I was a student athlete back in the day. Don’t make that shocked face, assholes. I didn’t say I was an AWESOME student athlete back in the day. Not everyone can be great, it takes all kinda to make up a team, and although I was usually the slowest on the team, what I lacked in speed I often made up for in dedication and steadfast play (except for that one time in ninth grade when we lost the championship game because of a bad play I made at shortstop, but hand to God that will be another post, I am still working through that with my therapist). Anyhoo, I played several sports: Softball, volleyball, basketball, and track and field. I was a distance runner in track and field. Now you can laugh. I was a thrower. Shot put, discuss, and javelin. I once ran the hog relay though, and we won, so there’s that.
I’m not sure how it happened. One day I was just a chubby girl with no direction in life, and the next day I was a chubby girl who could smack the ball down the first base line, just inside the foul line, just fast enough to sneak by the first baseman. In softball, I could always make contact with the ball, that you could count on. But after that, well who knows what would happen then. Maybe I would sling the bat around so fast that it would hit the ump in the shins and I would be sent to the dugout. Maybe I would trip on the way to first base, and my slowness in getting back up would allow the right fielder to run me down. Maybe all would line up perfectly, I’d drop my bat (after my coach made me hit a shoe on a stick 100 times and drop the bat at practice), run to first, run to second, maybe even make it to third if the ball rolled ever so fast down to the fence line. I once hit an in-field home run, but to be fair, it was wicked hot outside, we were the best in the league and the other team the worst. But still. I did that. Ahhh, those were the days.
Volleyball I was better at, or maybe just as good, though that was the only team I ever tried out for and didn’t make. It was 11th grade. And to be fair I hadn’t wanted to try out that year. My high school had a state championship team, and the girls played year-round ball. They were like, uhh, good. And I was like, uhhh, noncommittal to the sport. By that time I had lettered in varsity track and field with that state championship team, so I just didn’t need the pressure. Also, the summer before my junior year I discovered weed, so there’s that. Yeah, volleyball was short-lived, only 7th-10th grade, but basketball was even shorter.
Remember when I said I was slow? Basketball is not really the game for slowness. I mean, I am wicked on the D (hehehe) but you have to be sorta “all-around athletic” in basketball. My ninth grade basketball coach would often remind us, “You’re only as good as your weakest player…or slowest,” she would add while she glanced in my direction. But that didn’t stop me from playing, I loved basketball! Still do. I love to play street ball, one-on-one, three-on-three, doesn’t matter. I love to watch college ball (Go Jayhawks!) and I love to go to NBA games (Go Hornets! Go Hawks!). I played organized basketball for the first time in fourth grade, and we were quite the rag-tag team of kids from Anthony Elementary. We practiced a couple nights a week in the gym after school. For a lot of us it was our first foray into a team sport, and it was fun and exciting. In fifth grade we got to name ourselves, and after much deliberation we landed on “The Dream Girls.” Seriously. But in fourth grade we didn’t have that option, we were sponsored by a local business called “Dix Office Supply” which meant our shirts said, “Dix’s”. No joke.
Basketball, good times. I played my last year of it in 10th grade, and honestly I wish I had stuck with it longer, but we all make our decisions. Puff, puff, pass.
Then there was track and field. I sorta got sucked into this one in middle school because I had an overprotective mom. Allow me to explain. My mom would be outside my middle school, in her 1972 Dodge Coronet (this was the early 1990s), promptly 30 minutes before school was out everyday. It was slightly embarrassing. We lived close to the school. Close enough to walk, but she wouldn’t let me. You know the drill, it wasn’t that she didn’t trust me, she didn’t trust other people, if I had friends to walk home with then maybe. Then one glorious day I found out that the track team got to walk from the school every afternoon, all the way down Fourth Street (the main artery in our small city) to Ables Field. Ables Field was were the high school football team played, but in the spring it was where my middle school did track practice. I begged my mom to do track and field. At first she was against it. Why would they let the kids walk? Coaches walked too, I assured her, even though I didn’t know if that was true. Besides, my two best friends were going to do it too. That was all it took and boom, I was on the track team.
It only took one day of “try-outs” for the coaches to figure out that I was not a runner, rather a thrower, and I was placed with Coach Cormack (the shop teacher) on the “field” side of things. I was pissed off at first, because my skinny friends were all on running teams, meanwhile we had to hike down into the woods behind the stadium to get to the “pit” everyday. But, I made new friend’s, and once I got the techniques down, I ended up being pretty good at shot put and discus throwing. So good in fact, that by my freshman year the high school coach already knew about me, and tried to talk me into joining her state championship team. I freaked out though. At this point I remember my mom trying to get me to be on the team, and me fighting it. In hindsight, I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough to add value to the team, so I drug my feet a year. My sophomore year I threw, and made the varsity team, and racked up enough points to letter my first year out. Then my senior year I quit, never to be seen or heard from again. Wanted to go out on top, I guess. What a wanker I was.
So that’s it, I was a student athlete, all but my senior year, which was pretty blurry on account of all the parties and the weed, but I mean, not at all worth it. That’s what you asked wasn’t it?
When I was in fifth grade the cool thing to do was hit up the skating rink. I was a horrible skater. Like very, very bad. But I’d been to the skating rink for as long as I could remember. Leavenworth is a small town, only about 45,000 people or so. Which means on the weekends there isn’t much for kids to do. The teenagers worshipped The Wheel Thing which was the name of the local skating rink. Having an older, cool, teenage sister I was privy to TheWheel Thing well before it was appropriate for me to be, and by the time I was in fifth grade I spent every Friday night there with all the other pre-teens and teenagers.
The Wheel Thing opened up shop in 1970, and by 1986 had switched owners to Kay and Ron Beaman, who up until last year were the sole proprietors and the iconic pair who sold you tickets, picked out your skates, and made you a kick-ass Suicide from the soda machine. Ron even sometimes ran the mic for a limbo session in his rainbow suspenders and funny mustache.
I started going skating “by myself” (sans my older sister or mother sitting on one of the carpeted benches watching me) when I was in fifth grade, and I skated through most of middle school there too.
The Wheel Thing had a large half paved, half graveled parking lot. My mom would whip her old 1972 Dodge Cornett into the lot at dusk on Friday nights to drop me off. I would hop out, my head down, hoping no one would see me in that old beater. I’d sling my purple and white skates onto my shoulder, and race toward the double doors.
There was one entrance door and one exit door. Depending on when you got there on Friday evenings, there could either be a line out the entrance door, down the front steps, or just a few kids waiting inside the hot, stinky corridor between the outside doors and the inside doors. There was a small window on one side of the corridor where Kay would sell tickets. I don’t remember how much it was to skate on the weekends, but I do remember that my mom would give me a five dollar bill and that covered both my entrance, my speed skate rental (if I got really crazy and wanted to upgrade) and usually one soda for the whole night. Afterward I had to reuse the cup at the water fountain.
The corridor was the worse part of The Wheel Thing. If the line was long you had to wait in that small, smelly area, its carpet reeking with teenage sweat and dirty socks. A smell that only a skating rink offers. Not to mention the fact that the second set of doors were not glass, which meant you had no idea how many people were there, if your friends had made it yet, or if your crush had showed up. You had to wait, your skate laces digging into your shoulder, in that stinky, little room, wondering about all the fun that was going on inside. You could hear the muffled music. You could catch a glimpse of neon light under the cracks of the door, but it wasn’t until your turn to pay at the window, when you could crane your neck around to see who was in there. Usually I would spot my friend Melody, who seemed to live at The Wheel Thing, and my heart would jump up into my chest with relief.
The next few hours were always a blur. There would be couples skate, where you would hope a boy asked you to hold holds and slowly skate around the oval rink, your sweaty hands entwined, while older, much better skaters would skate like they were dancing, the boy even skating backwards. Then there was limbo, which always made me fall by the third round. There was that game where the cute DJ brought out the giant fuzzy dice and rolled them and you had to stand on a number until your number was rolled and you were eliminated. You always wanted to win that one because you got a free song dedication and a suicide at the snack bar!
On one of my birthdays, maybe my 12th or 13th, my friends told the cute DJ it was my birthday. For birthdays they would make all of you go out into the center of the rink and the whole place would sing happy birthday to you. They would scream it. I remember standing in the middle of a bunch of sweaty Virgos, my face red from sweat and embarrassment, my fingers pushed into my ears, and a smile across my face. It was the worst day ever, but also the best day ever.
As we got older, boys became more involved with our trips to The Wheel Thing. We would plan our outings with them at school, but not tell our mothers, who probably knew about our plans anyway. It was a way to “date” before you could actually “date.” To be fair, I did the least amount of Wheel Thing dating, I mainly just watched my friends run into the dark corners with their boyfriends and steal kisses. I was usually the look-out, until the one night I wasn’t. I was so nervous the whole time. My boyfriend and I snuck into the back corner, between two pinball machines. He was just as nervous as I was. It was a quick kiss, just to say we had done it, then I worried for hours whether or not I would have to marry him. I didn’t like him all that much.
At the end of the evening, one of the parent’s would pick us up. Usually Melody’s mom, in her Trans Am with the cool t-tops. We would pile into the backseat, our skates jammed at our feet on the floorboard, too many young, sweaty girls in the back. Melody’s mom would jam music, and we would hold our hands and arms out the open windows so the wind could blow our sweat, and our sins, away.
RIP The Wheel Thing, you are in a lot of fond memories.
I Googled my elementary school today. I’m not sure what made me do it. Maybe seeing all the back to school photos of friends’ kids. Maybe dropping my own child at his first day of his last year in elementary school. Maybe I’m feeling sad, nostalgic, old. Either way, I Googled the old girl and was surprised by what I didn’t remember about Anthony Elementary School, and what I did.
