I’m Your Charity Case, So Buy Me Something to Eat…

…I’ll pay you at another tiiiiiiiiiiime.

Who are we kidding?  That dude’s not paying you back.  If he were into things like paying people back, he’d have a job, not a band.

There are good musicians to date (accordion players) and there are bad musicians to date (all the rest of them) but, just like any other study in stereotypes, the bad ones generally stick out the most.

The one thing guy musicians have in common is that you will always, always, always come second in their lives.  Get used to it.  Your smile’s got nothing on bright lights and a roar of applause from strangers.  Nothing.

If he were given the opportunity to play a show in front of 10,000 people, but it would require him to amputate one of your toes and then eat it in front of you, guess who’s about to have only nine toes?  He will yell, “Thanks for the snack, babe!” as he runs down the hall from his dressing room to the stage.  You will hobble on a tiny bloody stump.  The next day he will be annoyed that you now walk so slowly, and will loudly sigh when you ask him to slow down.

A musician will refuse to call you his “girlfriend” unless you let him move in with you.  If he hasn’t moved in yet (which would be surprising seeing as he’s homeless), you will instead be referred to as “I don’t like labels.  Can’t we just hang out and have sex at my leisure?”

Him calling you his “girlfriend”, by the way, does not imply exclusivity.  “Girlfriend” is more equivalent to “Benefactor”.  He will absolutely still have sex with other women.  He’ll have sex with you, too, but you’ll also have the good fortune of being the one he chooses to put gas in his car, food in his belly, and clothes on his back.  Lucky you.

So he gets it on in the bathroom at the bar with some random skank?  Big deal!  Don’t you get it?  His passionate soul can’t be tied down, baby!  The heart (dong/ego) wants what it wants.

He will say, “Mmm-non-mon-pom-wall” and you will say, “What?”  Then he will spit out another woman’s underwear from his mouth and say, “It’s nothing personal!” Then he will ask you to wash the underwear along with the rest of his laundry.

As the girlfriend, the only way to prevent such things from happening is to make sure you attend every single show his band plays.  Because if you ain’t there when he walks off the stage, trust me, there will be plenty of girls who will be.  Even if it’s on a Tuesday night at 1:00am, it’s a three hour drive away, and you have to be at work the next day at 7:00am.  Even if your best friend is marrying a British royal and you’ve been invited to be in the wedding party.  Doesn’t matter.  Your ass better be there at whatever shitty bar he’s playing in Lakeland, Florida on a Tuesday night.  Your devotion and paranoia will be rewarded by maybe not getting an STD.

If you have a problem with any of the above, you are “uptight” and you “don’t understand” him.  If you actually break up with him over it, he will tell everyone that you “went psycho” on him.

Here’s a handy tip sheet to help you make an informed decision the next time you’re thinking, “Oh my god – he was totally staring at me through that whole last song!  Damn he’s hot!  Should I give him my phone number?”

Narcissistic Personality Disorder I mean, Singer: The worst, worst, worst.  Master of the Gaslight, Keeper of The Ego.  No one can convince you they’re madly in love you, then have sex with your sister, then make YOU apologize for it, then convince you to give them $300 for their car payment better than those guys can.  I’ve known many smart, level-headed people who have been reduced to insecure, suicidal wrecks at the hands of the singer.  Stay away!  These guys propose to you within a week, and fall desperately in love with you – for about two months.  Then it’s onto the next one.  Do a Google search for “love bombing”.  Expect to find a large cache of John Mayer photos.  Then he’ll be like, “I really consider myself a guitar player…”  Shut up.  We all know that you can actually play.  We get it.

And, yes, I was a singer.  And an asshole.  I get the irony.

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Extra Spanx were required just to keep the ego from jiggling.

Lead Guitar Player:  Requires an incredible amount of patience.  Your relationship will consist of listening to him play scales, pretending not to notice that he’s stealing all your skinny jeans, and riding on his bike handlebars to buy him McDonald’s.  He uses the words “LITERALLY!” to describe anything that is not literal, to the point that you will eventually start to involuntarily cringe when he says it.  Also, he is approximately as smart as a potato chip, but he will tell you that he’s “street smart”.  Also, he is not street smart.

