Yes, dear readers, it’s true. I’ve gone on a scary, exciting adventure. It began in August, sort of. I discovered that a friend of mine had a passion for writing about as deep as my own. We had been discussing our work for the past few months, and he’d expressed a desire to begin a writer’s group–something that I’d wanted to do, as well. Being known for planning and not executing, I, of course, never did anything other than fantasize about it. But when my friend brought it up in conversation, we agreed to go ahead with it. Give it a shot, see what happened. He found a venue for us to hold our meetings (or at least the first one, if it didn’t take off) and we sent out invitations. The night before our open house, we stayed up until 2 a.m. putting the finishing touches on our plans. The next night, I went to our meeting early, and admittedly was not anticipating a large turn out. I didn’t think anyone would show, at least no more than maybe five people besides Tyler and myself. Albeit, I was shocked when we had almost twenty people our first night. Twenty people who shared the same passion as us, twenty people who wanted nothing more than to write, and possibly make a career out of it. Twenty people who wanted to learn from us. The two-hour meeting was a success. Everyone willingly participated in the discussions and exercises, and they all filled out and returned the surveys we’d given out for feedback. And every survey was positive. No one had anything negative to say about it, no one disliked our idea. And since that first night, we’ve had a concrete group who’ve shown up as often as they could, almost every week. We haven’t had the same twenty people that showed up on the first night, but life is busy and sometimes does not allow for weekly attendance. Nonetheless, we have at least ten people attend every week.
And it’s a diverse group. Tyler and I are two single twenty-somethings, with full-time jobs, and loads of other commitments. Our group members range from high school aged kids (15-18) to twenty-something to age 30 and over. And their passion is equal to ours. And I can’t tell you how awesome that is.
I admittedly don’t hold a lot of hope for the next generation of America. Those aged 18 and under just don’t seem like they’re interested in anything other than their social lives and how cool they seem on Facebook and Tumblr. They’re glued to their laptops, phones, and iPads, and have a total disregard for anyone other than themselves. But this group, with the five teenagers, have opened my eyes a little bit. I now know that not every single “kid” is concerned with only social media and image. These five kids are awesome. They’re open, and passionate, and funny, and kind, and creative. They don’t care too much about Facebook or Tumblr or Justin Beiber. They don’t care if a passion for writing makes them “uncool.” They do what they love, and to hell with everyone else. They’re involved in a number of clubs at school, they’re in the band, they’re involved in extra-curriculars outside of school (one of them takes karate), one of them recently got her first job. They’re honest, dedicated individuals, and I respect the crap out of them. They make an effort to show up, every week, and fully participate in our little group. They’ve shared some of their work, and it’s really, really good. They write with a passion matched only by the greats like Hemingway, Tolkein, Lewis. They have these elaborate worlds inside of their heads and want so badly to translate them on paper, but need a little help and a whole lot of encouragement to do so.
I’ve taken a serious shining to one of the girls, Althea. She came to the first meeting at the request of her friends. She was incredibly hesitant to come. She was nervous, like, on the brink of an anxiety attack, because she had no idea what to expect. I know because that was the first thing she wrote about and shared with us at the first meeting. She’s this tiny little thing with jet-black hair cut short, eyelashes for miles, and the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen. She’s so quiet and timid. It took her almost a month before she could look any of us in the eye while speaking to us. During the first or second meeting, she told us of this idea she had for a story. She had created this incredibly complex world in her head of this fantastic story, but didn’t know the story that should go along with this universe. And after she spoke, she stared at the floor, embarrassed. A few weeks later, she sat by me during the meeting, and I struck up a conversation with her. She spoke softly, didn’t make much eye contact, and didn’t speak unless spoken to. Toward the end of the meeting, I asked her if she’d be able to stay a few minutes late. When the meeting was over, I told her that I was interested in working with her on her story, on the universe she’d created, and I was very interested to hear what she had to say. She has such a unique voice and perspective on the world, I was dying to know more. I told her that, if she was comfortable with it, I’d like to meet up with her sometime during the week and work on her idea. She seemed very apprehensive. I made it clear that I didn’t want her to feel pressured by me, and if she said no, that was more than okay. It was her idea, it was up to her what to do with it, and if she didn’t want my help, that was perfectly understandable and acceptable. She kept mumbling her answers, which were clouded with insecurity. I said, “If you’re not comfortable with it, that’s all right. I’m just very interested in what you’ve got to say.”
She said, “Sorry, I just get nervous when I talk to people,” with her eyes downcast.
She accepted my offer a few minutes later.
The next week at our meeting, I was floored by her. The quiet, timid little girl was replaced by an enthusiastic, boisterous young woman, talking animatedly about her favorite book and joining in the discussions with more than just one-word interjections. She took off like a shot. A completely different person was at that meeting than the ones before. And I felt a swell of pride as she gushed about her favorite story.
We had four new people show up to our last meeting, which was a very nice surprise, as we had accepted that the group we had was the group we were going to get. But one of our members brought her fiance and his best man along, and then we had two new high school girls show up because they had been told about it by their English teacher. I’m perpetually surprised by the fact that news of our little group has spread almost half an hour out of town. People are really enjoying our group, and recommending us to their friends. We are gaining notoriety. And that’s pretty awesome.
My main role in all of this is to be the “Grammar Nazi,” as Tyler so lovingly put it. I do lessons about grammar and vocabulary and cultivating style. I’m more of the strict teacher. Tyler does more fun exercises and activities. I’m more structured, while he’s more fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants. I’ve got every lesson planned out for the next six months. He comes up with his lessons the night before.
I took the time to ask our members what they were interested in learning from me at our last meeting. The responses were varied, and kind of vague. But I’m interested in teaching them what they want to know. A few of our members have college degrees. One of them has a master’s degree in comparative literature. Another has a degree in history. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to teach them, because they surely know more than I do. But then I remember that I’m not just teaching them, they’re teaching me as well. I don’t, by any means, consider myself an expert on writing. Not by any stretch of the imagination do I think that my knowledge is superior to theirs. And it’s very humbling to know that these educated people are willing to attend these meetings to learn something from little old me. They’re interested in hearing what I have to say, to take what I have to offer. They trust me and my knowledge enough to pay attention when I speak, and take something away from each lesson I teach. It’s a little mind-boggling. But still very humbling. Our one member, a forty- or fifty-something-year-old man asked me at our last meeting, “You got any more words for us? I really liked that.” At our second meeting, I assembled a four-page vocabulary list for them. We went over the list, pronunciations, meanings, uses, for all the words. I jokingly told them I wanted them to memorize it by our next meeting and recite it all back to me. This gentlemen was so involved in this list. Every few minutes he’d ask a question about one of the words. And apparently he really enjoyed it, because he wanted more lessons on vocab. ”I want another list! I like using those big words on people that don’t know them!”
