Greetings, dear friends. It’s been awhile since I’ve written, what with all the heaving myself out from the depths of hell and whatnot. Moving, an inferno-circle all its own, is a great way to close your brain off to any creative thinking or insight-making it might normally be up to. But now that I’m settled, I feel compelled to address something that’s been nagging at me for several months. Really nagging, like one of those little plastic hang-tags that I only ever succeed in partially removing from my new underwear, so that upon wearing said underwear I am forced to spend the entire day slashing my delicate upper-crackal region with this intrusive plastic dagger that there is really no way to stop from torturing me until complete removal of all clothing layers is achieved. Which is hardly ever appropriate in public, especially when coupled with the fact that then I have to use my teeth on the used crack part of the underwear to get the goddamned tag off before replacing the layers. Nobody needs to see that. But I digress.
So here’s the plastic crack-dagger: Apparently, and this is not a joke, smartasses – people think that I am bitter. In general, sure, but specifically about Love. Several passing remarks of late have stuck with me – primarily they’ve come from women who really ARE bitter, who see in me some sort of kindred rage-spirit hell-bent on vengeance for all of Life’s and Love’s affronts. These have come in the form of a nasty jab at male-kind followed by an “amiright?” or a knowing wink, or a “girls-like-us-need-to-stick-together” show of solidarity that I do not feel. While I have made it plain and public that I do not wish to marry again, that sentiment should never be construed as Anti-Love. It is, in fact, decidedly Pro-Love. I fucking love Love. Hence my personal no-marriage clause. Marriage, in my experience, kills love dead. Almost immediately. The luckiest among the Marrieds come to a sort of cohabitational business arrangement focused on child-rearing and credit-building after the flush of new love is inevitably replaced by the flush of abandoned turds left by inconsiderate spouses. Two years is about the longest I’ve ever seen married people stay “in love.” By that time, the soul-seams are strained by resentment of things both spoken and unspoken. Socks on the floor, un-capped toothpaste tubes, wasted money, waning sex drive, in-laws, children….all of those things that EAT LOVE. And I like love, thank you very much – so I choose to pass on the rest of it.
Now, before the outrage starts pouring in accusing me of not knowing you or your marriage (which is obviously awful or you wouldn’t be nearly this offended), let’s be clear: I am not attacking YOUR MARRIAGE. I’m sure it’s lovely. I do not pretend to know your story. And of course there are a million wonderful exceptions to be found in the world. Beautiful aberrations. I hope yours is one of them. My authority comes only from my own experience and the ones I’ve witnessed that validate my opinion. The ones that don’t, I am choosing to ignore for the duration of this piece. In the immortal words of Miley Cyrus, “This is our house. This is our rules.”
So why the obsession with Forever? Why must a relationship always be Going Somewhere? You do know that that’s why they end the feel-good movies at the wedding bit, right? Would it still be a feel-good movie if they showed the part, 5 years later, where the husband won’t come home from work because he can’t take the nagging and the wife won’t put out because she can’t take the piles of his crap on the floor and the baby does nothing but alternate between scream-crying and shitting its pants? I can say with some certainty that nobody wants to see that movie, let alone be in it. So why is THAT the be-all and end-all? Seriously, what the fuck is going on here? Why can’t two people just love each other madly for as long as it feels like love, and then stop? Part ways peacefully, with both lives enriched by the experience and spared the damage that comes from staying too long? Why can’t people just have beautiful, passionate love affairs that last as long as they last without others imposing Judgment, – or worse, Eternity – on them? Why, when the mere thought of touching our partners makes the hot sting of vomit start to bubble up in our throats, must we stay? Why is society so intent on killing Love?
Please don’t get me wrong. Marriage, I’m certain, has served us well over the course of history and is an elemental thread in the fabric of human experience. I get that. And I am literally bursting with joy that we live in a time when Marriage Equality for gay couples is something that society is not only talking about, but DOING something about. But to me, that’s not really about Marriage, as much as a basic recognition of ALL human rights that have been summarily withheld from those who are deemed “different” by the rule-makers. I rejoice in my friends’ newly granted Right to Marry because if that is how they want to honor their love, they should be allowed to do that as freely as any other
dumbass human being. As more and more people come to accept both the concept and reality of Marriage Equality, is it really too much to ask that someone like me be granted Non-Marriage Equality without being accused of harboring the ugliest breed of animus?
I am not speaking out of turn here. I tried marriage. Twice, in fact. I just wasn’t good at it. The second time was the soul equivalent of a lube-free ass raping with a splintered two-by-four…I married a gold-digging psychopath whose clutches I would have escaped much sooner and with far more of my money, sanity, and stomach lining intact if not for that pesky Marriage Thing. The Protocol. The Next Step. The Contract. Where Everyone Must Go. I loathed the man with the fire of a thousand burning suns, and spent my every married day Jedi-Mind-Murdering him for fun (like I said, I’m really not good at it.). But not being good at marriage or refusing to watch that awful sequel doesn’t mean that I am done with Love. One has nothing to do with the other. The carnage that my marriage wrought stays obediently in its lock-box, and I am normally quite good at not assigning blame for it to anyone who didn’t actually do it – with one recent, dreadful exception wherein a very innocent and lovely bystander felt the business end of my icy-hot wrath for stumbling accidentally upon a trigger I didn’t even know I had. Now I know. And the profound regret I feel over that mutilated moment just serves to solidify my determination not to punish anyone else for the crimes of my former spouse. Because let’s face it – NO ONE could duplicate that shit.
So no, dear readers. I am not bitter. If you must know, I am ripe and juicy and aged to fleshy perfection. I am hopeful. I am open. I am soft. I’m a little broken, as most of us are. But the broken pieces sparkle far more than the flat pane of conformity that I failed to preserve. And if I’ve given up on marriage, please do not assume that I’ve given up on Love. I have not. Because that? I really am good at.
