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

Home Is Where Nobody Annoying Is

There’s a stereotype of a woman “of a certain age”.  She’s sitting at home, wearing yoga pants, a breezy tank top that says something like “Me Time = Wine Time”, Ugg-style slipper booties, a face coated in three types of moisturizer, is eating Greek yogurt, and has glazed-over eyes from watching Orange is The New Black for three hours straight.

When you’re 25 and out every night until 5am, you think about this mature woman stereotype and assign a certain amount of derision to it, like that’ll never be you.  Fast asleep before 10pm after finishing your nightly Sleepytime herbal tea?  Nope!  After all, you’re a party monster!

At 25, on any random Monday, you might wake up on a band tour bus in a parking lot in Ft. Lauderdale wearing chaps and a feather boa, and not be able to quite figure out which person in the band you pulled them off from, so you steal a $20 that was stuffed down inside a bong on the kitchenette counter and call a cab home from the IHOP next door before anyone else wakes up and finds out you stole their master recordings for their next album (which means you leave at noon).  On your way home, while dry-heaving up Popov vodka into an Eckerd’s bag, you find a police badge and a container of Sea Monkeys in your purse, have no idea how they got there, and decide to just add them to your existing collection of police badges and Sea Monkeys that you keep on your thrift store nightstand at home, that is also covered in Delia’s catalogues and eye glitter-pots, because there is no such thing as too many lug-soled mary janes, or too much eye glitter.

(The foregoing anecdote is “hypothetical” for “legal reasons”. I’m sure I have no “idea” where your master recordings “are”. I’m “sure” nobody “smashed them with a hammer in their backyard after the shit you pulled”.)

And besides, what else were you gonna do?  Sit at home like a lame-ass?  You are most certainly NOT going to sit at home like a lame-ass.  You’re a wild woman of the world!

I was a wild woman of the world for many years there, and it was mostly a good ride.  Why, out of about 7,000 nights, there were 20 or 30 that were pretty damn amazing.  The rest were mostly, I don’t know, just okay? Waiting around for them to become amazing nights?

That being said, nowadays, as a woman of a certain age, I am not leaving my house on a Monday night for literally anything.  A-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.  Know why?

Because I am sitting at home, wearing yoga pants, a breezy tank top that says something like “Me Time = Wine Time”, Ugg-style slipper booties, a face coated in three types of moisturizer, am eating Greek yogurt, and have glazed-over eyes from watching Orange is The New Black for three hours straight – and I am not ashamed.

I will state my case thusly:

Sitting at home is awesome because I am home, which is a place that has been fully customized for my maximum comfort, and also contains my husband Bobby, who is my favorite person.  Unlike being out at a club, in my home there are no annoying weirdos trying to grope me, no loogies on the floor, nobody shooting up heroin in the corner, there is a working toilet and – as a bonus – nobody there is an asshole, except for me.

Yoga pants are awesome because they are engineered and designed to fit a woman’s body, and never give you muffin-top.  I would even venture to say that they are as comfortable as most men’s clothing.  (It’s really great how what are, essentially, women’s pajamas are almost as comfortable as the shit men get to wear every waking moment of their lives, isn’t it?)  Yoga pants still don’t have any useful pockets, though, so that’s how you know they are still made for women.  Given the discomfort and lack of useful pockets in 99% of women’s clothing, I guess clothing manufacturers assume that women are both (a) masochists, and (b) have a kangaroo pouch in their abdomen that they store stuff in.

Breezy tank tops are awesome because they are like wearing a delicate cloud around your torso, and allow you to hide the food baby that you created when you ate all those tater tots and sweet pickles earlier for lunch while you cried in your car to a Dionne Warwick song for no reason.

Ugg-style slipper booties are awesome because it’s like having your feet jammed inside a fuzzy stuffed animal, and because woman-feet tend to be in the temperature range of -0 and -1 degrees Fahrenheit, because God hates you.

A face coated in three types of moisturizer is not so much awesome as it’s a requirement if you don’t want to look like current day Jack Palance who, by the way, died 12 years ago.

Greek yogurt is awesome because it has a creamy density and tartness that can’t be replicated by anything else on Earth, it goes well with honey or fancy maple syrup, and if you also crush salted peanuts on top of it, it will appease the hormone demons that hold your brain hostage over the “salty-sweet” thing until you feed them and then they’re still like, “Now how about some meat pizza and root beer?”

Orange is The New Black is awesome because it doesn’t have Ben Affleck in it.

