surely confusing for you given my publicly-proclaimed love of Grease 2, but the only reasons I love that movie are because (a) it was never a Broadway musical, (b) it was a movie starring a movie star, and (c) Michelle Pfeiffer does not have an even passable singing voice, which is a quality I love in a singer more than anything.  Also, if we’re being perfectly honest here, Adrian Zmed makes me uncomfortable in an entirely satisfying way, like when you press your knuckle into your gums just a little too hard and you’re thinking, “Why am I doing this thing that kind of hurts?  Because I can’t not do it, that’s why!”

And, my god, that jacket on Michelle Pfeiffer.  The first time I saw that movie, on that part during my favorite number “Cool Rider”, when she flips that pink satin Pink Ladies jacket inside out and we get to see that it’s black leather on the inside, I thought my 6-year old heart was going to explode out of my chest.  I knew right at that moment, that jacket was a perfect representation of everything I wanted to be in life.

It’s like that episode of Sex and The City where Harry shows Charlotte the photo of the baby they’re adopting from China and she looks at the photo and starts crying and says, “That’s her.  That’s our baby.”  But way more important.  Hello, people?  There are billions of babies in the world!  How many reversible jackets are there out there with pink satin on the outside and black leather on the inside?!

It almost makes a tin man with A-cups believe in miracles.

Once Bitten, One Million Times Shy

I suffer from debilitating shyness.  I know this is confusing to people who used to jam into dirty clubs and watch me hold court onstage over a room of sweaty drunk people, but what you were witnessing was a stunning display of acting.  I never started a single show in nearly ten years without a broken record playing in my head, screaming, “You cannot do this.  People are looking at you.  Run out of the building right now and never look back.  RUN!”

Thankfully, right when I was juuust about to fake a stomach cramp to get the hell out of there, the drums would start.  I would focus solely on the drums (because they were the only thing that was ever on time in that band (zing!)) and then, somehow, I would manage to make it through the set without nerve-vomiting on someone.  The other trick was to pick out one person in the crowd, and taunt them relentlessly the entire time.  That way my brain only had one thing to focus on, instead of focusing on a pile of people who were staring at me.  If I didn’t always have one exterior thing to focus on, I would have most certainly lost my shit and made a break for the closest exit.  It was like a miracle every time I pulled off a show without running out of the room in terror.

I never got used to it, but I found ways to deal with it.  Aside from focusing on one thing, I will tell you this much:  Drinks help.  I realize “drinks help” are the kind of words that eventually bite you in the ass when you wake up all dead and bloated at 27 and teenagers swarm your grave site every year on the anniversary of your death to give each other handjobs on top of your headstone, but I’m 41 now, so I no longer have to worry about anybody making blacklight wall tapestries of my face when I overdose on something in a bathtub.  People only make bad art of your face when you die in your 20s.  Nobody is going to print my face on a flag with the words “The Lizard King” printed under it.  Pressure’s off there!  So have a drink – it’ll loosen you up.

It also helps to pretend that you are not you.  I never, ever acknowledged to myself that that was me standing up there.  It was always someone who was playing a much cooler and confident version of me, but certainly, most definitely, not me.  The person up there is not the same person who hangs up on the pizza guy when he answers the phone when they realize they aren’t emotionally ready to talk to a stranger on the phone.  Definitely not the same person whose hands shake when they have to say “Two adults, please” to the movie theater box office person.  Absolutely not the person who has actually hidden under their desk to avoid having to speak to a customer.  If that person were the same person who climbed up on that stage on any given night, that person would have fainted every time.

I get that some people are just totally cool to be the center of attention – and here’s the thing – I totally am.  I adore being the center of attention, so long as you’re not looking at me, listening to me, or even thinking about me.  Because if I fully realize you are looking at me, or listening to me, or even thinking about me – it will freak me the fuck out.  Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about you reading it, and it’s freaking me the fuck out.

I get why this may be news to you.  Because while I am terrified of people I don’t know, I am capable of putting on a very convincing display when push comes to shove, because at the end of the day I’d rather be secretly terrified by staying in the room than be publicly humiliated by running out of it like a lunatic baby.  I make deals with myself constantly to just be able to stay in the room.  “If you stay in this room right now and keep talking to these strangers, later on I will let you hide in a bathroom stall!”  “If you stay in this room, you can watch two episodes of The Love Boat by yourself when you get home!”  I’m like the Monty Hall of Social Anxiety, but with considerably shakier hands.