I’m very humbled and grateful. This group is a definite blessing. Without it, I’d still be sitting at home, staring at my laptop, wondering what exactly to do with myself, my writing, and my time, and wishing I was doing more. It’s a very liberating, satisfying feeling, imparting your knowledge to willing students. And it’s awesome to learn from them, as well. They’re a diverse group of people, and their ideas are as unique as their personalities. I’ve already begun to consider them as another family that I’m a part of, and that’s a pretty good feeling.
It was a scary start, but it has blossomed into a rewarding journey. And I’m so very thankful for it all.
I like my alone time. I crave my alone time. I plan my alone time days in advance. Due to a hectic work schedule and extracurricular demands, I seldom get alone time anymore. Even when I’m alone, I don’t get alone time. I live alone, and still, I’m never in total solitude. My alone time is interrupted by the buzzing or ringing of my cell phone. This usually doesn’t bother me. But lately, it has been.
I have a friend who has no respect for anyone else’s time. This friend, who I’ll call Mary, does not consider anyone else’s wants or needs when she wants or needs something. And it’s driving me crazy.
Mary is a twenty-something-year-old mother of two, who cohabitates with her baby daddy, Rick. Rick has a full-time job about an hour away from home, which leaves Mary at home with their two small children (ages 16 months and 3 months) throughout the day. Mary apparently gets cabin fever in the worst way, and depends on her friends to cure (or at least temporarily relieve) it for her. She calls upon me at least once a week for this. The only problem is, as I mentioned earlier, Mary pays no attention to anyone else’s time when she wants something. See, Mary thinks the only time she can and should leave the house is after her children have gone to bed. I usually get a text or phone call around 10 p.m. on any given day from her, demanding to hang out for a while. This does not jive with my schedule. I have a full-time job which requires me to be up early and at work early in the mornings. I can not physically afford to go out at ten o’clock the night before work. I don’t like to, I don’t need to, I don’t want to. I know that if I don’t get a certain amount of sleep at night, then I’m all but worthless on the following day. In my line of work, I need to be useful and coherent at all times. I can’t be tired and sluggish and sleepy all day. If I am, I am in serious jeopardy of losing my job. When I receive a text from Mary late at night wanting to hang out, I’m usually already in bed. And that’s what I’ll tell her. ”I’m in bed. I have work in the morning. I can’t hang out tonight, sorry.”
This response doesn’t work.
“Can’t you hang out for an hour?” she’ll ask.
“No, I’m sorry. I have to be up for work in the morning,” I’ll reply, knowing full well that one of Mary’s “hours” will last at least three.
“Please? I’ll make it worth your while ;)” She resorts to playful joking in an attempt to lure me out of bed.
“I can’t, I’m sorry. But I’m free tomorrow night if you want to hang then.” I offer an alternate solution, and usually I’ll give her my schedule for the next week or so, so that she can coordinate and see when best works for her.
This does not work.
“Rick’s vacation starts tomorrow, so I won’t be able to then. Nobody wants to hang out with me anymore.” No matter how many other days I’m free, if it’s not “right now,” she doesn’t want it. She will not compromise to save her life. This is infuriating. I give her hundreds of other opportunities to hang out with me (when she’s the one begging me to hang with her) and she always turns them down.
Mary has no concept of what adult life is. You must be thinking, “Well, she has two kids. She has to know what adult life is like.” But she doesn’t. She doesn’t understand what life is like for the rest of the world, who don’t have things handed to them by their baby daddy and parents. I’m not saying Mary is a spoiled little rich girl, but she is a spoiled little girl. When she was pregnant with her first child, she quit her job about six or seven months into her pregnancy. After she gave birth, Rick’s income allowed for her to be a stay-at-home mother. When the baby was about three months old, she began working again. She was a little difficult for management to work with, because her scheduling was sporadic. She would only work on certain days, and heavily relied on Rick’s schedule to determine when she could work. She also relied on her and Rick’s parents to watch the baby; she did not turn to anyone else for babysitting. And if none of them could watch the baby, she “couldn’t” work. Therefore, she did not know what days she would be available until the absolute last minute. When the baby was six months old, she found out she was about a month or two pregnant with her second child. She quit her job soon after, and stayed home again. Her youngest is about three months old now, and she just went back to work a few weeks ago. The problem with all of this is that she demands to be catered to. She expects her employers to work around Rick’s, her parents’, and his parents’ schedules. If Rick is working and she can find someone to watch the kids, she can work. If Rick is working and none of the grandparents can watch the kids, she can’t work. If Rick isn’t working, she can’t work. If she didn’t pay attention to the schedule and finds out she has to work on a day she thought she was off, she expects her employer to give her the day off anyway because it’s “too last-minute to find a babysitter.” She very rarely has to put any effort into anything because she expects everyone else to do it for her, and throws a fit until she gets her way.
Mary’s never experienced real “adult life,” even before having children. After she graduated high school, she went to college for a short time (as in, like, a week or two) then dropped out. An old romance was rekindled, and she married him. The marriage ended in divorce not even a year later. She moved back to town, and got a job. Not long after that, she was reunited with her very first boyfriend, Rick, and the two have been together ever since. A few months after they got together, she was pregnant. She and Rick moved in together, renting a home from Rick’s parents. They stayed there for maybe four months before moving into the home her parents had just moved out of, and rented it from them. For the better part of her “adult” life, she has relied on the incomes of those around her to get by. While she was pregnant and not working, she used Rick’s income for everything. Bills, rent, and shopping; both grocery and “fun.” And they eat out like crazy. I still don’t understand how all their bills are paid with the amount of money she’s spending. It’s a wonder Rick can fill up his gas tank to get to work. I digress.
When Mary’s pregnant, she withdraws from her social life. None of us will hear from her for the duration of her pregnancy. Anytime we text her to invite her out or offer to come over and see her, there’s always an excuse as to why she or we can’t. In short, we don’t see or hear from her when she’s pregnant. After the baby is born, she comes back out of her shell and resumes her “normal” life. She begins calling and texting us, asking us to come over or hang out. But at very inconvenient times for us. And then takes it personally. This is the most aggravating thing to me concerning Mary. It’s hypocritical of her, in my opinion. And infuriating to me and our other friends. She has no consideration for anyone else’s time. She takes it very personally when we say we can’t hang out at ten at night. She thinks when we say, “I have to work in the morning,” that we mean, “I don’t want to hang out.” She thinks that we should answer her when she texts at midnight wanting to hang out, and, when we don’t, she thinks that means, “I’m avoiding you,” and doesn’t consider for a minute that we’re not answering because we’re sleeping. Our group of friends is very loyal to one another. We’re not the sort to blow people off or avoid them. And we don’t decline an invitation to spend time together unless we have a legitimate reason to, like work, or being out of town, or having something else that we have to do. To her, those are all just excuses to not have to spend time with her. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re all very close. We know each other’s secrets. We spend as much time together as possible, within reason. We’re women, and we all like to have time to ourselves. But Mary just doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “alone time.”