The Eyes Are The Window To How Damn Old You Look

I know a lot of women in their 40s think that their ever-deflating jawline is due to the laws of gravity, but I thoroughly disagree.  The bottom of my face seems to be somehow defying the laws of gravity by emptying upwards into my eye sockets.

This is most evident to me when I wake up in the morning and my eye area is so swollen it looks like I slept on a pillow made of bee stings and salt rocks, while the lower half of my face looks like an empty McGruff The Crime Dog mask.

Waking up in the morning in your 40s means you can actually feel how much heavier your top eyelids are as you struggle to open them, and they make a door-slamming sound every time you blink.  It’s like waking up blindfolded until you can get up and get that circulation going in the morning – and by “circulation” I mean “don’t look in the mirror”.  I’ve made a habit of not looking in the mirror at all until I’ve been up and awake for at least an hour.  Any accidental glances prior to that just set the wrong tone for the rest of the day, and I inevitably end up spending the whole day googling cosmetic surgery procedures and figuring out whether I can reasonably contribute less to my Roth IRA in order to pay for them.

On a side note, I used to worry about seeming too shallow for being interested in cosmetic surgery, and then I woke up one day and looked like Wilma Fucking Flintstone and got over the “oh no, what if people think I’m shallow” thing.  I used to be the first person who would tell Wilma Flintstone to love herself and embrace her face, and now I’m like, “How did she ever see out of those pinhole eye-dots?  Jesus Christ, Wilma, get those eye-hangs tacked up!”

And feel free to use eye roller gels, cucumber slices, and frozen spoons to reduce the puffiness.  They do make the swelling go down pretty decently.  The great part is when the swelling goes away, it is replaced by raisiny-creased purple undereye caverns that binge-eat expensive concealer ten minutes after you put it on.  The concealer patch-job looks halfway decent from about twenty feet away or so, but any closer and you’ll notice people’s looks of confusion when they see a map of the Balkans appears to have been sketched under your eyes.

I know, the potions, creams, and rollers that you use totally work!  I should try them!  This is most often shared by someone who has never actually experienced 40-something morning eyes.  If you’re 25 and you tell me your eye cream really works, you can just go jump off a building right now because you are (a) useless, and (b) nobody cares what you have to say.

I am so bothered by how my eyes look in the morning that a few months ago, when my optometrist sent me to an ophthalmologist because she thought I might have the early signs of glaucoma, the first thing I thought was, “Well, at least if I go blind I can cover my eye bags with sunglasses twenty-four hours a day and claim it’s for a medical reason.  If someone at work tries to call me out for just trying to look cool, I will make them feel SO BAD when I drop that glaucoma bomb on them.”  It was one of only a handful of times in my life that I had a “glass half full” reaction to news.

As it turns out, the chances that I have glaucoma are less than one percent, according to my test results.  Regardless, I have to see the ophthalmologist once a year now to make sure my eye innards haven’t deviated from the “baseline” they made in my chart.

I will be addressing “baselines” in a later blog, but spoiler alert, after you turn 40, every doctor finds a reason to establish a “baseline” for almost everything on your body.  It’s like when you’re a kid and they make you stand against the door frame so that they mark off how much you’ve grown, only instead of charting the speed at which you’re growing, they’re charting the speed at which you’re snowboarding downhill towards your eventual coffin, or as I prefer to call it “Shreddin’ To The Grave”.  It sounds metal as fuck that way, and makes you think I am the sporty, outdoor type.

On Hot Young Bodies

The hot bodies of twenty year olds.  Who doesn’t like them?  They’re young, they’re firm, they only have the whispery beginnings of stretch marks where they foolishly think, “What is that?  Is that a scratch on the back of my thigh?  It’s probably just a scratch, I’m sure it’ll go away.”  I mean, these bodies weren’t even around when the original Full House began and ended, and were therefore not subjected to DJ’s asshole boyfriend Steve who totally drove a wedge between DJ’s and Kimmy Gibbler’s friendship like an asshole who gets in the middle of girls’ friendships and is like, “Whut?  Whut?  I didn’t do anything!”  We all know what you did, Steve.  We all know.  God, I hate that guy.

Yeah, so I used to be a twenty year old with a hot body.  I can say that and you can’t call me a conceited asshole for it, because it was twenty-two years ago and, seriously, I was quite the package.  You know who was into me the most, though?  Men twice my age.  I used to think it was because I had that twenty year old body, but as I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve come to realize that forty year old men like twenty year old women for two reasons: One, being the aforementioned hot body, but far, far higher on the list than that is that twenty year old women are so, so, so, so, so, so, so stupid.

