My sister, my cousins, Ann’s husband, and Jake all come back to the great-aunt’s house where my parents and sister and I are staying. They’ve brought fireworks.
Ann, Morgan and I stand back, sipping wine.
“This looks pretty damn dangerous,” I say as Jason and Ann’s husband Jack go out onto the dirt road and set down the tube to shoot mortar shells out of. I was most concerned with getting good pictures, with listening to Ann give my sister advice about camping in Yellowstone, and with making sure Jake and Jason didn’t throw the ground-skating spinner fireworks too close to our feet. The explosions, kicking up dirt by our feet, or up in the air above the corn fields, were a loud, bright signal that this trip was worth it, that the July 4th holiday tomorrow would be exciting, that my cousins, despite their states-away distance and occasional Midwest mindset, were more important to me than I’d let myself realize. I saw in those flashing lights a brief glimpse of what it would be like if we managed to grow up without the petty jealousy and who-has-better-achieving-children bullshit that we had watched unfold earlier that night. In that moment, we didn’t really care who among us had higher paying jobs, were married or dating someone, was living in a downtown loft or a shitty carriage house, was a teacher or librarian, handyman or gun salesman. We laughed at the same jokes, and we believed mostly good things about one another. And though they threw them nearer and nearer, none of us would ever come close to wanting to light another’s foot on fire.
An excerpt from an untitled essay-in-progress July 16, 2010
My sister, my cousins, Ann’s husband, and Jake all come back to the great-aunt’s house where my parents and sister and I are staying. They’ve brought fireworks.
The best years, some of the worst people. February 20, 2009
I loved college.
Every expensive minute of it.
No, no, not every minute of it. I think there was a day when I thought, “if I throw myself down these stairs, I bet I can go home.”
I know that I’ve romanticized it greatly since it ended, but I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t yearn to go back, I don’t spend my days missing being in college, wishing I could re-drink all of those keg beers. I simply try to unremember things like being left out, not really fitting until the second part of my junior year.
It is pretty easy to unremember my freshman year, as ugly and un-fun as it was. As boring and sad as it was. I think I was always uncomfortable that year. Plus, there have been many beers between 2000-2001 and 2009.
It is equally easy to focus on my junior year–finally living with someone I liked, finally not feeling like the unwelcome guest at the party, the one invited because no one knew how to avoid doing so. There were road-trips and movie marathons. There were nights spent in boys’ dorm rooms, doing something better than having sex: hanging out.
My senior year was unquestionably the best. My friends then were really my friends, they are (mostly) still my friends. I fit with them, I didn’t have to be quieter or pretend to be less messy. I didn’t have to pretend like I wouldn’t rather be drinking. There was a party every night. There were roommates who were (clinically, certifiably) out of their fucking minds. There was stumbling home, there was the discovery of drunk Taco Bell, there was keg after keg, porch after porch. There were Carefree Monday Afternoons, a hat party, a cross-dressing party, a happy hour every Friday that lasted at least 8 hours. There were cops and there were camping chairs. But there were also real friends.
What I try to not think about most of all is the sheer number of fucking assholes who were there. Not at the parties and on the porches; only a few slipped through the filter of the capable men of ** and the Duplex. But everywhere else. These bad people, male and female, had this power to make me feel like an outsider, like an inferior member of the species. They didn’t care about learning, except for the ways it could make them rich or find them husbands. They were what many would think of as standard-issue frat boys and Gamma girls.
I try to avoid thinking about the weirdos, the creeps, the ones who thought anything that didn’t serve them directly and immediately wasn’t worth anything. There were people everywhere, at my private, Christian college, being self-serving pricks, usually while wearing crosses and contemplating missionary work or a summer stint with Habitat for Humanity. As if they cared about humanity.
They were resume packers before they showed up on our green, historic, comfortable campus, and they served that end throughout the 4 (or 5) years.
So, can someone tell me why I accept their friend requests on Facebook? Or why I look to see where they are working? Or why I feel bad that they have better jobs, have traveled to better places, are married, look cute in their pictures, have photo albums doing things more fun than I am doing?
I know it doesn’t matter. I love my life, and my job that pays me nothing. I love my students who can’t use apostrophe’s*. I am excited (and nervous, terrified, etc) about the job I’ll have next year teaching high school. I consider my life fun and full of excitement. I have better friends than anyone else I know (who isn’t friends with me, of course). I go on trips. I spent my summer at my parents’ lake house. I work hard and I have a Master’s degree.
I know it’s possibly, hell that it’s even likely, that some of these same bad people look at my Facebook page, and long for a lake house, friends who are this much fun, people who can be counted on, fulfilling jobs, goofy shit I find myself doing, or even just a creative sense of fucking humor.
But I am still looking. And thinking:
Someone married that fucking guy? Jesus, there must seriously be something wrong with me if B____ D____ can hook a spouse and I can’t.
I can’t believe that total loser lives in Scotland now. I mean comethefuckon. He is incapable of appreciating it the way I would.
Wow, look, that c-face from across the hall my junior year is a bank president. Look at her house that is bigger than every place I have every lived put together. Look at her two kids, sexy husband, cocker spaniel and heated in-ground pool.
