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The Monkey Squad

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There are quite a few things a parent can do to inadvertently damage a child’s psyche.

It’s been done to all of us; well-meaning parents trying to infuse some sort of loving control over their children in an effort to guide them through the turbulence we call life.

Inadvertently damaging the child’s psyche usually comes in the form of the well-meaning parent (often frustrated at their astounding inability to break through the child’s unique ability to resist all guidance from said parent) resorting to some teaching tool or tactic they would otherwise not employ – were the child not a logic-allergic…child.

**********

Let me take you back to the summer of 2010.  I believe the month was July.

My three boys were outside in the front yard playing with two friends, also boys.

Did I say playing? Silly me.  I’m sorry.

What I really meant was screaming/yelling/wrestling/picking weird stuff up off the ground/shoving weird stuff off the ground into anyone’s face within arm’s length/falling down/scraping body parts/more yelling/asking for snacks every one and half minutes/all claiming they were Darth Vader when everyone knows there can only be one Darth Vader/crying and whining from everyone who couldn’t be Darth Vader because they didn’t call it first…kind of playing.

Aaaahhhhh.  A typical summer day here.

When my kids and neighbor kids are outside playing here (all under the age of 8) I am omnipresent.  Oh, I camouflage myself quite skillfully, usually in a discarded Army tarp and shrubbery remnants which I bungee-cord to myself, so as to disappear….

“…..you don’t seeeee meeeee…..

I like to think of myself as the Jane Goodall of Moms; living among them but trying not to interfere in the natural order.  The problem is they are out there for hours, dammit, HOURS.  It gets boring.

There is only so much yard work you can do covered in a mobile duck-hunting blind in the scorching 180 degree humidity of a summer day in Chicagoland.

"Dude, is that your MOM???" "Yes (sigh)". "Does she think we can't see her?" "Yes (sigh)". "Dude, that is messed UP!" "Dog, I KNOW!" (High five)

On this particular day my oldest son Boogs (5 1/2 years old at the time) was being uncharacteristically aggressive and testosterone-y with his brothers and friends.  He was also not listening to my admonishments and was generally pissing me off.

I try not to embarrass him in front of his friends with my discipline.  I make every attempt to pull him aside and embarrass him with my discipline.  But on this day he was having none of it.

I pulled out every Mom threat I could think of to get him to stop bullying his brothers and friends into being perpetual mere clone troopers or droids while he expected indefinite Darth Vaderdom:

  1. Reason:  Share Darth Vader and you’ll have more fun –  (“No!  I’m the best Vader and you know it!”)
  2. No popsicle – (“So, it would melt anyway!”)
  3. A time out – (“Good, I’ll get to sit down!”)
  4. His friends will have to go home – (“Big deal, they’re not playing right anyway!”)
  5. Go inside to your room – (“Mmmm…I’d love to be in the cool air conditioning!”)
  6. No TV for a week (“TV is stinky!”)

Arghhh…this kid.  The plain truth was he knew I was bluffing.  On this day the two friends were over because their mothers weren’t home.  He knew they weren’t going anywhere and that I wouldn’t make him go to his room.

Ooooh, he was giving me all sorts of lip and attitude and pushing my big, red Fisher Price-sized buttons to the Nth degree.  And he was just begging me to rein him in.

I was hot and frustrated and was trying at the same time to watch the other boys so I could prevent the “The Lord of the Flies” scenario from taking hold while their indignant leader was gone.

So I gently dragged Boogs alongside me as I waddled in my tarp and twigs to the side of the garage out of earshot of the other boys, and this simple phrase came flying out of my mouth in a forceful whisper:

“Do you want the monkey squad to come?”

Silence and huge eyes from him. Fear.  Then…

“What’s the monkey squad?”  Still with attitude, though faux now.

My first thought was “Ha!  That got your attention smarty.”

But my second thought was, “Oh boy…I wish I could take that back”. 

The week before we had watched “The Wizard of Oz” and it popped into my mind that I had told him the flying monkeys were the coolest, and at the same time scariest, thing to me when I was a kid.

But now I was stuck explaining what I meant and trying not to scare the shit out of him, without completely losing any standing as the Alpha Mother.

“Well, um, the Monkey Squad are really good, kind monkeys that sometimes come and teach kids who aren’t behaving well how to be better and listen to their Moms.”

Oh my God.  What the fuck? Because that is sooo much less scary than flying monkeys in a movie? 

“What do you mean?” he asked clearly terrified.  “Monkeys come and get you?  Where do they take you??”

Ahh, shit.  Think, woman, think…

“Um, they don’t really take you anywhere. They come and talk to you…. They…..oh forget it.  I’m making it up.  There is no Monkey Squad.  I’m sorry.  There is no such thing.  I was just telling you that funny little story to get you to listen to  me because you are not being good today.  I’m sorry.  There is no such thing.  Okay?  Just forget it.  Forget it.  Now go and play NICELY.”

He stood and stared at me.

“Where does the monkey squad live?”

There is no monkey squad!  (deep breaths)  I was joking.  Sometimes Moms do that when they are frustrated.  Never mind.  I was kidding.  There is no monkey squad.  Seriously.  I’m sorry.  I love you.  Now go play.”

And he walked away slowly, peering ever-cautiously through the trees for the rest of the afternoon.

Good Christ.  I felt terrible.  But damn if he didn’t play nice from that point on.

**********

Okay, so I thought it was done.  Kids his age have the attention span of ducks anyway, right?

That night we were getting ready for bed.  I was brushing his teeth.

“Mom, where does the monkey squad live?”

Son of a BITCH.

“Babe, listen.  I told you.  That wasn’t true.  Really.  I was kidding.  Sometimes Moms make jokes that are mistakes and that was a big mistake.  There is NO monkey squad.  I promise you.”

“Okay….”

Oh holy shit did I feel bad.  Horrible.  In a moment of sheer frustration and anger at my own inability to control a 5 1/2 year old boy, I instead scared the bejesus out of him.

I was sure he’d be riddled with nightmarish images all night long of flying monkeys landing in our front yard coming to take him to a Maury Povich-type troubled-teen boot camp.

But he slept fine.  He was okay. He never mentioned it the next day at all, and yet I was overcompensating still to make up for my “Mommy Dearest” moment.

I just wanted him to never remember I said it.  I plied him with more candy than normal.  Was super-lovey with him, more than normal.  And it seemed to work.  No mention the next day, or the day after that.

Whew.  Bullet dodged.

(I’m pretty sure, Dear Reader, you know that is not true or you wouldn’t be reading a blog entry about it would you?  Am I right?)

**********

Fast forward roughly one year later.  Early August, 2011.

My three boys were upstairs getting ready for bed.  I’m sorry, did I say getting ready?  Right.

What I meant to say was running around and bouncing off the walls like racquet balls as they usually do right before sleep.  You know, just to get it all out.

Teeth were brushed, potties used, jammies on and I was looking through the dresser drawers in my room right across the hall from them.

The two youngest boys were particularly nutso that night and even Boogs was getting irritated.  He kept telling them to be quiet.  But they wouldn’t listen.

I was looking for my night-shirt when I heard this from Boogs to his two little brothers:

“You guys better be good or the monkey squad will come and take you to their camp in the woods for months until you learn to behave.  But they’re not mean, they’re nice.  But still they live in the woods and they’ll come”.

What the fuuuuu………………..

“NOPE…NO….!!!!” I yelled as I tripped over myself running to their bedroom, pulling myself along the walls and busting through their bedroom door in an effort to diffuse the A-bomb I had dropped the year before.

“NO!  That’s not true.  Guys, no.  There is no monkey squad.  Ha!  Ho, man, that was just a funny little story I told Boogs a long time ago but it’s not true.  Okay…so, let’s get ready for bed guys!”

The forced chipperness was oozing out of my pores like molasses and they could smell it a mile away.

“The MONKEY squad?!?  What’s THAT?” my 3 1/2 year old whimpered in terror as he clutched his favorite stuffed animal – a monkey, of course.

“No, Babe.  No Monkey squad!  Hey, you guys wanna go to the park tomorrow and then eat ice cream sundaes for dinner??”

It was done.  The damage.  Boogs had remembered it…of fucking COURSE!  Why wouldn’t he remember the single most terrifying thing anyone had ever told him, much less that it came from his Mother; his ordained protector and anointed truth-teller?

**********

For the next half hour I tried in vain to explain the non-existence of the monkey squad.  The more I denied it, the more they believed.  They laughed some about it, but mostly they stared at Boogs as he kept interjecting more and more outrageous information about what the monkey squad was and where is was stationed (Minnesota, apparently).

It was the proverbial snowball.  From Hell.

They still talk about it.  They’ve told some of their friends about it.  One friend recently asked me if it was real.

“No.  Nope.  It is not true.  I told a bad-Mommy joke because I thought it would be kind of funny and maybe make Boogs listen to me.  Nuh-uh.  Not real”.

The friend turned to Boogs and whispered, “Where do they take you?”

It was useless.  They believed, and my protestations to the contrary seemed only to reinforce its reality.  It was done.

God only knows how many kids Boogs has told monkey squad stories to.  Hundreds?

The only thing I can’t believe is that I haven’t gotten a call from a single parent who had to get rid of their pet chimp because of my 10 second lie.

Parental guilt is rivaled only by Catholic guilt.  In my case I have both.  Such is my cross to bear.

These poor kids, not only will they be randomly subjected to sweat inducing, heart racing nightmares periodically throughout their lives…they will likely one day perpetuate this myth by telling it to their children in dire frustration, despite what logic dictates. 

But here’s a VERY interesting thing…  I Googled “monkey squad” just to see what might come up.  And there was the picture you see further up…”Monkey Squadron”.

Coincidence?  Was that picture created by a collective parental mind at work – by other parents all over the world who have told similar stories to force compliance from their offspring?

Or perhaps, just perhaps, we have direct knowledge as to how a folklore is born…on the driveway of a suburban Chicago home out of sheer desperation, from a little white lie meant to help a Mom on the precipice of losing control of her 5 1/2 year old son.

The whole story has taken on a life of its own.  You know why?  Because deep down kids think – it has to be trueMoms wouldn’t tell a lie. 

Ugh.

One thing’s for certain…I will lose all semblance of street-cred when they find out about Santa.


You Googled WHAT to get to my Blog??

I’ve been writing Hippielib for 8 months now.  I love it.  I really do.  It’s a wonderful creative outlet, sounding board and soap box for me.  It’s like having a job you love:

  1. It’s cheap. (No gas money.)
  2. I work only the hours I want. (Which really means the hours I don’t want…during my free time between 9 pm and 1 am.)
  3. I get paid extremely well to do it. (The currency being not so much actual money as much as me wishing it was actual money.)

