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.

The Bad Corey

I used to have a special gift for finding the biggest project in the room.  The insufferable, destructive ass hat.  The one that was equal parts narcissist, emotional trainwreck, unemployable, and leather pants.

Any time a guy would walk into a party backwards, still peeing on the front porch, zip up and drop a cigarette from his mouth onto the carpet, and grind it out with the heel of his boot while yelling, “It’s not my fault you were dumb enough to put white carpet in here!” my ass hat spidey-sense would go off and the little hairs on the back of my neck would stand at attention.

Then some random girl would walk up to him, throw her drink in his face for some unrelated reason and storm out the door, and I would think, “Well, this is obviously the guy for me.”

Had I known back then that I could cut out the middle-man known as “Misplaced Hope”, I would have just walked straight up to any of these types of guys and said, “So where do I fill out an application to worship you, pay all your bills, have you steal money from me and then cheat on me with one or more of my friends?  I am accustomed to disappointment from every man I’ve ever known and, on a subconscious level that I won’t uncover for many years, your brand is as comfortable and familiar to me as a mother’s perfume is to her child.  Maybe I can fix the past by fixing YOU!”

Like so many girls who sprang forth into adolescence headfirst down a hole of despair and emotional depravity, it all started with The Bad Corey.

This may come as a big surprise to you (except not at all because hello), but in the late 80s I was all the way into The Coreys.

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That would be Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, in case you’re not familiar, and if you’re not familiar, I don’t even know where to start with you.  Maybe somebody is offering Remedial Corey classes at your local night school.  I highly suggest you bone up on this information, because it will be on the test.

Calculators are only permitted for the “Box Office” portion of The Coreys Test, where you will have to figure out how much money the “Meatballs” movie franchise lost when they cast Corey Feldman in “Meatballs 4″, a classic sequel to a sequel to a sequel, as the “hottest water-skiing instructor in town.”

I don’t know how that conversation went around the producers’ table, but I assume it started and ended with, “Let’s do this thing!  Oh god kill me now please please kill me what has my life become.” <sound of Drano being chugged>

It’s not one of the better Corey movies.  All Corey movies are graded on a curve, by the way.  It’s not fair to grade them against “other movies”, or what some people refer to as “good movies”.  It’s only fair to grade Corey movies against other Corey movies.

Were you your best Corey in this film today?

Could you have Corey-ed it up some more?

What did I learn about Corey in this movie that I didn’t already know?

I tell you what, though, and I seriously, seriously am not even remotely kidding here.  Corey Feldman should have won the goddamned Oscar for his performance as “Teddy”, the abused kid with the burned-off ear in “Stand By Me”.

When he calmly informs the junk man, who’s insulting his father for being crazy, “My father stormed the beach at Normandy,” before eventually exploding into threats and tears as the boys drag him away from the junkyard, it GUTS me.  Give it a re-watch and see if you can make it through the emotional complexity of that really terribly abused kid actually defending his abusive father without wanting to just die inside.

Yes, of course I read his autobiography, “Corey-ography”, so knowing how badly Corey Feldman was abused in real life as a kid, that scene makes me want to curl into a ball on his behalf.  That may have just been a scene in a movie, but that abused kid in that scene was very, very real.  That’s a hell of a big ask for a kid on a movie set, and I can only imagine how tapping into whatever he had to tap into to pull off that scene must have torn him to shreds.  He was just a kid, for god’s sake.  That would have hurled most adults into a 72-hour hold.

Hey dramatic departure!  Let’s lighten it up a bit, huh?

You didn’t really have a choice in the matter when it came to loving Coreys in the 80s – they were everywhere.  You would never ask a twelve year old girl if she was into The Coreys.  You just asked her which one.

Now, you would think with all my gushing over Corey Feldman in “Stand By Me”, that would mean that my Corey of choice was Corey Feldman, but you’d be wrong.  Despite being the long-haired Corey, the bad attitude Corey, and the damaged Corey, there was someone far, far, far more damaged.

Someone who seemed to be a shiny, jangly, pretty boy, who later turned out to be a bottomless pit of screaming, soul-ripping darkness.

Corey Haim, for his pretty boy face and the adorable smile that made America fall in love with him in movies like “Lucas” and “The Lost Boys”, would surprisingly end up becoming The Bad Corey.

I always liked cute Corey, sweet Corey, Corey who just wanted to take Heather Graham out on a nice date in “License to Drive”.  I liked him just fine.  But the moment The Bad Corey publicly emerged?  Goodbye to Sandra Dee.

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Tell me about it, stud.

I remember the moment it went from a “like” of Corey Haim to a “love”.  It was in the old movie theater down the street from my house, watching “Dream a Little Dream”, and my formerly sweet-faced, blonde highlighted Corey Haim, the one with the cute smile where his lip kinda curled up at the corner like Elvis (and don’t even get me started on Elvis), the Corey with the clean jeans and high-tops, appeared onscreen before me, looking like this:

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Smoking cigarettes?  Check.  Hair dyed an unnatural color?  Check.  Ludicrous clothing and accesssories?  Check.  Foul-mouthed?  Oh god.  Check.  The pasty, lifeless complexion of a person who is clearly on drugs?  (angel harp music) Check.

My Corey?

My Corey had blossomed into The Bad Corey.

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I got chiiiiiiiiiiiills, they’re multiplyin’. And I’m loooooooooooosing control-olll.  ‘Cause the power, you’re supplyin’, it’s electri-OH MY GOD LET ME SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF.

What was that?  LET ME SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF?

You know that’s the one, right?  That line?  That’s the one that leads so many women down that road.  “Fixing the broken guy” road.  “Giving him a reason to live” road.  “Being the one who makes him see that the love and devotion of a woman will make him stop destroying himself” road.

The alternate name for this road is, “You will spend a lot of time and money in therapy after this guy has ruined your life.  You cannot fix a broken past by breaking your future.”

I don’t know if I can adequately express to you just how much I do not recommend this road, especially when “Nice Guy Who Doesn’t Snort Prescription Diet Pills Because His Coke Dealer is in Lock-Up” roads are also nearby, and won’t cause the kind of wear-and-tear on you that will leave you stranded on the side of life’s highway with an empty wallet and a vaguely itchy crotch.

I’m not going to tell you these roads are always easy to find, sometimes you just have to get lucky, but as my therapist told me in not so many words many years ago, they’re much easier to find if you stop driving your car in circles around Sodom and Gomorrah with a bullhorn out the window shouting, “Free girlfriend, money, psychiatrist, and laundry service here!  Standards nonexistent!”

And I won’t even charge you a co-pay for that bit of counseling, sister.

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.