Anthony Elementary School in Leavenworth, Kansas was built in 1950*, funded in part, by a grant from the Ford Foundation. It was named after the Daniel Read Anthony family, who first came to Leavenworth from Massachusetts in 1854 with the first Emigrant Aid Company. The First Emigrant Aid Company was responsible for bringing Free State settlers to vote against Kansas becoming a slave state. Daniel R. Anthony may not be as well known outside of Leavenworth, where he was both a conductor of the local Underground Railroad and the owner of the Leavenworth Times (Kansas’ oldest newspaper) but his sister, Susan B. Anthony, might ring a bell. I knew none of this back then. I have a faint memory of learning about Susan B. Anthony and her family. I have an even fainter memory of connecting those dots in my head when I was maybe a second grader. I remember thinking she was pretty and strong. What I did know about my school was that it was a Title I, low-performing elementary school in the 1980s, smack dab in the middle of the “good” side of town and the “not good” side of town, and it brought a lot of different worlds together.
My mother walked me up to the front door of Anthony when I was a very tall five-year-old. Having a September birthday, I would turn six just two weeks after school started, always making me one of the oldest kids in my class. I would be nearly 19 when I graduated high school. But I wasn’t thinking about high school that day, I was thinking about not wrinkling my dress. I was wondering if my mother would stay with me all day. I was sliding around from sweaty feet in slick sandals.
My classroom was brightly colored. It housed a row of cubes where we’d put our Kleenex boxes and paint, wall hooks for backpacks and lunchboxes, and an upright piano. I didn’t have a lunchbox. I was a free-lunch kid. I didn’t know that on my first day of kindergarten, but by middle school this fact would push my head lower and lower down, everyday, as I moved through the hot food line. On my first day of kindergarten, however, my head was high, albeit full of anxiety. I smiled when Mrs. McKim, my very tall, very lovely teacher took my hand and showed me where my desk was. I followed her, looking back a few times to make sure my mom was still there. She was, standing with the other parents at the back of the classroom, much too close to the door for my liking. In my memory this is when things get jumbled, but my mom remembers it pretty clearly. I started to cry. And I didn’t stop crying for three days.
On day two, Mrs. McKim let my mom come inside the classroom again. They tried to console me, to introduce me to new friends, but I couldn’t see anyone through the tears clouding my vision. On day three, Mrs. McKim watched me walk into the classroom, and just when my mom was about to follow, she stopped her, and closed the classroom door. I panicked. I ran to the door to watch the scene unfold. My mother was crying outside the door, I was crying inside the door. Mrs. McKim, her hand on my mother’s shaking shoulder, told her it would be best to leave. Just leave me there, and walk away. I hated Mrs. McKim for this, for much longer than I should have. It wasn’t until my son went to preschool, and his teacher told me to go, while he screamed and groped for me and she held him back, that I realized what Mrs. McKim had done. And how important it was to do.
That day Mrs. McKim switched her tactic with me too. She let me sit at my desk and cry for an hour or so, then she pulled me aside and told me that I was disrupting the class and would have to go sit in the library, right across the hall, all by myself. A few minutes later I was all alone at a desk in the library. The librarian Mrs. Simmons, was busy walking around shelving books, big kids were coming in and out looking oddly at me. I sat, crying, until it felt like I had no more tears to cry. Then Mrs. Simmons walked in with two of my classmates, Robin and Pam. She walked up to my desk and introduced them both. She said they were girls in my class, and that made them my friends. Pam, whose sweet, chubby cheeks shined in the library light, asked me if I would be her friend. I said yes. Then Robin and Pam stood on each side of me and took me back to the classroom, hand in hand. I never cried again in kindergarten.
A few years ago my sweet friend Pam died. An undiagnosed medical condition, if I remember correctly. She never lost her sweetness, though. Not one ounce, even when we drifted apart years later. I can still see her chubby, rosy cheeks. I can still feel her hand in mine. I still remember her earnestness. Her need to be my friend. Her determination to make me feel safe.
It’s been a long time since I stepped foot inside Anthony Elementary School. An even longer time since I have felt that particular pain. The kind that sticks with you. The kind that shapes you. I may have went to a Title I, low-performing school in an economically diverse area of the Midwest, but I never felt underserved or overlooked. I felt lucky. I felt content. And today I am feeling thankful.
Thanks, Anthony Elementary School. For the teachers like Mrs. McKim, Mrs. Coughran, Mrs. Nixon and Mrs. Heim. Thanks for Mrs. Albright, and Mrs. Simmons, and Mrs. Parks. For Coach Hendee and Mr. Parks. Thanks for the lifelong friendships. Thanks for the blacktop and Oregon Trail. Thanks for the Halloween parades and the fifth grade talent show. Thanks for being a safe-haven, for a painfully shy little girl who is the woman she is today because of the foundation you gave her.
*It’s important to note that Anthony has been through a few renovations, including a major overhaul in 2010, and has survived in Leavenworth, where many of the other schools have been vacated, or turned into housing or commercial spaces. I’ve included a current picture below to show the progress.
I started walking to get Jackson from school this week. It is one mile there and one mile back if I take the “long route”. I take the long route because the long route involves a stoplight, whereas the shortcut involves waiting for a break in a busy state highway, in Atlanta, then running like mad across five lanes while you scream “Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!” So I prefer the stoplight.
So this week I walked the two miles every day. By day two I had already developed shin splint. By day three my whole body hurt like I was an active person. But by day four I felt okay. I track my walk with my Apple Watch and my Apple Watch, for usually being a little, whiny bitch, has actually been pretty helpful. Everyday I’d cut my time down by 30 seconds. And by day two, Jackson didn’t even mind the walking. By day four he told me he looked forward to it. Not only is it good, quality time with his mommy (heart swoon), but “walkers” get out ten minutes before “car riders”. Oh, yep. That’s the real reason.
Anyway, on Thursday I couldn’t shake this feeling that I was missing something. But I had my Apple Watch on, and my phone in my hand just in case. So what was it that I needed. Then I realized that I was missing 15 popsicle sticks.
I don’t know if you guys had to do this, or even remember it, but when I was in fifth grade in Kansas there was such a thing as The Presidential Fitness Test. It consisted of a bunch of bullshit, if you were to ask a chubby Little Missy, like the despised “Sit and Reach”, where Mr. Hendee, our beloved, normally very rational and nice P.E. teacher, taped a yard stick to a cardboard box and you had to sit with your legs straight against the box and reach out on the yard stick as far as you could. What was the purpose? Who fucking knows! But it was for sure something we had to do twice a year. Along with “Pull-Ups” which was just us hanging on a bar until our hands gave up. I always lasted about five seconds. Then there were push-ups and sit-ups with your friend sitting on your feet (my BFF LeeAnne was as heavy as a damn stick, and I would just lift her up every time I sat up. She was useless). Then there was the dreaded one-mile run.
The dreaded one-mile run took place in the “soccer field” which was just the bit of grass after the blacktop where the cool boys played soccer at recess. Mr. Hendee set up bright orange cones. Just two. And we had to run around them 16 times. That, as he had equated, was a mile. I dunno how far apart the cones had to be, you do the math.
How did you keep track of your laps? Great question. Every time you passed Mr. Hendee, he handed you a popsicle stick. So by the end of your run you had 15 popsicle sticks in your sweaty, little hands. I often, OFTEN, wondered if they were used popsicle sticks, but never asked. Did I really want to know?
Anyway, one time, on the night before the dreaded one-mile run, I had been playing outside with my friends well into the evening. The street lights had just come on when I heard my mom’s unmistakable whistle that meant it was time for me to come in. As I got on my bike, my foot got tangled up with my pedal and fell, my bike coming down hard on my ankle. Later that night, after some medicine, it was still a little swollen and tender to the touch but it was decided that I would survive. Nothing seemed broken. But just to be safe, my mom would write Mr. Hendee a note to tell him that I was not to run the next day. WHAAAAAA?! I had no idea you could do that! I was amazed with my mom and her powers.
The next day I went to school with very little pain and a normal sized ankle, and the note happily tucked into my backpack. When P.E. time came the pain “suddenly” came back to my ankle. I started limping for effect, and everyone was asking me what was wrong. Ankle. I said. Probably broken. I limped slowly up toward Mr. Hendee when we were still in the gym. He eyed me suspiciously. I handed him the note, then looked pathetically down at my ankle.
“Did your mom take you to the doctor,” he asked, folding the note back up and putting it in his shirt pocket. He always had shirts with pockets.
I shook my head no.
“Okay, he said. You can make it up next week. Let’s go class!”
My mouth sank. Whaaaaaa?! I thought I would be exempt from the whole run, but apparently this was not Mr. Hendee’s first rodeo.
I got to hand out the popsicle sticks that day. One after the other, to sweaty, unwashed, little hands. Then the next week I had to run by myself, around the gym, while everyone else was playing parachute. Hmpf. Ain’t that some shit?
So there you go. I learned my lesson. I never tried to get out of another mile run again. And all this week, going back and forth, the two miles everyday, nothing to hold in my sweaty, unwashed hands, I suddenly missed those damn popsicle sticks to keep me company.
Thanks Mr. Hendee. For calling me out on my bullshit. And for teaching me how to juggle scarves.
My second grade teacher Mrs. Parks was reading the whole class an Aesop Fable. I don’t remember which one it was. Maybe it was The Tortoise and the Hare or maybe it was The Boy Who Cried Wolf, I just remember that my entire second grade class was sitting crisscross applesauce in a sorta-circle under the blackboard. Yes, we had a blackboard. Actually, I think it was green, not black. We called it a chalkboard. We also had a music staff liner that we’d stuff with chalk to make lines on the board for handwriting practice. Yes, I’m real-chalkboard-in-the-classroom old. Anyway, there we were 20 or so eight-year-olds sitting sorta-circle on the linoleum floor in front of our ancient chalkboard, looking up eagerly at our teacher as she read from a large picture book. Before every turn of the page she would slowly turn the book around in one of those here-it-comes-kids sorta ways. This little game could go on for a long time. We never got tired of the excitement of seeing the beautiful illustrated pages. It’s like we craved the jitters that it gave us. It’s kind weird, I suppose. We were all just little Aesop Fables junkies. But I digress. The pertinent information here is that our small bodies would go from tense, to relaxed every minute or so, which is fine and dandy if you don’t have a track record of tooting in your pants.