I love writing.  And if no one ever read a single post I made I’d still write it.  The diary obsession, I suppose.  We all want a voice even if no one is listening.

In reality though it thrills me that anyone, anywhere takes even a minute out of their day to read anything I have to say – whether they love it or hate it – and I appreciate all who visit here.

Writing a blog is a sociological experiment on so many levels.  There are so many interesting things about doing it:  the comments you get, what you learn during your research on a post, the very interesting people you meet from all over the world who take time to read what you think is important at any given time, the connections you make when people like what you have to say (or really don’t like it at all), and through those connections coming across all the other voices out there you find fascinating in one way or another.

But one of the most interesting things is that you can monitor your “traffic”.  It’s a very fun and enlightening part of this job.  You can look at your stats every day to see how many hits you get and in a general sense where those hits come from.

You can’t see personal information such as e-mail addresses or anything like that from hits, but you can see if someone used a search engine to reach you and what they typed in to get to your site.

For instance if someone types something into Google, and for some reason my blog pops up in their search and they actually click on it  –  I can’t see who they are or any personal information – only what they typed to get here.

And…you can see exactly what they typed in.  Word-for-word.

When you write a blog entry you are encouraged to “tag” your posts.  Tags are words or phrases which are tied to your post and help categorize it for people who are searching for information on the subject you are writing about.

As an example, I could add a tag to a post labeled “making ice cream” and people searching the web for information on how to make ice cream may be directed to my blog.  But what these tags also do is…blend together.

I call them “BLAGS”…for blended tags.  (Remind me to copyright that).

Anyway, for instance I could tag a post with “eating ice cream at church when it’s hot outside”, but also add the tag “ice cream and your body”, because I write about how eating too much of it may make you gain weight, and the next thing you know someone who Googles “Rubbing Ice Cream All Over Your Hot Body” gets directed to my purely informational and non-pornographic post on holiday ice-cream making.  I was “blagged”.

But at that point it’s done…they’ve Googled it, they’ve clicked on whichever post best correlates with their search and/or blags, and voila!  I now have a record of exactly what they typed in.

There is rarely a day that goes by when I don’t laugh at what someone has Googled (let’s just use Google to encompass all search engines shall we?) to get to my blog.

Some search phrases and words are rather disturbing to read, some make perfect sense and some are hilarious and leave me scratching my head wondering how even the Internets came up with the blag (remember, blended tag) to get them to my site…and why on Earth once they saw where they were, did that particular person actually click on Hippielib at all.

I realize if you are not a regular follower of Hippielib (like most of the population) you may not get some of the references below so I will add links to the posts they are referring to when I think it might help.

So without further ado…the following are just some of the actual search engine words and terms, verbatim, which have shown up in my stats throughout the 8 month existence of Hippielib:

THE LOGICAL

  • MEN MAKE ME FEEL WORTHLESS – This phrase, verbatim, has been Googled and directed to my blog many, many times since I wrote the post Hold The Door.  It’s very interesting yet obviously unsettling.  I’m wondering if men Google “women make me feel worthless” just as much.   I doubt it.  There have also been many searches using the phrase: Is it oppressive to hold the door open for women?  Good Lord.  No.  The answer is NO.  Definitively No.  For the woman who views it as oppressive for a man to hold the door open for her, I say…perhaps you are overreaching for shit to get pissed off at men about?  There are so many legitimate reasons to be pissed at them why make them up?  That may be my next post:  “The Legitimate Reasons To Get Pissed Off at Men”.  It’s in the works, ladies.

  • ABORTION – This makes sense.  I have written several times about my Pro-Choice stance.  There are many variations on the search terms though:  necessary abortion, what are my choices abortion, my God and abortion, what are my rights abortion, abortion please help.  And not once, as some on the Religious Right would have you believe, has someone gotten here by searching “I’m Pro-Abortion and Proud” or “I’m so excited to have an abortion” or “Yippee I’m pregnant again and can’t wait to have an abortion because I use it as birth control”.  Nope.
  • ASTRONAUT QUOTES:  Also many who have searched Astronaut quotes about religion.  A Little Faith is where I compiled as many quotes from astronauts as I could find.  There are entire websites dedicated to only the quotes from astronauts after they’ve been in space. Because one can only imagine how that changes a person and we should listen to what these chosen few have to say. Fascinating stuff.
  • DREAMS ABOUT BEING IN A BUILDING UNDER WATER – Since The Closet Superhero I’m kind of astounded as to just how many people search for information on dreams about being in buildings under water – which is exactly what I wrote about.  The following phrase with only slight variations in wording has been Googled, I would guess, close to 50 times:  “Wall of water a hundred feet high in dreams”.  There has to be some inborn psychological mechanism within the human brain which hard-wires us to dream of this scenario with such specificity that it must go beyond a simple fear of drowning or Freudian sexual frustration.  Right?

  • HERD MENTALITY – Since You Herd It Here First a lot of people have typed this in.  I like to think of these people as unsuspecting hard-core Tea Partiers hoping to find fodder for their dislike and distrust of us Libs, and then…..BLAM!  It’s flipped on ’em.   I’m kidding.  Sort of.
  • FATE VS DESTINY – Easily one of the most frequently searched phrases that leads to Hippielib, and of course to Fate vs Destiny.  Here are some of the variations:  What is Fate vs Destiny?, Which came first fate or destiny?, Can I change my fate or destiny?, What is the difference between fate and destiny?  Gee, I really thought I was the only one trying to determine the difference between them. Just when you think you’re unique in ALL the world…damn.
  • MID-FORTIES PHYSIQUE – There are lots-o-people stressing about reaching middle age.  Shocking I know.  I hope they aren’t hoping they’ll find any valuable insight from me regarding this milestone, and certainly not from “Dipshit” is the new “30”.  Because as you can ascertain by the title of this post…. meaningful insight is severelllllly lacking here.

  • I’M SO SAD MENOPAUSE – Menopause makes me sad, menopause sweating, menopause sucks…all variations on a theme which I assume leads them again to “Dipshit is the new 30”.  And I haven’t even gone through menopause yet.  Wait til I do though.  Only four-letter-words will guide the unsuspecting person to my posts at that time, as I’ll be all pissed off and hot-flashing because I’ve lost my bifocals and can’t remember where I put my estrogen pills.

THE LOGICAL YET HUMOROUS

  • JUGGSBig juggs, Shake your Juggs, huge juggs in corset, Huge juggs pregnant, jingling juggs, Big brown juggs.  What can I say?  People looovvve big juggs.  Lots and LOTS of people.  And with two “G’s”!  I’m proud to say that Just Say No. Well…Maybe and the mention of “Juggs Magazine” is the culprit here.  I feel bad though.  I keep picturing some sweet, little old farmer woman innocently searching for a nice country store that sells “big brown juggs” in which to store her freshly churned butter.  But then poor Mrs. McFarmer gets directed to a post about reefer madness and theft – replete with a mention and picture of a fetish magazine about absolutely enormous boobs.  Sure, I bet that’s exactly who searched “big brown juggs”.  Riiggghhht.

  • BEST FEMALE SOLDIER MOVIES– This phrase and its variations rival “Fate vs Destiny” for most Google searches leading to my blog.  The post Ain’t it a Bitch  gets a lot of traffic.  Hollywood should take note:  People are really jonesing for some good female soldier movies.  But sometimes the um, awkward variations get them here too:  Bitch female soldiers, Female bitch soldiers, Women Soldiers in Movies who are bitches.  Hmmm.  Let me clarify people:  A woman is NOT automatically a bitch when she becomes a soldier.  I mean she might indeed be a bitch, but it has nothing to do with being a soldier.  Come on!  Grow up.  And in keeping with that theme:
  • SIGOURNEY WEAVER MASCULINE SOLDIER – Lots of searches for Sigourney Weaver as a masculine soldier.  As a woman, I didn’t find her masculine in “Aliens”.  I thought she was hot and I wanted to be her and look like her.  So I got my hair cut just like her.  Only it didn’t look just like hers.  It looked like Ted Koppel’s.  Back in my acting days I actually had head-shots done with that hair style.  I’ll post a lot of shameful things about myself here, but that head-shot won’t be one of them.

  • BRUCE WILLIS GUNSBruce Willis…With a Complex is a fairly popular post.  People like Bruce a whole lot.  And they’re definitely searching for information on the “Die Hard”-era-Bruce as opposed to the “Moonlighting”/Seagram’s Wine Cooler-era-Bruce.  I sure bet they are disappointed when they realize that the title of the piece belies Bruce’s involvement in it.  It’s a classic bait-and-switch.  I can’t wait to write the post entitled “Justin Bieber and the Exit Strategy”.  It will be about our involvement in Afghanistan and the precise measures I think we should take to get out of there.    I will mention Justin once, only in relation to how little I know about him and don’t know what little girls see in him, but wonder what he thinks of the Afghan War.  And then I will add his picture.  I know it’s wrong, but the title alone will increase my traffic by about 10 billion percent and little girls will get to see yet another picture of The Biebs on yet another website.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

  • SUPER MARIO ALLEGORY –  This post gets hit a lot.  People actually type in Super Mario Allegory or Allegory Super Mario – and often.  The Allegory of Super Mario is naturally where they land.  I find that so cool, and strange.  Perhaps I should also copyright “You play Nintendo like you live your life”.
  • FUNNY THINGS TO MAKE A HIPPIE LAUGH – Yes, tie-dye humor is searched for quite a bit.  What-oh-what will make that crazy hippie laugh?  Also searched:  Hippie clothing, What do hippie women look for in men, Hippies in Video games (are there hippies in video games?  With guns blazing and grand theft auto-ing?), Hippie feminist sexist (Do those exist?  I thought those kind were extinct).

  • MY CHEER LEADING UNIFORM SHRANK – Also:  Help my cheer leading uniform shrank, can you unshrink a cheer leading uniform.  Oh, those poor girls.  I understand the inexplicable trauma as described in 15 Minutes
  • CASEY ANTHONY PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES – Also:  What were Casey Anthony’s parental responsibilities, and variations of Casey’s “responsibility”.  They were led to The Mother of All Panic Buttons.  And obviously the answer is:  She fucking had none.