That’s why I can’t really blame you (but I still will) for those times when you invite me out to dinner with you, and I show up expecting a relaxed evening of one-on-one conversation, but you had failed to mention you were bringing along ten people I have never met before in my life.  Springing a table of strangers on me makes me wish a sinkhole would open in the ground right under me and swallow me up in it so I can get away.  My palms are starting to sweat just thinking about it.

Keeping up the false appearance of being an extrovert is hard work on a regular day, but it takes a hell of a lot of mental agility to keep the sham going with a table full of people I’ve never met.  I am so mentally and emotionally exhausted after these types of encounters that I feel like a wrung-out rag when I get home, and it takes a full day of hermiting to feel okay again.

Here’s the thing – I like you.  I want to spend time with you.  I can put aside my issues with you looking at me, listening to me, and even thinking about me, because the exchange of your friendship and spending time with you is worth it to me.  I’ve run the cost-benefit analysis on it, and it’s a win.  But with ten strangers staring at me, you have completely thrown off said cost-benefit analysis.

Now instead of spending time with you, the person I know and like, I get to spend the evening really struggling to make small talk with people I’ll never see again, or worse, be forced to endure a one-sided conversation with your cousin who wants to educate me on how he became a Buddhist after he saw The Matrix, and I’m supposed to just sit there with a straight face and not punt a cantaloupe right into his frameless sunglasses.

Do you know how hard it is to stop thinking about punting a cantaloupe into someone’s face after you’ve fully formed the picture in your mind?  It’s not just the picture, either.  I’m imagining the hollow plonky-thump noise that it would make, and it’s the most satisfying thing I’ve heard since that time Steve Bannon said, “I’m going to unshackle you from the hot tub rail. You’re free to go.  Sorry I thought you were a teenage boy.”

I mean, I get it.  You people are natural extroverts.  I am not.  Mine is accomplished through Photoshop and trick mirrors and shit.

“Oh Yeah?”: Dewd Quiz

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life of glitz and glamour, it’s that dewdz have tremendously high standards to determine if you’re worthy of their respect.  Wait, I forgot to clarify.  To determine if they deem women worthy of their respect.  As far as other dewdz are concerned, a handshake and a “Sup, bro” pretty much punches that ticket. Dewdz love each other so much, unless they see a dewd actively dry-humping their mom, they will attest under oath that he’s a “good guy”.  There is so much instant warmth between two dewdz who have just met, I’m surprised their balls don’t erupt in flames.

Many, many, many times in my life, going back to my teenage years and as recently as last week, I’ll look around whatever room I’m in and realize that I’m the only woman in the room.  It’s probably because fifty percent of my life has been spent in band rehearsal spaces in warehouses and fifty percent has been spent in shitty dive bars.  These scenarios are breeding grounds for my least favorite game.

The worst fucking game.

The game I have named “Dewd Quiz”.

Let’s learn more about it!

Dewd Quiz is a game that dewdz like to play with women who they fear are trying to sneak into their Dewd Club, because chicks, obviously, are not cool enough to hang with them, and must be rooted out and shamed as quickly as possible. I guess because they’d rather only hang out with dewdz? Even though they’re attracted to women? I don’t get it.  Try applying logic to most things dewdz do and you’ll find it’s like trying to put pants on an octopus.

Related, these guys are never actually cool, and should thank the fucking stars that any woman would ever even want to be in the same room as them, even if it’s a lowly woman who doesn’t know how many cc’s the engine is on the motorcycle parked out front.  Oh, the shame.  The horror.

Dewd Quiz is designed to make you prove yourself to a dewd who apparently thinks so highly of himself that if you can prove you know as much as he does about trivial shit that doesn’t really fucking matter, only then you are worthy of his respect.  (You’ve gotta be some kind of special egomaniac if those are your standards for respecting someone, by the way.  I’m surprised these dewdz don’t glow like goddamned plutonium rods, they’re such nuclear dickwads.)