Just this past week, she kept another of our friends, Julie, up until almost one in the morning with her incessant texting about an irrelevant issue. Julie works at the local jail, and there had recently been a large drug bust, and Mary wanted as many details as Julie could give her. When Julie went to bed, she texted Mary and said, “I’m going to bed now, I’ll talk to you in the morning.” It was as though Mary didn’t even read that text. She kept texting Julie over and over again, waking her up. Julie had to be up at four or five in the morning, but Mary wouldn’t relent. Julie was between a rock and a hard place, because her phone is her alarm, and she couldn’t silence it in an attempt to stop Mary from waking her up; if she had silenced the phone, she would have also silenced her alarm and been late for work. Finally, she just ignored Mary, and, the next night, she confronted Mary about it. She said, “You were really upsetting me last night. I was in bed, asleep, and you kept waking me up. You knew I had to be up early for work. I was getting really upset at you.” To which Mary replied in a joking, light-hearted, nonchalant way, “I just wanted to know about that girl,” and completely ignored the fact that Julie was upset with her. Mary viewed it as a joke. And she did not apologize.
I’ve had similar “conversations” with Mary. At my old job, I worked overnight shifts (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) on Friday and Saturday, and morning shifts (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) on Monday and Tuesday. So, on Sundays, I would stay up for over 24 hours in order to get to sleep at a decent time so that I could be awake on time for work the next morning. And, every week, regular as clockwork, Mary would text me at eleven on Sunday night, wanting to hang out. She knew my schedule, but didn’t understand why I couldn’t spare an hour or two for her. I would get a text that said, “Let’s hang out and go get something to eat! Right now!” If I was awake, I would reply, “I can’t, I’m in bed and have to be up at four. But I’m off Tuesday night if you want to hang then.”
“I can’t Tuesday. Can I come over for like an hour?”
“No, I’m in bed and have to be up for work in five hours. I need to get some sleep. I’ve been up since yesterday. I’m sorry.”
“Please? Just an hour?”
At which point I would intentionally begin to ignore her because, otherwise, she’d keep me up for the next two hours. She’d continue texting, and, after about fifteen minutes of no response and twenty texts later, she’d send, “Okay, I get it,” and try to guilt me into responding or hanging out. She’d take it personally instead of paying attention to anything I had said. She refuses to take “no” for an answer and keeps pushing and pushing and pushing until we’re forced to either comply with her demands or just stop talking to her. But stopping communication seems to be the only way to get the point across to her. It’s a double-edged sword for us. We can’t win. If we keep responding, she thinks we’re just trying to avoid spending time with her because, if we’re still responding, then we can’t be all that busy. If we stop responding, she thinks we’re ignoring her because we’re being mean and don’t like her anymore. No matter what we do, she’s going to take it personally and let her feelings be hurt. There’s no way to tell her no that she will take reasonably. Any “no” we issue is an obvious sign of avoidance in her eyes. Doesn’t matter if it’s, “No, I have to work,” or, “No, I’m out of town,” or, “No, I’m at work,” or, “No, I have this, this, this, and this to do, followed by this.” Any “no” is a bad “no.” And it’s incredibly infuriating. She refuses to consider that we have lives outside of hanging out with her. She acknowledges it, but she does not accept it, especially if it interferes with us spending time with her. She thinks we should be at her beck and call, and we’re not, and she takes it personally. In her mind, if we’re not working, then we should be able to go sit at her house for five hours in the den while she sits on her laptop looking at YouTube videos. We should be able to put all our responsibilities aside just because she’s bored.
But, when it’s the other way around, we’re just supposed to accept it. If we text her requesting to spend time together, and she can’t, that’s that. No questions asked. But the difference is, we don’t take it personally. If I text her and invite her to do something and she says no, I take it in stride. She’s a mother, she’s got things to do. If she says she can’t hang, then she can’t hang, and I don’t think anything of it. The same goes for Julie and Andrea. We don’t take it personally when Mary, or anyone else, declines an invitation. The four of us go out of our ways for each other without a moment’s hesitation. If one of us needs something, three show up at the door with it. We are more than willing to drop everything when one of us is in need. There have been many, many times when I’ve canceled or postponed my own plans for my only day off work to go spend time with Mary when she asked me. There have been many times where I’ve given up doing something I’d planned on in order to spend time with Mary at a moment’s notice. I’ve dedicated entire days to spending time with her when she called upon me, without ever asking or expecting or receiving the same from her. And I have no doubt in my mind that she would not do the same for me.
Sounds horrible, right?
But here’s why.
I do not believe that Mary would drop everything at a moment’s notice if I called upon her because she’s too swept up in her own life to be able to legitimately make time for anyone else. I don’t doubt that she unconditionally loves her children. I don’t doubt that she’s devoted to Rick. I don’t doubt that she loves her friends. But, right now, her biggest priority is herself. Because she runs her life (children included) on her schedule. Her children get up when she decides they should (even though they’ve been up countless times through the night for changes and feedings), they eat when she decides (even though an infant needs to be on an at least semi-consistent eating schedule), they play when she decides, and they nap when she decides. She does things when it’s convenient for her, with no regard to when it’s convenient or necessary for anyone else. Including when she’s pregnant. She will ignore us for nearly an entire year, then expects us to jump up and rush over when she wants to hang out. I’m sorry, but I do not operate that way, and neither do Julie or Andrea. We have demanding lives. We do not have the luxury of staying at home all day waiting for an invitation. We have responsibilities and expectations placed upon us that we have to live up to. Do we have it any easier or harder than she does? No. We’re just more responsible than she is. We understand that there will be consequences to our actions. We know that if we forego even two hours of sleep at night, we’ll pay for it all day tomorrow. We know that if we don’t go to work today, we won’t be able to pay our bills in a week. We know that if we don’t fulfill our daily responsibilities, the consequences will be severe. And Julie, Andrea, and myself have only ourselves to rely on. We don’t have live-in boyfriends who’s paychecks pay the bills. We don’t have bosses who will make excuses for us and find last-minute coverage for a shift we’ve been scheduled for for a month. We don’t get to use the excuse of our child being sick to miss a day of work. We understand that, in order to function and survive in the adult world, we must work our asses off and only rely on ourselves to make sure everything that needs done gets done. We don’t believe in slacking off just because we don’t feel like doing anything today. We work first, play later. We won’t make unnecessary exceptions like staying out (or up) late on a work night, or spending just ten more dollars than usual when we’re on a budget. No, we go to bed at a certain time at night, we show up to work, we do our jobs, and we plan, meticulously, every single minute of our lives. Personally, I schedule all of my important errands on my days off. Doctor’s appointments, personal errands, grocery shopping, et cetera, only happen on my scheduled days off so that nothing interferes with my ability to show up to work, every day, on time, and do my absolute best while I’m there. If I deviate from my schedule even the tiniest bit, there’s hell to pay. If I lose an hour of sleep, I’m useless the next day. If I overspend by ten dollars, my budget is thrown off. If I miss a part of my routine, I’m done. As adults, we accept the expectations placed upon us, and strive to meet them. Mary doesn’t. She flies by the seat of her pants on a daily basis, and resents when her friends can’t do the same. She doesn’t understand the basics of being a responsible adult.