THE DISTURBING

  • SIGOURNEY IS NOT THE ALIEN MOTHER SHE’S THE CUNT –  Uh huh.  Wowza.  I don’t know about you but I sense some significant anger issues at play here.  That’s just not right at all.
  • ALIEN MOTHER AND PLANET AND I LOVER HER MUCH – I….hmmm.  I’ll chalk this one up to a language-translation-barrier issue.  Please God let that be it.
  • DIET PEPSI WITH WORLD TRADE CENTER ON IT –  Also:  Diet Pepsi Twin Towers, Diet Pepsi can with WTC jets, and Diet Pepsi World Trade Center Jet Image.  I understand the blags – I mention both Diet Pepsi and the World Trade Center in my post about 9/11 entitled The Instant-Replay.  But what am I missing here?  Is Pepsi doing some promotional campaign with depictions of the Twin Towers on their cans?  Oi.  Here’s some unsolicited advice, Pepsi:  Don’t do that.  Just don’t…dothat.
  • SLUT FINGER ON OVARY POSSIBLY PREGNANT – Yes, I did mention the word “slut” in Dear Diary, but I believe this might be the best example of blagging yet:  I think this phrase blended tags from five different posts, each word coming from a different one.  And for those of you who believe sex-ed is an unnecessary and religiously compromising addition to the curriculum in our public schools, please read this sentence over…and over…and over…and over…again.

THE BIZARRE:

  • OLD ENGLISH PHOTO OF A MAN HOLDING A TORTOISE OVER HIS HEAD – Wow.  I don’t know.  I really don’t.  I haven’t Googled this phrase myself yet, but I will.  I’m still too nervous at what I might find.

  • FREE TUBE OF HIGH QUALITY BIG FAT WELL SHAPED WOMEN – Hot damn there are some freaks out there on Planet Earth.  Maybe that makes me sound a little uppity, a little better and more “normal” than others.  But that’s only because it’s TRUE.  Come on!
  • DOUCHE BAG – I don’t remember writing about douches or douche bags in any of my posts, and I resent the Internets for sending this douche bag here.  Uh, see…now I’ve done it.
  • WE HAD 1 STAIR IN THE BASEMENT WITH 2 TERMITE LARVAE.  THE HOUSE HAS BEEN FREE AND CLEAR FOR TWO YEARS.  DO WE NEED TO DISCLOSE THIS INFORMATION TO POTENTIAL BUYERS – Uh huh.  Someone typed that whole thing in and got here, and then not only got here but read the name of this blog and most likely clicked on the post “Ain’t it a Bitch” (in which I mention the word “larvae”) because they were thinking…”Hey, maybe this bitch knows if I have to disclose or not!”  As a homeowner, I believe you do have to disclose for up to five years.  But please check with your state and local guidelines on this matter.  DISCLAIMER:  I’m making that up.  I have no idea.  But I’m glad you stopped by nonetheless.  Good luck to you.
  • DIPSHIT –  I know you are but what am I?  What is someone hoping to find when they search with just the word “Dipshit”?  Probably something really inane…oh, wait….Hey.  I resemble that.
  • DIPSHIT HAT –   I wonder what a dipshit hat looks like and where I can find one.  Oh, never mind…found it.

  • SMART MONKEY –  This one cracks me up because I too searched for this picture to compliment a portion of The Indignity Between 6 and 8, in which I justifiably compare my mathematical intelligence to that of a primate.  I literally Googled “Smart Monkey”.  People have also gotten here several times by typing in Monkey Wearing Glasses.  No one doesn’t like a monkey wearing glasses.

  • PRESIDENT OBAMA MAKING A BABY IN A TEST TUBE – So not only do some people think our President is the reincarnation of Hitler, or the Anti-Christ, or a screaming Socialist (as opposed to the not-so-closet Conservative he’s turning out to be)…he’s now a mad-scientist cookin’ up babies in tubes.  I wish I had better health care coverage to help pay for the whiplash I’m getting from shaking my fucking HEAD.
  • BRAIN SURGEON MATH FORMULAS – Cackling maniacally to myself.  Oh man, that is rich.  Some poor intern at Johns Hopkins was simply searching for the elusive “Brain Surgeon Math Formula” so he could study for the brain surgery final…and got my blog about how I only got a 7 in Math on my ACT exam.  I instantly made that person feel like the most super-smart person on the planet.  Glad I made their day.

MY FAVORITE:

  • FUCK MATH I’M GONNA BE A MUSICIAN – Whoever this person is I love him with all my heart and want to marry him and live happily ever after with him in a commune somewhere.  I assume that he clicked on The Indignity Between 6 and 8 and if he read it, surely realizes we are soul mates.  Call me??

WE4T6TKD8VU2

Dear Diary.

Posted on

When I was 9 years old my mother took me to Woolworth’s.  Oh how I loved that store.  Being surrounded by all the neat stuff there (otherwise known to us adults as crapola) was like being in Heaven for me.  I’m sure my mother did everything she could to avoid taking me and my sister to Woolworth’s mainly because she’d end up spending hard-earned money on well, crapola.

My life in some pages...

I tended to gravitate toward the paper aisle.  Scads and heaps and troves of paper as far as the eye could see.  Notebooks made heart race.  I wanted to buy all of them; one big shopping cart full of empty pages to be filled with drawings or doodles, but mostly writing.

It was there in that aisle my mother let me pick out a little spiral bound notebook.  It was green.  It cost .33 according to its top, right-hand corner, and it would be my very first diary.  I wrote this warning on the cover:  “DO NOT OPEN – Notebook for Notes!”   Above that I had scratched out the word “Diary”, which you can still clearly read.  I think it really threw people off the scent of its true function.

I kept one diary every year for 12 years, starting from the age of 9 – 4th grade, through the age of 21 – Junior/Senior year in college.  I’ve kept all of them, although I seem to have temporarily misplaced 1979 and a few others.  They’ll turn up.

There is no better way I could travel back in time than reading these things.  Not even with a DeLorean.

I will now give you some random excerpts from just a few of these diaries because, well, it’s scintillating stuff.  The depth and worldliness of my observations is kind of astonishing.  There’s really no other word for it.   Please take a moment and enter my pre and emerging pubescent mind, with some 43-year-old commentary.  If you dare.

Has held up well for 33 cents. 1978.

March 19, 1978 – Age 9:  My boyfriend Mike moved because his father had to move closer to his work.  I loved him. And he loved me.  It was true love. 

Mike once asked me to say “robin red-breast”, so I did.  He laughed and said “you said breast”.  I fell hook, line and sinker.  How could I not?  Our love was deep, and it was binding.

**********

March 28, 1978 – Age 9:  I’m sorry that I’m so late in writing but I got tied up.  I haven’t seen Mike since he moved.  I’m sure he’s forgotten all about me.  I like Jeff.

I must have been tied up in meetings.  I think 9 days was an appropriate mourning period.

**********

March 29, 1978 – Age 9: My friend Jan stayed overnight last night.  We had a super busy day.  We went to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  It was about UFO’s (flying saucers).  Then we went home and ate and then we went into the basement and skated.  Boy what a busy day.

1984. This one is fairly sparse. Shame, it was a good year.

I’m not sure how I survived that day, yeesh.  Whew.  Just reading about it makes me super exhausted.  Those skates had metal wheels, not the fancy rubbery plastic kind.  No stoppers/breaks on the toes.  Those were some old-school skates.  The metal wheels were dented in places so it was kind of like skating on squares.  The laminate flooring in our basement bore the scars from our skate parties, and so did the walls and doors due to our roller derby, high-octane collisions.  Every few minutes from upstairs we’d hear “**%$^%$#….KNOCK IT OFF!”  But we were pretty bad-ass, so we didn’t.

**********

Junior/Senior year in High School. 1985-86.

March 30, 1978 – Age 9:  I spent the night at Jan’s house last night.  Her Mom made us clean the house and vacuum the living room and I knocked over a plant.  Her mom was out somewhere and came home that very minute but I ran so she didn’t have time to yell at me.

There are so many things wrong here.  Why did my friend’s mom make a 9-year-old guest clean her house and vacuum her carpet, while she was out getting a mani/pedi?  I do not note whether or not I was paid, but I suspect not.  Why did I scamper away due to the toppled plant?  Where was I going…I lived five miles away?  Why didn’t I man-up and say “Bitch, clean your own house!” while throwing the vacuum cleaner handle down and stomping out with pride? I’ll never know the answers to these burning questions.

**********

???? 12, 1978 – Age 10:  I got my report card today.  Last time I got a U, a big fat U, in “talking”.  But this time I got an S -.  So not too bad.  Man, if I got another U my dad would probably beat me. 

I wrote on this one with a peppermint scented pen. 1980-81.

Let me be clear, my father never beat me.  Back then you could make reference to even just the threat of “getting beat” by your parents without FOX News doing a sixty minute expose on it.  Those were the days.  I did talk a damn lot.  And most of my “U”s were in bright red ink, I think to emphasize the fact that if I could have gotten a “Z” in “talking” I would have.  It was the beginning of my disdain for the tail end of the alphabet.

**********

December 27, 1978 – Age 10:  This year’s Christmas was pretty good excepting I got the chicken pox.  I was loaded with them on my head, in my ear, in my mouth and everywhere else you could name.  I got the pox the last day of school before Christmas vacation and I missed the party and I was in charge of it!  And then my Dad got tickets to the Nutcracker Suite but I couldn’t go because I had a lot of the pox all over me. 

The Pox.  The dreaded Pox.  I had it bad, but not as bad as one boy I knew who was rumored to have scratched his wiener completely off during his stint with The Pox.  I’m pretty sure it was true.  I’ve seen that boy a few times over the years and my eyes always…travel…down….

**********

October 24, 1980 – Age 12:  Tonight at 7:00 I am going to my very first boy-girl dance!  Since I’m on student council I’ll get out of a whole day of school to decorate the gym.

This one is flannel. So comfy. 1986-87.

Really?  A WHOLE day??  To hang up some construction paper and sweep the floors?   No wonder I got a 7 in Math on my ACT.  I remember that day, and all we did was listen to the music us girls brought in so we could make the playlist..the playlist consisting of a 7 foot high stack of vinyl 45’s.

– Right now it’s 6:30 and me and Julie are getting ready for the dance.  I am wearing light blue pants and a blue turtle neck with a white vest.  I set my hair in curlers of course, but the curl didn’t stay in.  I put eye shadow and lip gloss on.

