The Time I Tried to Go Back to Apple

Y’all, I’m gonna be straight with you. I have not been happy with Samsung, lately. Having switched from an iPhone 4 in 2012, I’ve loved every Samsung phone I’ve had, from the S3 to the S5 to the Note 5… until April, when I got my Galaxy S8 Plus, the IT PHONE for Android users. Despite the rave reviews I’ve read online, I hated this phone. While I’ve always liked the slightly larger phones Android offers, the S8 Plus wasn’t just big. It was proportionately awkward. I’d carry it into the stacks to have internet access while helping a customer and it felt like I was roaming the children’s area with a paddle… which is admittedly a dream of mine, some days.

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#notachildrenslibarian

Combine the sheer screen size with the fragility of the absolutely pointless curved screen and I broke my new phone, within a month, on my honeymoon… when it fell three feet from a toilet paper dispenser. After years of throwing my Samsung phones down the stairs without a scratch, I assumed this was a fluke… until Jake broke his S8, despite the Otterbox. Add this to the beta test Bixby software and physical button and I was done. Samsung had finally pissed me off enough to convince me that I should go back to the only other smartphone I’d ever had: iPhone.

Y’all, I was convinced this was the simpler route. I just wanted a phone, without gimmicks. I researched phones that had physical keyboards, attachable projectors and boomboxes, edges that responded to being squeezed, and they were all huge, which was the thing I hated most about the S8 Plus. I desperately wished I’d never handed over my Note 5… but I still had to make a choice. Many of my friends and family have iPhones and other Apple devices and rave about how well they work together. They insisted that they no longer suffered the same restrictions (no Google Maps, third-party music apps, waterproofing, etc.) that I remembered. I was actually willing to forgo the ability to make all my apps look like Christmas ornaments, a bigger deal for me than most, because there must be something to it.

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Folks, if I thought the size of my Galaxy S8 Plus made me look like I was using Zach Morris’s phone, the capabilities of the iPhone 8 made me feel like I was using Zach Morris’s phone. I could overlook the fact that the glass body so closely resembled the iPhone 4, that the LCD screen wasn’t even as nice as the one on my $120 Kindle Fire, that the style itself hadn’t changed since the iPhone 6, and even that it took three times as long to charge.

My first real sign that I couldn’t be an iPhone user, however, came with the photo gallery, which automatically organized my photos into little default albums, like Selfies, People, and Places. The only way to view them by date was through the Camera Roll, which showed every single thing I’d ever done, from selfies to screenshots to videos. I would have to thumb through every catty Facebook screenshot I’d ever taken (and that’s a lot) to find my holiday photos, unless I wanted to go through the trouble of creating an album. While I could download the Google Photos app, it was slow and buggy. A Samsung phone would provide just as user friendly of an experience to search Google Photos as their own gallery, which is also divided into similar screenshot/downloads/camera albums, but I can delete them. I’m not a 22-year-old barista! I don’t want a folder full of fucking selfies! Fine. Fine. I’d ignore the photo gallery and work on something that I knew was a new capability for IOS: free ringtones via the Zedge App… but only if I sync my phone to iTunes. WHAT FUCKING YEAR IS IT, APPLE?!?!?!

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I wasn’t done, though. I was going to give this phone a fair shake. Maybe it was just the appearance. I mean, the iPhone 8 does look substantially more dated than the iPhone 7. There’s something about the glass and aluminum combination, especially with the home button, that looks especially 2012. The fingerprint scanner was honestly really cool and I’d never bothered to use the one on my S8 Plus, since it was enormous. Siri seemed nice and could definitely help me out of any future Gerald’s Game scenarios. I could learn to love this phone… but maybe I’d prefer one that looked a little sleeker… and maybe I’d consider the Plus, since I was so used to a larger screen. Hopefully the proportions just wouldn’t be as wonky. Of course there was no way my husband was right and Apple just fucking sucked and I’d made a terrible decision on a big ticket item again.

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So, the iPhone 8 arrived on a Friday and there I found myself on Sunday, driving to the AT&T store to consider another phone, while I still had the 14 day grace period to confess my buyer’s remorse, with that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had once again committed to an $850 phone I regretted. I’d typed the address of the store in Google Maps, thinking at least Apple has Google Maps now and suddenly, on the side of the road, I thought I saw a dog playing… except…

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The dog wasn’t playing y’all. The dog had been hit by a car and was clearly paralyzed from the waist down and was yelping in agony. I immediately burst into tears.

“Siri, give me the number for Metro Animal Welfare.”
“I found the number for Metro Animal Birth Control Clinic. Will that work?”
“What? No. Give me the number for Metro Animal Welfare.
“I found the number for Metro Animal Birth Control Clinic. Will that work?”
“What the fuck is ‘animal birth control’?!? Give me the number for Metro Animal Welfare!”
“I found the number for Metro Animal Birth Control Clinic. Will that work?”

Fuck Bing. Fuck Apple and Bing. That’s when I nearly ran a stop sign and was almost t-boned, because I was busy Googling (not from the home screen widget Android allows, I’ll note) something that I’d never have to actually Google on an Android phone. It would have been as simple as “Okay, Google. Call Metro Animal Welfare.”

I called Jake, crying hysterically, and told him about the dog. He promised he’d take care of it. I continued on my way to the AT&T store and walked into the store red-faced and teary-eyed and explained my dilemma to the sales clerk.

“I’m sorry. I saw a dog get hit by a car on the way over here. I’m not crying because of a phone.”

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Ultimately, despite talking to sales people and browsing the other phones, I couldn’t decide on a course I was sure I wouldn’t regret and left, just as frustrated as before, without replacing the iPhone. On the way home, though, I decided I had 12 more days to change my mind and this was my day off and I needed to just get it done. There was another AT&T store in a nearby city.

“Siri, give me directions to AT&T.”
– a screen pops up asking me if I want to download Apple Maps again, after I deleted it for sending me to the wrong place earlier –
“Siri, use Google Maps to give me directions to AT&T.”
– a screen pops up asking if I want to download Apple Maps –

… and that was was it.

“Hi, welcome to AT&T. How can I help you?”
“I just got the iPhone 8 and it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I need to pay the $45 restocking fee and get something else, because this is the worst decision of my life.”

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It all worked out in the end, when I bought the S8 Active and gave it to Jake for his broken S8. Because AT&T had a promotion going that said I could bring in any old phone for a $300 credit, we got three times the worth of Jake’s cracked S6 he’d been trying to sell since March, which covered the insurance claim to repair the S8. Jake got a heartier phone out of the deal and I got a smaller phone, the week Samsung released an update that allowed me to disable Bixby and finally found a wet application screen protector that clings to the edges and works with an Otterbox. I sold my S8 Plus to Amazon Trade-In and plan to use the credit to buy a new tablet, specifically not an iPad.

I’ve shared my story with my Apple Fanboy friends, much to their dismay.

“Why don’t you just scroll through the pictures?”
“But you can download ringtones from third party apps. You just have to sync your phone.”
“Why don’t you just type in the address in Google Maps before you leave?”

Why don’t I use 35mm film? Why don’t I roll out a paper map and write out my directions by hand? Why don’t I just type up my blog posts on a fucking typewriter? Because I’m used to the technology of this century! Yeah, I just wanted a phone that works, but my definition seems to drastically differ from that of Apple owners. When you’re used to verbally asking for directions, you realize how incredibly dangerous it is to type in a request for them while driving and/or how inconvenient it is to have to do so while in park. This technology not only exists, but it’s a staple of Android phones. We’re talking bare bones phone capabilities, but it’s not present on an iPhone. After some of their latest inconveniences, I won’t claim to be a Samsung loyalist, but I will claim to be an adroid loyalist after three days with IOS. Who knows, maybe there’s something to it I missed.

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I’ll risk it and enjoy my Christmas ornament icons, hassle-free Zedge ringtones, headphone jack, fast charging, voice activated Google maps, and the plethora of uncomplicated, yet necessary, capabilities of an Android phone.

