Butter Off Dead

There was this one time I didn’t brush my teeth in 7th grade.

For the entire school year.

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Any similar face that you’re making right now is completely warranted.  I’m making it, too.  As a responsible adult who enjoys things like getting regular dental care, brushing and flossing, and not having a dusty hobo mouth that bats fly out of at night, the thought of someone not brushing their teeth for that long is absolutely horrifying.

This has been one of my deepest, darkest secrets for my entire adult life, and it damn well should be, because it’s freaking disgusting.  You are actually the first ones hearing about it, sooo congratulations?  I bet now you’re happy you never got your birthday wish to make out with me in middle school, which by the way, I am certain nobody ever, ever wished.  Don’t make me remind you of acid-washed everything and the blonde perm.

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Merry Christmas from 13 year old me.  I know I look like Duff McKagan from Guns ‘n Roses here, which would have been really cool if I weren’t a girl.

I remember the exact day I made the decision that I wasn’t going to brush my teeth anymore.  I was getting ready for school, picked up the toothbrush and toothpaste that were sitting there at the bottom of the rusty medicine cabinet, sighed and thought, “This again?” and then I put them back down and walked out the door to catch the school bus, teeth unbrushed.  Somewhere between my front door and the bus stop, I realized what a time-saver I’d stumbled upon!

It also helped that I wanted to die.

That particular period was really rough in our house, and it had reached a point where clean teeth just didn’t feel all that significant in the grand scheme of things.  I was so low, that the idea of having to unscrew the toothpaste cap, dispense it onto a toothbrush, and then commence brushing was just more effort than I could handle.  I secretly wore dirty clothes every day and my showers consisted of me standing still under the hot water for five minutes and then just turning it off.  Soap?  Who the hell had the energy for that?  Sometimes even just breathing felt like an effort.  Most of my breathing came in the form of involuntary yawns.

Nobody noticed that I had stopped brushing my teeth, which was about on par for how invisible and dead I felt inside.

I would later learn that this was Clinical Depression, something I’ve dealt with off and on for as long as I can remember.  Genetic?  Situational?  That shit doesn’t really matter.  Whether you have it because your mother had it, or because of raging teenage hormones, or because your life is a shit pile isn’t really the point.  Depression doesn’t want to know how you got there.  It’s just so happy you’re there.

It has so many things to tell you!

Depression wants to make sure that you know that you’re not equipped to deal with anything because you are a lazy coward.  It wants to make sure that you hate yourself.  A lot.

It wants you to know that you’re just a bag of broken parts that are beyond repair and you are a bother to everyone around you.

It wants you to know that things would be so much easier if you weren’t around.

Depression wants to make you believe that you deserve to be invisible.

“Why, look at all those people out there!  Climbing mountains and building skyscrapers and laughing with friends over lunch!”

“And look at you!  You can’t even be bothered to brush your damn teeth, you lazy coward.  You can’t even be bothered to brush your own teeth.”

“You should be invisible, you worthless piece of crap.  You’re getting exactly what you deserve.”

This ^^ is how depression bullies you and pushes you down the well.  The descent happens too slow to notice it when it starts and too fast to stop it once it’s rolling.  At the point I stopped brushing my teeth, I had already fallen so far down the well that I couldn’t see my way out of it.  The light at the top of it seemed like a pinhole in the sky.

Months and months went by after I stopped brushing my teeth.  Towards the end of the 7th grade school year, someone had brought a bunch a bagels into Mr. McKenzie’s science class.  As we grabbed them up and started pulling them apart to eat them, I complained to my friend Suzanne about how there wasn’t any butter to put on them.

Suzanne took a bite of her dry bagel, shrugged her shoulders, and said very matter-of-factly, with her mouth full, “Well, you could always just scrape some off your teeth.”

I started brushing my teeth again the next day.

I’m sure Suzanne didn’t know it at the time, seeing as we were only 13 years old, but what she did that day was see me.  See me and make fun of me, sure, but she saw me at a time when I was certain I was invisible and that nothing I did – or didn’t do – mattered.  It turned out brushing my teeth actually did matter, and she noticed it, and she said something.  She snapped me back towards reality with one quick jab.

