Blogiversary Number Three!

The trouble with my blogiversary is that it’s actually on my birthday…

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… not that my dad remembers when that is. After I sent the “what’s up?” text, I checked my voicemail to receive his happy birthday wishes.

The man is a parody of himself.

Anyhoo, the blogiversary post is always a tough one to fit in, because I love birthdays. I birthday myself to death. Saturday, I got together with Gaily, Catherine, and Laura. We stuffed ourselves with cookie cake, pizza, and liquor and talked about boys. I told them all about how I drove to Wellston after work on Thursday to see Jake, who made me the boyest and sweetest dinner ever: pork chops and canned peas and corn on paper plates that got soggy before I was finished eating. It was wonderful and he obviously missed me as much as I missed him, so I stayed the night and drove home at 6:00 the next morning.

Monday, Gaily and I drove 40 miles for donuts that aren’t as epic as everyone claims and I illegally downloaded Trainwreck for us to watch while crafting. Last night, Niki brought sushi over and we gorged on leftover cookie cake and caught up on each other’s lives. Tonight, on my actual birthday, I get dinner with my favorite lady in the whole world: my Gramma. Later, I’ll see my work friends at a grown-up arcade. Tomorrow, my guy comes to town for two days to see me and meet Gaily and Terry and then my dad and Lena.

So, if this week is any reflection on how 28 will go, I feel like I’ve come a long way. I started this blog on my 25th birthday, a grad student carefully navigating the dating world, while still coping with a young and tragic divorce. While I’m hoping I’ll get a full time position at the library soon, I’m pretty darned content with my life right now. I have wonderful friends and family, a career I love, and a blog I’ve maintained for three years to the day. I’m excited to see my future entries. It’s not the life I planned at 18. It’s better.

Staring Down the Barrel of 30… at 27?

Me: “He’s 29 years old, lives with his mother, and plays video games all day. He is staring down the barrel of 30 and has nothing to show for it.”
Gail: “Wooooow. That is a really unhealthy way to think about your 30’s.”

30.

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My 27th birthday is just a couple of weeks away. I’m big on birthdays. Every year, I exhaust Gail with birthday hoopla and insistence that we celebrate not just mine, but also hers a few weeks later. Not only is it a holiday that’s all yours, it’s also a time for reflection. Reflection is sort of like a self-imposed grading system and there’s nothing I like more than grades, y’all.

So birthdays, for me, are a time to judge my accomplishments thus far and set new goals for the next year. Most people have a list of things to accomplish by 30. have a list of things to accomplish by 27 and a half. For now, however, I think I’m just going to start with the things that I should probably stop doing before everyone in town releases their fire lit lantern into the sky on the eve of my 30th birthday.

Gaily, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that, in addition to bridal and baby showers, coordination of the Synchronized 30th Birthday Disney Lantern Release, also falls to you.

Before I’m 30, I should probably (but likely won’t) stop…

… using the phrase “superraped” to describe a dangerous situation. i.e. “I am so going to get superraped.”

… ironically answering the phone with “Whaddup gangsta?”

… using Xenon’s “zetus lapetus” as a swear word.

… excitedly exclaiming “Oh em jingles!”

… typing out “bee tea double ewe” in text messages.

… watching (and reciting) Hocus Pocus more than 20 times per year.

… arguing with people about Titanic.

… marathoning CW teen dramas and declaring myself a team member. C’mon, Elena. TEAM DAMON!

… engaging people in the Superman vs. Batman debate, only to angrily shout that Superman wins “… BECAUSE HE’S SUPERMAN!”

… deciding a man is just not right for me, because he clearly hasn’t researched the above Superman vs. Batman topic enough for an educated discussion.
* I’m sorry, but he used the phrase “brain beats brawn.” Duuuuuude. No. Superman absorbed all of the knowledge of Krypton, a far more advanced civilization, which included Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Jor El programmed it into his ship, so he knew those things by age three. I don’t care which private school Bruce Wayne went to, he’s not beating that.

… calling everyone dude for emphasis. i.e. “Duuuuuude. No.”

… referring to sketchy scenes as “a wee bit rapey.”

… blurting “That’s what she said!” to the wrong audience. “No, Gramma. It’s a joke. You see, you don’t mean it sexually, but it can be taken that way… never mind.”

… shouting “Emotions belong with the last fucking Horcrux!” when things get dramatic.

… reading fiction that almost exclusively costs 99 cents on Amazon, because it’s about an alien race that saved the people of earth for the low, low cost of our ladies.

… only getting 2 hours of sleep, because I’m almost done yarn bombing the living room, while whispering “… just one more episode.”

… hoarding original packaging and warranty information for everything. Was I really planning to return the kitchen knives I got for Christmas three years ago?

… going to the grocery store just for the free samples and leaving with a bag of cheese cubes and dried okra.

… driving 20 miles to the mall to get assorted bags of candy.

… somehow offending people in sex shops.

… addressing problems with the phrase “I tried to make it better. That wasn’t working, so I figured I might as well make it worse.”

… picking fights with Jane about Disney.

… provoking strangers in sports bars, when they cheer for free throws and field goals, by drunkenly ranting about the Trophy Generation.

… using the phrases “sucks balls” and “go suck a bag of dicks.”

… trying to talk unwitting people into watching Human Centipede, by insisting it’s “a tale of surgical exploration and sensual teamwork.”

That, folks, is how I am going to become one classy lady… in three years.

Big Girl(?) Woes

You know, for someone who doesn’t make a dime off her blog, I’m incredibly reliable, fueled only by your follows, likes, and comments. Maybe it’s because I think too much and without some kind of outlet, beyond Gail, I’d drift slowly into madness…

… or quickly.

It’s a unique disappointment though, when a favorite blogger writes less and less consistently, gradually weaning themselves into oblivion. If you’re anything like me, in your blog reading, you become truly invested in the characters. You want to know what happened with that interview/date/visit to the couple’s therapist. When I’m following a blog and reading about the trials of new marriage, the heartache of divorce, or the stress of watching children grow up and move away and then they just stop writing…

Maybe I put too much stock into the lives of strangers. The thing is, I love reading someone’s story as it’s happening. When I read your dating blog, I’m not just experiencing your disastrous online dating efforts. I’m watching the montage at the beginning of the love story and who wants to stop after the montage?!?! And so, it is with this little rant that I apologize for my sporadic posting, as of late. I have been working 60 hours per week, saving for a summer without substitute teaching, in addition to…


… drum roll please…

Big Girl Woes.

Y’all, I love being an adult. I see and hear constant complaints and ecards about how “being an adult isn’t going to work out for me” and I’m all whhhaaaa?!?! Being a grown up is the greatest and I mean that in a Tom Hanks in the first half of Big sort of way. I get to stay up late for no reason, eat candy for breakfast, have random snack foods for dinner, never fold the laundry, make the bed only when I change the sheets, and have trashy Netflix chick marathons all summer long. Even better, no one hits me, the bills get paid, and there are no compromises at all.