I KNOW it doesn’t matter. I KNOW that in the ways that do matter, my life is richer, better and more meaningful. And even if it isn’t better, it is all I could ever need, it is literally amazing, as in, it amazes me on a regular basis how simply great my life is. I am usually so excited to be me, I don’t notice there’s something to be jealous over. I usually wish good things on all people, knowing that my good fortune is just wrapped in a different package.
But, really. Comethefuck on.
A blog for real-life grown ups. September 23, 2008
I am an adult. This means that I deal with my feelings instead of hide from them. This means that I make jokes that aren’t cool but am alright with that.
This means that I take people seriously when they talk about their feelings. because that’s what I want from my friends.
This means that when I screw something up, I don’t just mentally acknowledge that I screwed it up, I say it to the person or people involved.
Being an adult doesn’t mean I’ve lost my fear of being honest about myself and my feelings. It does, though, mean that I admit this fear to the people being harmed by it.
It also means that I don’t just acknowledge my flaws in the painfully self-aware way that all my fellow writes have been doing. I admit to them. And, finally, I try to do something about them.
I know this reads like a high school journal entry. But I just get mad at people who are otherwise almost perfect, people whose primary flaw is that they are not just emotionally retarded (literal meaning of the word “retarded”) but who also think it’s OK for them to be this way.
My students’ willful ignorance makes me so troubled that some days I sit in the classroom after they’ve all left, staring at the back wall, forcing encouragement into my mind, trying to think of a way to interest them in something.
But people my age, people I love and care about and spend time with, they aren’t willfully ignorant. They are contagiously curious. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be all over my life. But there exist among you the willfully immature, the willfully childish. Really, what you are is selfish.
Having an idea does no one any good.
Feeling bad about something does not help anyone.
Admitting that you are “difficult to be around” doesn’t make you easier to be around. Four of my friends have said something like this. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that all of them are men.
Your feelings about me, our friendship, our time together, they do me no good. They benefit me in no way. They change my life in, at most, a marginal way. What you do is what matters.
You see something that needs to be done and you do it.
You see someone who needs something and you get it for them.
You have the time, you do it so someone else doesn’t have to.
You don’t keep score.
You don’t wait for someone else to.
You go beyond admitting your faults to actively trying to improve on them. Even if this means asking for help in doing so. Especially if it means asking for help in earnest.
I’ve been writing an essay for a while. An essay about being old. Of course this approach is humorous because I’m not actually that old. Writing an essay is a mysterious process. It requires that I admit that my life is tremendously interesting, or, at the very least, it requires that the way I see my life and the world in which I live it, is valuable outside of my immediate life.
What I wasn’t expecting, though, was to discover how much I like being old.
It means that the only reason I need to end a relationship of any kind is that the other person isn’t ready for a grown-up, real relationship. I’ve ended friendships for this reason in the very recent past and it was relatively painless. For me.
And, upon reflection, I have no remorse about abruptly ending value-less relationships, because I know that I shouldn’t be in a relationship that provides me with nothing. To a less-than-adult, these relationships are crutches: access points to other people, guarantees that we’ll have something to do, validations of our likability, something we see as easier to maintain than terminate.
We cannot let people hold us hostage, though. Not for any reason.
I have so many friends. I have so many true friends. But they are not a beacon of my value as a person. Their quality as people and as friends, even the number of them I have in my life, in indicative of both my quality of friendship and my capacity to truly value them.
I don’t expect someone to be my friend if I don’t value them.
So why would I be friends with someone who is so clearly selfish that they cannot go beyond admitting they aren’t a very good friend? Someone incapable of genuine apology? Someone who escapes at the sign of trouble?
If I think my friend is mad at me, I can’t stop trying to solve it. Why is it that so many people just ignore it, knowing that the person will have to let it drop?
I’m not afraid like I was when I was 18. Not afraid of being seen as dramatic, no longer allowing someone else to make me feel or act like a crazy person. My response is, I assure you, warranted. I am, again, hyper-logical, hyper-vigilant, hyper-self-aware.
And here is my secret source of mental power. I don’t care if you think I am over-reacting. I don’t care if you think you don’t deserve to be admonished.
I am too patient and too caring and too forgiving and too trusting and too kind and too generous and too fucking good to my friends. If I stop, it’s because I should have long ago. If I stop, it’s because I realize that I wouldn’t let someone treat my friend or sister the way you are treating me.
Here’s how to fix it:
Quit being a fuck.
Quit talking about quitting being a fuck.
Quit merely admitting that you are a fuck.
Quit being a fuck.
Protected: Apartment 9, Next Door. April 28, 2008
Five Things. April 26, 2008
I know that everyone thinks that they have the coolest friends. Well, maybe some people, like girls who pass out on a bed at a stranger’s house and get left there by their friends. Maybe these girls don’t wake up thinking they have the coolest friends.
In fact, I woke up hating that friend but calling several others who helped me find my way home on foot, who called and got someone to bring me my spare house key, since that girl who left me there, she had my keys. But that was long ago.
