Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crazy Girl

"A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?"- Albert Einstein

A friend and I were discussing the other day how easy it is for people to assign the "crazy" tag to a someone they probably just don't understand. "It's a total and complete cop out." I was saying as I navigated my way through a burger the size of my head. I made small, stacked piles of my food as I tried to figure out how to tackle it. "I mean, I've been called crazy A LOT. But I feel like it is just something someone says when they don't have the intelligence or the energy to commit to knowing someone."

"I agree." She nodded. "However, what I think is crazy is the fact that you DO NOT KNOW HOW TO EAT A BURGER. Insane, really."

"I'm serious about this!" I whined. "A friend the other day actually PUT MY NAME INTO ANOTHER WORD. He called me 'Melly-dramatic.' CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THAT?"

She gasped as she set her beer down and stared at me with wide eyes. "No. He. Did. Not."

"He did. Oh, he did."

Perhaps all of this crazy talk should make me examine the way I interact with the world and the people I love in it. So, I did. For about 5 minutes. And I realized that I kind of love who I am and the fact that (okay, yes,) I am bat shit crazy. Out to lunch. Up a wall. Unhinged. Up shit creek without a paddle...(well. That one doesn't really work.) What I am trying to say is: yes. I am crazy. And dramatic. And I really don't want to change that.

I only feel so confident in my insanity because the people I surround myself with are all bat-shit-up-a-wall-and-a-creek-or-whatever as well. I sat with a friend drinking whiskey on my balcony the other night until 4 am cackling over how Emily Dickinson was a prude. This was the night before our poetry final. When I had to wake up to take the test 3 hours later I called him in a panic. "Hi. I am still...I am still drunk. What do I do?"

He didn't miss a beat. "Drink another glass in the shower. You'll be fine."

So this is how I found myself at 7 am shooting down a coffee mug of whiskey as I tried not to get shampoo in it. Not my finest moment, surely...but definitely one of my more interesting ones. I called my Mom on my walk to school and started the conversation with: "Hi. I can't feel my feet."

"Oh my God, Melissa Beth. You're drunk."

"You jump to that? Do I usually call you at 7am drunk?"

"Well no. This is a first, surely. But, you'll be great. You are so smart. Just make sure you don't get hit by a bus or anything, ok? Love you! And text me later so I know you didn't get hit by a bus! I don't trust those city busses..."

She never called me crazy. She never questioned my questionable decisions. She just wanted to make sure I was not a victim of public transit.

That is how it should be.

I also made a friend recently that has open discussions with me about how much we both like crying. I feel comfortable enough with him to send him text messages that say: "Hey. I just watched a Bruce Springsteen music video and lost my SHIT." To which he will reply: "Oh yeah. I would too. Was it Secret Garden from Jerry Maguire?"

Why yes it was.

When I am around "normal" people I can never feel comfortable in my skin. And not because they are calm and collected and hike with their dog Fluffy every Sunday and eat granola and shop at L.L Bean and listen to Hootie and the Blowfish. It is because I know that somewhere, somehow they are "crazy" too. They just won't admit it. Instead, they will go up to the first poet/artist/fun-time-party-girl they know and slap that label on them. And you know what?

That's crazy.

My Dad is a mortician and does an amazing Kermit the frog impression. My Mom used to sculpt Victorian-era-looking woman out of snow in our front yard with her bare hands. I was too afraid of swapping blood with my girlfriends, so instead of becoming "blood-sisters" in the typical youthful rite of passage, we all peed into different cups, flushed it together and chanted: "URINE SISTERS FOREVER!" I took a final slightly drunk but nailed it. I cry at commercials, I cry after too much wine, and sometimes I cry just because it feels good and I am watching a Tom Hanks movie. I talk to myself, I talk to my fish, and actually hid in a bush last week in order to avoid running into someone I knew on campus because I hadn't washed my hair.

Maybe that sounds crazy to you...but I think it sounds just about right.

Get a little crazy. All the cool kids are doing it. You can find them in the bushes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mom. Stop Skyping Me.

When people first heard that Brett was moving across the country, you would not believe the amount of people that extolled the virtues of "Skype sex." Even typing that grosses me out, as did the couples extolling said venture. There is nothing,
and I mean nothing, appealing to me about trying to have an intimate relationship with my computer camera. I gagged lightly every single time it was mentioned to me and it was mentioned to me a lot. I now have a horrible gag reflex and a working imagination of most of my friend's sex lives. No bueno.

I hate Skype. I hate the sterility, the distance, the depression it causes. I like to touch people. I like to know that I can reach out and stroke someone's hand, or smell the scent of the coffee they are drinking, or actually look into their eyes and not a computer screen. And don't get me started on sexy video chats. The last time I tried to "be sexy" was in 1998 when I wore large hoop earrings and brown lip liner. I'm not exactly hip or natural or anything normal, really. I'm an awkward mess and I OWN IT and I hate Skype.

The end.

Or so I thought.

I made the very awful mistake of telling my Mom about Skype and even helping her set up an account. I have no idea why. I think she tricked me into telling me it was a good way for her to keep in touch with my Grandfather or something. We Skyped once as a test...and then it was all over.

The woman was trying to Skype with me. Constantly.

I would be at school and my phone would start blowing up. This was usually the succession of my mother's texts:

12:24: HEY! I'm on SKYPE.
12:25: WHERE R U
12:32: Omg. Did I do something? u mad?!
12:47: Melly Belly. I'm getting mad. LET'S SKYPE AND TALK ABOUT THIS.