As for the dog…

Me: “Did you take care of the dog?”
Jake: “Yes. I couldn’t get a hold of anyone, but I drove over there.”
Me: “So, he’s not in pain anymore?”
Jake: “No.”
Me: “Do I wanna know why?”
Jake: “Nope.”

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Why did you marry that?!?!!?! No, seriously. I want an answer.

Every now and then, something will happen in my personal life that has me incensed. I’ll excitedly think “I’ll blog about it!” only to realize that I already have… and quite accurately at that. So here it is.

In hindsight, I often feel a great deal of sympathy for those who love me and had to watch me marry my ex-husband, regardless. Of course sometimes that sympathy is replaced with resentment in the form of: how could you let me do something so fucking stupid when I was just a child?!?!?

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My wedding day portrait.

Sidenote: Googling “child bride” will totally put your bitching into perspective.

Most of the time, however, I feel terrible that my dad had to watch for four years while I struggled to keep my head above water as my ex-husband abused me. He couldn’t say anything, because I wouldn’t have listened. It would have driven a wedge between us and we were already struggling with our relationship. Similarly, pretty much every other person in my life felt the same way. As much as they may have wanted to sit me down and say “Listen. This guy doesn’t work. He lies. He’s stealing from you… a lot. Also, that fire was super suspicious” they couldn’t. I’d have turned away and clung to him out of loyalty, because that’s what marriage is.

Sadly, I got a taste of how they felt when Gail was married to Shane. One afternoon, Gail called to tell me that she was bringing by my copy of the movie Elf, which I didn’t recall lending her. I legitimately thought that this was a cover to get out of the house without Shane forbidding her to hang out with me and was shocked when I opened the door and saw her holding Elf on DVD. It turned out that she’d just borrowed the movie a couple of years earlier and never returned it, because she’s a cotton-headed ninny muggins who hates me and wants me to die. The fact that this was my assumption, though… well, it explains why I once told her that the movie The Waitress perfectly depicted her relationship (and mine, though I ingored that part).

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Ugh. How did we not notice we married the same fucking man?

This, however, was the only time I gave Gail any truly negative opinion of her marriage… because she immediately shut down and told me that she needed to stop telling me things, since I was getting the wrong idea. It didn’t happen, of course. Gail and I can’t not tell each other everything. But I didn’t insult Shane again… until he shook her baby. Then it was a free for all.

Luckily, Gail finally met a nice guy I don’t secretly hate… or openly hate ::cough:: musician ::cough:: after a series of asshats. Terry is good to her, works, pays his own way… and he doesn’t get pissed when I make inappropriate jokes about Gail cheating on him, which translates into him not being threatened by me like all the men before him.

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You see, the horse is Gail’s vagina.

Me: “So Terry, how do you feel about cheating?”
Terry: “Um… what?”
Me: “Well, since we were kids, I’ve always said that if my husband cheats on me and wants to fix our marriage, then he needs to keep his pants on and his mouth shut. I don’t want to know, just so he can ease his conscience. What’s your opinion?”
Terry: “Um…”
Me: “C’mon. Should Gail tell you her secret or not?”

I wasn’t actually telling the guy that his girlfriend was cheating on him over dessert in a Chili’s while Gail sat beside him grinng… fucking obviously. Kudos to Terry, though, because he just laughed, whereas every other guy she’s dated has been oddly sensitive about that kind of joke. Her ex-boyfriend, Cam, whom I actually liked (despite the fact that he was 12 years old forever), even got defensive about the way I teased her, though he did the same thing. Look, dude, she’s been my Gail for ten fucking years. This is what we do and it goes both ways. Just because you’ve been fucking her for six months, does not give you the right to an opinion on the way we interact. It’s not like that even makes you special. You’re not exactly goin’ where no man’s gone before’s, all I’m sayin’.

smilingdog1Terry, though, just laughs and occasionally throws in his own joke, which works in his favor, because Gail likes to fancy herself the sweet one anyway. Even if he doesn’t get our humor, he gets that he doesn’t have to get it. Despite my affection for the man, I did make it clear that said approval was conditional.

Me: “If you hurt her, I’ll cut off your ears… and no one wants to fuck a man with no ears.

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The man wasn’t exactly rollin’ in the pussy.

I am nothing if not eloquent.

Gail is the person I’m closest to, along with my Gramma, so I’m elated that she’s over her all-the-douche-bags-in-the-city phase. However, there are still multiple people in my life who have married into the ninth circle of Hell and I’m not allowed to fix whatever the fuck is wrong with them. I can’t even talk to these people without a running log of questions I’m not supposed to ask flitting through my head. Do you have any idea how much effort it takes for a person like me to filter this shit?!?!

Doesn’t it bother you that she spends all of your money?
“How’s the new house?”

How can you stand the way your children are being treated?
“How are the kids?”

What the hell is wrong with you that you would let someone treat your family like that?
“We miss you. You don’t come around enough.”

Do you think your parents might hate him for a reason?
“Are he and your mom getting along better?”

Statistically speaking, you are going to get a divorce. What are your waiting for, exactly?
“You’ve been married for how long, now?”

If he’s not there for you over this little stuff, do you really think he’s going to give a shit when you get cancer one day?
“That must be hard, living so far apart.”

He’s cheating on you. There is no way he is not cheating on you.
“Does he work out of town a lot?”

You know that the divorce is only going to be harder on the kids when they’re going through puberty, right? You’re holding out for nothing.
“The kids have really grown.”

You should be logging the abuse by date and incident, because you will need to use this in court one day.
“How’s (spouse) doing?”

Have you considered a secret savings account in someone else’s name?
“How’s work?”

But no… the Shane situation taught me an important lesson. You’re never allowed to ask “Why did you marry that?” as long as they’re still married… and it fucking sucks. I don’t care how your spouse is, because I’m tired of watching them treat you and your loved ones like a means to an end. I hope yours is the next divorce I hear about, because the heartbreak of that will be much shorter lived than being mistreated, disrespected, and taken advantage of for another ten years. Now that I’m out of my abusive relationship, the only thing comparable to the pure terror I feel after a nightmare where I’m still married is watching someone I love go through their own unique torture. This isn’t going to get better and you need to plan a fucking exit strategy, because everyone you love misses who you were before the light left your eyes and your children will never know that person. Wake. The. Fuck. Up.

“So you guys just celebrated another anniversary, right? That’s exciting.”

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Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!: Why I was a bully.

When I was little, I had many of the personality characteristics I have now. I was determined, prideful, creative, intelligent, funny, competitive, and obsessive. I was and am very much my father’s daughter.

All of these characteristics, however, occasionally manifested in negative ways. In fact, as an adult, I can see that there were definite times when I was just a bully. The very word “bully” declares my behavior excessive, of course, but nothing I did was newsworthy. All of my antics were relatively standard teen movie moments, but it was still cruelty. I’m not proud of it. I don’t tell those stories to get a laugh and I know people who do. I, however, analyze what made me act the way I did, particularly when I hear story after story after story of children pushed to the brink over bullying… because bullying ain’t new, folks. Cain bullied Able for crying out loud. Perhaps, since the act hasn’t much changed, maybe the reasons behind it haven’t either. So here it is, from a former (occasional) bully.

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I thought it was funny.

I grew up in a really sarcastic family. Just a few years ago, my cousins (who are my age) spent a good 20 minutes encouraging one of the little kids to blow out a candle that was battery powered. They thought it was hilarious.

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They were so totally right.

The same little kid was informed that if he acted up, all of the mounted animals in the house would come alive and eat him.On that note, I had to have been seven or eight when I figured out that the rest of the deer was not, in fact, on the other side of the wall, as my dad insisted. When I was little, I would cry when the horses died in westerns and my dad would laugh at me. This is the same man who convinced me he was driving me to the orphanage to leave me with Miss Hannigan from Annie when I’d act like a brat in the car. For realz, yo. I was raised by sadists.