There I was sitting between Stephanie, the girl with the two moms, and Billy the kid with diabetes, and they were poking at each other in front of me. I kept slapping at Billy’s hand when he would reach over me to poke Stephanie. Eventually Mrs. Parks noticed my dilemma and told them to stop, taking the burden off of me. But they didn’t, so she motioned for me to come sit next to her. This made me happy because I am forever a Teacher’s Pet. But, that also meant that I had to sit next to Dusty. Ugh. Dusty. He was a mess. He always had to sit next to Mrs. Parks because he couldn’t be trusted otherwise.
So I start to shuffle on my hands and knees to the spot in front of Mrs. Parks, when I feel a sneeze coming on. I tried to scuttle faster, but my classmates were everywhere making it hard for me to get to my spot, so instead I just kind of sheltered in place. I stopped in the middle of the sorta-circle and sat on my knees, leaned back a bit, and braced for the sneeze impact. And then I snarted.
Yeah, you’re not gonna find that word in the OED, but basically I sneeze/farted. Not to be confused with sharting. I didn’t shart. I let out a snart. And the whole class heard it. And Mrs. Parks stopped reading. And Billy stopped his poking. And the room fell silent. And Dusty yelled, “Melissa let out a bomber!” and the laughter came quicker than the snart had. My face got really hot. And my body got really hot. And my lunch started to bubble up in my throat, and I thought I might throw up chocolate milk and chili. The laughter was intense and Mrs. Parks kindly tried to get control of them, but it took a few moments. Meanwhile everyone was looking at me, sitting on my legs, in the middle of the sorta-circle. I didn’t know what to do. I panicked. I looked over at Shawn, the blonde kid next to me. We locked eyes for a split second and then I said, in a low, shaky voice, “It was Shawn.” Then more laughter as Dusty pointed at Shawn and said, “Shawn let out a bomber!” Then I hung my head and scooted back to my original spot. I deserved it. And Shawn never said a word about it.
So I guess I’m here to publicly say: I am sorry, Shawn. I’m a dirty, rat-bastard with bad gastro-intestinal issues that have plagued me since childhood and you were one of my victims. I wish I could have owned up to my snart, but you get it, man. Girls just can’t afford to be the bomber in second grade. We just can’t afford it.
In a quiet suburban home on a cul-de-sac, with a Subaru and a Honda Odyssey in the drive, seven girls cram into an upstairs guest bathroom. The walls are covered in a floral pattern, there are tooth brushes lining the sink, there is mold, unbeknownst to the home owners, growing beneath. Six of those girls jump into the bathtub and pull the shower curtain to hide their faces. They are shaking with nerves, but relieved they are not the girl who has to stand next to the light switch, for her role is much more dangerous. The girl by the light switch moves her hand slowly toward the switch and asks the group if they are ready. One girl squeals. One says she changed her mind and wants out. The others quickly grab her, pushing her deeper into the middle of Nike shorts and pink training bras, to be frozen at a later, undisclosed time. The bathroom goes dark. One girl channels some courage and she starts, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…
None of the girls know who Bloody Mary is. They’ve heard stories. Bloody Mary was a young girl who killed her parents. She was a teenager who lost a baby. She may or may not be Mary I, Queen of England, a matronly, forty-ish woman with stringy hair and zero fashion sense. Either way, Bloody Mary wants them. She needs them. She uses her fingernails to scratch their faces until they die. Bloody Mary wants, they think, to slowly kill them as to bathe in their virgin blood in the moon of a Saturday night.
Bloody Mary’s vengeful spirit only comes if you chant her name thirteen times. She only comes when summoned. And only pre-teen girls at a suburban slumber party can summon her. Only pre-teen suburban girls know that after the thirteenth time her name is said, red dots appear on the bathroom mirror. The dots mean she is with them. The dots mean they have done it.
Once, in my own bathroom, we summoned her. I reluctantly climbed into my own shower, pulled the curtain and watched my friends’ faces quickly disappear with a flip of the switch. Then, as if by intuition, we began to chant: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary… I thought about stopping it. I just knew it wouldn’t be true. I knew there would be no dots on the mirror, that the legend was a myth. One of my friends grabbed my sweaty hand. I tensed up.
The chanting speed leveled, but the excitement in our bodies raised our voices. We started to slowly rock back and forth, our bodies bumping in the tub, swaying back and forth with each Bloody and Mary. Maybe my mom would hear us and open the door. Maybe she would come in and save us, and say that this was ridiculous, and that there was no Bloody Mary, and that we needed to quiet down because it was nearly midnight. I listened for her footsteps, but the hallway was silent.
Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…
Feet inching toward the edge of the tub, hands to the shower curtain in anticipation. Sweaty hands and heads. Hot cotton candy, popcorn breathe sucked in hard. In just a moment we would be face to face with the frightening demon-woman who wanted to mutilate our faces in the name of her dead babies, or her Catholic sister, or her horrible parents. One more time and the truth would rise.
The light flipped on, the curtain splayed open, and there on the mirror, thirteen red dots of all shapes and sizes. We had released the deathly spirit! It took but three seconds for the gravity of the situation to set in. We sprang from the tub, feet over shins, shins over thighs, thighs pushing arms. One girl yelped in pain, another pulled herself over the threshold, as she’d been knocked to the floor. We ran down the hall, into the cool air of the open, well-lit living room. The words were nonsensical. There was crying. My mother stepped in the room, horror on her face, what had happened, who was hurt?!
Then, as quickly as she had come, she had left. Bloody Mary was gone, we had not a scratch on us. We knew because the girl who flipped the light switch, God bless her, had said so. We were safe. Bloody Mary had went on to torment the next house, in the next suburb, in the next cul-de-sac, in the next guest bathroom full of pre-teen girls, squirming and squealing in the anticipation of the summoning.
Today I was listening to Cory Booker, the U.S. Senator from New Jersey, who is one of 788 people campaiging for a Democratic presidential bid in 2020. For the most part he speaks with clarity, and he has a little of that Barack Obama confidence. Don’t misread this, he isn’t getting my vote in the primary, but I was trying to hear what he had to say. Then he said this, “When I was little my parents used to tell me to shoot for the moon, and even if I miss I would be high in the sky.” I cringed. First of all, that’s not the right quote. Did your parents just not know the right quote, or were you just trying to pull out some oft-recycled inspirational quote to end your speech and you stumbled a bit? I’m going with the latter, and that disturbs me for a lot of reasons, but none that are important enough to articulate here. I realized, however, that there were/are probably some people who shook their heads and said, “Yes, yes, Cory Booker! Fly high!” Both because they love him and because they too, believe in that sentiment, and more than likely find solace in inspirational quotes like that. We all do sometimes, right?
Then I started to think of the quotes that we rely on, and I started to wonder if there are good ones and bad ones. My short answer: Of course there are. So I have compiled a list of some that make me groan when I hear them and some that I live my life by. I am sure our lists are different, but this is my list. Let’s start first with Cory Booker’s favorite.
Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
Listen, I’m no scientist, but there seems to be a lot of logistics to consider with this one. Like, are you in a rocket ship? Or are you just jumping up really high? Cause, uh, gravity? I mean, I get what is trying to be conveyed here, and honestly people like it so much because the message is very clear: If you try, you won’t regret it. There certainly are a lot of ones like this one, and this just isn’t my favorite. It is important to note that I am from Kansas. Born and raised. And our state motto is: Ad astra per aspera (to the stars through difficulty). Which is sort of a different spin on exactly the same thing.
In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.
Nah, I have a ton more regrets than the things I didn’t do. Like that time I opened the wrong door at a house party and caught sight of a gay-man orgy. Men, y’all. Lots of them. If that is your thing, cool. I love you. But it isn’t my thing and I want to delete it from my memory, but you know what they say, “So much penis in one room, stays with you forever.” Just no. To this quote, unless you are a high school basketball coach with a losing record.
Every moment matters!
I’m going to politely disagree. Once when I was so sick with the stomach flu, that I couldn’t do anything but run to the toilet, I decided to meander into the kitchen. I made it as far as the kitchen sink, when suddenly I had to vomit. So I leaned over the sink and let it all out. At some point, as I was blowing stomach acid up through my esophagus, I realized that I was also shitting my pants. But you know, I couldn’t stop doing either. So, umm, me thinks not every moment matters.
She believed she could, so she did.
Biggest problem with this one is the pronoun. She can’t just believe it and then do it, there are way more steps for her. First, she has to push all the nonsense out of her brain from her childhood like (Girls can’t run and you should only want to be a mom or a princess). If she is able to do that, then she has to work three times harder than he does, then she gets trampled on repeatedly. She then has to reject unwanted advances that promise her success in exchange for sexual favors. Then she has to put her personal life on hold to completely give herself to the work in exchange for 80 cents on the dollar of what he is paid. Then she has to take breaks so she can have the babies, then she has to go at it all again, but this time she has to start back at the beginning again, only now she is also the one responsible for the house, the kids, and getting her career or passions back on track. Y’all, it’s exhausting. We need better quotes for our girls.
Don’t take life too seriously, you won’t make it out alive.
Really? That’s the best we got here? How about real conversations about mortality to curb some of the existential fucking dread some of us live day in and day out with. Also, if you don’t take life a little seriously you will die way before you should.
If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Incorrect. People refuse to do easy stuff everyday. People refuse to return their carts to the cart corral. People refuse to recycle, which y’all, is literally just ordering a second trash can to be placed next to your current trash can and then throwing some things in that one. It is learning the difference between blue and green trash cans. People refuse to learn the difference between their, there, and they’re. People hire someone to clean their baseboards. People don’t put coats on their kids when it is 30 degrees outside. People don’t just do things that are easy. They really, really have to want to do it and there usually has to be a motivation. Monetary motivation works the best.
Difficult roads, often lead to beautiful destinations.
Oh, okay, some of y’all never been to the Ozarks and it shows. Sometimes difficult roads lead to meth houses, with large, round burn marks in the lawn and tin foil on all the windows. Sometimes the pit bull hops the fence and chases your ass back up that difficult road. And since you can’t run, you have to just throw yourself back down the difficult road and roll. Tuck and roll, bitches. Sometimes you roll into the woods and the dog gives up. Sometimes you hit your head on a rock and wake up ten hours later at the hospital, where the doctor accuses you of trying to get “Oxytocin”, and turns you out on the street with a bandage on your head and a fresh rabies shot. Not all roads are that difficult, but they for sure are not all that beautiful either.