I’m constantly battling myself when it comes to Mary. On one hand, I don’t want to hurt her feelings or have her be upset with me. On the other, I can’t bring myself to be firm or even the slightest bit bitchy in order to get my point across to her, because I know she will take it very personally. I’m at a loss. My only solution thus far is to just ignore her until she sends one final pity-party text, and then delete the text without reading it. (If the reminder’s not there, it doesn’t make me feel bad.) I feel bad ignoring her, and I don’t like knowing that her feelings are hurt, but that’s the only way to shut her up, for lack of a better term. That’s the only way she’ll stop: if you ignore her. And I don’t like doing that. I don’t like ignoring my friends, even when they’re aggravating me. But I can’t find a way to let her know, in no uncertain terms, in a kind way that won’t hurt her feelings, that I just cannot submit to her schedule whenever she wants me to. I can’t find a way to make her understand that her schedule does not sync up with mine on a day-to-day basis. I cannot hang out at the drop of a hat anymore. Plus, I’m not a spontaneous person, anyway, so texting me five minutes before showing up at my door will not get me out of my house or my pajamas. I’m not a last-minute person. I do not do last-minute things. I plan ahead for almost everything I do. If I need to go grocery shopping, I look at my schedule and see when I can fit it in. If I need to go to the doctor, I look at my schedule. If I need to go to the bank, I look at my schedule. If a friend wants to go to dinner, we look at our schedules. If I want a “lazy day” spent on the sofa in my pajamas with Dr. Who, I look at my schedule and see when I can fit it in. I never do anything “in the spur of the moment.” Texting me at five o’clock and asking me to meet you at five after will not work, I will not show up at five after, if at all. Because it will not jive with my schedule. And I schedule constantly.
I’m not saying that anyone needs an appointment in order to spend time with me, not by any means. I’m simply saying that I need more than ten minutes’ notice. Especially if you want me to leave my house. Nine times out of ten, after I get home from work, I’m not planning to leave home again until I have to go back to work. And I try to have alone time as much as I can (within reason) because it’s so rare that I can have alone time anymore.
I’m a self-professed homebody. I like being home. No, I love being home. I love having a day when I have absolutely no commitments, and I love it when I can spend those days doing absolutely nothing, home alone, on the sofa, watching Dr.Who marathons, eating popcorn, ignoring the world. And I hate it when those days are interrupted by someone expecting me to leave the sofa for their own entertainment. I am not here to entertain you. I am not here to bend to your will or jump up at your call. I don’t expect anyone to do that for me. What I do expect is for people to respect my time, needs, and wants, the same way I respect theirs.
I’m not willing to sacrifice a friendship in the name of sleep, but I’m not willing to sacrifice sleep in the name of friendship, either. It’s an odd, almost hypocritical statement, but it’s where I’m at. I just don’t know what to do about it. Advice? Anyone? And please don’t make me leave the sofa. It’s the van Gogh episode of Dr. Who.
I’ve had a pretty lazy day today. And right now, the only negative thing about it is the fact that my mind runs rampant on days like this, and it tends to bring up things that piss me off. Be it an old memory or a new worry, it will always be something that puts me in a bad mood. Today, it was the memories of being mercilessly bullied in elementary and middle school.
My family moved after the end of my first grade year. In September, I started at a new school I’ll call St. Prep. The location was convenient, just down the hill from our house, so I could walk to and from with no problem. And I was looking forward to making tons of new friends. I had gone to Catholic school for kindergarten and first grade and had had no problems making friends there, so I figured it would be just as easy at St. Prep. I was proved so wrong so fast. While I did get along with mostly everyone, I soon found out that even the ones who I “got along with” were talking shit on me behind my back. See, St. Prep is a private school which is primarily attended by the children of doctors and lawyers. I was not the child of a doctor or lawyer. I was the child of a truck driver and a homemaker/day-care lady (kinda–my mom worked in the day-care program at the school, and also was the preschool assistant.) I also was a heavy kid, so I immediately had two strikes against me. The third strike was the fact that I was new. But mostly it was the fact that I was heavier than everyone else. They latched onto that fact quicker than a newborn to a nipple. And they used it to torment me incessantly. My first nickname from them was Flubber. They thought it was hilarious. And when they weren’t busy making fun of me for my weight, they had a plethora of other ways to make me miserable. They loved excluding me from things. One of them would invite me to sit with them at lunch, then, when I’d walk up to the table, they’d crowd me out and insist there was nowhere for me to sit, and would proceed to talk about me while I sat alone at another table. One time, they all took turns spitting on a Reese Cup and then gave it to me to eat. Once I discovered what they’d done, I’d already taken a bite, and they erupted in laughter. They made any fat joke they could think of and threw it at me until I went home. I had books thrown at me, I was spit on, kicked, hit, they threw balls and other toys at me, stole my things because they knew I wouldn’t do anything, accused me of stealing their things, and accused me of things I hadn’t even done, pointed out every mistake I made and used it against me, all for the sake of their entertainment. They made me absolutely miserable for six years of my life, destroyed any self-confidence I may have ever had, and shoved me into a very deep depression. It didn’t take long for me to buy into their lies about me, that I was worthless and stupid because I was fat, I didn’t matter, and that I deserved nothing more than to be tormented at all hours of the day. It was a serious wake up call for me when I started hanging out with people who actually appreciated me and recognized that I was an actual person and not a stupid hunk of fat. I had no idea what to do, I didn’t know how to act or what to say. I was literally stunned. The first time a person my age asked me, “How are you?” I stared at them for five minutes trying to determine if they really wanted to know or if it was just a precursor to more torment.
During high school, I was able to adapt to this new way of life, of being appreciated by my peers, and was able to push the nasty memories of St. Prep’s out of my mind. I didn’t forget them, but I didn’t dwell on them, and really haven’t since. I’ve been able to move on, gain back my self-confidence little by little, and have been working my way out of the depression that’s lasted for sixteen years. A lot of the damage they did was permanent, however. For example, I still do not feel comfortable walking across a room, no matter how crowded, because I’m still afraid everyone is looking at me, judging me, and making fun of me. I am still horribly self-conscious about my weight, even though I’m working to lose it, and I still have difficulty trusting anyone’s sincerity, even after they’ve proven themselves trustworthy time and time again. These are things I think I’m going to have to work on for the rest of my life, thanks to those pathetic assholes.
But tonight, for whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about it almost nonstop. Memories of all the shit they did to me just kept coming and coming and coming and wouldn’t stop for anything. By no means was I sitting here feeling sorry for myself. No, instead I was sitting here getting more and more pissed off by all of it. Pissed off at myself for relying on unreliable teachers to put a stop to it, pissed at myself for not putting a stop to it myself, and pissed off that those pretentious bastards thought that it was their God-given right to ruin my life. But mostly, it was the fact that, after sixteen years, they’re pissed at me for still being upset about it.