Really, really fucking good.
And they lived happily for as long as they were actually happy, with separate residences and complete freedom to choose the duration of their partnership. The End.
How I Spent My Summer (Hint: in a Basement With 12 Severed Heads, Some Soul-Crushing Grief, and Not Much Else.)
Don’t worry – this is not going to be some Cheryl Strayed-style
gag me with how hot and awesome I think I am and how every thing I ever fucked up was actually someone else’s fault account of hard-won redemption and triumph over the very grief that leveled me. It’s just not – there’s no redemption in sight, and certainly no triumph. I’ve spent the past 3 months in some stranger’s basement, for fuck’s sake – not to mention that said basement’s every vertical surface is covered with the heads, skins, pelts, and antlers of things he’s personally killed for, I assume, fun. Said basement has no internet or cable. Said basement has no kitchen. Aside from the whole “being indoors” thing, it’s camping. I’m lucky to have it, as I had nowhere else to go with my 5 pets – and grateful in a way that I keep needing to remind myself to be. Like, I am grateful not to be homeless. Which is not a small thing, but still. No fucking cable?
So, this might sound obvious, but: you should never move immediately after the sudden loss of a parent (You’re welcome.). Especially when you weren’t planning to move and therefore have no fucking idea of where to go next or what to do when you get there. While selling my house to the guy who came out of nowhere and just *asked* if he could buy it seemed like a good idea at the time, I can tell you in hindsight that this was a seriously fucked-up thing to do. I did it because that’s what I do – I leave. That’s how I handle pain, how I’ve ALWAYS handled pain – I cut and run and never look back; and not in a theoretical or emotional way which would allow me to stay conveniently stationed in my home whilst doing the cutting and running. Nope. I fucking RELOCATE. Sell houses I just bought and move across the country to places I’ve never been and where I know no one. I start over, thinking the pain won’t come with me or that it will somehow be less awful if the scenery around it is different. And this time it just dropped in my lap. It was the Universe clearly telling me, once again, to haul ass away from the sadness. Right? *The Things We Tell Ourselves.*
Since 9/11/01, I have moved 13 times. Next month will make it 14 times. In 12 years. It does not take a genius to determine that this pervasive discontent with my surroundings is merely a reflection of the chaos that exists within me on a cellular level and the bloody, beefy lasagna of scar tissue over my heart from a life touched by far too much death. Illness, financial ruin, betrayal, relationship flame-outs: these things all hurt, too, and yes – I have fled from those as well, many times over. But it’s the death that really gets you.
If there’s anything I should have learned from losing 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 1 uncle, 2 godparents, 13 close friends and 1 boyfriend (all but the grandparents were sudden. The phone calls and news stories that I will never have the luxury of forgetting.), it’s that there’s no going around grief. You have to go through it. Much like the Thieves’ Forest in The Princess Bride: while it would be really, really nice to take the scenic belt loop around that shit and avoid the flame bursts, lightning sand, and ROUSs that you’re pretty sure are going to kill you, make no mistake: that plan has its own set of perils. Better to risk the Fire Swamp with its well-documented dangers and just get the fuck to the other side.
Which brings me back to the basement: the Belly of the Grief Beast. My own personal Fire Swamp. Even though I got here technically by “running away again,” I knew that this time, leaving was not going to be enough. So I came here intending to take the summer off from all the things I’d normally do to distract myself from the pain of losing my mother. What I didn’t realize was that there were far many more of those things than I even realized, and that I couldn’t do any of them even if I wanted to. Aside from the obvious distractions like work, parties, committees, boys, booze, opiates, clubs, sports – I suddenly found myself with no kitchen, where I have always sought comfort – traveling, through food, to other worlds (i.e. away from my own) without ever leaving the house. No internet, where I might spend vast, empty hours of time-suckage on Facebook or numbing out to teen vampire marathons on Netflix. No bathtub, where I’d surely be spending evenings luxuriating with books and wine and the occasional inappropriate jet usage. There’s no shopping nearby, and friends here are few and far between. (In my experience, friends typically don’t handle your grief well, anyway. They liked you the way you were, and you’re not that way anymore. It’s inconvenient for them, the fact that your entire world has caved in on you.) So I don’t see much of anyone at all. I stopped playing roller derby. Although I still skate often, I skate alone. I eat alone. I walk alone. I go to the beach alone, if I go at all. I even stopped sexting with the adorable, too-young boy – not because it wasn’t tons of fun, but because it was. I am going THROUGH it, goddammit, not around. I am in self-imposed exile in some dude’s basement with the looming specter of my dead mother and the heads of a dozen murdered animals to remind me why I’m here and what I need to do. Which is cry. Cry so hard that I choke on my own sobs and fight for breath through a gullet near-strangled by the sadness. Rage. Rest. Talk to people who are not there anymore. Forgive them. Forgive God. Forgive myself.
Through it. Not around.
Next month I will move to another beautiful home in another beautiful town where I will know no one. I will start over as I always do. And while I like to think that This Time will be different because I’ve forced myself to feel the pain fully, I don’t know that it will. While I like to imagine that the unbearable darkness of the Basement Days will ready me for a life better lived in the light, I don’t know that it will. While I like to dream that this experience will finally turn me into someone who believes that the things that don’t kill you make you stronger instead of someone who believes that those things chip away at you little by little until there’s almost nothing left, I don’t know that it will. But I do know that when I leave here, the worst will be behind me, and that I will have survived it, again. I will cook and skate and see friends and laugh and shop and watch movies and mastur-bathe because those things should be for the living, not just for avoiding the dead. I will try my hardest to stay in one place, no matter what happens – because I will know that running doesn’t fix it.
Through it, not around. And from now on, not away.
Wish me luck.
