When Johnny Met Maggie…And Threw Trash at Her Face

“Roll down your window.”

I was sitting in the passenger seat of Johnny’s car and he was in the driver’s seat, speeding down the highway at 80 miles an hour.  It was our first date.

I mean, I guess you could technically call it a “date”.  We had gone and hung out at his friend’s band’s warehouse and then Johnny had taken me to the Burger King drive-thru afterwards.  By musician standards, the fact that he had bought me Burger King meant this guy was serious about me.  The crumpled ten-dollar bill Johnny handed out the window to the Burger King cashier at the drive-thru might as well have been an engagement announcement.

That would have been silly.  Johnny wouldn’t propose for another two days.

I rolled down the car window.  He put one knee under the steering wheel to steady the car, picked up all the empty Burger King wrappers and dirty napkins and then smashed them all together with both hands as we tore down the highway.

He said, “Lean back some.”

I leaned back.

Then Johnny threw the Burger King trash-wad an inch past my face and out the passenger side window.

I gasped, mouth dropped open in disbelief.  Little lines of ketchup were streaked across my face and the front of my dress.

Johnny looked at me, laughed, and said, “What?”

This was our first date, where everyone should have typically been on their best behavior.  I figured maybe he was trying to impress me with some kind of “Rebel Without a Cause” attitude, or that he had some growing up to do.  It seemed like such a totally bizarre and aggressive thing to do.  I was so freaked out that I didn’t even know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.  (I can tell you, 43-year old Maggie would have handled that differently, i.e. put a foot in his ass.)

An hour later, Johnny held my face, with tears forming in his eyes, and professed his love to me.  He had never felt this way before.  He had never fallen so hard, so fast.

Johnny would turn out to not be such a great boyfriend.

You’re stunned.

Unfortunately, it just took 19-year old me another year to figure that out.

What I failed to see that night, as a pile of ketchup-swirled garbage was chucked an inch past my face out the car window, was that this was Johnny on his best behavior.

Fast forward a few months, and we’re pulling away from that same Burger King, and Johnny’s motioning towards me with his hands and sarcastically apologizing to the cashier for how “slutty” I was dressed.  “Sorry, I don’t know why she’s dressed like this.  It’s really embarrassing for me.  I’m SORRY.”

Apparently, my skirt was too short for his liking.

I tried to hide my face from the cashier, my eyes red and puffy from crying because a half hour before this Johnny had thrown a lit cigarette at me, shoved me up against my front door, and red-faced screamed at me, “Where the hell were you?  Tell me where the hell you were and who you were really with!!!” because I had gotten home at 9:45 from a coworker’s birthday party.  (I’d told him that I’d probably be home around 9:30.)  He needed a full accounting of where exactly I was for that fifteen minute discrepancy, and threatened to call my coworkers to “verify” what time I’d left the party.

At this point Johnny had been fired from three jobs in a row and I was making his car payment every month, despite the fact that he was living with his grandparents and had no bills.  He called me selfish and would storm out of the mall anytime I wanted to buy so much as a ten dollar t-shirt for myself with money from my own paycheck.  Then I would cry and apologize for being so selfish.  Then he would hold me and tell me how much he loved me, and that I just needed to work on myself so that I wouldn’t make him so mad.

I tell you what, being 19 years old was not at all the fun and carefree experience I’d thought it would be.

I had absolutely no role model for what a healthy relationship looked like, and I thought I had to put up with Johnny’s behavior, that this just what guys were like, and that it was my burden to become okay with it.  After all, he said he loved me, right?  He said he loved me more than any man had ever loved any woman in the history of the world.  I was so, so desperate for a man to love me.  So desperate that I took whatever they dished out as love.

Here’s the thing, though.  When Johnny wasn’t acting like a goddamned monster, he was so affectionate with me.  He would hold my hand and cry and tell me how he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.  He wanted to marry me.  He said I was the perfect girl, if only I could stop “pushing his buttons” when I wore too short a skirt, cut even one inch off my hair, or spent time with literally anybody else – my own family included.  So long as I did whatever he wanted, he was the sweetest guy in the room.  But if I made what he called a “mistake”?  There went the evening.  He would slam doors and scream and break things while I cowered, and then sulk and give me the silent treatment until I cried and begged for his forgiveness.

He twisted and turned my emotions so expertly, he made me feel like it was my sole purpose in life to not set him off.

This is how you end up in a cycle of abuse.

You don’t even want to know how many varieties of Johnnys I dated over the years, ranging from physical to emotional to mental to financial abuse.  It would never fail that in hindsight, when the ashes of the relationship were stinging my eyes like sulfur, there was a red flag on the first date that I had politely let go because I was too young to know any better and too afraid to say anything.

I have to believe that when weird, rude, and even straight up antisocial things happen on a first date, they’re more than a red flag.  They’re a test.  A big one.  If someone pulls some totally weird or aggressive stuff right from the start and you pitch a fit and then walk out, they won’t be calling you again.  You’ve got an excellent sense of self-worth and are definitely not going to silently put up with their shit, so they’re not going to waste their time pursuing you.  They’ve weeded you out.

These types of abusers are predators and they know what to look for in potential prey.  If you’re thinking, “Well, I would never put up with that!” then guess what?  Congratulations!  These guys know that!  That’s why they’re not asking you out.  They know who to go after.  They’re looking for the young girl with no self-esteem who looks like she’s afraid of her own shadow.

If you go along with whatever weird shit they pull because you have no self-worth, or are too beaten down or too weirded out to speak up?  Then they know they’ve got you.  You’ve passed their prey test.  Expect for the behavior to get worse.  It’s not going to get a little worse, either.  Once they’ve got you isolated, it’s going to get much, much worse.  That’s why Johnny proposed after 2 days.  He wanted to pin me down so that I couldn’t get away.

When I think of what my life would have become if I had married him when I was 19, I can’t even imagine.  As it was, when I finally found the strength to break up with him, he threatened to kill me, himself, my family, his family, and called my house sometimes forty times an hour – for weeks on-end.  He banged on my windows at night.  He left terrifying letters on my door at home, at work, at my regular hangouts.

There’s nothing I can do to change the past or alter the things that made me believe I was worth so little that I had to put up with this shit, so the best I can do is offer the following advice to you, and hope it saves someone from the nightmare hellscape that dating was for more than half of my adult life.

  • If someone can’t make it through your first date without throwing a pile of trash at your face, find someone else to date.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, click here to go to breakthecycle.org to learn more about how you can get help.  Stay safe, my friends.  Nobody should have to live in fear of a person who claims to love them.

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

Mr. Wertzman 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. Wertzman 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 boy 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, 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.