You read that right. They’re pissed at me for being angry at them for making my life a living hell for eight years.
Last year, one of them got in contact with me and wanted to know if I wanted to plan and/or attend a ten-year reunion. Without even thinking about it, I said no. They all wanted to know why, and I thought about just saying that I plain didn’t want to, but then I thought, “Well, what the hell can they do to me now?” and I told them the real reason. I wrote back, “Why would I want to plan a party for the people who made my life absolutely unbearable for eight years? Why would I want to spend any more time with any of you after all the shit you did to me? I’m not interested in playing nice for the sake of…what? Your happiness? Just to appease all of you? I have no desire to see any of you again. I have no desire to make nice. And I certainly have no desire to do anything remotely nice for any of you. I don’t owe you shit. I’m not interested in planning or attending this reunion.”
What I got back pissed me off more than anything else in my entire life.
“Get over yourself. I can’t believe that you’re still not over that. We were kids, we didn’t mean it. Grow up and get over it, for Christ’s sakes.”
What in the ever-loving fuck?
Not being able to control my anger, I, of course, responded.
“Are you fucking kidding me? You don’t get to belittle this. You don’t get to tell me how I should feel about it. You don’t get to tell me to ‘get over myself, grow up and get over it.’ You made my life a living hell for eight years. You fucking tortured me every single day for eight years of my life. You made me absolutely miserable, to the point where I hated myself. You made me believe that I was totally worthless, stupid, and a waste of space. You don’t get to tell me that it was nothing and you didn’t mean it. You sure as fuck meant it back then. You destroyed me, you destroyed my life. So, no, you don’t get to tell me that I’m essentially making something out of nothing. No fucking way. I deserve to still be pissed at all of you, I deserve to not ‘get over it,’ I deserve to get to make you realize how fucking horrible of a person you were, and obviously still are. You all are pathetic, insipid idiots. Who in the fuck do you think you are, making someone unbearably miserable and then telling them they’re wrong for being upset about it? Who fucking told you you were allowed to make someone so miserable? I’m not sorry for being pissed. I’m not sorry for not coming to your reunion. I’m not sorry for not wanting to ever see you again. And I’m not sorry that I’m not over it. I don’t plan to get over it. I just plan to forget any of you every existed. None of you matter to me, just like I didn’t matter to you. You were perfectly happy to ignore the fact that I was a living, breathing human being with a personality and fucking feelings and instead focus on whether or not Mary* liked you. You were too worried about what she’d say about you if you were nice to me, and not worried enough about how you made me feel. Not that I ever expected any of you to consider me or my feelings in the slightest for anything. So, no, I’m not planning this party, and I’m not coming to this party. Have fun spending time with some of the worst people on earth. I hope you’re all happy talking shit about each other behind your backs while you’re ‘reminiscing.’ I know none of you have changed. And, like I said back in eighth grade when you talked shit about me, ‘If you mattered to me, that might hurt my feelings. But you don’t.’ I wish you all the shit that you dumped on me, and then some. Don’t ever fucking contact me again.”
I can confidently say that karma is getting the best of them nowadays. My greatest tormentor was sent out of state because her family couldn’t put up with her illegal shit, and she ended up doing time in North Carolina. Another is currently under investigation for fooling around with a few of his students. Another has been thrown out of her home, is broke, unemployed, and an addict. My life has turned out exponentially better than all of theirs. I have a loving, supportive family who would never consider abandoning me, I have a stable job, I’ve never been involved with drugs, and I still have my self-respect in spite of them. As I’ve said before, I’m not the way I am because of them, I’m the way I am in spite of them. All they did was show me how truly miserable people can be. They showed me the kind of people to stay far, far away from.
Today, if I see one of them in public and they have the balls to approach me, I immediately snub them. I turn and walk the other way. Not because I’m afraid, but because I simply don’t have the time, want, or need to put up with anymore of their bullshit. I know that anything they could possibly want to say to me will be complete and total fake-ass shit. I’m not interested. I will happily go on living without them. I will never talk to any of them again, and I will be content and I won’t have any regrets. I won’t waste anymore time thinking about them because, frankly, they’re not worth it.
For those of you who don’t know or haven’t been able to guess, I am a huge history buff. My biggest history passions are the Tudor Era and the Victorian Era, along with Celtic history. Unfortunately, around these parts, we don’t have any Victorian-themed attractions, but we do have a pretty great Renaissance Faire.
At least twice a year, I make the nearly four-hour drive from my home to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in the Lancaster area. Once in June for the Celtic Fling and Highland Games, and once in the fall months for the actual Renaissance Faire. We went this past Saturday for Wine Harvest Weekend, because one of our favorite bands was playing. Other than it being hotter than balls that day, we had a wonderful time, as always.
For those of you who think Renaissance Faires are boring and a waste of time and money, let me set the record straight for you. Renaissance Faires are anything but boring and a waste of time and money. Even if you’re not into history at all, you will have a good time. There seems to be quite a big misconception regarding Renaissance Faires, and it’s that they are poorly executed re-enactments of a “boring” period of history. They’re dirty, smelly, dumb, expensive, and stupid. Just a bunch of makeshift costumes and tents and nothing exciting happens at all. Well, for those of who you think that, you’re dead wrong. Granted, there are some Renaissance Faires that are less than exceptional. A lot of them are poorly financed, and therefore poorly executed, and are just a bunch of tents set up in the middle of a field, with people milling about in homemade costumes. But the trick is to find a good faire to go to before judging.
The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is not one of those poorly executed faires. Not even close. It is not just a bunch of tents in the middle of a field. It is a permanent structure on the grounds of the Mount Hope Estate and Winery. All of the buildings on site are permanent, and very well crafted. It is a reconstruction of a Renaissance Era village, complete with the Globe Stage and a jousting field. Nothing about this place is “cheaply done.” It’s all considerably elaborate, and true to history, from the costumes to the architecture. They have a winery and brewery on site, as well, so the wines and beers you have are fresh and local. Nothing is old or stale.
In addition to the excellent setting, they have a full cast of actors who are involved in every aspect of the day, whether it be a group of actors putting on a Shakespeare play at the Globe, or a cast member walking around stealing bites of your food and insisting he’s making sure it’s not poisoned, or some standing on the bridge and snarkily (mis)guiding people through the maze. There are hundreds of cast members just walking around, interacting with guests at all times. And the queen roams around, as well, talking with different people and participating in the day’s events. There’s so much interaction between the cast members and guests, at times, it’s hard to tell who’s a cast member and who’s not. They are all so in character and committed to their roles, it really does feel like it’s the 16th century.
