I Know You’re There Because I Can Hear Your Little Brother Crying

School’s out for most kids. I know this because of the increase in posts about drinking from my Facebook friends who are mothers of school-aged children. I generally liked summer as a kid. My birthday’s in summer, I could sleep late, go to the beach. But come the end of July, my anxious brain would click into school mode and I would spend weeks obsessing over every detail of school life from where to sit in the cafeteria to being asked to explain covalent bonds in chemistry to whether or not jelly shoes were still the thing.

I don’t know if I was a popular kid or not. My schools were always so small that I never thought in terms of popularity because we all knew each other. Well, pretty much. My best friend senior year began dating this guy she seemed to have known since first grade, but I’d never seen until then. I was certainly aware there were The Kids For Whom Everything Was Easy and there was me. It’s just how you think until you’re, oh, 32. How WONDERFUL your life would be if you could turn perfect cartwheels like Judy, had the perfect amount of freckles like Monica, were still shopping in the children’s department in high school like Dana, and dated the cutest guy in the class like Molly. It’s not until you’re an adult you realize Judy threw up four times a day to stay small enough to be on the top of the pyramid, Monica spent five nights a week covered in lemon juice to fade her freckles, Dana was 40 before she got undressed with the lights on, and Molly spent most of junior year with a raging case of clap her asshole boyfriend gave her. Yes, there were some genuinely well-adjusted kids who were really smart, funny, cute, and had no anxiety about PE, but they are not the adults you want to hang out with now.

I have always been The Sarcastic One. At some point I became The Funny One, but I don’t think that happened until after high school. Actually, I can pinpoint when that happened. I became good friends with a girl I was not friends with in high school. The story she told about me was that I’d given her a ride home with another friend. She thanked me for the ride and I apparently said something like it wasn’t out of my way or somehow led her to believe if it had been a hardship on me to take her home, I wouldn’t have. She then thought I was a raving bitch until a few years later when we bonded over a case of Miller. That was when I realized the inflections I used in my head were not always articulated so clearly once I opened my mouth. Funny is a great way to mask sarcasm brought on by severe social anxiety. So I kept it.

There is an episode of 30 Rock in which Liz goes to her high school reunion thinking she was the one who was always picked on, but it turns out she was the total bitch. I have this fear. It’s not like I couldn’t have my moments. Sometime in junior high–this was when call waiting and three-way calling were becoming popular–I got a call from a guy friend. I believe he was “dating” (I use quotes because in 7th or 8th grade, what exactly does it mean to date?) a friend of mine. She and I were approaching critical mass. That is to say, she’d developed giant boobs. The only thing I’d developed was a unibrow, so clearly we weren’t going to be close much longer. He called and started asking all these questions about her. What did I think of her, really? What drove me crazy about her? After avoiding the questions as best I could, I heard the unmistakable sound of a small child wailing about something in the background. There were no small children in the guy’s house, but wait! My friend did have a significantly younger brother. The old Three Way Trap sprung by enterprising young sociopaths who are able to get boys to do their bidding. I mean, I was like 13 and saw through that one. So I did what anyone would do. I said, “You know, it’s so much easier to think of things we don’t like about people than things we do. I don’t really know how much longer we can be friends. She’s, well, you know how it is.” Obviously he didn’t. I was ready to throw something out about not being the kind of girl other girls like–totally untrue, by the way, but was fortunately saved from my own black heart when she finally spoke up with something about how she was glad she knew exactly how I felt about her. She smartly moved on from being friends with me, and I never said anything about making sure your little brother isn’t screaming about losing a G. I. Joe when trying to trap a friend into saying something nasty about you.

My takeaway from high school was one thing and one thing only: Boys are assholes. Proof? My brother had been tutored briefly by the very intelligent son of a friend of my mother’s. We’ll call him Mark. He was a couple years older than me and also very easy on the eyes. Within a couple of weeks of starting as a freshman in high school I got a call from a friend of the guy’s. We’ll call him Dick–for several reasons. Dick called to tell me he knew I was totally hot for Mark. I was not. Not that I would have admitted it if I was, understand. Mark was really cute and seemed like he’d one day make an awesome accountant, and Rules very clearly state you NEVER date the child of a parent’s friend. Never. Nothing good can come from that in high school. One little false positive pregnancy test and it’s Awkward City at the country club, right? Anyway, Dick was certain that I rilly, rilly super liked Mark. Yes, I said. I like him fine. He’s a nice guy. Is there a point? Well, as a matter of fact, Dick says, there is. “He likes you.”