Several things:  1. Blue pants and turtle neck, with a white vest…I…I…don’t know what to say.  It’s not right.  2.  Curlers.  I remember those curlers of my mom’s.  They were steam curlers.  When you’d open the lid of the casing to pull one out scalding hot water would launch out of the top, along with enough scorching steam to melt your face.  You could have powered all of Vegas with my mom’s 12-curler set, the Hoover be damned.  3. I remember the eye shadow was green, which was the perfect choice to compliment my “Hee-Haw!” outfit.  I don’t know why someone didn’t help me.

– Now it’s 8 o’clock and the girls are on one side of the gym and the boys on another side.  All the girls took off their shoes because the boys were too short. 

It’s not like we were wearing stilettos.  Those boys were damn short.  Freakishly short.  Like Lilliputians, and I was only about 5’2″ at the time.  Um.  Yes. I took my diary with me lots of places.  Apparently I took it to this dance.  Geeeeeeeek.  What did I do, stick it in the back pocket of my electric blue pants next to my comb while I was swaying back and forth relentlessly…sorry, dancing…. with a boy?  I also wrote down who danced with who and how many times.  I made a chart.  What the….?

'Cuz nothing says "SECRET!" like huge black letters on a shiny, silver background screaming "SECRET!" 1981-82.

**********

November 18, 1980 – Age 12:  Today I’m working on my book.  I watched some TV too.  Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days.  I need a new bra and some long sleeve shirts.  And I want a piano. 

“…the attention span of a gnat” takes on a whole new meaning here.

**********

November 20, 1980 – Age 12:  Today we played dodge ball in gym class.  I ended up being the only one left on my side so naturally everyone on the other side was aiming for my head and neck.  I was lucky to only get hit hard in the side. 

Naturally the head and neck is where the four guys on the other side simultaneously aimed for me.  It makes perfect sense.  And I believe the gym teacher who sat off to the side, arms-folded on top of his beer belly literally pointing and laughing at me, yelled to me the phrase which Rip Torn inevitably pilfered:  “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!”

**********

November 21, 1980 – Age 12:  We finally found out who shot J.R.!  I thought it was Cliff Barnes.  Grandma thought it was Kristin.  Mom thought it was Dr. Elby (he’s a sicko) and my sister thought it was Pam.  But Grandma was right!  But now Kristin is pregnant with J.R.’s baby so he can’t call the cops on her or his baby will be born in jail. 

My Grandmother was a prophet.  Who else could have ever guessed it was Kristin when you had that sicko Dr. Elby running loose?  Grandma should have played the lottery that day. 

**********

My Grandma phase?? 1989-90.

December 1, 1980 – Age 12:  Today I feel like my life has ended.  John broke up with me in Art class.  He said we fight too much.  We went out for 1 month and 8 days.  He likes Jane.  She is such a slut. 

Ohhh, Johnny.  I really liked Johnny.  We did fight a lot though; about current events and who would be more rich and famous when we grew up.  I’m pretty sure I lost.  Also around that time I learned the difference between a “slut” and a “whore”.  Jane clearly deserved every bit of my appropriate assault on her chastity.  She DESERVED it.

**********

December 25, 1980 – Age 12:  Merry Christmas!  I got some stationary, books, lots of earrings, the new Styx album, an alarm clock and ATARI!  I also got a new diary, with a lock on it.  Atari is the best though. 

It was the best.  But most of my friends had Intelevision.  I hated Intelevision and worked hard to eradicate it from existence.  I did pretty well.  Styx “Cornerstone”.  I still have it.  You know it’s you, Babe.

**********

December 26, 1980 – Age 12:  I went to Mary’s slumber party tonight.  We watched The Amityville Horror.

The scene with Rod Steiger and the flies made me gag but I remember thinking it would have been scarier if they had been bats. And the bleeding walls made quite an impression.  I decided right then and there that I never wanted to live in a house with bleeding walls.  I’ve yet to cave on that decision.

**********

December 27, 1980 – Age 12:  Today we went by my aunt and uncle’s house and spent the night.  We all went to the roller rink.  Later on when we were watching TV me and my cousin Joe got into a fight and he hit me and gave me a fat lip.  But then I kicked him in the head.

Uh huh, but that kick in the head came about a half-hour AFTER our parents made us apologize to each other. 

This one survived a flood. Barely. 1987-88.

Only I didn’t really think I – needed – to apologize.  So while all the cousins were on the floor quietly watching TV as the parents played Pinochle,  I seethed, waited for my opening…stood up, and kicked him in the head.  He ran crying upstairs like a little girl because, shit, I kicked him in the head.  Yeah, go on…RUN.  He started it.

**********

December 28, 1980 – Age 12:  Played some Space Invaders today and then watched The Amityville Horror again and went to bed. 

Why was I always watching that movie???  Ahhh, right.  I forgot.  I was in love with James Brolin, going all the way back to Marcus Welby.  Mystery solved.

**********

December 31, 1980 – Age 12:  We went to Grandma’s tonight because my parents went out.  Me and Grandma stayed up until 2:30 am.  It was a blast. 

I wasn’t being sarcastic here.  I loved my Grandma.  I miss her.

**********

I hope you were able to absorb the profundity of these entries.  If so, check in some time in the future for the High School years.  It gets pretty steamy.  I won’t give it away but there is talk of (deep breaths)………………corduroys.

So Very Cool: The Versatile Blogger Award

It is with humbleness and happiness that I acknowledge my nomination for the “Versatile Blogger Award”, especially considering it came from Barking In The Dark.

I did not know what the “Versatile Blogger Award” was until wordsfallfrommyeyes (a blog I am just now beginning to read and know I will love) commented on one of my posts that Mr. Bark had nominated me for one.  (He’s so sneaky that guy).  See, I’m fairly new to the blogging world and all of its nuances.  The VBA is an honor that a fellow blogger bestows upon you when they think that maybe your blog is worth reading because they kind of like it.  It’s a really nice way to acknowledge things other people produce, and then you pay it forward.

There are some rules to accepting this award.  They are:

  1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass this award along to between 5-15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
  4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Thank you so much Bark, for liking what I write enough to say so publicly.    I love Barking In The Dark.  I stumbled upon Bark’s (we’re on a first-word-of-blog-title-basis now.  Jealous?) blog by surfing and hoping to find something interesting to read.  I hit pay dirt.  It is sleek, exceedingly witty and creative, funny as all HELL, beyond clever and razor-sharp with just a hint of hippielibness.  So you know, I’m a die-hard fan.  I implore you to read it.

On to the other rules:

7 Things About Myself:

  1. I wanted to be an actor since…I can remember.  And I was for a long while.  But somewhere around 13 years old I toyed with the idea of going into archeology, because I found it fascinating and still do.  What’s weird is that when I became a college Theatre major, the Theatre Building (as it was referred to) also housed the very tiny campus Archeology department.  Not exactly natural bedfellows, eh?
  2. I love National Geographic.  When it comes in the mail I get very excited and anxiously await reading it that night in bed.  I have been a National Geographic member since 1993, and carry their crazy little ID card in my wallet.  It has yet to get me into any hip, awesome nightclubs or anything, but I kind of like that it’s in there.
  3. I believe in UFO’s and ghosts.  I believe with all of my heart I’ve seen both.
  4. I truly think that love makes the world go ’round.
  5. It really bugs me when people other than me say trite shit like #4.
  6. I like to swear.  I think curse words are underrated.  One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten was from a very good, well-respected actor I admired when he said:  “Damn, you really swear well.  You do.  It doesn’t sound dirty coming from you, and you still sound intelligent when you do it.”  Fuckin’-A.
  7. I love Taco Bell.

Nominate Between 5-15 Blogs You Enjoy Reading:

  1. A Face From The Crowd:  Great blog by someone I’ve known for a very long time.  He’s funny and charming and he basically let me and all of our friends live rent-free in his basement apartment in college even though we had our own places to live.  He’s a very insightful, heartfelt writer and his blog is always a good read about life, with some sports thrown in.  I forgive him for not only being a Chicago White Sox fan but also working for them.  Cubs, baby…wait til next year!
  2. Whine & Roses:  If you like highly intellectual snark and thinly veiled sarcasm, poignant story telling and HUMOR, and aren’t quite sure you think Gwyneth Paltrow is, or deserves to be, the archetypal woman in today’s world… please read Jen’s blog.
  3. Doodlemum:  Ohhhhh I just ADORE this blog.  Beautiful, humorous, whimsically endearing sketches of the daily life surrounding one mother.  She captures motherhood and childhood so perfectly.  I wish I could do what she does, but it couldn’t be better than how she does it.
  4. Stilettos and Sneakers:  An oh-so powerful blog by one woman who has lived a life worthy of a major motion-picture.  She’s an actor, AIDS activist, hilariously fucking funny, and wise to the world in ways that most of us will never know.  Please read.
  5. Kimberly’s Page: A Black Girl’s Poetry for the World:  Loving the written word all of my life, I have never been an exceedingly avid fan of poetry in the strict sense of the word.  But I find Kim’s poetry haunting.  It moves me in its simple, but never simplistic, style.  She conveys raw emotion with such grace and eloquence.  I never fail to read her new posts.
  6. Little Fish in a Big Pond:  Very good predominantly political, liberally focused blog by a college student.  She’s fantastic and just waaaay more on top of things than I was at her age.  She’s going places.  Check her out.
  7. Partisan Dawn:  I think this blog has my favorite tag line, which is:  “Because There’s No Such Thing as a Moderate Republican”.  Great writing and commentary supporting the Liberal in all of us.  Okay, some of us.  Really good.
  8. The Hack Novelist:  Great insight into the progression, frustration and excitement of one writer as he attempts to write and publish his first novel.  Very good, very interesting.
  9. dadcope:  A truly heartrending blog by a newly divorced dad trying to cope and thrive in his new life.  He hasn’t posted in a while and I wish he’d come back.  The peek into his life and the manner in which he conveys it is often funny, sometimes heartbreaking and always leaves you wanting to hear more.
  10. She’s Got a Mouth on Her:  Wonderful blog by a woman who just wants the world to be a better place.  She conveys so well her thoughts and ideas about how to do that without coming off as preachy, which I love.  Very well-written and sometimes edgy.  She’s my kind of girl.
  11. Inner Workings of My Mind:  Fascinating blog written by a Muslim woman.  She has a huge following, and I just happened to come across it one day…to this post in particular.  She’s so open and forthright and gives deep insight into the life of a woman living in a world so many in this country are afraid to acknowledge at all, except through fear.  Wonderful humanity.
  12. forum decorum:  Decidedly male point-of-view on life, and women.  His expression on the female form can be a little jarring – from a chick’s perspective – but I definitely appreciate his candor.  Some funny stuff.  Some interesting takes on the female of the species.  I enjoy reading it.
  13. Under the Lobsterscope:  Retired gentleman (who was once a Broadway producer, which I dig) who clearly isn’t retired from wanting to be part of the conversation.  Very intelligent, well-thought out commentary on politics and life in general.
  14. The Unknowledge Tree:  Very funny blog about the miscellaneous in life.  Very well done, visually stimulating and it makes me laugh.  I love to laugh.