And so on.

I had, quite inadvertently, created a monster.

Don't get me wrong...I love my mother an unhealthy amount, I just don't have the desire to video chat with her 8 times a day. I have given in and Skyped at her demand, but it is always extremely awkward. She is still getting used to the technology and ends up spending the entire session staring at herself in the camera, making weird faces, and then once and awhile she will notice me and talk about how cute (read: long,) my ears are. She also seems to think it is an around the clock thing. The other day she called me, and casually asked: "Can you see me?" I was so confused.
"See you where, Mom?"
She grew impatient and hissed into the phone,"See me...on...Skype? Can you see me right now?"
"Ok. Ma? Unless you have a 24/7 webcam THAT I AM WATCHING, no. I cannot see you. Are we seriously having this conversation?"
"Melly, you are being so rude. Ok. Fine....Can you see me now?"

This is my life.

So, this morning when she sent me her usual text message (SKYPE.SKYPE.SKYPE.SKYPENOW.) I hesitated. Did I really want to start my day off this way? Looking at the image of my mother who is looking at the image of herself...and feeling a mixture of deep homesickness and wonder that I came from something so weird and lovely? I gave in because I was hungover and too tired to put up a fight.

And then the most amazing thing filled my screen.

My Mom, wearing a bra, (thank goodness,) holding my two nephews and sitting on the couch with my sister. Everyone was in pajamas, everyone (except the kids) was drinking coffee, and for the most gorgeous of moments...I was home.

My nephew Elias is old enough to understand that 1. Computers are awesome, and 2. His Aunt is stuck in the computer and he does not know how to get her out. He calmed himself with that panic by showing me every. single. stuffed animal he owns. It was pretty epic. And my baby nephew Liam just pushed his baby cheeks up against the camera and drooled.

I've never felt more loved.

I stayed on that Skype call for a whole 25 minutes. It was just long enough for my sister to tell me I looked like shit, my Mom to say my ears are "SOOOOO CUTE," my nephew to ask me if I was still living in Californ-i-a, and Liam to produce enough liquid on the keyboard to warrant a trip to computer tech. Suddenly, my view on computer video-chatting changed. No, I would not use it to make my own version of "One Night In Paris," but it wasn't...as bad as I thought it would be.

I got to see my Mom laughing as she juggled an armful of spawn. My sister rolling her eyes at me with every thing I said. My nephew telling me a joke, forgetting the punch line, and returning with a stuffed monkey that was FASCINATING.

It was my imperfect and perfect little life...all on the tiny screen of my computer.

So, go Skype someone you love. But, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don't do anything sexy. That shit is just weird.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life Poetry. Not as cool as the published shit.

My post- finals plans. or, Friday.

I'm back and better than ever.

Not really.

It's finals time around here, which basically translates to your soul feeling like it is being sucked out of your ear, you second guess everything you ever thought rocked about yourself, and everyone on campus looks the same as you do. Like sweaty, confused zombies. Well, zombies is a bit cliche of a description, no? So, everyone looks like sweaty...confused...sweat-pants-wearing-greasy-haired-depressed-slightly-hungover-and-self-loathing visions of their former selves. Basically, the feeling around campus is euphoric.

That was my sleepy stab at sarcasm.

After 3 days in solitary confinement I was in tears over the fact that I had not spoken to a human soul about anything other than term papers. I had been existing in a colorful array of pajama separates and my life felt like it operated on a a very, very depressing schedule. Wake up, make coffee with eyes closed, try to work but end up listening to the Backstreet Boys album, stumble to a cafe, try to work again, but end up eating pizza and staring out the window as you think about how much you hate Walt Whitman and wishing he was alive so you could smack him. Feel bad because you don't actually hate Walt Whitman, you just hate your major and then have a quiet cry about that in the bathroom stall. Go home. Put on different pajamas. Maybe open some wine. Work more. Find a Disney Pandora station. Go to bed after listening to 7 different versions of "A Whole New World." Maybe sneak in another quick little cry or two. Sleep.

Do it all again the next day.

I wish I could say I was exaggerating, because I do love to exaggerate...but sadly I'm not. (okay, maybe the Pandora station only had 5 different versions of "A Whole New World.") this life is something I definitely chose, and this life is what led to Brett needing to leave to finish school 2,568 miles away...so I definitely need to own this life. BUT HERE IS THE THING. I sort of hate it. I open up lovely books now, bound in gold thread, smelling of libraries and rich history and all of the fucking things I used to love about literature before, and all I want to do is vomit. If a fellow classmate uses any of the following words: "dichotomy," "agency" "utilize," problimitize," "gender constructs," or "epistemology" I will smack them in the face. And then throw a chair at them. And then hurl hateful insults in their general direction in my black little mind. It's petty, sure. But hey. It's where I am.

2 things have saved me recently. Well, 3. I will now bullet point these for you.

-(Dash, not bullet point, I am aware.) I recently made a friend that I never expected. In fact, I was pretty sure this guy hated me, and I hated him to be formal and by extension. IN REALITY he is brilliant and charming and a very giving person. And I am a douche bag. When he texted me last night to make sure I was doing ok on my paper I felt that old Catholic guilt revving up in my stomach. But I forgave myself. Sometimes the most interesting things in life are right under your nose and you are too much of an asshole to see them. So, get better glasses.