Okay, first? Do 16-year-old guys really do stuff like that? That seemed a little weird to me even then. Second? Really? Couldn’t your after-school time have been better used by trolling your dad’s closet for porn? I thought that’s what guys did after school if there wasn’t soccer practice. I said, “Mark does not know me. He doesn’t. How does he know if he likes me and WHY would he have said anything to you? YOU don’t know me. I don’t know YOU.” I have to say Adult Me still high-fives Teenage Me for that one. The experience of my sociopath friend on the phone also alerted me to the fact that Mark was very likely either on the phone or in the room. Because I was not a total bitch, I also did not say anything like EWWWW! Like him? He smells like cheese! 

Unfortunately, it set a precedent in my world that boys were only to be admired silently from afar. Except for that one friend you tell everything to and who would never betray you even if you didn’t still have the pictures from that time in Panama City. You know the time I mean. It didn’t matter that your entire interest in a guy was the fact that he could rock a pair of 501s and was smart enough to tutor algebra, say nussing. NUSSING! For you and your unibrow will be humiliated and you will assume everyone in school knows about it. Which in this case was probably true. Although I’m sure the story he told probably sounded more like the plotline from Heathers and I was Martha Dumptruck. Because I’m a highly evolved individual with an amazing amount of therapy behind me, I hope that Dick is no longer, you know, a dick. The great thing about growing up is you don’t have to be the person you were in high school. THANK. GOD.

My stepchildren are 21 and 17 and the advice I’ve given to them is simple: Anyone who tells you these are the best years of your life is full of shit. Your high school and college years serve only as an object lesson in how not to be a raving asshat as an adult and how to hold your liquor.  It is inconceivable for a teenager to understand that as an adult NO ONE CARES what you made on your ACT or if you only got into your safety school. It is nigh impossible to believe as a 16-year-old drama nerd that, yes, there is actually a guy or two who thinks you’re the bees knees. Does it suck you don’t find this out until you’re 45 and married up to your eyeballs? Yes. Yes, it does. But face it, he’s probably a really nice, funny guy and you had your eye on Dumbass. You know, the one who called you the wrong name most of the time and never had money for gas or the movie he invited you to? When you got to college you had your eye on Sensitive Ponytail Man who wept for baby seals and also had his eye on Dumbass. So at least you had that in common.

I know I started out talking about summer and ended up with a bummer.  See what I did there? I just really hate summer. Also, I figure I wasn’t the only one who dreaded summer just because it meant school would start all over again in a couple of months.

The Poetry of Comments

Here is a selection of random comments, and parts of comments, from my Facebook feed. Enjoy.

  • If I were a cigarette, I would scream when being smoked.
  • any one konw the sentence that has had 14 times within it that makes sense..i am sure it starts had he hadinplace of had had……
  • Not everyone knows about this trick. Yeah, it startled me, too. I’m glad that this article is out there teaching the folks who don’t know, honestly. Taco nights are important.
  • I’ve always wondered what the ceiling of the test kitchen looked like! Now I know.
  • I live in Washington. Our vampires do not sparkle, no matter what the author of Twilight may want you to believe. Sparkling tends to dramatically shorten the “life”span of a vampire.
  • I always thought that it would be funny if ‘astronaut food’ gave people gas. Wonder if they take that into account when concocting that stuff. It would be like flying transcon.
  • The Destruction of such a nation is Merited to Clense that nation of the Abominations of Immorality !! As it was in Sodom and Gomorra So Shall it be in the nation called the U.S.A. – United Supporters of Immorality !! Soon this nation shall be Utterly Destroyed by Fire from the Heavens !!
  • If you seriously don’t know what Game of Thrones is then you’ve already lost the game of Life
  • I would like to know how she allows Monsanto to control her Husband and poison our food supply with GMO’s. And why they are not considered Terrorist’s? How long do you think we will allow this before we demand accountability for the Rape and Poisoning of our food supply, and the unknown causes of these effects?? This is Treason against the American people. You and your Husband are our Hope. You cannot preach Change and expect to continue on living the same Life. First Lady, clean House.
  • I am living in New Zealand now, and it is obvious how high the American obesity rate is in general.
  • Lawnmowers are way too mainstream

