How Greg Brady Got My Groove Back

How did we get here?

This is the question that’s been plaguing me since I heard the news that an editor has nominated one of my published pieces for the 2019 Best of The Net Anthology.  The Greg Brady one.

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I know, right?  This was the one that when I submitted it to the journal I thought, “Yeah right.  We’ll see if literally anyone is interested in publishing this weirdo little piece.”

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, then as always, first of all, I’m sorry, and second, you know that I have a scorching case of Imposter Syndrome as a writer.  I barely graduated high school, and I did not attend a single day of college.  I’ve only ever had office day jobs since I was 18.  I’ve always really loved writing, but growing up, nobody besides my ninth grade English teacher ever told me I might be good at it.  I was taught to graduate high school and get a job, preferably something that offered health insurance.  End of story.  So that’s what I did.

People will tell you that nominations and awards are just external reinforcements that don’t matter, but they absolutely DO matter to me.  It’s how the writing community tells me that I might be good at this – and as an Imposter I never think I’m good at this – so it’s tremendously helpful when an authority in the writing community says, “I think you’re good at this.”

People will tell you that it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a writing education, but I can assure you, especially after mingling with writers for the past year, it DEFINITELY matters.  It matters when someone asks you what your favorite braided essay is and you have to stall for time while you google, “What is a braided essay?”

As it turns out, I write a lot of braided essays.  Who knew?!  I’ve always just called them “rambling”.  There’s a whole writing lingo world out there that I didn’t even know existed.  What the hell is slipstream?  Ekphrastic poetry?  A lyrical essay?  I have to constantly google things to keep up with these people.  I only learned how to use semi-colons this year, after I spent about three months googling, “How do you use semi-colons?”

When you have to put your work up against competition who have a freaking PhD from Stanford, or people who have already put out books with major publishers, or people who are tenured writing professors at Columbia, a lack of education matters.  It is intimidating as hell and it makes you feel like an outsider.  These people all know each other from years of networking through academia and workshops and they are a club.  I spend a tremendous amount of time every day knocking on their doors and introducing myself, hoping they’ll let me in and not ask me how I got there.

So how did we get here?  I’m not sure I’ve ever told you the whole story, but I feel ready to tell it today.

I’ll give you the Non-Cliff’s Notes version, despite the fact that my name is not Non-Cliff.  Oh, but if it were.  I would be such a dick!

Back in “the day” as the kids say, roundabout 2004-2005 when the band was first starting out, I used to send out emails to our mailing list to let people know about upcoming shows and band news.  I would write a couple paragraphs, maybe tell a little story, act like an asshole.  You know, be myself.

One of the people on our mailing list was Audra Schroeder, then-music editor for The New Times in Broward/Palm Beach.  She emailed me and said she liked my writing voice, and did I want to freelance for the magazine?  Maybe write a band review or something about upcoming concerts?

You should have seen the look on my face.  Someone wanted to pay me to write something?  So I did.  Working with Audra was a blast.  Eventually a new editor came in, and we didn’t mesh well at all (he edited the term “local yokels” into a piece I wrote about one of my favorite local bands), so that was the end of freelancing for New Times.  I’m touchy about the use of the term “local yokels”, apparently.

Then I started a little myspace blog for the band where I could air out my unedited thoughts on a daily basis, and I was really surprised at how well it was received.  I mean really surprised.  Eventually The New Times declared my blog “The Best Blog in South Florida”.  Holy crap-balls.  I had to leave my desk that day and go outside and cry.  (Truth be told, I still cry every time I get an acceptance.)

The blog kept on keepin’ on, and I was getting a really nice following.  I started writing freelance pieces for other local music and culture magazines.  Things were going great.

Then, in 2012, my boyfriend and bandmate/songwriting partner of ten years ran off with one of my best friends, married her, and they started churning out babies together, their gleeful lovey-dovey faces plastered across my social media on a goddamned daily basis while I tried to pick up the shattered pieces of my exploded life.  I had to block, delete, unfriend mutual friends, and eventually burn down all of my social media accounts and create new ones, and even that didn’t stop it.  When I went to see friends’ bands, they were there.  When I went out to brunch, they were there.  When I tried to go to the movies, they were there.  It felt like a nonstop assault.

The hurt, the anger, the humiliation.  It clawed through my body like a wolf and, pardon my French, ate my fucking soul until I was hollow.  It wrenched every creative bone out my body and pounded them into dust.  My writing, my painting, my singing, the band.  Whatever I had was gone.  Dead.

I cast writing and art and music out of my life and climbed into a shell where nothing could hurt me.  I had no desire to ever feel exposed again, in any way, shape, or form.  That part of me was officially over.

And I tell you what, I never thought those things would come back to me, but they did.

After six years of creative silence (and the love and support of my amazing husband), I decided to take a chance and start writing again last year with the promise to myself that I was really going to try this time.  That I owed it to myself to give myself a chance.  Not just start a blog, but send out work for publication, write a book, really put myself out there and dive into the writing community to become a real part of it.  Walk into the big, scary room all by myself and say, “Hi, I’m Maggie.  Let me into your world.”