Rhythm Guitar Player:  Generally easy-going, but is pretty sure he’d rather be the lead guitar player, and needs constant reassurance that he’s as good/needed as the lead guitar player.  You will come to recognize the sound of skateboard wheels on your driveway as him arriving for dinner, and gentle sobbing as the sound of him falling asleep on your futon, clutching a photo of Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam.  He owns either a ferret or a snake, but never both.  He gets haircuts regularly, which is good, but only because his mother still pays for it.  He is 35.

Bass Player:  Do you do drugs?  Would you like to?  Date a bass player.  He’ll only charge you for your half, oh, and his half.  The sound of a car door slamming and “Later, Grandma!” is your cue that he’s already eaten dinner before he arrived at your house, so now it’s time to smoke a bowl and watch some Adult Swim in his “crazy” boxer shorts.  Do not let this man bring pewter figurines into your house or you will never get rid of him.  He will pull out his Wizard Pocket Constitution and tell you that, legally speaking, a pewter wizard can’t be evicted until thirty days’ notice has been properly served.  He will ruin your clothes dryer with the 24-sided dice that he forgot to take out of his wide-legged jeans.

Drummer:  You have to question anyone’s motives for wanting to lug all that crap around and beat on it for hours at a time.  Perhaps he’s angry?  But he also wants to sit?  Sitting and being angry?  What a coincidence!  That’s exactly what you’ll be doing the whole time you’re dating him.  His ass smells terrible.  Like really, gut-punchingly terrible.  So bad that you store a dead buzzard in the laundry hamper to kill the smell.  He has a car, but he also lives in it, so at least you can kill rent money and gas money with one never-paid-back-loan-stone if you’re hesitant to let him (and his piles of crap) move in.

This is what happens when you let that happen:

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You could not envy my 21-year old decorating skills more, and I honestly can’t remember whose drums these were in my house

Keyboard Player:  Only if you can handle hours of stories about how he totally pwn3d all the noobz at computer camp when he was a teenager with his savant-like knowledge with regard to the more obscure works of Philip Glass.  If you’re into that scene, then please go forth and propagate with this man, and spare the rest of the world from his wiener.  You’d be taking one for the team, really, and someday your eventual spawn will probably be smart enough to crack enemy computer codes or something, or at least come up with wireless ear buds that don’t look like Ben Stiller’s ear in that scene from “There’s Something About Mary”.  You know which scene.  Don’t make me spell it out.

Any Musician Who Takes Off His Shirt Onstage:  Gross.  Just gross.  Nobody wants to see your weird spoon-chest, Topher.

Guys Named Christopher Who Call Themselves “Topher”:  Musician or not – just say no.

Butter Off Dead

There was this one time I didn’t brush my teeth in 7th grade.

For the entire school year.

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Any similar face that you’re making right now is completely warranted.  I’m making it, too.  As a responsible adult who enjoys things like getting regular dental care, brushing and flossing, and not having a dusty hobo mouth that bats fly out of at night, the thought of someone not brushing their teeth for that long is absolutely horrifying.

This has been one of my deepest, darkest secrets for my entire adult life, and it damn well should be, because it’s freaking disgusting.  You are actually the first ones hearing about it, sooo congratulations?  I bet now you’re happy you never got your birthday wish to make out with me in middle school, which by the way, I am certain nobody ever, ever wished.  Don’t make me remind you of acid-washed everything and the blonde perm.

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Merry Christmas from 13 year old me.  I know I look like Duff McKagan from Guns ‘n Roses here, which would have been really cool if I weren’t a girl.

I remember the exact day I made the decision that I wasn’t going to brush my teeth anymore.  I was getting ready for school, picked up the toothbrush and toothpaste that were sitting there at the bottom of the rusty medicine cabinet, sighed and thought, “This again?” and then I put them back down and walked out the door to catch the school bus, teeth unbrushed.  Somewhere between my front door and the bus stop, I realized what a time-saver I’d stumbled upon!

