Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving - Part one

After nearly five days of cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping, working, parenting, and socializing...I’m absolutely exhausted. I can’t remember ever being that busy during a Thanksgiving weekend before. Probably because the older I get, the more responsibility gets heaped upon my head. What I sometimes wouldn’t give to be a chubby 10 year old, sneaking pieces of ham out of the kitchen before dinner and stuffing them in my face behind the cover of Gone with the Wind, which was the only book large enough to sufficiently cover my indiscretions. There was, apparently, more than one reason that I read that sucker fifteen times.


Wednesday night I spent alone in the kitchen, awake till nearly midnight, perfecting my Italian Crème Cake. Mom was having another one of her strange vomiting episodes and had locked herself in the bedroom, Ray was out hunting, and my daughter and sister were spending the night in the city at The Grandmother’s. It should have, by all accounts, been a relaxing night, but I think my trip to the grocery store started it off on a sour note.

I used to hate going to the grocery store, but I realized that the reason for that wasn’t necessarily the place, but the person I went there with. My mom is a terrible shopper. She’ll spend hours upon hours wandering up and down every single aisle, sometimes more than once, even though she has a list of very specific items. We call it “scratching and sniffing” – she has to examine everything. Not only that, but like a willful toddler, the minute you turn your back she’s disappeared down another aisle and you’re left hunting for her until it’s time to check out.

Now I love going to the grocery store – provided I’m alone. But Wednesday night was another matter entirely. I’d been at the makeup store finalizing my jewelry party business and decided to pop over to the local Publix as I heard they had good sales on some of the things on my list. (Yes, I just typed that sentence. Alert the media: I’m a loser.) It was the night before Thanksgiving so of course I knew it would be busy, but I’d been up since 4:30 that morning and I simply wasn’t prepared for the adrenaline fueled Mario Kart experience.

Feeling rather lucky because I’d swiped a front row parking space, I sauntered through the sliding glass doors. There were only two carts left in the rack and after a stare down worthy of an old Clint Eastwood film, I ended up pushing the token noisy cart toward the bakery while a Mrs. Doubtfire look-a-like whooshed away to the opposite end with the coveted, silent Lincoln Town Car of grocery carts. Mine was completely lopsided and the wheels were all at funny angles. I walked slowly and it went “BANG, clack, BANG, clack, BANG, clack”. Then I walked faster just in case it made a difference. “BANG CLACK BANG CLACK BANG CLACK”. It didn’t – slow, it sounded like a metallic rocking chair; fast, it sounded like a moderately impressive fireworks display.

Despite the fact that the entire store could hear me coming long before they saw me, I still had to shove and shoulder my way through every aisle. What, at any other time, would have been a 10 minute trip turned into a 45 minute bloodbath. By the time I was down to the last item on my list I’d made three circles of the entire store because I wasn’t very familiar with its layout, shouted at four people, had my foot rolled over twice, and bumped the heels of an unsuspecting, yet entirely deserving, Mrs. Doubtfire.

I was looking for the blocks of Velveeta, but couldn’t find them anywhere. I’d been up and down every aisle and asked two employees - one directed me to aisle 10 and the other was either very dim or didn’t understand English. Finally, on the verge of a near meltdown, I saw a boy of about 16 coming out of the back with a cart of boxes. “You”, I shouted as I hurtled toward him in my busted cart. BANG CLACK BANG CLACK BANG CLACK. He looked like he might be about to piss himself, no doubt I looked crazed. “For the love of Christ, please TAKE me to the motherfucking Velveeta! If one more person sends me to aisle 10 again and I come up empty handed, I’m going to have a conniption!”

He edged his hip against his trolley of boxes, nudging it out of the aisle. “Y-yes ma’am”, he muttered and took off with his head down, with me hot on his heels. BANG CLACK BANG CLACK BANG CLACK. We were back on aisle 10 again and I could feel my neck turning red. Coming to a halt in front of the tiniest display of cheese known to man, on the very top shelf, he looked at me and said, “Here you go ma’am. What kind did you need?”

I glared at him, told him what I needed, he handed it over, and with a parting “thank you”, I began to walk away. “You’re welcome ma’a”, he started to call, but stopped when I whipped around and said, “STOP calling me that!” He went scurrying in the opposite direction and I, completely worn out and irritated with myself for behaving like a shrew, shuffled to the checkout.

While I was unloading my 20 or so items onto the conveyor belt, another teen came rocketing around the corner and started helping me, tossing my things toward the checker like it was a marathon race. They really want me out of here, I thought without amusement. As soon as the girl handed me the receipt, the blonde, floppy haired teenager took off with my cart. Bewildered, I hurried after him. BLANG CLACK BANG CLACK BANG CLACK. “Where are you going with my cart”, I shouted at him.

“I’m helping you to your car”, he shouted back over the din.

Irritated once again, I caught up and yanked the cart to a stop. “I don’t need help out! I only have five bags!”

“Are you sure”, he asked suspiciously, seeming reluctant to let go of the handle. What the hell is the problem here, I wondered. Do I look old and incapable? Have I a sign on my back that says “secret shopper – don’t piss me off"?

“I’m 25, not 50. I think I can handle it, thank you.”