They also have so much stuff for sale. And not just dinky, kitschy little knick knacks or toys. They have everything. Seriously. Wine and beer, moccasins, period costumes, pewter works, fairy stuff, music, t-shirts, bumper stickers, keychains, bottle openers, games, toys, jewelry, art, weaponry, books, notebooks, food, food, food, dragons, parasols, boots, sandals, fans, hats, and so much more than I can remember right now. And they always, always, always have performers from all over the world. They have their cast-performed shows, which range from magic to acrobatics to comedies, dramas, Shakespeares, and they have musical acts, like Albannach, who were there this past weekend, and Circa Paleo, The Gothard Sisters, and so on, and acts who are there for just a few weeks at a time. Last month they had an act called MudFaeries (I think!) who specialized in mud sculptures. One of my favorite cast acts is the Duo of Woo. It’s an adult show, and it centers around the MacManly brothers, Brodie and Schmitty, who are from a family of Sword Masters and Woo Masters Extraordinaire, and they continue the family tradition of wooing women and teaching men how to master their swords..and swords. Hysterical.
No matter what time of year you go, you always feel welcome. The cast and staff members do their best to include everyone in everything, all day long. Even after a long day of traipsing around the grounds in heavy, layered wool and cotton costumes in hotter-than-hell weather, they all participate in the day’s final event, the Joust, and they’re just as enthusiastic then as they were when the gates opened. They spare no expense, even emotional, to make sure that everyone feels welcome and appreciated. The cast members acknowledge every person, and according to rank. If you’re dressed in a big, fancy costume, you will be addressed as Milord or Milady. If you’re dressed as a pirate, all pirates will fawn over you. If you’re dressed as a peasant or anything else, you will be addressed accordingly. They really go above and beyond. (Plus, you get a discount if you’re in costume!)
Even though this isn’t really on topic, I just have to say that I absolutely adore their queen, played by Jessica Eppler. I think she is just perfect for the role. She’s so sweet with the children, and has a wonderful sense of humor, and is very gracious and gentle all around, and I hope they never let her quit or take her out of the role of Queen Elizabeth. She is just marvelous, and I love her.
While we were there this weekend, Andrea and I were taking a break on the bench at the Scriptorium and I said, “It doesn’t really feel like we ever left here after the Fling, does it?” She agreed, and I said, “What can we say? It’s home.”
I’ve been sitting here since about three this afternoon, trying to think of the right things to say about today being the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death. I wanted to create a wonderful, touching memorial for him, and for my family. But I just can’t think of what the right things might be. How do you glamorize something like this? You don’t. So, I’m not going to. I haven’t seen, spoken to, or spent any time with my Papa for a year. I miss him so much that it hurts, every minute of every day. I would like you all to keep my family in your prayers, as this really hasn’t gotten any easier for us through the past twelve months. Especially keep my grandmother in mind. This is exceptionally difficult for her. We weren’t ready to lose him. But then again, we never would have been, no matter how long he had stayed with us. I believe he stayed for the right amount of time, and he left when he felt we no longer needed him. He is loved and missed by his family and friends, and we will never forget him.
There is someone
Walking behind you,
turn around, look at me.
There is someone
Watching your footsteps,
turn around, look at me.
There is someone
Says they loves you,
Here’s my heart, in my hand
Turn around, look at me, understand.
There is someone
Standing beside you,
Turn around (turn around),
Look at me (look at me).
There is someone
To love and guide you,
Turn around (turn around),
Look at me (look at me).
I’ll be waiting
for now and forever
for you, to come to me.
Turn around, look at me,
turn around, look at me.
I’ll be waiting
For now and forever
For you to come to me.
Turn around, look at me,
Turn around (turn around), look at me.
James Roger Logue, Jr.
March 9, 1936-September 27, 2012
On this day every year, for the past eleven years, I’ve been compelled to create a memorial to all those who lost their lives during the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia on September 11, 2001. And every year, for most of the day, I’m at a loss for words. Every year, it’s a little harder to find the right words to say, and it doesn’t ever seem to be easier to move on. I usually am staring at my television, while documentaries and shows about the attacks play, a million thoughts running through my mind. I can’t ever let this day go ignored. I can’t ever forget what happened, or how I felt this day twelve years ago. I can’t unsee or unhear or unfeel any of it. It’s all there, as fresh as it was the day it all happened. And, in a sense, I think we all relive it every September 11th. We all feel those emotions again, even though it is just a “distant” memory.
Today, I found myself in that exact same spot: staring at the TV, not really watching it, and just experiencing it all over again. Feeling the fear, the doubt, the horror, seeing the towers burning, then falling. Hearing the screams, cries, pleas for help. I see people jumping from the towers because it seemed like a better option than staying inside. I swear I can feel the ground shake when I see the South Tower fall, and again when the North Tower falls. It’s all still very real. But today, I let myself be carried away by my thoughts instead of just watching them go by, and I was suddenly reminded of not that Tuesday morning, but Wednesday morning instead, when I, you, we woke up in a completely different world. Nothing was the same, nor would it ever be the same. We woke up in a world with three thousand less people, and two less buildings in the New York skyline. We woke up in a world that was in need of comfort, safety, freedom from fear. We woke up to a world that was now missing those things. We suddenly knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there were people out there who hated our country enough that they wanted to destroy us. We knew that they had tried to once already, and there was a good chance they’d try again. We were sent a message of pure evil and hatred that surpassed any insult or threat anyone could have ever thrown at us. We were a damaged people, a damaged country.
We lived in a world, suddenly, that we were afraid of.
In those 102 minutes, all of our lives changed drastically. We were, for the first time for many, afraid. Afraid of what today would bring, of what tomorrow would bring, and the day after, and the day after. We cowered in fear when we heard a low-flying plane. We were afraid to walk out our own front doors because who knew what was coming? I remember very distinctly the feeling of, “What now?” We had just been viciously, brutally attacked, our people, innocent people, had died horrible, gruesome, unwarranted deaths. How were we supposed to pick up and move forward? How were we supposed to rise from the ashes? How would the world ever come back from this? How would we, as a country, as a people, ever get past this? What now?
I remember wondering if anything was going to return to normal. As a naive eleven-year-old, I still believed that, even when bad things happened, it would all go back to the way it used to be. I knew, deep down, that nothing would ever be the same. That day would live on in infamy. We were robbed of so many things in those minutes. But I still thought that, perhaps, the routine would come back. Life was going to be normal again for everyone at some point. It’s hard to describe my feelings from that day. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what those feelings even were. It wasn’t just sadness or fear or confusion. It was a mixture of every single negative feeling a human being could feel. A mess of negative emotions, flying around in my head, bouncing off the walls. I couldn’t focus on just one; I felt all of them at once. I’m sure we all did.
I remember a lot of news coverage about New York City, and would it ever be the same again. Would the city ever come back from this? The greatest city in the world, forced to her knees in just over an hour, how would she ever be able to stand up again? What would any of us do to make it right, make it better, make it easier for each other, with this threat now looming above us in the wake of this crushing tragedy? How would we be able to live in a world filled with so much doubt? How could we cope with this when there were thousands of “Missing” posters lining the streets of the city, thousands of husbands and wives searching for their spouses, children searching for their parents? How could we possibly ever be at peace again?