Obviously, there’s more to being pulled out of depression than just being insulted by a friend, but it did at least get the ball rolling for me that time.  Realizing that you aren’t invisible is a step in the right direction.  Giving a damn about even the smallest part of yourself can be a real start.

Since that day in 7th grade, I have used “The Toothbrush Test” countless times to determine whether I’m in a good place mentally.  Any time in my life when I’ve gone to pick up the toothbrush in the morning and thought, “This again?” and started to put it back down because it seemed like too much effort, that’s when I’ve known that I’ve fallen down the well again and need to get help.  Because we all need help sometimes, and there shouldn’t be any shame in admitting it.

If you have a friend who looks like they need help, get nosy.  Ask them how they’re doing and what’s going on.  If a friend who you know used to spend an hour getting ready for work in the morning suddenly starts showing up to work every day with bedhead, no makeup, a stained shirt, and food stuck to their face, chat them up.  Find out what’s changed.  Hell, start with a joke.  “What’s with the pajama pants at work, Lady Naps-a-Lot?”

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, I always dress that way for work,” then congratulations on your job in Silicon Valley, you moist nerd.  I’m sure you’ll own all of us in no time, so I have to call you a moist nerd while I still can, before you have the ability to send an army of android mercenary sex dolls to hunt me down.  Nerd.  Moist nerd.

You want me to say moist again.  You know you do.

Moist.

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When a friend seems like they’ve lost their way, make it your business to let them know that you see them.  Don’t be worried about coming off as pushy or sticking your nose into their business.  If someone is your friend, then checking in on them when you think something might be wrong is your business.

Even if it’s just to tell them that they have butter teeth.

My Fake Exploding Heart

I was watching a TV show where one of the characters unknowingly smoked crack when she thought it was just weed, and it reminded of a special time in my own life, where I didn’t smoke crack-weed.

Gather ‘round the children!  Aunt Mags is going to tell you a heartwarming story about it, and maybe even sing you a little song or two when things feel too intimate, because she’s the worst.  The worst!

The year was 1993, and crack-weed was all the rage.  You couldn’t walk down the street without tripping over piles and piles of it, lined up like bags of toys to be loaded onto Santa’s sleigh.  In what can only be described as a real tour de force, crack-weed swept the Academy Awards that year in every category, including the highly coveted Oscar for Best Crack-weed.

(The above information regarding the abundance of crack-weed is not actually true.  The drug you couldn’t get away from in 1993 was Melrose Place.)

By the time I was 17, I had already dated enough druggies and tried just enough drugs to know that I wasn’t really into drugs.  They just weren’t my thing.  I was way too jacked up with anxiety and OCD to have taken anything that could have resulted in being arrested, overdosing, or making me feel weirder than I already did.

Also, my mother had told me and my sisters from an early age that we had a genetic heart condition where if we tried cocaine even one time, it would make our hearts literally explode and we would die immediately.

First, turns out she made up the heart thing, and second, I’d be really surprised if any of us were to die “immediately” of anything.  It’s much more my family’s style to be merely grazed by a falling satellite just enough to cause permanent nerve damage, and then have the falling satellite slam into an orphanage next door and explode, revealing a diamond mine just underneath the building on the very same day scientists discover that diamonds cause airborne Lupus.

We all have way too many grudges and need to linger for years and years in the death process in order to exact all the revenges we need to exact – even it means barely holding on for decades attached to machines in dank, hospital basements while wearing tissue boxes as slippers.  Clinging to life out of pure spite is in the family charter right next to a nanner-pudding recipe (that’s really just the Jell-O banana pudding recipe straight off the box).  Our family crest is an infinity symbol with that spiked wheelchair from Nightmare on Elm Street Part III in one loop and the words, “Why don’t you say that to my FACE?” in the other loop.

So! Crack-weed.

I was at my friend Sky’s house for her 16th birthday party.  Her house was like a hippie paradise, complete with two cartoonishly hippie parents, who seemed like they had been transported directly from Woodstock and had skipped over the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s entirely.  Sky’s 16th birthday party consisted of making our own tie-dye t-shirts in the backyard and learning how to wire-wrap crystals for necklace charms.  The music was all Grateful Dead, all the time.  Someone was weaving something.  There was a jar of wheat germ on the counter.  These people were hippies.  So much so, that when Anne and I ran into Sky’s mother hanging out at a nearby coffee house the month before and someone asked her if she knew what time it was, she answered, “We don’t do time, man.”