GUYS. Sexting? Is awesome. I am a HUGE fan of sexting. *Disclaimer: If you are a teenaged girl, please do not send naked pictures of yourself to your boyfriend. Teen boys are helpless douche-nozzles, especially when it comes to boobies. It’s not their fault. They are biologically obligated to show their friends, and YOUR NAKED PICTURE WILL END UP ON THE INTERNET FOREVER. Just don’t do it.*
Anyway, I, a fully-formed and mostly-functioning adult, love sexting. And I don’t mind telling you, I’m pretty goddamn good at it. It’s so easy, when you have the right playmate. Think about it. The only thing that needs to be looking hot or smelling fresh for me to KILL it sexting is my vast Pervertian Lexicon, which is – not gonna lie – top-shelf. I can be sending the filthiest, Penthouse Forumiest content to my cellularly intended whilst wearing flannel pajamas, coke-bottle glasses, TMJ mouthguard, tube socks, and two cats on my head, with a nosebleed. He doesn’t need to know that instead of writhing around in a vat of strippers, cherries, and coconut oil as advertised, I’m watching Saved By The Bell and eating Bugles (Witch Fingers!). Here’s why I’m so good – it’s because I actually mean it. If given the chance and the miracle of good timing, huge lady-balls, and a lawless society, I would be doing exactly what I say I’d be doing. To exactly whom I say I’d be doing it.
I am not an indiscriminate sexter. I don’t sext with anyone I wouldn’t actually have All The Sex with, given the above conditions. I am totally monogamous, sextually speaking. And there have been exactly 2.5 people with whom I’ve sexted over the course of a decade or so. It’s fun. It’s secret. It’s clean. I don’t *do* actual Sex Outside of Relationships. Never have. It’s far too dangerous and it’s just…well, awkward. The ONE time I decided I’d really go wild and have totally safe, protected sex with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend or husband, the condom came off and got STUCK IN MY VAGINA FOR 24 HOURS (the thing’s like a steel trap, what can I tell you?) and I spent the entire next day – as per instructions procured on the internet – shooting warm water up there with a turkey baster and fisting myself in an effort to retrieve the lost condom without a visit to the ER. Like there’s even an insurance code for that. I made the grave mistake of sharing this – um, mishap? – with a close male friend, who still refers to me as “Old Southpaw” and swears he’ll never come for Thanksgiving.
Sexting can be a very good option for someone like me, or you! Generally, sexting is a lot cleaner, and not just bio-hazard-wise. It’s emotionally cleaner as well. It could be someone you haven’t seen in years, or as is the case with my most recent sexting partner, someone you know well enough to trust with your naked selfies, but don’t really *know.* There’s nothing to lose, really. It’s the whole point. You can see them however you want to see them, or however their Facebook photo album wants you to see them – and vice versa. There’s no backne or halitosis or sauerkraut BO on his end to contend with, and frankly, you don’t have to wax or aerate or hide your wobbly bits in order to get handily rogered via sext. You don’t have to worry about accidentally farting in the middle of it, or accidentally farting in your sleep afterwards, or accidentally farting in the morning when you pee in his bathroom because you’ve held in the fart all fucking night long and it just slips out because it won’t freaking wait any longer and FUUUUUCKKPPLEASETELLMEHEDIDNOTJUSTHEARTHAT (he totally did). Sexting is virtually worry free in the Fart Department. Fart away! He’ll never know. And all the while, YOU know it’s all an illusion. And your heart is as safe as your lady business.
But what happens when, at like, 1:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, you find yourself wondering what kind of sandwich he might get for lunch that day? Or how many brothers and sisters he has, or what makes him laugh – really laugh, from the belly – not just LOL, as evidenced by the yellow emoticon indicating hilarity. What happens when you realize that you almost just actually water-shat your pants when he texted unexpectedly because you have managed to work yourself and your stomach up into such school-girly knots over him that your bowels are no longer your own? What happens when you find yourself reasoning that the ridiculous age difference between you or the geographical impossibilities of your arrangement or the fact that you have good reason to suspect he might be a Republican are nothing but mild nuisances? What happens when you realize – to your abject horror - that you actually LIKE him? For fuckssake, then what?! This was not part of the plan. You never like anybody. WTF?
How would that GO, anyway, for argument’s sake? I mean, how would one even begin to move the conversation in that direction? “Baby, I will make you a nutritionally sound breakfast SO hard.” Or, “You can watch while I slowwwwly pull up to the curb, take off my seatbelt, and pick up your mother for her optometrist appointment. Mmmm…” Or, “I am soooooooo hot right now, babe. I think it’s the pre-menopause.” Yeah, it’s awkward. Not to mention the fact that the only way to find out if your cursed “feelings” are mutual is to risk a) cocking up a perfectly thermonuclear tickle party in your pants and b) getting really hurt and terribly embarrassed – which defies the Ultimate and Universal Law of Sexting: It’s Just Sext, You Idiot.
Plus, HE OBVIOUSLY SMELLS LIKE SAUERKRAUT. He has to. He just has to.
The problem is, of course, that once you *feel* something, you can’t really just *unfeel* it. You’ve crossed a line, and the course goes in one direction all the way to the end of the story. The options are few: carry on as is and pretend you don’t care while you water-shit your pants every time you hear from him, or fess the fuck up. Great. Death by Krazy Glue sounds better than either of those. So I ask you, dear readers: Why is it so much easier to say, “Baby, I am gonna ___ your ___ until you ___ and then I’m gonna ___ while you ___ my ___,” than it is to say, “Hey, I kinda like you. For real.” ??? (I confess, I have no idea what to do with that, grammatically. Which is upsetting.) Finally, there is the choice just to stop. Disappear into the ether, never to be sexted from again. And that’s the worst one of all. But it’s the one I will probably choose, if I’m being honest. Unless he happens to read this post, in which case I will most likely just kill myself.