I should clarify the above statement by fine-tuning the word “stupid” to “naïve”.  When I think back to the buuuuuullshit that I put up with from men when I was twenty, it’s enough to make me literally weep.  I’m sure plenty of women are familiar with the game where they do something super shitty to you, and then convince you that it was either your fault, or not a big deal, or this is just the way men are so you had better get used to it.

Case in point:  When I was eighteen, I dated a guy who was thirty-two.  I was the epitome of emo teenager and he was a “man” with a “PhD”, so I believed everything he told me.  After we had been dating for several months, and he had moved in with me in my bedroom at my mother’s house (because he was homeless), we were driving around downtown Delray (because he had no job) in a car he borrowed from someone (because he had no car) when he casually – and I mean sooo fucking casually – dropped this one on me:

“I was hoping my girlfriend might be able to get a stopover in Miami when she flies from Rome to New York, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, so that’s too bad.  You two would probably get along great!”

Uhhh.  Girlfriend?  You mean, besides me?

I’m sure this is the part of the story where you’re like, “Oh hayulll no!  I know you kicked him in the jimmies until they were strawberry jam!”

And you should think that, because that is quite literally what I would do if this story had happened when I was forty.  That motherfucker would be hog-tied in an alleyway right now with his dirty underwear stuffed in his mouth as a gag and the many footprints of my sensible shoes permanently imprinted on his scrotum.  He would wake up in a haze and shake his head to try to read the sign I’d put in front of him that says “Welcome to Mag-ghanistan, you punk ass motherfucker” and then pass back out into a pool of his own vomit.

But let’s stay focused here.

So as it turned out, this asshole had a girlfriend in Italy, where he had spent the last few months being a roving musical vagabond (bum), but he and the girlfriend had an “understanding”.  I assume they had the same “understanding” that I had with him, where I paid for everything all the time and he secretly banged anything that moved.

What did I do, you ask?  Nothing.  I did nothing.  I offered no objections.

I sat in the car, mostly in silence except to pretend to agree with him about how uptight Americans are about monogamy (he was American, btw).  Then he dropped me off at home, and I split my knuckle when I punched my metal closet door and spent the rest of the night crying on the bathroom floor.  Not because I was mad at him, but because I felt I had failed as a woman.  Why wasn’t I enough for him?  I was already giving him literally anything he wanted.  The next day, our relationship went on as if none of this had ever happened.  He made me believe I was wrong if I had a problem – as his girlfriend – with the other girlfriend that he had failed to tell me about.  And I believed him.  I believed that if I were “cool” enough to not be rattled by the bullshit he pulled, that I would be worthy of his love.  His unemployed, homeless, carless, cheating love.

And I’ll tell you what – that shit was not an anomaly.  One hundred percent of the older guys I dated when I was a hot young stupid thing were unemployed, homeless, and carless – because I didn’t know any better.  I thought that it was normal for me to have to pay for everything.  I thought it was normal to have someone ask to move in with me on the second date.  I thought it was because they loved me, not because they were homeless.  Hell, when I was sixteen and my boyfriend was twenty-five, I thought it was normal that he complained about the lack of breakfast options that I provided him when he spent the night.  I remember his face, incredulously asking me how he was supposed to make it through the day if all I was going to make for him were blueberry muffins.  He said, “A man can’t be sustained on muffins alone, honey.”  And I didn’t laugh.  Or punch him.  I apologized and made him eggs.  Forty year old me?  That fucker would wish he were only getting a one-way trip to Mag-ghanistan.

Here’s the deal, dewdz.  I’m not saying don’t date twenty year old women.  Twenty year old women are awesome, at least I know I was.  I could stay out all night dancing, dress strictly 70s from the thrift store and look cool as hell and not at all insane, and I was so willing to love and accept.  Too willing for the men who showed up to take me up on it.

I guess what I’m saying is feel free to date twenty year old women, but you better fucking be nice to them.  You better not take advantage of their naivete.  You better never, and I mean ever, roll your eyes at the seemingly immature stuff they say, because they’re not immature.  They’re just being the age that they are.  They’re saying exactly the kind of stuff they should say, because they’re still practically kids, for crying out loud.  Don’t ruin being young for them.  And you better not fucking make them feel like any of the stupid shit you pull on them is their fault, because you know damn well it isn’t.

Oh yeah, and don’t try to put it in twenty year olds’ butts.  They don’t like it.