Medicine Head

Hey kids.

I know, I know, I’m the flakiest flake that ever flaked. Bitch updates like three times. Bitch runs out of things to say that aren’t “Mommy doesn’t love meeee.” Bitch goes silent for like six months, accidentally cuts off all of her hair, buys a wedding dress, and moves across the parking lot. I bought a cheapo bra from Charlotte Russe that didn’t suck and I was excited to share the boobified bliss with all ya’ll because even though I love Victoria’s Secret too, I also love keeping my $40 to myself. When one boobie basket costs the same as a haul of groceries– good groceries, that I have to actually do more than slap in a microwave in order to consume– it makes my soul hurt.

So I was going to talk about my minty green boob bag, and I was excited because it was something I was passionate about that wasn’t childhood trauma, but then I got a cold and the fiance went to Florida for a conference and I held out for as long as possible, but I finally used up all the Tylenol, orange juice, and Benedryl and had no choice but to crawl into the shower all Ringu style, slap lipstick on my face because I’m insecure, and drive to Target.

In retrospect, I’m not sure why I didn’t just go to the Walgreens that is basically across the streetI’m not good at drugs. I cram vaporub up my nose like the jar explicitly says not to and I take aspirin for hangovers if that’s the closest bottle to my face even though my future father in law promises that it will kill my liver. I’m a rebel, Dottie.

So seeing as I don’t actually remember driving to Target, I’m going to go with the Stoned-on-My-Medicine-Cabinet theory as to why I didn’t go to the closest place that offered orange juice and NyQuil and instead, drove to that big bullseye in the sky. Or the edge of town. Whatever.

I knew it was a mistake as soon as I walked through the Jedi doors. I also didn’t give a shit because I needed DRUGZ. And tissues. And orange juice. And dinner. And shoes. And curly hair mousse. And candles. And throw pillows. And a beach chair. And spinach. And spanx. And those little yellow handles for corn on the cob because I was not paying $15 for them at Meijer just because they were fancy schmancy Good Housekeeping corn spikes and Target has crappy, unfancy ones for a DOLLAR.

I didn’t buy most of that stuff, but I pinballed around the store in my over the counter, overmedicated haze and contemplated all of it. Sure, I have a beach chair, but these beach chairs are better because they have stars on them and mine is sad because it doesn’t have stars on it and is therefore inadequate.

Yeah, but self, do you need a new beach chair? Didn’t you just buy your sad, plain, cheapo chair last month?

So I didn’t buy the chair.

I took my sunglasses off in the shoe department because I had already walked half the perimeter of the store with them on and I noticed a few Target red shirts following me around. The rest of the trip was spent in partial blindness because ugh florescent lights ugh.

However, rather than reduce the stares, my bared face just seemed to earn more– mostly from teenage girls with WTF plastered all over their faces and moms who wouldn’t let their toddlers near me and this one very distinguished looking gentleman with just the right amount of gray in his beard who, after I spent an inordinate amount of time mouthbreathing in the frozen dinners aisle, asked if I was high.

I said, “Probably.”

Ultimately, I walked out of the store with a jug of OJ, a frozen macaroni and cheese dinner, a box of super lotion-y tissues, some generic brand DayQuil, and a squeaky alligator for the dog that I named Hal and I have no idea why. He just looks like a Hal.

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Guys, meet Hal.

When I paid and the cashier handed me the receipt, our pinkies touched and I told her she’s gonna want some hand sanitizer action in her life. It wasn’t until I got to the car and looked in the rearview to back up that I realized my lipstick looked like a pre-schooler smeared it on and the eensy, weensy, bit of eyeliner I slapped on was melting off of my eyelids. I was HOT.

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All class.

And then, because my adventure as a social pariah wasn’t yet complete, I chugged a gallon of orange juice on the less-than-half-a-mile drive home and at a red light with our windows rolled down, some dude said to his dudebro guyfriend, “Dude(bro) check out the preggo with her port-a-gallon,” and then I burped and the light turned green before I could correct him by waving my neon-green, snot-coated tissue at him, so I settled for flipping the bird, even though the last time I flipped a guy the finger, he followed me to a gas station and threatened to break my hand before getting back in his car and doing the I’m-so-cool-I’mma-ruin-my-tires-as-I-pull-out routine.  He seemed troubled.