The first time I ever unknowingly played Dewd Quiz was in the eighth grade.  I was a huge fan of Skid Row, and was wearing my favorite Skid Row t-shirt at the skating rink.  I knew every Skid Row song by heart (still do!), everything about the band, and was a superfan.  I spent more time on Skid Row than I did on homework.

A dewd I had never met in my life skated up to me, gave me a stink-face, and said, “Name one Skid Row song that’s not “I Remember You”.  Then he folded his arms across his chest and stood there and waited.  You should have seen this smug 14 year old prick’s face.  I swear, if I could go back in time and beat him with my skate until his face looked like a waffle, I would.

He assumed that since I was a girl, I only knew the power ballad that was on regular radio rotation, and would therefore have no right to wear the t-shirt. And Skid Row is not even really a dewdz-dewd band. I can only imagine if I liked Testament or Helloween.

So, here’s the crux of the game.  Dewdz get very angry when they think you, as a woman, are representing yourself as a fan of something “dewdish” unless you know every teeny, tiny minutiae of detail about it.  For example:

If you don’t know what the B-side was on a 7-inch record put out by a metal band before they got signed to a major label thirty years ago, you are not permitted to claim that you are a fan of this band, because you are a poseur.

If you claim to like football but don’t know Jerry Rice’s rushing record, even though you’re not a 49ers fan, you are a poseur.

If you claim to like horror films, but don’t know who the director was of some Japanese horror film from 1975 that was only released as an import in Taiwan on 8mm film, you are a poseur.

If you fail to answer any of their questions accurately, they will deem you a poseur and unworthy of their respect.  It is the dumbest game ever.

I suspect Dewd Quiz is the reason there aren’t more women in baseball broadcasting, because if you don’t know who scored a run on an error in the 13th inning to win the 128th game of the 1956 season between the Mets and the Dodgers, you might as well not even know what a baseball looks like as far as dewdz are concerned.  My god, the stats in that game.

It’s especially bad now that I’m no longer in a band, because when any dewd finds out that I used to be in a band, the Dewd Quiz machine gets kickstarted like a dirt bike and they practically come out of their skin to start their inquisition.  “Oh yeah?  Well what kind of microphone did you use?”  “Oh yeah, well who wrote the songs?”  “Oh yeah?  Well did you even play an instrument?”  “Oh yeah, do you know the difference between major and minor chords?”

😐 <——- (This is my face right now.)

A couple months ago I was out at my favorite dive bar with Bobby on a Sunday afternoon, I was the only woman there, and I was wearing my favorite Jefferson Airplane t-shirt, that says “Jefferson” across the very top, near the collar band, and “Airplane” at the bottom, closer to my waist.  A guy who was sitting by himself about thirty feet away from us yelled across the bar, “Hey, what does the bottom of your shirt say?”

Now, were I a younger woman, I would have thought this was merely an innocent question, but given my old wiseness and stuff, I recognized this immediately as the beginning of a scorching round of Dewd Quiz, and I determined that I was in no mood to engage and was going to shut it down.  I smirked and said, “Don’t worry, it doesn’t say “Starship.”

Didn’t work.

Then he wanted to know old the shirt was, I assume, because if my t-shirt weren’t from 1968, you know, well before I was born, he was going to call my t-shirt a poseur.  I said, “It’s not old, got it on eBay.  I’d be drinking at a much less shitty bar right now if I could afford an original.”  He laughed.  (Pro-tip – making a dewd laugh is a decent shortcut through Dewd Quiz because dewdz don’t think women are capable of being funny.) Also, I left out the part where I mentally said, “So shut up”, because unlike dewdz, I didn’t want to end up in a barfight over a t-shirt.

Speaking of fighting, when I first joined the MMA-style dojo I was going to a couple years ago, I readily admitted to everyone that I had no idea what I was doing and that they were going to have to teach me everything from the ground up.  When I had learned enough fighting skill that I could talk about it and not sound like a total idiot, I was amazed at how many dewdz just couldn’t stand it.  It infuriated them.  I went to try a freebie class at another dojo, and when the guy at the counter asked me if I had any experience, I told him what I knew, and he said, “Oh yeah?  Where do you train?”

I answered him, “With Mike over at Prag.” He looked irritated that I actually had an answer.

Then he said, “Oh yeah, well which discipline?”

I answered, “Full mix. Western boxing, muay thai, kali, grappling, krav maga.”