-My friend Mikaila has sat with me in countless coffee shops as I overwhelmed her with questions and jokes about how Depends should come in thong form. We have vented to one another about our frustrations, drunk countless cups of phlegmy coffee, and checked in with one another each step of the way. It's actually pretty amazing.

-(third dash point,) KATIE.

Katie gets a simplistic dash point and no explanation because we had a conversation the other day that is nothing short of amazing. I called her in hidden tears. This means I was actually crying out of legitimate depression, but I practiced a cheery "HI!" before I called her so she would not think I was a weirdo.

Katie is this lovely and charming and gorgeous friend my father set me up with. She also happens to be one of the funniest women I know, which says a lot- since I think I am the funniest woman I know. Most importantly, she is a grad student at my school, but is nice enough to listen to my undergrad woes even though she needs to write, like, a fucking novel by the 16th.

This is our conversation:

Me: "Katieeeeee! HIIIIIIII!!!!!!!! How's the writing going?"

Katie: "Awful."

Me: (actually dissolving) "Oh God. Me too. Do you ever look at people on the street? Strangers? And you hate them? Because they are able to have friends and be normal and eat food in public and wear clothing other than pajamas?"

Katie: "Melissa, I actually became jealous of a girl I saw today. Because she looked cleaner than me."

Me: "Oh God. I forgot I haven't showered..."

Katie: "Do you think we'll get through this?"

Me: "Well. I made a lot of inappropriate suicide jokes today. About the hook on my ceiling. Wondering if it will hold my weight. WHICH IS BAD. I'M BEING BAD. What I am trying to say is...I don't know. Will we?"

Katie: "Yes. We will. And I've seen that hook. It's too small."

Most of you are probably thinking that I am a horrible human being for being so insensitive. But you know what? I feel...enlightened. In one week so much has been made clear to me. I'm smarter than I think, I have people in my life that I didn't even know were there...the hook in my living room ceiling can truly only support a plant...and I will get through this.

We all will. We are all up against something that seems impenetrable. Something that seems like it pushes back more than it gives in. I'm here to tell you that, YES. IT SUCKS AND IT WILL MAKE YOU HATE YOUR LIFE FOR AWHILE. But, somethings gotta give. You will get somewhere. You will make an imprint. And slowly but surely...you will be where you decide you need to be.

For me, right now...I only want to be on the other side. Maybe I am missing the point a bit...like I so often do in life. I'm all about the end result, so it's helpful for me to piece my life together in the odds and ends of the week that propelled me forward.

Those odds and ends? An unexpected friendship. Funny chats with Brett. Help and love and patience from an old friend. Laughter and $4.19 cookies with a new one. Wine, (obviously. Come on,) and trust and new beginnings and frustrated tears and thrown away cartridges of ink.

It's sort of the poetry of life, is it not?

Fucking Whitman would be proud.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Sorry for hating everything lovely.

It is amazing to me how many different costumes of ourselves we slip into on a daily basis. I started my morning with student self: I woke early, drank a pot of coffee, read a whole bunch of literature crap while feigning passion for it, and was all caught up by 10 am. And then I slipped on my power woman self: got through an amazing work-out, conducted a kick ass interview, (while sweating profusely because of nervousness, but my mantra of "never let them see you sweat" paid off thanks to my AWESOME AND ABSORBENT blazer and KICK ASS acting ability,) and had the sound bites written up and logged away within an hour. I was responsible self on the way home when I remembered to stop and buy bleach and blush, (isn't it funny the combinations of things needed at drug stores? Always cracks me up. Usually for me it's wine and toilet paper.) And then I was home, empowered, and exhausted by 5pm.

And then I became depressing self. That costume is, unfortunately, the easiest to slip into.

I had tentative plans with a friend, but those fell through and at first, I was sort of relieved. It was 6pm now, and an entire evening stretched deliciously in front of me. Would I take myself to that restaurant I have been dying to try? Maybe it was a rented movie/Thai food in kind of night? There was still time to pop in and get a pedicure at my local salon...I ran each and every plan over my tongue to see if I liked the taste of any of them. I couldn't decide. There was a haunting sense of loneliness that started to creep in around me, and unfortunately I catered to that. I put on PJ's. I heated up some leftovers. I let the apartment get dark and gloomy and I let my mind give in to ridiculous imaginations as I tried to figure out what all of my friends were doing tonight.

This is never, ever a good plan. Instead of existing comfortably with myself I was spending all of my energy in crazy-girl-land as I mentally played movies of how much fun everyone else in the fucking world was having. How is this healthy or forward-thinking or useful? Well, it's not. That's the point. Sometimes self inflicted misery is like an advil: coated in the sugary layer to make it go down easier, but if you let it sit on your tongue for awhile it just becomes bitter.

Well, my advil became bitter.

I want to be the kind of person that thrives in any situation she finds herself in. Plans broken, unexpected night in? NO PROBLEM! I have a PAINTING/QUILT/WORLD PEACE ACT that I have been meaning to try! All of my friends are out celebrating the birth of Christ and the invention of spiked eggnog? GREAT! THIS IS A WONDERFUL TIME FOR ME TO MAKE HOME-STITCHED ADVENT CALENDARS FOR ALL OF THEM! AND THEIR DOGS! Sadly, I am anything but this person. I am the person that is like, "Well, I might as well put on sweatpants and watch 7 hours of vintage SNL...by myself." I seem to love pity parties for one. Usually those parties have really good wine and Adele music. And crying into ice-cream tubs.