There are more.  I wish I had time in the day to thoroughly read all the interesting blogs I come across.  What a world we live in that we each get our own voice in this way if we want it.

Cool, very cool.

The Indignity Between 6 and 8.

Ahhh, the Marigold.  It was an awesome, completely townie, dive-bar-bowling alley on the corner of Grace & Broadway on the North Side of Chicago, just East of the heart of Wrigleyville.

It was dingy.  It smelled.  It was most likely last renovated in the 60’s, and that’s being generous.  It was open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.  It catered to a distinctly non-yuppie crowd considering its location, and it had the best karaoke bar ever in the entire world, where it was standing-room-only by Midnight.  They tore it down in 2004.  I believe outrageously priced condos now stand in its place.  Fucking gentrification.

It was the late 90’s, and big groups of us would go to the Marigold and bowl, get drunk, sing karaoke – not well, of course – and then walk across the street to the IHOP for pancakes at 3 a.m.  I really loved that place.  Those were some great times.

I’m a pretty good bowler, actually.  Even sauced.  I was pretty competitive when I bowled, so I was, hmmm, a stickler about scoring.  One friend thought it was cool to “round-up” each score to keep it easy.  Um, no.  And there were no fancy, George Jetson-y computerized scoring machines at this place.  There were barely cup-holders.

I liked to win.  But I didn’t like to keep score.  I’d do everything I could to avoid keeping score myself.  When it was my turn to score, I’d go to the bathroom.  Or walk away.  Or suddenly “see” someone from across the lanes who wasn’t really there.

“Where are you going?  It’s your turn to keep score!” someone would yell to me.

Me, thinking furiously,  “Uh, yeah…I see Ja..m..mer over there.  I have to go say Hi”.

“Did she just say she’s going to say hi to Jammer?  Is she making that up?”

I don’t know why I never just said George Glass.  Whatever.  I’d check it over later.  When I had some time.  I usually took the score sheets home.

Still there were those times when I couldn’t get out of it.

When I couldn’t get out of it, there I’d sit.  Nasty little stub of a pencil in my right hand with Neanderthalic bite marks cracking through the heavy, blue, most assuredly lead-laden paint, hoping to God whoever was up would gutter ball.  And not just because I wanted to win.

I’d start tapping my fingers on the table.  Start shaking my legs back and forth nervously. I’d pretend I was engaged in the laughing and conversations going on.  I’d crack jokes.  I don’t think anyone ever noticed what was happening to me physically.  This was just a fun night out.  And it was, until I had to sit there.

I’d look at the score sheet and pray there weren’t spares or strikes in the previous frames.  And damn it all to hell if there were.

They’d throw their ball and wait to throw it again, all the while I was getting more and more anxious.  Irritated.

After the second ball, they’d walk back to me and look over my shoulder waiting for their frame total.  I’d distract them.  “Hey, look over there!  Is…is…. that JAMMER??”

“Who the hell…is she kidding with this Jammer person?”  More laughing.  It was just me being funny.  I was always being funny.  Anything to buy time.

When I scored, those sheets would look like a 1st grader’s homework, and not in a good/cute way.  It’s not that other people didn’t add things up on the sheet.  They occasionally would.  But not like I did.

It’s not that I can’t add.  I certainly can.

It’s just that something happens to me, has always happened to me, when I am under any sort of pressure – imaginary or real – to deal with numbers.  It goes beyond fear.  It’s more like phobic.  Paranoia.

I don’t embarrass easily.  I’m a pretty confident person.  Ballsy even.  No one takes the piss out of me more than I do myself, but I was internally embarrassed of my phobia and tried never to let on that I panicked at the thought of someone watching me add up a basic bowling score.  But I absolutely did.

Numbers…MATH.

Mathematics.  The most universally linear and logical of applications, unwavering in its stringent adherence to its own principles…1 + 1 always, always = 2.  Yuck.  I don’t think I have a truly linear-thinking bone in my body.  I think abstractly.  I live abstractly.  Math…has always caused me to sweat, my heart rate to increase and head to throb…my whole. damn. life.

Fucking math.

My earliest memory of this physical and mental reaction to math is from 3rd grade.  I do not remember having any thought either way about math prior to that.  In 3rd grade I very clearly remember taking a math test.  The first one I ever remember taking. For any test the teacher put the test sheets upside down on our desks and we had to gently lay our pencils down on top of them and fold our hands in our laps.  We had to wait for her signal, at which time we could turn our sheets over and begin.

But this time before she said we could start, she reached into her drawer and pulled out a timer.  A big, shiny, metal egg timer.  We all kind of ooohed and ahhhed over it.

The teacher explained that she would set the timer and when it went off we were to immediately stop writing and put our pencils down and fold our hands in our laps again.

I sat two desks down from my teacher.  I was a great student.  I loved school.  And I really liked her.  She liked me too.  Teachers liked me.  It made me proud that I got to sit so close to her.

So I got a clear shot of the timer.  I thought it was neat, and I was excited to start.

She wound it and told us to begin.  You could hear the rustling of papers, chairs skidding slightly as we all pulled them in closer to our desks in anticipation, the inevitable dropping of a pencil and some kid laughing at the other kid who dropped it and the “shhhhh” from the teacher serving to aim our focus.

Once wound, she placed the timer on the front, left corner of her gargantuan, wooden desk.

I remember I was wearing a dress that day.  I could feel the coldness of the metal seat on my legs.  I picked up my pencil and started the test.  I remember that it seemed pretty easy.  I was not having a difficult time with the equations.

About half way through is when I started to run into trouble.  I’m not sure if it was an actual problem with an equation, or my mind was simply wandering.  I don’t know.  But what I do know, is that all I could suddenly hear was the ticking of the timer.

Tick tick tick tick tick.  I suddenly zeroed in on this sound, like when you’re in your house and there’s noise all around you but the only thing you can hear, what your mind picks out, is the dripping of a faucet.

Like some sort of torture this ticking mesmerized me.   I’m not sure, but I might have been hypnotized.  I lost complete track of time, which is ironic since a timer inherently exists to remind you of time.  I didn’t catch the irony then because, come on, I was a stupid 3rd grader.

The next thing I remember was the teacher saying, “One minute, class.” which apparently snapped me out of my wide-eyed, vacant stare.  I then distinctly remember looking down at my paper and thinking some age-appropriate variation  of “Holy SHIT”.  I’d hardly finished any of the problems.  I looked around and noticed that most of the kids’ papers were upside down with pencils on top as they struggled to keep their hands in their laps.  They were done.

I worked furiously to finish my test, but it was too late.

“BRRRRRRRRLLLLLLAAAAAAAANNNNNNNGGGGGGG”, went the timer.

“FFFFUUUUCCCCCKKKK MEEEEEEEEE”, went my mind.  You know, or some age-appropriate variation thereof.

To this day when I hear an egg-timer go off, I pee myself.

***********************

Okay, that’s not true.  But I do know from that time forward I never looked at numbers on a sheet of paper with glee or anticipation again.

***********************

I clearly do not have a natural predisposition for comprehending higher math.  I SUCK at it.  SUCKITY-SUCK-SUCK.  Just ask my poor, beleaguered parents, especially my Dad on whose shoulders it fell to tutor me night after night throughout High School.

Now I’m not being cutesy here when I say this, but is Algebra a bunch of sick, twisted shit or WHAT?

Give my Dad a medal, because damn if he didn’t try to help me to the best of his ability.  Both of my parents are far better than average I would say, in their math comprehension skills.  Why I fell off that genetic apple tree I’ll never know.  Not only did I fall off, I careened down a hill, got ran over by a truck and stepped on by the bully ten year old down the street.

I can so clearly remember my father putting his head in his hands, eyes wide, glazed over and unblinking – very “A Clockwork Orange” – and muttering to himself something like “You’ve got to be kidding me”, at the fortified wall that was my brain when dealing with Algebra.  At some point he’d hit the table with his hands, walk to the sink and splash cold water on his face and then take a swig of something, very likely alcoholic.  At least I hope it was.  I recognized and understood his frustration.  I’d sometimes sit back in my chair and laugh at myself which only pissed him off.  I didn’t mean to laugh.  But what else could I do.  I just didn’t get it and I didn’t see the point in getting it.  “You’re smart!  Why can’t you get this?  Arghhh!!”  And he’d leave the room to take a well-deserved break.

He was right, I was smart.  When it came to the Humanities I was a bit of a rock star, in my own mind anyway.  I’ve been a writer since I was a little girl.  I’ve won many writing awards for both fiction and non-fiction.  I’ve been chosen to read essays I’ve written on national radio.  I’ve won Language Arts awards.  I never got anything but straight A’s in English, mostly the same in History, Social Science, and even Science-Science (Biology/Health classes…notice I’m excluding Chemistry).   When I was in 5th grade I was tutoring 8th graders in Reading, Writing and Language Comprehension.  In those areas I was in advanced placement classes all of my school years.  I have a decently high IQ.

But you put me in front of numbers where I’m required to do anything but add/subtract/multiply or divide the simplest of equations…where I actually have to use X’s and Y’s, tangents and cosines…Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus – it’s like one of those annoying black-and-white cartoons from the 30’s starts playing in that part of my brain on a relentless loop – you know the one, with the rudimentary-drawn animal singing some folksy “blahblahblah” song complete with scratched-record sounds crackling through – proving an extremely effective barrier to any sort of understanding…at all.

***********************

Long story longer….it’s High School and it’s time to take either the SAT or ACT, or both.  I’m not sure why I didn’t take the SAT to be honest, no recollection.  But I did take the ACT.  I was excited to take it actually.  I enjoyed taking tests for the most part, and while I’d basically scraped by or cheated my way through math for years in a desperate effort just to get through it with passing grades, I wasn’t worried about the ACT.  I’d kick-ass on everything else, which would negate the probable 15-17 out of 36 I’d get in math.  No problemo.

We took the test in the school cafeteria.  I remember it like it was yesterday; the subdued atmosphere tense with anticipation.  Everyone nervous but ready to get on with it.  This was it, the culmination of 12 years of education which would have a major impact on your future, right there encapsulated in those little ovals you had to fill in with the graphite of a No. 2 pencil.

