Lying to Tell the Truth (Lest You Reveal Your True Identity as a Truck Stop Hooker)
My favorite cousin (official title: BFFC, and also living proof that my bad behavior is at least mostly a result of the contents of my gene pool), has generously bequeathed unto me many invaluable Dating Advice treasures such as, “You don’t take that shit from a seven!” And, “A good dicking never hurt anyone!” One protip from which I could have reaped a lot of benefits, had I been smart enough to implement it, was, “Don’t tell him THAT yet! Wait until he’s already in love with you and THEN drop the truthbomb!”
I’ve learned that there’s a reason that, on a first date, you should definitely not reveal to someone, say, that you can measure, with complete accuracy, the extent to which your day was good or bad in milligrams. It’s not because your date is going to be freaked out by your admission (although they might very well be freaked out by that, too); it’s that they’re going to be freaked out by the much, much worse thing that your admission implies. Nobody’s telling the whole truth around here, and, if confessing your love for all things poppy-derived is what you’re leading with, what kind of crazy are you following with? Are you a truck stop hooker (nothing against truck stop hookers - I don’t judge)? Are you the Zodiac killer (ok, that, I probably would judge you for)?! Because that’s where it seems like this is going.
In a world where lying about oneself is accepted as a matter of fact, in order to tell the truth, you have to lie. You have to lie until it is safe to reveal the truth. When we present ourselves to a new potential partner, we lie to avoid losing the possibility of finding love. When we present ourselves to society writ large, as active drug addicts, we lie to avoid losing everything.
The Crazy Dark Past narrative is ubiquitous in our society, from the classic addiction memoir to the Jesus Plucked Me from My Dirty Sinpit and He Can Save You, Too! Sunday School testimony. Crazy Dark Present narratives, however, are few and far between (although they do exist - Cat Marnell comes to mind; just take a look at how widely-reviled she is if you want to understand why other drug users keep mum). It’s not until it’s over, when we can tell our story, not as “how I am,” but as “how bad it really was,” that society writ large can accept the Story of Us.
I’m not filing a complaint, here; I did it, too. Not because I felt that I was living a dark present, but because I had to protect myself. That’s why most of us refrain from telling the story of addiction until it’s over - not out of guilt, but out of self-preservation.
No two addicts share the same story, but in our invisibility, we become one. Our silence reduces us to our stigma - nothing more. We use for reasons as varied as the ones that bring people to WalMart - are they looking for shampoo? Tomatoes? Furniture? The feeling of acceptance? The numbing of old wounds? Maybe just the eradication of boredom?
I wish I could have told this story sooner. Before it was past tense. I commend those brave enough to tell theirs when it was not culturally acceptable to do so. I can do one thing to rectify that regret, though: I can tell my story, without the stigma. I know that, for many users, shifting from grey to that black-and-white narrative, whether we fully believe in its validity or not, is a necessary act of self-preservation. I understand why this must be. There are still many of us who see grey, however, and, once we acknowledge it publicly, we release our fellow addicts from the BAD DRUGS BAD BAD BAD ideology that keeps them from becoming their healthiest selves. Maybe the best place for you doesn’t fit into the terrible drug user/righteous teetotaler paradigm; that doesn’t make you the Devil’s most unsavory dance partner. It makes you an individual. That’s a story worth telling.
"You just had a birthday, didn’t you? Big milestone, I take it?" My new doctor asked. I didn’t bother to mention the 27 Club; something told me he wouldn’t get the joke. A part of me thought that was a good thing, and another part would’ve loved to turn my gaze so far upward that I was staring into the space behind my eyes. That’s the space occupied by my brain (or what’s left of it at the moment, if you’re asking my doctor), which, for all its past accomplishments, doesn’t seem to have done me much good lately. Fortunately for all parties involved, however, at that moment, I was too ill from withdrawals to summon the energy necessary to roll my eyes like the under-stimulated, attitude-challenged teenager I have been on the inside since the day I was born.