He shrugged as if to say, Fine, have it your way, grouchy old lady, and with a wave and a sarcastic “have a Happy Thanksgiving ma’am!” he was gone. I ground my teeth together and stalked out the door. BANG CLACK BANG CLACK BANG CLACK. I hate being called ma’am by anyone over the age of seven, unless it’s done so in a funny sort of way.

Arriving home 45 minutes later, I immediately attacked the kitchen. Flour, powdered sugar, and dripping utensils littered every surface and the electric mixer was whirling, like my hips, to Shakira and other random “hot hits”. The mixer is one of those giant ones with a spinning bottom that requires nothing more than an occasional push when things get a little heavy and a swish round the edges. The longer I worked – separating eggs, measuring, hip shaking – the more exhausted I became. I blame that, and not the fact that I’m an occasional idiot, for the wooden spoon incident.

One minute I was running it along the edges, knocking the sugar and such back into the batter, and the next I let go of the handle, thinking, for some reason, that it wouldn’t get caught in the insanely fast moving mixing blades. But, of course, it did. With a huge bang and a lot of grinding it got sucked in and stopped the mixer. I screamed, tugging on the handle and trying to dislodge it, but the grinding only got louder. Then our mastiff puppy, Tank, started to howl because I was screaming. Being a complete genius, it took me another 20 seconds of tugging, screaming, and shouting at the dog to “fuck off” before I thought to unplug the damn thing.

The rest of the night was spent cleaning up huge piles of dishes, attempting to bang the kinks out of the bent mixer parts, and digging powered sugar out of my nostrils from my messy attempt at cream cheese frosting. It was not one of my best days, yet against all odds, the cake turned out brilliant. Sans sugary boogers, of course.

Thursday morning was a whirlwind – packing things to take to the city, getting ready, and finally arriving at 11am to find The Grandmother bitching about the amount of work Thanksgiving meant for her. I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the kitchen, ignoring her as much as possible and sneaking pieces of food off the platters. I was not feeling at all thankful by the time we sat down to dinner two and a half hours later.

Dinner at The Grandmother’s is a great deal more formal than at my Papa’s, which we had to be at by 5:30 that evening. At TG’s the good china and silver get laid out, there are flowers on the table, and everyone has an assigned place. Over the years I’ve managed to bully my way into having a seat at either the head or the foot of the table, mostly by complaints of being left handed. That means that I not only have more elbow room that everyone else, but I can also get out quickly and to the last of the dressing before anyone else, which is crucial.

Though the atmosphere tends to be more staid and the conversation tends to lean more toward the political, I can usually point it in a cruder direction. But with my Aunt Donna bursting into tears because she’s off her meds again, my Uncle Bruce lecturing my 18 year old sister on decorum, mom still suffering from her night of stress induced vomiting, and my Aunt Christie off to New York with her boy wonder, there was no one to laugh with me and I just didn’t feel up to it. I didn’t even say the word “vagina” once, which is simply unheard of.

Unusual too, there was only one shouting match. Everyone was eating dessert, except for me because I was stuffed to the gills with dressing, when mom said, “Do you want to go help The Grandmother clean up the kitchen or do you want me to do it?”

She laid out the bait and waited to see if I’d take it. Rather than go for the whole bite, I just nibbled a bit. “Well, I know what you’d like me to say”, I replied sleepily, stretching out further on the couch.

While everyone else laughed she glared at me, then shoved herself out of the chair and stalked to the kitchen. Even though I knew I’d likely pay for it later, I was so tired from cooking and cleaning already that I couldn’t bear to get up.

Unfortunately a short time later she conveniently forgot our previous conversation and came stomping back in, appearing to address the room at large, but most definitely directing it toward me. “Are any of you going to come in here and help her wash these dishes”, she shouted. The men looked at each other, confused. Surely she wasn't speaking to them? Aunt Donna stared off into space and my sister and I stared at each other, both urging the other to go without a word.

Mom started shouting some more and, grumbling, I shoved myself off the couch and plodded to the kitchen. “Isn’t fucking fair, I’ve been slaving away all last night and this morning and what have you done. Shit, that’s what.”

Not really addressing her, but definitely getting the point across that I was grumbling about her, mom started shouting even louder. We yelled at each other across the kitchen while The Grandmother flapped her towel in the air and tried to outdo us with cries of, “Honestly!” And, “You shoo on out of here! Girls! Girls!”

In the end I washed all 70 million of the dishes, stubbornly refusing to put a single fork in the dishwasher and relishing every muscle ache, sighing loudly every few minutes in martyrdom. I barked orders at my sister and once all was finished, The Grandmother praised my help but not my temper. “Patience is golden”, she said to me, as she always does.

“I’m more of a rusty bronze”, I replied, as I usually do.

But the day wasn’t yet over. I still had one more family and one more dinner to attend to. I was relatively sure, however, that there wouldn’t be any cleaning involved and for that I was infinitely grateful.

Still, a family gathering of alcoholics, foreigners, drug addicts fresh out of rehab, and shamed whore cousins was bound to turn up some kind of drama. Surely?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It was a beautiful summer afternoon and I was sitting in my usual spot – draped across two chairs on the screened-in porch with a book in my lap. Mom was frantically running around getting ready for a date my godmother, and next door neighbor, set her up on. Every few minutes she would stand in front of me, demanding my attention and opinion on the latest outfit change. After the fifth or so interruption I was ready to let her have it, but I thought better of it and held my tongue – she’s very sensitive and I knew that, after her last failed relationship, she was more fragile than usual.