The end.

PS: Then I went home, ate my mac and cheese, and took a nap on the sofa. When I woke up, Stella the Dog had lost interest in the Halligator and had taken to eating my tissue pile.

The end for real. Byeeee.

Zuul

Our refrigerator has begun to make alarming sounds and the Fiancé and I refuse to call maintenance about it because in two years of renting at The Infamous Firetrap Apartments, we’ve had to call maintenance to replace or repair every doorknob and every window crank, the air conditioner, the hot water heater, and the washer/dryer combo from the very cruelest circle of hell (I like to call it “the concussion machine” due to it’s stacked-in-a-stupid-way nature). Our most recent adventure with maintenance concerns the magical creature that lives in our ceiling that I tell myself isn’t a rat so I can sleep at night. I’m really quite sick of answering the door for maintenance and I’m fairly certain they’re sick of ringing our doorbell.

So the fridge buzzes like a bug-zapper. I’ll live. I survived half a semester with Zuul.

Zuul got his name because GHOSTBUSTERS. Our third year of undergrad, Chrissy and I decided to ditch the dorms for a real live big kid apartment because even though communal bathrooms provided an excellent crash course in getting over any aversion to pooping in public one may have had entering college, the whole glorified-babysitter-living-a-few-doors-down thing was totally cramping our (drunk) style. For the first time ever, we had an oven– which I promptly used to burn a tray of cookies– and a refrigerator large enough to hold an entire case of Yuengling…which we promptly filled with an entire case of Yuengling, emptied, then filled again.

Unfortunately, that refrigerator was Zuul.

When Zuul’s motor turned on, the whole unit jerked, then shuddered, and sounded like a cross between a weed eater and a lightsaber before switching off with another burp and a twitch. That entire first week was spent sleepless, staring at the popcorn ceiling and taking turns topping one another’s profane declarations of utter joylessness. We called maintenance who took another week to come over and gut Zuul in the kitchen, ultimately declaring him fit for service.

“But it’s loud,” Chrissy argued.

“Yeah. It’s an old unit. Didn’t think we had any this old still in the building.” Maintenance said with the satisfied smile I assumed was saved purely for tormenting bitchy college students. He smacked the dented side of the appliance fondly.

“So…are you gonna fix it?” I asked.

“There’s nothing to fix!” Mr. Maintenance eased Zuul back into his cozy corner beneath the cabinets, “Feel that interior. It’s ice cold.”

Chrissy nodded and frowned, “But it’s loud.”

“It sure is,” Maintenance agreed. In the end, we were stuck with Zuul, and eventually, we got used to his quirks. We slept through his fits and delighted in watching the friends who came to visit jump halfway across the living room whenever the motor turned on.

But one day, a sad day, several months later, Zuul died. His motor didn’t turn. The dim, flickering bulb in the back no longer glowed all dim and flickery. The beer went flat. It was all very tragic and after two days of living out of a Coleman and pestering the main office because “WTF we’re living in the dark ages up in here,” Maintenance came and confirmed that Zuul was finally felled for good. That night, staring at the popcorn ceiling in our parallel beds, the silence was smothering and thick– only occasionally broken by the slamming doors and indignant protesting of some drunkass getting hauled into the police station downstairs or those shitheads upstairs who thought 2AM was the perfect time for a game of b-ball in their living room. The only evidence of our new refrigerator was the gentle, almost soothing, hum coming from the kitchen, barely noticeable among the rest of the ambient hums.

“Silence,” I said, knowing full well that Chrissy was still awake because she kept punching her pillows and swearing under her breath every five minutes, “is bullshit.”

“Yeah. I never thought I’d say this, but I kinda miss Zuul.”

not_a_zuul

I knew Zuul. Zuul was a friend of mine. And newbie, you’re no Zuul.

the Subversive Nature of This Broadcast

I have the enormous fortune to review Fox’s New Girl for TV.com and this week, Nick’s dad came to visit the loft and Nick wasn’t terribly happy about it because REASONS. I braced myself for your standard problematic-parent/child-relationship-is-repaired-and-all-is-as-it-should-be or the equally rampant problematic-parent/child-relationship-continues-to-be-problematic-and-that’s-the-WORST-THING-EVER.