“Oh yeah?  Well what brand of gloves do you wear?”

Le sigh.

These are the three questions every. single. dewd. will ask you if you ever tell them that you’ve fight-trained, because they desperately, desperately want to try to “catch you”, for what reasons I don’t know.  You can set your watch by that shit.  Same questions, same order. Next dojo I guested at, same drill.

Basketball?  Oh, that’s a fun one.  I am a huge basketball fan.  (LET’S GO HEAT!)  Dewdz will not accept this until I have presented them with a 500 page doctoral thesis on the subject that is graded for both content and margins, and even that won’t necessarily get the job done.  I could walk in wearing a Udonis Haslem jersey, carrying Udonis Haslem on my shoulders, he could say, “Hi, I’m Udonis Haslem, and Maggie here is a Heat fan”, and dewdz would still come at me with, “Oh yeah?  Well what’s Hassan Whiteside’s mother’s middle name?  Don’t know?  POSEUR.”

It’s a no-win situation. They make fun of you for liking girly things, but they’re pissed if you like dewd things.  Lord knows they won’t respect you if you don’t know as much about a dewd subject as they do (even though it still seems to threaten them), but if you know more than them?  Holy shit.  You’ve just committed the high crime of emasculation. I would rather start an underfunded land war in Asia than go up against a dewd who thinks I’ve emasculated him. That’s how you get your head blown off in a bar parking lot over who had the most rebounds in a first round playoff series in the NBA Eastern Conference because, as I often preach, and am trying to spread throughout the land so please help me out if you can, dewdz are sensitive and emotional as shit.

I’ll tell you what’s the most fun, though. Watching a dewd fail the very Dewd Quiz he is hosting. Last year I was eavesdropping on a Dewd Quiz that was happening nearby, while the Marilyn Manson cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” was playing on the jukebox. Dewd Quizzer says to woman playing pool nearby, “I bet you don’t know who did this song originally.”

She didn’t. He then, smug as fuck, smiled and said, “Oasis.”

I took a lot of petty pride just quietly knowing how wrong he was, even though I wasn’t involved in the conversation, because you have to savor all victories over Dewd Quiz, no matter how small.

Oasis. Seriously?

I Didn’t Get Murdered. The Next Girl Did.

I didn’t get my drivers license until I was 21.  I had been in a particularly bad accident when I was 15, and I was absolutely petrified at the notion of getting behind the wheel.  So I put it off, and put it off.  And put it off.  As much as my life had been turned upside down after my accident, and I was dealing with PTSD daily while trying to pass the tenth grade, my accident would turn out to be the thing that would eventually save my life.

The thing about not having a car or a license when you’re between the ages of 16 and 21 is that you have to depend on the kindness of others to give you a ride everywhere.  The problem with depending on the kindness of others to give you a ride is that you often find yourself stuck in situations that are boring at best and terrifying at worst, with no way to extract yourself from the situation.

Good example – the last time I witnessed someone shoot heroin in front of me was the night before I got my first car, twenty years ago.  Haven’t witnessed it since.  It’s not because I found Jesus, or even a better class of friends.  It was because from the moment I got that car, as soon as I could see the sleazy direction an evening was going, I would jump in my car and get the hell out of there.

There was no such thing as Uber or Lyft back in the 90s, and if you didn’t live in a big, metropolitan city, there were no cabs, either.  Sure, you could call a cab and wait over an hour for one to maybe show up – and that’s a big “maybe” – and even if one did show up, the driver was typically a large drunk man who wanted to know if you were “single, honey”.  As teenagers, we ended up hanging out at places we could walk to.  It was the only way to have a social life.

Anne and I were at the beach one night, hanging out where all the bad teenagers and young adults hung around and smoked weed, played guitar, and generally bothered passers-by.  She and I weren’t into drugs or mayhem, but it was the closest place for two teenage girls to hang out that was within walking distance of Anne’s parents’ house.

There was a deadhead bar across the street from the pavilion where everyone hung out, and a Grateful Dead tribute band played there every Saturday night, the music spilling out the patio doors and into the street.  Under-aged neo-hippie girls twirled their long skirts as they danced across the sidewalk, while over-aged guys who went by names like “Jester” and “Willow” tried to convince them to come down to the lifeguard stand on the beach to smoke out with them.

