Help People Gift You With Nice Things By Not Being Obnoxious

Yesterday evening I spent a few glorious hours doing almost nothing. Lazy? Yes. Gleefully so.

Well, I’ve done the usual house proud things like thinking really hard about finding the broom and dustpan, washing the dishes, feeding myself, doing a hell of a lot of loads of laundry (effort that will be for naught if I don’t actually put the clean stuff away…like, today), supervising a three day long house power wash that seems to have literally knocked the old shack askew (all doors are now sticking and are a potential “will die in a fire” hazard because they are hard as hell to open and close), and trying to gently urge new-by-marriage family members I only talk to once a year (but like a lot) to please, for the love of Santa, make out a frickin’ Amazon wishlist so I don’t give up in disgust and go buy them all oven mitts and candle baskets and singing penguins to make a point.

They refuse to do this for Christmas, they refuse to do it for anniversaries, they refuse to do it for birthdays. Why is this? I know I’m poor, but I’m trying, here. (If someone is offering to get you EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT for a gift, then throw them a frickin’ bone and put at least two or three items on a frickin’ list, OKAY? Is that so wrong? It’s not gauche or vulgar if someone begs you to do it so their gift shopping is not a pain in the ass! Honest! Do you WANT a Chia Pet? Don’t make me get you a fruitcake for Christmas, because I’ll do it, people. Sigh.)

Here’s another annoying thing you shouldn’t do: My mom has this “don’t spend your money” whenever it is coming up on a gift-giving event, and says shit that translates into an “I would much prefer you to spend three weeks sweating over an original painting that will cost you $200 in supplies, not that you have that kind of cash, and will require elbow room and space in which to actually paint, space which you do not have” routine that ruins the little joy I get out of, for example, the ONLY THING I LIKE ABOUT CHRISTMAS, which is giving other people stuff they want. I like birthday giving and Valentine’s Day giving and holiday giving in general, but I don’t like not having anything to give, no money to get anything to give, and suggestions made in a combination of innocence and ignorance that basically ask me to spend hundreds of dollars and days of time on an Easter basket gift or something equally minor. I get that it is supposed to be a compliment, but when you’re told that art supplies aren’t cheap, when you have helped me buy not-cheap art supplies, and when you know it takes hours to do something half-way decent, your suggestion that I “just make something, you know, with your art skills” is thoroughly annoying.

So cut that shit out.

But I digress. What else did I not-do while enjoying a rare respite from constant stress and an over-booked schedule? Well, I’ve read a lot. And taken a nap. A nap! What luxury!

Okay, I’m not done with the gift giving thing. Bear with me.

Helpful hint: if you tell someone not to spend money on you after they already have, or you reject all offered gift item suggestions (there’s a reason you were being offered a limited list, probably due to finances or the estimated ease of getting you what you want in time for the event), or profess to hate and refuse to use “we sell everything” online wishlists (like Amazon) to suggest instead a gift that was NOT offered and which would be a huge pain in the ass, expensive, and time-consuming for the giver, you are not being courteous and polite, you are being a jerk. Stop that. Did I offer you a damn pony? No. No, I did not.

Just for that, you are getting a fruitcake, and I don’t care if it is February. (It was stale in December, it ain’t getting any less stale.)

Likewise, if someone has made a point of saying that they never, ever shop at Wal*Mart or K-Mart, do not think you’re being cute if you gift them with a $15 Wal*Mart gift card that forces them to look at all the overpriced, limited, lame items on the Wal*Mart website, because the recipient is still not going to drive across town and suffer Wal*Hell. I got one a few years ago, held onto it for months, not knowing WTF to do with it, and almost just threw it out. HOWEVER, did I complain to the giver and remind them that I’d told them (OFTEN!) that Wal*Mart is on my “never give this company a dime” list, or that their gift was thus unappreciated? I DID NOT. I was very grateful, and very appreciative. The thought, however passive-aggressive, was probably well-intentioned. I suspect that my birthday snuck up on the givers and they bundled the gift in with the weekly groceries, because they DO shop at Wal*Mart, frequently, and their Wal*Mart has a grocery section. See, as I didn’t expect anything at all, I was glad to get what I got. I just didn’t know how to use it, and that took some thinking.

This, however, is why I don’t want to just randomly run out and buy giftcards. I personally may love Target. Do you? Not everyone does. Some gift cards I get if I can afford to celebrate Christmas in Atlanta every year require that I shop IN Atlanta before driving home, because the stores DO NOT EXIST down here and the cards expire in a few months, and there’s either no website or the cards have to be used in person in a store.

Which brings me back to my earlier gripe: FILL OUT AN AMAZON WISHLIST, PLEASE. Some of us do not like going in person to a store, be it to buy something for themselves or to buy gifts for others. Don’t make us do it. I was 100% more happy when I figured out that I could do most of my Christmas shopping online and even get stuff wrapped and shipped for me. Now I can’t afford to even buy a candy cane in the penny bin for someone, but back when I could, online shopping was SO much better than dealing with parking, crowds, limited store hours, thieves trying to steal your shit, crying kids, horrible Christmas music and traffic. I will never set foot in a mall again if I can help it.

I LOVE AMAZON DOT COM SO MUCH.

Anyway, while surfing around, struggling to figure out what these almost-strangers actually like, because they have failed to respond to my emails and calls thus far and time is running short if I want to get all this stuff shipped to me in time to wrap it and travel up there with it, I found a lot of nifty (and cranky) blogs and journals talking about holiday hell.

Not everyone enjoys the frickin’ holidays. I am often depressed and unhappy until March. I don’t enjoy all the pro-debt advertising and expectations and etiquette concerns and headaches. I struggle to be civil and positive while suffering an onslaught of holiday crap music and religious advertising from local Jesusland businesses and TV stations (!!!, no attempt whatsoever to be respectful to the large Jewish population here, for one, or to people who simply don’t want to see adverts where Le Grand Fromage of the TV station PRAYS and reads Bible verses in front of a Nativity scene during nearly every commercial break, forcing you to remember why you have cable and never watch local channels in the first place), and poorly-planned roadways that make it a pain in the butt to shift lanes, and family sulks (like how my mother is angry that I do not want to fly or drive up to Atlanta with her, even though I need my car to get from the opposite side of town to my brother and SIL’s house and back while there and am not likely to be arriving or leaving at the same time, and do not wish to be bothered with anal probes at the airport, and like how family members are often being nasty to and about my pet, and other crap).

It makes me all so tired that I get, like, TOTALLY parenthetical!!

Need MOAR semicolons. And brevity. Yup.

That said, it is nice to have the option to see family during the holidays. Since I couldn’t this year, as even buying a single tank of gas was out of my price range, my Christmas may have been a lot less stressful, but it was also really, really quiet. I didn’t hear from my family until almost 9PM Christmas night.
So, there’s that.

Childhood Outcast Horror Stories

I stumbled upon a site that shares childhood outcast horror stories and was surprised to find out that I’d apparently successfully repressed most of my childhood memories. I can remember certain culprits, and the general crappiness of the behavior, but not the dialogue. It is lost in the fogs of my memory. This is not because I was the aggressor, mind you. I had friends, but didn’t have a clue what “being popular” meant until I got to college, where, finally, as a senior, I clued in that I somehow…was.

How the hell did THAT happen?

Nowadays I’m an arsehole and no one likes me, and I cry myself to sleep every night.

Or something.

I remember just not “getting it” as a kid. I was neither cool nor uncool. I sat at a lunch table with friends, the misfit toys and artists of my high school, and anyone, be they outcast or not, was welcome to sit with us and eat in peace. I pretty much liked everyone. Well, there were people I didn’t find interesting, and people who clearly felt I was a lowly worm unworthy of their collective fantastic and super special attention, but life was too short to dwell. Frankly, since my father died and left me without an ally under my own roof (he and I were alike and understood each other and were both rather introverted artistic types, but my mother, who loves me and vice versa, still has trouble understanding me and has only in recent years toned down (a wee bit) on the “why can’t U B normal?” messages), no amount of external stupid teenage wangst and peer-gifted bullcrap could really phase me. I was in mourning, and I had to be, frankly, a bit of a drag to be around. I’m still a drag when I am sad. I’m sorry. I don’t bounce back quickly from heartbreak. Maybe I never will. Alas, my friends get the brunt of it, as they have to hear about it, and hear about it, and HEAR about it, and deal with me acting out and being, well, a big bummer. Gee, what are friends FOR?

To be fair, I return the favor when someone else has to talk about it, and talk about it, and TALK about it….

Anyhoo, I did have a few memories resurface. This is something that doesn’t happen often, and they may well disappear into the void again if I don’t write them down, so here goes. Good thing that I’m beyond embarrassment at this point in my life.

So I’m about eight or nine years old. Maybe a little older and still clueless. I’m unclear. The art building we visit on occasion is attached to The Big Kids’ Lunchroom. Somehow the information filters through my fuzzy little blonde head that the quarterback, the football star, captain of the team, is Karl Surname Not Given To Spare Him GoogHoo Harassment. I decide that I NEED the quarterback’s autograph. Yes, seriously. How uncool! So little me, armed with a deliciously stinky marker and a napkin, trot up to Karl, who was very tall (or I was very small), and pipe up that I want his autograph. To his credit, once he figures out what I want, he graciously does sign my crumply napkin, and I am DELIGHTED. What a cool guy, you know?

Then I grew up to hang out with for-real famous rockstars. It was destiny.

My peers looked at me like I had three heads when I returned to the art room, proudly brandishing my prize. I realized I had made a social faux pas and passed it off, belatedly, as a fantastic practical joke. Few were fooled. I writhed in shame. The napkin vanished, never to be seen again.

Woe.

Lessee. Then there was the time, mere weeks after my father’s death, when I am back in town visiting my best childhood friend, who happened to be going to my old school, which I would end up returning to as well as a high schooler. I’m sitting with her in her classes, a privilege I honestly don’t recall anyone else ever asking for or getting later on and one I’m not sure why I had, and the class clown decides that I was absent for a year because I got pregnant and went off to have a baby.

LOLWUT. I know it isn’t impossible, but I was not even twelve years old, and pretty sheltered. So, for me, at that tender age anyway, is was impossible. I still played with a Barbie occasionally at the time. Sheesh.
The ludicrousness of this accusation just struck me as hilarious.

I tell him–and the ring of interested ears pointed our way–that I was there because my father committed suicide. Which is the truth (though there is a little doubt, because there were a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood, and for a number of other reasons that are too heavy to go into at this time that involve oddities like my dad’s left-handedness and the location his body was found and so on), and Funny Guy flat out refuses to believe me. He demanded details, insisted on his baby theory, and thought he was being FUNNAY. I’m not devastated enough, or something. Thus I must be lying. In truth, I had a well-learned veneer of emotional armor by that time, and little anyone could have said would have made me show any emotion beyond polite and pleasant blankness to a tormentor.