The best revenge is success.
The best revenge for who? Now listen, I am not a big fan of revenge. I am more a fan of forgiveness. But, there are some instances where a strongly-worded email will just not do it. But if someone says we can’t do something, and we do it just to avenge our names, have we put energy into something that we really didn’t need to, just in order to make the other person go, “Oh, hum, look at that. They could do it.” Cause honestly that is usually the response. No one cares, dude. You are not that important. That is like when I go, “Oh this person hates me! Waaaaa!” Chances are they don’t hate me. Because in order for someone to hate you, they have to care enough about you to form an opinion. Christ, get over yourself, Missy.
Go big or go home.
Going home, every single time, y’all. Every. Single. Time. I like home. Home is safe and if I go big people look at me and I don’t like people to look at me. Unless it is from a distant and I am in heels.
Who said life is fair?
I like this best when the generation before us asks us that. Like when our parents generation is all, “Who said life was fair, you damn millennials?!” I like it then because YOU SAID IT YOU ASSHOLES! You raised us this way! You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell us we can be and do anything we want, then when we quit law school to become an abstract artist you can’t be all, “Hey wait. You can’t do that!” YOU SAID WE COULD!
It’s not all bad, y’all. In fact, there are still some quotes that I live my life by. I’m sure some people could find fault with these, but that’s okay, they always have my back!
Snitches get stitches.
Don’t be dumb.
Just because you are offended, does not mean you are right.
Onward and upward.
Bigger the risk, bigger the reward.
I also live by the words of Joan Didion and the original Maria on Sesame Street.
I’ve been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I should really stop there. Save myself from the inevitable torment that comes every single time I recount the story. I get tense, and anxious. I can’t sleep. My body gets achy, like the flu is about to take over. Or maybe it’s just the ghost of Marie Laveau II, who still rightly frightens me. That’s what it is. I am afraid that if I delve into the past, and recount the events that transpired on those four sleepless nights at the end of February in 2011, the ghost of Marie Laveau II will come back into my life, spitting and shrieking, assuring me all the bad things will happen again. But here I am, acting against my better judgment, just like my time spent on the corner of Bourbon Street and Canal many moons ago. This story is so varied, so full of life, so mysterious and wonderful and dreadful and wrong, I would be a disservice to attempt to tell it all at once, so I won’t. I will tell the tale of my time at Mardi Gras in parts, and if you feel like hopping down this dangerous, but ultimately delightfully stinky rabbit hole, then read on. But it’s certainly at your own risk.
I honestly don’t remember how it started. I’m not sure if my friends, Melody and Kasey, suggested we go, or if my mother-in-law decided she would go and invite us along. Someone decided they would go to Mardi Gras that year, and invited the other. My MIL took the reins, being the only person in the group who had ever been to NOLA before. She cashed in some of her hotel points and got us a pimp view at the Crown Plaza Hotel on the corner of Bourbon and Canal Streets. Right in the heart of the French Quarter, a stone’s throw away from Old Man River, and smack dab in the middle of the Carnival action. I think her friend Peggy was supposed to come along, then couldn’t last minute, but my MIL had already secured Peggy’s PIMP minivan, so she decided to invite a few other ladies she knew from her home town. So my MIL (I won’t use her real name to protect the guilty), Janie, Tammie, Pasty-girl, and Titty Tina (I’m using aliases here for a couple of the girls for two reasons. 1. I don’t remember Pasty-girl’s name but she legit wore pasties on her nips one night, and 2. Nah, it’s really just number 1) all hopped in the van in Southeast Kansas and headed south. Mind you, none of these women had ever been to NOLA, and two of the five had never been outside Southeast Kansas (unless you count Joplin, MO and anywhere in Oklahoma, and I don’t.)
Kasey and Melody and I set out from my house in Branson, Missouri on the morning of February 24th. I guess someone watched my kid, cause yeah, I was the only one who had a kid-kid at the time. A toddler, and I would suppose that my husband took the time off work to stay home with him. What a saint that man is. We left on a Thursday, cause why not? We loaded up my VW Passat, which meant I was the only one who could drive, since I was the only one who could drive a manual. Really smart on my part. (I guess maybe I had the safest car of the lot. Eek!) I should take a minute to inform you all that I was 29 years old. So on the FAR, FAR end of the proper age to be going to Mardi Gras. Kasey was closest in age to me at a whopping 26, and Mel was, well, Mel was giving us the gift of her youth at 24. Which left me as the Mommy, Kasey as the annoying big sister, and Melody as the spoiled baby, as it were. Which is why when the first fight happened, somewhere in Arkansas, over whether or not Kasey should have included Dave Matthews Band on the mix cd, I jumped into “Mom” mode and never really recovered. Which made me, well, uncool, and also a bit out of sorts for the rest of the trip. More on that later.
My MIL left a bit before we did from Kansas, and the plan was to meet up somewhere near Memphis several hours later. Remember, she had a van full of women who had barely ventured outside of Kansas, with her being the only exception. She was in the military for many moons and is a worldly-traveler. Which is why it took so long to valet park the cars at the hotel. She had to explain over and over again that it was totally safe, that we would get Peggy’s PIMP van back, and that they needed to be “fast”, like storming the beaches of Normandy fast, and they should have money in hand to tip all the people helping us. They were confounded. It was painful to watch. But, whoa now, I am getting ahead of myself.
We ended up meeting on some sketch-ass back road along the Arkansas/Tennessee line. If you haven’t spent a lot of time on the Arkansas/Tennessee line, you should thank your lucky stars. It’s scary. This is where we were first introduced to the rag-tag team that came with MIL. We pulled into a gas station to see them all crawling out of Peggy’s van. As Melody, Kasey, and I approached the van, one of the doors slid open and a loud and robust woman said, “Y’all gonna show your titties?!” You guessed it, that was Tina. Then we met Tammie, who I already kinda, sorta knew, and then that one girl, then Janie, who looked like all of our grandmas, explained she had never been outside of Columbus, Kansas. Awesome! This is sort of where the regret started to set in.
After a quick stop we were back on the road. We decided to follow Peggy’s Sweet-ass van, since MIL knew where she was going. However, it wasn’t too long before MIL seemed to not know where she was going and Snoop Dogg (we programed my GPS to sound like Snoop Dogg) was all, “Hey Cuz, you missed your turn back there, ya dig?” And I was frantically calling MIL to tell her what Snoop had said. Meanwhile, the chatter in the van was so loud she couldn’t really hear me, and we kept on going that way. In the end it only added thirty minutes or so, but that was a LONG-ASS thirty minutes or so, Cuz.
Our next stop was at a Walmart right outside of NOLA. By this time we were in Creeper Louisiana and everyone we met asked if we were headed down to “M’gra”, I think. I didn’t understand a lot of what was said to me. Everyone seemed drunk and there was so much Mardi Gras merchandise that we lost all our senses. We loaded up gobs and gobs of 25 cent beads, and noise-makers, ribbon, t-shirts, masks, and King Cake. We left Walmart thinking we were prepared for all that was coming.
Below is a pic of the whole crew, minus me, the photographer, at the Walmart gas station somewhere along Lake Pontchartrain after a supercalifragilistically-long trip to a Walmart, where maybe some of the ladies saw Black people for the first time, I can’t be sure.
It wasn’t long before we were pulling up to the Crown Plaza on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. It was late, probably 10 pm or so, and we were dog-ass tired, but seeing the lights of the French Quarter and having eaten fifteen or so Blow Pops on the way, gave us a jolt of excitement that carried us through the next half hour or so of the “check-in” process. First there was the valet parking. If you have been to NOLA, to the French Quarter to be exact, and have stayed in a hotel you probably know that there is zero parking. You valet your car, then they take it to some undisclosed location and bring it to you whenever you call for it. This is the case for many big cities with limited parking, and you would know that if you had, say, every been to one of those big cities. My car was cool. We knew what to do. We hopped out to a barrage of people yelling orders, slipping tips into palms, drunk people barfing on the corner, men fighting, and cars honking. We took on thing at a time. We knew we had to get our bags to the bellhop, then hand over the keys, then get to our room, then we would be able to take it all in.
The occupants of Peggy’s Sweet-ass van, however, were totally numb to everything. They stood, wide-eyed, mouths agape, on the street taking it all in at that exact moment, as MIL unloaded the ENTIRE van and yelled at them to get their asses over there and help because we were holding up the valet line and people were pissed. Whew. Melody, Kasey, and I got our shit unloaded, our car sent away, our tips distributed, and quickly found ourselves inside this beautiful hotel with everything we needed except one bottle of purple nail polish that Mel had accidentally left in the back seat. No big deal. Right? Right.
After we all reconvened, they all had their eyes filled with enough sin, and MIL checked us in, we headed upstairs to our rooms. One of the first things I recall was standing outside our rooms (two doubles next door to each other) and we realized for the first time that we had to share our room with one of the occupants of Peggy’s Sweet-ass van. Our inclination, was to pick MIL, if we had the pick, because duh. But as we were waiting at our door for our keys, Janie walked over to us like she as rooming with us. Now, listen. Janie is a sweet woman. Totes someone who knows a lot, she’s smart, and kind. But I can’t beat around the bush here. She was way outta her league, and honestly she would have been appalled by some of the shit that we talked about. So we all stood politely and smiled at her, waiting for MIL to sort it out. Of which she did by yelling, “Janie, get your ass over here” and pointing to the room with the other girls. Whew. Crisis averted. So that left MIL, Kasey, Melody, and me in one room. And Janie, Tammie, Titty-Tina, and Pasty-Girl in the other.
Let me pause here and explain something. This all happened eight years ago. We are far enough removed from the events that transpired to look back with rose-colored glasses and laugh. But at the time, some of this felt very serious and very wrong and very scary and very amusing and very fun and very fucked up. But again, I am choosing rose-colored glasses and I hope the other ladies are too.
