Erin and I were discussing our head-over-heelsiest pre-high school crushes, and I realized that apparently I’ve been Babysitters Club #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey since birth. Actually, that’s not entirely true, because even when I was younger, I never flitted back and forth between liking a billion different boys: I would set my sights on one and remain steadfast and starry-eyed for a good amount of time, probably longer than was really healthy at that age. I was born to be someone’s true blue girl, evidently. This started as early as elementary school, which gave me pause once I actually sat down and inventoried my early crushes. I can see several patterns emerge that hold fast to this day, some eye-opening and some disturbing, but most of all I have to wonder, what the fuck kind of kindergartner is ready to settle down and get married, and what made me misplace that gene once I got old enough that people seriously started proposing?
Some names have been changed. Others, not so much.
Kindergarten: Boyd Kaiser. One time we both hid under Susan Parkinson’s bed at the same time while playing hide and seek and I remember being really aware that I was so close to him and listening to him breathe in that sort of panting way you breathe when you’re hiding and you suddenly need to pee. Boyd was very tall and polite, even for a five year old, and we shared a locker. One day he rebuffed Susan’s advances in front of me, albeit very gallantly, while we all stood on her back porch eating popsicles. I should look Boyd up.
First grade: Vic B. I’m not proud to admit this one, because Vic came from the most white trash family ever, and grew up to be the sort of kid who had a stutter beaten into him and his eyes would cross and glaze over while he cussed you out, but in first grade, he was cute and friendly and unaware of the horrors life held for him. Both of his parents had hair down to their waist and were that sort of ropy skinny you only saw in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. His mom was the only grown woman who ever managed to get thrown out of our neighborhood pool for life. This was a punishment typically reserved for middle school boys who would sneak in at night and throw the deck furniture into the deep end. Reality set in early for Vic, around about the second grade, and every morning we’d walk into the school building to hear his screams coming from the east wing, and his shirtless father screaming back and spanking him while he clung to the doorframe of Mrs. Klein’s room, refusing to go in until the last bell rang. Sometimes he’d throw his trapper keeper at passersby. We learned quickly to duck. I’m pretty sure Vic grew up to be Snake on the Simpsons. In fact, I was surprised when I googled his real name while writing this that no arrest records came up. One time I wrote him a letter and my mom helped me mail it.
Second grade: Scott F. I liked Scott until he started being really, really mean to me, and then I was just scared of him. Also, it became rapidly evident that something was a little off when he’d start shrieking unprovoked in the middle of class about how his brother hit him but HE DIDN’T CARE, HE LOVED HIS BROTHER, and then he’d run out of the room and out the front door and down the school steps and Mr. Wilcox would have to chase him and catch him. Yeah. However, he turned out fine, and once hit on me at a Me Head event when I was 23. He was very sweet and well-spoken. I didn’t ask about his brother, although I thought about it. I think he has a kid now.
Third grade: Brian Paschal. I developed a crush on my friend Brian, whom I’d known since birth, although our relationship had always been (and would always be) very sarcastic and competitive and brother/sisterly, like racing each other in cursive handwriting drills and being the leads in the sophomore class play. However, I showed an uncharacteristic display of smoothness in third grade by managing to spend extra time with him when I asked him to give me jump rope lessons. Brian was something of a jump rope virtuoso, able to do double dutch while on a pogo stick. His mother was friends with my mother, and she brought him over to my house every Wednesday after school, and we had the driveway all to ourselves while our moms talked inside. Nothing untoward happened of course, because we were EIGHT, and Brian remained one of my very best friends for the rest of my school years and past college. I didn’t admit my ulterior jump rope motives until junior year, and he thought it was hilarious. He’s now married to my old high school best friend Alex.
Fourth and fifth grade: Matt B. After two years of will-you-go-with-me-check-a-box-yes-or-no note passing, I finally agreed to be Matt’s girlfriend, thus launching a two year period of us virtually not speaking. He wasn’t especially cute at ten, but really smart and funny, and he could run a four minute and thirty second mile and had like seven sisters and was missing a thumb. Once he paid someone (Vic B., actually) a dollar to switch with him so he could be my partner when we were learning square dancing in gym. I recall staring demurely at the tape on the floor during this exchange and thinking it was very romantic.