While reflecting on all of this I cringed when I thought of something I said to a new friend today. He happily told me he was going ice-skating with his girlfriend, and I said something snarky. "Oh. THAT is obnoxiously cute." Not only that, I said it several times. The poor kid didn't stand a chance. We ended up, to his credit and extreme patience, having a decent conversation- but when we said good-bye my horrible words burned through me my entire walk home. Why did I feel like I had to throw acid around like glitter? What the hell was so wrong about this sweet boy going ice-skating with the woman he loves? Just because I am lonely, I am sad...that gives me the right to fling my words around without thinking about it?

I guess I realized that the self that I have been slipping into WAY more than is healthy is that self. The one that basically shits on everything around her without thinking about the consequences of it all. And don't we all do that? We live in our on little costumes without poking our heads out to see what is really going on in the world? We're safe in the confines of that material we construct...but we are so cut off from reality we can't see exactly and truthfully what we are really doing.

I'm going to be ok with myself tonight...costume off. Am I in a sweatshirt too small for me because I refuse to do laundry? Yes. Have I watched all of the Melissa Joan Hart movies on my netflix tonight? Yes. DID I LISTEN TO A SONG BY HANSON? Yes. That's ok. It's Friday. It's not National-Everyone-Should-Be-Out-Partying-And-Having-Fun-Day. I am not missing out on anything. In fact, the party I have with myself right now is pretty cool. And my hair looks great.

I say I'm having the best night of all.

And I hope that couple has fun ice-skating. I really and truly do.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm obnoxious.

There is something about being home that makes me revert back to being a child. The second I walked in my Grandfather's door it was as if I had lost about 20 years and went up 3 dress sizes. (The food. Oh my God. We should all eat like New Englanders.) He even puts these slippers out for me that are essentially two giant pooh bear heads that you cram your feet into. That ends up being my footwear of choice the ENTIRE weekend, and there is nothing like walking around with your feet in pooh's head that makes you feel super sexy.

So, I regress. Majorly. And I have never thought about it until this last trip.

One morning Gramp and I were drinking coffee in the kitchen as I watched him prepare the turkey for dinner. (Notice I said watching, not helping. I am a total ass.) Totally out of character for him, my Gramp looked up at me and said out of the blue: "You know. Your Grandmother would have been really proud of you. You've turned into an amazing woman."

My jaw dropped and I stared at him and then I stared down at my pooh bear heads on my feet. I was wearing snowflake pajama pants, one of Brett's old shirts, and my hair was still in little braids I had absently constructed as I watched him cook food for me. I felt anything but womanly. I didn't even feel adult.

"Well." I said. "Let's not go that far."

He frowned at me over the naked turkey. "You're being weird."

"No, you're being weird!" I sang out, and then clamped my hand over my mouth, trying to silence the sing-songy Melissa that comes out when I am nervous or uncomfortable. Or drunk. I cleared my throat and looked him in the eye in the way I imagined an adult woman wearing pooh slippers would. "Gramp. I feel like I have no idea what I am doing with my life and I feel anything but womanly. What would Gram be proud of, exactly?"

He was quiet for a long time, and I felt that I had shattered the one adult moment we had shared this entire trip. I slowly unthreaded the braids from my hair and patted my pooh feet lovingly. "She would be proud of you because you chased your happy." He grunted, shoving the bird into the oven. "That's all we ever wanted for you, and you did it. You've grown up a lot."

It was refreshing to know that his idea of success and maturity was not measured in 401k plans or glittering job offers. He didn't care that I wear pajamas that are actually intended for toddlers or that I am still in school at 28 years old with my ovaries covered in a layer of dust. He was just proud of me for chasing...something. For leaving my small town and going after a dream and a life and not ever really giving up on it. To him, that dedication made me a woman. And a grown up. It was weird to see myself through that lens.

I guess the whole point is to make sure we are open to the possibility that we're not total fuck ups. To be willing to look at ourselves the way other people see us- because sometimes, for good and for bad, that is the most realistic interpretation of who we are. Maybe I spent the rest of the day twirling around the kitchen in my slippers, (I discovered that the pooh head is so heavy that if you get yourself going in a good spin you can rotate several times because the weight propels you forward...yes, I realize how awesome you now think I am...) AND MAYBE I stole the pickle and cheese tray and ate the whole thing by myself, AND MAYBE I made up a song about Christmas and sung the whole thing to Gramp really loud in my stage of a kitchen, (some of the winning lyrics? "It's Christmasss...CHRISTMASSSS....CHRISTMASSSSSSSSS!") but these things didn't make me a child, they made me a very eccentric adult with an insatiable need for attention.

I'm ok with that adult. And I kind of like the fact that she's not always polished, she's not always quiet, (well, never, actually.) but she is colorful and loved and a little bit insane.

And I am still chasing my happy, Gram. And I promise I will never, ever stop.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Everything.

I'm so embarrassed I have been gone for so long.

I blame the holidays. I truly was in my hometown- which means we have one meat shop, one liquor store, one wal-mart AND THAT IS IT. So, I don't apologize for eating turkey in the general great expanse of nothing with my Grandfather.

Don't judge.