While I cannot sympathize with her decision to stay with an abusive husband for 25 years, I can appreciate how hard it must have been to rejoin the dating world after a soul sucking divorce. And just to add insult to injury, the first man she dated was a complete and utter lunatic. If she ever liked anything about him, beyond the attention, I would rather not know about it.

My father was a difficult man to live with and an even harder man to love. I know what it’s like to love him, to hate him, to crave his attention, to wish him dead – and I’m only his daughter. When I ask myself how she could care for the man, the only answer I can come up with is that I should take my feelings and amplify them times 10 – but that’s really not an answer at all and I know I’ll never completely understand.

So instead of yelling at her to “stop bothering me, I’m reading”, I helped choose her outfit, jewelry, and makeup. I complimented her on her shoes and straightened her hair. I’d done those things for her often enough (sometimes I feel more like her stylist than her daughter), but that afternoon I was nicer about it. I didn’t sigh every time she asked me a question and I didn’t yank her hair and demand she hold still. Instead I asked about their plans and assured her she’d have a good time.

When her date arrived she brought him to the porch for introductions. While mom went inside to finish up, he sat down at the table. My cousin, sister and I grilled him like a cheese sandwich. After the last guy caused such an unwelcome stir I was determined to weed out any psychotic tendencies right away. I was in complete obnoxious mode, but he just sat there smiling, laughing, and taking it all in.

He was a big bear of a guy with a casual smile and demeanor. He talked fishing with my cousin, laughed at my jokes, however inappropriate, and when mom returned he seemed content to stay and chat. They ended up leaving an hour later and I remember saying to the others, “I think I like that guy.” His name was Ray.

Over the next few weeks they went out constantly – we rarely saw her at all. He played in a pool tournament every Tuesday night and she started accompanying him. On the weekends they went to dinner, movies, and parties with his friends. It was a big deal, a huge change from the way her life had been – stuck waiting at home wondering where her husband was, never allowed to do much of anything, not being able to keep friends because of the way he behaved. She was having fun and we were happy for her.

My godmother had known Ray for a long time. He was a quiet guy, never volunteering much about himself, so we gathered our information from her. He’d been in a long relationship with a woman, I think about four years, and they lived together. She cheated and he left her. When he started dating mom he’d been single for a year or so. After leaving his previous girlfriend, his father started having health problems so he moved in with him to help out.

By the time he and mom were a thing, he was ready to move out of his dad’s house again. My godmom was newly divorced and renting the house next door. She needed a roommate and thinking it would be pretty cool to have mom’s boyfriend living so close but not living-in, she asked Ray. He said yes.

Over the next several months it was chaos. Ray couldn’t stand having to share the TV with my godmom’s preteen daughter, and vice versa, so we sometimes found him passed out in front of our TV with the remote clutched in his hand. Football, fishing, hunting, racing, and repo shows – that was Ray’s standard fare.

He wouldn’t sleep over, unless it was on the living room floor, so mom spent a lot of nights next door with him. That suited us just fine as she had the most comfortable bed in the house and we would take turns taking it over while she was gone. He ate with us, he went to Sunday dinner at Grandma’s with us, and he started attending my sister’s cheerleading functions.

After one too many mornings of tripping over his bulk on the way to the bathroom, I finally shouted at him, “No one cares if you sleep in her bed, Ray! For the love of god!” He officially moved in shortly after that.

It was anticlimactic, as most things with Ray are. One day he was sleeping on the floor, the next we were clearing out drawer and closet space, and instead of sports programs being on only in the late evenings, they were on constantly. There wasn’t really a period of adjustment – he just fit right in with our odd, all female, group.

The fights between my mother and I are legendary, especially in relation to the raising of my daughter. One of our biggest issues is that she undermines my authority - undoing any disciplinary action I’ve taken, whispering remarks in the kid’s ear and mocking me to make her laugh, allowing her to do things I wouldn’t normally. When Ray came along, I finally had an ally. He was usually quiet, but whenever he saw mom pulling her shenanigans, he called her down. And though she would never listen to what I had to say, she certainly listened to him. It was brilliant, and though we still have a way to go, I can honestly say things have gotten better because of his support and occasional interference.

He would sit on the couch wearing his standard evening fare – tube socks pulled up as far as they could go, grey sweat shorts, and a Clemson t-shirt – while we screamed at each other across the bar. Without pausing in his patting of my cat Nugget, who’d switched loyalties and became Ray’s most adoring follower, he would shout, “That’s enough!” Then, “Alright, this is the way I see it...” and using his hand palm out like a flight attendant, he’d point at each of us in turn and say who was right, who was wrong, and to what degree. Often mom and I would find ourselves so amused by his simple breakdown of our longest, most trying battles that we’d simply give up and laugh.

He and I bonded long before he and my sister did. We were the ones snickering in a corner at family dinners and making jokes about the men at the recycling center. We’d stand, shoulder to shoulder, in the kitchen and peer into a pot of mom’s latest concoction, look at each other with half smiles and raised eyebrows, saying “huh uh, I’m not eating that” without uttering a word. He’d watch my TV shows, complaining for the first few minutes then forget that he wasn’t supposed to like them and start firing questions – “Who is that? What’s she doing?” In turn, he got me addicted to football in a way I’ve never been – to the point of actually knowing the name of a play or what a flag was thrown for before it was announced. He became my friend.