As I said before, this story has to be told in sections. So I think this is a great place to stop. We went out and explored that evening, as late as it was. Melody had her ear licked by a stranger, we drank HUGE ASS beers. We saw a couple having sex. We saw several people vomit. We met our first Voodoo Priestess. We walked with the crowd, as one does at Mardi Gras, as one big wave headed deeper and deeper into the French Quarter. And for all the grossness we encountered that night. For all the laughs we had. For all the beer we drank. It only went down from there. Even after we found out that Titty-Tina had an ex named Bitch Slap who was in town and was coming to find us. But that is best saved for another time.
Enjoy some pics from the first night of Mardi Gras in February, 2011.
Look it, I like dudes. Some more than others, to be sure. I like my husband a super, duper lot. I like my friends who are part of the male species. I like my son. But I also don’t like a lot of dudes. I won’t name them here but let’s just say, I have grievances. It started, probably, with my deadbeat dad and it has just matured over time. Time and situations. Situations and little moments. I’m turning 38 this year, and I swear to you every year closer I am to 40, the more angry I am. Is this normal? Doesn’t matter.
Today I am angry at some dudes and have decided to write a list of things that have been said to me, by dudes, in my lifetime, in no particular order. Things said to me either in person, over the phone, over text or email, or under their breath when they thought I couldn’t hear. Some were shouted in my general direction when I was with a group of girls, some were directed at me. Some I thought was sweet when they were said because I just didn’t understand at the time, and some made my stomach turn. Some I smiled through and some I turned and said, “What the fuck did you say to me?” Some, most, I simply ignored. This is not an exhaustive list and it does not include any physical abuse or sexual assaults that I have encountered, and I have encountered some. It’s strictly times boys or men have said gross things to me, times that I can remember with some clarity.
It’s gross and demeaning, and a lot sad and I am super fucking sick of it. These are all things said to me, at me. As a child, as a teenager, as a young woman, and as a married mommy. I know some women are harassed much more than me, and for that I am sorry. I am sorry that any of us have to go through this, but here we are.
I implore you girls, and ladies, and women, make your own list and see what creeps up from all the creeps. This helped me realize how jacked up the world treats us and it made me stronger knowing I lived through all this and continue to, and still have the desire to fight and march and smash the patriarchy in their stupid faces. Maybe if you make your own list it will help you too. Much love and solidarity, sisters.
A List of Gross Things Boys or Men Have Said to Me
You are so pretty when you smile
You don’t miss a meal do’ya?
If you won’t suck my dick, I’m leaving
Girls aren’t supposed to do “that” (insert whatever the fuck “that” is)
Women aren’t funny, stop trying to be
Want to see my cock?
Girls can’t run
Someday you will find a guy who likes tubby girls
You HAVE to kiss me
You won’t understand this kind of work
You should’t wear shirts that tight
Are you jealous because you friend is so much prettier?
Girls can’t write about that
Does she have to come too?
Girl sports aren’t real sports
Do you do blowjobs?
I didn’t invite you because I didn’t think you’d fit in the car with us
What size bra do you wear?
Fat girls aren’t sexy
You two should kiss each other and I’ll watch
You’re the queen of pimples
You just don’t fit the “image” we are trying to display
I’m the best you will get
My sister has an eating disorder and she lost weight, maybe you should try that?
She’s the cock-blocker
1st guy: She’s not my type. 2nd guy: She isn’t anyone’s type.
Just because you are a little smart, doesn’t mean you know anything. You’re a girl.
I love cards. All sorts of cards. Christmas cards, birthday cards, Valentine cards, cards for support, cards for friendship, congrats cards. I love to give cards. I like to send “I miss you” cards, I like to give thank you cards. Those are my favorite. Telling someone how much they mean or meant to you during a certain time in your life, how can you beat that? I like postcards from far-off places. I like postcards from super close places. My mother-in-law used to travel a lot for work, Hawaii, Alaska, Asia. We have post cards from places we have never been. Then there are the cards from places we have been, but were sent to just say hi. New Orleans, Memphis, California. I treasure them all the same. My husband, not much of a card guy, likes for me to give him handmade cards, because, well, “Why would you spend seven dollars, SEVEN DOLLARS, on a card?!” He does have a point. Homemade cards ARE pretty great. But in a pinch, store-bought cards work the same. Because it doesn’t matter so much what the card says, it is what the writer of the card felt, thought, and wrote that matters the most.
My love for cards wasn’t always there. In fact, when I was a kid I remember stripping the money from the card, or disappointingly shaking it to find stickers or stick of gum (who does that to a kid?!) then tossing them aside. My mother, a lover of cards, would say, “Now Missy, you have to read what they wrote.” But I didn’t care. Nowadays, I get so excited when an unexpected card arrives in my mailbox I will wait to open it. I will wait until I have a quiet time, with a quiet spot, so that I can dig into the words on the card. I’m a weirdo, we know this. But words. I like them, ya dig? My mother still sends cards to Jackson once a month. He strips the money out (she always sends him a couple dollars to add to his allowance) then tosses the card. “Read what she wrote,” I say, my mother’s unmistakable voice coming out of my own mouth.
We’re moving next month, and we have been packing. Going through old tubs marked “Memorabilia”. We have found our old high school year books. Our letters, not attached to jackets. Jerimiah’s prom pictures. My old awards (proof that there was once a time I excelled in math), and tubs of Jackson’s art work from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. And we’ve discovered cards. Lots of cards.
It pains me to say, but I’ve started throwing cards away. I have flashes of my son, grown, sitting in my attic going through my things after I’m gone and him finding cards from 1989. Or sugar packets. Or expired cans of tomato soup. (I don’t know, I’ve heard stories.) The point is, I don’t think he will appreciate the things I do, maybe I am wrong, but probably he will flip the card over and say, “Seven dollars for a card! That is ridiculous!”
I’ve found other kinds of cards in our tubs: Baseball cards. I remembered that I was a collector of baseball cards. I loved them. I started playing softball in 3rd grade and I played through high school. I played on co-ed leagues in my 20s. I love softball. Unfortunately, they don’t make softball cards, or didn’t when I was a kid, so I collected baseball cards. (Thought: See if they make softball cards now. How cool for little girls to collect cards of the college girls out there doing it?!)
My baseball card collection eventually went deeper. I started collecting all sorts of cards, the size of baseball cards. Maybe this was a thing when I was a kid. I remember falling out of favor with stickers around this time and picking up the old baseball card habit. My adorable, fuzzy, scented Rainbow Brite stickers, were replaced by the best Derrick Thomas cards, or Scottie Pippin (my heart swooned) or GASP! Casper the Friendly Ghost cards?! I even started collecting cards from popular music groups back in the day. You remember these cards? Super Star Cards they said. I had Paula Abdul and Debbie Gibson. I had Cheap Trick, and one time my sister tried to steal that one. Bitch. The weirdest collection I think I came upon in my tubs were the Desert Storm cards from Kaybee Toy Stores. Whew! Was that a flashback or what?
Of course, it isn’t the actual card that I remember. It is that moment in my life. Or the person who sent it. Or the emotion behind it that surges through me now. I know, for example, that the Desert Storm cards from KayBee came from a very specific KayBee in Lawton, Oklahoma. There wasn’t a KayBee in Leavenworth, but there was one in Lawton, and we went there frequently right around the start of Desert Storm because my sister and her husband were stationed at Ft. Sill. I remember the mall. I remember the store. I remember the feeling of pending war all around us. The stifled, humid summer air. I remember lunch at Taco Tico. And Prairie Dogs. And the swimming pool at their apartment complex. These cards bring up all of that.
Maybe I am not being fair to the cards. Maybe they deserve a spot in my scrapbooks or photo albums. Maybe some silly, little piece of card stock is just as important as a snapshot. But I fear they are only that important to me. My son, sifting through those attic boxes, won’t understand the excitement of unwrapping a Randy Johnson rookie card. He won’t scream with joy from unearthing a Raef LaFrentz Nuggets card. He won’t feel that particular anxiety rise up in his chest when he remembers Desert Storm, the night that Bernie Shaw came on our little colored television and said, “Something is happening outside…Peter Arnett, join me here. Let’s describe to our viewers what we’re seeing…The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated…We’re seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky…”
Because, after all, it isn’t the cards that matter. It’s the memories and they are mine, not his. Not yet.
Maybe I will save the cards after all. Maybe we all should.
Hey, y’all, let’s talk about butt stuff. I was listening to a new book the other day by a writer who I think is funny, and witty, and thought-provoking. I was just about to inch up in the car line at Jackson’s school when she started describing a sexual encounter that she had recently had that involved, you guessed it, butt stuff. So I did what any respectable mommy would do, I turned it up so the people in front of me could hear too, because people want to hear about butt stuff, they just don’t want to admit it. Now she was not so polite as to call it that, she had some other choice phrases for it, maybe “butthole licking” and what not, but I’m gonna stick with “butt stuff” as a general topic and I am going to go ahead and say now, I ain’t into butt stuff.
Now I know what you are thinking. This is one of those Doth Protest too Much instances. Like how Mike Pence “hates” homosexuals, or when I get drunk and tell everyone that women need to stop wearing low-cut shirts. Read: Pence enjoys being tea-bagged and I love a good low-cut shirt on a voluptuous lady. But I really don’t like butt stuff. However, I am not shaming those of you who do. You do you, BooBoo! You’re not alone. In fact, there are a million articles about how men and women both secretly like butt stuff, and of course my generation is to blame for it. Like we are all walking around tapping people not he shoulder and saying, “Psst, hey, let me stick this vibrator up your butt.” And then promising a trip to Applebee’s afterward.
There probably isn’t a trip to any once-popular dining establishment that would get me to do butt stuff, which is saying a lot as I once said, “There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for a waffle-dog from that place in Hell’s Kitchen.” But there is something I wouldn’t do, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing Meatloaf wouldn’t do, but maybe our reasoning is different. Here is mine: Poop comes from that place.
I know you know this. Or at least I hope you know this, but do you know that poop is there even when you don’t know poop is there? Follow me.