The last few weeks, however, everything has just seemed to snowball. It started with needing new tires… then my phone died forever… then my Judybug cost me $250 in X-rays to diagnose him as a drama queen… but through all that, I didn’t accept a dime of help, because I have an awful lot of pride tied up in the fact that I take care of me. I haven’t accepted help on that front since my daddy paid for my last graduate course, so I could get my diploma. Then the washing machine broke down…

Dad: “I transferred $100 to your account.”
Me: “I’ll pay you back by the middle of next month.”
Dad: “Don’t worry about it. It’s fine.”

$100 does not a Big Girl make. That’s not so bad. Right?

… then finally my car (with its new tires) was no more.

Mechanic: “Well, what’s wrong with it?”
Me: “It just.. stopped working.”

I’m an articulate gal. I promise. Just don’t ask me about cars.

By God’s infinite graces, I was able to get back to my sub job in time for class and borrow my daddy’s Jeep in time to be at the library by 5:00. I didn’t have to rent a car and my car insurance covered the towing. I however, did not receive the news I was hoping for, that my repair would be Cheap As Free.

Mechaninc: “It’s going to be expensive.”
Me: “How expensive?”
Mechaninc: “Well, I don’t know for sure yet. $1,500 to $2,000?”

Fine. Lesson learned. That wasn’t just water leaking from the undercarriage after the rain we haven’t had lately. Don’t just turn up the radio, when you hear that noise. Also, never buy a car from a company that prompts the question “Wait. They make cars? I thought they just made motorcycles.” If it hadn’t rattled like a box of nails, I might have considered said noise to be more significant and if it weren’t so low to the ground, I might not have blamed a puddle.

So, it is with this stroke of fortune that I spent last Thursday evening shopping for a new car, rather than writing my latest blog post.

Dad: “Well, if you need another $500 for the down payment, just holler.”
Me: “Yeah… I’m just gonna take you up on that, then.”

Me: “I had to accept $500 from my daddy to even be considered for financing. Growing up takes so much longer than I had planned. I’m 26. I have a master’s degree and work two jobs. Is it ever going to happen?”
Gail: “You know, people don’t talk about borrowing money from their parents. This is really just something people do sometimes… which is why it’s so scary when your parents die, because you are truly on your own.” 

Bee tea double ewe, if you ever find a friend who will spend her only night off that week, suffering through the pain that is buying a car, keep her forever and let your kids call her aunt.

I did it, though. Almost on my own. I made the negotiations. I went all Rosie the Riveter and quoted Kelley Blue Book, when they tried to get me to double my down payment. I signed the papers for my very first car payment… and only had a small panic attack while doing so. I got all the documents sent into the financing office and switched the insurance. I even paid the mechanic and made the arrangements to have my deceased roller skate of a car towed to the salvage yard and picked up the check. Still, everyone seemed to think it was the wrong move.

Bo: “70,000 miles on a Nissan isn’t bad. But if you’d had dad cosign, you might could’ve gotten a new car for the same payment.”
Me: “I’m 26 years old. I don’t need my daddy to cosign on a car, if I can get approved. I want to do it on my own, as much as I can. Besides, I don’t think Lena would be cool with that.”
Bo: “It’s really none of Lena’s business.”
Me: “Um, she’s married to him. His credit is her credit. That’s totally her business.”

I figured that, surely, my daddy would agree when I told him the next day.

Dad: “Well, I’m gonna help Bea out, when she buys a new car.”
Me: “Yeah, but Bea’s 20 years old and in college. I’m 26 and could get approved, just at a higher interest rate. I’d rather do it myself and refinance, than be tied to you financially for six years.”
Dad: “Yeah, but if I’d cosigned, you might could’ve gotten a new car for the same payment.”

Today, all the trouble was supposed to be over. The Freon was supposed to be charged, as agreed upon in the initial sale, when the car salesman assured me that’s all it was. Alas, another lesson has been learned: never buy a car with a broken air conditioner. Fortunately the dealership will cover the repairs, despite the fact that the warranty doesn’t apply for a preexisting issue… all but $100 that I just don’t have.

Me: “Can I have $100 if I promise-”
Dad: “Well, sure.”

God’s infinite graces? Certainly.

But I may have officially lost the title of Big Girl.

Growing Up Professional: Mistakes I Can’t Believe I’ve Actually Made in Job Interviews

So, yesterday I had a job interview. It was sort of a big deal.

My best friend was positively useless. 

Me: I don’t think I could be more prepared for this interview, but I’m terrified they’ll ask some question I just haven’t considered.
Gail: “Do you fidget at work and, if so, is it a result of meth use?”
Gail: “Yes. I mean, I fidget. I don’t do meth. I don’t do any drugs. I mean, I’ve taken prescription drugs, but they were mine. I mean, they were prescribed to me for conditions I legitimately had. I don’t steal prescription drugs or do meth, but I sometimes fidget.”

Those who know you best, mock you best. Congratulations Gail. You’ve been replaced by a houseplant. You know, the one you gave me and I facetiously named Blaylock, after the redheaded gay vampire warrior from that paranormal romance novel, but now refuse to plant in soil, because I’m afraid I’ll kill it and cry, because I named it? That one.

Anyhoo. I was prepared for this interview, y’all. I created my own workbook of possible interview questions, filled it out, and quizzed myself for a week. That kind of prepared.


That kind of prepared.

I didn’t substitute teach for three days this week so I could obsessively go over everything from “What don’t your coworkers like about you?” to “Wait. Should I wear silver or gold jewelry with the pearls?” The latter was part of a text/photo message conversation with Jane, in Vegas, that started with “Good friends stay local for I Have Nothing to Wear! crises!!!!”

But why? Why would anyone prepare for an interview on such an extensive level?


No. Besides that.

Here’s why. These are mistakes that I have actually made in the past… and that I can thank the good lord I didn’t make yesterday.

That time I showed up with a mangled neck…
After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I was desperately trying to save my marriage. Certain that getting a teaching job would provide the finances and security to do so, I applied for every applicable job… including one 80 miles away. This was going to finally fix my husband, y’all!


It’s just that exorcisms are so expensive.

In hindsight, the whole thing was stupid, particularly the part where my ex-husband gave me a gigantic hickie the night before. Now, do not misunderstand. I know I exaggerate a lot, but this was hardly the kind of mark that could be covered with concealer. Seriously, it was like what Old Yeller looked like after the wild boars got a hold of him. At the time, however, my hair was nearly to my waist, and I felt I could hide it. So, off I went, for the two hour drive, to the high school in a town of 2,000, with no concrete plans as to what I would do about the distance were I offered the position.