I flew through most of it, finishing well before they’d tell us to put our pencils down.  I felt really good.

But the dread, oh the dreaddddd.  I don’t remember when the math part came in the sequence of the day.  I was as ready for it as I’d ever be.  When I started it, I was truly sick to my stomach.   I wanted to vomit.  God, I just wanted it over with.  I had studied enough, my ass off actually, to get through some of the basic Algebra questions with apparent ease.  But then, it became more advanced.  Much more.

I distinctly recall resting my head in my left hand realizing the time was ticking down, hearing that fucking egg-timer in my head, and panicking.  I looked around and it was me and maybe five other freaks who weren’t done yet…100 other people already done for an hour just watching the rest of us from the adjacent room as if we were zoo exhibits.  I just knew I had to finish all the questions.  I did my best.  I did.  I tried to reason out the answers with the basics I knew.  It didn’t help.  I finished with a few minutes to spare.  And by finished, I mean filled in the ovals on a wing and a prayer: the wing belonging to a buzzard circling over the carcass of my dignity, and the prayer being only to avoid puking all over the lunch table.

It was done.  It was done.  I was done.  Let the chips fall where they may.  If I could have cheated my way through it I would have.  I’m not proud of that fact, but I’m nothing if not self-aware.  I didn’t though.  The proof of that would come some weeks later.

***********************

I don’t know where I had been when I got home one afternoon and my Mom was holding the test results in her hand.  She was excited and kind of waved it at me.  I was excited too.  There’s nothing like having the single most determining factor in where you’ll be allowed to attend college typed out on a little sheet of paper.  Weeee!

I was nervous though.  Really nervous.  I opened it, looking at the overall total score first. I deflated like a balloon and closed my eyes.  It wasn’t good.  It wasn’t the worst ever, but it wasn’t what I wanted at all.  And I fucking knew why.

Deep, deep breath.

7.

Math.  7.

Out of a possible 36.

7.

Holy fuck.  What the FUCK!?

“What?!” my Mom said as she noticed my face turn varying shades of green.

I couldn’t even say it.  I just handed it to her.

I don’t even remember what my Mom said about it other than something like…it’s okay, everything else is great, it’s okay.  God bless her.

I think I laid on my bed in the fetal position wanting to die for the next few hours until my Dad came home.  Come home he did.  I didn’t have the heart to show it to him, my Mom did.  He knocked on my door and asked me to come into the kitchen.  I felt so bad for him.  That’s really what it was.  I had hoped that maybe I’d come through like one of those kids they’d do “60 Minutes” specials on; who triumph over a lifetime of poor expectations.  I really did.  But worse, I knew he did too.  I wanted him to feel like his countless hours of attempting to knock through the cement-blockade I had put up against math had worked, at least a little.  It didn’t.

My Dad has been an educator his whole life.  He knew the power of positive reinforcement, coupled with the power of my mother warning him to be nice to me, and when I walked into the kitchen he smiled at me holding that piece of paper.

“Hi honey.  It’s okay.  It’s good, it is.  It’s okay.  But…what happened here?”

I smiled weakly, trying not to cry.

“Gee, I don’t know Dad.  It could have been worse.”  I said with thinly veiled sarcasm.

He laughed warmly, took a step toward me and said quietly over the top of his glasses…

“A monkey could have done better, pointing randomly, with its eyes closed.”

It made us bust out laughing, and started my tears in full force.  I put my head in my hands, leaned back against the kitchen sink and sobbed a decade’s worth of frustration and futility.  He hugged me.  My Mom hugged me.  They knew how I felt.  It was an indelible moment.

***********************

My father later determined that regardless of my obvious mental incapacity in the area of mathematics, there was no way I could have gotten that low a score.  I must have somehow, somewhere screwed up the sequencing of the problems/answer ovals and answered out-of-order for a good part of the test.  Yes, that had to be at least part of it.  He wanted me to take it again.  Good GOD. But maybe he was right.

So I did.  I took the entire motherfucking exam over again.

I scored even higher in one of my already high areas.

Math?

Wait for it…………………………………………..7.

***********************

I don’t know, I think in some ways it’s pretty awesome that I literally scored lower than the expected score of a person, or simian, randomly guessing at the answers blindfolded.  If you’re gonna fail, fail big I say.  It took me a long time to admit to people what my score was.  And I’ve never told a single person who didn’t say “No, come on.  Seriously.  What did you really get?”  That’s the truth.

I suppose I wear it as some sort of pathetic badge of honor now.  Like saying, “Hey…do you have any idea how much more room I have in my brain for the pursuit and absorption of random knowledge while yours is bogged down with number montages like Russell Crowe’s from that scene in “A Beautiful Mind”?

I’m kidding.  It sucks.  And it’s embarrassing.  I’m highly intelligent and math is my Achilles Heel.  So be it.  I’ve taken a lot of lessons away from this lifelong scourge; acceptance of what I am and am not capable of, how to deal with defeat despite my best efforts, and never judge people based on a singular aspect of their intelligence.  There’s almost always more to it than meets the eye.

Oh also…never, ever go bowling without computerized score sheets.

It makes for a much more relaxed evening.

Pandora’s Big, Fat, Sanctimonious Box.

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“Personhood” Amendments:  Ambiguous and broadly-worded citizen-led measures that aim to legally define human life as starting at “the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” 

The measures, if passed in any State, will have far-reaching, dire consequences for the cause of women’s rights, a woman’s personal autonomy, her right to make personal decisions about her healthcare,  and the legal system in general.

These measures, being proposed in most states in one form or another, would even restrict certain birth control methods, IVF (in-vitro fertilization) treatment, and would ban all abortions, under all circumstances.


Love and Death: Terminal Pregnancies

You find the love of your life.  You’ve found the person you want to share everything in your life with until the end of time.  You see your unborn children in each other’s eyes.  The love you share leads you to the desire to have a baby, a combination of both of you, a baby who is proof of what you feel for one another, the ultimate gift to one another.  And so you, the woman, become pregnant.

It’s a magical time.  The realization of what will happen in mere months is exhilarating.  You and your adoring husband are anxious, maybe even scared, but you’ve never been happier. You tell friends and family the exciting news.  Life is good.

Six weeks into the pregnancy you begin spotting blood.  Not a lot, but enough to cause concern and you call your doctor.  “It’s very common”, the OB says, “Keep an eye on it and let me know if it gets worse.  Don’t worry”.  By seven weeks into the pregnancy you are cramping, having substantial pain.  More bleeding.  Something clearly is not right.  You make an appointment with your doctor for the next day.  You are scared, you do not want to lose this most wanted of babies.

Before you can make it to your appointment the next day the pain in your abdomen intensifies.  You now have pain in your shoulders, throughout your back, your belly is distended.  You are light-headed.  You’re grocery shopping and lean onto a counter to hold yourself up.  You double over and try to stay conscious, but fail.  You pass out.

You come-to in the emergency room on a stretcher with an oxygen mask over your face.  Your husband is there now.  You do not really know what is going on, but know you will lose this baby.  Your husband tells you with tears in his eyes that you have an ectopic, “tubal”, pregnancy, that your baby developed in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus, that it grew normally in an abnormal place, and now was big enough to start rupturing your tube and you are bleeding internally.  He tells you as he strokes your hair that if you do not have surgery right now…right now… to remove the fetus – which is still alive – you will die.  You will die.

Under a passed “personhood” measure it would be a criminal act to remove a still living fetus from this woman’s fallopian tube, despite the fact that it cannot survive much beyond its current gestational age.  Despite the fact that allowing the fetus to remain inside of the mother…will kill her, and quickly, unless surgical intervention happens immediately to terminate the fetus’ life and repair the damage it has inadvertently caused.

  • Will any doctor perform this surgery knowing it could implicate them for murder of the fetus?
  • If a physician does perform this surgery to save the life of the mother, what are the legal implications for the doctor? Murder charges?
  • If a doctor is willing to perform this surgery to save the life of the mother upon her or her husband’s request, what are the legal implications for that mother/father?  Murder charges?
  • If this type of measure passes, it virtually ensures that the life of any woman confronted with an ectopic pregnancy will  either die as her doctor and her loved ones stand and watch, or risk being charged with a criminal act in the “murder” of her fetus in an effort to save her own life.
  • Ectopic pregnancy is currently the leading cause of pregnancy-related death during the first trimester in the United States, accounting for 9% of all pregnancy-related deaths. In addition to the immediate morbidity caused by ectopic pregnancy, the woman’s future ability to reproduce may be adversely affected as well.

********************

Rape:

Your beautiful, baby girl…the literal light of your life since her birth, is going away to college.  You can’t believe time has passed so quickly.  How can it be?  You’re so proud of her.  She is everything you’d hoped she would be: beautiful, intelligent, caring, courageous, determined.  You have such profound love for her, and the promise of an infinitely bright future for her causes tears to well up in your eyes as you wave goodbye to each other and she begins her adult life.  You are worried for her safety, of course.  There are bad people in the world.  You’ve seen them and dealt with them, but she’s only heard of them.  You’re her father and you’ve tried to teach her well, to give her all that she needs to make good choices.  Now all you can do is trust that with luck and her intrinsic values firmly in place she will flourish.

Months later you receive a call from the college campus police in the middle of the night.  It’s your worst fear come to light.  As you and your wife sit up in bed you audibly pray that she is still alive.  She is.  She’s alive.  But she’s been raped.

You drive the few hours to the hospital in her college town, hearts screaming all the way.  Screaming for what she has just endured.  It is impossible to comprehend the violation of your daughter that has taken place.  Anger seethes from both of you between wrenching sobs.

You finally arrive.  You run through the hospital corridors until you reach your daughter’s room.  She is there, lying on a bed in a hospital robe.  She is motionless until she sees both of you, and then she silently begins crying and reaches for you.

She is too embarrassed and in shock to recount for you what happened, so the police officer does it for you: It was a fairly common scenario, the officer said.  She had been to a party with some newly made friends.  It was a fun night.  She met a guy, and they talked for a long time.  She was drinking, right along with everyone else.  She was drunk, but did not black out or pass out.  She liked this guy, and he seemed to like her.  He asked her to leave with him so they could go someplace and be alone to talk in private.  She felt fine about this, because this guy was a friend of one of her new friends…she trusted him because of this.  So she said yes.