Tonight, I attended my first group meeting as an admittedly-recovering addict. There was free Little Caesar’s pizza and crazy bread, which would have stood a good chance of luring me in, even if this was a meeting for People Who Love Nicholas Sparks and Thomas Kinkade. There aren’t many quote-unquote testimonies I won’t sit through for Crazy Bread. Hell, they could’ve brought out the snakes and I would’ve stayed.
After the Crazy Bread, the same doctor that wrote me a physically-healing prescription dispensed an emotionally-healing, life-affirming message: “Do not name yourself after your character defects.” Of course, I instinctively disregarded his advice and, silently, did exactly as I just had been told not to do: drug addict. Manic-depressive. Abandoned. Dysfunctional. Broken. Sad. Despite all this, it was nice to see that the same man who could scientifically break down just what my brain does when I flood its opiate receptors with non-native residents could also identify the emotional triggers had motivated me to run off my helpless mind’s local exogenous peptides with foreign alkaloid opiates in the first place.
As someone who believes strongly in the doomed future of prohibition, I’m not here to tell you that drugs are inherently bad. Well, excluding shit like meth, which, for instance, has been proven, at any rate of consumption, to be bad - mostly for your teeth. But I digress. I know full well that societies at “war” with drugs are really at war with addicts, and, as a result, abuse abounds in greater numbers there than in countries which funnel citizens struggling with their use of drugs through a rehabilitation-focused system. Nations who do not utilize a rehabilitation-focused system tend to not serve their sick countrymen too well. For example, America: where mandatory minimum sentences ensure that anyone caught having doings with illicit substances will be sent to a prison system saturated with more of those substances than the streets from which their inmates came, and providing those inmates with connections so that they can easily transition with a tragically effective swan dive, upon release, into a life awash with even MORE drugs than the one they were plucked out of before they picked up a charge. At that point, in most cases, it’s only a matter of the time before that cycle folds over upon itself, repeating once more, as it is bound to, because it fucking sucks.
It’s usually the poor who get caught up in the never ending wash, rinse and repeat of incarceration, and, today, I’m not affluent so much as lucky. That means that I am sure as hell thanking my lucky stars that I received my first commemorate piece of plastic resembling a poker chip tonight, rather than receiving my first sentence for drug possession. So, for the rest of you who’ve managed, during the course of your lives, to develop a taste for something a little proverbially sweeter than junk food (but literally way, way less sweeter - probably bitter as fuck, actually, depending upon your preference), my wish isn’t that you’ll come around to the error of your wicked ways and stumble blindly into the nearest church - although, if that works for you, that’s cool. Rather, my hope is that you catch up to the law before the law catches up to you, whether that happens via an epiphany, a prescription, or, goddess forbid, an intervention, because, see, I want you to be lucky, like I was today. If you’re very lucky, someday sooner than the day you become another just-plain-fucked pawn of the Prison Industrial System, someone will hand you a cheaply-made but inexplicably valuable poker chip lookalike, too. Until then, keep my seat in the Game warm for me. I’m out.
Social Media: Area Ten Millions That Becomes More Different to Navigate at the Onset of Parenthood
Much like showering, sleeping and having money, since I became a parent, I’ve grown to miss having full autonomy over who I allow to be a part of my life, and to what extent.
Of course, in theory, I still have the ability to control who will and who will not be involved in my business, but, in practice, the whole thing has grown infinitely more complicated. The pressure of parenthood means that, if I have a personal issue with someone, I have to decide whether or not that issue warrants limiting my child’s access to a friend or family member that may not have done anything to warrant their disengagement from his life at all. We’re a family, Graham and I, but we are not the same person, and the same people can affect each of our lives in drastically different ways.
Social media compounds this problem, as well. Before Facebook (and also before Myspace and even before AOL Messenger, for anyone else who remembers what a pain in the ass it was to decide whether or not to add so-and-so to your friends list before you had the ability to appear offline when you actually weren’t), avoiding involvement with someone you didn’t care for without causing a confrontation was relatively simple. As long as you didn’t have to see them very frequently, you could just avoid them as much as possible, make sure not to give privileged information to anyone who might repeat it to them, and carry on. One-sided or mutual dislike could be maintained subtlely and with few, if any, repercussions.