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We’re still all like this, and for some reason, we expect the kids not to pick up on said meanness and sarcasm and think that’s what funny is. That’s precisely what I did. Why, exactly, was it funny when my dad pushed me into the pool, but not when I shoved my cousin without warning, only for her to fall against the side and remove a layer of skin off her leg? Why was everyone so mad at me? Why wasn’t it okay when I went through my weird pinching phase, even though my dad and uncles did that kind of stuff all the time? How come I couldn’t call people fat when my aunts could? Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!?!

Not only do we tease each other relentlessly, we’re also really open with criticism, some worse than others. I once watched my aunt stand directly outside her 9-year-old daughter’s dressing room and loudly tell my grandma Kay that her little girl was “getting a belly on her.” We have a ladies-only party called The Water Buffalo, every year, because all of the women are big. My grandma Kay told Bea, just last Thanksgiving, that my hair “looks more interesting” than hers, because of the highlights. I adore my family and I think we’re all fucking hilarious. It’s not that anyone’s trying to be cruel. That’s just how we interact.

As an adult, I take these things with a grain of salt and acknowledge that none of this is how normal people interact. I save my barbed humor for Gail, Jane, and Niki and have no other female friends. As a child? Well, I didn’t quite get why I couldn’t tell someone those shoes were ugly or that that hairstyle looked stupid. Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!

I was bullied.

From about the second grade on, I wore a target on my back. Not only was my humor mean, but with divorcing parents, who were too preoccupied to keep track of my personal hygiene, it’s no surprise that I was the smelly kid for awhile. The day I realized I needed to wear deodorant was the day my dad snapped “God, Belle, did you not put on deodorant today?!?” In his defense, we were very much the household where the woman had that discussion with her daughter and the man with his son. As time went on, I was left in charge of my own eating habits, so I put on weight. I was an even bigger target… see what I did there?

I once cried in my Gramma’s arms for hours when a popular boy, who regularly called me fat, upped the ante by laughing at me, because my parents were getting a divorce. I’d never done anything to him. This kind of thing had made me intensely defensive and sensitive. I remember a pair of popular boys whispering in the lunch line, when I was in the fourth grade. I got really upset and yelled at them to stop talking about me. They insisted it wasn’t about me and I only got angrier and angrier. Who doesn’t want to be friends with the emotionally unstable, fat, smelly kid?

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By the time middle school hit, I had resumed regular hygiene, but was still surly and sarcastic, with a terrible self-image. So, when the popular boys in my neighborhood started throwing rocks and bricks at me when I walked by, I took that anger out on other people; as I also did when a popular girl sang Who Let the Whales Out as I walked down the hall. That chick did not even know my name. In retaliation, I made fun of everyone that was considered popular, even the people who were never mean to me. They could’ve been my friends, but that would’ve required I risk more rejection and I’ll tell you right now, a chunk of brick to the thigh does not cause strictly physical pain.

So, my hostility toward anyone popular lasted, quite frankly, straight through high school. If everyone liked these people, it must be because they were putting on a new persona with each of them. After all, everyone liked the people I just mentioned. No one believed they would do those things. At this point, it was really just me keeping us from being friends. While I still had the same fucking 6th grade bully on my back in my damned senior year – I just looked him up on Facebook and jeez, he is still a dick – the majority of popular people didn’t refuse to be my friend. I just wasn’t that approachable and pretty much refused to talk to them, because I assumed they would be mean to me. I isolated myself with Jane and Gail and a handful of other loser friends dressed up in tiaras for an AP English class. Fuck those other kids. We were having a spinning contest at lunch.

I had a lot of creative energy.

I was the smart kid. You wanna know a quick way for all the juniors and seniors in your chemistry class to think you’re a kissass? Study with your AP friends and get a 93 your sophomore year, when everyone else is failing. Even better, walk across the gym to receive a certificate for having the highest grade. Yeah… those kids were mean to me, especially considering the fact that I was completely mute in that class. Come to think of it, they did the same thing in geometry… and French… and history. Huh. Maybe that’s why I decided to start a blog with my friends, targeting my hometown of Shetland.

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Now, do not misread that last sentence. I did not target people I didn’t like. I targeted the town. I quoted people I didn’t like. I will say that most of these people had actually bullied me, but it still wasn’t a very nice thing to do. No one wanted to kill themselves over it and the people who did get really upset were being melodramatic, because no one had more than one quote. I am certain. More than anything, I wrote stories. I wrote a story about the drug bust during Red Ribbon Week, the time the little person did jumping jacks as a novelty during the assembly, the hypocrisy of the cheerleaders being allowed to break dress code. I had a voice and people were listening to it!

Today, I realize that this showed some real potential. I didn’t just like to write, I was fucking great at it. I made well thought-out arguments and I was funny. If someone had helped me channel that creative energy properly, perhaps with a school discussion board, a school newspaper, a debate team, I could’ve not only saved some hurt feelings, but honed a skill. But, no. We didn’t have those things at my high school because our funding went to football, cheerleading, football, soccer, and football; despite the fact that our academic team went to nationals and we had one of the best bands in the state. Welcome to the Midwest, y’all. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I decided to start a blog with my friends, targeting my hometown of Shetland.

No one corrected the behavior. 
When I was in the 6th grade, I got my first real crush. His name was Nate and he was friends with everyone, including the rock throwers. He was so nice, though, even to me. I figured it must be because he was madly in love. Alas, I was wrong. Utter heartbreak. Soooooo, naturally, I responded by telling everyone that he was an asshole, throwing things at him at lunch, and instant messaging him constantly. With encouragement from a friend, I even played a part in dousing him with soda at a school dance. What?!?! THAT’S HOW YOU MAKE BOYS LIKE YOU, BITCH!

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This is the absolute worst bullying story in which I played the antagonist. dread the day my child has any interaction with someone who has my mother for a parent. My treatment of Nate got so bad that his mother called mine to tell her to get her daughter to back the fuck off. She only did so after getting on Nate’s AOL account to message me and warn me that she’d be contacting my mom. I actually told her “She’ll take my side.” I wish I could apologize to this lady today, without sounding like a total lunatic. I was awful. You know what? I was also right. My mother did take my side.

What the fuck?!?!?! Why on earth did she let me treat someone that way?!?! I was 12 years old! I was a child. I didn’t understand that was the bully in this situation! I thought this boy was just another kid sitting on a roof and hurling rocks at me and my dog. It hurt a lot more this time, though, because I had a crush on him and thought he’d liked me back. I thought he was being intentionally cruel and had told everyone he knew that he’d turned me down. I was being rejected again and handling it poorly. At the very least, it should’ve been made clear that I was to have no contact with Nate ever again after my letter of apology. Honestly, some counseling would’ve been the best result. The aforementioned reaction to “nah, let’s just be friends” is a sign of some deep emotional trauma. I clearly had severe self-image issues and should’ve been put in an environment with kids my own age, where I felt consistently safe, like a religious class. Church youth group, a once a week visit with the school counselor, and a demand that I never treat another person the way I treated Nate may have kept me from taking up cutting myself that year. Guidance. That’s what I needed. I was obviously ill-equipped to figure that shit out myself.

My home life… sucked. 

My mother was either extremely hands-off or extremely hands-on. The former was a joke about neglect and the latter was a joke about abuse. Told you I was funny.

You know what I had to look forward to after a long day of middle school kids throwing things at me? A mom who either set absolutely no boundaries or tried to set boundaries by hitting me in the head with a step ladder. Those were her two settings. To this day, I can’t believe the neighbors never called DHS. It would have been for the best if they had, because my father would’ve gotten custody. As it was, I either did whatever the hell I wanted or I got dragged across the floor with a dog leash. That shit happened. If I had gone home from a day of fat jokes, to a place of warmth, where I knew I was safe and loved, maybe I wouldn’t have been such a shit to everyone else. People my age talk about how much they hate being adults and I think it’s the bomb. No one hits me as an adult. That’s almost guaranteed. How fucking awesome is that?!?!