Sixth grade: Tony Layne. He was cute and a very good artist, and one time he carved a pencil like a totem pole for me and I slept with it on my bedside table for weeks. Despite the pencil, he always acted like he didn’t notice me, even though I found out later that he told everyone at a Mollee Rider’s girl/boy party that if he HAD to pick a girl to like, it would PROBABLY be Sarah Brown, which, hello, is sixth grade boy for he dreamed of me every night. I remember that he could imitate George Washington’s signature and wanted an airbrush for Christmas. Also, his family had a pet goat. I bet he doesn’t even remember my name.
Somewhere my diary is crying.
I had an extremely varied weekend. I came home late Friday night and finally finished Lincoln, and I’m not ashamed to say that when he was shot, I started crying and had to put the book down for a minute. On Saturday I saw the boringest play ever in the history of history -- so boring that even the onstage nudity was dull and so boring that even my usual before-bed daydreams got old -- and my Saturday night was straight out of a Lifter Puller song, but I think the high point of it all was Saturday afternoon, when I bought the new Magnetic Fields album and a shiny blue fish that I named Bishop Desmond Tutu.
I chose Bishop Desmond Tutu because, unlike all the other fish, when I picked up his tiny jar, he stopped swimming and stared right back at me and his eyes plunged the depths of my soul and wrote my sins in the book of life with a gold-quilled pen. Also because he has a tiny scar on one side of his body, like he was in a cute little fish knife fight. Even now that he’s home, whenever I stop and look into his bowl, he stops and gazes back at me, no matter how long I stand there, which is a little uncanny, and also makes me want to abandon my original plan of just being detachedly amused by him and instead sort of love him, even though he’s a fish and will probably die in two weeks.
While I was holding Bishop Desmond Tutu on the train ride home yesterday, I sat next to a guy who looked like I had asked God to design just for me, and if there was ever a good and easy reason to strike up a conversation with a girl next to you on the train, it would be because she was holding the smartest fish in the world in her lap, but he didn’t say a word, so I’ve determined that Bishop Desmond Tutu is a truth serum, so I’m not going to patronize him by putting stupid shit like fake divers or treasure chests in his bowl. I mean, number one, we’re keeping it simple, and number two, the man won a Nobel Prize: let’s give him a little credit. However, calling him by his full name seems a little too formal for around the house -- “Grab me a beer, Bishop Desmond Tutu” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue -- so I’ll probably just call him Desmond. I have high hopes for Desmond, namely that he’ll start eating his food soon. We don’t cotton to eating disorders in this house.
Stream of consciousness post that makes no apologies yet comes full circle because I am magic.
Erin and I decided to combine my devotion to Abraham Lincoln and her passion for Gore Vidal and read Lincoln by Gore Vidal. I have 35 pages left and it’s quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read. It has made me tear up twice on the subway, once when his son Willie died and the other right before he gave the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s only deepened my love for Lincoln, and I keep hoping against hope that maybe this time he’ll somehow escape fate and not die at the end. I just pray I’m not on the train when it happens. The good part is that now I share Erin’s respect for Vidal, and we’ve made it our summer project to read all of his American Chronicles, starting next with Burr. This differs greatly from my last summer’s project, which was apparently to quit my job, drink a lot and kiss cute boys. Some people be thinking brothers same. This is wrong point.
There is only one person in the whole world who will get those last two sentences, but I left them there because I know they’ll make him laugh really hard, and also because lately I’m tired of how the rest of the world doesn’t live in my head and already know the inside jokes that have worked their way into my regular conversation rotation. For instance, for some reason I still remember verbatim a selection I mistranslated in eighth grade Spanish, which was, “We know that you all go to know that you cannot put understand how the people of Lima live with five tables of fog.” While everyone else went around the room saying their translation correctly, mine just got funnier and funnier to me, and now whenever I’m having a hard time understanding something, I say I cannot put understand!, which seems like a very tangible and sensible way of describing how unable to grasp something you are, but I forget that my close friends who know the story are the only ones who can put understand what the fuck I’m talking about. I’ve decided to quit explaining and let all of these phrases creep into my vocabulary unchecked, because the fact that everyone can’t just automatically scan my head with a wand and know all of my old inside jokes the minute I decide I like them makes me all bershon.