About 12 years ago I went to the doctor because I had some weird stuff happening in my butthole area. (Side-note: Jerimiah HATES when I say “butthole” as in talking about my ACTUAL FUCKING ANUS, but he’s totes fine if I am talking about the Butthole Surfers or calling our 10-year-old son a “butthole-io”. He just hates when I use the word to describe the actual place that poop comes from. Which is hella weird to me and so I do it whenever I can.)
So I set up an appointment with my doctor and her student that followed her around. This student was becoming a Physicians Assistant, and had been placed with my doctor for a year to shadow her. They were both lovely and sweet, until the day the student stuck her finger in my butthole.
It started with them asking about my symptoms. They nodded their heads and listened intently, then my doctor typed some stuff into the computer. She wasn’t one of those doctors who doesn’t make eye contact with you while you’re talking, she was always genuienly concerned while she listened, and she would wait until you were finished speaking to make her notes. But it was a little nerve-wracking to have two sets of eyes on you as you describe the various things that are coming from you.
As I finish up, the doctor decides that it was probably hemorrhoids and I’m like cool, what pill do I take for that? And she’s like, first we have to make sure. And I’m all cool, how do we make sure and she’s all, “Pull your pants down and roll over.” Hmmm. Maybe she said it in a nicer way, but that’s what I heard. Maybe, probably, there was a gown, and probably I had to get undressed in the quiet of the room while thoughts raced through my head like butt cancer and I should have just WebMd’d myself and does that window open?
But here is what I remember with clarity. I was on my side, profusely sweating, the white paper on the bed was sticking to me, I couldn’t move least I expose myself, and the doctor looked over at the student and asked her if she wanted to do it and the student said, “For sure!”
Right as I was about to ask, “Do what?” the student walked behind me, lifted up the gown onto my hips, spread my cheeks apart, and stuck her finger in my butthole.
Let me stop for a moment. In hindsight, I should have known what was about to happen. I mean, I went to the doctor complaining about butt pain. But I was young, 25-ish, and this was my first rodeo. And honestly I thought maybe the doc was going to wheel in an ultrasound machine and look into my stomach, or schedule me for some kind of procedure wherein I was put to sleep while they rooted around. This is to say, I was zero percent prepared for an actual exam to take place that day, at that moment. Even with these two fairly nice women who, thankfully, had small hands.
After the initial surprise, I wasn’t really sure where to look. I mean, I had visited this doctor countless times, she even did my annual exams, but I wasn’t used to looking her dead in the eye whilst someone had their finger in my butthole. When she had her fingers in my vagina, I usually looked up to the ceiling, but I couldn’t do that this time, because I was on my side. So I just closed my eyes. Then I worried that closing my eyes would somehow signify that this was a relaxing pose for me, which made me afraid that they would think I usually have a finger in my butthole.
Luckily the exam didn’t last very long. It was only a matter of seconds, less than a minute for sure, then she pulled her finger out and said, in a very excited tone may I add, “Ohh! Fecal matter!” I looked over my shoulder, along with the doctor, and there on the student’s finger was a bit of, well, fecal matter. She was very excited about this and I was very confused as I did not feel like I should have any fecal matter on deck at that time. In fact, I felt oddly cleaned out.
Then they explained that this was a happy moment, because they could send the fecal matter to the lab and run some tests on it. Then I remembered that time I had to chase my dog around with a ziplock bag to collect some of her fecal matter to have sent to a lab and I was like, holy actual shit, they are testing me for worms! Again, hindsight. They probably weren’t testing me for worms, but you know, I was distressed.
So I got dressed, the doctor and student came back in, and they explained that the student had felt nothing which means it probably wasn’t hemorrhoids and that they would send off my sample, and get back to me. A couple days later she called to tell me that there was nothing unusual and sometimes that just happens and to keep an eye on my BMs, but not to worry. I didn’t have butt cancer.
What did I learn? There is ALWAYS fecal matter in your butthole. Like, always. Even when you don’t think there is, someone, somewhere, can find some if they go deep enough. I know, I know I don’t have to connect the dots for you, well most of you, so let me just say this: The next time you and your consenting partner are fooling around and one of you is all, hmm, butt stuff sounds kinda fun. Please take the image of me, on my side, with a gloved finger in my butthole and a woman screaming, “Fecal matter!” into consideration.
There are very little jobs quite like working at a restaurant/bar. Maybe retail, maybe some kind of customer service, but to be fair you don’t usually have to deal with drunk people when you work at Old Navy. Then again, I myself have shopped at ON a little drunk on margaritas that were made too strong, on a Saturday afternoon at Applebee’s. Of course, that was back when Applebees was still the best place to go. But, I digress.
I started bussing tables at a country club when I was 17. Now look it. This was technically called a “Country Club”, but I’ve been in real Country Clubs in my adult life, and what the Leavenworth Country Club really was, really, was a beer join on a golf course. A sub-par 18-hole golf course, to say the least.
My best friend Rachel got me the job. She was serving, illegally, at 16 because her French grandmother had worked there for years and years, and also because it was a private establishment which means all sorts of illegal shit could go on and no one would say anything. And, uh yeah, all sorts of illegal shit went on there. Not just cooks smoking weed in the pantry, either. Members routinely cheated on there spouses in the women’s locker room, “straight” men met other “straight” men in the pool shack for a good time, teenagers snuck off to hole number 7 to do it doggy-style while they hoped the people in the houses that backed up to the course were peering out their windows. Don’t worry, they were. Lots of underage drinking. Lots of it. And that isn’t even scratching the surface. In fact, while we worked there, unbeknownst to us, the General Manager was embezzling so much money that the members were routinely called to be told they hadn’t made their monthly minimum or paid their dues, when in fact they had, but you know, he stole it all. Good times. Good times.
Rachel and I were just kids though, and we didn’t do too much in way of the illegal shit, besides of course the underage drinking part and the serving alcohol part (you are supposed to be 18 to serve) but that didn’t seem to matter to many people, even Jimmy V., our high school principal. He was a member at the club and he always smiled at us as we came though the door to the poker room with a double Jack and Coke in our hand. In fact, Rachel and I routinely let Jimmy V. behind the bar to make his own cup for the road on his way out. In return, whenever we had, uhh, failed to make it to class on time, we would stroll past his secretary and smile, waiving our tardy slip for him to see. “Hey Girlies,” he’d shout in his all encompassing, good-natured way, then motion for us to come on over to his desk so he could excuse whatever mess we had gotten into with our damn Home Ec teacher. “See ya Wednesday night!”
Ahh, the joys of learning reciprocity at such a young age!
Fast forward a couple of years and Rachel was the “official” Beer Cart Girl, a prize to be bestowed upon the prettiest, thinnest, blondest of us. The beer cart was just like it sounds. It was a golf kart that had been outfitted with more rugged tires, a little more power (as much as can go on an electric golf cart) and the back seats had been stripped and a large cooler put in it’s place. It’s as janky as it sounds. I mean, it wasn’t like an Igloo strapped to the bumper, but pretty much.
Rachel fit the bill quite nicely, though she would never dye her hair a more golden like advised. She did, however, enjoy wearing short shorts and low-cut polos and she was a natural at flirting with the 60-year-old men who could be found on hole one promptly at 8 am each day. Every once in awhile Judy, our boss, would let me go out with Rachel, particularly if we were hosting a golf tournament . These were the BEST days, and here is why.
The members never dealt in cash. All their transactions were recorded the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. (Until one glorious day when a computer was installed, that we all hated very much and promptly ignored it.) So every time a member came in from the course and had lunch, or bought rounds for their whole group, or came in for Friday night’s Surf-n-Turf buffet, it was recorded on a ticket and they squared up at the end of the month.
The wait staff worked with a tip pool, and each ticket had 10% added to the total to give to that tip pool. Like this: Family of four comes in for dinner. They spend $100. They end up paying $110 at the end of the month, and that extra $10 went to the tip pool. If Rachel and I were the only ones on the shift that night, that means Rachel and I would earn $5 each toward our paycheck that week, less taxes (and your boss stealing a portion of it to support his gambling addiction). Those 10% tips were on top of our hourly wage, which I think hovered around the $5/hour mark, but it could have easily been more. I don’t remember. But I do remember when I get my first serving gig outside of the LCC, my actual fucking mouth dropped at the hourly wage. It was $2.35/hour. Gross.
Non-members didn’t have a running tab, so they were either sponsored by a member and allowed to put anything they wanted on their tab, or the more routine way, they paid for everything in cash. So when non-members were there for a tournament, or a wedding, or a day at the pool, they had to actually tip us, and usually they would over-tip for cool points with their member friends (although, can you really ever “over-tip” a server) and they tipped us in cold, hard, cash. Whoohoo!
So, a normal tournament Saturday on the Beer Cart went like this:
Rachel and I roll into work together (because my broke-ass didn’t have a car, so she picked me up every day) about 8:00 am. We are half asleep and a little hungover and her grandma is already there and she has already clocked us in. Thanks, Grandma. We eat whatever she has ordered for us, or scavenged after the breakfast rush so that Connie, the mean ass “chef” didn’t see. Usually it was sausage gravy and biscuits. Mmmmm. Then we walk downstairs to load the cart.
The cart was kept outside, but behind a fence because no one wanted to offend any of the members by seeing a golf cart parked outside… Every night it had to be plugged in so that it was fully charged. This was normally the job of the maintenance dude, or one of the cooks when they took the trash out (just remembering right now that the cart doubled as the “trash cart”, which I am sure broke at least 15 health code violations). Most of the time the cooks were too high to remember to plug the cart in, so it was always a crapshoot about how much juice it would have. Most days it was about half, so we would plug it in as we loaded it.
Loading it was a bitch. You had to load up the whole cooler with beer and water and Gatorade and whatever else you think the golfers would want out there. This meant to have a wide variety of everything. The beer was all downstairs near the cart in a room we called “Beer Alley” (but maybe I just called it that in my head) because it was a long storage room with cases of beer stacked up. It was locked, but I feel like everyone had a fucking key, or there was a hidden key or something, cause how the hell else were we always down there drinking the beer?! Who had the damn keys?!