My point is, if hadn’t had to defend myself at home, perhaps it wouldn’t have been my default at school. Maybe I would’ve been more willing to subject myself to the vulnerability that it takes to make new friends. Maybe I would’ve known how you’re supposed to treat people you value. Maybe I would’ve been okay with the idea that someone didn’t like me if I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that more people did. I needed support, structure, and protecting, because I was a child, damn it!

A couple of days before my freshman year, I got online and asked someone in a chat room how to make friends. That has got to be the most depressing part of this article. Fo sho. His advice was “You can’t force anyone to be your friend. You just have to be nice to people and it happens.” I had to have someone online tell me to be nice to people if I wanted to make friends. It sounds like such an obvious piece of advice, but there’s a reason I still remember it. I didn’t understand that my humor wasn’t humor to some people. It was just hurtful. No one taught me to fit in with anyoneso I didn’t have a support group of friends until high school. I was creative and didn’t have anyone channeling that interest somewhere productive, rather than harmful. But most importantly, I was the occasional bully, because I didn’t realize it. I never would’ve called myself a bully when I was in school. Granted, no one died, but I either didn’t realize I was being hateful, or I felt that it was my only option for retaliation. No one corrected the behavior, because no one was paying attention to me or providing me with the structure a teenager needs.

So there it is. I guarantee all of the newsworthy results of bullying have the same roots. We like to fancy teenagers as requiring less energy than grade school kids, because we’re all lazy, self-indulgent, and irresponsible. We’re plugging youth into technology to get them out of our hair, only to look up from our own gadgets and see they’ve simply reformatted their normal teen antics. After all, the Mean Girls phenomenon ain’t new. There’s a friggin’ movie named after it. The trend has just escalated because adults have allowed it to do so, by giving children unlimited access to the Internet. That’s the difference. Fewer parents are paying attention.

parents on phones

Note: I may not have my own teenagers, but I do have a degree in secondary education and years of experience working with teens.

“Your funeral is going to suuuuuuck.”

Malik was just a friend of a friend, until one day in 10th grade, when he decided that we were close enough that he could address a nagging concern. He stomped up to my 15-year-old self, clad in red suede Sketchers, overalls, and a long-sleeved red shirt, (me, not Malik) ripped the red bandanna print headband from my hair and snapped “Okay, Belle. Wearing the same red headband, every single day, is not fashion!”

We’ve been friends ever since.

Throughout the years, Malik drifted in and out of my life, keeping closer tabs with Gail, particularly as we all worked to shred our individual existences in our early twenties. Where Gaily and I had destructive marriages, crushing money troubles, and dead babies, Malik had DUI’s, restraining orders, that teensy weensy felony, and copious drug usage. Still, every now and then, we would get together and we were 15 all over again. We giggled about which celebrities we found attractive, made catty remarks about how all the cheerleaders who picked on us in high school got fat, and made fun of each other and ourselves.

High school has been over for seven years. Gail has a career she loves and a live-in boyfriend that she found on Craigslist, while looking for serial killers for a laugh. I have my master’s degree, two librarian jobs, and a handful of bad date stories. Our lives are moving forward and Malik… well, Malik is headed back to rehab for the second time this year. He’s losing the car he just got and will have to struggle to find a new job when he gets out, because if he returns to IHOP, he’ll have unfettered access to drugs, once again. He’s watching everyone he loves have a life while he sneezes chunks of cartilage out of his nose, his skin turns gray, and he explains to me that getting clean is just so hard, he doesn’t know if he even wants to anymore. He told me, in all seriousness, that he didn’t understand why suicide would be considered selfish. He’s tired of fighting. He’s tired of hurting the people he loves.

Malik: ::defeatedly:: “It’s all my fault. I know my problems are entirely self-inflicted, but hearing all these people have so much hope for me…”
Me: “Well, I don’t know if it’ll make you feel any better or worse, but you’re not going to disappoint me. I could definitely be proud of you if you get clean, but if you don’t, well… it’s not statistically surprising.”
Malik: “God… thank you. It’s so nice to have someone be so practical and point-blank about it, instead of assuring me I can do it like everyone else.”

After two and a half years, I had the courage to ask a question to which I desperately wanted an answer.

Me: “About two and a half years ago, when you and Gail were over at my apartment… did you steal money from us? The next day, Gail was missing $40 from her purse and I was missing $5 that my Gramma had given me. It really upset me not knowing where it had gone, since my ex-husband used to steal from me so much.”
Malik: ::silence:: “Oh my God. I think I did. No matter what I’ve done, I’ve always prided myself on not stealing from individual people. How could I do that?!?”

As Malik cried, I told him to remember that, because of his addiction, he’d stolen from Gail, a woman who’s heart is made of rainbows and pixie dust, a woman he loves unconditionally. I told him that if he needed motivation, he should consider that. I told him that if he killed himself, because of this information, I’d bury him in pleated plaid pants and pink Crocs. Then, we went to my apartment and we giggled about which celebrities we found attractive, made catty remarks about how all the cheerleaders who picked on us in high school got fat, and made fun of each other and ourselves. When most people hear about my friendship with Malik, they just don’t get it. They see this…

MAN STEALING MONEY FROM A CASH REGISTER - MODELmeth… and they’re right. Malik is a user and a felon. He deserves everything he’s getting, because he’s continuing on a destructive path. Maybe I deserve to have money go missing if I continue to have him in my life. He’s also the boy who cried when the football players tossed his CD’s all over the parking lot, because he was openly gay. He’s the boy who drew me a portrait of Marilyn Monroe for my 17th birthday. He’s the guy who told off Gail’s ex-husband for taking advantage of her and abusing her daughter. He’s the guy who told me I had nothing to be embarrassed about after my divorce, that my ex-husband was the failure, not me. He may have whopping self-esteem issues and a case of Peter Pan syndrome to rival the Lost Boys, but when I look at him, I still see this…

If Malik ends up in prison, I won’t be horrified and think our justice system done him wrong. Neither will he. He knows he’s had every opportunity handed to him and he never had a particularly bad lot in life… but he still can’t get his shit together. So, if that does happen… I’ll write. I’ll visit. So will Gail. Convict or not… he’s still just Malik, the sweet kid who could talk his way out of anything… the boy who danced with us at prom… the guy who insisted we claim the makeup was ours if his mom found it… the boy who was near tears when we convinced him my house was haunted in the 11th grade… the guy who believes every conspiracy theory he’s ever heard and thinks Meth addicts are a sign of the rapture.

Malik: “Everyone knows a different Malik.” ::sighs dramatically:: “Who is the real Malik?”
Me: “I’m pretty sure that, deep down, you’re still the same chubby, 15-year-old Malik, wearing a popped collar in our redneck high school.”
Malik: “Two popped collars, thank you.”
Me: “… with a tie tied around his waist. Two ties… but that’s because you had to tie the ends together so they’d go all the way around you.”
Malik: ::laughing::
Me: “Well, on the bright side, when you’re done with rehab, maybe we’ll get Fat Malik back! I loved Fat Malik!”
Malik: “Oh, my god. If there is one thing that is going to keep me from rehab, that’s it.”
Me: “You’re gonna miss Carrie!”
Malik: “I know! I was heartbroken about that! I was crying to a coworker about how I’d miss Carrie and when they asked who that was, I’m like ‘Hello! Carrie? The remake?!?!
Me: “Rehab is gonna suuuuck.”
Malik: “Seriously, Belle. You are terrible at this.”

Me: “You could drive a truck!”
Malik: “I have two DUI’s, Belle!”
Me: “We just need to get you a job where there are no drugs and no one cares that you’re a felon or a recovering addict.”
Malik: “Okay, Belle, but the places that will hire me are going to have drugs, because everyone else there is going to be an addict.”
Me: “Ugh. I know! We’ll Google it!!!”
“Um… wow. The Internet… has no answers. I think you broke Google.”
Malik: “You suck at this!”
Me: “I’m a librarian, not a substance abuse counselor!”