So sext away, friends. Sext away. Strengthen those thumbs and get good at taking naked selfies. But make no mistake: however disengaged you intend to remain, however detached you assume your tech-only affair will keep you – your heart is not, in fact, as safe as your lady business. Take it from this intrepid sexter, who for once finds herself deep in a pickle for her cause, and not the other way around. Way to go, ass-hat. Way to go.
Last night, a friend posted a link on Facebook to a short documentary on Lyme Disease – I don’t always click on these things because I know myself – I am weirdly reactive and hyper-emotional on this subject, even though it’s been nearly a decade since I was cured. I lost 5 years of my life to this illness, as well as countless friends, dignity, confidence, one husband, one almost-husband (well, he was a porn addict, so I can’t really blame the Lyme, I guess) and a burgeoning business. I don’t want to talk about it – I could write here for hours, nay – days, years – about my life with Lyme disease but I don’t want to. It was awful and I just don’t fucking want to.
Last night, I did click on the link and had the predicted response. Tears, weird snarfling sobs, and a strong desire to shake my fist at the sky and scream. (I didn’t do that last part, OK? I swear.) It also got me so wound up that I spent the entire night in fits – for it seems that in the 13 years since I first became ill, nothing has changed. Not one goddamned thing. And now I really do want to scream. Which is awkward. And given that I don’t *actually* want to talk about it, all I can think to do is share here a letter I wrote to the New York Times in 2001 after they published a horrifying and dismissive article on the subject of Lyme. The New York Fucking Times, practically my hometown paper, was basically calling me crazy. It was like being hit in the head by Reggie Jackson (my forever hero) with his magic bat from 1978. It hurt that much.
Below is my editorial letter in its entirety, followed by a link to the original drivel – er, article. Their response was something like “good letter, too long.” Please forgive the writing – I was young, I was angry, and I was going through an Adverb Thing. I was also less than a year into my illness, with no idea what I was in for, or what would become of me. (By now, you kinda know what became of me. Yikes.)
June 13, 2001
To Whom it May Concern:
On September 30, 2000, what was to be my wedding day, I awoke in the emergency room of the Valley Hospital paralyzed on my right side from forehead to fingertip, with unspeakable pain in my back, neck, jaw and head, and a life-threatening fever of nearly 105 degrees. Not only did I suffer the devastating loss of my wedding and excruciating hours of painful and invasive tests, but was also made to endure the patronizing solicitations of friends and family who deep-down believed I was merely experiencing some acute pre-wedding jitters. This was not entirely unexpected in light of the fact that in the four days preceding my trip to the ER, I had visited two MDs, two chiropractors, and one acupuncturist in search of some relief from my ever-increasing pain – only to be told repeatedly that I was suffering from wedding-related stress. One such doctor (who had not made note of the fact that my fiance’ had to half-carry me from the car to his office because I could not walk on my own), even dared to suggest that I “relax, go shopping.” Not one, including my own beloved family practitioner, bothered to take my temperature, vital signs, or blood samples.
I was and remain horrified by their apathy, but after reading Ms. Kolata’s shameful and reckless article on Lyme Disease this morning, I at least understand it. For it was indeed Lyme Disease that robbed me of my wedding and very nearly took my life. Had I opted to attend my rehearsal dinner the night before instead of going to the emergency room, Lyme Disease would have killed me. That’s right, Ms. Kolata. Lyme Disease.
Ms. Kolata and Dr. Sigal condescendingly assert that Lyme Disease is not much more than a nuisance ailment – fodder for hypochondriacs and fuel for antibiotic junkies. They speak of “inflated public fear of Lyme Disease, which is widely perceived as a grave illness that is easy to catch.” Dr. Sigal even dares to declare that, although Lyme is of mild concern in the tick-infested Northeast, “The bigger epidemic is Lyme Anxiety.” I defy Dr. Sigal to convince me or any other person who has suffered from this illness that we shouldn’t worry. I notice that Ms. Kolata didn’t include one word of testimony from an actual Lyme patient on the topic of whether or not this disease is worry-worthy. Interesting.
IN my experience, people aren’t afraid enough of Lyme Disease. I can’t count the number of well-meaning but uneducated and/or misinformed inquiries I have fielded regarding my illness. “So, uh, Lyme’s Disease – how did you get that, from a mosquito?” and “So, what, are you like, tired a lot?” are common questions. My favorite, however, came from an otherwise well-educated New Jersey man: “Whoa. Can you get that from limes?” This guileless ignorance is hardly what I would classify as “inflated public fear.” For those who may be inclined to believe Ms. Kolata’s dismissive mockery of this illness, consider this:
I and many other Lyme patients suffer from drastic memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, trouble speaking and thinking, constant confusion, tremor, sudden-onset dyslexia, loss of balance, paralysis, chronic arthritis, vertigo, heart damage, Bell’s Palsy, and countless other symptoms ranging from inconvenient to unbearable. Add to that the abandonment of one’s family and friends, who regard our memory problems as “irresponsible,” our need for help and support “selfish,” and out “imaginary” fatigue as frankly tiresome. Articles like this one recklessly perpetuate these misconceptions with statements like, “Those symptoms are very common among the general public, leading Dr. Shapiro believe that there is some other cause.” There’s nothing more demoralizing than a trusted friend who dismisses one’s agonizing forgetfulness with statements like, “Well, I must have it then, too, ’cause I’m like that ALL the time (haha!)” To endure the journalistic equivalent from such a respected publication as the NY Times is simply infuriating.
In closing, I feel I must address what is perhaps the most heinous of all the public disservices contained in Ms. Kolata’s article. The blase’ Dr Shapiro (making the wildly strained assumption that everyone who is bitten by the microscopic deer tick is aware of it) suggests foregoing preventive treatment with antibiotics and instead, simply keeping an eye on the site where the tick fed, and “if they develop a rash within a few weeks, they can take a full course of antibiotics and they will be fine.” What Dr. Shapiro fails to mention – in addition to the fact that “a few weeks” may be far too late – and something your reporter neglected to unearth during her exhaustive research on the subject is this: current studies estimate that fewer than 30% of all those infected with Lyme will ever get the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash. I didn’t, and I very nearly died because of the denigrating attitudes both the public and the medical community continue to perpetuate about Lyme Disease.