It also helped that I wanted to die.

That particular period was really rough in our house, and it had reached a point where clean teeth just didn’t feel all that significant in the grand scheme of things.  I was so low, that the idea of having to unscrew the toothpaste cap, dispense it onto a toothbrush, and then commence brushing was just more effort than I could handle.  I secretly wore dirty clothes every day and my showers consisted of me standing still under the hot water for five minutes and then just turning it off.  Soap?  Who the hell had the energy for that?  Sometimes even just breathing felt like an effort.  Most of my breathing came in the form of involuntary yawns.

Nobody noticed that I had stopped brushing my teeth, which was about on par for how invisible and dead I felt inside.

I would later learn that this was Clinical Depression, something I’ve dealt with off and on for as long as I can remember.  Genetic?  Situational?  That shit doesn’t really matter.  Whether you have it because your mother had it, or because of raging teenage hormones, or because your life is a shit pile isn’t really the point.  Depression doesn’t want to know how you got there.  It’s just so happy you’re there.

It has so many things to tell you!

Depression wants to make sure that you know that you’re not equipped to deal with anything because you are a lazy coward.  It wants to make sure that you hate yourself.  A lot.

It wants you to know that you’re just a bag of broken parts that are beyond repair and you are a bother to everyone around you.

It wants you to know that things would be so much easier if you weren’t around.

Depression wants to make you believe that you deserve to be invisible.

“Why, look at all those people out there!  Climbing mountains and building skyscrapers and laughing with friends over lunch!”

“And look at you!  You can’t even be bothered to brush your damn teeth, you lazy coward.  You can’t even be bothered to brush your own teeth.”

“You should be invisible, you worthless piece of crap.  You’re getting exactly what you deserve.”

This ^^ is how depression bullies you and pushes you down the well.  The descent happens too slow to notice it when it starts and too fast to stop it once it’s rolling.  At the point I stopped brushing my teeth, I had already fallen so far down the well that I couldn’t see my way out of it.  The light at the top of it seemed like a pinhole in the sky.

Months and months went by after I stopped brushing my teeth.  Towards the end of the 7th grade school year, someone had brought a bunch of bagels into Mr. McKenzie’s science class.  As we grabbed them up and started pulling them apart to eat them, I complained to my friend Suzanne about how there wasn’t any butter to put on them.

Suzanne took a bite of her dry bagel, shrugged her shoulders, and said very matter-of-factly, with her mouth full, “Well, you could always just scrape some off your teeth.”

I started brushing my teeth again the next day.

I’m sure Suzanne didn’t know it at the time, seeing as we were only 13 years old, but what she did that day was see me.  See me and make fun of me, sure, but she saw me at a time when I was certain I was invisible and that nothing I did – or didn’t do – mattered.  It turned out brushing my teeth actually did matter, and she noticed it, and she said something.  She snapped me back towards reality with one quick jab.

Obviously, there’s more to being pulled out of depression than just being insulted by a friend, but it did at least get the ball rolling for me that time.  Realizing that you aren’t invisible is a step in the right direction.  Giving a damn about even the smallest part of yourself can be a real start.

Since that day in 7th grade, I have used “The Toothbrush Test” countless times to determine whether I’m in a good place mentally.  Any time in my life when I’ve gone to pick up the toothbrush in the morning and thought, “This again?” and started to put it back down because it seemed like too much effort, that’s when I’ve known that I’ve fallen down the well again and need to get help.  Because we all need help sometimes, and there shouldn’t be any shame in admitting it.

If you have a friend who looks like they need help, get nosy.  Ask them how they’re doing and what’s going on.  If a friend who you know used to spend an hour getting ready for work in the morning suddenly starts showing up to work every day with bedhead, no makeup, a stained shirt, and food stuck to their face, chat them up.  Find out what’s changed.  Hell, start with a joke.  “What’s with the pajama pants at work, Lady Naps-a-Lot?”