Me: “Have you ever had sex with a married man?”
Malik: “Yeah. I found out and told him I couldn’t do it anymore, even though he was paying me.”
Me: 
Malik: “Excuse me. I guess I was prostituting myself to a married man.”
Me: “Ooooh! You could do that!”
Malik: “All of your ideas are things that could get me put in prison!” 
Me: “You know, the guys from Sons of Anarchy were all addicts and felons and they seemed to be doing okay. Illegal gun running? Sex trafficking? I know, I know ‘I have two DUI’s, Belle!’

Me: “Wait… if it doesn’t do anything for you anymore, then why don’t you just stop doing it?”
Malik: “Because I’m an ADDICT.”
Me: “I would’ve made a bomb therapist.”

He’s vain, lazy, self-indulgent, and irrevocably flawed… but he’s Malik. The day he overdoses and they lower his 29-year-old body into the earth, something in me will break.

“I just have to powder my nose… again.”

I fancy myself a fairly responsible person. I don’t spend money that I don’t have. I don’t drink too much. I’m paying back my student loans. I finished graduate school with a 3.67 GPA… and was disappointed. The dog is still alive… because he won’t shut the fuck up when I turn the faucet on and he doesn’t have water. The last time Gaily and I did something phenomenally stupid with a motor vehicle, we were like 18… wait… 23. Anyway… the bills get paid and my socks usually match if they’re visible. That’s pretty good for most adults, let alone a member of my stereotypically over-coddled Peter Pan Syndromed Millenial generation tearfully clutching their participation trophies while crying about their inability to find a job with that Art History degree. I’m not doing too shabby… with one exception:

cannot be trusted with my own health and medications.

When I was 14, I had just convinced my mother to take me to the dermatologist to have the fifth mole removed from my face. The process started, because my mother caught me drawing black dots on actresses faces to see if they were still beautiful and trying to remove moles with Biore pore strips. I was devastated when neither turned out as I’d hoped and begged to have mine removed. Finally, my face was mole free… mostly. A small freckle-like mole remained at the very corner of my mouth, making it constantly appear as though I had food there. So, rather than schedule another doctor’s appointment and go through all that trouble again… I iced the mole up and removed it myself with some nail clippers. I was an occasional cutter at the time. What was a little more pain? Fortunately, my hands-off mom believed me when I said the sore was a fever blister… though I’ve never had a fever blister in my life. Whatev. I was mole free. It wasn’t the last time I used that tactic either.

You’d think that would be the height of my stupidity, but at 18, I was just soooo sick of having been numbed with 250 daily milligrams of anti-depressants for five years that, one day, I just decided to… stop taking them.


Yeah… um… don’t do that.

About a year and a half ago, I was just getting off the crazy diet kick that enabled me to lose 70 pounds in about nine months. I was known to (frequently) declare the following:

“I will meet this month’s weight loss goal if it means I have to cut off a fucking foot!”

 saw foot
It saves 200 Weight Watcher’s points!

Despite my occasional spells of unconsciousness brought on by excessive workouts, I don’t really count those nine months as an example of my irresponsibility with my own health. My BMI used to be 42. Most charts don’t even go that high. They stop at like 40 and then there are just pictures of various large zoo animals like elephants and whales. I needed to do something drastic and what I chose was extensive workouts coupled with 1200 calorie per day limitations. Some doctors would call it extreme… but some wouldn’t. Staying at my old weight would have done far more damage than the measures I took to lose it. However, last spring, I decided that with all that weight lost, I would take up running. I’ve compared myself to Tinkerbell more than once, in that I have the ability to feel only one extreme emotion at a time. I am either paranoid and research-driven beyond reason…

choosing shampoo
“I don’t know which one to pick! What the hell does ‘Sheer Twilight’ even smell like?!?! Why can’t they just say fucking lavender! Help me, Gail!!!!”

… or I’m the most impulsive person alive.

women at sonic
 “Oh em gee! I have an idea! Let’s get tattoos!”

Yeah… we both have tattoos now. Funnily enough, I also bought the exact same shampoo I always buy.

So… when I decided to take up running, instead of my uber-rational self taking over with hours of research, it was my impulsive self that just turned the treadmill onto high. That. Doesn’t. Work. Apparently there’s some kind of technique to running that doesn’t royally fuck up one’s back. There are books on it. It’s a far more research-worthy topic than shampoo. After a few weeks of immobilizing pain, I saw a doctor… and his recommended physical therapist… and took some Lortab that did nothing for me. The night of The Hunger Games midnight release, the guys planned to get to the theater at 9:00. The movie wouldn’t be over until about 2:30 in the morning. I had no faith that I could remain seated in one position for that period of time. I called the doctor in tears, because the Lortab wasn’t working and he prescribed me something else. To this day, I cannot remember what that something else was, so I’m just gonna go with…

magic potion
…the blood of a centaur.

At this point, I was so sleep-deprived and in such physical pain that I was beginning to understand why people would choose euthanasia. I’m not exaggerating this time. I was legitimately thinking that, if I had to live with that kind of pain for the rest of my life, I would kill myself. It was that bad. Soooo, just to get through the movie and finally ease the pain, I decided that on top of the blood of a centaur, I’d go ahead and take those Lortab that weren’t working anyway. Just for good measure, I’d throw in a few more drops of centaur blood, as well. Naturally, by the time the movie started I was Across the Universe high.

across the universe

I still had a prominent limp, I just didn’t care. I could not sit up straight. I spent the entire movie laying on Chad’s shoulder. Fortunately, Gail and I had bought tickets to see the movie again a few days later, because I had not absorbed one single moment of Katniss’s great adventure. When the movie ended, I must say, I was feeling pretty nauseous.

lots of pills
Pictured: not a balanced meal.

Ward had driven Chad and I, since Jay and Chad’s little sisters had come along and Ward was excited about his new car. We were just driving into Shetland when I demanded:

Me: “Ward, pull over.”
Ward: “Seriously?”
Me: “No, I’m kididng. Yes, seriously!

That’s right. No amount of urgency voids sarcasm. Then I vomited in the parking lot of The Dollar Tree.

As the back pain persisted, I tried a number of remedies, one being a type of Icy Hot cream on my back. So, there I was, drying my hair naked while the Icy Hot dried. Not wanting the smell to seep into my clothes, I decided to help it along and aimed the blow dryer in that direction.

screaming at blow dryer

In my defense, when I read the directions after I lit my back on fire, they only said not to use a heating pad with the cream. No one mentioned a blow dryer. I should sue.

In time, the back pain did subside. Every now and then, I get twinges, but I’m doing alright, with the help of a chiropractor. In February, though, I tracked in snow bringing the dog inside after his walk. I didn’t realize it and on my way out, I slipped. In an attempt to avoid hitting my head on the stair, I jerked it forward… screwing up my neck. I think my problem is with delayed gratification. This is ironic, considering I spent seven years in college to be a Librarian. The only thing I can figure, is that I am a pussy. I can’t handle pain… that isn’t self-inflicted? Anyway, when I wrenched my neck and was reminded of the night my back hurt so much that I couldn’t make dinner and just sat on the couch hungry and crying, I decided to just nip this neck pain in the butt and immediately made an appointment with a doctor and one with a chiropractor. The doctor was strictly for the pain meds… which I promptly doubled… and woke up 16 hours later.

Fortunately, I don’t take medication very often. I sometimes take a prenatal vitamin and an iron supplement, the latter of which I was unaware of a certain side effect until my general practitioner pointed it out. She did this after I took a handful of laxatives when I had company coming.

powdering my nose
No, no. You make yourself at home. I just have to powder my nose… again.”

Yeah… sucking on pesticides will do that.