We had had no choice on that day but to stand and watch, helpless, as our homeland came under fire. We were powerless to stop it. Many tried, valiantly, to stop it. Many did all they could to help. People like Betty Ong, a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane that hit the North Tower. She ignored all protocol and training, and used the phone to call air control and alert them of the situation. Because of her, we knew, for certain, that it was a terrorist attack, and not just an accident. But all the rest of us could do was watch.
But I believe our helplessness on Tuesday fueled our determination and ambition on Wednesday.
The very next day, we started fighting back. I don’t mean we invaded a country, hell-bent on revenge to whomever did this. I mean we declared war on terror, in the sense that we were letting them know we weren’t going to take it. We weren’t about to let this knock us down. We are America. We are strong. We are united.
We leapt into action immediately. We started the process of healing. We fought as hard as we could through the pain and heartache, and we came together as a nation, as a people, and decided, “No, we’re not done. We’re not going to be afraid,” and we got to work. And we did not blame ourselves. Not once did I ever hear anyone say that the attacks were our fault. We knew who was responsible, we knew who was to blame, and we fought against them. We knew that this attack was unwarranted, uncalled for. We knew it was a man on a power-trip, flexing his muscles. He wanted to show his people what he could do. He destroyed us for his own personal gain. But, instead of focusing solely on him, on what he did, we focused on each other. We hugged tighter, we kissed longer, we helped often, we said, “I love you” a million times a day. We made sure we were all okay. That was the question I remember hearing most, “Are you okay?” We had all experienced this loss, every single one of us, and we were all, in some way, affected by it. We all had this gaping hole in our hearts, and we all needed each other. And we recognized that.
I have no idea exactly how much of what was donated in the days, weeks, months, years following September 11. I don’t know how many units of blood, how many dollars, how many hours, how many people, how much food were given. All I know, all I need to know, is that they were. We all gave, we all helped, we all donated, and never asked for anything in return. We were America, and we were not afraid to stand up and show it.
It’s still hard to believe that it’s been twelve years. Twelve years since I was sitting in my classroom, watching it all on TV, twelve years since, at the age of eleven, I told my mother I wanted to go donate blood because it might save someone’s life, twelve years since I experienced the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Twelve years since the world changed. Twelve years since a husband saw his wife, a boy saw his dad, and brother saw his sister. Twelve years of painfully remembering all those who were lost, no matter how heroically they fought. Twelve years I’ve had my bag of dust.
We’ve come so far since that day we were stripped of our sense of freedom, because, sooner than we expected, our fear was replaced, gloriously and necessarily, with the hope we had lost in those 102 minutes. Our nation found hope buried under the rubble, and we’ve held onto it tightly, cherishing it, every moment since.
I had the privilege of going to the 9/11 Memorial this past April, and believe me when I say it was a poignant, humbling experience for me. After twelve years, I had finally made it to see the Twin Towers, just like my dad had promised I would. Only, the Twin Towers weren’t there. There were no buildings at One and Two World Trade Center anymore. But, there wasn’t nothing, either. It was there, cradled in the saddest, most worn, most scarred part of the city that I found it, etched on those panels, flowing in that water, swirling in the air. The strength of a nation, the indestructible might that is our will to survive: HOPE.
I’d like to end with a quote from Jon Stewart, when his show resumed nine days after the attacks.
The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center. And now it’s gone. And they attacked it. This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.
Although, the more I think about it, the less it seems like high school drama, and more just like adults being cowardly asshats who can’t put aside their own pride and fear to do what’s right.
Here’s what happened.
Labor Day weekend there’s a church festival that my family has gone to for years. With the passing of my grandfather last September, my mother and grandfather had no want or need to go to the festival (it was my grandfather’s thing). I was still planning to go because the food is amazing. Anyway. Mom and Amma decided against going. No big deal. But we need to back up a little bit. About two months.
July 4th. Mom and Amma declined going to the 4th party at my great aunt’s. No surprise. They both have been looking for an excuse not to go for years. My uncle and aunt, Bob and Laura, who I’ve spoken about before, were there as usual, and I only crossed paths with them briefly. Laura asked me where Amma was, and I told her she was at home.
“She didn’t feel up to it?” she asked.
“No, not really. She’s tired and it’s way too hot for her. She’d rather stay in with her air conditioning and her Kindle.”
“That’s too bad,” she said. ”Sam was really looking forward to seeing her.” Sam is her 12-year-old son.
And that was really it. Bob I don’t think spoke to me at all. I didn’t mind too much, honestly. He’s never had anything interesting to say, anyway. The next day, Laura brought the kids, Sam and 10-year-old Rhonda, to the house to see Amma. I was sleeping while they were there because I had to work an overnight that night, so I missed the whole visit. Laura sat in the kitchen and talked to Amma while Sam and Rhonda went over to the neighbor’s house to visit them. I don’t remember exactly what the conversation was about before it segued in an interesting way. Basically, my grandmother wanted to know what the fuck Bob’s problem with her was, because he hadn’t actually spoken to his mother in over a year. Laura explained that Bob was feeling “ousted.” When my mother and stepdad moved in with Amma and Papa, Bob found that he was not called on as often by his father to help with things because my stepdad was there already taking care of things. Bob decided that Ken must have been the new favorite, bumping him from that spot. Is it understanadable? Yes, absolutely. I have found myself in similar situations. Is it petty? Yes, it is. Because, instead of calling his parents or making an effort to be “included,” Bob just sat around feeling sorry for himself and holding grudges against Amma, Papa, and Ken. Like a mature adult.
Amma listened to Laura’s spiel, and answered with, “So, you’re telling me he’s mad that he’s not the favorite? He’s never around, and he hasn’t been for years! He’s the one that ruined his relationship with Jimmie. He was not reliable. He would call Jimmie and tell him he was coming up for hunting, or this, or that, and then he’d never show, and Jimmie would be left sitting here waiting for him, and his feelings would get hurt. Bob couldn’t possibly have expected his dad to wait around forever and be fine with it. And plus, Ken and Chris are the ones who are here, and they’ve always been reliable and responsible. I don’t have to ask them twenty times to do something. I ask, and it gets done without a question. And so what if Chris is my favorite? I’m so sick of having to defend myself for that. She’s the one who stuck around, along with Baby. They’re the ones who’ve always been here, and have always helped me, and Jimmie, without hesitation. If they say they’re going to do something, they do it. Yes, they are my favorites, and if Bob can’t accept that, then too damn bad. I’m not here to make his life easy. I’m not here to make sure his feelings aren’t hurt.”
Basically, Amma laid it all out on the table. I don’t know what Laura’s response to any of it was, and I really don’t care. It doesn’t matter.
After a few hours, Laura and Rhonda went home, leaving Sam at the neighbor’s house. Bob was going to come pick him up when he left. A while later, Ken said he saw Sam running up the street, and then we saw hide nor hair of him, and didn’t even think about it until later that night, when Amma asked, “Where is Sam?” Ken told her he’d seen him running up the street hours ago, and we concluded that Bob had picked him up at the end of the street. Never once did Bob set foot in the house.