But hey, don’t worry about it.
This is dangerous and irresponsible journalism. Shame on you, NY Times.
Marie K., Ridgewood NJ.
Here’s a link to the original shitpile, should you care to hate her with me: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/13/us/lyme-disease-is-hard-to-catch-and-easy-to-halt-study-finds.html
Thanks for reading, and please share with all the Lyme-ignorant assholes in your life.
My mother is dead. My mother is dead. My mother is dead. Every day now, these words swirl around in my mind and in my mouth until they don’t make sense anymore. It’s like when you stare at a word on a page for so long that it starts to look like nonsense and it makes you laugh because you know you know this word and yet it suddenly means nothing to you – and then, because of its foreignness, it means everything. And then you have to look away because you know you might lose the word forever if you don’t. And when you look back at it with fresh eyes it all makes sense again and it’s just a word on a page. A word that you know. But these words – My mother is dead – will never make sense now that they are true. They will never be words that I understand. I say them, over and over again, to remind myself. But that is not the same as understanding.
The last time I heard my mother’s voice was in the parking lot of a Buffalo Wild Wings franchise. This small indignity of this is a stain on my heart and memory which will never come out, ever. My mom had called to say that she was having a “routine procedure” the next day. Outpatient. One that would make her feel better and have more energy to do things she was enjoying again.”If I get dead,” she began…this was something she said constantly – whether she was boarding a plane, going for a manicure, taking a nap – and was usually followed by some inane instruction: “Don’t forget to refill your washer fluid.” “Don’t forget about the smoked salmon in the refrigerator.” “Don’t forget that anything below the waist is vulgar in polite conversation.” This was our routine – and holding up my end of the ridiculous bargain, I mocked her as I always did. “OK, Mom. If you get dead I promise I’ll remember that most people from Nevada are degenerates.” And that was it. The last conversation I ever got to have with my mother. In a fucking parking lot.
She never woke up. There it is again, the nonsense noises in my brain: She never woke up. My mother is dead. Anything below the waist is vulgar. Again and again. Round and round. Nothing. It simply cannot be. These are not real words. Are they? Because if they are, it is the end of everything. If they are, I am rudderless, and I am alone. If they are, I am an orphan. I am an orphan. I am an orphan.
I have always marveled at how, despite the magnitude of any personal tragedy, the world keeps spinning. Life around the loss just goes on. Days keep coming, nights keep falling, stores open, TV shows air, subways run, dogs crap on the floor, mail gets delivered. Nothing, it seems, can kill the mundane being of things. Even my own body seems oblivious to my loss – it continues to wake up, to walk to the shower, to eat, to sleep, to cry, to WORK. How do they do this, the world and life and my body? Don’t they fucking know that I am an orphan? Nothing should work anymore. My mother is dead.
People don’t know what to say. They try. But what they don’t know is that loss like this changes you on a cellular level. That the world will forevermore be divided into categories of “people who understand” and “people who don’t.” What they don’t know is that no matter how much we get that it’s said with love, if we ever hear the words “thoughts and prayers” again, we will fucking break something. And it will probably be your face. Say something different. Something that will help. Like, “Wow, that sucks harder than a cow on a kitten teat.” Or, “Want to get drunk and cry?” I am grateful, believe me, for the incredible outpouring of love from friends, no matter what form it takes. But I guarantee you that those on the “people who understand” list are not saying things like “thoughts and prayers.” They are saying things like, “I have marijuana. I will bring it to you.”
Words were supposed to have been my gift, but now they fail me. Intake, output – my words don’t work anymore. I can’t find the ones I need and I can’t lose the ones I don’t want. She never woke up. I cannot describe the emptiness of my heart and the brokenness of my being in a way that makes sense to anyone else. I cannot describe the way that I wholly mistrust my decisions without my mother around to approve them. Or the secret fear that my brothers don’t like me much at all and that with our Mom gone, they don’t have to pretend anymore, ever. I can’t properly report the way I feel physically crushed beneath the weight of the alone-y-ness (Yes, I can make shit up if I want to. I’m a fucking orphan.). I simply haven’t the words.
I tell myself that I am brave. I tell myself that I can live without her. I tell myself, as I reach for the phone without thinking, that I don’t HAVE to call her anymore - that I can just think and she’ll hear me. I tell other people that I am “hanging in there” or “taking it easy on myself” or some other nonsense that I expect they want to hear because it’s easier than knowing the truth. But the truth is that the final, tiny piece of me that wasn’t broken before is broken now. The job is done.
She never woke up.
My mother is dead.
I am an orphan.
I could also have called this post “My Journey into International Adoption” and saved people who are not interested in this subject a whole lot of time and trouble clicking over and clicking back, all bored and eye-rolly and whatnot. But then I would have had to forego my (hopefully only) opportunity to include “The Clap” in the title of one of my posts, which I am obviously in no position to do. That would be like saying, “Oh, no thank you. I think I’ll pass on the lifetime supply of Original Twix Bars.” That would never happen either. Not on my watch.
So, yes. While I have not talked much about it publicly, this has become my full-time job. For the past 3 or 4 months I have been tits-deep in The Process. And by “process” I mean the rapey, ransacking inquest into my personal life, home, finances, emotions, and vagina. Yup. My vagina. I have had to provide three separate agencies with multiple ORIGINAL sets of tax returns (going back 3 years), bank statements, credit card bills, debts and assets, officially stamped valuations of my home/car/trust/IRA/real estate holdings, utility bills, passport/driver’s license/social security card copies, multiple background checks (with fingerprinting), character witnesses (5), photographs (8), certified divorce decrees (2), psychological evaluations (yes, I passed. Asshole.), letters from my bank, letters from my CPA, letters from my local police, letters from my friends, letters from my family, letters of intent, letters to Haitian government officials, autobiographical statements, medical examinations (2), and home inspection reports. All notarized and copied many times over. All seen by several sets of strangers, including the pimply boob-staring guy at the copy-shop. In all my life, I have never felt so violated. Fuck, I have never BEEN so violated. I guess that makes me lucky.