I start my Librarian job on Monday. I bought cute new dresses for said job. I get my car back soon and can stop driving my dad’s monster truck. I got to hang out with Gail, Niki, and Malik this week. Things have been pretty great in many ways. In another way, though, it’s been a rough couple of weeks…

I keep a very clean living space and live in a fairly nice apartment complex, in the sense that they’re well-kept and the management stays on top of things. Both of those facts are important to remember when I mention the roach problem that sprouted up and has been aggressively treated over the last 30 days. Essentially, the lady downstairs and to the left shouldn’t be living alone and her home care stopped coming, because she told them to fuck off. Management is on top of it and now she has an aide coming several times a week, along with a housekeeper. She should still be evicted in my opinion, because it’s not safe for her, but no one wants to make that call. Whatev, so long as the bugs are eradicated. They’ve been spraying weekly, along with laying poisons and baits.

Another important thing to remember, however, is that I am an obsessive person, often to an unhealthy extent. I saw maybe 5-10 bugs in a week long period, if not longer… and freaked the fuck out.

After spraying a cabinet of clean dishes with Raid, I texted Niki in a panic. We’d actually just had one of our crochet days. I collect people with weird jobs, you see, and Niki used to be an Orkin man. I asked if she’d come spray and she made some suggestions for purchases and promised to be over the next day. I spent twenty dollars on bug supplies for my two bedroom apartment. I half-ass nothing. The next morning, I saw and immediately killed a bug in the bathroom, burst into tears, and refused to open any more cabinets without being poised to attack.

crazy woman with gunClearing and cleaning the cabinets was a stressful venture. I’m pretty sure I threw out at least $10 worth of food that was absolutely fine, convinced it was contaminated, because it had once been opened, even though it was now sealed. I didn’t see any more bugs before Niki showed. She spent about 45 minutes going through my apartment and spraying everything and strategically placing baits and traps.

Me: “I know I already asked, but how long until they’re completely gone? A month tops?”

Me: “So… um… I know I’m being a pussy, but could you maybe go through my dresser and see if you find any bugs?”

I have awesome friends, because she not only answered my repeated questions about how long it would take, but went through my unfolded laundry as well while I refused to be in the same room, because the thought of bugs was severely stressing me out. I had even spent the morning hiding in my bedroom looking at new apartments on Craigslist.

I cannot afford to move! Any place I can afford is going to have a much bigger roach problem!!! 

Even the best of friends come with a catch, though. With Gaily, it’s the government paranoia and demands that I stop singing about killing the president to freak her out because they might be listening.

conspiracy lady
Gail.

With Malik, it’s the on-the-wagon/off-the-wagon wavering. One month “it’s just a little meth” and the next he’s clean and “not gay anymore.”

malik 1 malik 2
Malik

With Niki, it’s that she was a friggin’ Orkin man. Do you know what kind of stomach it takes to be the Orkin man? Answer: the kind of stomach that doesn’t think twice about sharing horror stories about being the Orkin man. So, after Niki would assure me that the bugs would be gone in a month, she’d say things like…

Niki: “They eat everything. I once knew a woman who’d had her eyebrows eaten.”
Me: ::in horror:: “How is that even possible?!?!”
Niki: “There were so many roaches in her house that she had to just have been crawled on all night long.”
Me: “So, they’ll be gone in a month, right?”

Niki: “Now, if you ever get bed bugs, then move immediately.”
Me: “Wait. Do I have bed bugs?!?!”
Niki: “I doubt it, but I can check.”

Niki: “…then the trailer next door caught fire and they all ran over to hers.”

niki
Niki

So, while my wonderful crochet-buddy-bug-warrior worked to eradicate the problem, she’s also the one who gave me the suggestion to Google image search “roach infestation.” Yeah. Don’t do that. I don’t feel so bad about asking over and over and over again about the bugs, since these stories were told as Niki shook out my clean clothes.

Fortunately, Niki’s efforts and the fact that my downstairs neighbor has stopped stirring things up during her move, have helped immensely. The only bugs I’ve really seen are dead ones and I’m hoping one of these nights I can even sleep again. Perhaps, some day soon, I’ll take all of the raw pasta out of my fridge and cook in my kitchen again. The apartment management is still spraying in addition to Niki’s much more impressive efforts. There’s so much poison in this place, I’m surprised I’m still living. On that note…

While the problem has improved exponentially, I did see one bug last night before I went to bed. I’m pretty sure it was an ant, but I promptly sprayed a quarter can of Raid in the room and exhaustedly went back to bed. Today, I got to have the best chat with Poison Control.

Me: “Hi. Um… I have a weird question. It’s not really an emergency or anything, but last night I was spraying Raid in my bedroom and was half asleep, so I didn’t think about washing my hands before I went to bed.”
PC: “Yes?”
Me: “Well, um… I suck my thumb and didn’t realize I still had Raid on my hands until my mouth started to burn and then go numb. I got up and washed my hands and rinsed my mouth, but now there are sores in it.”

This was followed with a beat of silence, in which I can only assume the Poison Control specialist thought…

Yeah… sucking on pesticides will do that. 

annoyed guy on phoneWhen he spoke, he was perfectly polite and basically told me that it wasn’t surprising that my mouth is shredded, but I’m not gonna die. He told me gargling with salt water couldn’t hurt. In the meantime, I suppose I should look on the bright side: the bugs I’m seeing are dead and I’m not… yet.

“Has she given NOT BEING CRAZY a try?!?!”

“And my mother began to go crazy. Not crazy in a let’s paint the kitchen bright red! sort of way. But crazy in a gas oven, toothpaste sandwich, I am God sort of way. Gone were the days when she would stand on the deck lighting lemon-scented candles without then having to eat the wax.” – Running with Scissors

When I was little, my mom chaperoned every field trip, even though she worked. She used to make a really big deal out of birthdays. She cooked pancakes with candles before school and made sure we had a gift to go with them. Small holidays were even special. She made heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day and put green food dye in the milk on St. Patrick’s Day. She even painted little green footprints all over the bathtub, where the leprechauns had been. She then made my brother, Bo, and I clean them up while the ten-year-old in the bathroom bawled his eyes out like a little bitch with a skinned knee, screaming “I HATE LEPRECHAUNS!”

screaming dean

Seriously, Bo believed in this shit waaaay too long. We had to sit him down the night before his wedding and explain why Santa wouldn’t come that year.*

* I’m lying.

“Why does she have to be so fucking crazy?!?!?! Has she… oh, I don’t know… given not being crazy a try?!?! It’s not that fucking hard! I’m doing it right the fuck now!!!

That’s generally how the conversation starts with Gail, these days…

“… and you know that in her twisted labyrinth of a brain, that’s exactly how it happened, the fucking lunatic! Hoggle is running around with a bracelet and a peach. David Bowie is somewhere in my mother’s brain wearing a completely inappropriate outfit for a children’s movie!”

… that’s where it leads…

::tearfully:: “Why does she have to be like this? Why does she do this to people? I don’t understand.”

… and that’s where it ends up.

God bless Gail for having been around for the past ten years and understanding, without explanation, that my mother is just abusive and crazy. We joke about being each other’s moms and raising each other from age fifteen. Gail wasn’t just the one to hear about every single high school crush, listen to me rant about my Sims characters and the latest Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode…

awesome
I interrupt this serious blog entry to say that I was a fucking awesome teenager.

… and get kicked out of a Wal-Mart with me for sword fighting in the craft section with dalrods. She was also the one to sleep in my car with me when I was too drunk to get up the stairs after I kicked my ex-husband out, taught me to put on eyeliner when I found myself 23 and single, and comfort me each and every time my mother went off the deep end.

When I was 13, I was going through a tough time, acting out because the only authority figure in the house had left. My mother wanted me to see a therapist and I refused. Through a series of events, the argument escalated and would’ve ended in a 911 call if she hadn’t grabbed me by the hair and thrown me away from the phone. It was a bad day. It was the day I started sucking my thumb again, though I hadn’t since I was 10. It was the day I threw out that dog leash and was relieved to find my toes weren’t broken.

When I was 14, my brother and I got into an argument and he stormed out, while I was painting the dining room. My mother screamed that it was my fault he left. The argument escalated and when she swung her purse at my head, she missed and hit the wet wall. She was furious, because I’d destroyed her purse and swung the step ladder next. I told everyone who asked about the scratch, that ran the length of my face, that I had a cat. It wasn’t technically a lie.