But instead, I was elated that a freaking sitcom of all things managed to capture the kind of nuance inherent to a relationship as flawed as Nick and Walt Miller’s without necessarily taking sides. I probably shouldn’t have been too surprised because it is New Girl, but I think, particularly in sitcoms, that we’re so conditioned to expect clear cut happy or sad endings that the ones that fall between the poles tend to be more jarring.  At the end of the episode, Papa Miller was still a shitty dad, but Nick was okay. Nick’s been okay. Damaged, sure, but you can be damaged and still be okay.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve willingly talked to my mother in the past two years. Before that, there was a restraining order so there was zero talking, and before that there was a lot of yelling punctuated by long silences and the occasional all-nighter at the Denny’s coffee counter because I’d been kicked out of the house again. My crimes ranged from asking what was for dinner to dumping that boyfriend she really liked– I pointed out that he punched me in the face on more than one occasion and she pointed out that he bought her a car. Priorities, you know?

Now, I love my mother. I do. When I was a kid, I fantasized about being a big famous writer so I could buy her the things that made her happy. She was rarely happy. There were the little things that upset her: Batman comics and friends with blue hair and rehearsals for marching band and spring musical that required her to pick me up from school when I couldn’t hitch a ride with someone else. There were also the things I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Some kids get the impression that they’ve disappointed their parents somehow, but I always sensed that I’d interrupted her from something great, like her waitress career or something.

When I was in college, I hated my mother because I realized other students got excited about going home for the weekend while I started hyperventilating around Wednesday.  I got phone calls in the middle of class accusing me of ignoring her. I spent hours in the evenings assuring her that I wasn’t. I said I had to go do homework and she ranted that I thought school was more important than she was.  I found out she took a bunch of credit cards out under my name, maxed them out, didn’t pay them, and didn’t tell me about them. I only found out about them four years after the fact, right before graduation, when I tried to get financed to buy a car. It took another four years in and out of court (there’s where that restraining order comes in) to clean it all up and I still occasionally get angry letters from people she fucked over using my name.

For awhile, she hated me right back. There were nasty voicemails (“I got rid of your cat. I hope it’s dead.” “You know what happens to little girls like you? Nothing good, I can promise you that.”) that prompted the district attorney to get me a restraining order. There was that time we ran into each other at the gas station and before I could make a quick escape, she caught me by the Slim Jim rack and announced to the clientele within hearing range that I was “a spoiled little slut, still hung up on the fact that her daddy died. Boo fucking hoo,” and finishing up with, “so who are you conning into feeding you these days?”

I made a beeline for my car, saw her get into hers. I figured she would follow me at least part of the way back to the house I was staying, but when I was almost back and she was still riding my bumper like an angry caboose on the little engine that can’t take a hint, I detoured a few blocks and pulled into the Shop N’ Save lot. I got out of my car. She  parked a ways up the row and got out of hers. I held my cellphone up and shouted, “Do you really want to play this game? I’ve got Officer Swift on speed dial.”

She got back in the car. I made a point of scanning parking lots for her car before I went anywhere from then on.

She got married. She violated her probation.  Her probation officer called me every time she accomplished some new and impressive act of what-the-fuck-are-you-thinking until I finally asked him very nicely to stop, “I don’t know where she is. I don’t particularly care where she is. She’s not a part of my life anymore. At all.”

Except she was.

And then she was.

If this was a TV show, we would have gone to lunch and the heavens would have opened up and showered us with sunshine and good vibes. She’d suddenly be the mom she was never capable of being and I’d be the daughter she wanted instead of the one she was stuck with. Maybe her criminal record would even be television-magicked away.

One of my favorite, favorite writers, Janice Erlbaum, has written extensively about her complicated relationship with her own mother in her memoir Girlbomb and on her blog of the same name. Her second book, Have You Found Her, takes a step back from immediate experience with her mom and concentrates more on the woman Janice is in her own right, but on page 50, she makes an observation that I regularly come back to:

I loved my mom, but dealing with me made her anxious, and dealing with her made me sad. I sent her cards twice yearly, for the holidays and for her birthday; maybe every other year she sent a reply.

