When Johnny Met Maggie…And Threw Trash at Her Face

“Roll down your window.”

I was sitting in the passenger seat of Johnny’s car and he was in the driver’s seat, speeding down the highway at 80 miles an hour.  It was our first date.

I mean, I guess you could technically call it a “date”.  We had gone and hung out at his friend’s band’s warehouse and then Johnny had taken me to the Burger King drive-thru afterwards.  By musician standards, the fact that he had bought me Burger King meant this guy was serious about me.  The crumpled ten-dollar bill Johnny handed out the window to the Burger King cashier at the drive-thru might as well have been an engagement announcement.

That would have been silly.  Johnny wouldn’t propose for another two days.

I rolled down the car window.  He put one knee under the steering wheel to steady the car, picked up all the empty Burger King wrappers and dirty napkins and then smashed them all together with both hands as we tore down the highway.

He said, “Lean back some.”

I leaned back.

Then Johnny threw the Burger King trash-wad an inch past my face and out the passenger side window.

I gasped, mouth dropped open in disbelief.  Little lines of ketchup were streaked across my face and the front of my dress.

Johnny looked at me, laughed, and said, “What?”

This was our first date, where everyone should have typically been on their best behavior.  I figured maybe he was trying to impress me with some kind of “Rebel Without a Cause” attitude, or that he had some growing up to do.  It seemed like such a totally bizarre and aggressive thing to do.  I was so freaked out that I didn’t even know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.  (I can tell you, 43-year old Maggie would have handled that differently, i.e. put a foot in his ass.)

An hour later, Johnny held my face, with tears forming in his eyes, and professed his love to me.  He had never felt this way before.  He had never fallen so hard, so fast.

Johnny would turn out to not be such a great boyfriend.

You’re stunned.

Unfortunately, it just took 19-year old me another year to figure that out.

What I failed to see that night, as a pile of ketchup-swirled garbage was chucked an inch past my face out the car window, was that this was Johnny on his best behavior.

Fast forward a few months, and we’re pulling away from that same Burger King, and Johnny’s motioning towards me with his hands and sarcastically apologizing to the cashier for how “slutty” I was dressed.  “Sorry, I don’t know why she’s dressed like this.  It’s really embarrassing for me.  I’m SORRY.”

Apparently, my skirt was too short for his liking.

I tried to hide my face from the cashier, my eyes red and puffy from crying because a half hour before this Johnny had thrown a lit cigarette at me, shoved me up against my front door, and red-faced screamed at me, “Where the hell were you?  Tell me where the hell you were and who you were really with!!!” because I had gotten home at 9:45 from a coworker’s birthday party.  (I’d told him that I’d probably be home around 9:30.)  He needed a full accounting of where exactly I was for that fifteen minute discrepancy, and threatened to call my coworkers to “verify” what time I’d left the party.

At this point Johnny had been fired from three jobs in a row and I was making his car payment every month, despite the fact that he was living with his grandparents and had no bills.  He called me selfish and would storm out of the mall anytime I wanted to buy so much as a ten dollar t-shirt for myself with money from my own paycheck.  Then I would cry and apologize for being so selfish.  Then he would hold me and tell me how much he loved me, and that I just needed to work on myself so that I wouldn’t make him so mad.

I tell you what, being 19 years old was not at all the fun and carefree experience I’d thought it would be.

I had absolutely no role model for what a healthy relationship looked like, and I thought I had to put up with Johnny’s behavior, that this just what guys were like, and that it was my burden to become okay with it.  After all, he said he loved me, right?  He said he loved me more than any man had ever loved any woman in the history of the world.  I was so, so desperate for a man to love me.  So desperate that I took whatever they dished out as love.

Here’s the thing, though.  When Johnny wasn’t acting like a goddamned monster, he was so affectionate with me.  He would hold my hand and cry and tell me how he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.  He wanted to marry me.  He said I was the perfect girl, if only I could stop “pushing his buttons” when I wore too short a skirt, cut even one inch off my hair, or spent time with literally anybody else – my own family included.  So long as I did whatever he wanted, he was the sweetest guy in the room.  But if I made what he called a “mistake”?  There went the evening.  He would slam doors and scream and break things while I cowered, and then sulk and give me the silent treatment until I cried and begged for his forgiveness.

He twisted and turned my emotions so expertly, he made me feel like it was my sole purpose in life to not set him off.

This is how you end up in a cycle of abuse.

You don’t even want to know how many varieties of Johnnys I dated over the years, ranging from physical to emotional to mental to financial abuse.  It would never fail that in hindsight, when the ashes of the relationship were stinging my eyes like sulfur, there was a red flag on the first date that I had politely let go because I was too young to know any better and too afraid to say anything.

I have to believe that when weird, rude, and even straight up antisocial things happen on a first date, they’re more than a red flag.  They’re a test.  A big one.  If someone pulls some totally weird or aggressive stuff right from the start and you pitch a fit and then walk out, they won’t be calling you again.  You’ve got an excellent sense of self-worth and are definitely not going to silently put up with their shit, so they’re not going to waste their time pursuing you.  They’ve weeded you out.

These types of abusers are predators and they know what to look for in potential prey.  If you’re thinking, “Well, I would never put up with that!” then guess what?  Congratulations!  These guys know that!  That’s why they’re not asking you out.  They know who to go after.  They’re looking for the young girl with no self-esteem who looks like she’s afraid of her own shadow.