At 19, I told my mother to stop inviting people I didn’t know to my wedding. The argument escalated and she raised her hand to hit me across the face when I snapped “If you hit me, I will hit you back and then I will press charges.” She hasn’t raised a hand to me since, but she still plays her games.

Summer of 2011, Gail and I decided that a trip to New Mexico with my mother and her husband wouldn’t be a terrible idea, since we’d have a different room and drive a different car and it was on my mom’s tab. In hindsight, I’m kind of glad we went, because Gail understands my mommy issues on an entirely new level after hearing the woman scream at me for taking a quick trip to return something at Wal-Mart across the street since she was 30 minutes late… and watching me hyperventilate at Carlsbad Caverns because my mother was going to yell at me for getting separated from her and no one on this planet can make me regress to a frightened 14-year-old like my mother.

upset teen “Belle, calm down, sweetie. You’re not fifteen anymore. If she yells at you, we’ll leave, okay? We’ll go back to the hotel, we’ll get our stuff, and we’ll go home. Your Gramma will help with the gas. It’s okay.”

Those eleven days of being a psych major were far from wasted. That girl would be great at that.

All of this wouldn’t be so bad if my mother were consistent, but that’s just not how mental illness works. She’ll act crazy and yell at me about the lipgloss I told her I wouldn’t use, but she bought anyway. She’ll get upset that my background picture on my phone is of me and my Gramma. She’ll text me to tell me she doesn’t love me anymore, because she thinks I’m lying about having to work. I understand you don’t just stop being mentally ill, but she won’t even admit she has a problem or get help. She’s just certain the world is against her. Then, for six months, she’s my mom. She’s the woman who ate cookie dough with me while we watched Smallville. She’s slightly grating and has abysmal table manners, but she’s not cruel or abusive… so I let my guard down… like I have during these last six months.

Me: “It’s really going to suck when she starts eating the candle wax again.”
Gail: “Ugh. Yes… and I’m going to have to pick up the pieces. I hate your mother.”

The only other person Gail hates is the man who told her he couldn’t wait until their daughter got sexy.

free candy
I can’t believe he got the van in the divorce.

I once called my Gramma crying and referred to the fact that my mom was adopted when I said…

“Why did you even pick her?!? You could’ve chosen the baby to the left! What, were you approached by a man in a cloak? Did you make some kind of deal?!?!”

cloaked man
“I’m from the adoption agency.” Yeah… seems legit.

So, a couple of weeks ago, when I called and cried “You could’ve chosen the baby to the left!”, she responded with “Uh oh. What the hell has she done now?” My Gramma does not swear. My mother is threatened by no one as much as she is my Gramma, the woman who took me to spend the night with her the night my mother screamed at us both to fuck off and mooned my Gramma on the front lawn, when I was 15. According to my mother, she stole Bo and I away from her. So, when I was out with my mother and called my Gramma to tell her I was busy and that’s why I’d missed her calls, my mother was threatened and asked why I had to make the call when she was sitting right next to me. Not being 15 anymore, I was visibly pissed, because she hadn’t cared one bit about my constantly texting Gail. So, my mother has been texting and calling non-stop for the past week. The last text was to state that we were having Smithie’s barbecue for my Gramma’s birthday, Sunday at 11:30. I told my mother that my Gramma said she wanted Sim’s, not Smithie’s and she assured me that she’d just asked her.

Me: “Did you want Smithie’s or did mom?”
Gramma: “Well, I mentioned Sim’s and she said she thought that Smithie’s would be a better sit-down place…”

This led to a tearful rant on my part that I soon realized was only upsetting my Gramma, so I called Gail.

“Why does she have to be so fucking crazy?!?!?! Has she… oh, I don’t know… given not being crazy a try?!?! It’s not that fucking hard! I’m doing it right the fuck now!!!

There’s a cheap, sapphire necklace that came with a pancake and candle breakfast when I was eight. I put it away for safekeeping, because the woman who gave it to me is long gone… and I don’t know why.

pancakes with candles

“I’ll just need you to sign this waiver before recess.”

I’m gonna let you in on a great BIG secret. Gail is the only person in my life who knows this…. and multiple people know that my vibrator is named Fluffy.

secret

It is HUGE.

sinkhole

The secret, not the vibrator. The vibrator is actually fairly small, so’s I don’t stretch myself out before the next time I get the real thing.

Here it is, y’all.

I owe $135,000 in student loans.

shocked face

Yup. That’s what it costs to be a librarian these days. Oh wait… I forgot to mention something…

NO IT FUCKING DOESN’T.

Seven years ago, when I was 18, I sat in a financial aid office… alone… next to a bunch of other 18-year-olds who had competent parents acknowledging that they were still children. It was here that I was offered one of two choices: accept a little money… or… accept a lot of money!

little girl with moneyHmm…

There were extenuating circumstances here. My mother had left me my senior year of high school to go live with her online boyfriend a few hours away. It was made clear that I needed to get out of her house, so she could sell it, which she did not do for three more years. Gail and I had drifted and she was paving the way for her own shit decisions, so I clung to my ex-husband in a desperate attempt to hold onto something-fucking-anything-at-all surrounded by all that change. I was unable to transfer my job to the college town where we moved and my future ex-husband was “really trying to find work”… so we needed the money. Then, I threw myself into my studies, not allowing a lot of time for more than my video store job and my ex-husband was “filling out applications everywhere” with no luck… so we needed the money. Then there was a house fire that “started out of nowhere” and we lost everything we owned… so we needed the money. Then there was that one job and that other job and even that last job that didn’t pay my ex-husband “illegally” and totally not because he made them up… so we needed the money. Then we were evicted, even though he was “paying the rent”… so we needed the money. Then I got pregnant… so we needed the money. Finally, fucking finally, I was getting shot of him and starting a new life and buying new furniture for my new apartment where he wouldn’t be breaking in and stealing from me while I worked two jobs… so I needed the money.

No matter what happened in the past, my financial aid was how I cared for myself… even if it’s just retroactively from this point in time. I’m not sure that, given the opportunity, I’d have even let a Christian Grey swoop in and pay off all my debts, because that would mean I never provided for myself. Okay. Fine. I’m lying a lot. I would totally let a sexy millionaire shove me full of jacks and marbles in exchange for $135,000. Yeah. That’s actually exactly my going rate for weird shit. I don’t really have a problem with paying back these loans, though, because I finished my degree and ultimately accepting them allowed me to leave an abusive relationship while educating myself. I’ll gladly pay back $135,000 for the $303 it cost to hire a paralegal and get a diploma.

bargains galore

My point here, is that the majority of these life-altering decisions were made when I was a child. Lawmakers can talk all they want about legal age of consent and being tried as an adult, but your basic Intro to Psych student can tell you that the pre-frontal cortex has not fully matured until around age 25*, and ironically so, because they’re likely 19 and paying for this class, that laptop, and those new shoes on credit. At 18, I could’ve signed my life away to kill for Uncle Sam, but couldn’t have owned a gun for target practice? I couldn’t rent a car, but I could get a credit card? I couldn’t drink alcohol, but I could make a binding legal commitment to an unemployed sociopath? I couldn’t gamble, but I could legally sign onto thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of debt… repeatedly?

kids in suits
Sure, sure. I’ll sign the promissory note.

In Mississippi, you have to be 21 to get a marriage license without parental consent.* That’s brilliant and that’s my proposal. Pick one legal age for all of these decisions and don’t make it fucking eighteen. I work with 18-year-olds and the majority (yes, there are exceptions – end disclaimer) of them are not capable of making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives so strongly as getting married and taking on extreme financial burdens. Had I not been married, I couldn’t have accepted near the amount of loans I did, because my parent’s income would’ve been considered. Had the law said I had to be 21 to get married, maybe my mom wouldn’t have taken off. I don’t know. Maybe this wouldn’t have helped me, but it would undoubtedly help many others. Three years of brain development is astronomical, particularly when you’re discussing the part of the brain controlling….