I went home for Thanksgiving, as you can tell. And I spent the holiday religiously- meaning I was in my slippers and unkempt hair the whole time. It was bliss. My Gramp even put out cheese cubes for me. I MEAN, WHAT IS BETTER THAN THAT? Nothing. I may be a California girl and know about all the fancy ways to entertain, but you put a plate of cubed cheese in front of me and I WILL LOSE MY SHIT.

I love my Grandfather.

It was a weekend of white zinfandel (his favorite wine,) home videos, Melissa in pajamas, and epic dart wars/air hockey tournaments. My Grandfather put in a game room when my Gram died, and believe me: it gets used. Although I think his vision was a place to bring the grandkids together,not have them at each other's necks...but still. It is a great place.

So, I came home to Berkeley, approximately 5.6 pounds heavier and that much more depressed. I met my personal trainer on my arrival and this is AN ACTUAL CONVERSATION WE HAD:

Her: (Amazonian, Venus Williams-ian,) "You've gotten flabby in the ONE week I was not working with you."
Me: "Don't you have a soul? Or pumpkin pie? I feel like no one loves you or something....I mean, the way you gnash your teeth at me."
Her: "That is not really nice, is it? Do 100 push ups. NOW."
Me: "I'm ovulating. I don't know why I said no one loves you. I...love you. But I cannot procreate with you, so..."
Her: "3...4...5..."
Me: "Oh my God. I don't know if you know me, but I will not be doing 100 push ups."
Me: "I feel like I am special in my own way..."
Her: "I give up. But I don't. Because you are paying me."
Me: "Yes! I pay you to say nice things!"
Her: "Your hair always looks nice when you come in. And I like your perfume..."
Me: "Finally. NOW we are getting somewhere..."

I am horrible at personal training.

Being home has sparked something within me that has been eating away at me ever since. Number one, PEOPLE CAN AFFORD HOUSES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. I kept an eye on real estate stuff while I was home, and I was sickened to discover I could probably afford a 4.5 bedroom house with servants quarters, a laundry room, and an in-law apartment attached. We went to visit old friends...and they welcomed us into their beautiful ADULT HOMES THAT THEY GET TO LIVE IN TOGETHER. It was hard to see. I came home to my studio and I immediately spent 50$ on Christmassy decorations to make it feel un-dorm-like. I called Brett immediately:
Me: "So, I found a tree....I named him Marvin."
Brett: "You named...a tree?"
Me: "Well. Of course. You thought he would just go nameless? I'm not a horrible person, you know."
Brett: "But...Marvin? Wha..?"
Me: "It's awesome. And he misses you. So I feel like you should shut your mouth before you upset everyone."

And that is the story of how Marvin came to be.

Moral is: family will always try and lead you away from the one thing that (maybe only you) believe in. But, they mean the best. Family is about: awkward moments, mustached kisses from aunts, secrets kept from Mom and Dad, sibling love/rivalry, laughter, joy, sweat, tears...

Life is full of awkward, sweaty, Stanford-trainer-moments. It is up to us to take a step back, laugh, and...live.

Happy Holidays everyone. May your family be less weird than mine.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

8 Weeks until I am TOTALLY SEXY and in a bathtub with a turkey leg. Naturally.

I woke up really, really sick today and I woke up in a very, very dramatic way. The second I opened my eyes and groggily realized the little sore throat from the night before had turned into a full blown earache/swollen gland/aches and pains extravaganza, I lost it. I laid there in bed moaning out loud: "Oh no, OH NOOO" over and over again as if that was going to magically restore my heath.

I don't usually mind being sick, but when I am ALONE and there is NO ONE TO MAKE ME SOUP AND PAT MY HEAD It sort of loses its romantic appeal. I also had a workout today that I really didn't want to miss.

Yes. You heard that right. I did not want to miss a workout.

I'm not fat by any means, but I'm also definitely not in shape. The one day I was late to class and had to sprint up 4 endless levels of stairs and nearly died was the day that I felt like enough was enough. I got a gym membership the next day. And then I spent that day scouting out where all of the hot tubs and spas were. And then the next day I started working out.


It's amazing what happens when you tell people that you are working out again. It releases a barrage of back-hand compliments. "Oh good," a friend told me. "I mean, you need it, right?" Another friend gushed: "You are going to look SO HOT! And it won't take that long, because you're, like, not fat at all. You're just soft! Oh my God, I can't wait to see how good you are going to look!"

Now, I'm not going to tell you all how much I weigh, (123 pounds) because that is not the point of this story, (I only weigh 123 pounds, goddammit) and I won't submit to the noise my friends are making since I know that they only have the best of intentions. (123. fucking. pounds.) It is about health, I get that, and my friends are just excited that I am making some life changes and won't be curling up in bed with a glass of scotch balancing on my stomach as I read.

Or, I will, but that stomach will be SEXIER. And probably flatter, which will in turn provide a better table-top for my booze.

So now you see why I was despondent over missing that workout.

Junking myself up on Nyquil, I took my sick, soft ass to the couch and woozily googled Tina Fey pictures. This is one of my favorite things to do. I don't know why. I'm not normal. I came across this picture, and my life was changed:

It was the single funniest thing I had ever seen. Especially hopped up on Nyquil at 11am. I immediately, (continuing to make good choices) banged out an e-mail to a photographer friend of mine. This is exactly what it said:

hi guys!
I have a pretty amazing idea.

