Sometimes I get a hot new pair of jeans or a really good haircut and experience a sudden surge of confidence that makes me think, man, I’m the type of girl who’s going to make someone verrry lucky someday, but all it takes is an 11 pm snack on the day after Thanksgiving to remind me that actually, I’m the type of girl who can’t eat a piece of pecan pie without getting Karo syrup in her hair.
This Thanksgiving, there will be no No Shirt Cousins or Texas cousins or even Chase. It will just be my brother and my mom and dad and me, which should be nice and quiet, with at least 90% less Disney movies and Wild Turkey and sibling abuse.
My little brother got home from college late last night, so now my whole family is under the same roof again. Today I walked outside and our neighbors were playing a huge intergenerational game of football on their lawn in the leaves with their shiny hair and J. Crew sweaters, but I much prefer the cozy feeling I get from sitting in front of the fire while my dad snores through Cosby Show reruns on Nick at Nite, and my mother and brother discuss the merit of putting Jessica Simpson on the cover of Rolling Stone in the next room.
Today I made two pies, prepared the dressing, ran with my dad, went for a ride in my brother’s friend’s gold-with-white-leather-interior ’70 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible, and hung out with some small children who inadvertedly unzipped my sweater, exposed my underthings to everyone in the room, and then gravely whispered, “Sarah, I am so sorry that I saw your privates.” Tonight I’m going to go take it on the run with all of my friends at good old Caz’s, home of the yellow walls and red corner booth and girls named Tara, where I expect pretty much the same thing to happen.
Happy Thanksgiving, all.
As much as I enjoy riding the subway, with all its opportunities to people-watch and read and breathe in strangers’ body odors, I really, really love driving. On my list of top five gerunds, driving is ranked number four, after laughing but before eating, and the car even provides the platform to enjoy all five of my favorite things that end in -ing simultaneously, if desired. Not driving for the past two months has been sadmaking, but it wasn’t until I borrowed my dad’s car Saturday night and involuntarily shivered and sighed as I started the ignition that I realized I had missed driving more than I’ve ever missed any man.
One Sunday when I was fourteen, my dad told me to tell my mother that we were going to the grocery store, and we did, only it was an abandoned grocery store with an empty parking lot, and that’s where he taught me how to drive. Before he’d even let me inside the car, he popped the hood and I had to learn what every single thing under there was, and what it did, and why it did it. I would have memorized the OED to get behind that wheel. (I’d like to lie and say that I could still rattle it all off, but unless it’s a ’78 Caprice, I seriously doubt I could.)
My first car was a 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic—dark sparkly blue, white vinyl top, CB radio, 8-track player, V8 engine. I inherited her from my grandma, who’d put on 60,000 miles in 20 years by driving from church to the grocery store to the beauty shop and back. You could fit nine people inside, and three in the trunk. The backseat was bigger than my parents’ couch, and I often skipped fourth hour to nap in the parking lot.
In high school, I used to drive out to the airport and race my boyfriend in his TransAm (shut up). He never won. In college, while driving to visit my boyfriend one hour away, I’d have to stop first and buy two bottles of Pennzoil 10W-40, one to make it there and one to make it back. Sometimes I had to sing to her to dissuade her from stalling—a very specific, very secret, very desperate song that no one else ever heard, because she knew better than to stall with company around. She was a bitch, but always a lady. The day I got my ’92 Accord, I knew better than to ever get behind her wheel again, even to move her from the driveway to the street, because I knew my car, and I knew she was furious, and I knew she would kill me, Christine-style. My Honda was sweet and dependable, but it was like giving up Angelina Jolie to settle down with Angela Lansbury.
If I could have any job in the world, and salary or esteem or career path didn’t matter, I’d be a racecar driver in a cross-country race. I have no interest in NASCAR, but an undying fascination with monster trucks. I don’t care what kind of car you have so long as you have one. A suitor once mentioned his past involvement in demolition derbies and I immediately became aroused. Driving, whether fast or long or over things or into them = bliss.
