Mz. Mannerz: Hi Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Time for another exciting edition of Mz. Mannerz!

Hi.

Who would have thought such a little word could inspire so much rage?  I mean, I would have thought that, but I fly into rage over someone misquoting lines from Caddyshack, so I’m a bad gauge of what’s rage-worthy.  You should probably talk to someone who doesn’t have a vein semi-permanently bulging out of their forehead if you want calm and well-thought out commentary on the matter.

I mean, goddamn it.  If you’re not gonna get the quote from the movie right, then don’t quote it.  You can’t just replace Bill Murray’s line “Big hitter, the Lama” with “The Lama is a big hitter” because you will have ruined the line.  RUINED IT.

As I will pontificate to anyone who will listen while I eat pizza:  Comedy is as much science as it is art.  Maybe more, even.  The order of the words counts.  Every word, change of tone, inflection, eyelid movement – it all counts.  It is 100,000 times more complex than drama, and I will stand by that until the day I die eating pizza.

Drama is so freaking easy, it annoys me to no end how much credit people get for it.  Oh no, they killed that character everybody liked and it was sad!  A lone tear falls from a sad British person’s face.  Cue violin music as people make stern facial expressions under overcast skies.  Black umbrellas.  HERE’S YOUR OSCAR.

Sad shit happens in real life all day, every day.  Making a movie about sad shit where the main take is, “That was sad!” is not the work of genius.  That’s just long-winded reality with a soundtrack.

You try killing off a character everybody likes and making it funny.  Craft a touching death scene to kazoo music.  Shoot Old Yeller with one of those guns that just unfurls a banner that says “Bang!” yet still preserve the integrity of the scene.  That shit is hard.  That shit takes finesse.  Watch “The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of The Desert” for further reference.

Where was I?

The person who texts you with the word “Hi” followed by nothing is the most obnoxious person in the universe (besides guitar players, which I try to cover in every other blog post.  Try to keep up).

What this person has done with their lone “Hi” is start a conversation with you by immediately forcing you into an awkward silence, thereby drafting you to be the person who remedies it.  They’re not being folksy with their “Hi”, they have given you a J-O-B.

My whole life, I’ve had this desperate need to fill the awkward silences in conversations to make sure everyone is having a good time.  You might better recognize it as, “Good lord, you never shut up, do you?” but your better class of swap-shop psychologists would call it “codependency”.  I always try to have at least three universally interesting topics on-hand just in case an awkward silence happens.  I literally cannot take it when people seem uncomfortable.  It makes my palms sweat and my heart race.

The person who just sends “Hi” is the same person who when you respond with:

“Hey, what’s up?”

Will respond with “Nothing!” and then continue to sit there in silence.

GIVE ME SOMETHING TO WORK WITH.  Why did you text me if you have jack jimmy squat to say???

Did you just want me to entertain you?  Because if that’s the case, feel free to say that right up front.  “I’m bored and I can’t find any way to amuse myself, can you tell me a knock knock joke?”

Hey, schedule-permitting, I would be fine to tell you a knock knock joke.

Schedule-permitting.

Also, my schedule does not permit that ever, so if you want to be a wisenheimer and text me and say, “I’m bored and I can’t find any way to amuse myself, can you tell me a knock knock joke?” your text will be deleted and you will be immediately put on “The List”.

Is “The List” a good list or a bad list?

You tell me.  Do you think something that I refer to as “The List” is a good thing?  Take a moment.  Really think that over while you look at my prom picture:

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It was a magical  night.

I’m not filling awkward silences anymore.  If you text me a “Hi” followed by jack jimmy squat, guess what you’re getting back?  Jack.  Jimmy.  Squat.

I will wait you out, joke-a-cola.  I will let that “Hi” lie there like a corpse if I have to.  I refuse to participate in your senseless games.  I won’t do it.  The ball-rolling is now your job.

Unless a full ten seconds go by, and then my palms will start sweating and I’ll tell you about that time my best friend Anne and I went on a date with five Moroccan contortionists and fire-eaters at Epcot when we were 19 and when I called my mother beforehand to brag about it, she yelled, “DON’T YOU MARRY ANY OF THEM! THOSE MOROCCANS TREAT THEIR WIVES LIKE PROPERTY!” because that shit is universally entertaining.