  • Foreseeing and weighing possible consequences of behavior
  • Considering the future and making predictions
  • Forming strategies and planning
  • Ability to balance short-term rewards with long term goals
  • Impulse control and delaying gratification
  • Modulation of intense emotions
  • Inhibiting inappropriate behavior and initiating appropriate behavior
  • Simultaneously considering multiple streams of information when faced with complex and challenging information

I understand that one of the arguments against this is the Armed Forces. That’s why I exclude them entirely from these restrictions. If we’re going to allow 17-year-olds to fight for this country, buy them a round of shots. Whether or not I think we should be doing that in the first place is a different issue. Additionally, I suggest a firm 18 for medical decisions without parental consent. We allow a 15 year old to get Plan B, but not fucking cough syrup or even birth control? How about we not let children medicate themselves at all before they’re old enough to understand the potential consequences for their health? I’m not referencing a moral dilemma here. I’m referencing studies of the human brain.*

Personally, I’m lucky. I lost the baby and there’s a warrant out for my ex-husband’s arrest, keeping him away from this state. Yeah. Those things make me lucky, because my marriage only affects me emotionally… mostly. I owe three times what I’d make in a year with a full time job, but I’ve applied for an income-based consolidation plan and in 25 years, they’ll forgive what’s left. At least I actually graduated. My friend from high school who dropped out, though, after years of accepting the maximum allotted amount for a woman with three kids,  primarily due to her shopping addiction? Well, according to Direct Consolidation Loans, you can receive complete loan forgiveness as long as…

“Your servicer receives acceptable documentation of your death.”*

bling casket
To be fair, she’s probably already purchased this.

Yeah. I look this shit up.

http://www.hhs.gov/opa/familylife/tech_assistance/etraining/adolescent_brain/Development/prefrontal_cortex/

http://www.usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/mississippi/

http://www.loanconsolidation.ed.gov/

Divorciversary

My American vagina says I was supposed to be super psyched for Valentine’s Day and desperately wish I had a beau. The gun under my pillow disagrees. Two years. Happy divorciversary to me.

dead bouquet

Stupid Crap I Tried Really Hard to Believe When I Was Married

“Your wedding ring is real.”

“I didn’t start that house fire.”

“I have a job. They just aren’t paying me… like the last job I had. ”

“I don’t know where your iPod/guitar/grandma’s bracelet/video camera is! Stop calling me a liar!”

“I wasn’t the one who wrote all of those bad checks.”

“You can’t call me at work or I’ll get in trouble.”

“I got fired, because you called me at work.”

“I paid the rent. They evicted us because we have a cat.”

“I don’t know where that $400 went.”

“I’m sorry your lost the hundred-dollar bill from your wallet, but it wasn’t me.”

“I had the rent money, but I got mugged… again.”

“I don’t know why they issued an arrest warrant.”

“I’m no longer welcome at family events, because they think I stole from them and I didn’t.”

“I have to work out-of-town… over night… for the job that’s not paying me… and I’ll need your car.”

“I’m enrolled in college again.”

“I don’t know why the dog dug a hole in the floor and is bleeding. I didn’t keep him chained up the entire time you were in Alaska with your mother.”

“I changed the oil. I don’t know why the engine exploded.”

“I fed the dog. I took him out. That dried urine he’s laying in must be fresh.”

“While you were working two jobs, I spent the whole day applying for work. That’s why I couldn’t clean anything.”

“My friend you’ve never met bought me those frozen pizzas from 7 Eleven. I didn’t steal your money.”

“My mother moved everything that survived the fire into storage for us. She didn’t throw it out.”

“I won $400 on a scratcher!” I later found out that this was his one and only paycheck from the gas station that ‘never paid’ him. He even tried to argue against the W2.

– Roses are red.
So is the dog’s blood.
You’re fucking crazy.
I hope you die soon. –

I’m not one for poetry.

… but superheroes do it.

Coworker B: “But sometimes in a marriage, you’re 80/20, 60/40, or 90/10. Everyone has days like that. You’ll learn.”

Coworker B has never been married. I was married for four and half years of Hell. Therein lies the downside of accidentally creating a secret identity at work. I know right? You wouldn’t think there’d be one.

Most days it looks like this:
circus

But some days it looks like this:
anger

Sidenote: The Google Image search for “fun at the circus” turns up a lot of pictures of clowns. I felt that would give the wrong impression. Rarely is it ever scary as fuck.

I’ve detailed the whole secret identity thing before, but the short version is that my coworkers know me as a country girl from a wealthy and super functional family. They assumed. I let them. They’ve no idea I was ever abused, married, pregnant… none of it. It is fucking awesome. I’m like Clark Kent with boobs.

clark kent with boobs

Don’t get me wrong. I understand, logically, that this is unhealthy and totally insane. For one, I have Jiminy Fucking Cricket as a best friend and Gail is perpetually willing to tell me I’m a lunatic for creating the persona she calls “Winifred”, even if it was by accident. I think she’s more concerned that I totally intend to keep this up even after moving to another branch one day. She’s so irrational. Just like a woman. Head pat, Gail. Head pat.

Honestly, at this point, I’m pretty amazed that I haven’t run over Winifred with a truck yet. I almost slip at least a couple of times a month, such as when I was talking to Coworker S just the other day about my brother’s jealousy over my weekly lunches with my dad.

Coworker S: “But your brother’s also married and that makes a big difference.”
Me: “Yeah, but when I was… at lunch with my dad…”

I’ve no idea what the rest of that sentence even was. I just remember a roaring in my ears as I almost plowed right over Winifred.

Me: “If I ever get married ag…:cough:…”

No one’s caught that… any of the 27 or so times I’ve done it. It’s like I have some kind of guardian angel protecting my secret identity.

alfred

Sometimes, it’s super funny to encourage this… “misguided image” my coworkers have. My personal favorite:

Coworker S: “Well. I just don’t think I’m fond enough of marriage to ever try it again, anyway.”
Me: “Yeah. Me neither.”
Coworker N: laughingly “You never tried it in the first place.”
Me: hearty laughed tinged with a little madness.

Other times…

she hulk

Coworker B: “You don’t know how to make mashed potatoes?!?”
Me: “Why would I? I don’t like them.”
Coworker B: “What happens when you get married and your husband wants mashed potatoes for dinner?”
Me: “Then he can make his own danged mashed potatoes.”
Coworker B: “That’s not how it works girl. You’ll learn.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been wondering what the secret to saving my marriage was! If only you’d gotten here sooner!

mashed potatoes
When blended just right, I hear they’ll pay your rent and bring all your pets back to life.

Yeah. Winifred was almost viciously gang raped and left to bleed out in a ditch that day. You can never accuse me of lacking in imagery.

Other times, of course, I wonder if I should just come clean, much like how Clark Kent doubts whether or not he should just come out as Superman. There have been entire movies based on it. How did they usually end, though?

dead lois lane

With a dead Lois Lane. That’s how. So really, this is for the good of all mankind… or um… just Lois Lane… only the library version. I’ve had this job for a year and a half. Even if I didn’t tell them to call me Winifred, they did and I’ve kind of been responding to it for all this time. I’d just look crazy if I admitted it now.

crazy superman
Shut-up, Gail. That one’s too easy… like you.*

*She loves those jokes. She thinks Hallmark should use them.

Fortunately, no one has ever caught on about how defensive I can be of divorce, thinking my negative marital views stem from my parents’ divorce, which I’ve barely mentioned… cuz that’s the saddest thing that’s happend to me. :Giggle:

Coworker S: “It depends on why people get divorced. Some people get divorced just because they don’t want to be married anymore.”
Me: “You never know what’s going on in another person’s marriage. There could be plenty they aren’t telling you.”

You see, though. I’m defending divorcees all over the world… undercover. I’m like some special Amazonian heroine…

wonder woman

You’re fucking welcome y’all. You’re fucking welcome.