I started the blog in February 2018 and sent my first piece out for submission on November 26, 2018. Here’s where we’re at today, eight months after that first submission:

I have had sixteen pieces either published or that are awaiting publication this year.

One of those pieces has been nominated for the 2019 Best of The Net Anthology.

I finished writing the damn book, all 73,600 words of it, and it’s currently a semi-finalist for the 2019 Pamet River Prize from YesYes Books.

I have been accepted as a member into The Author’s Guild.

The blog is now read in 62 countries.

Best of all, I’ve got a really awesome group of people who read and comment and subscribe to this blog, and I’m so grateful to all of you who come here to read about whatever I’m pissed off at during any given week.  I treasure, and I mean really treasure, the fact that you take time out of your lives to listen to me ramble about, relive, and work through the stuff that keeps me up at night.  You have no idea how much it means to me.  I do not take your support and friendliness and senses of humor for granted.  You’re all so freaking awesome.

What I want, from all of this, more than anything, is for all of us to not feel alone with our struggles.  You all make me feel less alone with my struggles.  I hope I make you feel less alone with yours.

You can come back from the things that you thought destroyed you.  You can start over.  You can work your ass off and make things happen if you’re willing to take a chance to put yourself out there.  You can pull yourself out of the scorched rubble and rise like a goddamned phoenix from the ashes.

I’m just an uneducated dirtbag who spends too much time inside her own head when she’s not listening to Poison.  Sometimes I write stuff down.  When I don’t know what I’m doing, I google it until I figure it out.

If I can do it, you can do it.

Sorry To Say Your Lolita Never Took Chemistry

I was chatting (talking shit) the other day with a friend (skank) and she said, “Oh, she’s one of those people who never forgets a slight.  You know the type.”

I laughed and said, “Those people are the worst!”

Then I narrowed my eyes and mentally replayed a scene from 25 years ago when I had just turned 18, when my 32-year old boyfriend came into my kitchen with his hand on his belly and said, “Do you have any bicarbonate?”

I responded, “Huh?”

Then he closed his eyes and sighed, exaggeratedly shaking his head “no” like I was the dumbest person on Earth, his low-rent David Coverdale-esque mane flurrying scalp-snow down the front of his favorite t-shirt, the one that had a cartoon drawing of brains racked up like billiard balls with the words “Rack your brains!” underneath it.  Because he was such a COOL GUY.

A cool guy who couldn’t afford his own dandruff shampoo and instead used half of my goddamned bottle to hose the flakes out of his mop any time he stayed at my house, which was every night.  “Dry skin” he called it.  IT’S DANDRUFF, GUY.  I HAVE IT, TOO.  STOP LYING TO YOURSELF.

Bicarbonate?” he repeated.  “Do you have any?  For my stomach?”

This went on for another couple rounds before I said, “I have no idea what the hell you’re asking me for here.”

He feigned surprise and said, “Bicarbonate is baking soda, darling.  It works for upset stomachs.  I suppose it’s my fault for asking.  I forget sometimes that not everybody has a PhD in Pharmacology – I’m just so used to being around academics.”

My god.  That is so true.  The teenager you’re dating doesn’t have a doctoral degree.  HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO STUPID?  THE SHAME!  MY GOD, THE SHAME.

Maybe I should spend the rest of my life thinking about how dumb I was for not having a doctoral degree when I was still young enough to still be asked for ID when attempting to buy Hello Kitty barrettes with a debit card.

Maybe I should keep a set of chemistry books at the ready for when an unemployed thirty-something dickwad with a PhD needs something to settle his stomach after I buy him dinner at the goddamned Olive Garden with the last forty bucks I have and he acts all affronted that I don’t have enough money to buy him an espresso afterwards, commenting that without the espresso he “wasn’t really treated to a proper Italian meal”.  AT THE OLIVE GARDEN.  BY A TEENAGER.

Maybe I should have a translating device for when old men with their old buttholes have digestive problems and can’t muster the strength to dumb themselves down to say the words “baking soda” to their Lolita and prefer, instead, to play pretentious verbal tennis using the word “bicarbonate” as the ball and a teenage girl’s self-worth as the racket.

Maybe I should wear an empty, industrial-sized sack of Arm & Hammer as a tunic and then fashion a gigantic crucifix out of baking soda boxes and then haul it down the side of the highway on my shoulder every Good Friday through Easter for the rest of my life so that the world will know how Father Time here really put one over on the young Magster.

“Bicarbonate!  Can you believe she didn’t know what bicarbonate was?!!  Hahahahahahaha!!!” his academic peers ERUPTING into emphysematic laughter at my expense, their old man balls jiggling and clinking like fetal pigs in jars during an earthquake at the science lab.

“OBVIOUSLY I HAVE TO PAY FOR THIS INTELLECTUAL INFRACTION,” I THOUGHT.

