Diagnosis: Foot-in-Mouth Disease

My favorite teachers were always my art teachers, except for that one.  That one that I lamented to a classmate, “Mrs. Strickland is such a bitch – I can’t stand her and her stupid “art should always be beautiful” crap.  If you think art has to be beautiful, then you’re a moron who doesn’t know a damn thing about art.  Why doesn’t she go teach Hygiene or something?”

Then my classmate said, “Umm, you know she’s my mom, right?”

And that’s how I found out Emma was Mrs. Strickland’s daughter.

You know how much I just can’t stand to brag (all evidence to the contrary), but I’ve got an unparalleled knack for putting my foot in my mouth.  I don’t even really have to try that hard, it just sashays into any scene like 1950s Marlon Brando in a stained white t-shirt and starts smashing lightbulbs.

If you have something you care about, like and respect, please feel free to count on me to say the most awkward thing about it after having mistakenly thought we were on the same page about it.  Oh, you like Paris Hilton and named your baby after her?  How…interesting!  After I just spent ten minutes trashing her.

I used to try to backpedal when this happened, like I did with Emma when I’d responded to this mom business with, “Oh, uhh.  Well, I mean, she’s actually really nice!”

Even though Emma was only 15 years old at the time, she gave me that look of, “Don’t patronize me.  Just take your awkward medicine and live with how uncomfortable you just made both of us.”

It has taken me years to understand that look, that sometimes you just have to exist in a bubble of discomfort until it passes.

In a recent foot-in-mouth incident, I was forced to attend a seminar on healthy lifestyle habits that turned out to be one long sales pitch from a Real Housewives of Orange County-looking chiropractor who wanted to sell me magnetic shoe insoles to solve every health problem under the sun.

If a chiropractor has helped you in your life, that’s great.  I just don’t like being told that I’m going to learn about healthy lifestyle habits and then get the hard-sell on magnets – unless it’s that weird guy who’s on The History Channel all the time.  He’s like a train wreck I can’t look away from, like The Hogan Family after they replaced Valerie Harper with Sandy Duncan.

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The next day I walked into my office and someone asked how the seminar had gone.  My coworker butted in and he and I answered at exactly the same time, only he said:

“I was impressed.  It’s exactly what me and my wife need.  I signed us both up and we start on the whole regimen next week!”

And I said – at exactly the same time:

“It was some hard-sell, snake oil bullshit from a chiropractor who looked like a reject from the blow-up doll factory.  Yeah, no.  I didn’t sign up for her magic beans.”

I may have used air quotes around the words “magic beans” for effect.  Maybe (yes).

I can tell you, the ensuing silence clung to the air like a dog fart.  And not one of those dog farts from a beautiful dog.  It was a junkyard dog fart.  A fart from a dog that eats a steady diet of discarded, rotting mob victim-flesh and spent motor oil.  The kind of dog fart that makes you banish even a beloved dog from your dining room and think less of them as a family pet from that moment on.  A dog fart of destruction.

Did I immediately backpedal?  No – this time I didn’t.  Because I believed in every word I had just said.  I hadn’t said it to insult my coworker – I said it because I truly felt this magnet saleswoman was a scam artist and should be called out for it.  I had no idea he was going to barge into our conversation.  Nobody had even asked him his opinion to begin with.

So I let the dog fart sit in the room, and did nothing to dispel it.  I didn’t say, “Oh, I was just kidding!  I’ve actually heard great things about those magnet soles!” like I would have years ago.

Because sometimes you just have to sit with the discomfort and let it be uncomfortable.

As a lifelong codependent and people-pleaser, this can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do.  To let someone be mad at you and then just sit with it?  Not cow-tow to them to try to make things all better?  Not rush in to smooth things over?

It’s not your job to make everybody feel better.  Say it with me, out loud:

“It’s not your job to make everybody feel better.”

I’m not saying be rude – far from it.  Just stop making it your job to fix everything.  Be okay with the discomfort, and don’t change the subject to distract everyone from the discomfort.

Man, that Hogan Family went downhill after Valerie Harper got fired.

Nobody Cares What You Like

This is purely an old person “get off my lawn” discussion, but I am fascinated when I see kids get asked what they want to eat for dinner and then get cooked separate meals from everybody else at the table.

You know what we ate for dinner when I was a kid?  Whatever my mother was making that night.  If you had a dissenting opinion, you could feel free to either go hungry or arrange to eat at a friend’s house that night.

For instance, I don’t like ham.  Never have.  I think it tastes and has the texture of what I imagine human flesh carved up and served on a plate would taste like.  If I have to eat it, I will gag.  I will involuntarily heave.  I literally cannot force it down.  Growing up, one of my friends didn’t like ham, either.  So what did we do?  She and I drafted the following reciprocal agreement in order to address our shared issue:

If my mother was making ham, I would eat dinner at her house that night.  If her mother was making ham, she would eat dinner at my house that night.

I believe they call that “learning priceless problem-solving skills” and charge like $1,500 nowadays for a workshop to learn them.

Granted, we did have that one night where both of our mothers were coincidentally making ham, but that was the night we learned that sometimes life is just out to kick you in the taco and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Yet another life lesson!

I can tell you for damn sure what none of the mothers in my neighborhood were doing.  They weren’t cooking four different meals to suit everyone’s tastes each night.