Not being able to drive sometimes feels to me like not being able to sleep, which is ironic, because my freshman year of college, I had a horrible bout of stress-induced insomnia, and I didn’t sleep at all during the month of December. Instead, every night I’d put on my pajamas, and then my coat, hat, gloves, and boots, and I’d drive around the city from midnight until the sun came up, when I’d come back to my dorm, shower, and then go to class, feeling fine.
I’ve been having a hard time adapting to my new life in a new city, and some late nights the only thing that can calm me is to take an antihistamine, listen to The Sea and Cake’s Nassau on my headphones, and close my eyes and imagine driving down highway 51. I miss my time in my car, zoning out and singing along and turning everything over in my head with my foot to the floor. I get all of my writing ideas in the shower, and I solve all of my major life decisions in the car. Maybe that’s why I’ve been having such a difficult sorting through things lately: I’ve lost my sanctuary.
Keep it like a secret
So, Operation: Fly Home Surprise Everyone was a total success. What? You didn’t know about Operation: Fly Home Surprise Everyone? That’s because I am the best secret-keeper ever. I’ve been planning this for the past two weeks, so I had plenty of time to devise the best surprise set-ups for everyone back home, and they were all executed better than I’d even planned. I got to see all of the wonderful people I’d been missing so badly for the past two months, plus I had lunch with my mom and played with our dog and got a haircut and a flu shot and went to a party and The Pie Hole and good old Caz’s and drank a bottle of Boone’s like a 15 year old, and then I got to sleep in a bed that didn’t require inflating, and it was seriously the best day ever.
In fact, the success of Operation: Fly Home Surprise Everyone left me feeling so giddy and reckless that I impetuously embarked on Operation: Cut Swoopy Bangs, and evidently yesterday was MAGIC DAY because it TOTALLY WORKED. If you knew my cowlicks, you’d realize just how risky this operation was—even riskier than flying across the country with no one knowing—making its success all the more miraculous.
This week holds the promise of Operation: Go to Target, Operation: Watch Ghostbusters With My Brother, and Operation: Eat Some Authentic Mexican Food Because Seriously, Mexican Food In New York Is For Crap.
Home feels good.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving
Self-esteem boosts, mainly at the expense of others. Is there anything more American?
Things that make me feel one hundred times better about my own life:
- Rich Girls
- Nick Lachey, Jessica Simpson
- imdb.com message boards
- bony women in pointy-toed shoes
- people lagging strollers up stairs
- it’s not July
- P. Diddy’s buck teeth
- anything involving Rachael Leigh Cook
Tonight we walked past Amy Irving on the street, and she looked very alive, despite the last season of Alias. Whenever I see a famous person, I start scanning everyone else’s faces to see if they’re famous too, and suddenly I’m like WHOA, WASN’T THAT TRACEY GOLD? just because some girl has dark circles under her eyes.
The only other famous people I’ve seen in New York so far are the kid from Roger Dodger, and Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson, whom Ryan and I deftly ignored while standing next to them on a street corner. I had to keep repeating to myself MUST NOT KICK PREGNANT LADY.
Please refrain from leaving comments telling me about all the famous people you’ve seen unless it involves fatty foods, sex, or something really unflattering.
Definitely: Or, Why I’ve Been The Way I’ve Been
Part Two of Two
Read part one.
