A Quick Update! (And Santa’s Li’l Groupie)

Hey friends! Just wanted to let you know I’m taking a break from writing for a while to tend to some personal stuff. Hope you all had a great New Year, and thanks, as always, for being so awesome. 🙂

 

It was Christmas morning. The living room was shimmering with the glow of the Christmas tree as it illuminated the harvest gold medley shag carpeting, the kind you spiffed up for company with the shag rake from Sears. I was 4 years old, just old enough to be trusted to “rake the shag”. God, I wish that were a euphemism for something.

While everyone was busy shredding open their gifts, I stood in front of the plate of half-eaten cookies that had been left out for Santa, wide-eyed in disbelief, gasping, “Him ate his cookies! Him ate his cookies!”

My mother said, “Santa sure did! It looks like he really liked them, too! Why don’t you sit down and open some presents?”

I stood there, frozen, eyes still glued on the plate.

“Him ate his cookies!”

As I continued to process the gravity of the situation that had transpired overnight, tears welled up in my eyes and my chin started to quiver. I was completely overcome with emotion.

Presents wrapped in snowman and jingle bell paper with ribbons and bows, stockings filled with candy, I couldn’t be bothered to notice them. I wasn’t leaving that plate. Santa, an actual celebrity, the rock star of Christmas, had been in my house, and now I had proof via his teeth marks in a chocolate-dipped Rudolph cookie with a cinnamon red-hot nose.

My mother eventually had to take me by the arm and drag me away from the plate and force me to sit and open presents. As I ripped open my gifts from Santa, my gaze never left the plate across the room. He was here while I was sleeping the night before. Santa had been here. In my house.

I hid the plate under my bed for safe-keeping. It was the closest thing I had to an actual piece of Santa, and I hoarded it like a sweat towel from Elvis. I was star-struck. Absolutely star-struck.

They should have known then…

Twelve years later, the first of many, many, many rock stars I had to be physically pried off of was a man named Whitfield Crane.

Whitfield Crane is the singer for the utterly fun and early 90s-tastic band Ugly Kid Joe. You know, the “I Hate Everything About You” song? I loved them when I was 16.

My best friend Amy and I went to see them play in Fort Lauderdale at a venue called The Edge. We were 16 years old and it was the early 90s, which meant that we got dropped off in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and then had full, unsupervised run of a dozen bars until we got picked up well after midnight. Thankfully, we had only gotten into the car of approximately one or two murderers prior to that night, so our judgment could nearly totally be trusted.

After the show, the Ugly Kid Joe tour bus was parked next to The Edge and, like all good groupies-in-training, Amy and I hung around the outside of their bus after the show and waited for the band to come out. From a distance I could see that Whitfield Crane had made his way through the crowd and was sitting on the steps of the bus. A line of girls formed to say hi to him and to get his autograph.

“Get his autograph” is code for “Let him have a look at me and see if he wants to defile me.”

I don’t know if you know that, but that’s what that means. Universally.

Nobody actually gives a shit about having a piece of paper with some guy in a band’s autograph on it. The autograph request is a ruse – a red herring – a mere advertisement for a flashier product called “Do you want to do it in the bathroom of this tour bus?”

It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth. SORRY, MOMS.

As we approached the front of the line, I said to Amy, “How are we playing this?”

Amy said, “Cool. Like it’s not even anything.”

I knew Amy would play it cool, because she is the most skilled person I have ever known at playing it cool. Ask someone who has known her for thirty years what she’s thinking or feeling at any moment and they’ll say, “I have no idea. I don’t know if she likes me or hates me or even knows who I am.”

The woman could stare at you with a completely blank face while she gave birth, or won the lottery, or took hostages. She’s unreadable.

As we made it towards the front of the line, the girl in front of me stepped to the side and the full Whitfield Crane-ness of one Whitfield Crane was suddenly right there in front of me, in person, just two feet away from me, being Whitfield Crane, the guy on MTV, Whitfield Crane, and he was looking at me. With his eyes.

Whitfield Crane’s eyeballs were looking at me.

Cool schmool.  I lost it.  I sprung like a fat dog on a loose Snausage and pounced on him.