Containing this kind of situation online, however, is another story. My particular focus here is one’s choice of their Facebook friends. I know that you can be friends with an individual and not allow them to see any of your posts, but, effectively, that is the same as “de-friending” or blocking them. Nobody who is intent on monitoring your life is going to fail to notice that you haven’t posted one thing since you accepted their friend request, or, worse, since you simply decided that you were tired of hearing, secondhand, of their disapproval.
People use social media for a variety of reasons. I use this blog as a platform for my writing, and as a way to keep my friends and family in-the-loop about my life. I use Facebook to communicate with those friends and family on a more frequent, abbreviated and personal level (and as another platform for my writing, because, as a writer and a narcissist, I rarely fail to utilize an opportunity for self-promotion). What I do not use it for is as a holding pen for everyone who openly does not support the unity of my family or the choices I make for my us and for myself. Our family has been through far more than our share this year, and, at this point, any divisive force automatically sounds an alarm in my head that screams for it to be eliminated.
But it’s never just that simple. Not like it was before Graham, when I could just say, “Weeellp, not gonna miss THAT family reunion!” Now, choices like these are riddled with guilt over how they might affect my son and partner, and how that person and others to whom we are both connected will react to the decision. Because, even if you do not communicate with someone via Facebook, even if you don’t communicate with them in ANY way, even if it is well-known that they look down upon you and your actions, ceasing to allow that person to view your online activity may and probably will be viewed as completely unacceptable to that party and probably to some other parties, as well. And, believe me, this use of the word “party” is pretty much the opposite of the way in which I generally implement it.
All this to say that, when I make a decision like this, I don’t do it without consideration (even the choice to write this blog was difficult, and I’m not sure that it won’t result in another volley of HOW COULD SHEs). This means that I don’t do it because I am angry or in an attempt to make the other party angry or hurt. I also do not do it to any friend or family member with whom I have a real relationship and feel as though confronting them personally might have a positive effect. It is also not an implied message that anything about any probably-through-clenched-teeth relationship that person has with me or my family outside of social media will change; those are decisions made by our family as a whole, and not just by me, as opposed to my self-governed online presence, because it’s, like, my Facebook and shit.
Here’s all that blocking someone from social media means: it’s the removal of someone’s presence in an area in which I feel that they are being harmful, rather than helpful, to me and/or my family. Anyone who is looking on my Facebook for fodder for their judgment and disregard of my effectiveness as a mother, partner, or human in general, rather than, say, leaving encouraging feedback or even just neutrally hanging back, falls into that distinction pretty neatly. I’m not looking for a confrontation, a fight, an apology, or anything else from anyone whom I remove from the online aspect of my life. All I want is for my family and me to be left in peace. Maybe it’s not so complicated, after all.
Hey, assholes: wash your cancer off before you touch my kid.
So, here’s something I’ve never really been able to wrap my mind around: cigarettes. I mean. What, exactly, is anyone getting out of this? I understand they’re addictive and difficult to quit, and some people say they’re relaxing, to which I always reply that there’s this thing called alcohol, but whatever, none of that explains why you ever decided to fill your lungs with carcinogens in the first place. I guess you thought it was cool? But, anyway. All that judging aside, as I’m probably not really cool to judge people for their bad and also nonsensical habits - smoke away, smokers. Oh, unless you’re going to be around MY ASTHMATIC KID.
Notice that I said “going to be around,” not just “around.” This is because there are people who spend time around my child who, knowing that his asthma is triggered by cigarette smoke, feel like it’s totally cool to step out, bathe in a cloud of noxious fumes, then walk back inside and pick up my child like nothing just happened.
Now, there are a lot of people in Graham’s life who smoke, but are responsible about it. They wash their hands/face, change their shirt, etc., and then don’t go back out and cover themselves in stuff that makes my kid’s airways close up before they’re done spending time with him - and that’s great. I’m totally fine with that. But, after his two-day hospital stay for an asthmatic episode earlier this year, I’m not really fine with everyone who brushes off my requests to not smoke if they’re GOING TO BE AROUND my kid.