I do have to wonder, though, if he was raised by particularly rude wolves.

In a barn.

I typically avoided being the butt of the worst pranks, but on one memorable occasion, I got caught but good. I was about thirteen, and riding the particular bus that would get me to piano lessons, and I didn’t know the slightly younger kids on this bus well enough to be wary of them. They were playing some game and I was mostly ignoring it, nose in a book, as usual, when one cute little bright-eyed child decided to tap me on the shoulder. I indulged them. It was some “fortune” game, they claimed. You take a pencil and draw around a quarter, then take the quarter and, with eyes closed, roll it down your nose and put it back down on the paper, draw another circle around it using a pencil, etcetera, and repeat this until the rube eventually realizes they have pencil marks down their face or you puke up a lung from laughing at them. Because drawing a circle with a pencil around a coin with a serrated edge rubs massive quantities of graphite into those grooves, and rolling the same coin down your face leaves dirt stripes. I arrive at my piano lesson, nose back in a book, and my piano teacher takes me by the elbow and shows me my face in a bathroom mirror. Oh my. They got me good. I would have probably laughed along with them, had I known.

Little rat bastards.

I had some arsehole teachers, too. Maths has always been my downfall. One day in class, I resolved a problem ALL BY MYSELF, using a technique different from the one taught in class. I was SO fucking proud. This maths stuff, maybe I can do it after all! The teacher listened to me after class, in his office, sipping vodka from his coffee cup, and he suggested that I demonstrate my fabulous method to his next (higher grade level) class. Oh man. I was terribly shy. Still, after he pressed, I agreed, and he told me to sit out in the hallway and he’d call me in. I sat in the hallway for about a half hour before I realized he was actually making fun of me. Then I slunk off.

Another teacher took us on a field trip. I didn’t drive then, rarely did more than sit in the backseat with my nose in a book when driven anywhere, and my grasp of math was, as noted, not the best. My understanding of cars was worse. My mother’s car had a gear shift on the steering wheel, and my older friend had a car with a shift between the front seats, and I was positive that meant she had a manual tranny, for example. Because I was Car Dumb back then, too, instead of just Maths Dumb. He announced that we’d arrive back at a certain destination at a certain time, and I couldn’t figure out how he knew this. When he did indeed get us there at the designated time, I was fucking astounded. ZOMG! Magic!! Of course, now I routinely estimate my arrival time when traveling, using that handy “miles per hour” thing. And I don’t have cruise control. Like he did. I didn’t even know what cruise control was at the time! DERP. It took me hours to figure that out, but only long after enthusiastically raving to people who knew better–because they were all rich kids with their own personal new-ish cars, all of which probably came with cruise control–about how cool his ability to predict our exact arrival time was.

A third teacher meant well, and I was always one of those kids who liked talking to her teachers. Still am. I’d make conversation like a little adult, and was generally respected by MOST of my teachers. I made the mistake of telling one (a new guy) that I’d had a nickname at my former school. It wasn’t entirely complimentary, I’m sure, but I hadn’t cared because I liked it. They’d called me “Kitty.” Now, this was a case of me sharing something as an anecdote, and not me hinting that I actually wanted to be called “Kitty” ever again. However, this man, trying to be nice, and respecting my assumed wishes, promptly addressed me as “Kitty” in class. Holy shizz! I quickly set him straight after class, but the damage had been done. I got shit for that “Kitty” comment for THREE EFFING YEARS, people. And, yes, some chick who was either taunting me (or clueless, but since she was dating one of the worst offenders, I know how I vote)  gave me a Hello Kitty something-or-other Secret Santa gift that I opened in front of the whole class, which made them all howl with derisive laughter. THREE YEARS after the original shame. Yeah, you fucks, thanks. Give it a damn rest. Christ almighty.

Imagine the struggle I went through between being polite and thanking someone for a nice gift and not thanking someone for making a laughingstock out of you yet again.

I’m sure there are more, but they haven’t been dredged up yet. Stay tuned.

I really was a tough little nut to crack, as a kid. I learned early on that paying any attention at all to bullies or people teasing you, or trying to fit in was not worth the effort. I was perfectly happy, with or without a buddy on hand, as long as I had a book or a pencil and pad, so I could read or draw. I could go selectively deaf at will. I didn’t give a crap about kiddie drama, or even, later, teenie drama. Who liked who occasionally filtered through my wall of obliviousness, but for the most part, I didn’t give a crap. And I didn’t trust my peers not to be little shits. Sometimes I guessed wrong, perhaps, and peers trying to genuinely be nice were waved off defensively, but I don’t remember that happening often.

I went through a brief phase where I made an attempt to wear the same fashions as my peers, but the fashions didn’t suit me at all. I gave it up as a bad job after about six months, but we weren’t made of money, so my outfits slowly mutated into a strange (and not much more flattering) combo-platter of the old stuff and the new stuff. I even wore my dad’s old Air Force jacket around, with tight jeans and turtlenecks and ankle boots, which is an indication I’d given up on ever being found romantically attractive while still in high school. I loved that jacket.

In short, I dressed like a sixties hippie, listened to sixties music, and a little eighties stuff, and punk, fought off the Olde Savannah pseudo-Brit accent I’d been raised around that made me so different, and ignored the world. I didn’t hate anyone. I didn’t think I was the cat’s PJs. I just had other things on my mind. Polite, distant, somewhat welcoming if you were nice, quiet except with friends, not interested in getting drunk, not attracted to any of the tards of the opposite sex I went to school with (or the same sex, actually), and either doing art stuff or reading or writing. That about sums it up. Polite loner.

I even wandered off alone when a small group of kids got tapped to go to London. I had had enough of the togetherness, my best friend was being a buttpain about being homesick (I suspect now that she had a touch of agoraphobia) and my sympathy was starting to just piss her off, which was good, because I was just about OUT of it. I had a head cold and was grumpy. The group had an outing to go see a play. I wandered off alone (not unusual for me) and wound up in SoHo. Not a good spot, really, for a naive teenager. I had the time of my life. I knew exactly where I was. Blessed silence, no chattering. No whining about wanting to go home. No casually exclusive behavior from the other girls, who all decided they were BFFs, and bonded as loudly and enthusiastically and as constantly as possible in front of me and my best friend, who were clearly not included in this buddydom. (She took it harder than I did, frankly; I was over all that shizz by then. Your loss, people. I’m pretty nifty.) So here I am, looking at naughty shops and eavesdropping on Real British People and looking at cool architecture and basically just reveling in the whole idea of being in fucking ENGLAND, man! Bliss! But, luck of the angels, my group found me, coincidentally wandering in my general direction after their evening outing, they never really noticed I’d been gone, and I had not a lick of sense, because I was more miffed than relieved.

My freedoms, let me SHO U DEM. O, never mind, I do not have any anymore.

I’m still a bit of a loner with a nose in a book, or an art project at hand. I still dress as I please. I still like stuff few other people like. I still don’t care if you like me or not, it’s really none of my business, but you’re missing out if you decide you don’t. That’s not ego, it’s fact. I’m a good friend…if you let me be one. Nowadays I force myself to be an extrovert when I have to, and I can be an opinionated cuss and alienate those who love me, but people who know me know that even if my opinion disagrees with yours, I don’t think your opinion sucks. I reserve the option to hear about your learnings on the subject: your learnings, SHO ME DEM.  I don’t take disagreement as personal dislike. I don’t understand people who do.

Thus do I stumble.

I can be a ranty grump, but I mean no harm. Besides, if you let people know what you love best, that’s your weak underbelly.  If my time in the teen warzone (and a punitive parent who frequently denied me my deepest yearnings and interests to “teach me a lesson,” and downplayed or teased me about other things) taught me anything,  it taught me to be private about what I love most.  Silly me, I keep breaking the rules in my blog.  When will I learn?

It’s okay. We’re all in the same club. My homies!

Our Panel Of Experts: Advice For The Lovelorn And More

The Panel were contacted and asked to convene in the Star Chamber here at Der Haus of Eclecstacy, and after consuming five boxes of baked cheese cracker snacks, four cartons of Sampoerna cigarettes, half a key lime pie, four thin-crust chicken and bacon BBQ pizzas, a can of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee ravioli, three eggs, two half gallons of Breyer’s ice cream (chocolate mint and french vanilla), a bottle of Godiva liqueur, one and a half bottles of Kahlua, some Jamaican rum that had been imported to the US in 1945, two bottles of Absolut vanilla vodka, a bottle of Stoli, 144 beers of various types, a quart of cheap scotch, some box wine, some bumwine, and some cinnamon-flavoured mouthwash, they all took long naps carefully considered the Topics Du Jour.

Dear Panel:

I would like to hear the blog’s Panel of Experts’ thoughts on this. What techniques are best for holding men’s attentions? And is any man who has to be ego-boosted and coddled to that degree really worth having?

From: cyanidefish

* * *

During the 1960s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don’t think they’ve ever remembered. Employees make the best dates. You don’t have to pick them up and they’re always tax-deductible. I had a lot of dates but I decided to stay home and dye my eyebrows.

When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships. I’m the type who’d be happy not going anywhere as long as I was sure I knew exactly what was happening at the places I wasn’t going to. I’m the type who’d like to sit home and watch every party that I’m invited to on a monitor in my bedroom.

People need to be made more aware of the need to work at learning how to live because life is so quick and sometimes it goes away too quickly. Sex is more exciting on the screen and between the pages than between the sheets. The most exciting thing is not doing it. If you fall in love with someone and never do it, it’s much more exciting. The most exciting love attractions are between two opposites that never meet.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

I think that being interesting is interesting. My Superstars are either beauties or talkers. Edie was a beauty, gee! But I always liked my talkers best.

Love,


Andy

* * *

You know you’ve made it when you’ve been moulded in miniature plastic. But you know what children do with Barbie dolls – it’s a bit scary, actually. You can tell a lot about a woman if you ask her what games she used to play with me.

Ken doesn’t seem to need much coddling. He’s perfectly comfortable with all my high-profile, high-powered careers. Of course, after a few decades, I discovered he was holding me back. I think a good partner grows as much intellectually and emotionally and spiritually as you do, when you are in a relationship.

It’s not so much about looks. Neither of us is anatomically correct, you know.

XOXO,

Babs

* * *

When it comes to Couture Chaos, this Tacky Terror should take a bow – looks like an over-the-hill Lolita.