I can’t pinpoint when he became more like a dad. Maybe it was seeing him wear the parent’s t-shirts to support the cheerleading squad and my sister every single weekend during competition season, showing up to every football game and sports banquet. Maybe it was hearing him shout “Hey Hanny” every time Hannah and I walked in the door in the evenings and watching him help her with her homework. Maybe it was hearing him sing his made up song every morning to wake us up when our alarm clocks wouldn’t (“Everybody! Everybody! Everybody in the house get up!”). Or maybe it was when, after being gone for a week to Oklahoma, my sister and I returned well after midnight and crawled into the bed with him, each of us settling into the crook of an arm. And it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

But of course, like any other family member, there are days when I want to throttle him. Days when he’s eaten the last of the cookies or drunk all the Pepsi, days when we fight over control of the remote because we want to watch our reality shows and he wants to watch the fishing channel, days when he can’t pick up on my bad mood and teases me past the point of sanity, days when he is so stubborn and opinionated and such a...southern man...that I can’t stand to be in the same room with him.

Yet all those things I listed make me smile, because honestly, when I look at the big picture, having a dad that irritates me and hogs the remote is a great deal easier than having one that’s an alcoholic and a borderline sociopath. I will always love my father, but the majority of the reason I do so is, sadly, because I have to...because it’s what my blood dictates. Loving Ray hasn’t just been easier, it’s been healing.

For the past year, of the two Ray and Mom have been dating, everyone kept asking me when they were getting married. I’d asked both of them that question myself, together and separate. Together their answer was, “We’re not”, or a joking, “When the other one asks me”. Separate, their answers were more definitive. Mom definitely wanted him to ask and he seemed scared to death of the idea. While mom had been married for over 20 years, Ray had never been. (He’s actually 34 to her 44, which I’m sure made a difference.) The only answer I could ever give people was, “I have no idea. Maybe they won’t.”

Then, just two weekends ago, they went on a trip to the mountains in Tennessee. They came home that Sunday afternoon laden down with gifts from the outlet stores and restaurant reviews (which, as far as our family is concerned, is the most crucial aspect of any vacation story). Hannah and I sat on the couches pawing through our bags of goodies and waiting on my sister to return from cheerleading practice so we could paw through hers too.

When she got home Ray told us that he’d bought us both Christmas presents and if we wanted, we could have them early. He was visibly excited, while mom was visibly exasperated. Apparently she’d tried to rein him in, make him wait until the holidays, but he simply couldn’t help himself. It was endearing.

“Is it electronic”, I asked.

“No. Why”, he said.

“Because if I open it, it has to be something I’ll want to use a lot between now and Christmas. Otherwise, I’d rather wait.”

He laughed. “No, it’s not electronic.”

“Can I wear it?”

“Alyson”, mom shouted in reproach.

Ignoring her, I soldiered on. “Is it black or brown?”

“Why only black or brown? It could be purple”, mom replied.

“Nope. I have a feeling it’s one of the two.”

“Do you want it or not”, Ray asked, avoiding all of my probing questions.


He brought them out one at a time, grinning from ear to ear. And they were, of course, Coach bags. Beautiful brown Coach bags (though mine is bigger and more beautiful than my sisters. Ha!).

But while we were oohing and aahing over every zipper and compartment, mom left the room unnoticed. It wasn’t until they were both standing in front of us and Ray said, “And look what I got your mother”, that we looked up.

Expecting to be outraged by a handbag larger than my own, my jaw dropped. She held out her left hand and wiggled her sparkling finger. For a minute there was silence – then utter chaos. My sister and I vaulted off the couch and rushed not mom, but Ray, hugging him and shrieking our delight. I was completely out of the blue and it was clear that though they didn’t expect tears, they weren’t expecting such a powerful response either.

The past two weeks have been full of excitement – telling everyone about the engagement and talking about wedding plans. Mom never had an actual wedding so even though it won’t be a lavish affair, it definitely won’t be another trip to the courthouse.

It didn’t occur to me until just the other day, though, that after it’s a done deal things might change. Will they move? Will Ray act differently? Will mom? I haven’t asked them about their long term plans yet and, even if I did, I doubt they’d be able to give me an answer.

I’m hoping he still plays a large part in my day to day life and if they move, they don’t move far. Because I’ve gotten used to shouting “Hey diddy” when I walk in the door, arguing over who is going to eat the last taco, and getting bear hugs at the most random, yet always appropriate times. I’ve gotten used to trips without drama, fights without bruises, and dinners with more laughter. I’ve gotten used to having the kind of family, and the kind of dad, I always wanted.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I don't think, therefore I fuck up.

I rarely mull things over before taking action. Some call it spontaneity, some call it stupidity and some, like my father, get colorful and call it “getting a wild hair up your ass”.

The phrase “you don’t think” was shouted at me more times as a kid than I can count. It covered a wide range of misdemeanors, including but not limited to the time I – threw our poodle out the window, ran into the heating and air system with the four wheeler, wrote “I hate dad” (except I used his full name) 100 times instead of the allotted punishment of “I will think before opening my mouth”, coerced the neighbor’s children into eating chewy cat treats, and snuck out of my bedroom window with the family dachshund.