If you go along with whatever weird shit they pull because you have no self-worth, or are too beaten down or too weirded out to speak up?  Then they know they’ve got you.  You’ve passed their prey test.  Expect for the behavior to get worse.  It’s not going to get a little worse, either.  Once they’ve got you isolated, it’s going to get much, much worse.  That’s why Johnny proposed after 2 days.  He wanted to pin me down so that I couldn’t get away.

When I think of what my life would have become if I had married him when I was 19, I can’t even imagine.  As it was, when I finally found the strength to break up with him, he threatened to kill me, himself, my family, his family, and called my house sometimes forty times an hour – for weeks on-end.  He banged on my windows at night.  He left terrifying letters on my door at home, at work, at my regular hangouts.

There’s nothing I can do to change the past or alter the things that made me believe I was worth so little that I had to put up with this shit, so the best I can do is offer the following advice to you, and hope it saves someone from the nightmare hellscape that dating was for more than half of my adult life.

  • If someone can’t make it through your first date without throwing a pile of trash at your face, find someone else to date.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, click here to go to breakthecycle.org to learn more about how you can get help.  Stay safe, my friends.  Nobody should have to live in fear of a person who claims to love them.

Alfonso, The Man

I couldn’t believe it. I was on the phone with Alfonso, the very mature-for-his-age guy in middle school who was so mature, in fact, that he actually had a mustache.

Every school had an Alfonso: The Guy Who Looked Like a Grown Man.

Alfonso was a year ahead of me, wasn’t particularly smart, and wasn’t especially nice, but he was gorgeous, knew how to dress, and was practically a man in a sea of what looked like little boys by comparison. When he swaggered through the school, he looked like Antonio Banderas visiting a kindergarten class.

And here he was – talking to me.

Loser me.

Girl who had never even kissed a boy or had a boyfriend me.

I was amazed I was able to stay conscious and didn’t just die right there clutching the receiver of my telephone in one hand and a yearbook with Alfonso’s picture encircled with a heart in the other.

My friend Jenny was in the same grade as Alfonso, and she had chatted him up in class that day and told him I had a crush on him. I wanted to kill her – and I would have killed her – had my phone not rang that night.

I picked it up, and a man’s voice said, “Hi, is…uhhh…Maggie? Is…uhhh…Maggie there?”

I don’t know how you can hear a mustache over the phone, but I totally heard his mustache over the phone.

I thought the pause before he said my name was because he was nervous. Looking back, I realize that the pause was because he was trying to remember my name. He probably had a clipboard next to his phone with a hundred girls’ names on it, and he had forgotten which one he was calling that night.

The fact that he then had to ask me what I looked like should have been another indication that he had no idea who I was. I chose to not acknowledge that in favor of believing he was a nervous wreck because he was, obviously, in love with me.

Everybody knew that boys in middle school acted aloof and weird when they liked you. I figured he must really like me if he couldn’t remember my name or what I looked like. This all made perfect sense to my 7th grade mind. Later, Jenny agreed with me.

Consensus: Alfonso was way, way into me.

My very brief phone call with Alfonso started with him not knowing who I was and ended with him asking me if I wanted to meet up at the movies on Saturday to go see Batman (the Michael Keaton one).

When I said yes, he said, “So you’ll be going doooown with that tongue, right girl?”

My face turned red. I thought, “Oh my god. Alfonso wants to kiss me!”

Sidebar: I’m sure kissing wasn’t exactly what he meant.

I just had to get dressed up for my big date, so Jenny walked with me to the nearby shopping plaza that Saturday morning to help me buy all the things that I needed.

I should clarify that the word “buy” is somewhat of a misnomer, as the plan was to steal every single item, seeing as we were both poor and had not a dime to our names.

Jenny and I were already accomplished thieves at that age, and we viewed shoplifting more as just “the way we shopped” than a crime. We’d go into the department store and layer on spandex leggings under our jeans in the blind spots of the dressing room, stuff eyeshadows into our socks, and slip nail polish bottles into our pockets with the grace of ballerinas. Criminal ballerinas.

I even developed a shoplifting method where I would go up to a register to buy something cheap while secretly palming a small expensive item in my hand, and when I would go to pay and reach into my purse for my wallet, I would drop the small expensive item into my purse as I pulled out my wallet. I got SO many packets of 24 karat-dipped nail charms at the beauty supply store that way that I actually ran out of fingernails to glue them to, so I started gluing them to my toenails, too.

After Jenny and I had stolen enough makeup that I felt I could adequately paint my face up for the big-tongue-makeout-date with Alfonso, we went into a drug store for one more thing. I eyed a bottle of perfume on the shelf, called Illegalé. Alfonso wouldn’t be able to resist…uhh…what was my name? Maggie! He wouldn’t be able to resist Maggie, or whoever he thought he had a date with that night, if she were wearing Illegalé.

After I slipped the bottle of perfume in my purse, Jenny decided she wanted one, too, and since I had the bigger purse, she slipped it into mine.

The store detective walked up to us within seconds, flashed a badge, and said, “I’m gonna need you two young ladies to come with me.”

Later that night, as I sat in my bedroom after being grounded for having been caught stealing perfume, after the humiliation of my mother having to come pick us up and the detective telling her I was banned from the store for life, after my mother telling me that she had never been so disappointed in her entire life that she had raised a thief, after taking the rap for both Jenny and I because Jenny’s mom would have literally beaten her ass if she had been busted, I cried.

I wasn’t going to be going dooooown with that tongue, right girl.

Alfonso didn’t even reschedule our date, he just moved to the next girl down the list.

And that’s how two bottles of Illegalé saved my 12-year old innocence.

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And then a hero comes along…

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.