What?

What?!

Stylishly yours,

Mister B.

* * *

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.

When I think about relationships, I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound – if I could remember any of the damn things.

I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless and stupid. The best way to keep a man at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant–and let the air out of the tires. Four be the things I’d have been better without: love, curiosity, freckles and doubt. Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves: you can apply that to relationships, too. In the boudoir, brevity is the soul of lingerie.

In life, everything comes and goes in cycles. Why, every year, back come Spring, with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants. You may lose in love on occasion, but your time will come.

This would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment. Sometimes one can overthink things. Men are silly things to feel angst about. Like crosstown busses, another one comes along if you wait long enough.

Have a martini, darling.

Cheers,

Dot

* * *

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use. Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor. Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life…. Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be.

There are certain things a lady can do to be more mannerly, however. The attributes of a great lady may still be found in the rule of the four S’s: Sincerity, Simplicity, Sympathy and Serenity. The joy of joys is the person of light but unmalicious humor. She must not swing her arms as though they were dangling ropes; she must not switch herself this way and that; she must not shout; and she must not, while wearing her bridal veil, smoke a cigarette. Be yourself. The most vulgar slang is scarcely worse than the attempted elegance which those unused to good society imagine to be the evidence of cultivation.

A single woman must endure the rapt attention of everyone around her, all will wish to know her business. The pretty young woman living alone, must literally follow Cinderella’s habits. The magpie never leaves her window sill and the jackal sits on the doormat, and the news of her every going out and coming in, of every one whom she receives, when they come, how long they stay and at what hour they go, is spread broadcast.

Training a man is exactly like training a puppy; a little heedless inattention and it is out of hand immediately; the great thing is not to let it acquire bad habits that must afterward be broken. Anyone can be taught to be beautifully behaved with no effort greater than quiet patience and perseverance, whereas to break bad habits once they are acquired is a Herculean task. Ego-boosting? Whereas one believes that this must cut both ways, a little praise is not only merest justice but is beyond the purse of no one.

Selflessness, or unconsciousness of self, is not so much unselfishness as it is the mental ability to extinguish all thought of one’s self—-exactly as one turns out the light.

Being devoted to one’s love is not coddling; coddling is akin to spoiling, and spoiling is a grave mistake. There is a quality of protectiveness in a man’s expression as it falls on his betrothed, as though she were so lovely a breath might break her; and in the eyes of a girl whose love is really deep, there is always evidence of that most beautiful look of championship, as though she thought: “No one else can possibly know how wonderful he is!” Appreciating one’s partner is never unmannerly or inappropriate.

Respectfully yours,

Emily Post (Miss)

* * *

I see myself as an intelligent, sensitive human, with the soul of a clown which forces me to blow it at the most important moments.

A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. The same applies to a partner. Your partner should also be your friend, man. Friends can help each other. That’s what real love amounts to–letting a person be what she or he really is. Love cannot save you from your own fate, however.

We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.

Blake said that the body was the soul’s prison unless the five senses are fully developed and open. He considered the senses the ‘windows of the soul.’ When sex involves all the senses intensely, it can be like a mystical experence, man! I believe in a long, prolonged derangement of the senses to attain the unknown. Yeah! I think the highest and lowest points are the important ones. Anything else is just…in between. I want the freedom to try everything. Our pale reasoning hides the infinite from us. Drugs are a bet with your mind. It’s like gambling somehow. You go out for a night of drinking and you don’t know where you’re going to end up the next day. It could work out well or it could be disastrous. It’s like the throw of the dice. Where’s your will to be weird? Of course, I’m probably not one to talk about the benefits of drugs and shit.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.

This is the strangest life I’ve ever known.

Oh yeah, a righteous chick loves you when you get fat and hairy and can’t fit into your leather pants anymore. Your old man should love you, too, despite your exterior flaws. Love the mind, the spirit, not the container. But don’t totally, like, neglect the container. Destruction of the container affects the beautiful things within.

Peace,

The Lizard King

* * *

O HAI. LET ME SHO U MY ADVICES. MY ADVICES, LET ME SHO U THEM.

MANS WHO WANT TAKING MOAR THAN GIVING IS BAD MANS. I ARE CAT, I LIKE TAKE THINGS, BUT I GIVE LUV BACK. IS FAIR.

TEKNEEK FOR ATTRACT MANS: SHO MANS UR BUTT! HOLD IT UP HIGH! PUT IT IN MANS FACE. MAKE PURR. RUB U HED ON MANS. MEW SWEETLEE. IT ARE ALWAYS WERKING.

IF MANS IS BAD, U SKRATCHEZ MANS. OR PEE ON MANS PILLO. THAT TEACHEZ MANS NOT TO BEING BAD MANS.

IM IN UR BLOG, BEIN’ ALL SMRT.

MIAO,

MEEZERS

* * *

My heart is a gypsy–continuously searching for a home, fighting within itself, wondering whether it is weak or even right for that matter to be searching in the first place. Loneliness is what it feels like. Other women think I’m a slut. They just want to be like me. They’re seeing the glamour icon but don’t realize…there are more facets to me besides spreading my legs.

When I am asked my advice about someone’s relationship problems, I always look at both sides and totally understand their fears of the unknown…and Whenever there is any type of “adult” stigma surrounding the fear, the worst is always assumed. I, like, hate that shit. Human sexuality has a specific nature, We are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome, if we work with our biology rather than against it.

Feminism? Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition!

Who says porn queens can’t be cosmically correct? Let there be pleasure and ecstasy on earth and let it begin with me.

Kisses,


Melony


Dear Panel:

I have a sofa. It isn’t an expensive sofa, nor a designer sofa, but I like it. My problem is that my three cats also like it…as a toilet. We can’t figure out which cat is the culprit, and we’re at our wits’ end. We love our cats, but we also like our sofa. We assume that even if we removed the sofa, the new sofa we’d get to replace it would not be immune to being mistaken for a litterpan. Can you help?

(Anonymous)

Dear (Anonymous):

Ah, the game of What Cat Shat On That. We have played that game before. You have my sympathies. There are a few things you can try.

Since removing the cats or the sofa as solutions are both out, your choices are more limited. We thus suggest that you try isolating your cats from the sofa. Place two of them in a room together, shut the door, and let the third roam free. This presumes that you have litterboxes in both the free-range area and the enclosed area. If the first cat does not indulge in Sneak Pewpin, try this arrangement again with the other cats. If three weeks go by and there are no poops on your sofa, that, in and of itself, is a major success. If three weeks go by and no one falls for the Crap Trap, it’s time to reverse your system. Two cats out, one cat in. Eventually one will break down and decorate your sofa. The process of elimination (no pun intended) will help narrow down your list of suspects. Once you identify the Stealth Doodymaker, you can strive to separate Guilty Party from sofa. That should cut down on the spot cleaning and cursing you’ve endured so far.

Another way to deal with the Random Poo-By: cover your sofa with aluminium foil. For some reason, cats dislike the sound it makes when they walk on it. Most cats. They have to walk on it to get into position to let fly the bowels of war, however. So this may stop the annoyance. Of course, you may have a strange cat who enjoys chewing tinfoil. This is a bad thing, and is to be discouraged. Tinfoil is not a food. If you have one of these contrary beasts, covering up your sofa like a leftover is not the solution for you.

There are chemical solutions to your problem, but, like the tinfoil solution, this can be thwarted if you have a Weird Cat. (For some reason, Siamese and Tonkinese tend to be prone to Weird Cat Syndrome, but no particular breeds are immune.) On the off chance that your cat is not weird, head to your local pet supply emporium and request sprays that make your furniture smell unappealing to all but the strangest animals (and hounds–hounds will eat anything).

It goes without saying that any time a cat stops using its litterpan that there may be an underlying physical reason. UTIs tend to lead to Dribbles Of Doom all over your house. Stress can lead to the poo scootin’ boogies all over your furniture. Take your beasts into a vet to rule out a physical ailment first thing, and if our solutions fail to stop the problem, don’t hesitate to write back.

Yours,

Tha Prof

* * *

DERE ANNONYMOUSE:

HAI THAR. IM SRS CAT AN THIS ARE SRS PRUBLIM. HAZ U STOPT GIVEN UR CATZ THE GOOSHY FUDZ? DEY MAY BE ANGERY AT U BECAZ WE WANTZ THE GOOSHY FUDZ.

GIF UR CATZ THE GOOSHY FUDZ.

LUV,

M. Meezers

P.S. HAY, IZ U RILY MOUSE? COM VISIT MEH, K?


Dear Panel:
I am desperate. I like this girl, a LOT. She’s beautiful, and smart, and popular. And, well, I’m not. Not that I’m ugly or anything, or stupid, but I compare myself to her and I feel like I couldn’t possibly stand a chance with her. I’m really, really, shy, but I’ve tried sending her flowers, and writing poems and sticking them in her locker, sending her funny haikus on Twitter, and leaving comments on her Facebook, Tumblr, LiveJournal and MySpace profiles, and she won’t respond to me. What should I do?!

Call me…Ishmael.

Dear “Ishmael”:

Even in this hurry-scurry modern era, the most worthy females of good social standing cannot help but be duly impressed by the niceties of good breeding. If you cultivate a familiarity with the differences between a salad fork and a dinner fork, this is a type of knowledge that should, as they say in the vulgar vernacular, do the trick.

Actually, that is but a wry jest on my part. It is not the juggling of forks that makes one mannerly, but character and honor. You may be frightening the young lady with your tactics. Your wooing is rather persistent, given that you have had little response to spur you on. Perhaps being more reserved in demeanor is the answer.

If this fails, you should attempt to ingratiate yourself with her chaperone. Leave your calling card when visiting if the family is not receiving visitors on that particular day. Work on your bowing; a gentleman knows all the different forms, from the slightest inclination of the head to a nodding acquaintance, to the deepest bow, which includes lowering yourself onto one knee, and which should be reserved only for royalty. It is possible that your poetry lacked a certain refined grace, or that your posies were chosen rashly, without regard for the subtlety and romance a knowledge of the symbolism of flowers would provide.

If all else fails, take up the lute. Ladies do love a musician.

With warm regards,

You may call me…Emily.

* * *

Hey man, why be so uptight?

Chicks love it when you write poetry. “Death makes angels of us all, and gives us wings, where we had shoulders, smooth as raven’s claws.”

They eat that shit up, man.

Also, drugs are good. Make even the most uptight, repressed, middle-class chick into a righteous woman. I should know, right? But, hey, they are illegal. If that harshes your mellow, you can try other things. Tequila can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you’re ready and willing to do just about anything.