Once it got dark out, we all left the party at Sky’s parents’ house and made our way towards the beach about ten blocks away.  When we got there, we found an unoccupied lifeguard tower, climbed up the steps, and sat around with our teenage legs dangling over the front of it, Sky with her long, flowing hippie skirt, and me with my burgundy tights and combat boots.  She was a hippie, I was grunge, and we bonded over our common high school enemy:  The Preppies.  The rest of the hippie/grunge hybrid group lined up around the lifeguard tower and we all looked up at the stars and chatted.

Someone lit a joint, and it was passed around.  Someone had a bottle of gas station wine, and it was passed around.  I stuck with one of the bottles of Budweiser that one of the older guys had brought along.  Everyone was having a nice, fun night and the weather was pure April in Florida, which is just warm and breezy and beautiful.

Then Roach showed up.

A grown man.  Named Roach.

Don’t look surprised.  This is a story about crack-weed, for god’s sake.

Sky leaned over and told me that Roach was a friend of a friend of hers, and that they’d hung out before and he was cool.

Uh huh.  I knew Roach.  Boy, did I know Roach.

My family had actually known Roach’s family since before I was born.  We grew up a few streets away from each other, but he was about five years older than me, around 22 or so at that point, and I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years.  He and I looked at each other and exchanged secret looks of recognition, I imagine like when two politicians pass each other in a whorehouse.  I pretended like I didn’t know who he was, and he did the same with me.  If he had admitted that he knew who I was, I could have told a million humiliating stories about his fucked up poverty household, and likewise, he could have told a million about mine.

Growing up in our neighborhood, everything you did could be used as a sort of social blackmail down the road, so once you made your way into a different social set, you had to burn that bridge behind you.  That’s because poor kids tend to do really weird shit when left to their own devices, and it’s hard to scrub the images from your memory.

I assume rich kids do weird things, too, but strictly within the confines of their golden castles where only servants and teacup-sized pets can witness their childhood atrocities and humiliations.  They probably play games like “Mock Futures Trading” where they make their Ken dolls plummet off the roof of the Barbie mansion when the market takes a turn, or role-playing games like “Let’s Under-Pay The Working Class” where they dress up in their parents’ clothes and say things like, “Listen here, I may not know how they say Chi-poll-tee in Los Salvador or where ever you’re from, but here in America we talk American, and when I say I want a Diet Coke, I want a Diet Coke, com-pren-day?”

You know, stuff to prepare them to be the kind of Barry Goldwater Republicans they’ll surely grow up to become.  Related, we’re all going to die.

I imagine that unlike the poor kids, the rich kids rarely poured gasoline all over their crotches just to see what it felt like and then had to get hosed down in the yard by their 12-year old babysitter’s mom.  It’s hard to forget the visual of a young man crying and clutching at his junk while being hosed down in public by somebody else’s mother yelling, “Why did you do this?!  Tell me why you did this!”  That stuff sticks with you.

Likewise with that time we were all walking home from the bus stop and that kid said, “Do you dare me to poop in the road right now?  Because I’ll do it.  You dare me?  You dare me?!”

Nobody had dared him.

After his weird rant, he dropped his pants and squatted in the road, a small crowd gathering around him, but then after much consternation and straining he couldn’t do it.  He got poop-shy.  Nobody could think of anything to say, so they just started making fun of him for having little bits of toilet paper in his butt crack.  He looked embarrassed not by the fact that his hygiene was being called into question, but by the fact that his butthole wasn’t nearly the extrovert that he thought it was.  I think what we all witnessed that day was a butthole identity crisis.  Nobody ever spoke of it again.

The same way we never spoke again about that time you were hiding out at my house and your dad showed up drunk, screaming that you were a little whore, and tried to break down my front door while I hid under the bed and called the police.