Lucky me, that last detail was never something I had to consider. Halfway through the interview, the snaggle-toothed principal left me to write a short essay, and I heard him discussing the gaping wound on my neck, with his secretary. They were talking about sizeAt that point, there really wasn’t much to be done, so I sort of just blew off the essay and left. Not only did I not get the job, but I never got any kind of acknowledgement that I had even interviewed.

That time I wore a fairy princess costume...
Just a few months after I started working at my first library, I had the opportunity to interview for a 3/4 time position, as opposed to my half time one. Having recently lost a lot of weight, I really didn’t have many clothes that fit me. Even the dress I’d worn to my interview just four months earlier had been given to Gail. Not long before this, though, I’d bought a flowy, strapless, black dress with an uneven Tinkerbell-style hem. It was adorable and comfortable and sexy… and entirely inappropriate for an interview.

sexy fairy costume
I really wish this were more of an exaggeration.

In my defense, I did pair the dress with a black shrug, to conceal the fact that it was strapless, but I also referred to it as “not-much dress” when Gail wore it in Crawfish and Smarmy

Bee tea double ewe, Gail, thanks for taking my hand-me-ups. It makes me feel skinny.

In addition, I only had one bra, at the time. Seriously, y’all, losing weight is expensive. You have to buy new everythingand a black bra didn’t make the list, when I was in grad school and working two jobs. Unfortunately, the only one that did was a white racerback bra, that practically wrapped itself around my neck, so there was just no way to keep from repeatedly flashing bright white bra straps from beneath my black prom dress. I don’t know that the outfit was the sole reason for my not having gotten the job, but really, I can’t see how it wouldn’t have played a part. I would not have hired someone wearing that costume.

That time I couldn’t walk in high heels…
As I worked my way through school, I applied for each and every position that opened in the library system. When an associate librarian position was made available at my location, I jumped at the opportunity, even handing my boss a copy of my resume, personally. Although I wasn’t done with school and it’s rare to hire librarians without a master’s degree, my boss still gave me a shot… and I blew it. Desperate to look professional, I bought new shoes for the occasion: four inch heels.

Like every little girl who repeatedly wished someone else was her mommy, I never had a woman to teach me how to walk in heels. As it was, Gaily and a Youtube video taught me to apply eyeliner at 23. Not wanting to mess up my pretty new houndstooth heels, I didn’t walk in them much prior to my interview, either. I also wasn’t sure how heels were actually supposed to fit.

foot binding
Hint: not like this.

Not only were the heels too high to walk in, but they were also excruciatingly painful. Realizing, too late, how incapable I was of wearing these foot vices, I speed-hobbled into my manager’s office and tried my hardest not to have to walk in front of him. Zetus lapetus. I’m having hindsight embarrassment just picturing how I refused to move to the left or right to grab something and just leaned way over.

Beyond the shoes, I really just wasn’t ready to be a librarian. It’s a much more difficult job than people think and I’d yet to realize just how involved it is, so I don’t blame my old boss for not having chosen me. I also, however, wouldn’t blame him if he decided that taking off my shoes the second I left the office, and running through the library and the parking lot barefootwas an inappropriate exit. I’ve since sold the heels to Gail. Joke’s on her, since they’re filled with my blood. 

That time I didn’t know my boss’s name… or who was interviewing me…
Okay. There’s an explanation. It’s just lame.

Despite all of my panicked and tearful phone calls to Gail, where I insisted that I was going to have to join the armed forces, because I was “never going to be a librarian!!!!!”…

… just one day before my MLIS graduation ceremony, I received my first call for an interview. Unfortunately, said interview was given during a truly busy and exhausting time. I had been working about 55 hours per week, in addition to finishing up the last of my graduate coursework. I was also still coming down from the stress of presenting my portfolio, upon which the future of mankind rested. I was overwhelmed. I was just so very tired. Just parking downtown for my interview had me near frustrated tears during the elevator ride.

The woman giving the interview was my boss’s boss. I had read her name in print and had possibly met her in person, but I was mistaken on the pronunciation of her name. You see, a nearby branch manager was named Maria. The woman interviewing me was named Mariah. In my head, I’d been pronouncing them both Maria. Not only did I say this woman’s name incorrectly in my introduction, but I continued to mispronounce it throughout the interview. I corrected myself each time…

“Maria… I mean Mariah.”

… but it got to the point where the other interviewer was laughing. No really. That happened. My interviewer laughed at my awkwardness. That deserves a fucking trophy, not like that means anything these days, but come on!!!!! 

Aaaaaand, speaking of my other interviewer…

I wasn’t aware, upon entering the room, that Mariah was going to be the primary interviewer. She’s the manager of the managers, and as far as I understood, she was just supposed to sit in on the meeting. So, the entire time she was asking me questions, I was addressing my answers to Chuckles McGee. Only later, did I realize that Chuckles  was the interim manager of the hiring branch. He was supposed to sit in on my interview with Mariah, not the other way around, because he wouldn’t be the one making the decision. So basically, I turned the interview into a conversation with the ventriloquist’s dummy. To make matters worse, I started to get nervous, realizing that this interview was going horribly and my answers quickly deteriorated. Recently, an unstable coworker had yelled at me for not breaking policy for a customer.

Mariah: “What don’t your coworkers like about you?”
Me: ::to Chuckles:: “I tell everyone no.”

As I left the office, I did one thing right. I thanked my interviewers.

Me: “Thank you. It was nice meeting you, Maria.”
Mariah: “Mariah.”
Chuckles: ::laughs out loud::

“It’s just not a good fit.”

In the last couple of years, I’ve learned to deal with a lot of rejection. I coped when I didn’t pass my graduate portfolio for the first time. I’ve dealt with my mother hurling cookies at my door on my birthday. I’ve even gotten better at accepting the fact that some men just aren’t feeling it. Now, I have faced these things, but in all of the above cases… I did so horribly. So, it’s with little surprise that I’ve handled my very first professional rejection so poorly, today.

I’ve worked with one library system for two and a half years. They have my loyalty and, luckily, I have theirs. Not only does termination in this library system require murder while intoxicated and an intricate system of strings and pulleys, but I just had my three month evaluation with my new branch. My boss informed me that I was meeting all expectations, she had no complaints, and I seemed to be fitting in with everyone. I’m holding onto that pretty tightly right now, because…

… my other boss just informed me that, after six weeks, I’ve worked my last day at library number two.

Yup. I was let go… for the first time ever. Why?

Boss: “It’s just not a good fit.”
Me: “I don’t understand. I’ve never been late. I do everything I’m asked. I jump up and help customers. I’ve made any changes you’ve suggested. Isn’t there a procedure for this?”
Boss: “You’re still in training and it’s just not a good fit, so we need you to clean out your locker.”
Me: “Did I break some kind of huge rule or something? I don’t get it.”
Boss: “It’s not a good fit. It’s time to get your things.”