We did go to lunch, Mom and I.  She looked good. She smiled. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her smile even before my brother and I left. She talked about her honeymoon at Niagara Falls and the car Creepy Stepdad bought her. She showed me her new jewelry. She talked about the dining room set he bought her, the new china, a kitten, and a lovely new apartment with a sundeck and laundry service. They were going to Florida in the spring and Maine in the fall.

“But to tell you the truth, I can barely stand him!” She giggled and placed her hand over mine, “Why don’t we do this anymore, sweetie? I’ve missed you. Why aren’t we close anymore?”

When my mom and I first tangoed in court, the judge asked me what I thought her punishment should be. I said she needed to be responsible for the bills she racked up, certainly, but outside of that, I didn’t want her to go to jail or anything, “She’s not like, a criminal. I don’t know why she does the things she does but honestly I don’t think she knows either.” I asked if he watched The Sopranos: “My mother is Livia Soprano with a side order of Hoarders.” I said she needed therapy.

We lived in a state that had laws against sticking people in mental health programs without their consent. There are valid reasons for those laws, but like many well-meaning laws, there was room for this one to backfire. Like when she refused to give consent. When we met again, the judge asked if she was on drugs because “We can do something if she’s on drugs.”

She wasn’t on drugs. She didn’t even drink. I had several good friends whose parents struggled with drug and alcohol problems. Don’t think I wasn’t jealous.

So it wasn’t surprising when we met for lunch after years of radio silence and she sincerely failed to acknowledge why we had instituted that policy to begin with. It was like brand new wedding bands she claimed my dad gave her the night he died except I was with her when she bought them herself two days later. It was like the divorce papers she had drawn up when I was five and conveniently forgot existed after badgering my father into signing them and the time I caught her red-handed, emptying my piggy bank when I was ten– she was doing no such thing, in fact, she didn’t even know I had a piggy bank. A lie is only a lie if you don’t believe it yourself.

My mother sincerely believes that she was abandoned by ungrateful children who eagerly shucked the responsibility of taking care of her. Maybe somewhere in the back of her head, she remembers how we got to where we are today, but I don’t really think so. Nor has she learned from her mistakes. When I finally moved out of my best friend’s guest room and into an apartment of my own, I begrudgingly gave my mother my address after she pleaded with me that she wanted to send Christmas and birthday cards. I never received a holiday card, but I got her cell phone bill, her court summons for violating probation (again), and a change-of-address confirmation card in her name.

Sometimes people don’t get along with their parents and it’s a real shame because if they could just get to know one another better, they would have such an amazing, wonderful relationship. Sometimes people don’t get along with their parents and it’s a real shame because they know each other too well, and they either can’t or won’t change, and so their every interaction is just some variation of whatever original sin damned them in the first place. That’s sad, but something can be sad and yet perfectly survivable. Something can also be sad, but also entirely essential.

I have an amazing uncle who humors my every whim with either quiet support or amused disapproval. There are a lot of family politics that go into that relationship, but the abridged version is that basically, being his dead BFF’s kid means I can get away with murder. But the one thing, the one thing I can’t escape judgement on is the state of my mother-daughter relationship. I’ll regret it later, he warned, when I said she wasn’t on my wedding guest list. My fiance’s mom floated the same concern, even having witnessed a good chunk of the future-Lifetime-movie-script-of-my-life herself, “We’ll all understand if you want her there,” she said, “I just don’t want you to regret it later.”

Everyone understands that a reunion is a happy ending. What is less understood is that a separation can be a happy ending too.

the March of the Penguins

Hockey is the only sport that manages to drag me away from the computer. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the only team that manages to turn me into a shrieking mess when games go poorly, turning the nearest inanimate objects into deadly projectiles– TV remotes, forks, pillows. (Oh yes, pillows.)

Ok, fine, sometimes the Capitals have that effect when I hate-watch them and they have the audacity to play well because fuck them.

I don’t get it. The fiance suspects that hockey works for me because I have the attention span of a mosquito and  it’s a fast-moving game. He’s onto something, but I also think part of it is that the jerseys are classy and the players are dorky. I don’t know where Marc-Andre Fleury played in college, but I know that he talks to his goal posts and claims they’re bilingual and that’s why I own his jersey.