He took her to his dorm room.  She did not feel threatened.  Yet.  They kissed some, and then she told him she needed to leave but hoped he would call her soon.  He said he didn’t want her to leave, that she should stay.  She smiled and said no.  He kissed her and asked her again to stay.  She smiled and said no, again.  He then became aggressive, holding her down on the couch, telling her how much he liked her, kissing her.  She was scared now, and tried pushing him off telling him no, but she was no physical match for him.

He did not listen.  He forcibly laid on top of her, kissing her and covering her mouth so she couldn’t scream for help.  He pulled her pants off, and raped her.

Under a passed “personhood” measure it would be a criminal act for your daughter to take RU486 (mifepristone + a prostaglandin 48 hours later), the so-called “abortion pill” or “morning after pill” – should she become pregnant as a result of her rape.  These drugs are no picnic.  In extremely simple terms if it works correctly, these pills taken before 9 weeks of gestation, block the production of progesterone, and progesterone is needed to keep a pregnancy viable.    In most cases, it causes moderate to severe cramping and the eventual expulsion of all products of conception within several hours to a few days.  Bleeding can last from 8-10 days.   Because this measure deems a fertilized egg a “person” under the law, with all the rights and protections of the mother herself, this drug would not be an option to her to terminate a pregnancy, even before a pregnancy were medically detectable…which is roughly at around two-weeks post-conception.

Under this “personhood” measure, your daughter, should she become pregnant from this non-consensual violation, from this rape, would be forced to carry the baby to term.  That would be her only legal option.


********************

IVF:  “Test-Tube” Babies

You are a woman who has met the man of your dreams.  He is wonderful in every way, except maybe a few ways, and you can overlook those things because in a very short amount of time you come to realize you cannot live without him. And as destiny would have it, he feels the same way about you.  You’re in love with each other, spend every waking minute with each other, tell each other your hopes and dreams and without even needing to say it out loud, you know you’re going to get married and spend the rest of your lives together.  He asks you to marry him on bended knee…like something out of a fairy tale, and you can’t say yes fast enough.   You’re in love, and you marry each other.  You’re in love, and soon after you decide that you want to have a baby.

You’re so eager to begin this process because, well, making babies is a lot of fun.  You’re in love and so the making-the-baby part comes easily to you, naturally…and often.  It is wonderful and romantic and exciting…because you’ll be pregnant soon with a baby that is the proof of the love the two of you share.

Only now, slam on the breaks…hard...until you come to a screeching, grinding halt with the smoke of burned rubber all around you, choking you.

Because for the two of you this will not work.  Weeks and months and months go by…a year, more than a year… and you are not pregnant.  Something is very wrong.  The way nature intended for you to become pregnant is not working.

Kill the romantic music.  Kill the scented candles enhancing the mood.  Just…stop.

**********

Cue instead stirrups, and speculums and blood tests and ultrasounds and more blood tests and questions about the most intimate aspects of your life, and mood/body-altering injectable drugs, and painful testing and shame and feelings of inadequacy and jealousy, and timed intercourse (down to the hour) or doctor ordered abstinence, and surgeries and procedures…and if at the end of that you are still not pregnant, take a very deep breath and start it all…over…again…next month.

This is ART:  Assisted Reproductive Technology.  But most people lump all ART into the more recognizable acronym, IVF: In-Vitro Fertilization.

This topic is intensely personal for me.   I had eight miscarriages in six years.  I went through three IVF procedures to achieve two of those pregnancies, both of which ended in missed abortions – otherwise known as miscarriages.  (I will not go in-depth into my personal situation here because I write about it in some detail in this post regarding why I’m pro-choice.)

In short, IVF procedures begin with the woman giving herself injectable hormones to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs from each of them.  During normal, unaided ovulation a woman produces one mature egg from one ovary.  Sometimes one from each ovary, which can result in twins… rarely three or four or more.  With IVF and injectable hormones, a woman can produce 5, 6, 10, 15, 20 mature eggs in a single cycle.

When the RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) determines that the majority of the eggs are fully matured, you’re scheduled for egg retrieval.  You are put-under, and all the mature eggs are surgically removed.  The eggs are immediately put into petri-dishes (not test-tubes), and the man’s sperm are added to the mix so that fertilization can take place.  For the next several days technicians monitor the progress of fertilization.

Let’s say in our couple above, 15 eggs are retrieved from the woman but only 10 fertilize.  They will now monitor those fertilized eggs for quality and they are “graded” on their development.

There is a fairly standard rate at which cells divide in fertilized eggs.  By Day 3, the average number of cells in the embryo is 8.  8 cells. The first report the woman will get is usually on Day 3 post egg retrieval/fertilization, and most transfers of the embryo back into the uterus happen on Day 3, sometimes Day 5 (by Day 5 they are now called blastocysts with too many individual cells to count…trying not to get too technical here), but usually on Day 3.

All the while the woman must continue injecting hormones into her body to keep her uterus receptive for implantation of the embryos.  It is an arduous, painful, and emotionally taxing process.

Believe me.

So let’s say of the 10 embryos which fertilized, only 4 were graded as developing very well and are the appropriate number of cells for their maturation.  It is now go-time, and at a moment’s notice.  Depending on the age of the woman and a host of other very personal factors, the woman must decide upon the number of embryos to be transferred back into her uterus for hopeful implantation and a successful pregnancy.

The goal is NOT an Octo-Mom situation.  The goal is never multiples.  The goal is always to have one successful implantation with a live, singleton birth.  But again depending on age (which aids in determining the overall quality of her eggs to begin with) and the visual quality of the embryos, it is sometimes decided that multiple embryos be transferred to the uterus because:  usually not all embryos implant.  The idea being that of the four good-quality embryos, you’re often very, very lucky if just one “takes”.  Sometimes, however, all of them do (Hello, Octo-Mom!  Another discussion for another day).

However in this scenario, let’s assume the woman decides only two embryos should be transferred to avoid the very precarious scenario of high-order multiples (triplets or more), with the hope that at least one of them implants and pregnancy ensues.

Now stay with me here… she will transfer the 2 high-quality embryos to her uterus, has 2 other high-quality embryos which she is not transferring, and 6 poorer-quality embryos which will not be transferred at all.  That leaves a total of 8 embryos with no uterus to call home.

These are human embryos.  Most people do not dispute this fact.  They aren’t goats or monkeys, they’re human.  They are humans at their most elemental and basic of forms – literally.  8 cells seen under a microscope.  This embryo has no human shape, no recognizable features, no tell-tale humanness about it at all.  8 cells.  However, and I do not disagree with the pro-life movement on this point, they are no less “human”.  We all start out this way.

I ask you: what should the woman above who so desperately longs for a child, do with the 8 human embryos that she is not going to transfer?

If “personhood” amendments pass – anywhere –  the consequences for those seeking infertility treatments is profound.

The “personhood amendment” is seeking to assign the same constitutional rights to the 8-celled embryo as you and I have.  Its passage would mean that women/couples enduring the arduous, horribly expensive (and not covered under most insurance plans) procedures aimed at ultimately helping them to have a child, would have to decide upon the following choices for their 8 remaining 8-celled embryos:

  • Transfer all of them at one time: risking the extreme of high-order multiples, which involves immediate and prolonged risk to the health and well-being of the mother and all babies.
  • Indefinitely cryo-freeze the remaining 8 embryos so they can be transferred to the woman at a later date, whether the woman want more children or not, and which involves significant cost and legality.
  • What happens if you cryo-freeze the embryos but you and your husband die?  What happens to those embryos?  Who retains custody of them?  Do you have any say whether or not those embryos can be used to create a pregnancy ten, twenty, 100 years from now?
  • Donate the remaining embryos to couples who are unable to produce embryos of their own, even using all forms of ART.  Essentially – mandating you put your embryos up for adoption.
  • Go through lengthy, emotionally and physically painful processes over and over and over again, but creating only one embryo to be transferred, putting the collective odds at a woman’s successful pregnancy at nearly “none”.
  • The option to discard embryos not transferred or determined to be of poor quality and thus unlikely to result in a healthy pregnancy is…not an option.  To do so would be criminal…murder.

Now most pro-life supporters, and supporters of proposed amendments like these everywhere in the country will say, “So.  So what?  That 8-celled embryo is a PERSON.  If you discard it, or refuse to freeze it indefinitely, or refuse to give it up for adoption and instead let it “die”, it is MURDER.

To them, if you let any of the 8-celled embryos die, it is the same as killing any person you see before you every day.

********************

These are just THREE of the hundreds of intensely complicated and personal scenarios the “personhood” amendments are trying to encompass in one neat, tidy and disgustingly invasive movement.

Here are a few more:

  • If a newly fertilized, two-celled embryo is a “person” with every constitutional right that you and I have, can you claim them on your taxes as dependents?  If you file your taxes while pregnant, but before you KNOW you’re pregnant, can you petition the government to re-file taxes to claim that unborn dependent?
  • If you go through IVF treatments and produced multiple embryos that you will not use, and to avoid murder charges you opt to freeze them indefinitely, and the cryo-freezing storage facility loses power and all embryos die…can the proprietors of that facility be penalized and charged with murder?
  • This movement also seeks to govern and in some instances make some forms of birth control illegal.  What if you’re on The Pill to avoid pregnancy, but you become pregnant anyway…only you don’t know it.  You continue to take The Pill, and that continuation actually facilitates a miscarriage.  Can you be penalized for murder in that scenario?  Can the manufacturer of The Pill be penalized?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It is here where I must take a long……… deep………….. slow……………… breath.

It is hard to wrap my head around the staggering audacity of the proponents of this “personhood” movement.

Who are these people who so callously and with faux-Godliness dictate the terms and actions and decisions of a woman’s life – all in the name of their religious beliefs?  Who ARE these people?

If you’re one of them…who are YOU?   Who exactly do you think you ARE??

What if it was you or your daughter or sister who would die unless her pregnancy was terminated?

What if it was you or your daughter who was raped and became pregnant and was forced to bear that child?

What if it was you or your daughter who wanted so desperately to have a child but could not move forward with infertility treatments for fear of being prosecuted for the murder of her embryos?

What the pro-life/personhood movement will never, ever, ever understand or accept…is that their religious beliefs do not transcend mine, and therefore they should never be allowed to impose their will on a single, solitary woman who is not willing to subjugate themselves to it.  They will never see the woman as separate from the embryo, fetus, baby.  They will never do that.

They espouse their goal as singular;  to save an unborn life at any cost.

However, I suspect their collective goal is much more far-reaching than that.  I believe in their eyes they are taking on the role of prophets, saviors, God’s army.  And they want something in return for it.