In my early 20’s I did appalling, dangerous things, mostly to do with sex and/or alcohol. Now I might not go home with a man covered in tattoos, including one shaped like a postage stamp that says “TRAMP”, named George that I said five words to at the bar (I believe they were, “your dick better be huge”) anymore. But I will, apparently, still do a lot of things without thinking about the end results first. The majority of them are just little things, but they serve the purpose of showing me that, even though I’m now mostly old and lame, I’m still essentially the same irresponsible person.

For instance – I decided last week that I was going to sell jewelry, host a book party and take orders to help out a friend that’s doing it on the side. (Selling jewelry I mean, not sex. Though if she were, I wouldn’t judge. This economy is a bitch.)

First of all, I’m terrible at sales. “You’d better buy something or I’ll karate chop you in the vagina” aren’t the words of a person that does well in retail situations. And if someone chooses not to purchase something even after that eloquent, empty threat of a sales pitch, the parting words aren’t much better – “I hate your face”.

Then I suddenly decided that instead of just getting book orders, I’d have an actual party. Ostensibly this was because I would get more orders that way, but once I started moving forward with the plans I thought, “Why the fuck did I say I’d do that?” It had completely slipped my mind when I said, “I’ll have a jewelry party”, that I’d actually have to, you know, go through with it. I’d have to send out invitations, make phone calls, make food, clean the house more so than usual, and sit in a room full of old ladies.

I don’t like old ladies and I don’t like cleaning. Actually, one of the most common questions I’m asked by family and friends is, “What do you like?” Or they simply state, “You don’t like anything.” I have a reputation for being rather cranky. I digress.

I couldn’t back out because I already had two book orders and my friend really needed the show. So Monday night I sent out my “invitations” – also known as a mass text message basically saying, “please come, there will be food”. Once they show up, I figure I can manipulate them into buying some damn earrings or something. However, the people that I know are attending are such a diverse group that I’ll likely be running interference the entire time. All I need is for my boss to walk up on a conversation like this: “You know she’s always talking to her about her vagina.”


“Yes! And she said that sometimes she doesn’t make it to the bath...Oh...hello...”

Another good example is how I ended up agreeing to sing in a Christmas program at a church I don’t attend. I was standing in a group of people, minding my own business, when a doctor that works with my mother (who also happens to be my daughter’s pediatrician and a lovely woman) asked me about my years in the high school chorus.

“Your mother told me you used to sing with Ms. G, is that right?”

“Yes”, I replied with a smile.

“Well we’re having a Christmas Cantata and we’d love to have you be a part of it! You’re a soprano right? First or second?”

Gone was the real smile and in its place the panicked fake, a cross between wild eyed hysteria and a sudden stomach pain that means its deuce time. “Erm...yeah. First...or I used to be. It’s been a long time.”

“Oh, but you never forget those competitions! They were so much fun! There are a lot of us that took Chorus in school so we just love being in choir, gives us that old feeling.”

“Uh huh....” People don’t forget! .....

“So we meet every Wednesday night at 7 and some Sunday nights...”

“Sounds like fun”, I said too loudly.

“I can’t wait to see you there! Bring your mother.”

“Ooook! I’ll be there!” Wait...what? Tourettes! Tourettes!

And that’s how my mother ended up bringing home a CD sent by the Doc for me to practice with before the first rehearsal.

That was the first week in November. I haven’t made it to one practice yet, nor have I even attempted to listen to the CD. If I would have actually taken a moment to think about my answers before croaking out some bullshit, I wouldn’t be put in the position of looking like an asshole for not turning up. Or looking like an asshole when I eventually cave, listen to the CD, stand in front of a church full of people, and squeal in a choir robe, reeking of Saturday night’s beer blitz.

However, everyone has their limit. I can’t go on being irresponsible forever, can I? And after last weekend’s incident, thinking before I act, or agree to things, may just become my new favorite pastime.

My mom and her boyfriend left to go to the mountains and I immediately said to myself, “I’m going to have a party!” Then I enlisted my friend and neighbor, Claire, to help me invite the usual crowd.

I’d forgotten a couple of key elements when I decided to throw a party at my house that Saturday night:

1. Both Carolina and Clemson were playing and both games were critical.

2. Claire is overzealous when it comes to football. This is an understatement.

3. People get drunk at parties.

4. The usual crowd is quite large. My house is not.

At 6:30 Rachel, my sister and I arrived back at the house with a handle of Jim Beam, two cases of beer, and an extra pack of cigarettes. Claire came walking in a few minutes later with her insanely hyper Weimaraner in tow, decked out in her Clemson finest, and immediately flipped the TV to football.

Things started out fine – a few more people showed up within the next hour and we were all just hanging out and drinking a few beers. We made plans to play a game of Things when more people arrived.

Then it all started to go downhill rather quickly – Claire broke out the liquor, Claire took shots of liquor, more people showed up, Claire took more shots of liquor, Rachel hid, my sister curled up on the couch with some boy I thought was a deaf/mute, Claire coerced other people into taking shots, still more people showed up, someone kept making really loud jokes about “snatch”, and I...I was close to having an anxiety attack.