Anyway, Rachel would usually con one of the cooks to come down and help us load that bitch up (they were all in love with her) and then I would start dishing out buckets of ice to pour over everything. Let’s be real, Rachel was the valiant steed and I was the donkey. After we got the cart loaded down with ice and beer (by this time Grandma has yelled at us for at least 30 minutes that the people on the course “want their beer”, keep in mind it’s like 9:00 am at this point). So we load up, grab our “tickets” for purchases, our cash box (which really is just whatever fives or ones the GM can pull out of his pocket when I stick my head into his whiskey-soaked office and say, “Dan, fucking wake up, dude, we need cash”), and a drink for the road. It’s morning, so usually a vodka/OJ that Rachel made when Grandma was in the bathroom. She also made a drink for the cook who helped us, because reciprocity. (Read: he was the weird one and she wasn’t going into a linen closet with his ugly ass.) Because we always keep it classy.
Rachel would drive for the most part, mainly because it didn’t matter how many times I went out onto the course, I still never remembered where hole number one was, nor did I understand the actual fucking rules of driving on a golf course, of which there apparently are. We would plan to spend all afternoon on the course, which meant our first spot was hole number 7, the same hole that, at that point in my life, had seen more action than I had. Hole number 7 (again, it could be hole 13 or 29, I don’t really know) butted up against a row of houses with senior citizens swinging on adorable back porch swings. They would watch us slide to a stop, the ice and beer shifting in the back, rocking the whole cart a bit, and then slather ourselves in baby oil, or some other kind of “tanning lotion” that Rachel bought from the “tanning salon” that she took me to (that was actually in a two houses connected by a tunnel) so I didn’t look so “sick all the time”, and I ended up getting third-degree burns from. “Maybe you shouldn’t use a tanning bed” she said laughing as she was forced to slather aloe on my lobster arms. It was her mess, she needed to fix it.
Usually I would pass on the lotions and what not, and just stick a sweatshirt over my legs and pray that the sun was nice that day. It never was. By this point we had already downed our vodka/ojs in the foam cups, so one of two things either happened. Either we were smart enough to have hide a foam cup in the bottom in the cooler, or we would just start pounding beers, either way it was time for another drink as the first group of golfers rounded the hill and spotted us. “Son-of-a-bitch,” I’d mumble as the actual guests I was actually being paid to serve started toward us smiling and waving like madmen.
The first group would load up, because they saw that we were going the opposite direction. Two to three beers each, a water or gatorade, and they’d ask if we had peanuts or some crazy shit like that, and I’d look at them like they were from outer space. Rachel would try to be accommodating and explain that we had lunch ready for them after their round, or that they could put in order in for something and we would run and grab it for them, but really, do you actually see that we are a golf cart loaded down with actual beer and maybe you should plan ahead you pieces of steaming dog shit and also thank you for my $5 cash tip, you know what, I am going to see if I can drum up some airplane peanuts for you. Wink. Wink.
The entire time I sat, stone-faced and a little drunk in the cart and recorded the transaction. Then a man would hand her a $20, and I’d look at Rachel and say, as if neither of us didn’t already know, “We can’t break that.”
“Oh, no!” Rachel would smile and put her arm on his, “We don’t have enough to break a $20. If you give me your name I will run up and get change and find you at the next hole.”
“Oh gosh no, girls, don’t worry about it, you keep the rest!”
“Oh are you sure, it’s not a bother!” She’d laugh, as she slipped the $20 in her pocket and said, “Have a great game!” As we sped off. It went on like this, hole after hole.
Our halfway mark was the bathrooms at the end of the course, right next to the main thoroughfare in Leavenworth/Lansing, Highway 7. So many times I sat in the beer cart, Rachel taking a pee break, and looked out onto the cars whizzing by and yearned for it to be three o’clock. So many times I watched as people sped by, honking occasionally, and I wished I were free from this beer cart, free from this stupid job, free from this routine. I was afraid. I was in community college by then, having drank my way out of KU the year before. I was concerned my life was going nowhere. I was afraid this was life, for Rachel and for me. Honestly, it very well could have been.
At some point on the way back up the course, the beer cart battery would become critically low. We’d gamble a bit, hit a few more holes, make $30 more dollars or so, then head in around lunch time. Then, after the cart charged, we restocked, helped Grandma in the bar for a the lunch rush, ate lunch ourselves to stave off the drunkenness, and go back out with the afternoon groups and do it all again. And it went on like this for four years.
Looking back now, I don’t regret my time there. I learned so much about friendship, about people, about working and patience. About how to have a good time all the time, even when it seemed like you couldn’t. But mainly I learned these things:
How to open my throat to let the beer just slide right down
How to drink gin. Tanqueray only, I don’t fuck with Beefeaters
How easy it is to talk a drunk girl into making out with you
How hard it is to get vomit out of your clothes, so maybe don’t fuck with the drunk girls
That straight women LOVE gay men and sort of, kind of, want to do the sex with them, even though they are married and they absolutely know that the man is gay
How to properly call into work
How to make a realistic looking police report
How to decide if the situation calls for the actual police in a hurry, of if we can get by with a call to the non-emergency 911 number
How to put out a grease fire, tip: It’s not water
How to flirt with old, white men who were once my track and field coaches in order to get an actual, goddamn $2 tip
How to talk to people who think they have a ton of money, but in reality they live paycheck to paycheck like me, but they just have a lot more credit
How to smile politely when you want to actually set a goddamn fire to the whole motherfucking place
Honestly, the best thing I learned the from my time at the LCC, was that I didn’t want that to be my life. I didn’t want to be a beer cart girl or a pissed off server for the rest of my life, and believe me we had them there. I didn’t want Rachel to be one either. I also didn’t want to be one of those gross members who spat out their orders at us like we were their slaves, and I didn’t want to be married to one of those guys who spent his whole life on the golf course, flirting with young girls, hoping that maybe one of them would flirt back.
Luckily, I am very far away from that girl today. So is Rachel. Rachel is married to a man who does not golf (thank the baby Jesus) and he’s a pretty fucking solid dude. She is also a third grade teacher in the #1 school district in Kansas, and a semester away from her Masters in Education. She’s probably gonna be your kids’ principal soon, and guess what, she knows how to make the “bad” kids feel comfortable, she knows how to teach the “lower” kids how to learn, and she knows how to work in the crappiest of circumstances, so she will be fine. And I’m super, duper proud of her.
Every summer Rachel comes to visit me, wherever I am, and we sit on my back deck and we laugh about those days, those girls, and all the lessons we learned. And we hope and we pray our kids have better fucking sense than we did. I’m pretty sure they do. 🙂
Hey Rachel, thanks for letting me ride along all those times. I love you and miss you like crazy.
It is six o’clock in the evening on a Wednesday. I am sitting in a semi-circle staring blankly ahead, trying not to make eye contact with the man directly across from me who has an oxygen tank next to him and keeps talking about how he wishes he could step outside for a smoke. There are only five of us so far. I know this because every fourteen seconds or so I look around the room as if I am searching for a clock on the wall, but in reality I am using my peripheral vision to count heads. Is that meaty woman by the door lingering there because she is afraid to commit, or is the success story for the night. I do not count her just yet.
We are all sitting on hard plastic chairs that are intended for children. That are so small my thighs are spilling over the sides. I shift uncomfortably in the seat, and I just know this will give me a rash, or deep lines in my softness, at the least. We are in the dank, dim basement of church that, five days a week, doubles as a pre-k for tired Methodist mommies who just need a fucking break for three hours in the morning so they can Zumba, then hit Publix alone.
My foot is asleep.
The woman beside me is breathing so heavy that with each intake I brace myself for the warm, garlicky steam to waft toward me. I close my eyes to pretend that I am in one of those funny sitcoms where I look over at her and we make eye contact and I say something funny and she laughs. The laughter breaks the awkward silence in the room and then we all become super best friends, bound together by our inability to control our emotional eating and our desperate desire to hide behind jokes, because that is the only way we think people will love us.
We start to meet outside of our designated meeting times. We start to have potlucks with things like kale salad (because we are trying) and Diet Coke (because we are not trying that hard) and we only refer to each other by the nicknames that we created (my best friend is Wynonna because of her red hair, and I am Momma Naomi because I like to tell everyone what to do). We start referring to ourselves simply as group.
I open my eyes to see a skinny, pale blond woman lowering herself onto a large, comfy rolling chair. Why does the skinny bitch get the rolling chair? Ah, she’s the mentor.
Twenty minutes later I say the first words I have said all night, after the blond says, Missy, tell us about yourself.
I’m quiet for an actual minute because I have learned that if you are fat, and no one knows what you are capable of, you can be quiet for so long that the silence gets awkward and the conversation goes on without you in it. This doesn’t work with the blond, because as much as I want her to be just one of the other fat people’s caring sisters who has volunteered to come tell us about Weight Watchers, she is actually a real, goddamn therapist who has been hired to try to reach us. To get us. To help us with our self worth. She continues to silently smile at me, her piercing blue eyes locking onto mine. Because this isn’t my first rodeo with a therapist, and because this is not the first time I have tried desperately to get a skinny, pale, blond woman to like me, I cave.
Hi! (I sort of wave to the group that I have actively been avoiding for the last half hour). I’m Missy and I’m a bread-aholic.
I laugh trying to ease into it. A few chuckles come from around the room and I am hoping I can figure out, by the end of the allotted time, who it was that laughed, because those my people. Meanwhile, the blond loses her smile. She ain’t playin’.
Uh, I am married and have one son and a poodle who is kinda, sorta, well he’s a shithead, but I love him. The poodle, not the husband or son. But I mean, they are sort of all shitheads sometimes, you know?
More laughter. Her smile comes back. Okay, keep going Missy.
I am 37 and have always been overweight. I was the kid who was picked on in second grade for having a big round belly, and also because sometimes I would toot when I sneezed, but never owned up to it.
More laughter. She doesn’t laugh, but her smile broadens. She is starting to like me now. I feel safe for no reason whatsoever, except that probably these other fatties get what I am going through and I assure myself that I am not the saddest sack this blond therapist has ever seen, so I decide to go all in.
