The Princess of Principles

I decided somewhere in the vicinity of the third grade that I wasn’t going to do homework anymore.  Not because I was lazy – of course not!  Because I was principled.

I felt that the school day took up more than enough of my time, and once I stepped outside of the actual building, my time should belong to me, most certainly not homework.  My time was to be spent doing more important things, like watching television, catching minnows down at the pond, and smoking sticks of bamboo like cigarettes in the woods.

So I didn’t do it.  I went on strike against homework.

I take that back.  I only did homework, projects, and papers that could be done during school hours.  If I had extra time in one class, I would use that time to work on a paper for another class, or do work during lunch time.  Once the school bell rang at the end of the day, though?  It was pencils down.  Sorry, teacher-type folks!  3:30 PM is the beginning of MAGGIE TIME.

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The face of principles.

While going on strike against homework was, in itself, specifically problematic, you know, good grades being important and all, the more sinister problem was that I had successfully developed a way to trick myself at a very young age into believing I had very, very firm principles about things.

It was funny, because I only had the aforementioned firm principles about stuff I didn’t want to do.  I don’t think I ever had principles that revolved around things I enjoyed doing.  Can’t think of one time.

I don’t recall ever having had principles that governed my behavior around listening to Poison cassettes, eating Fudge Stripe cookies, or spending my birthday money on trick gum and a gigantic 6” x 6” pin for my acid-washed jean jacket that read, “Is that your face or did your neck throw up?”

If you were to spring something like a weeks-long science project on me?  Oh man, I would become the most principled kid you’d ever met.  I would lay out a case like a lawyer at trial, listing a myriad of principles that would prevent me from turning that project in.

Thank god the term “self-care” didn’t start floating around until recent years or I would have dropped out of school in the fifth grade because school didn’t “nourish my soul”.  On the up side, at least I’ll never die from workaholism.

This principle lasted all the way through school, culminating my senior year of high school with my refusal to submit a portfolio for judgment in my AP art class, the class that I nearly killed myself working for three years to get into, because as I explained to my art teacher, “I think it’s wrong for people to judge art.”

It certainly wasn’t because putting together the portfolio would have been months and months of work.

He smiled at me, leaned back in his chair and put his arms behind his head and said, “Well, if you’ve got a bullshit excuse for not turning in work that would get you college credit, I guess that’s a pretty good one.  I mean, I don’t buy it, but I can see where you do.  I’m impressed with your ability to blow it.”

I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if I’d gone to one of those Montessori schools where kids have the freedom to choose what they want to work on during the school day.  I would have plunked myself down on a rug the first day and said, “I feel like watching Fraggle Rock all day, so thanks!”

It cracks me up to no end when people get all excited that their babies are into books, thinking that it makes Junior seem inquisitive and intelligent, and I’m standing in the shadows like a villain in a black hooded robe, cackling and hissing, “Sure, they love books now, but just wait until those little suckers see television.”

I mean, I’m sure your kid is inquisitive and intelligent.  As much as I’m sure regular milk seems like a great thing – until someone gives you chocolate milk for the first time and you decide that regular milk is the most disgusting thing on Earth.

I’m just saying don’t buy books for Junior too many years in advance until you have a full understanding of what television will do to their wide little eyes.  By the time I was five years old, I would have pitched every book I owned into a bonfire if it meant I could watch another episode of The Facts of Life, and aside from being a total asshole, I turned out just fine.

I mean, I did get a failing grade on a book report for “White Fang” in the sixth grade because I wrote a ten page paper on it having only read the back cover and first two pages of the book and my teacher figured it out, but I think on some level he must have admired my moxie.  Especially after I had my mother go meet with him in my defense, still thinking I could finesse my way out of it.  That book was SO BORING.

If there are any eleven year olds out there today pulling that sort of thing, I would love to sit down for a chocolate milk with them sometime.  I *adore* foul-mouthed little criminals.  Kenard was one of my favorite characters on The Wire.

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When Kenard stole that package of heroin and said, “Package up my ass, gump!”, I cried several tears of joy.  Who wouldn’t love this kid??

Plus, even with forty to sixty hours of television a week as a kid (not even remotely an exaggeration), I still turned out to be a writer, so meh?  Maybe reading books as a kid isn’t THAT important.  Who knows, though?  Maybe if I’d chopped it back to thirty hours of television a week I’d be writing about something like the Higgs Boson Particle instead of writing dissertations on the pros and cons of being Charlie Sheen versus Emilio Estevez.

Happy Friday – thanks for hanging around!  I’ll be out next week, so smell ya later!