You will notice the benefits of tequila almost immediately, and with a regimen of regular doses of tequila you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live.

Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past, (well, shyness anyway) and you will discover many talents you never knew you had! Stop hiding behind your shyness and start living, with tequila. Tequila may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use tequila. However, women who wouldn’t mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.

Side effects of Tequila may include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incarceration, erotic lustfulness, loss of motor control, loss of clothing, loss of money, loss of virginity, delusions of grandeur, table dancing, headache, dehydration, dry mouth, and a desire to sing Karaoke and play all-night rounds of Strip Poker, Truth Or Dare, and Naked Twister.

Tequila. Leave Shyness Behind.

Emily also has a point about the musician thing. Man, I’m dead, and chicks still make pilgrimages to my tomb, dude.

Peace, love, and leather pants,

Jim


Dear Panel:

I’m a stand-up comedian. I’ve been doing stand-up at the local improv for the last three years; ever since I graduated High School. I use to make some people laugh, but now they mostly look at me like I’m a freakin’ retard. I was thinking about going to improv school, but with my job at McDonald’s, I just can’t afford it. How can I learn how to be funny, for free?

“Shecky”

Dear Shecky:

When John Cleese tired of questions about where he got his jokes from, he resorted to, “I buy them from a little man in Swindon.” The truth is much more prosaic. Jokes are about 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent whittling and crafting – much of it in front of an audience. So, keep practicing!

A professional comic’s routine may be based on true personal experience, but real experience doesn’t tend to come conveniently complete with a punchline. That’s why most comics are outrageous liars. It’s also why pathological observational comics may even begin to provoke ‘hilarious’ denouements by deliberately forgetting their wedding anniversaries or leaving their children in the supermarket. We’ll assume that they did not do these things in actuality, though the “leaving of children in supermarket” thing is comedy gold, and probably a good idea to adopt in real life.

Jerry Seinfeld compares telling a joke to attempting to leap a metaphorical canyon, taking the audience with him. The set-up is the nearside cliff, and the punchline is the far side. If they’re too far apart, the listeners don’t make it to the other side. And if they are too close together, the audience just steps across the gap without experiencing any exhilarating leap. The joke-hearer gets far more pleasure from the joke if he or she has to do a little work. Whether or not Jerry Seinfeld is actually funny is a debate we should address at a different time.

A very cheap and easy way of making people laugh is to throw in some swear words. It’s become something of a tradition among the more iconoclastic comics to write a routine that is ostensibly aimed at depriving taboo words of their power to shock, but which conveniently harnesses the power of shocking words to make us laugh. George Carlin says, ‘Shock is just another form of surprise, and comedy is based on surprise. This is a noisy culture… If you want to be heard, then you have to raise your voice a little bit. If swearing is the only thing going for you, it won’t last long.” This, from the guy who brought us “seven words you can’t say on television.” So don’t fucking swear just to fucking swear.

Timing is everything. Ask anyone who resorts to the “pull out” method of birth control. It can go well, but it’s a tricky procedure. And, if in the hands of an amateur, it can go very badly indeed. Surprise is often worked into a joke through the “pull-back and reveal” technique (which is totally unrelated to the “pull out” method, just to be clear). The joke focuses your attention on a particular angle or detail of the scene, then suddenly pans out to show you the whole, surprising picture. Very often the success of these jokes hinges on the joke-teller’s subtle control of rhythm: a beat here, a breath there. The difference between a funny story and a joke is often verbal economy. It’s not that long, wordy jokes can’t be funny, but if too much is explained, there’s no logical leap for the audience to make, and the paradigm shift which elicits laughter is lost.

If nothing else, learn what words sound funny. Neil Simon had one of his characters explain it thusly: “Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know which words are funny and which words are not funny. Alka-Seltzer is funny. You say Alka-Seltzer, you get a laugh. Words with K in them are funny. Casey Stengel, that’s a funny name. Robert Taylor is not funny. Cupcake is funny. Tomato is not funny. Cookie is funny. Cucumber is funny.” Observe:Wombat, kazoo, yoghurt, Port-a-Loo, Sasquatch, pantomine, jelly doughnut. I am a comedy GOD.

Other tips: Pick your moments. It’s easiest to tell a joke when everyone’s relaxed and enjoying themselves. Telling a joke to relieve tension is a high-risk strategy, but potentially hilarious. Besides, there’ll be other funerals. Know where you’re going–the punchline–before you start. Don’t be tempted to over-elaborate. Eddie Izzard makes it look easy, but remember that one man’s surreal flight of fancy is another man’s rambling, incoherent humiliation. Project a demeanour of relaxed confidence–it gives your listener permission to laugh. You can try deadpan, but social joke-telling usually requires the teller to laugh too. Enjoy it. If your entire self-esteem is resting on whether people laugh at your joke, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. On the other hand, you are showing signs of the borderline personality disorder that characterises all the best comedians, so perhaps you should consider telling jokes for a living. Whatever you do, refrain from prop humour. Smashing watermelons is so passé.

By the way, I have been reciting this entire post in the voice of “Uncle Arthur” on Bewitched. People are currently piddling their drawers from Kalamazoo to Palo Alto. Top that, motherfucker.

Toodles!

Uncle Paul

The 30-Second Love Filter: Myth Or Truth?

A while back I read something along the lines of “women know within half a minute whether or not they will ever have a relationship with someone”. For “relationship with” read “have sex with,” as the rest of the article was, if memory serves, far less coy.

I’m starting to wonder if it is true.

First of all, I have to say up front that when I don’t feel attractive, it takes a lot for my libido switch even to be in the “idle” position, never mind “on.” I haven’t felt terribly attractive on a number of levels lately. I’m living in my dead grandmother’s house, which is depressing enough, but it’s also a dump. It was neglected while she was alive because she was legally blind due to macular degeneration and constitutionally ill-disposed towards even minor changes. Now that she’s no longer with us, it’s still neglected because my mother has conflicting attitudes about it. On the one hand, she wants to sell it (for more than twice what it is worth), but isn’t clear on when the selling may happen. On the other, it’s her mom’s old house and she doesn’t want to change anything at all, so it can remain a museum of sorts. I moved a table and sofa around in the den a year after my grandmother died and she took months to accept even this minor change. Then, after all that ruckus about that minor change, she gives away most of the better furniture (including items I’d begged for). Lastly, she is starting to redo her OWN house, so every so often I get crap dumped in the mostly-bare dining room that I don’t have time to deal with. Much of it is my old high school art and yearbooks and crap that I’m not particularly attached to, but I know that she didn’t toss them because she does have a little attachment to them and assumes I do as well. She also has gone on toss-and-purge sprees in the past and thrown out things I actually DO care about, so I’m not willing to just assume that everything in the bags and boxes is expendable or worthless. It probably is, but who knows?

I gained weight caring for my grandmother, and while I’m at the national average for my height, I’m used to being about 20 pounds under average, and since I have a very small frame (I can wear size 4 and 3/4 rings on my left hand ring finger, for example), this didn’t mean I was anorexic. Grandmother was a medical anorexic, meaning that there was no psychological hinkiness going on, she just was less and less interested in food and had to be plied with the most fattening food possible. Key Lime pie comes to mind as a big fave. A slice of Key Lime pie probably has 2,500 calories in it, thanks to the massive amounts of sugar needed to make limes sweet and the condensed milk, and that’s if you don’t eat the crust.

Another unpleasant change is the new worry marks I have engraved in my forehead. I haven’t had much to smile about for the past few years, and have had a LOT to worry about (and a lot of constant stress), and my face shows it. I am starting to think that Botox might not be such a horrible idea if it keeps me from looking tired, pained and anxious all the time. Even if I am tired, pained and anxious 90% of the time, I don’t have to have my face shout it out.

So I’m living in a crappy place I’d be ashamed to bring friends over to see, and I feel fat and wrinkly, though recent photographs show that a lot of that is me obsessing over stupid stuff and making unfair comparisons to my former self. It’s not great, but I certainly am not a haggard old piece of shoe leather. (Fat shoes’ leather.)

I daydream sometimes about setting up my next place. This is what I used to enjoy about playing The Sims. Not the game-related play of keeping them from peeing on the floor or incinerating themselves while attempting to boil water…but the cheap architectural CAD the game allowed me to play with. Admittedly, everything was limited to two stories and 45- or 90-degree angle walls at the time, but a number of folks worked overtime on various cheats and dodges and clever innovations that got around the limitations. So I’d make living environments with Oriental furniture, Mod furniture, classic Queen Anne-style furniture, “Victoriana” / Goth furniture (because there was actually a “Goth Family” in the game) and lavish gardens and water features. I’m too busy to play with the game anymore, so all my interior decorating these days goes on in my brain.

As for the clutter I’m dealing with (too much crap, too little space), I went on a minor purge this week and set aside a lot of crap I’ve been holding on to for years…mostly clothes. It’s not coming back in style, no matter how cute it is. I suspect that wearing clothes from the eighties when I was in my twenties was okay because it was assumed to be a fashion choice. Wearing clothes from the eighties and nineties now is going to be interpreted as “out-of-touch older person doesn’t give a crap about looking nice.” Thank goodness over-sized, baggy and tight, extremely-low-rise pants are going out of style, because I couldn’t bring myself to show off my underwear and visually inflate my lower half even for the sake of being stylish. It’s an ugly look. Not that the super-high-rise pants on the runways are much better. Hello, happy medium, anyone? I refuse to buy Mom Jeans just so I don’t have a belt buckle scratching my boobs or half my ass crack on display.

But I digress.

The point is, I am not looking to meet new people. I’m even leery of expanding on the relationships with classmates, because in the back of my mind, I’m already OUTTA HERE. The worst double-edged sword would be to meet the love of my life down here and find out he doesn’t want to leave. So I’m not looking. I don’t buy into “The One” myth, and whereas I have bleak days where I wonder if I am too persnickety to meet Mr Right-For-Me any time soon (meaning, shortly after I leave this town), that frisson of panic doesn’t make me want to start “hunting.”

Fact is, my libido switch is, for the first time in my life, set firmly to “off” and partially that’s because I’m patient to a fault and am apparently putting things on hold until I can escape Savannah. Patient to a fault because I’m taking things in stride and making token efforts to fix stuff that’s bothering me because nothing is more important than getting my degree and getting on with my life. Need shelves? Buy one, not the four I need. Want a pet cat? Must wait. Relocating with an animal is tougher, I already HAVE an animal to focus on, and I prefer my pets to deal with the same vet from day one if possible. Night life? No time. Every week there’s a paper, a project, a website, writing and editing assignments, some household-related headache…I’m already tired and I have no steady income. I can’t afford to splash out on entertainment. I consider it frivolous to buy a book, rather than borrowing a big pile of them from the library.