I can only hope the lizard part of my brain made me mumble, “Him ate his cookies” right before my lips met his face as I threw my arms around him, but you’d have to check with the police video on that to be sure.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, and may the force be with you, folks!  I’m off next week, so see you in two weeks!

(Sorry, I accidentally hit the “Publish” button on another piece I was working on that wasn’t finished yet, so I had to delete it!  It’ll be coming soon!)

Diagnosis: Foot-in-Mouth Disease

My favorite teachers were always my art teachers, except for that one.  That one that I lamented to a classmate, “Mrs. Strickland is such a bitch – I can’t stand her and her stupid “art should always be beautiful” crap.  If you think art has to be beautiful, then you’re a moron who doesn’t know a damn thing about art.  Why doesn’t she go teach Hygiene or something?”

Then my classmate said, “Umm, you know she’s my mom, right?”

And that’s how I found out Emma was Mrs. Strickland’s daughter.

You know how much I just can’t stand to brag (all evidence to the contrary), but I’ve got an unparalleled knack for putting my foot in my mouth.  I don’t even really have to try that hard, it just sashays into any scene like 1950s Marlon Brando in a stained white t-shirt and starts smashing lightbulbs.

If you have something you care about, like and respect, please feel free to count on me to say the most awkward thing about it after having mistakenly thought we were on the same page about it.  Oh, you like Paris Hilton and named your baby after her?  How…interesting!  After I just spent ten minutes trashing her.

I used to try to backpedal when this happened, like I did with Emma when I’d responded to this mom business with, “Oh, uhh.  Well, I mean, she’s actually really nice!”

Even though Emma was only 15 years old at the time, she gave me that look of, “Don’t patronize me.  Just take your awkward medicine and live with how uncomfortable you just made both of us.”

It has taken me years to understand that look, that sometimes you just have to exist in a bubble of discomfort until it passes.

In a recent foot-in-mouth incident, I was forced to attend a seminar on healthy lifestyle habits that turned out to be one long sales pitch from a Real Housewives of Orange County-looking chiropractor who wanted to sell me magnetic shoe insoles to solve every health problem under the sun.

If a chiropractor has helped you in your life, that’s great.  I just don’t like being told that I’m going to learn about healthy lifestyle habits and then get the hard-sell on magnets – unless it’s that weird guy who’s on The History Channel all the time.  He’s like a train wreck I can’t look away from, like The Hogan Family after they replaced Valerie Harper with Sandy Duncan.

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The next day I walked into my office and someone asked how the seminar had gone.  My coworker butted in and he and I answered at exactly the same time, only he said:

“I was impressed.  It’s exactly what me and my wife need.  I signed us both up and we start on the whole regimen next week!”

And I said – at exactly the same time:

“It was some hard-sell, snake oil bullshit from a chiropractor who looked like a reject from the blow-up doll factory.  Yeah, no.  I didn’t sign up for her magic beans.”

I may have used air quotes around the words “magic beans” for effect.  Maybe (yes).

I can tell you, the ensuing silence clung to the air like a dog fart.  And not one of those dog farts from a beautiful dog.  It was a junkyard dog fart.  A fart from a dog that eats a steady diet of discarded, rotting mob victim-flesh and spent motor oil.  The kind of dog fart that makes you banish even a beloved dog from your dining room and think less of them as a family pet from that moment on.  A dog fart of destruction.

Did I immediately backpedal?  No – this time I didn’t.  Because I believed in every word I had just said.  I hadn’t said it to insult my coworker – I said it because I truly felt this magnet saleswoman was a scam artist and should be called out for it.  I had no idea he was going to barge into our conversation.  Nobody had even asked him his opinion to begin with.

So I let the dog fart sit in the room, and did nothing to dispel it.  I didn’t say, “Oh, I was just kidding!  I’ve actually heard great things about those magnet soles!” like I would have years ago.

Because sometimes you just have to sit with the discomfort and let it be uncomfortable.

As a lifelong codependent and people-pleaser, this can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do.  To let someone be mad at you and then just sit with it?  Not cow-tow to them to try to make things all better?  Not rush in to smooth things over?