I may have mentioned before that, all of my smartassedness and sarcasm aside, I’m sort of naïve when it comes to human interaction. That’s a lie: I’m a blind, deaf and dumb infant when it comes to human interaction. If you tell me that we’re going to the zoo tomorrow, and we wake up and there's 3 feet of snow on the ground and tornadoes in the forecast, we’re still going to have to thoroughly discuss this whole not-going-to-the-zoo anymore thing. If you loved me once, and called me pet names and made plans to be with me in the future and sang songs with me in the car and stroked my hair when I cried and stayed awake just to watch me sleep, I am going to have a hard time understanding 1) that you just suddenly stopped, but more than that, 2), that you honestly don’t miss me, on any level. I mean, seriously. Okay, so you don’t love me anymore. Ouch. But come on: we both know we were the best friends either of us ever had, for several years, and now you never wonder how I’m doing, or what I’d say about this movie, or oh, remember when we used to say this one funny thing? Yeah, that was a good time. How’s your family? Cool. OH WAIT. WE DON’T DO THIS.
The whole time I spent caught up in my new distractions, part of my brain honestly but mistakenly thought I was getting over my heartache, and this person. I was busy with other things, but every once in awhile I’d think, man, fuck him (anger! healthy, necessary), or aw, he was nice sometimes (acceptance, moving on!). And then I had these other, less significant distractions of the heart to deal with, but once I’d dealt with them, my thoughts turned to the old boy, and I had the worst idea ever: You know, we should be friends.
This could only end badly.
I have no game, so when I like someone and I want to let them know, I tend to say things like, “Hey! I like you!” So when I had the idea to strike the friendship back up with the boy who broke my heart, I let him know by saying things like, “You know, sometimes I miss knowing you!” Huh! How about that! So we were in contact again. This meant that I would write him an email if I thought of something funny I thought he’d enjoy, and he would call me and hold up his cell phone while at the concert of a band we both liked. No big deal. After one of these phone calls happened in the middle of a party at her house and I sat on her bathroom floor for an hour with my hand over one ear so I could hear him, my wise friend Erin said, “Um, people don’t just call people they used to date to play songs over the phone unless there’s still something going on there.” And I would scoff at her. Dude, we’re just friends now. I don’t feel that way about him anymore. Scoff scoff scoff.
I was a big scoffer, until the night I got another phone call interrupting another party, one of those parties where there’s no one there you’re trying to impress, just all of your favorite people in the world telling funny stories and singing GnFnR, and you’re not worried about reapplying your lip gloss or trying to look fetching, you’re just sitting there relaxed and happy in the big golden glow of your friends’ faces, and then your phone rings, and it’s your ex-boyfriend, and you go in the other room to hear him better, and he’s calling to complain to you about girl problems. And maybe you’ve had a little to drink, so you grit your teeth and try not to feel like you’ve been slapped, and hang up quickly and go home and take a bath, and your mind is racing, and when he calls back an hour later and asks how you are, you say in a deathly even tone, “Do you really want to know how I am?” And man, he should have said no.
When I finally got off the phone, I suddenly was faced with several bleak realities: The sun was coming up. I was due to drive my parents to the airport in an hour. And I was obviously not over this person yet.
That’s when I wrote the note to myself.
After a few days, I decided that I was just going to have to do the American thing and repress those emotions so I could continue living my life.
That didn’t work out so well.
Especially when I moved, and everything was new and different, and I spent a lot of time reaching back to the familiar, which meant several late night text message conversations. One time he was very kind and supportive, and exactly what a good friend should be, and I thought, hey, maybe this can work! But the last time, he was curt and brusque, so I, being my usual un-suave and frank self, asked him point-blank if he really cared whether or not we were friends. His typed answer: “I just need to get up early. This is definatley one of those things you shouldn’t take so seriously.”
And lying there in the dark, nervous and alone on my inflatable bed in a new city at 3 in the morning, it hit me: why was I wasting my time reaching out to someone who had no interest in reaching back? And obviously hadn’t for some time: the breakup probably should have been my first clue. And above all, why was I wasting energy caring about someone who not only didn’t give a fuck about me, but couldn’t even spell the word definitely?