Last time I discused this, I was in grad school and a lot of this rambling was inspired in part by this man working on his thesis project (supposedly, though I only ever see him surfing the web). He took an inexplicable shine to me (inexplicable because I had never spoken to him before and was always focused on my work and classes). My routine was such that if I was up for a mental break, then I was outside chit-chatting there. If I was inside, I was working, so should be left alone to work.

This man NEVER approached me outside. He came up behind me and scared the hell out of me each time, because I was usually engrossed in my work. He stopped and tried to draw me out for a chat DURING MY CLASSES. He asked personal questions and lobbed undeserved flattering remarks my way that praised personal qualities that I may have, but which he couldn’t have known from merely being on the same floor of a four-story building on a semi-regular basis.

He was also clearly interested in me, and not in a buddy way. I was perplexed, frankly. I looked like hell, I was not sending out any vibes at all, I was all-business and focused on my work more often than not (I tended to chat socially with my professors more than my peers, though there were a half dozen or so people I had classes with several times and I got the impression they liked me and respected my work; I’m still in touch with some of them.)

If he had ever approached me outside when I was talking with friends or having a smoke or whatever, I wouldn’t be so chapped. He never did. He consistently just appeared from behind me, lavished overly friendly attention my way, and took a long time to get a hint. I decided not to stop what I was doing though I was polite…I just kept on working. Even when I did pause to chat, I had never held a personal or deep conversation with him, or one lasting more than five minutes.

I know, however, if I had found him even remotely attractive, I MIGHT have been tempted to be a lot more friendly. That’s where the 30-second relationship filter comes in. I can’t manufacture pheromones and attraction where none exist, and I’ll never be lonely enough to derail my attempts to get out of town as fast as I can. I’m over it all. I want to be done. I have a lot more to learn, but I want to just KNOW it and be looking for a JOB already.

I knew within 30 seconds (or less) that he not only wasn’t anywhere near what I typically like in the opposite sex (which I could tell at first glance), but I also didn’t click with his personality. He seemed to mean well and to be nice enough, but I think that when he inadvertently disrespected my professor by wandering in during a studio hour, when the whole class was busily working on projects, and tried to strike up a conversation…it was uncool and I was pissed off. It may not have been that inadvertent, either. He worked on the same floor constantly and it was fairly obvious when there was a class in session ten feet away from your work station. His need to flirt with me was greater than my need to actually learn something and get the assistance from my professor that I paid $150 an hour per class session for…and $150 is more than I spend on groceries and toiletries a month. It’s more than I MAKE per month. It’s all student loans.

(So much for my mom’s promise to pay for my education if I came down to help with grandmother, incidentally. She went from agreeing to pay for the standard three classes a quarter, which would have had me out of here last April and which she never did, to bitching about paying for one, to not contributing a penny towards my education at all. Which is typical.)

Anyway, it’s illogical to the extreme, perhaps, but I was really put off by a man being pleasant towards me, and annoyed with myself for being annoyed. It wasn’t the interest in me that was the problem, though I certainly am in no mood to be the recipient of someone’s unrequited crush at the moment. I’ve been there before, and I’ve dealt with a good friend’s annoyance when a so-called Nice Guy (secretly a self-absorbed, secretly egomaniacal, socially maladjusted guy with book smarts and a veneer of etiquette) refused to get a hint that she was Not Ever Going To be Interested In Him, Damn It, Get A Fucking Clue. (Later the same guy decided that the perfect time to hit on ME was when I was upset over breaking up with the guy who was, at that point, the love of my life. Hadn’t ever shown interest before, mind, but I was clearly emotionally distraught and in a vulnerable state, and he figured it was worth a try to hit on the crying girl (me), who happened to be VERY CLOSE to the girl he’d annoyed and chased for, what, ten or so years? Smoooooooooth. And, if it isn’t clear, he is NOT so “nice”. And, annoyingly, I then had to deal with not hurting HIS feelings at the same time MY feelings were already shredded by my ex, all because he got rejected for making the world’s worst-timed pass in history and had a huge sulk about it. Because it was all about him.)

So. Sorry. Where was I?

Was my reaction due to the 30-second Love Filter? A knee-jerk response to his rudeness directed towards my professor, me and my classmates for trying to conduct personal chitchat during class time? (More than once! Once or twice, I forgave, but didn’t like. Third time it happened, it was clearly rudeness or obliviousness, neither of which I like.) Was it a reaction based on witnessing and being a victim of clueless (Not-Really-Very-)Nice Guy dumb-assery in the past?

Is it just that I’m unhappy with how I am and not currently motivated enough to fix everything I hate about myself all at once? (I have no free time, gah!)

I don’t know.

I do know that the half-minute filter does seem to work. At least for me. I may warm up to someone as a friend after some time, but if there’s no initial “hey, you’re kinda cute!” [™, Schoolhouse Rock “Interjections” voice actress) reaction, I don’t date them. Even if there’s no pause for reflection and an awareness that I find someone cute, such as when I’m dating someone else and there’s my man and every other male on the planet is just some guy who happens not to be a girl, it’s still true that I won’t ever date someone if I don’t find them attractive. The acid test, even when there’s only one man on the planet, as far as I’m concerned, is if I am asked and realize that yeah, I’d describe so-and-so as cute. There can be Cute Guys I perhaps won’t date due to age differences or other incompatibilities, but there are no Not Cute (To Me) guys that I WILL eventually date.

I won’t even get into the occasional guilt that stems from having very choosy aesthetic tastes when it comes to guys. It’s not that I aim too high; I just sometimes wonder if I’m being too picky and not giving guys a fair shot. (Has that EVER worked for ANYone? REALLY?)

I suppose I’m mostly sad that I see male attention, even if it is unwanted and ill-timed, as being a kvetch-worthy topic. Then again, my life has never revolved around seeking male attention at all costs. *insert shrug here*

How soon do you know when someone’s a potential date-worthy acquaintance? Right away? Weeks? Do you accept dates from people you KNOW you aren’t attracted to? I find that I rarely date even when I am “on the market” because I tend to prefer to get to know people beforehand and they tend to have insurmountable issues (usually not-so picky things, such as “doesn’t like karaoke” or “is bald” (I have a slight Good Male Hair fetish thing going)…BIG issues like “smokes crack on a regular basis” or “has girlfriend” or “sleeps with anything with a pulse regardless of gender, usually while wasted, ergo probably has a scary social disease or three” or “is alcoholic” or “hates cats, kicks dogs, is nasty to little old ladies” or “has nasty passive-aggressive sense of humor”, et cetera) and it’s not worth the job-interview aspect of an Official DATE-Date to put up with it all. Friends? Sure, why not. Potential partners? Don’t think so. ESPECIALLY if they are cute. Hormones are stupid, I don’t need them convincing me that “hey, he only smokes crack every other week, but he’s otherwise a nice young man,” know what I mean? That crack thing, it is a deal breaker.

Apparently disrespecting my professor and scaring the pee out of me while I’m working are also deal breakers, but the 30-second Filter had already vetoed any chance of future Boyfriendness.

Is it just me? Do other people do this?

To Each His or Her Own

I’m a monogamous person. I don’t care what you are (unless you want to date me); I don’t judge what other people do. I do ask that the person I am in a relationship with honor it. If he feels he can’t, just call it quits first. I don’t cheat (to be honest, have not been even tempted once) and don’t find it difficult to avoid encouraging situations that might enable that sort of thing. I realize that not everyone acts like I do, but I am not interested in being in a committed relationship with someone who doesn’t. Which is why, once it looks like I’m about to be in a steady relationship, I prefer that we both sit down and make sure we’re on the same page. I make sure that when he asks for an exclusive relationship (in the past, it has always been my wannabe-boyfriend who has asked, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t in the future) that he is really sincerely asking for one, serious about it, and not just trying to make sure I don’t date someone else.

Look, I just take relationships of all kinds very seriously and try to respect other folks. My preference is not to worry about STDs or crazy third party drama and such. Again, I realize I’m a bit of an odd duck.

Like I said, I’ve never been the one in the past to initiate these “let’s be a couple,” “let’s be exclusive” or “let’s move in together” discussions, but when they do come up, I make my points of view clear. I suggest that he make sure that he’s asking for what he actually wants, and, if not, the status quo is cool by me for now.

When I am in a relationship, there’s my partner, and my brain sees him as a man, and then there’s every other male, and they are just guys. I can appreciate the attractive ones and have male friends and all that, but only one is the man that holds my interest. I don’t know how else to explain that. I’m also not jealous (occasional twinges of insecurity like all human beings, but that’s on me and something I need to get over and not on anyone else). My partner can have female friends, hang with exes, whatever. Until something actually happens to break my trust, I don’t go hunting for something.

Is this the One True Way? Of course not. It’s what works for me, at least right now. If it works for someone else who wants to be partnered with me, then great. If not, it is better know that ASAP rather than later on, so there are no hurt feelings and misunderstandings (at least on that topic).

It may or may not be significant that I have remained friends with all my exes, including those who have gotten married. The only one I don’t communicate with (though I don’t speak ill of him) is the one who chose to cheat on me and lie about it. I have made a point not to encourage any contact. (Long story short: He emailed, called and bugged both me and my friends for YEARS, unable to accept that I meant it when I said I wouldn’t talk to him after we broke up if he chose to handle the break-up badly. Still, he was not a bad human being, just one who chose poorly and when he was given a couple of months to choose to work on any relationship issues we may have had together or to break up, he chose to break up. Sadly for him, he got dumped by the woman he cheated on me with a couple of weeks after I moved out and moved on. Unsurprisingly, he had serious regrets at that point. What a surprise.)

I’m comfortable in my own company, have never felt lonely a day in my life, and would honestly rather be alone until I die and am eaten by Alsatians than partnered up with someone who has a radically different idea about fidelity and communication than I do. I have too many other areas of stress in my life to add that to my list.

Again, I must clarify, this is what works for me. Your mileage may vary. I’m not judging.

 

Here’s the counterpoint to my opinion, for variety:

The Fake Will Smith Account Needs to SFTU with the Stupid Platitudes

I’ve shared this before, and it annoys me each time I see it. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea: Don’t spend a lot of time thinking or feeling negatively about unworthy people. Okay, cool, I can try that out.

 

Fake Fresh Prince is Fake.

 

Once you start thinking about what that quote is actually saying, though, it becomes more problematic.