🎵 Two – of – cracks, two cracks that beat as weed. Two – of – cracks, I need you, I need you. 🎵

Or that time you caught a fish and then stomped it to death, wide-eyed and grinning at me the whole time while I screamed, and then you kicked it back into the canal and put your line back into the water to catch another one.  Even though nobody ever spoke of it again, I made a mental note to never, ever forget your full name because I was certain you would grow up to be a serial killer.  You probably did.  How would I even know until you get caught?  I saw you years and years later working as a security guard and the idea that you wield power of any kind over anyone terrifies me to the depths of my soul.

🎵 Wake me up before you crack-weed, don’t leave me hangin’ on like a crack-weed. 🎵

And everyone remembers when your dad killed that old woman on his third DUI and your mother said it wasn’t fair that he had to go to prison for it because the woman was so old, anyway.

🎵 Crack-weed singing in the dead of niiiiiight.  Take these crack-weed wings and learn to flyyyyyyy.  All your life, you were only waiting for this crack-weed to ariiiiise. 🎵

You can see why it was easier for all of us from the old neighborhood to just pretend we were strangers and invent our own pasts.  Besides Roach, I hadn’t known any of these people on the lifeguard tower prior to the age of 16, and they didn’t know anything about my past – or his.  I intended to keep it that way.

Roach got right down to business as he sat on the other side of Sky, pulled a plastic bag out of his camouflage jacket and said, “Hey hey!  I got you a little something for your birthday!” as he shook the bag around, jangling it around like a cat toy.

Sky snatched the bag from his hand and said, “Awesome!  I can always use more weed!  Hell yeah!”

Roach’s spiked pewter skull rings caught the moonlight as he folded his arms across his chest, smug as the bug he was named after, and said, “Look closer.  See those little white pebbles mixed in?”

Sky put the bag closer to her face so she could inspect it.

Roach beamed, “That’s crack!  This ain’t just weed, honey.   It’s crack-weed!  Happy Birthday!”

🎵 You come on like a dream, crack-weed and cream, lips like strawberry wine, you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and here’s some crack-weed. 🎵

Sidebar:  That Ringo Starr really was ahead of his time to record that song about a 16 year old girl when he was THIRTY-THREE.  Edgy, even.

Now, had I had a car, the introduction of crack-weed would have been my cue to say, “Whew!  Well, it’s getting pretty late so I better head on home!” but nooooo.  I was still Captain Beg-4-Rides at this point, so when something like crack-weed makes an appearance at a sweet sixteen birthday party, you just have to find a way to deal with it.  There was zero chance I was going to actually smoke it, what with the genetic heart condition that I thought I had and whatnot.  Plus, you know, it was crack.

I inched away from the spot where I was sitting, and got up and walked down the catwalk to the sand.  I looked up and saw Roach was packing a pipe for Sky and two other girls.  They each took turns lighting the pipe to smoke the crack-weed, while Roach shielded their teenage girl faces from the ocean winds.

I have to tell you, for being a Grade-A dirtbag growing up in my old neighborhood, as an adult, Roach was surprisingly a gentleman when passing around crack to teenage girls.

I sat in the sand below the lifeguard tower and observed the way the girls reacted to the crack-weed.  Sky became sort of “Sky on 10”, jumped down to the sand, and started twirling her skirt in the moonlight, dancing and twirling and dancing and twirling while singing Violent Femmes lyrics, until she threw up gas station wine all down the front of her freshly tie-dyed t-shirt.  Then she took off to go swimming in the ocean to rinse off her crack-vomit and ran back up, now topless, looking for more crack-weed.

🎵 I take one, one, one ’cause you left me, and two, two, two for my family, and three, three, three for my heartache, and four, four, four for my crack-weed-ache. 🎵

One of the other girls came down, dropped to her knees and fell face-down in the sand, her body shuddering and twitching like she was electric, and I thought she was dying until she rolled over to her back, laughing and spitting sand up like a fountain.  She laughed and laughed and said, “I’m rubbing my face in the sand!  I’m rubbing my face in the sand and I can’t even feel it!  I can’t feel it!”

The third girl climbed onto Roach’s lap, tugging on the collar of his camouflage jacket and asked if he had more crack-weed, and the two of them went off into the sand dunes together.