Which brings me to the vagina part. Included in my 2 separate, notarized medical reports are the results of my laboratory tests for cholesterol, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis A-C, and TB (Yeah, um – 1743 called. It wants its disease back.) Did you want to test me for Consumption, too? How about Plague? The Vapors? Test me, bitches. Bring it right the fuck on, because no matter what you throw at me next, I will hit that shit back at you so hard your head will spin. You can probe my vadge like a goddamned unmanned Titanic rover and show every nosy notary and copy-shop guy on earth what you found in there. Will that be enough? Will that give a starving orphan a chance for a loving home? Will THAT, finally, make me worthy of being someone’s mother? If not that, then what?
It’s not nearly over. I am only 3 months into what could turn out to be a 3 YEAR process. And all this while, the babies in Haiti waste away, cry for no one, die. They die. While 2 different governments examine my finances, my psyche, my closets, and the contents of my vagina with a fine-toothed comb, the babies wait. They go unheld. And they fucking die. How is this OK? Especially when you consider the non-existent screening process for biological birthers….oh, you’re 12? Super! What’s that? You’re a crack whore with 7 kids and 7 baby-daddies and you want to have another? Sure! How’s that abusive relationship? Why not bring an emotionally doomed child into it? For fuck’s sake, you have to jump through more hoops to acquire a DOG in this country than you do to have a natural child. No one asks any questions of birth mothers. No one looks at their bank statements. No one demands character witnesses. No one has to DEEM THEM WORTHY. Birth mothers don’t have to notarize shit. Am I nuts (No! Yay! I just found out!), or is something very, very wrong here?
Wrong, inhumane, sadistic, invasive – whatever. It doesn’t matter. I will wait. I will jump when they say jump. I will give my blood and open my legs for the doctors and expose my home and net worth to strangers and I will have it all fucking notarized. Because someday, I will get to hold her and smell her skin and kiss her tears away and make her dinner and buy her tiny dresses and sing her nonsense songs. Someday, the little girl named Babette who’s visited me in dreams ever since the earthquake will be my daughter, my joy, my hope, my family. She will be mine and I will be hers and we will be each other’s. And I will wait because it is everything.
Because I have to believe that when I get the call, and get on the plane, and fall to my knees and take her up into my arms, maybe – just maybe – this will all be worth it. It has to be.
It has to be.
Judge me all you want for my grown-up love of Justin Bieber. Seriously. I don’t care. Do it. But while you’re judging me, ask yourself this: Is it because you secretly love him too and you totally wish you were a pre-teen girl so you could justify your love, Madonna-style? Or is it because you are a self-righteous, self-professed Music Snob looking for places to leg-lift your disdain, and what better fire hydrant than the adorable teen sensation who won over the world with his awesome hair and mad pop chops? Thought so.
Admittedly, I only first knew about the Biebs because of my three dear nieces, and my single most heart-exploding-with-joy memory is of driving with them in my car and singing “Baby” together over and over at the top of our lungs. Truly. Nothing in this world can make me feel gladder or better or brighter that THAT memory, and hearing the song brings that joy back to me here in the present moment, where, let’s be honest – it doesn’t frequent much these days…and the ONLY REASON I HAVE THAT MEMORY IS BECAUSE OF JUSTIN BIEBER. I have driven around in the car scream-singing with my nieces for 20 + years and have never had any other artist or song or moment feature so prominently in a picture of pure, captured happiness. That’s right. Justin Bieber gave a me a Joy Tattoo.
Which is why I leapt at the chance to take my youngest niece to his concert in Miami last month. It was more selfish than noble, although I totally played the “Aren’t I a martyr?” card when chronicling my 4000 mile journey to the jumbotron and back for sympathetic friends. Niece #3 missed out on the NSYNC/Backstreet/X-tina outings that I got to share with the older girls a decade or so ago, and I wanted a moment like that with her. I wanted to bond with her over something she loved, as I had gotten to do with the others. Also I wanted her think I was awesome. Obviously.
I cannot lie – the night was dark and filled with more than a few terrors. Primarily, the enormous, flagrant signage everywhere in and around the arena, announcing Bacardi as the North American sponsor of JB’s tour. Nice. Pimping booze to kids not nearly old enough to even drink it illicitly at forbidden high-school parties….to kids who will endure years of anti-alcohol diatribes from parents who ignore the irony of railing against the very thing that delivered the single greatest thing in their world (aka the Biebs) to their very doorstep. Try un-confusing those
future drunks kids. I dare you.
When the Biebs himself finally emerged, my every last remnant of snark and judgment dissolved. I didn’t even mind so much about the eardrums. Totally worth it. Both for the joy on my niece’s face and for the simple fact that Justin Bieber is a STAR. Which was never more evident than seeing him do his Bieber thing after enduring not one, but TWO horrifically bland opening acts. Those boys could sing, too – maybe even better than JB. They could also dance and show us their teen muscles and mug for the cameras with the best of them. But they were not stars. They will never have a Fever named after them. Not ever.
I used to think it was just the hair. Which, by the way, is magnificent. I mean, the iconic Bieber coiff is obviously an architectural triumph – duh – but it is also a lovingly sculpted nonpareil erected by tiny frenzy-fairies using an unguent of Aphrodite tears and magical gumdrops made from the still-beating hearts of baby unicorns. It’s that good. You cannot take your eyes off it – not that you’d want to. Although, I do admit to recoiling with awkward embarrassment the moment that this tiny wonder removed his shirt to reveal the hairless boy-torso beneath. I actually did look away for that – I had to. I mean, I’m as pervy as the next guy (oh, who am I kidding, I’m exponentially more pervy than the next guy, and the guy after that) but seeing those ripped baby-abs – like a six-pack made of Go-Gurt - made me feel icky inside. Which is actually kind of a relief, if you want to know the truth.