1. Will Smith and his wife have been dabbling in Scientology, going so far as to be involved in a Scientology tech-based school. Scientology is ALL ABOUT doing nothing without getting something in return (that is “out-exchange”, so charity and being a Good Samaritan is not part of their creed) and, further, Scientology is all about controlling customers’ minds through Training Routines which teach its customers how to obey orders and give orders without questioning them, and Auditing which encourages its customers to reveal deeply personal (blackmail) material and then unburden themselves to an auditor who functions as a psychology-averse pseudo-therapist, Knowledge Reports (grass forms / tattletale sheets), diktats from Source (4th-rate sci-fi author and cult leader, L. Ron Hubbard) on every conceivable area of one’s life that must be adhered to without deviation or question, bans on non-Scientology media, websites, books and unapproved entertainments (they used to go as far as to install “Net Nannies” on customers’ computers which would block access to “entheta” (negative data) websites), thought-stopping use of a special language rife with acronyms and what used to be perfectly good words in English (like “ethics”) which are twisted into unrecognizable Hubbardese, and mistrust of any competing technological advances or information (psychology is supposedly evil, medications are supposedly unnecessary because all you need is touch assisting or auditing or medically unsound concoctions like CalMag (a special Hubbard brew) or barley water instead of baby formula and any number of similar idiocies).

So, the idea of (real) Will Smith–who has AT THE VERY LEAST, chosen not to investigate Scientology before supporting a Scientology tech-based school–speaking about people wanting to “control your mind” is laughably disingenuous.

Clearly, Fake Will Smith shouldn’t pick quotes like this one. Bad form, Fake Will Smith.

2. You will also notice that Fake Will Smith’s advice depends on you carefully keeping some kind of scoresheet in your head, and making sure that “people who do so little for you” receive no thoughtful contemplation or emotional feeling from you unless they pass the “what have you done for me lately?” test.

This kind of attitude about relationships is infantile and self-centered, and the opposite of being genuinely kind and charitable towards everyone without regard for whether they “do” anything for you first.

This is not to say that people who are abusive or selfish deserve to be forgiven endlessly. Far from it. It is not a bad thing to examine a problematic relationship and determine whether it is healthy for you to remain in it. It is OK to say “no” to people. If you are dealing with an abusive, manipulative or passive aggressive person in a relationship, then thinking about the one-sided-ness and negative emotional impact of that relationship is healthy and a good idea.

If you are, however, keeping some kind of tabs on whether every person you are in some kind of relationship with, in your opinion, has done enough for you to “deserve” basic kindness or thoughtful consideration, then you are an asshole. Healthy relationships do not require scorekeeping.

Just my humble opinion.

 

On Bullying

In the dark days before The Internet and cable TV, you could get most of your information from only a few sources: your parents and relatives, your religious institution (if any) and its holy text (if any), the newspaper, the television (all three and a half channels of it), the radio, books and magazines, teachers, random crazy strangers shouting shit on street corners, and peers. That was pretty much it. Maybe you went to a film or theatre performance now and then and got dipped into the communal pop culture pool of references that others were also dunked into, maybe you were fortunate enough to be tortured by exposure to an elderly spinster teaching piano lessons or some weird dance class that put you on the fast track to an eating disorder and low self-esteem, maybe you belonged to some branch of Scouting (Boy or Girl) that forced you to interact with a bunch of other little assholes in your age group (often outside, for the added misery of sunburn, insect bites and physical activities that you were crap at and hated), but, for the most part, your choices were limited, mostly local, mostly biased and inescapable. Sometimes bathroom walls were educational in unexpected ways, even if it took you years to work out what all that was about.  Maybe you were an introvert and wanted more than anything to just be left the fuck alone and not constantly criticized and pressured and your parents decided that you had mental problems because you actually liked being alone and did not want to be forced to play with your little brother all the damn time and then you saw a shrink who tested you, told your parents you were extremely creative and had an IQ in the genius range and were just an introvert and “normal” (whatever the fuck that means) and maybe they didn’t stop treating you like a nut, but did add some pressure to excel at all costs because you were now officially too smart to ever fail at anything. If you were lucky or your parents were less neurotic and eager to find fault, maybe you skipped that step, and good for you. Anyway…this is the information with which you armed yourself against the world and tried to figure shit out independently.

No one had the basic common courtesy to hand you a list of rules or discuss basic human psychology and logical fallacies or urban legends or human errors or anything like that. You might get traumatized by old “health” films from the forties that told you all sorts of wrong bullshit things about how to be a good citizen (Spoiler: Obey authority and use deodorant), how marijuana will make you crazy and then you’ll be doing cocaine and heroin and shooting meth into your eyeball and then you’d die, what capitalism is (awesome and not flawed in any way) versus communism (Jesus hates it), how not to drive like a mad person (especially if you have been drinking), and how sex is bad, wrong and likely to kill you but when two heterosexual people love each other very, very much they get married and then they promptly start doing bad, wrong, potentially deadly things to each other such as the man puts his schvantz into the lady’s hoo-ha and babies start popping out like clockwork, bing bang bong, and then everything is peachy keen. As a bonus, your teachers are loading you up with American myths like George Washington and that stupid cherry tree and telling you that Newton had an apple fall on his head, you should never split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition, that we had nine planets in our solar system (sorry, Pluto, you got the shaft),  and telling you that the only important people who ever did anything worthwhile at any point in history were rich white dudes whose judgment could not be debated, even with hindsight. We handled reptiles without freaking out about salmonella, had peanut butter sammiches on the lunch menu (and no one died) and played with liquid mercury in science class (and no one ate any). Seriously, it is a wonder we didn’t all just expire from stupidity and ignorance and unregulated danger all at once.

So there you are, young person, you tabula rasa you, and you have a lot of information getting lobbed your way, and not one bit of it is likely to help you if some of your fellow feral dwarves decide that you are a good target for abuse. Your parents will tell you to be a nice young person and mind your manners and pull up your pants (you should) and turn down your shitty music (fuck that; put on headphones, yo). Your church or temple or mosque will give you a lot of confusing and contradictory advice and rules and then you’ll run into people who don’t seem to understand the Golden Rule at all. Books, if you read (you should), are good, but you have to pick decent ones to read, because Twilight sure as hell isn’t going to teach you anything of value. Magazines and TV programs and movies are going to make you want stuff you can’t afford, show you unrealistically perfect people who were Photoshopped and who you can never look like (especially during the Awkward Phase of puberty), and give you REALLY shitty advice. Teachers, they don’t want to know. They are underpaid and overworked and have 199 other students to try to keep orderly all at once, and they are mostly hoping no one shivs anyone or overdoses on crank in the loo. Your peers are totally self-absorbed with their own angst and problems.

Dude, believe me, I know how much all that sucks. You might just have to learn to cope without a support system or go against all your instincts and peer pressure and unspoken social rules and DEMAND a social support system come to your aid. Caveat: If that was easy, everyone would do it. So I’m not saying it is even a little bit easy.

Speaking personally, I was given the lay of the land pretty early on. My parents set me down when I was a little tiny kidlet and said, “Look, kid, if something happens at school, it’s going to be on you. Your teacher or peers pick on you? That’s on you. Don’t come crying to us, or we will punish you because it has to be your fault. I hope we have made this clear. If you were good, then everything in your life would also be good. Bad things are down to you not toeing the line.”  This included being beaten with a motherfucking belt if I brought home a C or worse on my report card. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not an entirely misguided thing to do (well, the beatings were a bit over the top and counter-productive, but the forced studying for hours on the cold, hard, parquet foyer floor until my legs went numb when my brain would NOT grok fractions ended up paying off in the long run). We have seen what happens when some parents blindly take their child’s side in every school-related conflict, such as blaming little Johnny’s inability to, say, do his goddamn homework on Mrs. Othmar, his teacher. That does not benefit the precious snowflake in any way. At best, it creates a monster with a sense of entitlement and self-importance who doesn’t feel–or have to be–accountable for anything, and those little special snowflakes grow up to be shitty adults. We all know one. That said, sometimes shit goes down at school and it is absolutely 100% not your kid’s fault, but, hey, you already said you would never, ever come to your kid’s rescue for any reason whatsoever, so don’t be shocked if your kid spends hours a day being tormented or struggling with some concept or whatever and then says nothing but “fine” when you ask him or her, presumably not caring one way or the other, how school went. Because you eliminated yourself as an ally when it comes to anything school-related, and your kid is damned if she or he is going to tell you squat or ask for your help with any damn thing. If you are lazy, maybe that was the goal all along.

If you think I am kidding, here is an example. One of my elementary school teachers took me into a closet, fingernails dug so hard into my underarms that I literally (and I am not misusing that word) had half-moon shaped scars there that lingered on for about fifteen years. I was probably, to be frank, misbehaving in some way. I recall being thoroughly bored during kindergarten, first grade and second grade because, hello, I could read and add and subtract and make a fucking color wheel with paint and all that shit (I read the entire 1972 World Book Encyclopaedia before I was in third grade and I do mean the ENTIRE encyclopaedia) and if you think that you, even as a mature and socially groomed and polite adult, could bear sitting still for hours on end while someone made all the slower learners in class power through “the fat cat sat on the mat” and “if you have five apples and take away two, how many do you have left,” and goddamn fucking macaroni “art” (especially when Curtis over there is making rubber cement gloves, Bob is mixing his boogers with glitter, and Lynah is eating the entire pot of paste), then you are a better person than I am. I could not. I was not allowed to read a different book, or to work on another project, or anything. I had to sit still, listen to someone read the primer that I read from cover to cover three times on my first day at school, and I got so bored and sleepy that I got nap jerks and at least once fell asleep in my chair and then promptly fell out of it. I crawled under tables, just for a change of scenery. I chattered to other children. (This was not always well-received by the other children.) I made toys out of my school supplies and retreated into imagination. I was bored and under-stimulated. I was not, however, a truly bad kid. I was polite to adults and tried so very hard to be good. Eventually a smarter teacher got the bright idea to teach me something I didn’t already know and to give me useful work to do, and all went swimmingly from that point forward, but for a couple of years there I was SO FUCKING BORED and often dragged off to a supply closet to be shaken until my teeth rattled, and to have bloody furrows clawed into my underarms, because I was not mature enough to conceal that boredom.

When this topic came up in conversation not too long ago, my mother said I was simply a bad kid at the time and that I deserved every bit of punishment I received. (It is probably irrelevant that many of my elementary school teachers were and are also friends of my mom.) I look at my little nieces and remember doing exactly what they are doing now when I was their age, and I worry about them. They are smart. They get bored easily. They do not tolerate it well. I hope to hell that they won’t get the “whatever bad thing happens at school, it is always going to be 100% your fault” message, because, even now, they are intellectually curious and full of energy, and have a lot of spirit and self-esteem. I don’t want them biting other kids or running around like little hellions, but neither do I want them to be so thoroughly bored and desperate for escape that they resort to sliding under the table to count the gum wads. And then I especially do not want some pruney jerk to drag them into a supply closet and shake them until they bite their tongues just because they were fidgeting or chattering or wiggling around, and later, if they dare complain, they get to be told how it is all their fault because they are “bad”.