I can’t even imagine how hard my mother would have laughed if I’d said, “Oh, hey.  I know you’ve been at work all day at your crappy, low pay, high stress job that you hate, and I know that you’re making sloppy joes for everyone else, standing in front of the stove still wearing your work clothes, but can you make me chicken fingers instead?  You know, just for me?”

You would still hear that laughter today, echoing through eternity, bending space and time in its wake.  I would have never lived that down.  That would be a story that was passed down to all future generations:

“Can you believe she thought I would make an entirely separate meal just for her?  Why stop there?  Why not ask for your own castle and unicorn?!  Her own dinner!  Sure thing, Jackie O!  I’ll get right on that!”

Same goes for stopping at multiple fast food places.  If I’d said to my mother, “I know everyone else is getting Burger King, but can you make an extra stop so I can get some Wendy’s?” she would have just lost control of the car and driven into a lake, she would have become so delirious with laughter.

You knew better than to complain about your lack of fast food choices.  You were lucky when you got fast food at all, and not the frozen cube steaks and sauerkraut Mom forgot to take out to thaw that morning.  You’re gonna get picky about the fast food?  Oh, that’s rich.  Why not get picky about free candy on Halloween while you’re at it?  Get picky about the denomination of bills in a birthday card!  But I wanted fives!!!

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It wasn’t because my mother was a harsh parent – far from it.  It’s because dinner was an event that was grounded in facts.  Dinner = whatever Mom was making that night.  That was a fact.  The idea that children might have been permitted to have an opinion on the matter was totally unheard of.  It never even crossed my mind.  Did I have an opinion on whether she should pay the property taxes quarterly or once a year?  Nope!  Because my opinion wasn’t relevant to the matter.

The same way that your opinion is irrelevant as to whether the sky is blue or the sun rises in the east.  If you have issues with these things, you better find a way to deal with them, because the sun ain’t rising in the west just for you, babycakes.  You’re not entitled to have the world skitter around your likes and dislikes because, I can assure you, absolutely nobody is as concerned about your likes and dislikes as you are.

If you care 100%, then the rest of the world cares negative 500,000,000%.

Nobody cares what you like – and we all need to come to terms with that.

Like Mom used to tell me, “You are so special…” and then she’d pause and say “…juuuust like everybody else.”

That’s not only accurate, but will sure as hell keep you humble, too.

Sometimes you have to eat something for dinner that you’re not crazy about.  What can I tell you?  Life is hard, kid.  It’s one meal.  Either force it down or load up on side dishes that night.

Now get off my lawn.

Nobody Wants to Watch That 5-Minute Long Video on Your Phone

I say this with absolute confidence.

If you’re thinking, “But!  But!” then you’re one of the offenders and nobody has had the heart to tell you.

So here it is:  Put the phone down and back away slowly.

I was recently minding my own business (for a change), walking down the hall while mentally humming “Staying Alive” (because that’s the only way to strut and make it look natural), when I was accosted by someone who said those words everybody dreads:

“Oh my god, you have to see this video.  It’s so crazy!”

Then they made me watch a five minute long video of their cousin’s wedding reception where nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – of interest happened.  I could feel my ankles swelling, that’s how long I was standing there.

Let’s be 100% crystal clear here.  I can only fake my way through so many utterances of, “Oh, wow!  That’s crazy!” before I start to feel cheap and and ashamed and lose respect for myself.

I say this as a person who didn’t even start to lose respect for herself all those years in the 90s when I would get free CDs from bands by sticking their CD to my bare midriff and then undulating like a belly dancer without the CD falling off, so the bar is already pretty low.

I say this as a person who didn’t feel cheap when she used to wear a thrift store polyester orange hot pants romper to festival concerts and tell young men to refer to me as “Tangerine Dreamy”.

I say this as someone whose best friend kicked someone out of the way so that I could grab Kip Winger’s bass pick off the floor at a Winger concert and then I waved it around like it was Simba in the Lion King.  No shame felt.  Not an ounce.

I somehow – somehow – made it to the end of the wedding reception video while, sadly, unsuccessfully trying to dive into a nearby potted plant.

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Almost fit.

Not wanting to tempt fate, the moment it was over I started to lightly jog away from this person.  I figured it would be worth the asthma attack if I could actually get away from them. If they couldn’t tell how desperate I was to get away during the first video, who knew what else they had in store for me?

Which is why this person then said:

“Hang on, before you go, let me see if I can pull the video up from the bachelorette party!”

Oh god, no.  NOOOOOOOOOOOO.  If I wanted to watch a video of a bunch of skanks I’ve never met, and will never meet, standing on top of a banquette at some nightclub that can best be described as “Axe Body Spray in The Form of a Building” wearing iridescent fake wieners as unicorn horns, satin sashes that says “Slut Number One” and “Slut Number Two” and badly twerking to “Blurred Lines”, I would go to the nearest swingers club next to a Trump rally that just let out.

Now, if you happen to have that YouTube video on your phone of that super fat cat who busts out the side of that shoe box with his big body, I’m game for that.  Anytime.  That video is literally two seconds long AND it also features a cat with a fat body, which will never, ever get old for me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, their health, blah blah, pets shouldn’t be overweight LEMME SQUOZE THAT FAT CAT BODY.

Sometimes I stare off into space, thinking about all the fat cat bodies out there, and trying to figure out how I can arrange my life in such a way that I can make a living out of squozing them.  This is America, in the year of 2019.  Anything is supposed to be possible.

If I were a millennial, I would ask you to donate money to me for to reach this goal, but I’m a Gen-Xer, so I prefer to just complain about it and take little to no action.