Obviously, I hide behind humor. My biggest problem really is bread. Carbs. Sugar. I eat when I am sad. When I am angry. When I am happy. I enjoy over-processed foods, but could tell you what I am supposed to be eating, what I should never allow into my body, and how important portion control is. I know how sugar releases dopamine in my brain. I know that too many carbs can cause inflammation in my joints. I know that people like me, who eat a lot of added sugar, are twice as likely to die of heart disease. I know I should not drink Diet Coke, but when I’ve had a shit day, that’s all I want to do. I exercise five days a week, but I know that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. I do not jump on fad bandwagons. I don’t Keto, or South Beach, or Slim Fast. I know those are not healthy, and unrealistic for the long run. I know, but I do not adhere to most of it.
The group sits with their mouths agape. Oxygen man turns up the dial on his machine. Heavy-breather coughs. Blond woman’s smile fades away. I decide this is probably a bad time to ask if there is a snack table somewhere.
By the end of the night I haven’t realized anything that I didn’t already know. I grew up on TV dinners and pre-packaged lunch meats because we were poor and those went a long way. I never learned to read the ingredients on the box. When I was a kid they didn’t even have to tell you what the hell was in the food you were eating. This aided in a whole generation of new fatties cropping up. McDonalds became a thing in the generation before mine. By the time I was born we had so many different fast food choices it would make your head spin. It does make your head spin, because mental confusion is a symptom of bad eating. I know. But like most things, slowly but surely food and the elevated importance of it in our emotional well-being took over and no one, no one stood up to say we have to stop.
But, I also know that at this point in my life it is no one’s fault by my own for still being overweight. I have been given all of the tools that I need to succeed. Anyone can now Google how to rid yourself of sugar, how to restart your cravings. I know people who do the Whole 30 every other damn month. And they do it because it is freaking hard to stick to it. It is freaking hard to retrain your brain. Hard to live everyday in a mental fog, wishing and hoping for just a little suckle off the old fructose bottle. Because we all want to be happy, right?
I’ve never been to an Overeaters Anonymous group, and court-ordered would be the only way I would go. Though I am having a hard time figuring out what would make a court order you to a place like that. Do I need to stab someone over a lack of cheese at Taco Bell? What if I lifted a case of Little Debbie Snack cakes from the Kroger down the street? But I suspect if I did go to one of those meetings, it would end up being a lot like the scenario above, because although I do not know yet how to get a handle my emotional cravings, I do know myself.
For now I will continue to dream of the day I can pick up a stalk of celery and it can emotionally fulfill me like that bag of pretzels. I will keep refusing Diet Coke for La Croix, keep buying that damn Halo Top instead of the Ben and Jerry’s that I really want. I will keep buying the damn caesar dressing made from yogurt, because even if all that is bad for me too, it is still a hell of a lot better than I used to do, even I though I will still eat chicken wings whenever I get the damn chance.
For those of you who are struggling with the weight. Struggling with the cravings and the bad choices and the lack of exercise and all of the things, remember that you are not alone. There is help out there if you need it or want it. There really are Overeaters Anonymous groups, and if group therapy works for you, DO IT! There are nutritionists (that your insurance will indeed pay for, you may just have to ask), and there are good, honest gyms, or workout groups, or just people to walk the block with a few times a week. There is therapy to deal with the real root of your overeating, because regardless of what you think, you are probably not just a lazy, slob who doesn’t have the time. There are things, mental and emotional things, that are stacked against you. You just have to be committed to finding what works for you. And remember, one step at a time. Sometimes, quite literally.
I’m always here to lend an ear or a smack on the hand if you need me.
There are probably some things you should know about my family, for those of you who are new here, and maybe for some of you who are old here, but who like to hear my crazy stories. So I took some time to tell you a bit about my husband, Jerimiah, and our son, Jackson. Let me first say there is much more to know about them, but these are some basics. I am actively trying to get Jerimiah to start a podcast with me called Peanut Butter and Petty (in which he is Peanut Butter and I am Petty, duh) and we discuss our lives and regular, everyday things so you could learn more about us because I know you want to know more about us, but you are too afraid to ask. He is in refusal mode, as it sits. I’m close though, y’all. Really close. I think Jerimiah’s hold up is that he thinks he isn’t as “funny” as I am, and that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. Meanwhile I’m like, two things: 1. No one will listen to that bitch except our friends Dave and Beth, your mom, my mom, and my sisters and 2. You give me too much credit and our “boring” life not enough. I really just want an excuse to drop $100 on one of those really fancy microphones so I can look cool in my videos, but that is neither here nor there.
So here we are. The first video is waaaaay off topic and the second one, though it may seem to be mostly about me (let’s be real, I am selfish and this whole thing is always about me) actually strives to give you a glimpse inside my son’s life. So enjoy! Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you. Ps… the three pictures below will only make sense after you watch the first video. Sorry, Jerimiah, but it had to be addressed. ❤
**UPDATE** Jerimiah replied to this blog post on my Facebook page with the following claims:
The shorts were Levi’s not JNCO, although I was known to sport a pair or two. See attached pic.
2. While I was the proselytizing Juggalo trying to get his Juggalette, I never owned a shirt, but did attend one concert.
3. My green on green combo was hard to beat, let’s be honest here.
4. While you might make 50% of the shots you take, you miss 100% of those you don’t take. Remember that. 😂
The story goes like this: My mother was the bartender at his favorite watering hole. He was married with three kids. They hooked up a few times, that led to a few more times, then more times, and eventually who could keep track. My mom loved him, and to hear her tell it, he loved her too, but you know, not enough to be with her. People knew about the affair. People at the bar knew. My mom’s friends knew, his friends knew, his wife knew, but still things kept going like that for years. I don’t know the specifics. I don’t know what he said when she told him she was pregnant with me, a 36-year-old, single mother of three knocked up with her married boyfriend’s baby in a small Catholic, midwestern town in the 1980s. I’m sure it didn’t go over well.
It’s tough to be the kid of a single mom. It’s tough to watch the father/daughter dances pass you by. To pretend that you are happy to make Father’s Day cards for your mother at school, after all, isn’t she my mom and my dad? It’s tough to see this man, the man who fathered me, day after day because my mom moved us into his neighborhood. It’s tough to watch your mother love someone so much, who just treats her like a pile of heaping trash (when he didn’t need her).
Then there is the stigma in the community. Adults knew who my father was. People mentioned his name to me on the street. In fact, I first learned his name from one of my mom’s friends. “Oh you know that old Ralph, your mom still loves him,” then laughter. I laughed too, even though I had no idea what or who I was laughing about.
Once when I was too young for my feet to touch the floorboard of the car, my mother drove me up to the IGA on 10th Avenue. It was a hot sticky day and we didn’t have air conditioning in the car so my skin was stuck to the seats and I was angry. Then, out of nowhere she points to a group of men working in the parking lot. They were all wearing construction hats and vests. One of the men, a tall, dark-haired man started walking over to our car.
“That’s your daddy,” my mom said. “That’s Ralph.”
For the first time in my life I remember getting a rush of excitement over the word “Daddy”. I had never heard it in relation to me before. I was the girl who didn’t have a daddy. As he made his slow, measured walk to our car I thought, for the first time, that my life was about to change. I thought this man, my daddy, was coming to us like he had promised. I thought we would do father and daughter things. That he would teach me to ride my bike, where my sister had failed, or teach me how catch a pop-fly. I thought we would go to the movies together on hot afternoons, and that we would eat around the dinner table like I had seem other families do. For the first time in my life, I was excited at the prospect of “Daddy”.
He made it to the car, as I was unsticking my legs from the seats and smoothing out my shirt. I wanted to look nice for him. He leaned into the car on my mother’s side, they said some things in a whisper, then he came to my side. He bent down, my face plastered with a huge smile, and he smiled back. He said, “Hi there, Missy.” And I thought my heart would explode. I was as happy as I had ever been.
That was the last time I would talk to my father, until the day after my 16th birthday when his name popped up on our caller id. I grabbed the phone and lurched into a tyraid. I called him a motherfucker. Cause he was. And an asshole. Cause he was. And a host of other names, ending with “Don’t ever call my house again, she doesn’t want to talk to you!” Only, I was wrong. She did still want to talk to him. Here they were all these years later, his kids long-since grown and out of the house with kids of their own, him still very married to his wife, and he was still calling her.
Well, to be fair, three out of four of his kids were grown and out of the house. His last kid was an angsty teenager with a bone to pick with him. But the time never came. In fact, I didn’t talk to him ever again. My mother did, to be sure. Years later, after his wife died, they hung out again. He was an old man by then, enjoying the solace of having lived a long life, surrounded by his kids and grandkids. Well, most of them.
My son was two years old when the man who fathered me died. My mother called me on the phone from 300 miles away. She told me that he died. I wasn’t sure what she was expecting from me. I’m not sure that she was expecting anything, possibly just informing me of his death, either way I said, “Hmm. That sucks.” Cause it did, for her.
For me, it was a relief. For me it was the end to having to worry about things. To having to make lists of things I wanted to say to him if I ever ran into him on the street. The end to ever having to wonder if he was proud of me, if he knew my accomplishments. Would he be happy to know that I am a grown woman with a wonderful husband who loves his child? Would he be happy to know that his grandson is gifted and enjoyed mathematics and technology? And is kind and humble? Would he be happy to know that I am smart? That I have earned a masters degree? That I strive to put the emotions and feelings of others before my own? Would he be happy to know that I turned out nothing like him, in spite of him?
It doesn’t matter anymore. Because for the first time in my life I have realized that the kind of man he was, the kind of man who lives a life of lies and deceit. The kind of man who fathers a child then runs from his responsibility, the kind of man that is exactly 50% to blame for all of it, but puts 100% of the blame and burden on his mistress, is not the kind of man that I care to impress any longer.
My mom used to whisper to me, “He is the one missing out, Missy,” and I never believed her. I always believed instead that I was missing something because I didn’t have a dad, but now I see that she was right. Now I see what I have accomplished in my life without him, and I am grateful for being the kid without a dad. Grateful for the lessons it taught me. For the conversations it provoked. I am grateful that I had someone in the back of my mind to do better than. If nothing else, I strive every day to be a better human than he was.
PS… I forgive you Ralph. You can rest in peace now.