So… that happened. I’d be lying if I said things were going wonderfully. After three weeks of working for this library system, the same supervisor told me that she was concerned about the “negative language” I’d been using.

Me: “What do you mean?”
Boss: “Well, when I asked how your training went, you said it was ‘okay.’ When I asked what you thought of staff day, you said it wasn’t what you expected. Those sound like backhanded compliments.”

Um… what?

I said the training was okay, because it was okay. There were things I found useful and things I didn’t. I said staff day wasn’t what I expected, because staff day wasn’t what I expected. We do staff day differently at my other library system and she knew that, because I clarified. Even at the time, I desperately wanted to respond with:

“Well, I’m sorry you’re choosing to take it that way.”

I also didn’t. I told my boss that I’d work on the things she suggested and I did, raving about the useful things I learned in training. But then…

Boss: “You’re not allowed to wear hoodies at the desk.”
Me: “What?”
Boss: “If it has a hood, it’s a hoodie. It’s just too casual and unprofessional.”
Me: “I’m sorry. I’ve just never had anyone express that opinion before.”
Boss: ::scoff:: “Uh, yeah… I guess that’s my opinion. I’m pretty sure it’s the opinion of everyone else in the system, too.”
Me: “Okay. I’ll wear a sweater next time. Just to clarify, it’s the hood that’s the issue, right?”
Boss: “Yeah. We like people to dress professionally. Think bank attire.”

I know what professional dress is and didn’t need the clarification, hence the heels I regularly wear. I also know that it’s cold in libraries and the dress code said nothing about a fleece jacket in November. That makes it a personal preference or… wait for it… opinion I’d also worn it several times before this and she never had a problem with it. Regardless, I never wore the jacket again. I even bought a sweater without a hood, because she did verify that the one with a hood wasn’t acceptable. 

There you have it. I knew things weren’t going smoothly. Just last week, we had one of my boss’s weekly bouts of criticism, where she told me that she had expected me to be further along. I politely explained that I felt like I would be, if the desk time weren’t so spread out, because I was constantly at staff training. I mentioned that I had a lot of desk time coming up and I thought I’d catch on quickly in the next week. She said that would be great. The next shift we worked together was my last.

In retrospect, I’m proud of myself for how I handled our final conversation. I defended myself and made it crystal clear that this woman had no justifiable reason for ending my employment, which was witnessed and understood by the other supervisor in the room. While my boss couldn’t see her face, the woman looked horrified and supremely uncomfortable. I did not cry. I did not beg for a second chance. I made her admit, more or less, that this was a personal issue of hers, because apparently, it’s a thing for someone to let you go, because they just don’t like you… and it fucking hurts.

I probably could’ve done without burning my shirt and name tag in the kitchen sink, though. That was, admittedly, extreme. What can I say? I have two settings:

1. handling it with grace
2. fire

Fortunately, I deleted my old boss’s phone number, so I can’t do anything stupid. One month is a blip in time, not worth mentioning. A restraining order is not.

While I understand that not everyone is going to like me, this woman disliked me so deeply, that she was willing to go through the trouble to hire someone new. Furthermore, I was supposed to do a program in a few days. She’s been blowing me off every time I mentioned it for weeks. I’ve never been able to find her profile on Facebook, though I know she’s friends with her other employees, meaning I’m pretty sure she blocked me ages ago (I even looked through mutual friends… totally rational.) It’s mighty convenient that she only scheduled me for a few hours this month. She was plotting this. She never gave me a chance, because she disliked me that much. Fucking ouch.

Me: ::crying:: “What if this means I’m just a bad librarian? What if this isn’t for me and I never get full time?”
Gramma: “Oh, Belle. Stop it! You’re a good librarian! You just said a man was thrilled that you downloaded a book on his phone. They love you at your other job.”
Me: “How can anyone dislike me that much? I did my job! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

I once read an online article about the most crushing moments in a person’s life. One of them was the first time you’re punished for something you didn’t do. Here, here.

First and foremost, it’s the hurt feelings and unfairness. I don’t need everyone to like me, but you still have to work with people you don’t like. That is so unprofessional and inappropriate… and it sounds like total horseshit to say it was a personal vendetta. Every jilted ex employee plays the victim. I sound pathetic and I know it. Second, it’s the loss of security. I felt like a big girl. I could finally pay my bills and just knew there would be work, and therefore income. Now, I’m back to substitute teaching. I’m unsettled all over again, and in my pain, I was downright weak to my best friend, Rosie the Riveter.

Me: I’m tired of feeling so unsettled. I just want a full time job and a husband. I don’t care if that kicks feminism in its big hairy balls. I want a settled romantic relationship and guaranteed income.
Gail: I don’t think that reduces your value as a person at all.
Me: I’m tired of my twenties. I’m over it. Can I just have screaming kids in the other room and a boy who’s on my side at the end of the day? Can I do that now?
Gail: Other than “you’re allowed to want that,” I’ve got nothin’. You’re doing your best. It’ll probably come. 

As usual, the rest of the world thinks I’m overreacting.

Me: “What if I never get full time at my other job?!? What if this ruins my professional reputation!?!?”
Dad: “Belle, you are reading into this waaaay too much. You barely worked there for a month and you didn’t even like it. It’s not going to ruin your life. You’ve said yourself that the two systems don’t even talk. I’ll bet anything she has someone else she wanted to hire for this position and it has nothing to do with you. Calm down.”

Gramma: “Everything happens for a reason. This is just paving the way for better things. Calm down.”

Coworker at my other job: ::scoff:: “We’re not gonna think less of you. We’re gonna think less of them.” 

Other Coworker at my other job: “Just don’t put it on a resume. It’s not going to affect anything. You’re fine. I don’t know that anyone in the systems even talk to each other.”

So, I’ve allowed myself a limited amount of time to dwell, cry, pout, and be devastated, humiliated, and outraged. Tomorrow, when this blog will post, I will work to put the last month and a half behind me. I will work even harder to regain my confidence as a librarian and recover from losing a job for no reason.

There were no experiences from this position that I’m not getting from my other one. I never wanted to be full time with that system, because they pay significantly less and their benefits suck. My boss stressed me out to no end and I had fantasized about quitting anyway. She’d already made me cry twice and if she continues with this attitude, it’ll all come back to affect her professionally. The time I spent at that job allowed me to catch up financially and I’ve accepted two substitute jobs, just this week. My primary job is going better than I would have ever dreamed. I’ve already updated my resume. I’m set. 

Gail: “You know how, when you’ve made plans to hang out with someone and you don’t want to anymore, but you made the commitment, so you keep it? Well, then, that person calls and cancels and you’re like ‘Seriously? You’re canceling on me?”