The main reason I’m bitching about this online is because it’s something I don’t have total control over in real life. I repeatedly ask people not to expose my kid to their cancer vapors, and to ask other people not to expose him to THEIR cancer vapors, but I don’t always know if someone smoked before they saw him or while they stepped outside. I’m also not with him 24/7 because I’m a working parent who values my sanity so sometimes I do stuff without him and that’s okay stop judging me this is about YOU. But I do find out when he starts wheezing on the way home, and it pisses me off, like, a lot.
So, here’s to everyone who exposes my kid to their cigarette smoke: may your child catch a contact high off of people smoking marijuana nearby, which would actually be a lot better for them than my kid’s exposure to your toxic fumes, but would really freak you out and be really hilarious to me.
Free Chapstick and NO
Now that I’m in front of a computer all day instead of wrangling a toddler, it’s about time that I start writing things again.
Usually when I go to compose a blog entry, I have a specific topic in mind, such as bitching about anti-choicers, mommy-judgers or men (is it just me, or did I just sum up all of my posts, ever?!). Today, though, I’m just checking in.
Graham has a massive vocabulary now, but still prefers the word “no” to any other, for some reason. Does he want a nap? A snack? A million dollars?! No, no, no, no, oh, nooo!
I got a pretty awesome job, with a refrigerator full of free soda, so I’m probably going to gain back all the weight I lost from not eating due to the stress resulting from NOT having a job, which, now, has morphed into stress due to driving in helltraffic every day.
Between getting free fajitas and chapstick at the Tenant Appreciation Party at Park Central (see above to verify fanciness of said building) and giving my kid things he says he doesn’t want, there hasn’t been much else going on. It’s all taking things one day at a time, rebuilding our family and finances, the latter of which may never happen because I’m about as good with money as I am with keeping a straight face in church.
Now that I think about it, I think I’ll write a blog about people who insert themselves into other people’s families as an alternative to addressing the issues they have with their own no-good spouses. THAT’S going to be fun.
I like it when people like my blog! I mean, unless Rick Perry told me he liked it… then, I think I’d have to get back in there and change everything about my life ever.
Things That Will Totally Make Me Maybe Date You
Not that I’m blaming myself for any of the things that happened with Graham’s dad (I didn’t steal a few cool Gs from myself before deposing my son and I from our home, for instance), but I have been thinking that, if this experience doesn’t send me finally running to the other team, I might want to do some things differently. One thing I didn’t do before I started dating B, for instance, was look for specific traits in a man. It probably wouldn’t have worked, even if I’d tried, because I was in college and therefore generally too drunk to see any traits in the first place. But, anyway: I made a list.
1. No anti-drug dudes. I’m not saying this because I’m some kind of abscess-plagued hard drug aficionado who likes to drag dates from one crackhouse to the next all night; I just never really get along with teetotalers. I mean, at least be cool with smoking a little weed. Is that so much to ask? Oh, and definitely nobody who doesn’t drink; I look better naked with a buzz.
2. Must be good at sex. And, by “good at sex,” I mean “willing to do most or all of the work because I am lazy (but honest!).” And, also, the sooner you prove it, the better. No one likes to invest three dates in a sexual kindergartener who is going to be much more awkward to get rid of than they would’ve been after just one date. But that’s also why I don’t date dudes who wear Affliction shirts.
3. No dumbasses. Like, preferably, you have a degree, but, if not, maybe write an essay describing why you think we would have something in common even though you don’t have a piece of paper proving that we have at least both read books other than To Kill a Mockingbird.
4. Thick skin and a sort-of (ok, REALLY) bent sense of humor is a must. Like, you were able to read number 4 without squealing, “Stuck-up BITCH!” And throwing down your web-surfing device and crying.
5. But you can’t be a sexist douchebag Dane Cook wannabe who thinks you’re funny and that everybody else is just too sensitive because NO.