Several of the girls I knew from my high school art class had smoked out with Willow, a tall, skinny, blonde hippie guy who was apparently allergic to wearing shirts, but could always be found wearing a black hat.  Like an actual villain, if The Traveling Wilburys had allowed villains in the band.  He literally asked me, “What’s your sign?” when I first met him, that’s how hokey this guy was.  And when I told him, he then asked me what my “rising sign” was.  I swear, this guy was like a propaganda cartoon of a hippie pervert.

The girls he had smoked out with told me that he typically demanded a certain form of “payment” in exchange for sharing his Kind Bud with them, but that he wasn’t “like, pushy about it” or anything.  How hard do you have to push a teenage girl whose high out of her mind to blow you on the beach?  I know what you’re thinking.  While Willow was a real gem, he’s not the one.  He was just exactly the type of guy who hung around there on a Saturday night.

One Saturday night Anne and I walked down to the pavilion and there were two guys we hadn’t seen there before.  Not hippies!  They chatted with us while they passed a guitar back and forth, both claiming that they wished they’d had their 12-string guitars with them so they could play whatever songs guys play on 12-string guitars because they think it impresses girls.

(By the way, girls are not impressed by 12-string guitars.  In 1992, they’re impressed by how much you look like Nuno Bettencourt.  Do an image search on Google for “Nuno Bettencourt 1992” and you’ll see I have no ax to grind here.  You could play a triangle and girls in 1992 would swoon if you looked like Nuno Bettencourt because if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, women are just as shallow as men.)

The guys introduced themselves as Tony and Steve.  I thought Tony was the most rock star thing I’d ever seen and he, in turn, seemed like he was mostly indifferent to the fact that I existed.  This fact made Tony fully, thoroughly, almost shamelessly, my type.  Anne and I flirted and chatted some more with them, mentioned that we’d be around the same place, same time, next Saturday and then walked home.

Over the next week, Anne and I made a plan for the next time we saw Tony and Steve.  The plan consisted of one element:

  1. Do not get in a car with Tony and Steve.

While we were as dumb as any teenagers, we had been taught that it was never okay to get into a car with men you didn’t know.  We determined that if Tony and Steve showed up at the beach and wanted us to get in a car with them to go somewhere else, we would say no, and that we would just keep hanging out at the beach.  Simple.  Easy.  We figured if we spent a couple of weekends getting to know them, then it would be okay to go somewhere else with them.

Our mothers would have been proud.  Okay, not really proud.  Relieved?  Nah, probably not relieved, either.  As it was, they had no idea that we got all dolled up every Saturday and snuck out until 2am to hang out with a bunch of delinquents and druggies at the beach.

Saturday night finally came around and Anne and I were sitting on a bench at the pavilion.  Tony and Steve pulled up in Steve’s old and beaten up four-door black sedan and parked in front.  Tony got out of the car and walked up to me and said, “Hey, wanna get out of here?  Steve’s still got the car running.”

I don’t think we said, “Okay!” fast enough as we hopped off the bench and bounded towards Steve’s car and climbed into the backseat.  So much for our plan.

It wasn’t my fault!  Why did Tony have to look so goddamned much like Nuno Bettencourt?

Steve backed out of the parking space, squealing the tires, and sped down the street about a hundred miles per hour like he was fleeing a crime scene.  Anne and I laughed nervously, exchanged terrified glances with each other, and pretended that we hadn’t just made the biggest mistake of our lives.

Steve was the only one who was over 21, so our first stop was at a nearby 7-11 to pick up a 12-pack of cheap beer.  He came out of the store and cracked open three beers and handed them out to everyone, then cracked open one for himself and started back down the road.  He ran every stop sign, and at one point we were actually driving full-speed on the wrong side of a divided highway.  I mouthed to Anne, “We are going to die tonight” and she nodded her head.

We had no idea where Tony and Steve were taking us, and when we asked, Steve said, “Don’t worry about it.”

The car slowed at the entrance to an industrial park.  It was close to midnight now, so there were no cars or people there.  Steve turned down a one lane road that ran behind the building.  Way behind the building.  As we passed trees that got more numerous and densely-packed, Anne and I looked at each other in horror.  It was like everything our mothers had warned us about was coming true.