Gramma: “Belle, you’ll get over this. You’ve been through a lot worse.” 

Damn straight.

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?!?!?

wedding day portrait
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).

the waitress
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.

zombie crowd
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.

van gogh
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.”

pulling hair out

“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.

The Amazon in My Corner

Abigail the Passive Assertive is how she’d go down in history if passive assertive people went down in history. They don’t, but you get the point. When we met, I was the mouthy one and Gail was the doormat. We seem to have leveled each other out, more or less, over the past ten years, as I’ve taught Gail the value of standing up for herself and she’s taught me the value of doing so without a screaming match in Algebra class. True story. Every now and then, though, people push Gail just an inch too far and it’s always Feed-the-Gremlins-After-Midnight awesome.

gremlin

Scene: at a bar, where Crooked Teeth has been begging her all night to come out to his truck with him, actually trying to pull her to the parking lot at one point.
Crooked Teeth: “I just want to show you my truck.”
Gail: “Really? You just want me to see your truck?”
Crooked Teeth: “Yeah. I swear.”
Gail: suggestively “Well, what if I just wanted to go out to your truck, pull down your pants and suck your dick until you cum in my mouth?”
Crooked: “Uh… what? Is this a trick?”
Gail: “Uh… yeah…duh.”

The Musician was a phase (THANK GOD) and they were never exclusive. He, however, desperately wanted them to be… on Gail’s part, while he had a mirrored headboard and multiple brands of tampons under the bathroom sink.
The Musician: “So, what? You’re out at a bar trying to pick up other guys?”
Gail: “I’m going to let you go, so you won’t have to talk to such a whore anymore.”
The Musician: “I’m just trying to get to know you and that’s hard to do when my lady is getting to know other men.”
Gail: “I’m not YOUR lady, I’m MY lady.”
The Musician: “It’s just a figure of speech.”
Gail: “So is ‘nigger’.”

See that. Gail’s a regular little Amazon when you push her too far. Overall, however, she’s a pretty passive person. We both had somewhat absent parents in our teens. My mother was busy eating candle wax, while Gail’s parents were busy bragging about her little sister. Don’t get me wrong. Gail and I both understand that they just have more common ground with Sadie and that’s why she was their favorite. It’s not that they love her more, but that they get her more. If there is a crime, it’s that they aren’t all that subtle about their preference. For example, I’m not even kidding when I reference the birthday card Gail saw displayed in Sadie’s bedroom declaring her “the best daughter two parents could ask for.” I cringe, not because of the obvious favoritism, but at ending a sentence with a preposition.

best daughter

As adults, Gail and I find this hilarious. We know they love her just as much as Sadie. They just don’t connect as well with the daughter who truly had to be talked out of living in her truck a few summers ago, for no reason. As a teenager, however, Gail felt rejected and mistreated and, as is still the way of Gail, she said nothing, because familial conflict is a lot more difficult than telling off Jethro Clampett in a bar. So… enter teenage Belle, who felt abandoned and abused, and could therefore totally relate. Ultimately, we clung to each other, fumbling our way through our formative years with only another clueless teen as guidance. Considering we were both divorced by age 23, that may not have been the best path, but it was certainly better than going it alone.

Having been through all we have, Gail and I can both be accused of going Mama Bear on each other at one time or another. After I posted a blog about how overwhelmed I was with grad school, I got a text message demanding “You’d better be kidding about the cocaine.” I was. When Gail told me she met Terry on fucking Craigslist, she got an angry text message “That was wreckless and dangerous. You could’ve been super murdered and then I’d be all alone to deal with how much that sucked. Fuck off.”

royalty
“Eloquence” is the word you seek. I should be allowed to address the masses.

Despite the must-be-fated-in-our-blood connection, Gail and I are far from the same person. As a reader of Red Pill blogs (though I don’t subscribe to the ideology), I love to call Gail “Captain” when she does any traditional male activity, just to piss her off. It’s even more fun than “Rosie the Riveter”. She generally responds with a comment about how I should be churning butter or vaccuuming in pearls. You see, we are the victims of identically broken marriages to men who weren’t men or adults in any traditional sense. Both refused to work and resorted to tears as manipulation tactics. Neither took any pride in supporting themselves and were happy to let the woman of the house do it. Gail took it for less than two years. I took it for just over four. Our reactions were exact opposites. Gail wants to take care of herself and doesn’t need a man’s help. More importantly, she doesn’t want to support a man financially. I can take care of myself as well, but I want to be with a traditional guy who understands what role a man is supposed to play: breadwinner and spider killer. I’ll gladly slip into some pearls and vaccuum in the meantime. Ironically enough, Terry, Gail’s beau, is mighty traditional. I always knew she secretly wanted a man to take care of her.

head pat
Insert condescending head pat :here:.

You see, Gail has a mothering tendency that is beyond normal or healthy and the death of her infant daughter three years ago didn’t help. We once had the following textersation, in true keeping with our humor-cancels-out-emotion arrangement.

Me: I was watching this documentary on penguins and thought of you. “When the female penguin loses her young, she is quick to adopt any stray and will often fight another female penguin over rights to the chick.”
Gail: Shut it, stray.

So, when Gail dates a… oh, just for fun we’ll go with musician… who smokes a ton of pot and lives a wreckless lifestyle, she can’t help but worry (despite her own tendency to fuck Craigslist truckers). She feels like the babysitter, whereas I would just feel like it’s his fucking problem when he gets arrested. In completely different ways, we have both washed our hands of men who don’t act like adults. She avoids them and I encourage them to put pepper spray in their eye: another true story and one that demonstrates this perfectly.

About two years ago, Gail’s on-again-off-again (they still said “I love you”, but didn’t sleep together) boyfriend, Cam, was at my apartment with Gail. I had just begun a new job in a different part of town than my white, wealthy, suburb, where I walk the golf course at 2:00 a.m. with no worries, and my Gramma had insisted I buy pepper spray. My Christmas tree is hot pink, y’all. When I saw pink pepper spray, I was sold. Gail has this theory that there are some things that you just don’t buy in pink. I fully disagree since my tree and my hammer and both of those guns all work fine, Captain.

captain

Gail, however, kept insisting that the contents of my pink pepper spray were “lemon juice and glitter”, to which I responded “I don’t want either of those in my eyes, so we’re good.” I must state that Cam was about two years younger than we were, putting him at 21 during this story. Though he worked three jobs, he was pretty much 12 years old forever in a lot of his antics. The pepper spray debate continued so I jokingly asked Cam…

Me: “Hey, Cam. You wanna test my pepper spray?”
Cam: “Sure! I’ll try it!”
Me: “Seriously? I was kidding. You probably shouldn’t do that.”
Gail: “NO! Do not! We’re going to have to take you to the hospital.”
Cam: “Oh, it’ll be fine.”
Me: “Alright. Here. It’ll be a story either way.”
Gail: “BELLE! Don’t encourage him!”
Me: “What?!?! He wants to do it. Let him do it.”
Gail: “Ugh! This is a terrible idea.”