6. Realize that I am not your manic pixie dream girl and that you will never change me. Like, never, ever. At the most, maybe, someday, I will do a better job at picking up my dirty laundry, but even that’s iffy. This automatically rules out religious types who would like to “save” me, but, if you’re religious and cool with my attitude toward your beliefs, which is best described as *eye-roll*, that could work.
7. Understand that we will probably date for about eleventy-billion years before I agree to get any more serious than “Well, yeah, MAYBE I won’t sleep with other people.” I also reserve the right to go back on this one if one day I magically forget about that stolen money I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.
8. You must think my kid is the shit, but understand that my uterus is now out-of-commission for like, probably forever. Because, yeah… no.
9. No racial slurs, ever. I can’t believe I just said that, but this is the South.
10. Don’t say things that make me cringe. I can’t possibly categorize this list or write out every item, but, basically, I’m referring to things like talking like you’re black when you’re incredibly not-black, or using words like “yum-o,” which will send me running for the hills even if you are super hot and have TOTALLY read way more books than just To Kill a Mockingbird.
Ok, 10 is a good number, plus I think I covered all the important stuff. Oh, wait: it would be cool if you had a job and were attractive and taller than me and shit. There! Now everybody knows I’m pretty much intolerable.
In Which I Learn a Lesson… Sort of.
Above: Graham’s chubby chubby baby hand attempts to prize the book in question from my lap. He’s not so much a literature aficionado as he is really, really grabby.
In her own way of suggesting that my life can probably only be salvaged by divine intervention, my mom likes to occasionally buy me books about things in which I am interested, penned by authors with a sneaky Christian agenda. She says there’s no agenda, but there totally is. I read them, anyway, because hinting at my need for divine intervention is way better than the less-nuanced alternative of giving me a regular intervention.
The latest installation in this series of not-so-subtle hints is Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton, former alcoholic turned housewife turned blogger turned memoirist. I guess I’m flinging the word “housewife” around pretty liberally, since she did write a book, but she’s spilled much more ink over her husband and children than anything else in the half of it I’ve read so far, so it seemed like the best word to use. Not judging.
I’m usually not a fan of religious converts using accounts of their past sins to inhale some of the fumes leftover from their glory days, but Melton does a pretty good job of underscoring her ongoing struggle and of the importance of transparency, so I have to nod in her general direction as far as that goes.
This is her own narrative, of course, and, as with everyone else’s, with or without embellishment, it’s a valid one. What I keep asking myself, though, is, “What makes this special?”
Really, this author isn’t special so much as she is lucky. Lucky, for instance, that she seized upon the perfect, shiny, golden opportunity to transition from reveling in dudes and drugs and booze and fun and make the inevitable transition to grown-up life. Most of us either don’t get such a great opportunity at all, or we wait too long and lose traction on the path of Chances to Act Like An Adult.
Not all of us originate from strong, supportive families that help us go to college to get good at writing in the first place. Nor do we get knocked up by male models who agree to marry us and stay with us and even supply us with even more children. The value of an advantageous marriage is limitless, really: the free time afforded by not working multiple jobs or participating in any of the other activities necessary to keep a family afloat on the wrong side of the wage gap is a blessing that many single parents just don’t receive.
I will say, Melton isn’t oblivious to the fact that she’s fortunate. She realizes that she is, in her book, when she recounts mourning the dissolution of her sister’s first marriage: "I’d never done a productive thing in my life except get sober and make babies. She’d done everything, forever, by the book… You cannot earn yourself an easy life, or even a fair one." So, there’s that, at least.
Struggle is relative, I know. But, still, for a minute there, as I read, I felt angry. I was pissed that someone whose life, past and present, didn’t seem all that problem-laden at all, was confessing about those problems and getting a book deal. Not that I’m angry because I don’t have a book deal (and not that I’d have a problem with a book deal - any takers?!); it just seemed ludicrous that anyone else considers these non-problems to be problems, too. They aren’t problems, are they? But, as I said, struggle is relative. Problems are relative. And, to someone else, my problems probably sound kind of ridiculous, too. That’s humbling, but it’s also a little comforting. I guess this is probably about as close to a divine intervention as I’m gonna get.
I asked my aunt to define “abundance” today. This is what she said.