So there. I said it. I love Justin Bieber (fully clothed) and I don’t care who knows it. I also don’t care that you and everyone you know hates him, or why you hate him, or that you now hate me. I love him for the mosaic of joyful memories he’s become a part of and the happiness those memories conjure. For the thrill he gave my niece and for the bliss of being there with her to see it. Say what you want - this child is a supernova. He possesses a radiance and a spark and a gift that mere mortals do not have and could not channel if they did. It’s not about the hair. It’s not about the Bacardi or girls or the dumb pants. It’s not about being the best singer, or the best dancer or the best musician. It’s about being The Biebs.
And that is all you need to know.
Greetings, my fine friends! I first must apologize for my longer-than-usual absence from the ether, although as I typed that I immediately thought to myself, “a *You’re Welcome* might be more in order.” So, you’re welcome. I hope you enjoyed my silence while it lasted. But, where have you been, Misanthropista? you ask…. (yes, I can hear your cries in the night, I’m kinda just ignoring you.) The fact is, I’ve spent the past month or so getting my ass kicked. Really fucking hard. Because that’s exactly what I signed up for. That’s exactly what I wanted, and EXACTLY what I needed. Roller Derby, y’all. That’s what I am telling you. Your mild-mannered, people-hating, underachieving eighth-favorite bloggess ever is now a goddamned, bona-fide Roller Girl.
But this post is not really about me, so much (again, you’re welcome). Actually, it totally is. But it’s also about the magnificent, indestructible, stunningly beautiful women that have come into my life, or come closer, since I began this awesome ridiculousness. Fierce women. Kind women. Women who teach me about things like ” ‘Giner Shiners” and “Stripper Stretches.” WHERE HAVE THESE PEOPLE BEEN ALL MY LIFE? In the most bizarre way, that blood-splattered track has become my home, my church, my shrink, my PLACE. And I share that track with a large handful of women who feel exactly the same way.**
**Disclaimer: I cannot speak for all Derby Girls, nor do I presume to know Everyone’s Story….but I know my own, and I know my friends’, and I know why WE are there. It ain’t for the ‘giner shiners, folks. Ouch, by the way. OUCH.
We are there because we’re broken. Beautifully, crushingly, perfectly broken. Busted right the fuck up. And the other ways we’ve tried to put ourselves back together have failed, or fallen short. We’ve tried “healing,” we’ve tried breathing, we’ve tried forgiveness….yoga, therapy, meditation, hiking, knitting, the “high road,” booze, food, opiates, teen vampires (did I say that, or did I think it?) – you name it. We’ve tried it. And sometimes all that’s left is just to Kick Some Goddamned Ass. And that’s what we’ve come to do. With deepest apologies to Helen Hunt and that creepy kid who sees dead people, we’ve come to Break it Forward. And in doing so, to put ourselves back together.
My fellow Dolls and I sport names like Bruiser Ego, Veronica Tastrophe, Cripple D, Decks-Her Morgan, Crystal Brawl, and Waste Management (that’s mine – hands off, betchesss). A brief scroll through the International registry of names reveals such gems as Buttermilf Paincakes, Armageddon Smashed, Kinky Tuscadero and Sadie Masochist. See more awesomeness here: http://www.twoevils.org/rollergirls You get the picture. These are our true selves. Every woman should have a Derby Name, whether or not she ever puts on a pair of skates. Every single goddamned woman. We’ve all got a roller girl inside of us, but most of us don’t know it yet – we won’t know until we need her. It’s how we should see ourselves and sometimes, how we MUST see ourselves. Because let’s face it, when the shit hits the fan, who are you gonna call – Sally Sunshine? Or Sally Jesse Rough-As-Hell? Thought so.
Again, I cannot know how each of us found Derby, or how IT found us. But my theory is that most of us ended up here because we had to (please keep in mind, I also once had a theory that if I gave enough “thought energy” to Jordan Catalano, he would magically become real, and also my boyfriend – but whatevs. This one’s better). Because, thanks to some past hurt, or hoax, or heartbreak, we had been stripped of our Power, and we wanted it the fuck back.
After an informal practice last week, my 2 friends and I sat – tired, sweating, and so, so happy – removing our gear and chatting about some move we were trying to perfect, when one of them said, “Wow. This is a bench full of Broken Bitches.” That shit was DEEP. Profound and perfect and true. There we sat together: Heartbreak, Betrayal, Mayhem – not our Derby names, but they certainly could be….the worst that life has to offer – helping each other to kick those things’ asses right back to where they came from (usually, that place has a penis, but I digress.). Making the best of the worst, and doing it together. Putting back the broken pieces and making something stronger and far more beautiful than the original. Digging deep and pushing through (and if you’re me, taking out anyone who gets in your way, mostly because you don’t know how to stop yet) and doing it for yourself. Or in spite of yourself. What-the-fuck-EVER. Doing it. Just….doing it.
As I write this, I am nestled into a makeshift, home-fashioned traction device, with ice packs on both knees, moist heat on my ass (nothing to do with Derby, that – just, who doesn’t love moist heat on their ass? Nobody, that’s who.), and vats of ibuprofen and bourbon at the ready. My 44-year-old body creaks and cracks, punishes and protests. And my brandy-new soul tells it to shut the fuck up. Because we’re going back tomorrow.