Labor Day weekend, Andrea and I were on our way to the festival, and Amma said, “I wonder if Bob and Laura are there? If you see them, let me know.”
So, we got up to the festival, and, sure enough, I saw Sam and Rhonda while we were in line for food. We got our food and headed to the beer tent, and saw Bob and Laura. Neither one of them acknowledged me. We ate our food, then decided to walk around a little bit. Saw Bob. He made sure that he was on the opposite side of the parking lot at all times. When we moved to one side, he moved to the other. So I know he saw me. After a while, we left and went back to the house, and discovered that Sam had come down to see Amma. They were sitting at the kitchen table talking. Andrea and I soon left to go have a few drinks and play pool with Mom at the Pulaski Club. When we got back, Sam was gone. And that was it. Amma said Bob had called Sam and picked him up at the end of the street again.
On Saturday, Mom and I took a trip up to Salamanca, and when we got back, Amma was outside talking to the neighbor, Franny. After a while, she came inside, looking as appalled and insulted as ever. She said that Franny told her that, Labor Day weekend, Bob and Laura had taken the kids to Franny’s house, and they sat there for a few hours, drinking coffee and chatting. Right next door. Not a single one of them, save for Sam, even bothered to let Amma know they were in town, and only Sam actually came over to the house. Bob didn’t have the decency or balls to acknowledge his mother. If that’s not the biggest slap in the face to a mother, I don’t know what is.
While I am livid about this, my biggest question is, what is the point Bob’s trying to make? What’s his goal? What is he hoping to accomplish by avoiding his mother like that? Is he trying to insult her? Make her feel bad? Make her pay for something? Does he think he needs to punish her for revealing that he’s not the favorite (something the rest of the family has known for years)? And why? Why does he think it’s up to him?
I’ve tried to stay relatively neutral when it comes to family drama, no matter what “side” I team up with. While I don’t agree with everything each member of my family does, I try not to be cold and rude and shit to them when they’re around. Despite Bob and Laura’s ridiculousness, when they’re around, I’m pleasant and civil with them. I don’t blatantly ignore them, or anyone else. Maybe it’s because I’m too chickenshit to say something to their face, or afraid their opinion of me will change. Maybe it’s because I don’t think treating people badly is ever acceptable. Whatever the reason, I can hold a grudge but still be nice. I never show my cards when it comes to that stuff. But this is just ludicrous. Going out of your way to insult somebody, and for what?
I wish my family could all just get along. I wish they weren’t so fucking entitled. My grandparents did a phenomenal job raising all of their five children. They worked their asses off for over thirty years, making sure they were all taken care of, raised with class, respect, and dignity, but not entitlement or arrogance. They did raise their children by handing them everything. They did not raise them to be slobs or moochers or freeloaders. Unfortunately, not all of them got that memo. Two of them, and I’m sorry to say this, are just that: entitled, arrogant, lazy, slobs. They feel everything should be handed to them, that they shouldn’t have to work for anything. One of them has made living off of welfare and assistance a career. Sure, this one has a master’s in education, (a degree that they didn’t pay a penny out of pocket for because they’re just that good at working the system) who has three children of their own, abused all of them, and now has a slew of foster children for more assistance money. The other one is Bob, who is married, has four children, two grown and in their thirties, has a job in a major city that doesn’t pay very well, (and if it does, you’d never know it because they’re always “broke”), and thinks, still, that, as the oldest son, he should be a favorite. And these two are thick as thieves. They both feel that they were raised in the most horrible environment, in the most horrible way, by the worst parents ever. Why? Because their parents commanded respect, disciplined their children, and had high expectations for them all their lives. Not ridiculous expectations, but realistic expectations. Expectations like helping to bring in the groceries and put them away, clean up your messes, do your chores, do well in school, treat others kindly, respect your elders, obey your fucking parents. These two felt that the only reason their parents had children was to lighten their load. Child labor, basically. They think their parents had children so that they could make the kids do all the housework. What they fail to realize is that, while they were children, Amma and Papa were busting their asses behind the scenes to make sure their children had everything they needed and wanted. Papa sold insurance, working at least a hundred hours a week. Amma kept up appearances for forty plus years, for everyone. She cleaned the house all day every day. She told me that she used to vacuum the entire house three times a day. Really, with five kids, how could you not? She did all the housework, and solicited help from her children whenever she could. She was tired, dammit. She did all the shopping, all the laundry, all the cleaning, all the cooking, all the domestic stuff. Papa was never a help in any of those areas. Typical man. But I can’t fault him for it. He worked with difficult people in a difficult business in a difficult environment for decades. He was damned tired, too. But neither one of them ever complained about it. They had an impenetrable sense of duty to their family, and their way of life. And by the end of it all, Papa was making well over $100,000 a year, and their family was one of the most well-known and most respected families in the area. None of those kids ever wanted for anything. None of them were ever in need for anything. But the fact that they were expected to vacuum one room a day to earn five dollars was absolutely incomprehensible to two of them. Why should they be made to work for five measly dollars? Or anything at all? They had much more important things to do than wash windows. Like go out and get drunk or go on a date with someone they knew their parents would absolutely hate (and then subsequently marry them.) To this day, neither of them seem to appreciate anything their parents ever did for them. They resent their parents for everything they didn’t do, instead. They can’t see that they had the best upbringing possible. Rather, they refuse to recognize it. I think they’re both well aware of that, but refuse to acknowledge it, because they’d then have to recant and apologize for being such fucking assholes to their parents. I had hoped, in a way, that Papa’s death would be a wake-up call for them. But, instead, it only created a wider chasm. The way I understand it, the oldest child hasn’t called Amma since Papa’s death. And Bob hasn’t called or seen her since then, either.
All weekend, Amma was trying to figure out exactly why Bob’s stunt was bothering her so much. She tried to determine why she was so insulted by his decision to go to the neighbor’s for hours, and not even acknowledge her. She’s made it known that, while she loves him as her son, she really doesn’t care for him as a person. She always finds herself more annoyed and upset than happy when he comes to visit. But, still, this stunt really bothered her. But why?
“I don’t know why it upsets me so much,” she said.
“Because it was a dick move,” Ken said.
“Because it was supposed to,” Mom said. ”It was a hell of a slap in the face.”
And it was. It was a dick move that was designed to prove a point and hurt her feelings. Mission accomplished.
But then again, maybe not.
See, Amma’s the kind of woman that I am. We have things that, at first, really hurt our feelings, and we dwell on them for days. But, after those few days, we realize that it was just a scheme intended to hurt our feelings. And then we put the wall up. The grudge forms. The slight is never forgotten. And no matter what you may do to try and mend the bond, it’s not gonna happen. When you screw us over, you screw yourself over, because you lose an ally, a friend, a family member. So, Bob, you wanted to hurt your mother’s feelings? You did. But you also just fucked yourself over in the worst possible way, because I don’t think you’ll ever have another shot with her. Enjoy your victory.