So Cam took out his knife, cut open the package, sprayed a little bit of pepper spray directly into his palm, rubbed his finger in it and touched his eye.

touching eye

Then… all hell broke loose. Cam immediately declared “It works! Oh… it burns!” and leaped up to run to the sink while Gail frantically ran water… forgetting about the open knife on his lap. As he was bent over the sink, blood gushing from his nose due to his clotting disorder and high blood-pressure from the pain, I took a moment from my uncontrollable laughter to ask “Is your foot bleeding?” as blood dripped onto my floor. Only then did we realize, he’d dropped the knife on his socked foot… and that was even funnier. In my defense, Cam thought this whole thing was hilarious as well and part of the problem was that he was laughing while Gail yelled at us both that this was serious, while shoving tampons into Cam’s nose, partly to shame him and partly so he wouldn’t die.

laughing
Me
kid
Cam
screaming at boy
Gail

That story pretty much sums up Gail’s entire relationship with Cam.. and the musician… and our friend Malik… and pretty much every irresponsible person she’s ever met. I just declare them to all be adults and let them do as they will. Worst case scenario, I know that’s not lemon juice and glitter.

Scene: Cam lies on my floor with an ice pack over his eyes, a bandaged foot, and tampons in his nose. Gail stews angrily while washing the bloody towels and sock.
Me: “Well… at least we know the pepper spray works.”
Cam: groaning laughter
Gail: groaning laughter “Damnit, Belle.”

penguin
Gail and… well, the majority of the relationships she has with people.

Since the Great Pepper Spray Incident of 2011, Gail has pretty much steered clear of Adult Children and I credit that to the actual stray she took in, Ginger.

gremlin
Gail’s all “I don’t remember her taking this picture and this is the second time she’s posted it” as she reads this, because coincidentally enough, the sewer rat Gail insists is a dog looks just like this.

I comforted Gail during her divorce. She held my hair during mine. She listened to me cry during my miscarriage. I helped her make Valentines to leave on her daughter’s grave. Maybe we’re both pretty broken, but it’s beyond amazing to have someone there who will read everything I write and send me encouraging comments, come over and cry to me when a boy uses her, listen to me rant and rave about my lunatic mother, and call me when she’s having a hard time dealing with the fact that her little girl, Grace, would have been four today. Told you she was an Amazon, because fuck I don’t know how she’s retained her spirit through that. Lucky for me, though, because it’s pretty awesome that I always have an Amazon in my corner.

amazon

I was a 23-year-old divorcée.

I wrote this entry months before moving to WordPress, so very few of my 80 something followers have even seen it. It still greatly resonates with me and I find myself wanting to make the same points in newer posts, so I’m reposting it and I hate the “reblog” style.

The right idea…

In the Midwest, we marry young, often because we have kids even younger. There are a number of reasons for this trend, but to name a few…

One: you can buy a decent house here for well under $100,000, so a couple of 18-year-old kids can actually afford to care for themselves. Two: our parents did it and still effectively force smiles for the family photo. Three: if you have sex before marriage, you will get syphilis of the broken heart and Jesus will personally punch you in the head (or so say our middle school “sex education” classes). Four: country music said it was romantic

Mostly, we just make bad decisions.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some of these marriages that work, against all odds. Mine, however, was not one of them. Married at 19 (for an astounding number of terrible reasons), I divorced at 23 and can name at least 10 people in my graduating class who also want to start a club. One issue with marrying so young remains consistent regardless of location or motivation. When you marry at 19, you miss out on a ridiculous number of milestones and experiences that everyone else your age is having; or, in my hometown, that half of the people your age are having while the other half prepare for their inevitable divorces right along with you.

After high school has ended, we have the chance to go to parties and find other people our age who like the same weird crap we do and introduce each other to new things. We date and realize how and where to meet people, express an interest in them, recognize their interest in ourselves. We discover a personal style and catch up on any of the things we didn’t learn in high school, like how to flirt and dress up for a night out without looking too slutty. We discover what’s attractive on some and what works and doesn’t work for us. We learn how to let someone down easy or bounce back from a brush off. Maybe we even begin doing things alone and becoming comfortable with who we are. As I said, we have the chance. We also have the chance to throw it all away for a white dress that would’ve fit 10 years later and a whole lot of screaming.

Soooo… fast forward five years later. The divorce from the first boy you ever kissed is finalized. The crying and drunken phone calls have ended. You’re moving on. It’s healthy. And you have no idea what the fuck you are doing.

Divorce is bad enough on its own. You’re humiliated and you feel like you have to explain the story to everyone who hears the D word, so they’ll understand you’re not just careless with the sacred institution of marriage. Only, if you do, you’re that crazy woman who just told someone her life story for no apparent reason. You feel like a failure and if you’re religious, you feel like you pissed all over the Bible. Everyone acts like they knew it was coming from day one and you’re angry because they never told you. Logically, you know you wouldn’t have listened, but you’re furious at them for letting you get married and yourself for being stupid enough to do it in the first place. Everyone assumes you want them to badmouth the ex, but then you feel like an idiot for ever seeing anything in them. You have moments of such intense anger and hatred, you feel like no good and decent person could possibly think such thoughts. These are standard divorce feelings, from what I’ve heard, regardless of age.

A 23-year-old divorcée, however, has these and a whole host of excitingly unique problems. While everyone else was growing and adapting to the previously mentioned scenarios, I had stalemated as a person. Emotionally, I was still 19. Before my ex-husband, I’d never dated. At all. So upon my divorce at 23, I still had the dating skills of the 12-year-old who used to watch and rewatch the same episode of Roswell, desperately wishing she’d magically wake up Liz Parker. I had never changed a tire or filed my taxes or fried an egg. If you think growing up and learning how to be a big girl is embarrassing at 14, try doing it at 24.

Living day to day as a single adult is a completely foreign concept when you’ve been with someone else since you were a child. Waking up in the middle of the night and knowing that you’re the only one to care for you is terrifying. The first time you get sick and no one is there to give a crap, you openly hope it’s Ebola and that all of this will be over soon. Knowing, without a doubt, that you are the only one paying the bills or cooking dinner or hanging photos or getting the oil changed or making the big decisions will cause you to hyperventilate. It’s half the reason you stayed married so long. Even buying your first vibrator is an admittance that you are all alone and caring for yourself entirely. That is scary as shit to someone who has at least been able to pretend someone else was carrying their share of the weight their entire adult life. These are just basic day to day functions, like learning to cook because that was the one thing he would do. However, while you’re fumbling to act like a grown up, you also get to face looking like one.