Steve eventually turned off the road into a small clearing, surrounded by pine trees.  It was just big enough to fit around two cars.  The woods surrounding it were deep, and Anne and I had no idea where we were oriented from the main highway.  Steve stopped the car and turned off the engine.  We sat there in silence.

After the longest minute of my life, Tony said, “Let’s sit on the hood and have some more beers!”

We got out of the car and the guys handed us two more beers.  We started talking about mutual friends, bands we liked, that sort of thing.  The conversation lightened up, and I relaxed a little.  Maybe nothing bad would happen after all!  I was surprised that the guys weren’t even trying to put any moves on us, though.  You would typically expect two young guys who had been drinking to be pawing at us like fresh meat, but they kind of kept their distance, actually.  They seemed more interested in talking and drinking than doing anything else.

After another hour or so and a few more beers, Steve started to become the angry-variety of drunk, and any sense of relaxing that I had previously had was evaporating quickly.  He started making fun of my clothes, my hair, the way I talked.  He said, “Girls like you, you think you’re hot shit.  You’re just shit, though.  That’s all you are.  You’re shit.  You’re SHIT.”  It came out of nowhere, and it was particularly brutal.  I expected Tony to jump in at some point and tell Steve to knock it off, but much to my horror, he actually joined in.  It seemed like the two of them were feeding off each other’s meanness towards us, and Anne and I could see the situation was deteriorating quickly.

Steve managed to grab one of Anne’s shoes and threw it into the woods.  He dared her to go off alone to go get it.  She laughed it off and said, “No way!” and gave me a pleading look.  I gave her one back because I just didn’t know what to do.  We knew the worst thing we could do was to become separated from each other.  Anne stood there, wearing one shoe.  Steve continued taunting us.

Having spent so many years around scumbags in my neighborhood at that point, I had been able to talk my way out of plenty of scary situations in the past, so my mind raced to think of something, anything, that would change the course of events that were unfolding.  I had to find a way to change the subject.

I blurted out, “Did I tell you guys that I got hit by a car last year?  I broke my back, my pelvis, and my foot, and I had to learn how to walk again.  I was in the hospital for months.  It was really awful.”

Okay, so it was a slight fib.  While I had been hit by a car and broke my back, pelvis, and foot, I had been in the hospital for two weeks with physical therapy for a few months after.  I didn’t have to learn to walk again so much as I had to learn how to walk with crutches for three months.  They didn’t need to know that.

What I wanted from them, what I was counting on, was enough time to create a shift in their mindset so that they would feel sorry for me.  So that whatever they were planning to do to us that night, it would seem like I’d at least already been through enough in life, and Anne too, by association.  They were talking to us like we were less than human, and I wanted to humanize myself as much as possible.  I wanted them to realize that Anne and I were not merely “things”.

When I piped up and told them about my accident, Steve said, “So?  You want me to feel sorry for you?”

Uh oh.

Tony, on the other hand, softened.  He asked me how it happened.  He wanted to know details.  He stopped focusing on what Steve was saying.  A minute later, Tony said, “Hey, let’s get out of here.  The mosquitos are eating me alive out here.”

We got back in the car and Anne asked Steve to point the car’s headlights towards the woods where he had thrown her shoe.  She hopped out, grabbed her shoe, and got back into the car.  Steve and Tony drove us back to the beach and dropped us off.  There were no kisses goodnight and no phone numbers exchanged.

We saw them the next week at the pavilion, and Tony and I actually started seeing each other.  He was surprisingly pretty cool when Steve wasn’t around, plus he continued to look like Nuno Bettencourt.

One night a couple months later, Steve asked me to take a walk with him down the sidewalk.  It was in public, so I felt okay.  He told me he was sorry that he had been so mean to me that night in the woods, and that he was only mean to me because he couldn’t stand that I was obviously interested in Tony and not him.  He told me Tony was a real dirtbag and that he would ditch me the moment I slept with him (he did).  He asked me to give him a chance.  I told him I was sorry, but that I just liked him as a friend.  He said that was cool.

Steve murdered the next girl he dated, in the same woods he had taken us to that night.  He stabbed her and beat her to death with a baseball bat.  He made a plea bargain, and with time off for good behavior, he was out of prison before I even hit 30.