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. Wertzman’s English class, I was sitting next to Saxophone Lou, and I was quietly but savagely ripping on Mr. Wertzman, a teacher we both couldn’t stand.  To be fair, literally nobody could stand him.

Mr. Wertzman 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. Wertzman 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 boy 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, 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.