So, anyway, the topic of bullying came up recently over the family dinner table and I admitted that I had been given a hard time. Here’s where you’d expect your mom to say something like, man, that’s a shame, I am sorry you went through that. Nope. Because I went through a spell when I was about six years old when I was unable to curb my expressions of utter boredom and frustration, I am never allowed to complain about being a human piñata later on, because I had to have really been mean to those other kids first. (This is from someone who was not there, mind you. It also does not matter that some of those kids were not even in elementary school or middle school with me. It was still all my fault because I had the nerve to act like a six year old when I was six years old.)

It did not help that I was a year younger (I tested in early) than everyone else and short for my age, or that my female peers were dressed like little Marcia Bradys with little silver ball pierced earrings, long hair, cords, button-downs or turtlenecks and Keds while my mom cropped my white blonde hair into a Mia Farrow “Rosemary’s Baby” cut so short, hideous, and emotionally scarring that I have never had my hair short ever again. My hair was so blonde and so fine that I looked practically bald and then my mother overcompensated for the androgynous hairdo by dressing me up like a baby doll in itchy smocked plaid shortie dresses, uncomfortable and babyish bubble knickers, Buster Brown Sunday shoes, a big stupid bow on my head, and scratchy, droopy opaque tights that would give me wrinkly elephant ankles and inch down until the crotch was looped around my knees no matter how ladylike I strived to be. In other words, I was marked as a huge uncool nerd pretty much from the jump. My peers, when not kicking my ass or calling me ugly or just generally being obnoxious (because they, too, were kids and were acting like kids), treated me like one of those life-size doll babies that would “walk” with you when you squeezed their hands. Nothing like being treated like an entertaining pet, and having adults think it was just precious. No one likes being treated like a pretty object or toy or condescended to, and I may not have had the words to use to express how that felt, but I still felt it. I am sure that occasionally I was not in the mood to be some bitch’s doll, and that occasionally I was ill-behaved (because kids are), but no matter what I might have done when I was six years old, that does not justify my peers treating me like shit for ten long years after…especially those peers who weren’t even my classmates way back when. Well, my mom thinks it does. But she’s full of shit on this account, and all too eager to place blame on me for stuff I barely remember…but you know what? One of us was there, and one of us wasn’t. I am inclined to think that one of us has a better handle on what it was like. Also, I don’t care if I was a raging asshole as a six year old or not. That does not make excusing bullying directed my way for ten years (did I stutter? TEN YEARS) in any way. Unless you’re my mom. So, yeah, that says a lot about our relationship right there.

Allow me to stipulate that I probably misbehaved, I probably at some point annoyed another child, and probably, at some point, did something I knew darn well I shouldn’t do. In other words, again: I was six.

I have always learned quickly and learning how to deal with my peers was likewise a series of quickly-learned lessons that I then never managed to quite forget. Here’s one I shared not too long ago:  “A friend’s Facebook comment about her sproglet getting in trouble for saying “damp towel” in class reminded me of a similar situation that happened to me in third grade. I got frustrated while doing sums and imitated the cartoon dog Muttley (“rassa frassa sassa frassa!”) under my breath and got told on by classmates AND got in Big Trouble for supposedly using a word I did not, at that age, even know yet. But, hey, I learned a new word (if not what it meant) thanks to that stupidity. Lessons learned: A shiny new legitimate cuss word (NOW I know what “fuck” means! Huzzah!) and “my peers are rotten finks and I am better off not speaking around them or to them when I can avoid it.”

Your peers are looking for things to tattle on you about, so you better not rock the boat by being the weird kid who annoys someone by quietly quoting unpopular cartoon characters in class. At any rate, I wasn’t the kind of kid who looked for shit to tattle on people about or make fun of them for, and I could have. There was the kid who wore red socks every single day for at least two years. I was nice to him. There was the kid whose earwax was so built-up that it would occasionally dislodge on its own and make a thudding noise when it landed on his desk. I was nice to him. There was the popular kid who spent most of his time in class catching horseflies and slowly pulling the wings off of them. I honestly feared him. But I was nice to him. There was the weird but insanely rich girl who self-mutilated to get attention and liked to eat boogers, scabs and eraser rubber, which fascinated and grossed us all out. I was so nice to her, we occasionally had playdates. There was the girl whose buck teeth were practically horizontal, who had freckles, wiry black hair that was styled like Joanie Cunningham’s on Happy Days, and unflattering glasses, and she was far from slim, and she was one of the biggest bullies in class. I wasn’t nice to her, since I was a popular target of hers, especially on the bus ride home, when her sidekick (a girl so blonde as to be albino, with white lashes and the same glasses / buckteeth issues as the main tormentor) but I certainly didn’t go out of my way to be nasty. I ignored them. I ignored the fuck out of them. There were fat kids and kids with glasses and thin kids and red-headed kids and I said nothing to a single one, and occasionally did say “s/he may have red hair, but you’re rude and that makes YOU ugly” to some of the nastier kids. But, as I was a non-winner, having me, a loser, stand up for them did not endear me to my fellow losers. It chased off some of the more insecure bullies, but it didn’t stop the REAL shitheads.

Mostly I kept myself to myself. I got caught in third grade slipping off to the restroom with a stack of books almost as tall as I was. I was happily reading to myself and hiding in a stall to do it before I got busted. I was in all kinds of trouble, but, naturally, this is relayed as a “cute” story now. Back then, I got my butt beat for it. But, hey. Books became my refuge and I was one of those readers who can get SO absorbed in what they are reading that you can stand behind them shouting their name and not get their attention. Happened more than once.

I was also sensitive in about every way you could be. I didn’t like loud noises. Ugly art offended my eye. My clothing tags would raise bloody welts on annoyingly hypersensitive skin. I didn’t like being teased (I am still not particularly keen on it) and had to learn to shrug it off or ignore it. This is a skill that takes some time to learn, so for more than a few years I was a fun target for teasing and pranks and general jackassery. I learned how to put on a poker face and not respond AT ALL, which means I learned how to pretty much turn deaf and blind at will…which, by the way, is no fun for the person trying to get a rise out of someone. To give me a little credit, I knew I was handling things badly and taking stuff to heart that I shouldn’t. I could rationalize a way to shrug it off, but it didn’t stop the hurt feelings or rage or frustration. I also stuck to my guns: They could be jerks, but I didn’t want to be a jerk, too. As a target for verbal abuse or mean-spirited teasing, I became less and less fun, but I was still a viable target for far longer than I should have been because I rarely struck back. On the very few occasions I did respond, the person bothering me regretted it immediately. I was verbal and a quick thinker, and if you kept pushing, I just might say something to embarrass you back. But, like I said, those occasions were few and far between, and usually happened only if the person being an asshole made the mistake of not being particularly varied or creative with their taunts. It gave me time to construct an excellent rejoinder and to hold it in reserve to be deployed when there were plenty of witnesses around to hear it. Those who were more subtle or careful not to bother me around witnesses were harder to fend off. A lot of tormenting happened on the busses, where teachers were absent and there were plenty of equally bored kids, many of which were a lot older, who would egg on any kind of fighting just to have something interesting and entertaining to watch.

Ah, busses. There’s the question of where it is safe to sit and too many people who don’t want to share a seat, especially with YOU. There are gum wads and spit balls and loogies that go where they shouldn’t, and your belongings being snatched away from you and held out of reach, and random sneaky jabs in the ribs or neck or the back of the knee, and people to trip up and send flying up the aisle, shoelaces and ponytail ribbons to untie, little kids to torture and so on. The only safe seats are either right behind the busdriver (you baby!) or the very back seat (usually annexed by the older kids). Hoi polloi go in the middle and suck it up.

I’m leaving out a lot of details because some I don’t remember clearly (and I certainly don’t have any emotional charge over them anymore) and because I was BY FAR not the most tormented kid around. There were many kids far worse off than me. One kid on the bus was socially challenged in all possible ways (unattractive, easy to torment, not the brightest bulb, and unable to take a hint) and I understood what it was like to really dislike someone for being a human punching bag. I didn’t join in when this kid was called things (one thing I recall was “Fagatron,” which still makes me wince), but neither did I want to be his best friend, and he was DETERMINED that I was not only destined to be his best friend (because I didn’t actively abuse him) but also his GIRLfriend. We were the last two kids to be dropped off, so sometimes I would actually hide to avoid his attentions (and once the bus driver had to circle back to drop me off because I hid too efficiently and was reading and didn’t un-hide in time to get dropped off). He eventually clued into this and that method of escape no longer worked.  He would try to touch me inappropriately, he would not leave me alone, and I thoroughly regretted that I had ever stood up for him against the bullies. No good deed goes unpunished, and all that. He didn’t understand that someone being kind was not equivalent to someone wanting to be groped or bugged while reading or whatever. Here’s where the bullied (me) could have become the bully to pick on a kid lower down the totem pole than I, but I didn’t. The whole experience just convinced me that staying under everyone’s radar was the best course of action at all times. Say nothing unless spoken to, and then only respond if you are addressed by your correct name (not an insult, not a nickname you don’t like, not a gibe) and with some courtesy, and then only if the person addressing you is not a raging asshole. Those folks are not to be encouraged to use you in their games. At best, if you happen to encounter a persistent raging asshole, you drag your eyes reluctantly away from the book you are reading, fix them with an unsmiling, silent glare, and slowly look them up and down, not responding to anything they might be saying to you during this process. Then shrug dismissively and go back to reading your book and acting like they don’t exist. If you do this properly, you are officially no fun and might be left alone, or you might enrage them to the point where they actually hit you. This is when a bus driver might be arsed to get involved and drag the little thug off of you, so, hey, win-win. Those bruises and lumps will fade.