The Puberty Detective

I was a tomboy growing up, as shown below by the ludicrous black high top sneakers that I’m sporting with those thoroughly 80s aquamarine-colored highwater trousers.  Those aren’t jeans, kids.  Those are straight-up trousers. And you can’t even blame this sartorial choice on the family, as you can see my sister Bonnie is pictured on the left in clothing that is not from the Pouting Dude section at Zayre.

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What’s the saying?  Little girls are made of sugar and spice and black high tops and trousers?  As you probably already know, I eventually grew out of it and became a bona fide painted-up hussy.  A real trollop.  A genuine slut-puppy supreme with tramp fries.

But enough about what I have in common with your MOM.  Ohhhhhhhh!!

Seriously, though, even today my “conservative” office pants are so tight that my dry cleaner returns them to me pre-tipped with dollar bills already sticking out of the waistband.

That being said, in the years between the tomboy and slut-puppy phases, the most disgusting thing happened to me.  The worst, most horrifying thing that had ever happened to anyone.  The most god awful, hideous, terrifying event:

Puberty.

I shuddered just thinking about it.

As a tomboy, the entire process of puberty felt like a personal affront to me.  I tried my best to escape it, but there it was, inescapable and right there in the mirror.  My widening hips no longer fit into my skate shorts, and my skin was as greasy as Danny Zuko’s hair.  I sometimes cried for no reason because I felt “emotional”, whatever the hell that meant.  It was no longer socially acceptable to spend all my time raising tadpoles in the old baby pool in the backyard.  Climbing trees became greatly frowned-upon.  Legs would have to be shaved.  Lips glossed, hair tossed.  Still waiting for the boobs to really come in, though.

Oh god.  I was turning into a teenage girl.  No, no, no, no, no.  What could be worse?  What could be worse than that?!

I’ll tell you exactly what was worse.  The Puberty Detective a/k/a My Grandmother.

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Let me start off by saying the disclosure that you always have to make when you start a story like this:  I love my grandmother.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the disclosures, I can tell you about the nightmare hellscape this woman attempted to inflict upon me between the ages of 10 and 16; the tenacious, torturous pit of Hades that became my existence every time I visited her.

Did she beat me?  No.  Did she withhold dessert when everyone else got some?  Never!  She did something way, way more heinous.

She had questions.  Oh god, the questions.  Not just any questions, either.

Puberty questions.

I had been given a heads-up on this by my older sisters, who’d told me that when they were my age, our grandmother would routinely bust out with gems like, “So have you gotten your period yet?” or “Are you wearing a bra yet?”

I was already in a constant state of panic due to my ever-increasing hormones and related identity crisis, and the mere thought that another human being might ask me these kinds of questions made me want to unzip my skin and run out of the room a skeleton.

I couldn’t very well pack up and leave the country, so I did the only thing I could do.  I formed a plan to thwart the Puberty Detective’s investigation at every turn.

The plan was that I would work diligently and tirelessly to avoid ever being along in a room with my grandmother until the coast was clear.  I figured the coast would be clear around age 16, when it would have been silly to ask those kinds of questions, so I had six years to play “Keep Away” with her.  I could do that.  Hell, I’d been hiding the fact that I actually liked boys from everyone for years already, despite the fact that I was one of the founding members of The Against Boys Club (ABC, y’all) in elementary school.

Laugh if you will, but after enduring years of physical torment and harassment from the boys in our neighborhood, The Against Boys Club successfully planned and executed a bus stop takeover one morning where we totally beat all the boys’ asses.  Don’t let anyone tell you that organized crime doesn’t pay.  Those little 9-year old bastards never even saw it coming.

Now that’s a brag – and I’m braggin’ it.

So for those six years between the ages of 10 and 16 years old, any time I found myself alone with my grandmother, I would find a reason to have to run out of the room.  We’d all be sitting on the patio and I’d see that the other people were getting up from their chairs to walk back into the house and I would go on red alert:  You better find a reason to leave this room and find it NOW.  Then I would say I had to go to the bathroom or something, and flee the room.

Sometimes I would misjudge the timing and The Puberty Detective would actually start to ask one of the dreaded questions, “So, Maggie, have you gotten your…” and I would jump up and disappear like Houdini before she could even get the word “period” out.  One time, I actually did the classic “What?  What?  Did I just hear someone call my name in the other room?” before sprinting out of the room.

I look back on all of this now and wish we had been able to be closer, and that we hadn’t lost all those years to me running out of the room, but I was so freaked out by this Puberty Detective business, she became my number one persona non grata.  The same woman who quietly sang hymns while she vacuumed, who wore one of those flowery bathing caps in the community pool at her 55-plus community, became the person I feared most in the world.