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, I always dress that way for work,” then congratulations on your job in Silicon Valley, you moist nerd.  I’m sure you’ll own all of us in no time, so I have to call you a moist nerd while I still can, before you have the ability to send an army of android mercenary sex dolls to hunt me down.  Nerd.  Moist nerd.

You want me to say moist again.  You know you do.

Moist.

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When a friend seems like they’ve lost their way, make it your business to let them know that you see them.  Don’t be worried about coming off as pushy or sticking your nose into their business.  If someone is your friend, then checking in on them when you think something might be wrong is your business.

Even if it’s just to tell them that they have butter teeth.

My Fake Exploding Heart

I was watching a TV show where one of the characters unknowingly smoked crack when she thought it was just weed, and it reminded of a special time in my own life, where I didn’t smoke crack-weed.

Gather ‘round the children!  Aunt Mags is going to tell you a heartwarming story about it, and maybe even sing you a little song or two when things feel too intimate, because she’s the worst.  The worst!

The year was 1993, and crack-weed was all the rage.  You couldn’t walk down the street without tripping over piles and piles of it, lined up like bags of toys to be loaded onto Santa’s sleigh.  In what can only be described as a real tour de force, crack-weed swept the Academy Awards that year in every category, including the highly coveted Oscar for Best Crack-weed.

(The above information regarding the abundance of crack-weed is not actually true.  The drug you couldn’t get away from in 1993 was Melrose Place.)

By the time I was 17, I had already dated enough druggies and tried just enough drugs to know that I wasn’t really into drugs.  They just weren’t my thing.  I was way too jacked up with anxiety and OCD to have taken anything that could have resulted in being arrested, overdosing, or making me feel weirder than I already did.

Also, my mother had told me and my sisters from an early age that we had a genetic heart condition where if we tried cocaine even one time, it would make our hearts literally explode and we would die immediately.

First, turns out she made up the heart thing, and second, I’d be really surprised if any of us were to die “immediately” of anything.  It’s much more my family’s style to be merely grazed by a falling satellite just enough to cause permanent nerve damage, and then have the falling satellite slam into an orphanage next door and explode, revealing a diamond mine just underneath the building on the very same day scientists discover that diamonds cause airborne Lupus.

We all have way too many grudges and need to linger for years and years in the death process in order to exact all the revenges we need to exact – even it means barely holding on for decades attached to machines in dank, hospital basements while wearing tissue boxes as slippers.  Clinging to life out of pure spite is in the family charter right next to a nanner-pudding recipe (that’s really just the Jell-O banana pudding recipe straight off the box).  Our family crest is an infinity symbol with that spiked wheelchair from Nightmare on Elm Street Part III in one loop and the words, “Why don’t you say that to my FACE?” in the other loop.

So! Crack-weed.

I was at my friend Sky’s house for her 16th birthday party.  Her house was like a hippie paradise, complete with two cartoonishly hippie parents, who seemed like they had been transported directly from Woodstock and had skipped over the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s entirely.  Sky’s 16th birthday party consisted of making our own tie-dye t-shirts in the backyard and learning how to wire-wrap crystals for necklace charms.  The music was all Grateful Dead, all the time.  Someone was weaving something.  There was a jar of wheat germ on the counter.  These people were hippies.  So much so, that when Anne and I ran into Sky’s mother hanging out at a nearby coffee house the month before and someone asked her if she knew what time it was, she answered, “We don’t do time, man.”

Once it got dark out, we all left the party at Sky’s parents’ house and made our way towards the beach about ten blocks away.  When we got there, we found an unoccupied lifeguard tower, climbed up the steps, and sat around with our teenage legs dangling over the front of it, Sky with her long, flowing hippie skirt, and me with my burgundy tights and combat boots.  She was a hippie, I was grunge, and we bonded over our common high school enemy:  The Preppies.  The rest of the hippie/grunge hybrid group lined up around the lifeguard tower and we all looked up at the stars and chatted.