I was thinking of doing a boudoir shoot- but a really awesome one. I want to mimic Tina Fey's esquire spread, captured in spirit with this picture.
This is what I am thinking: me in a bubble bath, eating a turkey leg, wearing rain boots. Or posing with empty bottles of champagne, clown dolls, stuffed monkeys in my wedding dress. OR if we could get a BUNCH OF CATS...well, I don't know what we would do with them, but it sounds promising.

I have a million more ideas, all better than the last in my brain.
I know we can't get a million cats, but we CAN get a turkey leg.

I look forward to your reply and hopeful continued friendship.

I had decided in my drug induced haze that the most logical reward for getting a hot body would be a photo shoot with a turkey leg. This made total sense to me, and I even thought "I could make this a book and give it to Brett for his birthday!"

Because everyone knows that there is nothing a man wants more than a picture of his wife with 4,000 cats and stuffed monkeys.

Sometimes I am just too sexy for my own good. Or, I will be. In 8 weeks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You're Doing Everything Wrong.

I really love when people admit that they have no fucking idea what they are doing. It warms my heart. It makes my stomach tickle. I find nothing more beautiful than admitted weakness.

It's all of the other bastards out there that really get me down. You know everything? You're good at everything? Awesome. Here is a cookie. A COOKIE ATTACHED TO MY FOOT WHICH IS NOW IN YOUR FACE.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when, on the phone with a friend, she soothed my anxiety over the details of my life. Details like I live in a studio apartment, my husband lives across the country, and everyone around us seems to be doing it "right." She countered with the gorgeous argument: "Well, maybe everybody else is doing it wrong. That should be the name of your book. "You're Doing Everything Wrong."

I actually had to sit down on the floor- in the middle of a store- because I had never heard anything more profound in my entire life. "You could even follow it up with a sex book." she continued. "You're still Doing Everything Wrong."

"I've always wanted to share my 2 positions. It's selfish, really, not cluing the world in on that."

"Well, there you go." She laughed. PROBLEM SOLVED.

It made me think back on a time where I was having cocktails with THE WIVES: a group of woman from Brett's office that were all newly married, and all very proper and "doing it right," no doubt. While I love these ladies an insane amount, they are not exactly the crew that I would drag my Edward barbie doll out of the closet with. For some reason, the topic of lying came up.

(As it naturally does over a cheese plate and bottle of Cabernet.)

"I would never, ever tell a lie." One wife dramatically declared, taking a tiny sip of wine. Meanwhile, I had gulped mine down and blurted out: "Lying is like snorting cocaine. SUPER FUN in small doses and it makes life more interesting. But you probably shouldn't do it, before...like a wedding or a baptism or something."


In all honesty, I have never, ever snorted...well, anything, but especially not cocaine. This is just a PRIME EXAMPLE of Melissa "not doing it right" by going for the most inappropriate joke at the most inappropriate time. I spent the rest of our cocktail hour reassuring them that I was not a druggie and didn't actually lie on a regular basis.

Which was basically a normal night with the Wives, anyway.

There are countless times in my life where I second guess every thing I say and every thing I do. This can be helpful once and awhile. I don't need to dump half a bottle of champagne in my shoe at my husband's work mixer. I don't always need to be the first one up dancing at weddings...like, before the bride and groom. The word "fuck"- being an English major at Berkeley-probably shouldn't be my favorite and most used word. It's not like I don't have more to choose from. That all being said, I don't have to wake up the morning after a dinner date with friends and crucify myself for every flaw, every awkward movement, every thing that I did wrong. BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT? You're doing everything wrong, I'm doing everything (and I mean everything,) wrong...


I'm flawed. I make up stories. I taught the kids I use to nanny how to do a really authentic Indian-cab-driver accent. I talk too much, I'm wasteful with paper towels. I totally cheated on a test LIKE LAST WEEK and I'm not always a very patient person.

But I would do anything for someone I loved at ANY time of the night or day. I make a killer baked macaroni and cheese. If you are in my home you will be treated like a king or a queen. and I know how to pour a proper glass of wine.

So, maybe some people think I'm not doing everything by the rules that they created and hold the rest of the population to. Maybe I'll have kids. Or not. Maybe I'll adopt a bunch of monkeys and name them all "Esmeralda." Maybe I jar peanut butter for a living and go home to my husband, dog, and stuffed deer collection. Maybe I'll wear sweater sets and pearls and be the head of the PTA.

Um. No. Actually, I would never do that.

The point is- I'm not doing anything wrong. There is a good chance I'm doing everything wrong- but I'll take it.

We're all doing the same thing, whether we realize it or not. Fucking up, making mistakes, making memories, laughing, learning, loving, breathing.

No one on earth is doing "it right."


except Chuck Norris.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Every time you tell your girlfriend you love her, a puppy gets it's wings.

(Taken at the "New Moon" premier. And yes, that is a bottle of wine in that water bottle, thankyouverymuch.)

I called my father today in need of some comfort only my quirky father can provide, and this is the conversation we actually had:

Me: "Hey Dad. I just need a pick me up. What are you doing? Wait. Let me guess. Sitting in the den, watching football?"

Dad: "I resent that. I did a lot today. I took my neighbor's junk to the dump and stood in the yard talking with her for an hour. She has a bag attached to her abdomen that collects her poop, Melissa. Her husband died last year and I was the one to carry him out of the house. It's been a fruitful day."