My friend Joey tells me that I expect too much of some people, expect them to give as much as I do, and that I come on full force, and not everyone’s ready to handle that. I understand that. No, fuck that: I don’t, really. I’m not saying that I’m the best thing someone could ever have, because I know better than anyone that odds are, I’m not. I’m not saying that I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t want me – I wake up with myself every morning: I can think of several reasons why someone wouldn’t want me. But I do not understand how someone can be a huge part of your healthy, happy adult life for so long, and then never want to again in any way. However, I can learn to recognize that someone just isn’t interested in being a part of my life, and leave it alone.
I don’t regret how any of this went, really. I regret very few things, mostly because I’ve seen Back to the Future enough times to know that, had things gone differently, I wouldn’t be the person I am now, and I’m not adventurous enough to take on a different present me. And while the “ah, what the hell” period of my life might need to be tempered with some grace and planning now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, or that I haven’t learned amazing things from living it.
I don’t know if I was still in love, or just had the leftover feelings to deal with. I can’t promise you that some secret chamber of my heart isn’t still a little sad. But I do know that I was tired of feeling this way. I was tired of one-sided friendships, and missing people who didn’t miss me back. I was tired of measuring all new men up to this one past man, who honestly, at one point, was really the very best man I’d ever known, but what kind of best man you’ve ever known can’t even be bothered to care anymore? Not a man who’s worth my heartache.
Definitely: Or, Why I’ve Been The Way I’ve Been
Part One of Two
A few years ago, I fell in love: the real eye-opening, head over heels, I-had-no-idea-it-could-be-like-this kind of love. It was not an ideal time for me to fall in love, if there even is such a thing, and it wasn’t really the best situation either, since we were miles away and years apart, but it happened anyway, despite my better judgment – which, to be honest, is how some of the very best things start. Once it began, there was no turning back, and I was glad I’d given in. It was the happiest I’d ever been, with the most wonderful person I’d ever known, and it changed the way I saw things. Suddenly, the idea of spending your life with one person seemed really exciting, not just a given, and it actually felt tangible to me. For many reasons, this relationship was a huge, surreal step to take, and while it felt very against-all-odds, the fact that someone else was taking it with me was so amazing, and this calmed me, and gave me hope, and made me love it all even more. I’ve always believed that any relationship can work as long as both people involved really want it to work, and both of them make it their first priority. This is a terrifying thing if you think about it, because you have to blindly trust the other person’s desire to make it work, and acknowledge that if they change their mind, you’re fucked.
Which is basically what happened to me.
Anyway, this love was a truly wonderful thing while it lasted, and then it ended, abruptly, and I was devastated. My heart was broken – really, really broken, like so broken that I had no idea how to even manage, and I was shocked to realize just how deeply in love I had been. At first I honestly thought I might not ever be able to do anything ever again: I was sort of frozen in shock. However, I’d had my heart broken enough to a lesser degree in the past to know that right after you thaw from the shock, all the steady dull pain and tedious, depressing dealing comes, and that seemed absolutely insurmountable. So I fought it off by keeping myself busy to an insane degree, basically changing how I lived my everyday life on every level that I possibly could, so that I had to deal with all of that instead of drudging through the heartache.
I threw myself into crazy new endeavors, as well as a lot of half-baked foolish ideas, and suddenly started living my life like it wasn’t actually my life, but some sort of quirky movie. In the past, I’d been careful to a degree that was almost life-numbingly ridiculous; I now took great joy in being careless. Whenever I was faced with a decision, my new decision-making process amounted to “ah, what the hell.” Sometimes this led to adventures, and sometimes this led to trouble. Sometimes I felt very brave and tough, and sometimes I felt like a five year old left alone with matches. People seemed to think that I was a lot more fun. I made some pretty major career and life decisions. I engaged in an embarrassingly public train-wreck flirtation. I changed my appearance. I drank more. I slept less. I met more people. All of a sudden, I had the courage to do a million things that I never would have considered doing a few years earlier, if courage is even the right word for it. Maybe it was more of a fervor. All I know is, I left the house a hell of a lot more.