Someone lit a joint, and it was passed around.  Someone had a bottle of gas station wine, and it was passed around.  I stuck with one of the bottles of Budweiser that one of the older guys had brought along.  Everyone was having a nice, fun night and the weather was pure April in Florida, which is just warm and breezy and beautiful.

Then Roach showed up.

A grown man.  Named Roach.

Don’t look surprised.  This is a story about crack-weed, for god’s sake.

Sky leaned over and told me that Roach was a friend of a friend of hers, and that they’d hung out before and he was cool.

Uh huh.  I knew Roach.  Boy, did I know Roach.

My family had actually known Roach’s family since before I was born.  We grew up a few streets away from each other, but he was about five years older than me, around 22 or so at that point, and I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years.  He and I looked at each other and exchanged secret looks of recognition, I imagine like when two politicians pass each other in a whorehouse.  I pretended like I didn’t know who he was, and he did the same with me.  If he had admitted that he knew who I was, I could have told a million humiliating stories about his fucked up poverty household, and likewise, he could have told a million about mine.

Growing up in our neighborhood, everything you did could be used as a sort of social blackmail down the road, so once you made your way into a different social set, you had to burn that bridge behind you.  That’s because poor kids tend to do really weird shit when left to their own devices, and it’s hard to scrub the images from your memory.

I assume rich kids do weird things, too, but strictly within the confines of their golden castles where only servants and teacup-sized pets can witness their childhood atrocities and humiliations.  They probably play games like “Mock Futures Trading” where they make their Ken dolls plummet off the roof of the Barbie mansion when the market takes a turn, or role-playing games like “Let’s Under-Pay The Working Class” where they dress up in their parents’ clothes and say things like, “Listen here, I may not know how they say Chi-poll-tee in Los Salvador or where ever you’re from, but here in America we talk American, and when I say I want a Diet Coke, I want a Diet Coke, com-pren-day?”

You know, stuff to prepare them to be the kind of Barry Goldwater Republicans they’ll surely grow up to become.  Related, we’re all going to die.

I imagine that unlike the poor kids, the rich kids rarely poured gasoline all over their crotches just to see what it felt like and then had to get hosed down in the yard by their 12-year old babysitter’s mom.  It’s hard to forget the visual of a young man crying and clutching at his junk while being hosed down in public by somebody else’s mother yelling, “Why did you do this?!  Tell me why you did this!”  That stuff sticks with you.

Likewise with that time we were all walking home from the bus stop and that kid said, “Do you dare me to poop in the road right now?  Because I’ll do it.  You dare me?  You dare me?!”

Nobody had dared him.

After his weird rant, he dropped his pants and squatted in the road, a small crowd gathering around him, but then after much consternation and straining he couldn’t do it.  He got poop-shy.  Nobody could think of anything to say, so they just started making fun of him for having little bits of toilet paper in his butt crack.  He looked embarrassed not by the fact that his hygiene was being called into question, but by the fact that his butthole wasn’t nearly the extrovert that he thought it was.  I think what we all witnessed that day was a butthole identity crisis.  Nobody ever spoke of it again.

The same way we never spoke again about that time you were hiding out at my house and your dad showed up drunk, screaming that you were a little whore, and tried to break down my front door while I hid under the bed and called the police.

🎵 Two – of – cracks, two cracks that beat as weed. Two – of – cracks, I need you, I need you. 🎵

Or that time you caught a fish and then stomped it to death, wide-eyed and grinning at me the whole time while I screamed, and then you kicked it back into the canal and put your line back into the water to catch another one.  Even though nobody ever spoke of it again, I made a mental note to never, ever forget your full name because I was certain you would grow up to be a serial killer.  You probably did.  How would I even know until you get caught?  I saw you years and years later working as a security guard and the idea that you wield power of any kind over anyone terrifies me to the depths of my soul.

🎵 Wake me up before you crack-weed, don’t leave me hangin’ on like a crack-weed. 🎵

And everyone remembers when your dad killed that old woman on his third DUI and your mother said it wasn’t fair that he had to go to prison for it because the woman was so old, anyway.