So maybe I do hockey wrong. Whatever. I know how the game works and I’m utterly delighted by the season finally, FINALLY beginning on Saturday…even if I’ll be sitting on my sofa alone in my Fleury jersey, nursing a six-pack of Labatt and a box of Timbits and wishing I wasn’t five-hundred miles away, surrounded by Red Wings fans.

SOON.

SOON.

the Bathroom Beer

Sometimes, I realize that I’m not in Kansas college anymore and it’s a startling newsflash that can alternately ruin the day or boost it to the heights of awesome.  This is actually old news. I haven’t been in college for, oh, coming up on three years. It’s getting to the point where not only am I no longer in college, but neither are most of my friends, which is more liberating than sad because the cord is essentially, finally, cut. There’s nowhere to crash when I visit on the weekend, and the idea of getting a hotel room purely to go to my favorite old college haunt is…well, it’s sad.

I was in town to visit family this summer and my old roommate suggested a night out. I immediately suggested The Brown, which was over an hour’s drive from either of our beds. We didn’t know anyone in town anymore. We considered a hotel. Then Chrissy asked, “Why does it have to be The Brown?”

…because that’s where I drink?

“We’re freaking adults,” Chrissy continued, “We don’t have to drink at The Brown. The Brown kind of sucks.”

“The Brown does NOT suck.”

“It does and it always kind of has.”

The Brown was/is the kind of bar Jon Taffer could have a field day with. The yellowed popcorn ceiling was low and the brown carpet was torn. Barstools were taped at the seams. The ladies room was the most garish shade of Pepto-Bismol pink and never had any soap or paper towels. A vodka cranberry tasted different every time it was ordered. But it was the sort of off-the-main-drag joint that the English majors and the art majors and the wannabe anarchist soc majors went to, a collegiate Cheers, where everyone knew your name.

I pointed that completely important and totally relevant point out to Chrissy.

She countered with the fact that I’d gotten carded the last time we were there, a rainy Homecoming weekend that culminated with blowing out of town early because we were bored. “We don’t know anyone there anymore.”

So, we went to a trendy microbrewery near home, ran into an old classmate that we hadn’t seen since graduation, and a good time was had by all. One small step for Mary, one giant leap for cripplingly nostalgic IUP alumni everywhere.

But sometimes, the steps aren’t even steps. Sometimes, they are stops. The empty spaces and pauses are just as noteworthy as swelling chords in any great composition, right? Right. This weekend, the Fiance and I went to a zombie walk downtown, followed by a fantabulous Spazmatics concert and at one point, nature called (as nature does) and I handed the Fiance my can o’ Pabst.

“Hold this!”

He shook his head, “I have to go too.”

“The hell am I supposed to do with it?”

“Take it with you!”

“In the bathroom?

The thing is, there was a time that I knew this didn’t bother me, and I’m not sure when it suddenly became an issue, but figuring out where the hell to place my beer while I did my duty ended up being the biggest conundrum of the night. The floor? Oh God, no. I mean, LOOK at it. The back of the toilet? Gross. The paper dispenser? Better. I guess. Not really.

I ended up cramming it between my cleavage because I’m a classy broad like that.

It’s the little things, really, that end up making feel like an old geezer.

the Awkward Introductions

The first post is the hardest post of any blog. I spent the last month crafting some sardonic tale about that time I had to dress up like a dragon at my secretly-awesome-outwardly-miserable summer job and promptly traumatized a crowd of children when I barfed in my big plastic head.  Then I realized that probably wasn’t the best way to pop in and say “Howdy, bitches!” So I recycled this gem from my old-skool paper-and-ink diary dated May 10th, 2010 because even though the view has undergone significant changes since then, the theme has largely stayed the same:

So a week after graduation, my aunt asks me, “What are you going to do with that degree of yours?”

I said, “Well, I just put an application in at Buybacks. You know, that used CD and DVD store by Target? Yeah. Most of the questions on the application were about Star Wars.

“But you have a college degree.”

“Yeah, but it’s in English Composition.

She didn’t get it.