I had never, ever, been so thankful that I was born with a fake exploding heart.

Wait for it.

🎵 Don’t tell my heart, my fake exploding heart, I just don’t think he’d understand.  ‘Cause if you tell my heart, my fake exploding heart, he might blow up and kill this man.  Wooooooooo! 🎵

Bing-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-bomp—bomp—–bomp——-twang…

(I can assure you.  I know how annoying ^^ that ^^ whole business is in this post.  You don’t have to tell me.  A team of specialists is on it, so go take a pill, Mary Sue.  This is how I cope.)

THE END

…twang–twaang.

You’re Too Soft for That Hard Reality, Taylor: Part Three

Now that we’ve determined that you’re not Daryl, let’s talk about the lack of decent accommodations in the post-apocalyptic zombie world scenario.  No restaurants, no air-conditioning, no television?  What are you supposed to do all day?  Sweat?  Entertain yourself?!  WALK?  Ugggggh.  It’s like camping in Hell – and that’s before you even add the zombies-eating-your-face factor.

And even if the zombies all of a sudden died off simultaneously from some sort of disease, can you imagine the rebuilding process?  All that infrastructure that would need to be repaired or replaced before things got up and running again?  Who’s going to do all that work?  You know probably half the population got wiped out, taking out untold numbers of skilled service technicians.

As it stands today, when I call Comcast to come out and fix my high speed internet, they send someone out in three to five years.  I can tell you this much, it’s gonna be at least fifty years before you get streaming Netflix back, and I don’t care to even think about having to live in that kind of world.

Are you prepared for the return of dial-up internet?  Adjusting the tracking on your VCR?  Making your own avocado toast?  Because I’m looking at your wireless bluetooth earbuds and Starbucks Venti Mocha Lowfat Half-Caff Macchiato right now and I don’t think you are.

You couldn’t even deal with getting thrown back to 90s technology.  The zombie apocalypse?  Please.  You’re too soft for that hard reality, Taylor.  Own it.  Own it like a cashmere sweater wrapped in Charmin.

You don’t even know what a Motorola pager looks like, let alone how to work one.  You probably think Motorola is some kind of flavored seltzer made in Detroit that’s trying to compete with La Croix.  The kind that you’d drink with your “squad” while Instagramming photos of yourself wearing an ironic Dwight Schrute one-piece bathing suit, hanging out on the lake on a giant inflatable pizza float.  You woke up like dis, etc.

Even if you managed to survive the zombie apocalypse, you’d just be dead weight to the rest of the survivors.  You’d be too busy trying to break into the Sallie Mae office to destroy your student loan records to even bother helping everyone else forage for loose guinea pigs to eat.  Then, as previously discussed, you would shoot yourself in the face with a crossbow and ruin a perfectly good crossbow arrow.

Quit being so selfish and learn your limitations as a human being.  Take yourself out, Taylor.

Oh god – and the cleaning.  The cleaning!  Let’s just say they manage to get power back up and running to the local Cracker Barrel.  Do you know how much blood and guts and trash will have to be cleaned up in that place before you’d feel comfortable eating hashbrown casserole there again?

Okay, not actually that much for me, because that hashbrown casserole is so good I would inhale it from a possum’s belly button like it was a body shot on Spring Break, but for the rest of the people??

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People get uptight about finding an errant hair in their food.  Can you imagine how thrilled they would be to have to flag down a server to say, “Excuse me, but there seems to be half a rotting human face mixed into my hashbrown casserole?”

No thanks.

Finally, let’s talk about the catastrophe co-opter.  We all know this asshole!  This is the person who didn’t actually have anything bad happen to them, but still insists on interrupting everyone else’s actual grief so they can be upset about something bad that happened to their neighbor five doors down who they didn’t even know.

There’d be some poor woman with no legs, one eye, and 3/4 of an arm, crying and telling a reporter about how zombies ate her various appendages and all her babies, and the catastrophe co-opter would bust in like, “Oh yeah?  Well I lost my neighbor from five doors down! I lost MY neighbor!  You’re not the only victim here okay, Kathy?!”

The zombie apocalypse is so annoying.