For their sanctimonious avenging in the name of the unborn they hope to save, I believe they want no less than total absolution from God himself.  And from where I sit, knowing as much about God’s determining factors for absolution as they do – which is nothing – I don’t think they’ll get it.

These people don’t fool me.  And they don’t fool the majority of women, or men, in this country.

They want to take women and make them instruments of their ideology, ignoring the fact that life is imperfect and complicated.

The push-back to the “personhood” movement is growing stronger every day.

If just one of these measures passes, anywhere, push-back will be an understatement.

The majority of women in this country, aided by their doctors and friends and family and clergy, are perfectly willing and capable of making the best decisions possible with regards to their own bodies and what grows from them.

We as women make these intensely personal decisions of our own free-will.  We are good people who may find ourselves in extremely difficult circumstances, trying to make the best choices we can considering all factors involved.

And I’ll bet you with everything I’ve got – that any version of any God – is well aware of that.

Just Say No. Well…Maybe.

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The audio cassette greatly increased the distr...

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I’m a sinner.

Despite being a genuinely good person at heart, I’ve certainly sinned during my lifetime.

I am imperfect.

I was at a party my Sophomore year in college.  It was at my roommate’s friends’ house down the street from ours, off-campus in the old Greek Row.  I had been drinking, but wasn’t drunk.  I was most definitely high, though, because my roommate was a stoner musician. I mean she played a wind instrument in the orchestra, not the drums or guitar in a grunge band or something, but still.  And well… I was high.  But not crazy-high.  Just happily buzzed.  The typical mellow, no worries, chilled, isn’t-everything-so-awesome-and-interesting kind of high.  I didn’t really know the people who lived in the party house, but they seemed cool. Nice.  Musicians also.  Artistic.  I was a Theatre major and I loved being around “that scene”.

At some point I wandered off from the group hanging out on the back porch and in the kitchen, and into the living room.  There was the stereo blaring The Ramones.  No one was around.  I stood in front of the speakers looking at the cassette tapes (uh huh, 1988.  Hey, at least they weren’t 8-tracks).  Probably 100 of them.  Without so much as even looking around to see if anyone was watching me, I picked up three of them and put them in my coat pocket.  They were three I wanted but didn’t have.  The only one I still remember was Sting, “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”.

So I put these three tapes in my pocket very nonchalantly and turned and walked over to the couch, sat down by myself, put my head back and listened to the music.  I smiled to myself because I had just stolen these tapes, and I didn’t care.

Now Nancy Reagan would have said it was the pot stealing my soul.  It altered my thought-processes!  It brought out the demons in me!

Nah.  I’d always wondered what it would be like to steal something.  Small, you know.  Not grand-theft auto or bank robbery or anything.  But I had always been a good girl, and I wanted to do something “bad”.  The weed simply lifted the veil of morality that separated me from my inner bad-chick.  And honestly, it kind of felt awesome.

I walked around that party the rest of the night occasionally putting my hand in my coat pocket touching the tapes.  I had a little secret and I liked it.   Plus, they honestly had at least 100 tapes in there, they’d never miss these.  And they’d never in a gazillion years suspect lil ol’ me.

The next morning I woke up not with a hangover so much as a fog.  We didn’t get home til almost 4 am, and I woke up around 7:30 and I was just…tiiiiirrrrreeeeeddddddd.  I sat up in my bed, reached for the litre of Pepsi next to my bed (you know, dry mouth from all the reefer) and guzzled half of it without breathing.

It was FREEZING.  I think it was February.  My room was in the back of the house, and it was basically an enclosed porch.  I’m almost positive there was no insulation of any kind in that room.  It slanted significantly downward and to the right toward the back, with some paneling semi-nailed into some 2 X 4’s comprising a closet and old, dingy dark brown carpeting covering the floor.  I loved it.

My coat was laying at the end of my bed.  I reached over and put it on, got up to go to the bathroom, grabbed a piece of plain white bread from the kitchen and shoved it into my mouth (pathetic excuse for delayed-munchies junk food) and got back into my bed under the covers shaking violently.  I put my right hand in my right coat pocket and felt something hard.

My eyes opened real wide, and I pulled out the tapes.  What the…what???

Uh oh.  It all came back to me.  I was a thief.  There was Sting in all his tantric glory.

Oh. Boy.

I didn’t feel guilt right away.  I felt confused.  I remembered taking the tapes while being of “sound mind”.  I knew it was wrong when I did it, but I did it anyway.  I made a conscious, if not slightly altered, decision to steal them from my friend’s friend.  Yep.  I sure did.  I put them under my bed and put my hand back under the covers until I stopped shaking and started to fall asleep, I’m pretty sure with a slight smile on my face.

The next day was Sunday.  Me and my roommate went out for lunch.  We got back to our house and watched some TV.  Laid around.  Studied some.  Just a lazy day.  At some point mid-afternoon, she got a phone call.  She went into her room to take it and I went back to my room to find a book.

When I came back out she said, “That was Mike.  He’s so pissed off.  He’s calling everyone to find out who stole his shit.  Give me a break”.

Oh boy.

“What shit?” I asked.

“I don’t know, some tapes.  He’s so uptight.” she said shaking her head.

And I just shrugged my shoulders and sat down.

We both had our feet up on the Salvation Army coffee table, on top of the “Juggs” magazines we kept there as a conversation piece.  (Four girls lived in our house, all of us artists in some form or another, and we thought it was hilarious that we had four copies of “Juggs” as our coffee-table books.  Very weird, yet still damn funny to me).  And it hit me.  Um, I had done something bad.  And now I was feeling bad.  I had to return them.

But how??

“You know what?”, I said as if I had just remembered something, “…wait a minute”.  And I got up and ran to my room.  I reached under my bed and put the tapes back into my coat pocket.  I went back into the living room with my coat and reached into my pocket in front of her.

“Some guy at the party asked me if I wanted some tapes, and I obviously said okay, because I found these in my pocket yesterday and forgot about them”.

“Whoa!” she laughed, “Seriously?  Some guy at the party gave those to you?”

“Yeah, really.  Some guy sat down next to me and asked if I wanted them, and I said uh, okay, and he gave them to me.”

“Holy shit!  I have to call Mike!”

“Yeah”, I said, “I have no idea who he was, I just thought he lived there and was flirting or something and gave them to me.  And then I forgot about them.  He was pretty wasted.  But yeah, they’re obviously Mike’s.  So tell him I have them and I can bring them over to him.  Tell him I’m sorry, but I had no idea they weren’t that guy’s”.

Oh my God.  I was making so much shit up on the fly…and I was freaking out.  But I was an Acting major, so I tried very hard to utilize my training to cover my very-guilty-sorry-thieving-ass.

She called Mike.  She came out of her room and her face looked surprised and she said, “Wow, he’s pissed and he’s coming over here right now!”

“What?!  Pissed why??” I innocently asked.

“He thinks you stole them!” she gleefully yelled.

“What?!  Oh please.  Why the hell would I steal those?  I have a ton of my own tapes.  And I wouldn’t do that!”

“I know!  I told him that but he doesn’t believe me!”

Oh. My. God.  Now this guy who I didn’t know at all was coming over to what…beat me up for stealing his tapes?!

He only lived around the corner and within a couple of minutes he was knocking on the door.  I was cool.  Very nonplussed.  On the outside.

The tapes were sitting on the coffee table on top of the April issue of “Juggs”.  I thought if he saw them there he might be distracted from wanting to kill me.

He came in and said directly to me, “What the hell, man?  Why did you steal my tapes?”

“Hey, I didn’t steal them.  Some guy gave them to me and I was pretty stoned so I didn’t think much of it and forgot about them until you called here.  So here they are, sorry.”  I ushered his gaze toward the Juggs with all the zeal of one of The Price is Right showcase girls.

“Well this is only two of them.  Where’s the other one!?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.  I don’t have another one.  These two are the only ones he gave me”.

“Bullshit.  Where’s the other one?”  He was kind of menacing now. And it pissed me off.

“Hey, look.  He gave me two and these are them.”

“What did this mystery asshole look like?” he asked sarcastically.

I thought very quickly and decided giving him the “bushy-haired stranger” description would be too obvious a lie, and at lightning speed I ran through the guys who I remembered being there so I wouldn’t describe any of them.

“I hardly remember.  He was blonde.  That’s about all I remember.”  That description fit roughly 85% of the guys there that night so I felt sure I wasn’t pinning this on anyone in particular.

“Whatever, man.  Not cool!”  And he grabbed the tapes and left.

My roommate stood by the door with her mouth open and said, “What an asshole!  He’s always been asshole, man…I’ve never liked him.  Ugh.”  She came and sat back down next to me.

I was completely and totally freaked out.  I’d never stolen anything before in my life and I was wracked with guilt.  He knew I was lying.  It was good to hear that Mike was not highly thought of, that kind of lessened the guilt, but not by much.

My roommate completely believed me, because she knew I wouldn’t steal stuff.  That is what made me feel instantly horrible.  We laughed about it, all the while I was feeling bad on the inside.  My parents had raised me better, and I was a very good girl.

I went to my room soon after to take a nap.  I sat on my bed, reached under my mattress and pulled out…Sting.

So here was this crazy guy coming over to a girl’s house to accuse her of stealing his stuff, a guy who wasn’t digging “Juggs” (what’s up with THAT?) and…knew I was lying.

Still, I kept Sting.  What was wrong with me?  Had I turned to a life of hard-core crime?  Was MaryJane really the gateway drug Nancy had been preaching against all these years?

WHY had I kept Mr. Sumner’s tape?

You know what, to this day I’m not sure.  Except maybe at the time I was thinking, “Hey, if I’m going to get caught I don’t want it all to be in vain.  He can’t prove I did it…”

And maybe because a little part of me still wanted to feel “bad”.  A little rebellious.  A little ballsy.  Push the envelope a little.  I laugh to myself as I write this…yeah, a REAL little.  What a bad-ass.  Are you rolling your eyes along with me?

I still have “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” in a tub in my basement.

I’d never stolen anything before that night, and I never have since.  Well, not long ago I walked out of the gym with one of their towels.  I had simply forgotten to throw it in the bin when I was done and had left with it absent-mindedly.  I brought it back the next day – after washing and folding it.

I heard the song “Russians” on the radio the other day, and here I am telling the tale of my inner-outlaw.

I don’t feel guilty about it anymore.  I’ve done a lot of other worse, though not intentional, things in my life.

It was just one of those things that I did…maybe as proof to myself that I could take a risk and get away with it.  It was stupid and not right.  It was wrong.

But…is it bad that I don’t really regret keeping it?

Eh. I blame the weed.

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