Bershon is something I’ve been meaning to write about for ages now. Bershon is a word that I’m pretty sure is not really a word at all, but Erin and I, growing up in two different cities, both encountered it separately in our youth, and when we discovered in the early stages of getting to know each other that we’d both heard it, it was like pouring cement on our friendship. Both of us heard it used in exactly the same manner, namely the cool girls in middle school rolling their eyes and saying, “… and Kayla said yes, and I was like, ohmyGOD, whatever, I’m SO BERSHON.” I was unclear at first, but by using contextual clues and in conferring with Erin, we’ve determined that the spirit of bershon is pretty much how you feel when you’re 13 and your parents make you wear a Christmas sweatshirt and then pose for a family picture, and you could not possibly summon one more ounce of disgust, but you’re also way too cool to really even DEAL with it, so you just make this face like you smelled something bad and sort of roll your eyes and seethe in a put-out manner. Kelly Taylor from Beverly Hills, 90210 is the patron saint of bershon, as her face, like most other teenagers’, was permanently frozen in this expression.
We even had plans to launch bershon.com way back in 2000, sort of akin to that mullet site, wherein everyone would send in pictures of themselves all bershon (everyone has one; it’s probably your eighth grade school picture) and we’d post them, but there was a great schism over the spelling (I’m of the bershon camp, while Erin is loyal to bershaun), and also there’s the fact that we’re both pretty lazy, so it has yet to happen. However, this doesn’t stop me from using the term all the time in regular conversation, because there really should be a word for that feeling, and bershon is almost onomatopoeic in its perfection. So from now on, I’m just saying fuck it and using all these personal phrases without any pauses or sidenotes, and if people cannot put understand what I’m talking about, they can either try to figure it out on their own like I did and keep up with the flow, or think I’m a doddering old man trapped in young woman’s body, which I probably am (see: summer reading project).
My old boyfriend and I were emailing back and forth today, and he ended one with, “Also hey what’s a cool gift I could bring back from Tulsa for my friend Nathan who is housesitting? When I went to Mexico I brought him a human skull,” to which I responded, “I cannot even deal with the other things you wrote about in that email right now because all I can think is WE DATED FOR FOUR YEARS AND YOU NEVER GAVE ME A HUMAN SKULL. Diamonds schmiamonds, man! I baked you lemon squares and was forthcoming with the oral and yet NO SKULLS, EVER, NOT EVEN A FAKE ONE.”
The upside of this revelation is that now I know what I want for my birthday.
(I would prefer it to be from a horse thief who was hanged and then John Wilkes Booth’s dad cut off the head and took the head home and boiled the flesh off of it and then used that skull everytime he played Hamlet, but I’m not picky.)*
*Totally true story!
I just got some spam with the subject line “Looking to find sex and not necessarily love? chx7xbbyxkxzch BOTULISM” which made me laugh out loud really hard, mostly because I imagined it sounding like someone changing stations on a radio.
I hadn’t heard thunder since before I moved here, and then I was in Tulsa all weekend and the weather had the gall to be sunny and breezy and 70 degrees the whole time, despite the thunderstorms and tornadoes it had been having for the past month straight, which is sort of like if you’re away in the war pining for your best girl back home, and she’s writing you these suggestive letters and it’s driving you crazy so you arrange this last-minute weekend leave and then she just spends the whole time sitting next to you on the porch swing drinking lemonade and talking about church and doesn’t even mention the letters, much less give it up. Then I come out of the subway today, and I’m trying to figure out what that sound is, and I realize it’s THUNDER and also there’s LIGHTNING, and I feel like I was just satisfied by someone who offered to love me long time, but it was so worth it.
Heart, banner, Mom
I am fairly certain that the only heart I’ve ever broken has been my mother’s, and I am more than fairly certain that I continue to break it on a daily basis. My mother is a born worrier, and then both my brother and I came along and gave her several legitimate things to worry about, like health problems and emergency surgeries and minor legal incidents and moving to New York. My mother is also a born MacGyver, of both the physical and tactical and emotional realm, and if you give her a crisis and and a length of string and maybe a telephone book and 30 seconds, she can take care of it in 28.
I rarely give my mother the chance to exercise this talent when it comes to me anymore, because I am a Stubborn Daughter of a Different Way of Thinking and feel like I need to Do Everything On My Own, which sounds cruel but really isn’t. My mother and I go about doing things very differently, and sometimes it’s hard for us each to witness the other’s methods. Sometimes it’s more than just hard. However, I do feel bad not letting her flex this miracle-worker muscle often, because it’s really an amazing muscle to be flexed, and I really am so fucking stubborn. So I flew home this weekend for approximately 30 hours and surprised her by hiding in a giant cardboard box on her front porch. Then we celebrated Mother’s Day by letting my mom do whatever she wanted, which surprisingly turned out to be what I wanted and needed but just didn’t know it.