Before Clemson even made it to half time, I couldn’t hear myself think it was so loud in there. Rachel had forced herself into a tiny ball in the corner of one couch, one girl was puking in the bathroom, Claire had the remote shoved down her pants so no one could flip to the Carolina game to check the score, and someone had smoked all my cigarettes.

I’d only had two beers and I made myself drink those. I was too anxious to have fun at my own party. I stood on the perimeter, observing like an outsider for quite awhile. It was surreal watching them all interact without me at the center.

It wasn’t until I saw how much of the liquor bottle Claire and those had drunk that I moved into action. One of two things was going to happen – I was going to force myself to get drunk in order to deal, or I was going to scream at them all to get the fuck out.

So I drank. I shoved my way through the tangle of them and I poured a row of shots, downing them one after the other. A guy standing next to me clapped me on the back and said, “I hear ya”.

I walked around mopping up spills, picking up trash and throwing away beer cans. I approached my cousin Dave and said, “Go. Go now and get the fire barrel.”

“Ugh, I don’t want to. I’m hanging out.”

“Go get it now or die. These people have got to clear out some.”

About an hour later the majority of them were playing cornhole under a spotlight in the driveway and standing around a fire barrel gossiping. I’d managed to exert a bit of control, but while I was doing it, I was also killing the bottle of Jim. It was preferable to killing Claire, who was the only person who couldn’t be managed. She banged on the windows when Clemson scored, she banged on the counter when the other team scored, she screamed “break his fucking neck” at the top of her lungs in five minute increments, and by the time the game was over she was stumbling around in a huff...still with the remote in the front of her pants.

Several people left and I was able to really start enjoying myself. We stood around and talked outside, I found my spare pack of cigarettes, and we played cornhole and Things. I wish I would’ve saved the slips of paper from the Things game because they were the best part of the night. Well, that and when Dave was going to give me a piggyback ride and instead of jumping up from the ground like a normal person, I ran up the stairs of the patio and launched myself at him from the top like a spider monkey – sending us both plummeting to the ground. Poor Dave.

At 3am, when the only two people left were Claire and a guy friend of hers, I was rather drunk and ready for my pajamas. Rachel played bad cop and sent them home while I crawled into bed.

I woke up at 9:30 the next morning with a marching band in my head. My very first thought was, of course, “Why the fuck did I say I’d have a party?”

The damage to the house was minimal – just a sink full of dishes, a dirty floor, a few scattered beer cans (I’d picked up the majority as they were sat down because apparently I’m OCD about that), and a bit of a mess on the patio. Rachel, my sister and I cleaned up pretty quickly.

The main damage that was done wasn’t to the house, it was to me. Though I managed to have a decent time by the end of the night, I’m pretty sure the beginning scarred me for life. I can confidently say that I will never have another party again – never. From now on, I’ll stick with having a few bottles of wine on the porch with three or four people.

And if the memory from the night before wasn’t enough to make my resolution stick, Claire made it iron clad. She came walking in when we were about finished straightening up, smiling and completely hangover free, though she’d been by far the drunkest person there. I was still a bit put out with her behavior, but nothing a day or so wouldn’t fix. After all, I’ve certainly been the obnoxious drunk before.

Then she asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

I told her about how anxious I’d been, about how the spilling and the screaming and the general mayhem had almost sent me over the edge. Without actually pointing any fingers, I tried to gently imply that she’d been the one at the helm of that shipwreck.

She nodded earnestly and leaned toward me. I stared mutely back, waiting on the apology that was my due.

Looking me straight in the eyes and laying her hand atop mine, she said, “I know, girl! I could never have a party at my house. All those people! I don’t know what you were thinking!”

Monday, November 15, 2010

The stalker's book of irritating faces

The internet has brought people watching into a different arena. You can see someone do their daily routine on a YouTube video, read and track their every move on Twitter, see what their interests and passions are on a forum. You can find out what they wore that day, what they had for dinner, and with certain people who over share (that shall remain nameless), you even know how many times they got off the night before.

In some cases you learn more about a person by watching their videos and reading their words online, than you can by watching their hand gestures and lip movements from the bushes across the street with a telephoto lens. Am I right, guys? What some call “cyber stalking”, others call “sitting in my swivel chair and wearing a bib to catch the drool while I look through all 793 of your photos instead of driving past your house three times a day, hoping to catch a glimpse as you walk by the window”. Or, you know, “social networking”.

I’ve found that I’m occasionally more interested in a person via their online dealings than I am if they’re in front of my face. I think it’s mostly about safety: I can watch them without worrying that they’ll come up to me. I can click an X and they’ll go away. I can laugh at pictures of them and they’ll never know. I can pick my nose and wear my pjs covered in baby chickens without fear of discovery. But there’s one site I’m on the fence about - Facebook.

Truthfully I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I only reopened my account this past summer (which I swore I’d never do after my very large Aunt, whose main hobbies are sucking down troughs of sweet tea and reading Harlequin novels in a recliner all day, bombarded my wall with messages not three minutes after I clicked on accept) when pictures of me started cropping up all over the place. I decided I would reactivate it so I could swap photos with my friends easily, etc and so forth. And for the most part it’s worked out quite well, especially since my Aunt has now forsaken FB in lieu of some new gaming site.