My default mode was quiet, polite, nose-stuck-in-book, talk-mainly-to-teachers. If you were pleasant to me, I was pleasant to you, but I didn’t give you endless chances to use me as a punching bag. If you were an asshole to me or someone else (and I witnessed it), your opinion and friendship were no longer of any interest to me. Your popularity was irrelevant. I LIKED being alone and never felt lonely, so fuck ’em. Some other bully-deflating techniques that were occasionally successful: Asking a nosy person why they think you give a shit about their unsolicited advice (trick is, you have to REALLY not care), or “why do you want to know?” when they ask you something that is none of their damn business. If they try to give you any bullshit about wanting to know you better or being your friend, when you know damn well that this is a TRAP and a LIE, treat that with the scorn it deserves. Then there was the “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” when someone said something shitty to you. Bonus points if you timed this response to coincide with the arrival of a teacher. Casual bullies do not often have the ‘nads to repeat a shitty comment. This will not, however, work on shameless bullies. Know your enemy. I also found that responding to unsolicited nastiness with something like, “Excuse me, why do you think I care one little bit about what YOU think? Did I ASK for your opinion? Maybe that should have been a hint” to be somewhat effective.

For the most part, though, my occasional triumphs over shitty behaviors were few and far between. I made it clear I liked being left alone and had no interest in group activities (to the point of occasionally hiding behind the bleachers with a book, or wandering off into the woods, during PE class).  I had a few close friends and was satisfied with that and did not want more. I got a reputation for being a poet-bookworm and a daydreamer (guilty) and an artist who sidelined as a doodler-in-class (SUPER guilty, and you should see my English Literature textbook). I had to have an opinion crowbarred out of my mouth in class, and my teachers gave up trying to embarrass me for not paying attention when I managed to prove that I was paying enough attention to parrot back the last few things they said (and my notebooks were ornate masterpieces).

The biggest change, though, was the death of my father.

A lot of these defense mechanisms were only deployed after my father died (I was in 8th grade) and I got a huge dose of perspective. Tell me again, how does teenage bullshit or dealing with nasty peers measure up in any significant way with the death of a parent? They simply do not. I no longer had the luxury of being QUITE as thin-skinned (though my mother can still get under my skin with her “teasing”), I no longer had the energy to keep up with the changing tides of who was in and popular and who was out and a loser, I no longer gave a rat’s ass what some teenage asshat might think about me whatsoever. If I was ever a bit depressed about bullshit high school drama, all I had to do was step back a bit and say, you know what? This is NOTHING compared to losing my DAD. So FUCK THEM.

To be honest, my first two years of high school are almost a total blank: I was grieving (I still feel things very, very deeply and take a long time to get over emotional pain) and I am guessing I was about as responsive as a block of wood for the most part. Which is a type of weirdness that ordinarily gets you extra grief, but, if it did, I don’t remember it. For the first two years of high school, I put on the ugly preppy wardrobe my mother purchased for me that was not the least bit attractive on me, went through the motions, and managed to continue to breathe in and out and get through it. By junior year I was wearing my dad’s old Air Force jacket, jeans I had painted on, and some rather weird 80s clothing with, like, dolman sleeves or enormous cowl necks or strangely-shaped buttons. I was no longer even remotely interested in pretending I was giving a shit about fitting in, even with my wardrobe, and I was happier as a result.

Now, sure, I got the usual fake invitations to non-existent parties. Solution? I didn’t want to hang out with any jerks, so I returned their invites back with a polite “Sorry, I am busy”. I got the usual passed notes in class that, once opened, were nastygrams. Solution? After the first, I never opened one right then and there ever again. I either threw it out unread or put it in my purse if I was not 100% sure it was going to be shitfulness. I got called stupid names in the hallway. Solution? No response whatsoever. I got Secret Santa gifts designed to embarrass me. Solution? A polite thank you before I pointedly threw it out on my way out of the classroom (and I actually feel a little bad about that, now; go figure). My kindness to a fellow unpopular student resulted in him being just as nasty to me as everyone else in the popular crew he longed to be a part of but by which he had been rudely and pointedly and publicly rejected. Solution? I learned to be more careful about who I chose to be kind to, because teenagers are stupid and desperate for meaningless social advancement. I didn’t get a lot of abuse about my appearance, which made me very lucky, but occasionally there would be something. Solution? Break out that slow, mute, up-and-down raking of the eyes from the top of their head to the tip of their toes, look them in the eye, shake your head, scoff quietly under your breath and walk off. They will fill in the blanks with whatever part of their body they are most insecure about, and serves them right for trying to make YOU feel bad. Worried about who to sit with at lunch? Solution: Resolve not to give a shit, sit wherever you like (an empty table is a good bet), and your friends and non-assholes will come sit with YOU. (And this, friends, was the smartest thing I ever did in high school, because our lunch table was full of the smartest, wackiest, coolest Misfit Toys in school, and lunch was, as a result, enjoyable and not an exercise in misery.)

I spent most of my time with the people I knew were my friends and welcomed non-assholes at all times. I was nice to everyone, even assholes, but assholes only ever got the bare minimum of my time and attention. A smile when I walked past them. Maybe a “good morning” if I felt like talking. I would not go out of my way to communicate with them, but neither would I be openly rude. Some days it felt like all I did was smile or nod at unresponsive assholes who had spent years tormenting me or other kids, but that was OK. I valued being pleasant, so I was pleasant: I did it for me. I spent much of the rest of my time talking to teachers, and they proved to be far more interesting and informative than a bunch of tweens and teens. I learned more OUT of class, talking to adults, than I did IN class. If you are the school hackysack, try talking to your teachers. You don’t have to talk about bullying. Talk about what you are learning. It’s likely to be interesting. Also, you will get better grades. I’m just saying. The smartest kids in my class were the ones who were in the teacher’s offices having chats. You will learn stuff. Learning is good. Being dumb is not good. I don’t know how else to put it.

So, perspective (i.e., “nothing I have to deal with today at school is anywhere near as bad as Dad Being Dead, thankyouverymuch”), learning to distrust that other human beings are going to behave themselves cordially, keeping busy and creative by reading and making art and writing and THINKING a lot, listening to music, trying to appear as bland as warm vanilla pudding whenever possible in between one class or the next (in other words, not being the most exciting target), ignoring the assholes whenever possible, being somewhat oblivious because my mind was on other things and I was busy thinking about stuff, pairing up with real friends (safety in numbers), telling assholes to go fuck themselves (without actually saying exactly that) when I couldn’t avoid them, and spending a lot of time near adults (which, as a bonus, is an effective anti-bully forcefield)…that’s how I survived high school.

There are things kids know that parents often forget. You can’t tell anyone or it gets worse. You can’t avoid them, or they notice, and when they find you again, it gets worse. You can’t make friends with other victims, because it gets worse. You shouldn’t be a bully yourself, because then not only do you feel like shit for being picked on, you feel doubly like shit because you are a hypocite and hurting someone else. You know intellectually that the things you are being teased about are not really all that bad, but emotionally it hurts and you would do anything to make the things you are being teased about go away. If you’re fat, you want to take a knife and slice the fat off your body. If you are short, you would gladly hop on a torture rack and have someone stretch you. If you are weak and skinny, you wish you could lift weights until you faint from exhaustion. If you are flat-chested, you struggle with the decision whether or not to pad your bra and feel boyish and childish and unattractive, and if you have big boobs, you pretty much hate life and get really tired of people snapping or undoing your bra strap and being treated like a whore because your hormones kicked into gear early. If you are freckled, you want to put on an inch of pancake makeup. If you have “bad” hair, you want a wig or a perm or a dye job or straightening or extensions or an entirely new hairdo…anything to make it different. If you wear glasses, you want contact lenses, even if they give you a headache. If you have braces, you would rather put up with your crooked teeth, and if you have crooked teeth, you want braces so badly you could just die. If you are pale, you want to be tan and you’ll inevitably show up with orange palms and streaked ankles at one point. If you are dark, you might be desperate enough to buy skin lighteners and peels and risk ruining your face. Everything about you is suddenly not good enough, and yet WHO is telling you this? Who are THEY? How dare they? Seriously. They are stupid kids and you are fine the way you are. Work on what you can and what you want to, and say “fuck it” about the stuff you can’t change.

Look, I have no words of wisdom. I just know that we ask kids to navigate some complex social waters without many useful tools. It was probably a little better pre-Internet and cable TV. True, now you can go online and read that you’re not alone if you are being bullied. That has to help a little bit. On the downside, there is no time off from bullying in the Internet age. Your bullies aren’t restricted to trying to prank call you until your mother gets tired of answering the phone. Now they can call you on your mobile phone or text you, stalk your social media network homepages, make blogs and forums to discuss you (and other people they are bullying), and on and on. I don’t think we older folks realize that as bad as we had it, kids today can’t just go home and be free of the torment for a few hours. There is no downtime. If you are the bullied person, you can’t even be safe from it when you are at home. It gets you through your cell phone, through the Internet, through Skype, when you play a MMORPG…constantly.

Bullying was always bad, but now there is no time off from it. The ways kids torment each other are more nasty. They may have called each other “gay” when I was a kid, but, honestly, I don’t think most of us were fully clear about what that actually MEANT, and I am pretty sure no one actually knew any out-and-proud gay people or had any serious hatred for them. It was just something people said that made other people feel bad. I was never clear why it was such a horrible insult (and am still not clear about that, because there is nothing wrong with being gay). The bullying today is more violent. There are fewer stay-at-home parents around to watch over their kids when they come home from school. Bullies can follow you to your workplace if you have an after-school job. Bullies don’t have to blow up your land line and annoy your parents when they can attack you directly and BYPASS your parents.

Shit’s got to stop.

If I knew how to make it stop, I would. Saying “it gets better,” while that is true, is hollow. Dude, try to stick it out until you can go off to college. I was fucking popular in college and believe me, I would never have expected that and it actually took me three years to clue in that this was what was going on. But, in retrospect, it is true. I had more friends from more varied circles and groups than I had free time to accept invitations to hang out with them. I overheard people saying NICE things about me. I had people know who I was who I had never met. You never know. Maybe it was because I didn’t give a shit about popularity that it happened. But, hey, SHIT GOT BETTER. Try to stick it out until you can go away to college. Tell someone if you are being targeted. Block assholes online and don’t go to their hangouts online to read stupid shit about yourself. You do not want to be friends with people who say shitty things about other people or treat other people badly. You really, really don’t. Because it will eventually be your turn and it sucks. Resolve not to give a good goddamn about some stupid kids who don’t know who you really are inside, and what a good and decent and awesome human being you are. Their values are shitty, they treat people badly, they are acting like assholes and you really do not want anything from them whatsoever.

Keep learning and creating stuff and devoting your energy to getting the fuck out of your home town once you graduate so you can leave all the loser bullies behind. You don’t want to have to have perspective (such as a parent dying) forced upon you, so you’re going to have to find your perspective within yourself and keep an eye on your goals and what you want in life. Find allies, even if (or especially if) they are adults. Do your own thing. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

It gets better, not that this always helps to hear…and you probably think I am full of shit and don’t understand what it is like, but maybe, just maybe, I kinda do.