Me: "You do realize that I am putting this conversation on my blog later, right? Even if I can't tie it in in any way? I'm doing that."

Dad: "I forgot that I can't tell you anything."

So, there that is.

I have been a bit down for about a week, but only my nearest and dearest can tell. I was talking with a close friend on the phone recently and she just came out and asked me why I have been so out of it. "Your blog entries are totally depressing." She said. "I know something is up- they haven't been very funny lately."

"Ah, but this is where you are wrong." I replied emphatically. "They have been funny. You're just confused. Or maybe they were so funny you cried, thinking that they were sad?"

"No. They were sad. You are totally bumming me out everyday."


I don't know why I am sad. Well, actually I do, but I DON'T HAVE TO TELL YOU EVERYTHING, BLOG. I'm doing that thing I do when I am pretty depressed. I put on a maniacal face. I am overly enthusiastic about everything. I maintain a hectic social life with ridiculous stamina. And then I cry myself to sleep.

It's super attractive.

I called upon a friend today when the noise got too loud in my head. She is, quite literally, the only friend I have that I simply cannot shock. She knows more about me than Jesus. I could tell her: "Hey, I accidentally killed someone," and she would just nod, take a sip of wine, and be like: "I'm sure you had a good reason. What should we do with the body?"

Friends like that are rare.

We met for lunch and she let me launch into a diatribe about life as she sat serenely across from me, nodding and soothing and motioning the waiter to bring more wine. I was surprised at the force behind my words and the emotions I was vomiting out onto the table. I was so used to biting my tongue that having the freedom to unleash my (carefully chained) fury and sadness was pretty liberating. And exhausting. And needed.

When I was done, she said the exact thing that my soul was aching to hear. "Do you know that you are beautiful? You are beautiful, and you are giving, and I am so lucky to know you and to love you in this life."

Fucking A.

I think I actually melted a little bit. My shoulders slumped, my tongue went slack, and suddenly- every vile thing that had been brewing inside of me was gone. I looked at her, pushed all of the emotional vomit aside, and said: "Did I ever tell you how fantastic you looked in that red dress when we went to Lo Coco's? I mean- you are a stone cold fox."

And I was back.

We sat there for hours, giggling, drinking red wine, and reminiscing about the day we met. We met on craigslist, actually. I had placed an ad looking for girls to start a book-club, and among the many pictures of penises I got, she replied and we met in a coffee shop.

"You came in wearing that yellow dress" she started-

"And I saw you in all black, being all European, and I was like, fuck."

"It was love at first sight." we sort of both said, but not really because life isn't a movie. In all reality she said it and then I echoed it and then we said it again a few times. Sorry to ruin the romance of it all.

But our lives are like a movie. We've seen each other through divorce, marriage, new beginnings, sad good-byes, love found and lost. She's lived with me, she's fed me, I loaned her my "Twilight" book and we both became obsessed to an unhealthy degree.I ate my first (and only, I swear) pot brownie with her, I have wept in front of her. I have been my best in front of her. We have held hands through so much that life has tossed our way.

Yes, maybe finding her meant I had to stare at a plethora of e-mailed penises, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Girlfriend's are the sisters in life that you choose. And I would choose her everyday.

On the way home we were talking about how I intended on taking my Twilight Edward barbie doll out of his package so he can go with us to the theater. "Can we put him between us, and each of us hold his little hand through the movie?" She asked.

I swear to God I looked at her, and was filled head to toe with ridiculous love. "Yes we can." I replied. And then I hugged her. And hugged her. And whispered a fervent thanks for the woman that she is.

Which is kick ass. Obviously.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

28 is the new AWESOME.

(Fucking Terrifying.)

I was sitting in a cafe today with a friend as we excitedly went over details of her upcoming wedding. Ok, maybe I wasn't exactly "excited," but I was mustering up enough froth to throw her off my scent. It's not that I am not happy for her. I truly am. She is, quite literally, the sweetest woman I have ever met and her fiancee is a dreamboat and so, so good to her. They are going to be fantastically happy. I know it. I see it every time I look into her face. But since I am a selfish and childish bitch I don't want anyone to be happy...ever. In fact, every one's husbands should just move across the country. Girls on one side, boys on the other. Then we could all be in the same boat! Fairs fair.

See? Bitch.

Somehow, kids came up, (naturally,) and she asked me if I was planning on being a stay-at-home Mom. I sat there blinking at her for a few moments, feeling oddly like I was hovering outside of my non-impregnated body. I shrugged gently, just to give my limbs something to do and so she wouldn't think I had fallen asleep on her with my eyes wide open or anything.

I ended up telling her that I had been in school so long that I would really like to have a career at some point. "I'm 28." I said. "I've been in school for 5,678 years. I'd really like to earn a paycheck. Like, a lot of paychecks."

The only thing that bothered me about this conversation was the fact that it felt like it was too early to be happening. But it wasn't! This friend is THE SAME AGE as me, has been to grad school, has a career, owns property.

I own a killer David Sedaris collection and have a teddy bear and a plastic vampire doll shoved into my sweater closet.

Practically the same thing.

It reminded me of the day before when I was opening up a gym membership because I'm tired of calling my weekly wine-bottle-walk exercise. The (very fat, seriously? At a gym?) guy taking my information started creepily hitting on me:

Guy: "So, is there a Mr. Cottle?"

