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.

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 Sad and Weird and Angry Milkshake Brings All The Boys to The Yard

I was in ninth grade, sitting on a bench with a friend waiting for the first bell to ring.  The usual group of older kids walked past us from the art room over to the 600 Building, like they did every morning.  There were probably a dozen of them, all friends, boys and girls, with one couple who seemed to be attached to each other as if their limbs were going to fall off and die when they got separated from the host-body of their love.

I always took notice of the couple because she was adorable, like a smiling little elf, and her boyfriend wore one of those hats that guys wore in the early 90s, which probably resulted in a lower birth rate in the early 90s, because those hats were sexually repellent.  This one.

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About four months into the school year, Hat Boy walked by one day, poured across the girlfriend as always, and leaned over and handed me an envelope and walked away.  On the outside of the envelope was written, “To the girl with the beutiful eyes”.

You have no idea how many times I just had to type that to get it to stop auto-correcting the spelling of “beautiful”.

As a professional social leper up to that point in my life, in my stretch denim skirt and turquoise mock turtleneck over my much not-sought-after chest of an anemic 10-year old fetus, I assumed he handed this envelope to me as a joke of some kind, and that if I opened it, a can of snakes would shoot into my eyeballs.

Or maybe it was a case of mistaken identity?  Either way, he was just an intermediary passing this card off on behalf of one of his dozen friends.

I opened the envelope and there was a Christmas card inside, with a cute cartoon chipmunk wearing a Santa hat on the front.  Inside the card it said:

You’re too pretty to be so sad.  I’ve never seen you smile, but I hope you will.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

From someone crazy.

Someone you don’t even know.

Okay, no case of mistaken identity there.  In walking past me every day for four months, nobody in that group had ever seen me smile?  That sounded about right.  I was conceived, gestated, born, and raised with Resting Bitch Face.  These are un-retouched progression photos of me from birth to today:

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I know, it seems impossible that a person could look so permanently sad and weird and angry and not be in prison for life or at the bottom of the East River after plunging off the Brooklyn Bridge.  I know this about myself.  Sad and weird and angry is my charm.  If I were a man, you’d call it “brooding”, thereby making male-me irresistible to women with perilously low self-esteem.

And I should know.  I spent most of my dating-years being that woman.

“This guy seems sad and weird and angry!  Let’s date him and then be surprised at how sad and weird and angry he continues to be!”

I spent the rest of the school year trying to figure out which one of those guys had written this card.  It drove me crazy.  At that point in my life, most guys’ opinions of me were, “I guess she’s kinda funny?” and the notion of any of them desiring romance with me was as laughable as I thought my jokes were.  And by “most guys” I mean literally one guy named Mike.

Nothing came of it.  Their big group of friends still walked by every morning, and I had no idea who was behind this.

Four years later, I was seated at a table at Denny’s around 3am with my degenerate friends, and guess who our server was?  Hat Boy!  He took our order as if we had never seen each other before, brought us our food, and eventually the check.

As we went to leave, I found my nerve and said, “You handed me a card from a secret admirer like four years ago.  Who was it from?”

He said, “It was from me.  Why would I give you a card from someone else?”

I said, “Well, you were with your girlfriend when you handed it to me…”

He said, “And?”

Dewds.