I’m not sure why, but I find Twitter far more interesting. (Maybe because I only use it for bloggers and there's no pressure to behave.) The only reasons I really pay attention to someone’s Facebook updates are if: they look like they can benefit me in some way, I’d like to see them naked, they are about me or contain pictures of me, or I happened to see a vulgar word. Vulgarity always gets my attention.

I don’t mind admitting that I’m very particular about who I accept friend requests from. The main reason for that is that I don’t really like people. The second, and more accurate reason, is that if I start accepting whoever, my blog could get out there. Then I’ll be forced to start a new one about baking pies and making flower arrangements, rather than whom I got busy with the other week (Which, in case you were wondering, is the 43 year old I haven’t written about because he has the link to this blog and that would be so rude (right?). Hello, R. Round two? RAWR!). And no one wants that, least of all me. I’m terrible at flower arrangements and I prefer cake.

But there are people that I can’t say no to. Though I am particular about whom I accept there’s no way I can turn down a friend request from, say, my kid’s grandmother. Or as I like to call her, “The Non-In-Law”. (My mother calls her “Heinous Hair”, but that’s another story.) I don’t particularly want her to have my updates and I definitely don’t want to see my feed bombarded with her ridiculous mystery eggs and fake lost cows. And it may sound completely illogical, but when she sent me an instant message through there the other day, I got really aggravated. Contact online was not necessary – especially since she has a million other ways to get a hold of me. Stalker.

Hell, before we’d gone on our first date, Sam sent me a request. I was absolutely appalled. I remember saying to my sister, “The motherfucker has gone and infiltrated my Facebook! If I say no, he’ll think I’m hiding something. If I say yes, he’ll find out things I might not be ready for him to find out yet...which doesn’t count as hiding, so shut your pie hole. I mean, give me a chance to say hello before you feel me up, am I right?”

“What? Feel you up? But I thought you hadn’t...”

“Go away! You suck at this game!”

No matter how particular I am, I always end up with a few people that make me want to vomit. I occasionally put up a bit about my kid, but it’s never really touchy feely. Write a whole post that makes fun of her giant behind yet also shows how much I love her? Sure, no problem! Write a paragraph update on FB about how she makes tears come to my eyes every time she punches me in the ovaries, not because it hurts, but because she’s such a glorious miracle from God? Hell no.

When a certain friend posts a status about her toddler or puts up photos of her family I think, “How are you even old enough to have a family? Are you on uppers? Please, for the love of Christ, stop posting every five minutes about how wonderful your life is and how your child said something completely dull.”

Case and point –

One of my updates: “So apparently my crumb snatcher starts Kindergarten on Wednesday. Man, I feel old.”

One of her updates, paraphrased because writing it outright makes me gag: “Like, waiting on my fantastic husband to get home with my little prince. I’m so lucky. Blessings and, like, flowers, hearts and heavenly trumpets, venereal disease is a total myth, ya’ll!”

I can handle that kind of thing in small doses, but this is like an everyday occurrence...saying the same exact shit. And each update is half a fucking page long. Get a mommy blog for fucks sake! Ahem. I’m hoping I can delete her unobtrusively in the near future.

Don’t even get me started on the damn farm and treasure hunting stuff. I haven’t explored it all, but I asked a friend just what exactly they were supposed to do on this Farmville shit. Apparently all you have to do is click on things and holy crap! You’re a farmer! There was a longer explanation, but it all boils down to this: It’s the most boring “game” I’ve ever heard of in my life. Maybe even more coma inducing that golf.

But, as of this past weekend, you know what the best thing about Facebook is?

Signing in, glancing at your feed to see if there’s anything there about you (because hello, that’s what it’s all about), and instead being slapped in the face with a picture of the guy you’ve been seeing and a woman that’s hotter and skinnier that you. It sucks, even if you weren’t crazy about him. Because no woman wants to find out, through the fucking internet, that the guy she let put it in her ass, against her usual better judgment, has been shacking up with someone that’s better looking.

The only positive aspect is that I don’t have to wonder anymore. Now I know why he hasn’t called lately – It’s not because he’s dead or I offended him. He’s just balls deep in some hot old broad.

I guess my main issue is this – It isn’t blog land. I can’t say anything I want. Well I could, but I was taught to respect my elders and, as much as the Non-In-Law and other older family members irritate me, I can’t bring myself to call them fuckers or demand they stop bombarding me with their stupid cartoon crops. And I can’t tell my old friend that I don’t give a rip roaring shit about her completely generic kid. And I can’t post a comment on a photo that says, “It really doesn’t matter if you’re a little bit prettier than me. He’s just going to shove your face in the pillow anyway. I said What What in the Butt.” Because feelings could get hurt.

And because, in case you weren’t already aware, Facebook is real life dot com.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

“I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.”

At 6:20 in the morning I go out and start my car. I crank up the heat, push the defrost and the seat warmer buttons, and leave it running in the drive.

It sits there, emitting plumes of whispy grey exhaust while the windshield slowly starts to unfog, while one tiny patch at the base spreads out, allowing me to see inside little by little. I watch it from the dining room window and raise one corner of my mouth in wry acknowledgement of the metaphor that flashes through my head. I’ve just likened myself to an idling car – its insides becoming more apparent as heat softens the thick, cold misted glass. And it's insides are a mess.