Well, friends, the holidays are upon us once again. This year everyone’s Yuletide giddiness is obviously fraught with a heaviness and sorrow that cannot be described or even fully fathomed. I won’t even try. I wouldn’t know where to start, or where to stop. It’s simply too much. However, I AM going to use my voice to address something here that no one else seems to want to talk about in polite company (not that I keep much of that, but still) – something that, year after year, is silently swept under the Christmas tree skirt and never, ever spoken of. Something that affects us all, whether we know it or not. Something that looks a whole lot like a big fat old dude taking our tiny children into his velvet-swathed lap for a very private conversation.
I mean, honestly. Isn’t this exactly the sort of thing that we spend years telling our children they Must Not Ever Do? Don’t we teach them to scream and run at the first sight of strangers wielding candy (and this motherfucker’s promising a whole lot more than candy, isn’t he? “You want a Playstation, sonny boy? How about a pony, little Susie? Ho ho ho!”) Isn’t this the sort of debaucherous foreplay that goes on in the wee, dirty hours between a be-robed Hugh Hefner and his house full of compliant sex bunnies? Adult sex bunnies, I might add. And it’s STILL revolting. Yet, parents the world over wait for hours in line at terrifying department store Toylands, enduring excruciating soul-drainage and near-certain mauling death by perfume spraybots to plop their minor children squarely down onto the genitals of strange men wearing fur suits. Why am I the only one who thinks that’s fucked up?
What do you suppose these Renta-Clauses do the rest of the year? Do you imagine that they are doctors or stock brokers or NASA engineers who are taking a month off from their “respectable” jobs every year to don the suit? Really? Do you really think that? Here’s what I think: I think that the vast majority of these Pere Noel impersonators are brazenly rubbing their beer-bloated bellies and collecting unemployment for the other 11 months of the year. I think their daily comings-and-goings are dubious at best, and that their internet porn collections would make Caligula feel icky. I think if you were to see that same guy in his street clothes sitting on a park bench in July that you would grab your kids by their sticky paws and find a different goddamned bench, stat. That’s what I think.
What makes us so sure that Macy’s and the other
soul-sucking meth labs of consumerism retail giants are paying $36.50 (the cost of a nationwide background check) to the Department of Human Services for every fat guy they hire to fondle our children part-time? What makes us so sure that there’s not a certain *element* that might be attracted to this sort of seasonal stint? What makes us so sure that just because there’s a red suit and a white beard that this guy is not some unholy deviant who is enjoying this lap time *just* a little too much? For that matter, what makes us so sure that Santa is wearing underpants?
*insert awesome “Yule Log” joke here*
Perhaps I have said too much, and perhaps I have taken liberties that should not be taken (I know, I know – you’re all, “Dude, it’s SANTA! What the fuck is wrong with you?). I acknowledge that I have a tendency to see the bleakest angle in even the sunniest scene, so if I have ruined your life or sullied your excuse to leave your kid on the Big Guy’s lap while you go shop for naughty elfinwear, do forgive me. My job, as the spokesperson for rational people-haters everywhere, is to tell the truth as I see it – up, down or ugly. And the truth, my unfortunate friends, is that Santa’s a goddamned perv.
See? I just saved you thousands and thousands of dollars in therapy that your child will no longer need. I’m like a benevolent fucking Christmas angel. And I think we all know that someone had to say it. You’re welcome.
So, my dear friend Shauna posted this superb meme on my Facebook wall yesterday and she’s all, “This totally reminded me of you” and I’m all, “Hell yeah it did!” Because I am seriously badass, right? Because I don’t take shit from anyone, right? Because whoever fucks with me will be unceremoniously fileted like O-Ren Ishii by my yellow-jumpsuited Kill Bill awesomeness, right? Right?
Wrong. I had myself briefly fired up with this formidable vision of me as the ultimate No Bullshit Zone – the Perfect, Perfect Bitch. I love that vision. I love that people evidently regard me as the very last person on earth with whom they’d want to tangle, because I so desperately want to be that person. But my enchantment was short-lived, and I deflated rapidly as I realized that in fact, I am EXACTLY the person with whom you’ll want to tangle. Because absolutely nothing will happen. Chances are I won’t even notice that you’re being a douchelord for the first 87 or so times you decide to be a douchelord. This is a fairly serious problem, only because when I finally do notice, it means that you have pushed so far beyond the limits of decency and humanity that I completely lose my shit and the relationship is rendered unsalvageable. I am talking about zero to blitzkrieg in the span of one well-timed dick move. Actually, I guess it would be 88. Eighty-eight dick moves. Then you’re done.
So yes. I have a very high tolerance for bad behavior. I could drink a case of bad behavior and still I’d be on my feet.** I have been witness to bad behavior all my life – irrational, unpredictable, infantile behavior. Frightening behavior. Strange, inconsiderate, and often cruel behavior. At some point in my childhood it just became the new normal, and I stopped noticing. But I also realized early on that the best course of action was to do nothing – to take shelter from the storm in whatever happy place I could conjure and ride that motherfucker out. In those days my self-preservation mostly involved Sean Cassidy music and making out with my wall poster of The Fonz. During the years I was married and “stepping,” I coped by going alone to my bedroom while the shit-pies of anarchy and defiance flew wildly about just beyond the threshold. I figured that if I just stayed behind the door, I’d never have to take one to the face. The problem, of course, was that I couldn’t stay in there forever. I’d eventually run out of bourbon.
So this is what I’ve been working on in my never-ending push to become less fucked-up than I was destined to be: Boundaries. Learning to stand up for myself, to speak out, to say no when I need to and to call bullshit when I smell it. To be less accepting of bad behavior during the window of time when my NOT accepting it might still actually change its course. To fix friendships while they can still be fixed. To stop waiting to speak up until my loathing is lit with the fire of a thousand suns and it’s far, far too late. Because while the benefits of having a long fuse are quite agreeable (I do not anger easily, and enjoy very low blood pressure), I’ve come to understand that anything that’s left to spark and sizzle and burn that long is going to make a very big boom. And that shit ain’t ever purty.
**With deepest apologies to Joni Mitchell