🎵 Crack-weed singing in the dead of niiiiiight.  Take these crack-weed wings and learn to flyyyyyyy.  All your life, you were only waiting for this crack-weed to ariiiiise. 🎵

You can see why it was easier for all of us from the old neighborhood to just pretend we were strangers and invent our own pasts.  Besides Roach, I hadn’t known any of these people on the lifeguard tower prior to the age of 16, and they didn’t know anything about my past – or his.  I intended to keep it that way.

Roach got right down to business as he sat on the other side of Sky, pulled a plastic bag out of his camouflage jacket and said, “Hey hey!  I got you a little something for your birthday!” as he shook the bag around, jangling it around like a cat toy.

Sky snatched the bag from his hand and said, “Awesome!  I can always use more weed!  Hell yeah!”

Roach’s spiked pewter skull rings caught the moonlight as he folded his arms across his chest, smug as the bug he was named after, and said, “Look closer.  See those little white pebbles mixed in?”

Sky put the bag closer to her face so she could inspect it.

Roach beamed, “That’s crack!  This ain’t just weed, honey.   It’s crack-weed!  Happy Birthday!”

🎵 You come on like a dream, crack-weed and cream, lips like strawberry wine, you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and here’s some crack-weed. 🎵

Sidebar:  That Ringo Starr really was ahead of his time to record that song about a 16 year old girl when he was THIRTY-THREE.  Edgy, even.

Now, had I had a car, the introduction of crack-weed would have been my cue to say, “Whew!  Well, it’s getting pretty late so I better head on home!” but nooooo.  I was still Captain Beg-4-Rides at this point, so when something like crack-weed makes an appearance at a sweet sixteen birthday party, you just have to find a way to deal with it.  There was zero chance I was going to actually smoke it, what with the genetic heart condition that I thought I had and whatnot.  Plus, you know, it was crack.

I inched away from the spot where I was sitting, and got up and walked down the catwalk to the sand.  I looked up and saw Roach was packing a pipe for Sky and two other girls.  They each took turns lighting the pipe to smoke the crack-weed, while Roach shielded their teenage girl faces from the ocean winds.

I have to tell you, for being a Grade-A dirtbag growing up in my old neighborhood, as an adult, Roach was surprisingly a gentleman when passing around crack to teenage girls.

I sat in the sand below the lifeguard tower and observed the way the girls reacted to the crack-weed.  Sky became sort of “Sky on 10”, jumped down to the sand, and started twirling her skirt in the moonlight, dancing and twirling and dancing and twirling while singing Violent Femmes lyrics, until she threw up gas station wine all down the front of her freshly tie-dyed t-shirt.  Then she took off to go swimming in the ocean to rinse off her crack-vomit and ran back up, now topless, looking for more crack-weed.

🎵 I take one, one, one ’cause you left me, and two, two, two for my family, and three, three, three for my heartache, and four, four, four for my crack-weed-ache. 🎵

One of the other girls came down, dropped to her knees and fell face-down in the sand, her body shuddering and twitching like she was electric, and I thought she was dying until she rolled over to her back, laughing and spitting sand up like a fountain.  She laughed and laughed and said, “I’m rubbing my face in the sand!  I’m rubbing my face in the sand and I can’t even feel it!  I can’t feel it!”

The third girl climbed onto Roach’s lap, tugging on the collar of his camouflage jacket and asked if he had more crack-weed, and the two of them went off into the sand dunes together.

I had never, ever, been so thankful that I was born with a fake exploding heart.

Wait for it.

🎵 Don’t tell my heart, my fake exploding heart, I just don’t think he’d understand.  ‘Cause if you tell my heart, my fake exploding heart, he might blow up and kill this man.  Wooooooooo! 🎵

Bing-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-bomp—bomp—–bomp——-twang…

(I can assure you.  I know how annoying ^^ that ^^ whole business is in this post.  You don’t have to tell me.  A team of specialists is on it, so go take a pill, Mary Sue.  This is how I cope.)

THE END

…twang–twaang.