I have an hour commute and most days I spend it listening to my favorite radio show, on autopilot as I turn the wheel, press the gas, and chuckle at their jokes. Today my brain is in overdrive and the only sound is the whoosh of tires. My thoughts are like a bag of unlabeled jelly beans in the hands of a compulsive eater – I pop one in and chew it for a minute, swallow, pop in another, grimace and spit it out, try another and another.


I think about how I’m changing. I’m starting to want things that I never did before and it makes me feel... ashamed. Like a fraud. Because though I’m starting to feel differently on the inside, I’m still clinging to my old habits, scared to death that new ones will only bring disappointment. One of my biggest fears, however silly it may seem, is becoming one of those women. You know...desperate.

I think about the fact that I haven’t heard from Sam at all since last Wednesday, and it was only a distracted text. I acknowledge the fact that I like the idea of him – the successful, intelligent, piano player who is good in bed. In reality he talks too much about himself and now only seems interested in what I have to say when it’s directly related to sex, which is partially my fault. I’ve been fooling myself into believing it might turn out to be more than a fun fling with an aging playboy. I don’t really want more from him, but I’m still offended that he doesn’t want more from me.

I think about my sister. She exasperates me, makes me feel much older than I am. Too often lately Mom and I sit on the couch discussing what should be done about her. She asks me for answers, asks me to make decisions that aren’t mine to make. I do it because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. I’m walking in her shoes and they’re entirely too tight.

I think about the things I need to get done. Paperwork that needs to be filled out and turned in for health insurance, bills that need paying, a coat that needs dry cleaning. I flip through the mental to do list quickly then move on, before I become too overwhelmed.

I think about the book nestled in the handbag on my passenger seat. I wish I could bury my face in it and stop thinking. Right this instant.

I think about my plans for the weekend. How excited I’ve been to have real alone time and an opportunity to invite my friends over. Now I can’t decide which is worse – I don’t want to be alone, nor do I want to be with people.

I think about making an appointment with my doctor – getting more pills. But of course I won’t. That requires too much effort. I’d rather write a melancholic blog post instead. Besides, my mood will be up by tomorrow again anyway.


I arrive at work and wind my way up six flights of parking deck, taking each turn faster than I should. I always do. I walk across the rooftop and through the double glass doors. An elevator is going down, but the doors are closing. They take forever in the mornings and I know if I don’t catch it, I could be waiting another five minutes for it to come back, or forced to take the stairs. I hate the stairs.

I rush forward and throw my arm between the doors. But instead of springing apart like they’ve always done before, they slam into either side my arm. There’s a woman inside dressed in a black business suit. According to the badge around her neck she works here, but I’ve never seen her before. She screams, “Oh my god”, and backs away with her hands on her face. The doors don’t want to open and resist my attempts to push them back. It hurts, but not badly.

I finally manage to push them open and dive inside; the woman continues screaming while I examine my arm. Just a few red marks, nothing more. “Are you alright”, she asks loudly.

“Yes”, I say, not looking at her.

She lets out a nervous laugh. “I’m so glad you didn’t lose your arm!”

I raise my head and look at her, not in the least angry that she didn’t attempt to help me, just curious. “Are you really?”

“Yes! Thank goodness you can go on to work with it intact”, she says still laughing nervously, trying to keep the joke alive.

The doors open on my floor and I get out without another word. Any other day I would have been angry; I would have said something scathing and shown her how well my middle finger still worked. Today I can’t make myself care.

I put my things in my office, fix a cup of coffee and amble over to lean on my boss’s door frame – a routine I’d love to abandon, as I’m not a morning person anyway, but if I didn’t show up she’d just come to me. We say hello and she goes on about a few things, then looking at me more closely asks, “Are you alright?”

“Yes”, I lie. I reinforce it with, “The elevator closed on my arm.”

She bursts out laughing and I tell her the story.

“It was your right arm?”


“Ah well”, she says, “you’re left handed. You don’t need the other one anyway.”

“I do. I masturbate with that hand”, I reply flatly. I use the obnoxious laughter, when her head is thrown back, to make my escape.

I spend the rest of the day ensconced in my office, trying everything I can to avoid thinking without actually having to do any work or socializing. I butcher a humorous post I’ve been working on and I doubt I’ll ever be able to fix it, which sinks me further into my funk.

At 4:45, when I climb in my car, I’m exhausted. I feel like I’ve been running around in circles – and in a way I have. I merge onto the interstate and start the hour commute home, this time flicking on the radio. It doesn’t do any good. The same thoughts that have been plaguing me all day go marching back through my brain in quick succession. I grind my teeth and do my best to suck it up, stopping to collect the kid from daycare. I ask her about her day and put on my parent voice when she whines about having a sucker before dinner.

When I arrive home I take care of business – bath, dinner, homework, bedtime story, and tuck her away for the night. Then I grab my book, wrap myself in a robe, and nestle into a chair on the porch – it’s the first time I’ve felt good all day. I’m going to escape at last.

And I do. I read and read, losing myself in the pages. I’m relaxed and content. Safe from hurt and confusion, blame or acceptance. For a few precious hours, I’m in someone else’s world.

So what if it is a hooker’s?