So!  To summarize:

  1.  Don’t quote the movie if you don’t actually know the quote.
  2.  Comedy is harder than drama.
  3.  There should ideally be a give-and-take in successful human communications.
  4.  Don’t tell my mother that you’re going on a date with Moroccan fire-eaters and contortionists.
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That Mighty Mighty Bosstones t-shirt I’m wearing never failed to attract inordinately flexible Northwest Africans.

My Girlfriend / She’s At The End

This is a funny little story I wrote about how I used the Violent Femmes song “Blister in The Sun” as a relationship test.  It’s 90% humiliating.  The other 10% is merely embarrassing to the depths of my soul.

You can check it out here:  My Girlfriend / She’s At The End

I am so thrilled, excited, humbled, and freaking out that it found a home with one of my favorite publications, Queen Mob’s Tea House!!  Many thanks to Reb Livingston for giving this piece a chance.  She’s the Misfit Documents editor over there at Queen Mob’s, and a damn fine writer, too.  Check out her bio and pick up some of her books while you’re at it!

I would run a woo-hoo happy lap around my office right now, but I can’t run more than about twenty feet before I have to use my asthma inhaler, and that sort of ruins the whole “Not a Cartoon Nerd” thing I’m trying to accomplish in my daily life.  I think if you use an inhaler while wearing Invisalign, an after-school model rocket club appears and forces you to get a bowl-cut.  (And the Invisalign is going great so far!  More to come on that in the next couple weeks!)

Thanks again to all of you for hanging out here every week and being so cool and awesome and stuff.  Many, many hearts to you.  🙂

Ohh yeah and, as always, to this guy.

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How Greg Brady Got My Groove Back

How did we get here?

This is the question that’s been plaguing me since I heard the news that an editor has nominated one of my published pieces for the 2019 Best of The Net Anthology.  The Greg Brady one.

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I know, right?  This was the one that when I submitted it to the journal I thought, “Yeah right.  We’ll see if literally anyone is interested in publishing this weirdo little piece.”

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, then as always, first of all, I’m sorry, and second, you know that I have a scorching case of Imposter Syndrome as a writer.  I barely graduated high school, and I did not attend a single day of college.  I’ve only ever had office day jobs since I was 18.  I’ve always really loved writing, but growing up, nobody besides my ninth grade English teacher ever told me I might be good at it.  I was taught to graduate high school and get a job, preferably something that offered health insurance.  End of story.  So that’s what I did.

People will tell you that nominations and awards are just external reinforcements that don’t matter, but they absolutely DO matter to me.  It’s how the writing community tells me that I might be good at this – and as an Imposter I never think I’m good at this – so it’s tremendously helpful when an authority in the writing community says, “I think you’re good at this.”

People will tell you that it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a writing education, but I can assure you, especially after mingling with writers for the past year, it DEFINITELY matters.  It matters when someone asks you what your favorite braided essay is and you have to stall for time while you google, “What is a braided essay?”

As it turns out, I write a lot of braided essays.  Who knew?!  I’ve always just called them “rambling”.  There’s a whole writing lingo world out there that I didn’t even know existed.  What the hell is slipstream?  Ekphrastic poetry?  A lyrical essay?  I have to constantly google things to keep up with these people.  I only learned how to use semi-colons this year, after I spent about three months googling, “How do you use semi-colons?”

When you have to put your work up against competition who have a freaking PhD from Stanford, or people who have already put out books with major publishers, or people who are tenured writing professors at Columbia, a lack of education matters.  It is intimidating as hell and it makes you feel like an outsider.  These people all know each other from years of networking through academia and workshops and they are a club.  I spend a tremendous amount of time every day knocking on their doors and introducing myself, hoping they’ll let me in and not ask me how I got there.

So how did we get here?  I’m not sure I’ve ever told you the whole story, but I feel ready to tell it today.

I’ll give you the Non-Cliff’s Notes version, despite the fact that my name is not Non-Cliff.  Oh, but if it were.  I would be such a dick!