Bow chicka wow wow…

When you’re struggling to put food on the table and finish college, sex appeal just isn’t a priority. I had to learn, at 23, that hair can do something other than ponytails and braided pigtails. My best friend and a damned Youtube video taught me to apply eyeliner. Multiple times I have stood weeping in a dressing room because I don’t know how to be grown up. One month, I decided I needed a more attractive walk. In my defense, I based this on an interview seminar where the speaker demonstrated the importance of standing up straight. But the forced sway, was all my addition. I thought my usual clumsy stumbling must make me look immature. Only after seeing one of my guy friends imitate said walk, did I realize I looked like someone trying to balance on stilts without stilts. This was nothing compared to the actual interview that involved heels so high, I hobbled in and fell over, praying the manager didn’t see and ran out barefoot with similar aspirations. Figuring out that dresses are a thing, however, is hardly the most terrifying aspect of being suddenly single, though. If trying to master acting and looking like a grown up, simultaneously, when everyone else is years ahead of you, wasn’t daunting enough, there’s dating.

A common issue for even us young divorcées, is that we wonder if we have time to meet anyone else. In the Midwest, we truly are rushed to meet, marry, and procreate as soon as possible. Your 20s don’t really exist. The people who didn’t get married the year you graduated high school are mostly married just five years later. So, not only are you single after the divorce, you are the only single person ever, making dating even less appealing.In my case, I seemed to have polar opposite reactions to men. I either thought they looked at me and internally mooed or they were desperately clutching locks of my hair at night. My first blunder in this area was with a dear friend, who helped me through my divorce. I was on the rebound, terrified of the future, feeling lonely. C was kind and supportive and kept me company through my constant texting. Our mutual friends always made jokes about us being in love. I suppose these things naturally led to my conclusion that C, indeed, had feelings for me. He did not. The awkwardness between us passed and we are great friends to this day, despite the time I tried to kiss him because I figured it would finally set things straight. (Don’t do that.) But even now, a year and a half after the papers were signed, I’m still screwing up my signals.

Online dating was an obvious first choice. I still consider this a valid option. Many people do it and the percentage of them that are nuts is the same as in a local club. Only they don’t usually let you know this by grabbing your ass and saying you owe them for it, so you should come back to their place. The first time around, I wasn’t ready and stopped talking to the guy after he asked to meet me. The second time around, about a year after the divorce, I talked to a new guy for far too long, before meeting him, because he was overseas. He was mostly a nice guy, though too old for me at 30. I felt nothing and purposefully left my phone and purse at the table when I went to the restroom so I wouldn’t talk myself into bolting. Once he informed me that there was no way my divorce was as bad as his, I regretted this decision and ended the date with “I’ll text you.” He never heard from me again.

In hindsight, I regret the way I treated Combat Brian. I should have informed him I felt nothing instead of ignoring him. But this goes along with all of the things everyone else knows how to do at 24. I had no idea how to tell the guy I wasn’t feeling it and figured he’d get the point when he never heard from me again. He may think I’m dead. While Combat Brian did deserve a bit more respect, despite calling my marriage (about which he knew nothing) a bouncy castle, The Air Traffic Controller who told me he ran over a cat on his bike and was pissed that it may have broken his wheel, did not. He had weirdly placed ears, swore too much, didn’t tip the waitress, and told me I was in idiot if I paid less than $2,000 for a bicycle. He texted constantly, even when I didn’t answer. (What the hell? Who does that? Someone with a vagina, that’s who.) So, again, I employed my trademark finesse and just stopped speaking to him. I’m not sorry. However, in the moment he texted me when he saw me at Chick Fil A, I was indeed a bit remorseful… in my pick of restaurants. I smoothly told him I was busy with finals and not deceased. Having more dating experience than I, he took this for what it was, me blowing him off.

Every now and then, I’ll think I’m getting better at this whole thing. I can put on my eyeliner in under a minute. I’ve only found myself stuck in a dress in a department store, near tears, once in the last month. I love living alone and can make Hamburger Helper. I pay my bills and handle rejection from a man I meet online with just enough grace. I feel like I’ve got it all under control. That’s when I do something completely fucking insane.

Bartender was a boy I knew in high school and, something I discovered only recently, worked at a popular restaurant. He’s flirty with a tongue piercing and not my type at all. For some reason, I decided that this was just what I needed. I often feel behind for the fact that my Magic Number is a whopping ONE. Yes. Take the number of people you’ve slept with and divide it by itself and you’ve got mine. I figured casual dating wouldn’t be the worst idea when Bartender wanted to hang out. I took this as a date. He claims he didn’t, but I think he just took the chance to declare crossed signals after I drowned him in text messages for a week and Gail convinced me to send him a sexual solicitation just to see what he’d say. I got $24 for said text and hysterically cried to another friend:

“I suck at this. I have no idea what I’m doing. At least other girls sort of know where they stand. They can look at an orange and think ‘Oh, a fruit’, but I look at an orange and think ‘Yay! A bicycle!.”

After things didn’t seem like they could get any worse, I kept texting him to convince him that I wasn’t insane. At first, it was in the way you’d expect, by explaining the situation… way too many times.Then it was at one week intervals, about unrelated things.

“See. I couldn’t have feelings for you when I’m just texting about True Blood. I’m so casual and smooth. Not crazy at all. Right? I mean, that’s what you’re getting out of this, isn’t it?………..

………..

………..

Lafayette’s my favorite.”

Finally, I’ve realized that the best case scenario here is that the heavy drug use will wipe me from his memory. Really? What was I thinking?

But all of this has taught me some valuable lessons. I now know to let them come to me if I don’t want to risk rejection. I also know that endless texting is really fucking annoying, no matter your intentions. Even the constant self-consciousness has faded a bit. I can now go to a movie alone and not wonder if everyone around me is whispering about why a woman is seeing a movie by herself. (I swear, humans are ridiculously self-centered and Facebook is not helping to convince us that we aren’t constantly being watched.)

This is what everyone in the theater sees…

However, I still find myself assessing every man in the room and looking for a ring. I wonder what they think of me, whether I’d be interested or not. If a sleeve tattoo is one that covers your arm, then the tattoo artist who touched up my foot yesterday had a ski mask. I still could not stop thinking about how badly I wished I’d shaved my feet before this. I may be able to sit through the movie alone, but it’s still awkward to eat out. I know that if I couldn’t take the most basic rejection, I really couldn’t handle a one-night-stand. My brother tells me all the good men are taken at my age and I can hear my biological clock ticking because I wasted so many good years and everyone in the Midwest thinks your soul has died if you don’t have a family of your own by now. I still sometimes cry in the dressing room because I don’t know if I look edgy or silly.

Appropriate for my first day of work, right?