She wasn’t menacing, she was just curious.  Her inquiring mind just wanted to know, but I mean, come on.  Puberty is bad enough without having to field questions from reporters.

Besides, had anyone known what they were in for, they would have never wanted to see THIS come to fruition.

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Building The Perfect Panic Pizza

I’m not particularly skilled at this thing called “cooking”.  I appreciate your attempts at being polite when you pretend to enjoy the frozen pizza I made you that is somehow completely burned on the edges and bottom yet still frozen in the middle.  It’s a magical skill, I know.  How does one even accomplish that in a conventional oven?

That being said, there is one kind of pizza that I’m actually pretty good at making:

The Panic Pizza!

Oh, you don’t know how to make a Panic Pizza?  Well hot damn!  Let’s start the Home Shame Economics cooking class!

The first and most important ingredient in a Panic Pizza is the human-shaped dough glob that is you.  Hopefully, you’ve mixed and mashed yourself with so much alcohol and so many carbs the night before that by morning, you’re ready to be scraped off the couch and rise, get punched a few times in the gut, and then tossed up like so many cookies into the air of daylight.  After all, it’s another day for you to try your best at not being a shit show.  Good luck with that, paisan!

Now your dough is ready for sauce.  Since the jar of sauce is too hard to open and you don’t feel like walking all the way over to the cabinet that’s four feet away to get the jar opener thingy, you decide this Panic Pizza will be sauce-less.

You trailblazer, you.  It takes a lot of guts to have that kind of Lack of Motivation, which brings us to our first topping!  Lack of Motivation!

Hang on.  Now you’re picturing a loved one trying to chew the dry, sauce-less pizza and then they get the hiccups when they try to swallow a particularly large and dry bite, then they start choking, you totally suck at doing the Heimlich Maneuver, and then the morgue comes to take their dead body away because you killed them with your dry pizza because you were too unmotivated to get the jar opener thingy.  The hearse will pull away and you’ll be inconsolable, crying, “Why couldn’t I just get the jar opener thingy?  I should have seen this coming!”

Sorry, Lack of Motivation, but the first topping on this Panic Pizza is Anxiety.  Rookie mistake!

So, first layer on some gloppy Anxiety, then Lack of Motivation.  Our Panic Pizza is starting to really take shape!

Now that you’ve got Anxiety going, you can sit back and put your feet up for a while.  It’s time for Anxiety to take over, which means Anxiety gets to pick the rest of the toppings.  That’s what you get for letting Anxiety into the kitchen.  Once that guy comes into the picture, he takes over EVERYTHING.

Anxiety wants you to feel pretty bad about what a bother you are to everyone when you act like this, so let’s liberally sprinkle some Guilt onto the Panic Pizza.  You want to take it right up to the edges so you don’t get a single bite without at least a little of that zesty Guilt flavor.

Now Anxiety wants you to feel really weak for not being able to control Anxiety, so you slice up some Shame and lay it out on the Panic Pizza in concentric circles.  Those circles better be perfect, because if they’re not perfect, then nobody will like you…

…which is just in time to add Insecurity to the Panic Pizza!

Insecurity gets sprayed onto the pizza from an olive oil mister so that you can be sure it’s evenly coated all over the Panic Pizza.  Oh man, despite all your preparation, it looks like you missed a spot.  It’s probably because of the next topping going on the pizza…

…and that topping is Stupid!

Really, nobody could confuse it for anything else, seeing as you’re a grown adult with adult responsibilities who should be more than capable of handling your own jacked-up and self-destructive thoughts by now, but since you can’t, I guess that means you’re just Stupid!

You know what?  Let’s not render the verdict on that one yet.  Maybe you just haven’t tried therapy, religion, yoga, meditation, herbs, oils, deep breathing, visualization, and grounding techniques yet!  Maybe you just need to try harder to defeat your anxiety disorder!

Oh wait.  You have tried?  Tried and failed, you say?  Then go ahead and toss some Stupid onto that Panic Pizza, then pop open that smoky bin next to it, and LAYER ON THE FAILURE.

The only thing left to add to your Panic Pizza is the cheese of Anxiety’s choice, which means you don’t get any cheese, because Anxiety thinks you don’t deserve any.  Instead, Anxiety will give you the last topping in the form of a little cup of that garlic butter “sauce” from Papa John’s, because if that shit ain’t Self-Loathing, I don’t know what is.

Mamma mia!  Anxiety make-uh you the perfect Panic Pizza pie-uh!

Related, I found this at Wal-Mart this weekend.  Feel free to mark this on your calendar as the day humanity officially gave up.

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This is not okay.