Back in “the day” as the kids say, roundabout 2004-2005 when the band was first starting out, I used to send out emails to our mailing list to let people know about upcoming shows and band news.  I would write a couple paragraphs, maybe tell a little story, act like an asshole.  You know, be myself.

One of the people on our mailing list was Audra Schroeder, then-music editor for The New Times in Broward/Palm Beach.  She emailed me and said she liked my writing voice, and did I want to freelance for the magazine?  Maybe write a band review or something about upcoming concerts?

You should have seen the look on my face.  Someone wanted to pay me to write something?  So I did.  Working with Audra was a blast.  Eventually a new editor came in, and we didn’t mesh well at all (he edited the term “local yokels” into a piece I wrote about one of my favorite local bands), so that was the end of freelancing for New Times.  I’m touchy about the use of the term “local yokels”, apparently.

Then I started a little myspace blog for the band where I could air out my unedited thoughts on a daily basis, and I was really surprised at how well it was received.  I mean really surprised.  Eventually The New Times declared my blog “The Best Blog in South Florida”.  Holy crap-balls.  I had to leave my desk that day and go outside and cry.  (Truth be told, I still cry every time I get an acceptance.)

The blog kept on keepin’ on, and I was getting a really nice following.  I started writing freelance pieces for other local music and culture magazines.  Things were going great.

Then, in 2012, my boyfriend and bandmate/songwriting partner of ten years ran off with one of my best friends, married her, and they started churning out babies together, their gleeful lovey-dovey faces plastered across my social media on a goddamned daily basis while I tried to pick up the shattered pieces of my exploded life.  I had to block, delete, unfriend mutual friends, and eventually burn down all of my social media accounts and create new ones, and even that didn’t stop it.  When I went to see friends’ bands, they were there.  When I went out to brunch, they were there.  When I tried to go to the movies, they were there.  It felt like a nonstop assault.

The hurt, the anger, the humiliation.  It clawed through my body like a wolf and, pardon my French, ate my fucking soul until I was hollow.  It wrenched every creative bone out my body and pounded them into dust.  My writing, my painting, my singing, the band.  Whatever I had was gone.  Dead.

I cast writing and art and music out of my life and climbed into a shell where nothing could hurt me.  I had no desire to ever feel exposed again, in any way, shape, or form.  That part of me was officially over.

And I tell you what, I never thought those things would come back to me, but they did.

After six years of creative silence (and the love and support of my amazing husband), I decided to take a chance and start writing again last year with the promise to myself that I was really going to try this time.  That I owed it to myself to give myself a chance.  Not just start a blog, but send out work for publication, write a book, really put myself out there and dive into the writing community to become a real part of it.  Walk into the big, scary room all by myself and say, “Hi, I’m Maggie.  Let me into your world.”

I started the blog in February 2018 and sent my first piece out for submission on November 26, 2018. Here’s where we’re at today, eight months after that first submission:

I have had sixteen pieces either published or that are awaiting publication this year.

One of those pieces has been nominated for the 2019 Best of The Net Anthology.

I finished writing the damn book, all 73,600 words of it, and it’s currently a semi-finalist for the 2019 Pamet River Prize from YesYes Books.

I have been accepted as a member into The Author’s Guild.

The blog is now read in 62 countries.

Best of all, I’ve got a really awesome group of people who read and comment and subscribe to this blog, and I’m so grateful to all of you who come here to read about whatever I’m pissed off at during any given week.  I treasure, and I mean really treasure, the fact that you take time out of your lives to listen to me ramble about, relive, and work through the stuff that keeps me up at night.  You have no idea how much it means to me.  I do not take your support and friendliness and senses of humor for granted.  You’re all so freaking awesome.

What I want, from all of this, more than anything, is for all of us to not feel alone with our struggles.  You all make me feel less alone with my struggles.  I hope I make you feel less alone with yours.

You can come back from the things that you thought destroyed you.  You can start over.  You can work your ass off and make things happen if you’re willing to take a chance to put yourself out there.  You can pull yourself out of the scorched rubble and rise like a goddamned phoenix from the ashes.

I’m just an uneducated dirtbag who spends too much time inside her own head when she’s not listening to Poison.  Sometimes I write stuff down.  When I don’t know what I’m doing, I google it until I figure it out.

If I can do it, you can do it.