A week ago, two of my best friend wrote poems about me, and then read them to a fairly large audience that included many other of my best friends and my parents. After they read their poetry, I read the most personal essay I’ve ever read aloud, and when I glanced up between sentences, I saw them all really listening to me. My friends who weren’t there read the essay and emailed me their comments, texted me good luck and their regret at not being able to make it, their wishes to have made it.
Seeing I was nervous just before going on stage, my father bought me coffee, my mom bragged to my friends and students about me, a friend I’d met only a few weeks before pepped talked me and joked with me. These isn’t the job for your best friend–the prepping. I needed accolades from someone new; I needed to be comforted by someone for the first time.
Yesterday, one of my best friends and I talked for an hour or so, making plans about convening our lives in the future, tying up the loose ends of frivolity, making something of the last of our free years and doing something that we are uniquely capable of doing. It’s a strong contender for my list of best conversations ever. It just had the right feeling, that conversation, the right amount of compliments and comfort tempered with sarcasm, doubt and drinking. And really, those five things define me more so than any other five I can think of.
I’ve said “best friends” many times in this post, and you should know this isn’t a term I use as loosely as it may seem. These people, they really are that great.
It’s Like This. March 7, 2008
When you find yourself shaking your ashtrays, digging through your ashtrays, fingers dusty with stale smoke, looking for any of his cigarettes in there, you should call for an intervention. The kind where your friends bring over a bottle of wine and you eat ice cream for dinner. Where you watch either stupid movies or tremendously sad ones, the kind with people who have problems bigger than yours.
You alternate between getting mad and missing him.
Between listing 100 of his flaws and thinking that he’s the only person you ever got along with so well, could talk to about so many different things.
You listen to the CD he made you and then microwave it.
You roll your eyes at his lame jokes and remember how you’d never laughed so much before with someone.
You remember how he’d get drunk and forget to return your phone calls, but also that your conversations could last four hours.
You make a joke about his favorite movie being a musical, and then close your eyes and see the Saturday you spent in your bed together, loving all the same terrible shows.
You hate his shoes, you hate his haircut, you hate his stupid coat. You hope when you go home, your bed will still smell like him.The anger protects you, as it always has me, from feeling the loss and the fear too strongly for too long. But it’s not false. It’s genuine. You’ve always hated that damn suede jacket; it just never seemed to matter before.
Who else could introduce you to so many great bands, make you such great CDs, watch your favorite show for four hours, holding your hand the entire time, favor the same news anchor, mock the same presidential candidates, always vote for the same restaurant as a cure for hangovers, dissect the sociological implications of the reality shows you both have finally admitted to watching, and make you laugh–really laugh–in that way that hurts, that makes you jealous you didn’t make the joke first, that makes you like him more, saying things so funny and so clever that you want to write them down, remember them.Except now, you can’t remember his jokes, his commentary. You can’t even remember the kind of jokes he’d make.
Though you can remember that he’s the only guy who’d really let himself laugh at your jokes.But he was terrible at cards, he thought it was funny to hit on your friends, had a bizarre fascination with Zach Braff.
I match socks. You match _______. December 15, 2007
So three of my best lady friends have joined the dating website referenced in the title of this blog. I refuse to actually refer to it.
One was uniquely lucky in that she started and has continued a lasting, long-term relationship on the second of her “match dates.”
One has been uniquely unlucky in that she’s been out with at least 10 guys, sometimes more than once, but has yet to meet a “match.”
These guys are real pieces, too, if you ask me.
Which, let’s assume, you did.
One talked to her on the phone, post-date, arranging a possible next date, only to minutes later send a text that reads “I had a nice time with you but don’t think we click. Sorry.”
One, after the first date, became her friend on Myspace, started messaging one of her top friends, and then started dating that person.
One spent an entire date talking about his ex-girlfriend/soulmate with whom he has one of those “if we’re not married by 35, we’ll marry each other” pacts. He brought up this ex on the first date.
My third internet dating friend is new to this world, and seems a little wrong for it.
Sure, she’s watched one friend succeed, and one, let’s say, continue to try. She’s seen them whisked away on dates, excited by prospects, arrive home late at night with stories to tell. She wants a piece, and we all do, really.
But she can’t describe herself on a profile because she’s the kind of person who doesn’t tell you she is kind and loyal. That’s how kind and loyal she is.
She can’t e-banter with these guys because she doesn’t want to hurt feelings with a sarcast remark I suggest. She doesn’t want to have to wonder if he meant to hurt her feelings with a short response or a strange comment.
I don’t know what drives them all to this means. They all have declared, either to me or on their profiles, that they are “independent” women who don’t “need” men. I believe them. But they surely do not.
I know that things change over time and that the most successful among us will always know when, exactly, to adapt and when, exactly, to resist passing fads. I know that online dating is not a passing fad. It is too easy of an answer for the most common of questions.
But should I, you, all of us single people in the world adapt to this change? I think it’s something that would make many so intensely uncomfortable that things are doomed to fail, reinforcing our ideas that we are, perhaps, unloveable.