Oh, and by the way, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate – not “bicarbonate” – so you can just crawl into whoever’s car you’re borrowing these days, DOCTOR, and drive it straight into a mountain made of dicks and finally declare yourself the King of Dick Mountain.  Dick.

And I realize that you’re so old that you probably started having digestive problems when prairie medicine was still in vogue, but why don’t you take some goddamned Tums or Zantac like a normal person instead of swishing baking soda around your wooden dentures and down your crusty old blown-out bagpipe esophagus, Doc Holliday?

On a related note, I have been referring to this guy as “Dr. Shitbag” for the past 25 years.

My apologies for the diversion.

Now let’s get back to those people who never forget a slight…

Mz. Mannerz: The Fauxpology Prodigy

It’s time for another exciting installment of Mz. Mannerz!  Go put on a codpiece and brace yourself.  Like you weren’t already wearing one anyway.

The fake apology, or as it is often called, the fauxpology.  One of the more entertaining things a person can receive.  You could write it out as “Faux pas-logy” but that’s just confusing, so just go along with me here.

As you know, I had many years of experience dating scumbag musicians because for some reason or another I used to think I was worthless, so I’ve probably received more fauxpologies than most people, including such golden hits as…

“Hey, you know what?  I’m sorry you had to pay to get the electric turned back on again, but do you even care that I finally beat Grand Theft Auto Vice City while you were at work today?”

“Sorry you’re all ‘boo-hoo sad’ with your trust issues because I haven’t told my parents about us.  I’m doing you a favor.  If my mother knew I was living at your house for the past two years she would think you were a tramp and weren’t good enough for me.”

“Well, sorry if you have to get up early for work, but I’m having a good time and I’m not ready to go home yet.  Go sleep in the car if you’re tired.”

And yes, I walked out to a bar parking lot alone at 1am to sleep in my car.  My car that I had driven him to the bar in, because he had no car and no job, yet he felt he was the person in charge of when we would be leaving the bar.  Feel free to mentally transport yourself to the past and punch him in the dick.

…so I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur of the fauxpology.

Now that I’m away from that horrific horseshittery, I find these fauxpologies almost endearing in hindsight.  They really are the gift that pretends to keep on giving.

There’s really only one correct way to say that you’re sorry:

  • By clearly stating that you are sorry for doing the shitty thing.

That’s the formula, in case you’re taking notes.

My god, please tell me you’re taking notes.  This website could self-destruct at any moment and then where would you be?  How would you know that the preferred Sheen/Estevez is actually Judd Nelson?

Here’s what an apology is not:

“Sorry if there were hurt feelings.”

This is what I like to call a “non-ownership” fauxpology.  For one thing, you couldn’t even be sincere enough to add the “I’m” before the word “sorry”?  That’s red flag number one that you’re not even remotely sorry.

The usage of the word “if” is another good indicator.  When you’re apologizing to someone, that means that they DO have hurt feelings.  There’s no question as to “if” they have hurt feelings.

And who’s hurt feelings are we even talking about here?  Because you didn’t mention anything about them being mine!  What you’ve done is just semi-apologized to the air, on behalf of the air.  You somehow managed to remove both of us from the entire equation, and questioned the notion that there were any hurt feelings to begin with.  Try again, shitass.

“I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt.”

I said try again.  That means try something different.  Not try the same damn bullshit again.

“I’m sorry that you’re so sensitive!”

Here’s the thing.  Do you want to have friends?  Would you like for people to be genuinely happy to see you?  Then when you do something shitty to them and they say, “Hey, that was shitty,” whether you intended to be shitty or not, you freaking apologize to them.  This is not cause for a debate over whether or not you feel they had a right to be upset about something you said or did – something that has clearly upset them either way.  Just apologize.  It goes something like this:  “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”  <—— Don’t cost nothin’!  AND DON’T SNEAK AN “IF” IN THERE.

“I’m sorry you took it that way.”

This is most often said when someone has said or done something so egregious that it’s undeniable, and now they’re basically trolling you.  This is how someone fauxpologizes after you get upset when they tell you, “Wow, you’ve really packed on weight since the last time I saw you!” or “Unlike you, I actually clean my house.”  There’s only one “way” to take those statements.  They were meant to be insulting.

“I SAID I WAS SORRY, OKAY?!”

See, now you’re yelling.  You’re yelling at someone who you’ve already wronged once.

Sometimes you can do something so super shitty that no amount of apologizing is going to make it better.  Sometimes it’s a sting that will take time to fade.  Sometimes it’s something unforgivable.  If someone is still upset after you apologize, that is not your cue to yell at the person.  That is your cue to figure out what you can possibly do to make it right, if anything, or just leave them alone and respect their space.

And people don’t have to actually accept your apology.  It’s not just a given in the apology transaction.  When you apologize, you are asking someone for forgiveness.  You don’t get to demand it from them.

So!  To summarize:

Stop being a dick and just say you’re sorry.

“Well, when I was on the debate team in high school…”

I SAID STOP BEING A DICK.