We celebrated Mother’s Day by letting her play with my hair, which has been verboten since the fifth grade. We celebrated Mother’s Day by not text messaging with one hand while not driving the car too fast. We also celebrated Mother’s Day by eating breakfast and lunch and dinner on the back patio, drinking lots of margaritas, going to the used bookstore store as a family and buying old Kinks on vinyl, and falling asleep on the couch in front of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Before I left for the airport, we celebrated Mother’s Day by letting my mom refold and repack everything in my carry-on bag. I did not grit my teeth once, and she never stopped smiling. It was a really fantastic, relaxing weekend, and now I miss home.
Today I am continuing to celebrate Mother’s Day by not telling my mom I had popsicles for dinner, not telling my mom I made a million dumb mistakes at my lame ass temp job today, and definitely not telling my mom that I think something is possibly extremely wrong with one of my internal organs on the lower right side and I’m not going to the doctor about it.
I have to admit, though: when I got back to Brooklyn and unpacked my bag, my clothes were virtually wrinkle-free and actually smelled better than when I left, and I have no idea how to do that on my own.
I’ve been busy
If eating cold rotisserie chicken with your hands while standing half-dressed in front of the television watching Urban Cowboy and then collapsing into a sangria-induced sleep on top of all of your unfolded clean laundry makes you any less of a human being, I don’t want to hear about it.
Weekend highlights v. 700.0
- When we were leaving Stella on Friday night, we stopped at a street corner and a Jeep Cherokee pulled up next to us with Michael Ian Black inside, sans suit jacket, with his wife behind the wheel. Rob couldn’t contain himself and was like MICHAELIANBLACK! HEYMANYOUWEREAWESOME! and I was like YEAH! and Michael Ian Black kind of did this slouching in his seat, half-smile thing you would do if your mom was driving you home from middle school and your friends waved at you, only maybe your mom was really cool and your friends were huge dorks.
- Sarah N. scoring me a free copy of Lincoln by Gore Vidal.
- On the train ride home, Liz fell asleep while we were talking about werewolves. This is almost scientifically impossible, and only supports my theory that Liz is some kind of superhero.
- I spent most of Saturday on a blanket in the sun at Prospect Park, and both a cute dog and a cute baby came over to our blanket and just hung out for awhile. The cute baby had a hot young dad, which, to me, are like the new catholic schoolgirls. Also, there were sandwiches.
- While at the park, I read the Rolling Stone interviews with Usher and Courtney Love, and I’m so thankful to live in a time and a place where pointless celebrities feel free just saying CRAZY ASS SHIT in print for my enjoyment. It was like reading a Jessica Simpson show.
- On the walk home from the park, Albee and I stopped into this chi-chi boutique near our apartment that looked like an art gallery inside, and all of their clothes were really cute, but a T-shirt cost approximately $450. I had our park blanket under my arm, and two employees and the store owner came up individually and raved and demanded to know where I’d gotten it and I said, “um, our couch?”, unaware that it was some hot new fashion thing, not a grass-covered Mexican potato sack blanket. Then Albee was in the dressing room but had to run home because she had to go to the bathroom, and didn’t realize until later that she’d left our picnic grocery sack at the boutique. She considered calling and asking if they had our bag of chips, but I told her we had to save ourselves some modicum of dignity. I mean, they were barbecue chips.
- I just said “chi-chi” like I’m someone’s grandmother or something. What the fuck.
- The Byrnes called and invited me to move back to Tulsa and live with them, and Erin said, “It’ll be like Three’s Company!” and I said, “Do I have to be Janet? Because I don’t want to be Janet,” and she said, “No, Brian will be Janet!” so now I'm considering it.
- Late-night truth or dare, ladies.
- Today we went to a store more on our keel, and Albee talked me into buying a hot pink miniskirt. Even though I tried it on before I bought it, I didn’t realize until I came home and looked it up online that it’s only thirteen inches long, but it looks really good with my Man or Astro-man? T-shirt and skull and crossbone shoes, and besides, I think everyone should own a skirt that’s half as long as their age.