Road Trip

plan59.com

My husband’s family has this cabin in the woods near Land Between The Lakes called Sunset Lodge. It’s less the horror movie set it sounds like and more of a magical nirvana where there is no internet or cellphone reception except at like two in the morning when the moon is full. I mean, yes, there was that one time the lake haints and woods zombies carried off a friend’s pomeranian, but we considered that more a stroke of good fortune than an actual haunting. It’s kind of a fancy place. The man who built it had high hopes his family would spend a lot of time out there. The wife went once, said she’d never go back, and the husband put it on the market. When my husband’s grandfather bought it there were still monogrammed linens in it. There’s also a bedroom with a private bath off the kitchen. We assumed since it had its own bath it was the master until we noticed the lock was on the outside of the door. Come to find out it was the maid’s quarters. Rich people! They’re just like us! Of course the question remains as to why he didn’t keep it and tell her she never had to go again, but BY GOD he was going to get out of that house for some goddamned quiet, and shoot animals, and drink cheap bourbon, and I don’t care one iota what fabric you want to use for dining room curtains, COULD YOU PLEASE SHUT UP, WOMAN?! But, you know, everyone’s family is different.

My family’s cabin in the woods is more like a tin can on stilts. With rats. There is indoor plumbing, and I don’t even mean the hose reaches into the house. So it’s got that working for it. The Men (and I really mean men because historically The Ladies have gone up there only when they ran out of things to harass The Men about, and the decor of the place–Early American Brothel Slash Mossy Oak Camo– is good for about a week of HOW CAN YOU STAND IT UP THERE??!! The answer, of course, is that no one asks that question at The Camp) use it in between freezing their butts off in a shooting house or a marsh. I believe the little store up the road accounts for approximately 70% of U.S. Vienna sausage sales because that’s the only thing I’ve ever known anyone to eat up there. It’s in the Mississippi Delta and I’m told there’s a serious wild hog problem this spring. I haven’t been in a long time and would like to go, but in summer the bugs up there ride their own four-wheelers and the snakes are Winnebago sized. I’ll wait until November, thanks. Also, WILD HOGS.

Despite the fact I was raised in the city and have always considered roughing it to mean no valet parking, I rather like Sunset Lodge. I like fishing and building giant fires. I also enjoy a game we’ve come to call How Old Is This Shit? Apparently the cabin is built on a vortex which ages pantry staples overnight. For example, you might clean out the pantry one weekend and throw away all items which expired before Colin Powell changed his mind about Iraq. But next weekend? BOOM. You reach for a can of soup only to find out that it is old enough to drive. My best find was a box of Jell-O last year with an expiration date of 1998. We recently found unopened bottles of salad dressing with use-by dates of 2009. This is AFTER we pulled everything out of the kitchen to remodel it. How it happens is a mystery. We’ve narrowed it down to an aunt who likes to shop bulk discount stores or aliens are just screwing with us.

Besides the fact that being there makes me feel like I’m in a cocoon which no one can penetrate mainly because they don’t have the phone number, I like reading trashy novels. At the cabin, you can read crap with impunity. Haven’t started the Porn Lite series Fifty Shades of Grey? Secretly wanting to gobble up a Nora Roberts trilogy? Don’t want your BFF to know you’re a Hunger Games fanatic? Soft spot for vampire romances? The cabin is the place. The same is true for trash TV. New Year’s weekend we got lucky with a Walking Dead marathon. How can a year be bad if it starts off sitting in a recliner for twelve straight hours stuffing your face with various cheese-based delicacies and Prosecco?

Growing up we had a place in Pensacola Beach. When we went down in the summer it was the only time my brother and I could get pre-sweetened cereals. He always got Fruit Loops and I got Sugar Pops, which I’m disappointed to know is now called Corn Pops. I now enjoy the adult version of vacation cereal. This is a chance for Twizzlers and Peach Nehi–the finest of the Nehi flavors. You know how you’ve been eyeing the cheese-stuffed-cheese in the deli? You know what I’m talking about: a layer of cheddar, a layer of Stilton, and up to three other layers of miscellaneous cheese goodness. Now’s the time. Take it to the cabin. Bagel Bites? It’s a bagel AND a pizza! A breakfast you and your mom can agree on! Were Planters Cheez Balls (the undisputed KING of ALL cheeze ball products) still in existence, I’d eat three cans on a short trip. Cream soda, PBR, potted meat, whatever your guilty food pleasure is, it should be indulged at Sunset Lodge. Especially if cheese is involved.

Not that you shouldn’t eat something real. At some point you’ll need a salad or an apple just to push the sludge through your system. Trust me. And you’ll also realize you’ve had so much beer that you are your own personal floatation device. When that realization comes, it’s time to go home and detox until the next trip. Or until you have an unholy craving for Hot Fries.