But sometimes, another girl from high school tells me she’s getting divorced and I have some insight. I can relate to how she feels and let her know that, of all places, our hometown is the place to not feel alone in this. And lastly, I can remember that I’d rather be weeping in a dress, because I don’t know if it fits correctly, than weeping in wedding dress because I know it’s all wrong.

An Epidemic of Lost Boys

stepbrothers

When I was 4, my brother and I bounced up and down on my mom and dad’s bed holding hands and shouting about how he was turning 8. It’s an oddly precious memory from my childhood, because it sounds like something from Fullhouse, rather than the more accurate Roseanne, but we could not wait to grow up. Lately, though, I’ve been observing my generation – not just on online dating sites – and I’ve realized… a bunch of people don’t want to anymore.

Today, I’m 25 years old. I work two jobs. I’m in graduate school. I pay my own way, more or less. I’m on my mother’s cell phone plan and give her my share monthly. Every now and then my dad will buy me a new set of tires and my Gramma will give me money to get a new coffee maker… or a new coffee maker… or a new coffee maker. Seriously, that was the shittiest damned coffee maker.

coffee maker
This one. Do not buy this fucking coffee maker.

Overall, I don’t get a lot of outside support and I can’t wait until the day I can say I get no outside support. I know we’re in hard economic times, because I buy groceries and pay my bills. I understand the guy who can’t afford to live on a first-year teacher’s salary or the girl who can’t work enough to support herself while going to law school. I also know that sometimes the world falls out from under you. Gail spent two years living in her old high school bedroom (cough :: parents’ new storage closet :: cough) after her infant daughter died. She substituted with me and tried to figure out how to rebuild her life in the safety of the only home she knew, surrounded by unused picture frames and stuffed back rests. When I was going through my divorce, I used to go to my Gramma’s house just to sleep in her bed for a few hours, because it was the only place I felt safe and protected. I had no high school home I could retreat to to lick my wounds and if I had, I’d have moved back. I fully admit that.

There are exceptions… and there are the people with full-blown Peter Pan syndrome. The people to which I refer aren’t in college or trade school. They aren’t saving their money to buy a house or putting in the hours until they get promoted to full-time. They’re stagnant. They “live at home” and work part-time jobs… or they don’t. They pay a few bills… or they don’t. It’s senior year of high school eight years later… and it’s happening all the time. We have an epidemic of Lost Boys.

lost boys
A summary of your online dating search results.

Historically speaking, Failure to Launch is a trend in tough economic times.* Currently 56% of men and 43% of women ages 18 to 24 live with one or both parents.* If you weren’t paying attention, men top women in this trend by 13%, whereas women historically were more likely to stay home as adults. Compare that with my parents’ generation leaving home around age 20.* These are some interesting statistics, but that’s all they are: numbers. No one knows why this is happening, so allow me to speculate from my insider viewpoint.

Our parents saw an easier life for us than what they’d experienced. College was a dream for them and therefore the key to happiness; so they told us we could be anything we wanted. They remembered the harsh bullying and exclusion they experienced as kids; so they gave out “participation trophies.” They grew up with Depression Era parents who didn’t want to spend the extra dollar for entertainment; so they went into debt buying every new gadget. They left home at 20; so they let us stay indefinitely. They loved us; so they completely overcompensated.

Now, we are Millennials. We learned to type by chatting with friends over AOL Instant Messenger. We knew how to work the parental controls on the Internet better than our parents did. We went from Duck Hunt to Call of Duty without blinking an eye. We memorized the television prime time lineup. We invented cyberbullying. We were the first generation to Google the answer and do the research online the night before. Our authority figures stumbled over themselves to safeguard against the dangers involved in all of the above, but could never quite keep up, because they were still learning themselves. Essentially, we were a technological experiment… and look at the results.

man-plugged-in

Yes, many of us are moving forward with our tech skills, but because our parents were buried beneath a mountain of debt giving in to our (and their) every whim, we were constantly told how much being an adult sucked and to enjoy childhood as long as we could. Now, a number of us are doing just that. The aforementioned Lost Boys “live at home” to “save money.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. They don’t live at home. I live at home. That’s what home is. They live at their parents’ home. Also, how much money have they saved? Ohhhhh, they can afford a nicer car and more nights out living at home? That’s not saving money, that’s spending money. Those are opposites. It is not expensive to live here. I survive on about $1,400 a month. Comfortably. That’s why people move to the Midwest. I have personally met many people my age who just have no reason not to live on their own. Some even have college degrees and decent jobs. They just don’t want to grow up, because it comes with more responsibility. Yeah. It does. It’s also not optional. No one’s going to freeze at 19 until they decide to get on board with this aging thing. They’re going to stay home and play video games while pulling the occasional evening shift at the movie theater and then what? They’re going to wake up at 28 and turn on the game system instead of going to their high school reunion, because they haven’t moved forward in ten years.

The thing is, this stagnation takes funding. The electricity running through that laptop to create that sad Plenty of Fish profile isn’t free. I am not blaming our parents. We are adults now. It is no one’s fault but our own if we choose not to move on with our lives. Just maybe, though, the parents with the 28-year-olds in the back room should stop enabling them. They aren’t scared teenagers searching for direction. They’re lazy, unaccountable, users and they’re eventually going to have to join society in their own right. It’s never too late for someone to turn their life around. It’s also never too late to sit them down and say “I love you, but I’m not funding this lifestyle anymore. You have three months.” No matter the coddling that took place growing up, it is up to us to be an active part of this world and not to take advantage of the parents who loved us so much that they destructively committed to giving us everything we ever wanted in life.

I was told over and over that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up.

victorias secret angel
A Victoria’s Secret Angel
Princess Eugenie
An actual princess
beyonce
Beyonce Knowles

Now I’m 25 and it’s time to realize that I will never look that good naked. I don’t have royal blood. My singing could offend Helen Keller. I hope my generation will find a balance between the “walk it off” and the “participation trophies” when we’re raising our own kids. I hope that all of these people who think being an adult sucks will realize… they’re doing it wrong. The Lost Boys are missing out on so many things, from cooking naked, to having late night television marathons, to masturbating without worrying anyone will hear, to singing loudly off key, to only ever having to clean up their own messes, to playing their video games on their own time and dime, to feeling a sense of autonomy and accomplishment when they’ve mastered their budget. Most importantly though, their parents are missing out on some of their best years to do the same things. We’re taking advantage out of selfishness and misplaced fear.

“You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone. You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.” – Andrew Largeman Garden State

I love Garden State, but my ass. There’s no reason you can’t live alone and be single and make yourself a home. You’ve just got to actually try.

Citations

http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/06/06/failure-to-launch-adult-children-moving-back-home/

http://www.lohud.com/article/20070426/CUSTOM02/70423004/Failure-Launch

http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/prc/_files/pdf/workingpapers/00-01-01.pdf