Then, this spring, several unrelated but cataclysmic things happened that caused this new lifestyle to really resonate with me. Everything that had been a constant over the past few months unexpectedly unraveled all at once, and I was close to inconsolable. I dealt with them all because I had to – they were the distractions, after all, and I didn’t have the energy to find new ones, so I had no choice but to deal with them – but even after I did, I still didn’t feel right. Things should have been calm, and I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t. I very clearly remember waking up one morning this summer and finding the note by my bed that I’d scrawled to myself in the middle of the night before: I have terrible news: you’re still in love.
Coming next: Part Two
The more you grow
So everyone knows that you’re not supposed to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, but today I learned that you also shouldn’t do it while hungover, lest you come home and take a 12 hour nap and then wake up the next day with nothing to eat but gatorade and french onion dip and popsicles. My kitchen looks like Stoned Lite®.
What I Lack in Ambition I Make Up For With Useless Wit
Today I didn’t get another job. I wasn’t too terribly upset about this because it wasn’t exactly my dream job, but I definitely would have accepted it, had it been offered. I’m trying not to get discouraged about these sort of things, mostly because there are so many other things to be discouraged about, but when it comes down to it, I want a job because I really don’t like jobhunting. Not that anyone would list it as a hobby, but interviews make me feel weird and false, like too much polite smalltalk at someone’s wedding. The strange part is that I think I’m actually pretty good at them, the same way I’m good at meeting people’s parents or chatting up your great aunt, but afterwards, I still want to drive my car too fast and sing along with The Clash, or eat french fries and drink beer and curse a lot, or open a vein.
I think what it comes down to is that I always feel vaguely uncomfortable selling myself. I know I’m smart and resourceful and a good worker, but trying to convince complete strangers of this over and over again makes me tired, and makes me believe it less myself. I’m the same way when it comes to boys: I just sort of hope that someday someone decent will notice that I’m cool, even though I’m not not wearing a bra, or crawling into your lap.
Sometimes I think it would be a lot more interesting for everyone involved in the job interview process if you smiled, shook hands and said, “I’m stimulated by distractions and free snacks, spend too much time on the internet, and am consistently fifteen minutes late everywhere I go.”
Or, you know, maybe I should try the crawling-into-the-lap bit.
All Hallows’ Eve
The Endless Pursuit of Chicken Fingers
Dear New York,
Nevermind about that whole have-yet-to-be-properly-drunk thing.
Dear Guy in Lab Coat at Rooftop Party,
I’m not sure if that counts as being properly kissed, but it probably depends on whose definition of “proper” we’re using.
Other parts of Halloween that I remember:
• My roommate was definitely the hottest Bling Kong cheerleader up there.
• Quinn’s Barf from Spaceballs costume was probably the best I saw all night.
• Liz and Alissa as Joan Jett and Lita Ford definitely took a very hot second place.
• After the Bling Kong show, we went to some rooftop party in Manhattan, and as I walked out onto the roof, there was a DJ spinning and a full bar and all these hot young 20 somethings in costume, and I could see the motherfucking EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, and I felt like I’d walked into one of those wine cooler commercials where your night just got more interesting. I did my part by commandeering a bottle of vodka and, as previously mentioned, kissing a young man in a lab coat.
• However, I did not kiss Head Wound Guy. But, to be honest, mostly just because he started kissing someone else moments before I walked up. Possibly, to his credit, because he heard me shouting, “AMBER! I’m going to kiss Head Wound Guy!”
• Some other people who shall not be named did their part peeing in a church stairwell. I still love these people despite all of this. Perhaps even more now because of it.
• Ryan was the very best Pimp With Glow in the Dark Ears ever.
• Making it home and out of your costume before the sun comes up does NOT entitle you to make drunken emails or phone calls. No one wins that way.
• And seriously—no wonder Mary Todd Lincoln had such a hard time with life in general: that silver face paint is really itchy.