It’s not your job to make everybody feel better.  Say it with me, out loud:

“It’s not your job to make everybody feel better.”

I’m not saying be rude – far from it.  Just stop making it your job to fix everything.  Be okay with the discomfort, and don’t change the subject to distract everyone from the discomfort.

Man, that Hogan Family went downhill after Valerie Harper got fired.

Nobody Cares What You Like

This is purely an old person “get off my lawn” discussion, but I am fascinated when I see kids get asked what they want to eat for dinner and then get cooked separate meals from everybody else at the table.

You know what we ate for dinner when I was a kid?  Whatever my mother was making that night.  If you had a dissenting opinion, you could feel free to either go hungry or arrange to eat at a friend’s house that night.

For instance, I don’t like ham.  Never have.  I think it tastes and has the texture of what I imagine human flesh carved up and served on a plate would taste like.  If I have to eat it, I will gag.  I will involuntarily heave.  I literally cannot force it down.  Growing up, one of my friends didn’t like ham, either.  So what did we do?  She and I drafted the following reciprocal agreement in order to address our shared issue:

If my mother was making ham, I would eat dinner at her house that night.  If her mother was making ham, she would eat dinner at my house that night.

I believe they call that “learning priceless problem-solving skills” and charge like $1,500 nowadays for a workshop to learn them.

Granted, we did have that one night where both of our mothers were coincidentally making ham, but that was the night we learned that sometimes life is just out to kick you in the taco and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Yet another life lesson!

I can tell you for damn sure what none of the mothers in my neighborhood were doing.  They weren’t cooking four different meals to suit everyone’s tastes each night.

I can’t even imagine how hard my mother would have laughed if I’d said, “Oh, hey.  I know you’ve been at work all day at your crappy, low pay, high stress job that you hate, and I know that you’re making sloppy joes for everyone else, standing in front of the stove still wearing your work clothes, but can you make me chicken fingers instead?  You know, just for me?”

You would still hear that laughter today, echoing through eternity, bending space and time in its wake.  I would have never lived that down.  That would be a story that was passed down to all future generations:

“Can you believe she thought I would make an entirely separate meal just for her?  Why stop there?  Why not ask for your own castle and unicorn?!  Her own dinner!  Sure thing, Jackie O!  I’ll get right on that!”

Same goes for stopping at multiple fast food places.  If I’d said to my mother, “I know everyone else is getting Burger King, but can you make an extra stop so I can get some Wendy’s?” she would have just lost control of the car and driven into a lake, she would have become so delirious with laughter.

You knew better than to complain about your lack of fast food choices.  You were lucky when you got fast food at all, and not the frozen cube steaks and sauerkraut Mom forgot to take out to thaw that morning.  You’re gonna get picky about the fast food?  Oh, that’s rich.  Why not get picky about free candy on Halloween while you’re at it?  Get picky about the denomination of bills in a birthday card!  But I wanted fives!!!

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It wasn’t because my mother was a harsh parent – far from it.  It’s because dinner was an event that was grounded in facts.  Dinner = whatever Mom was making that night.  That was a fact.  The idea that children might have been permitted to have an opinion on the matter was totally unheard of.  It never even crossed my mind.  Did I have an opinion on whether she should pay the property taxes quarterly or once a year?  Nope!  Because my opinion wasn’t relevant to the matter.

The same way that your opinion is irrelevant as to whether the sky is blue or the sun rises in the east.  If you have issues with these things, you better find a way to deal with them, because the sun ain’t rising in the west just for you, babycakes.  You’re not entitled to have the world skitter around your likes and dislikes because, I can assure you, absolutely nobody is as concerned about your likes and dislikes as you are.

If you care 100%, then the rest of the world cares negative 500,000,000%.

Nobody cares what you like – and we all need to come to terms with that.

Like Mom used to tell me, “You are so special…” and then she’d pause and say “…juuuust like everybody else.”

That’s not only accurate, but will sure as hell keep you humble, too.

Sometimes you have to eat something for dinner that you’re not crazy about.  What can I tell you?  Life is hard, kid.  It’s one meal.  Either force it down or load up on side dishes that night.

Now get off my lawn.