Me: "Well. Yes. You see that there is because I wrote down his information. But, he won't be on this account. Because, like you can see in front of you, he lives in Pittsburgh?"

Guy: "Why would your husband leave someone like you?"

(at this point I had to look down at myself to see what exactly this guy was seeing. Work-out clothes, messy hair, and definitely a distinct dribble of coffee down the white of my front. And a smear of toothpaste on my cheek. So, I totally got why he was into it.)

Me: (always, always trying to make a joke.) "Well, ask my therapist. HA! Just kidding. Um. Don't I get a card, or something?"

Sliding my card across the table he ruined everything about out our glorious moment with this:

Guy: "So, you're 28. Finishing up a Ph.d at Berkeley, then? That is so cool."

Me: "Oh. Well, yes, that is super cool. But no. Nope, I'm just finishing my undergrad. But...Go Bears!" (awkward fist pump.)

Guy: "You're 28 and just finishing your undergrad?"


Ok. That was mean.

To be fair, he was very nice, waived my entrance fee, and creepily called me on the phone number I left IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, so I shouldn't be so harsh. However, he struck a nerve. A nerve that only I cared about, sure- but a nerve all the same.

I thought about this as I walked home from the cafe, weaving in and out of a endless plethora of happy couples holding hands. (Seriously? Hold hands at home, not in the middle of the fucking sidewalk.) I knew I was being unnecessarily mad. I knew I was a little bit off my rocker. Only when I reached the comfortable and dark confines of my dorm-like home did I sit down and work through my thoughts like a big girl.

A few days before Brett had chuckled into the phone with me about how scary it was to think about us buying a house in Boston. We could potentially be relocating there, and as we started to talk mortgages, careers, possible kids, we both ran out of breath from panic and he said: "Hey. Doesn't this sometimes feel like a ride going too fast? Like, get me the fuck off and stop this thing?"

Now, Brett would never say "fuck," so I embellished that a bit, but I was filled with a sweeping sensation of gratitude when Brett was so...honest. No, he doesn't mean "get off the ride" in a suicidal/homicidal/divorce-icidal way. He just meant that sometimes life trips along so fast that we can only see the muted colors of it as it whizzes by the outer realms of our vision.

While it's dizzying and fun, sometimes it is nauseating. Sometimes you feel like you need to stop for a bit. Sometimes you just want to get the fuck off and...breathe.

This world is designed for us to keep on marching forward. Technology is constantly evolving, cars are getting to the point where they can probably drive YOU and make your coffee on the way. 28 is now an age where you should be well on your way to a doctorate, have a house in the suburbs and 2.5 children. While I want most of these things, (definitely the car that makes me coffee,) I'm also content staying right where I am.

I'm content with watching a zombie movie on a school night. I'm content with knowing that I have a teddy bear on cuddle stand-by if I ever need to pull him out of the sweater closet. I'm content with life being a little slow, a lot of colorful, and perfectly imperfect.

My sweet friend in the cafe wasn't the one to make me feel like I needed to be anywhere at this age. I'm the only one comparing myself to everyone around me, but I am done with that for now.

Because, frankly, I feel bad for the 28 years olds out there that don't have a plastic vampire doll in their sweater closet and a 2$ bottle of wine in their fridge. This life I have is pretty fucking fantastic. And magical.

And mine.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oh, And I Also Do This In My Spare Time:

I don't just blog folks. I'm a fish singer.

I didn't kill anyone.


When I walked into class today my professor looked me up and down. "You look horrible." She said.

"Well, I think you look really pretty, so now things are awkward."

"Are you feeling ok? You look...sad."

I didn't really stop to examine why this woman insisted on playing therapist. If anyone asks me how I am feeling I will plunge on happily because there is very little in life I love more than talking about myself.

"I think I just got into a fight with my husband and I'm beginning to think that maybe it was my fault and I have too many balls in the air and I just dropped them all in fact I think I completely lost a few and I don't know how to do anything right now and I'm really confused and angry and so fucking tired of being around myself all of the time." I took a breath. "Also, I think I'm going to throw up."

She sent me home.

Brett had called me out on a few things earlier in the day and he was absolutely and totally right. And because there is nothing worse than your husband being absolutely and totally right, I handled it with about as much grace as a four year old in high heels. Which is sort of what I was feeling like right now: a child playing dress up. A representation of what a child thinks an adult is supposed to be, when they really just look like a drunk midget stumbling about.

I was beginning to feel like a drunk midget. That makes sense probably only to me.

I haven't always made the best decisions but I have to trust that I'm doing more right than wrong and I have to trust that I will learn from my mistakes. This territory feels so uncharted sometimes and I often feel like I am doing this without a compass. It's frustrating and tiresome, and I'm often completely lost- but sometimes the scenery is unexpectedly beautiful.

The other day I was at a Blockbuster with a friend recounting in gory detail my neighbor's fight from the night before. Basically, at 2am the married couple next door had tried to kill each other, and I was pretty certain that one of them had succeeded.

"Did you call the cops?" he asked. A rational question.

"THEY WERE BEATING EACH OTHER. What if they found out I called? Then they might BEAT ME." Even as the words came out I was ashamed. I'd like to think I am a generally good person, but no, I hadn't called the cops. Instead I had clutched my mace, sitting upright in bed. I don't know who I was expecting to mace or why I needed a weapon. It's not like they were clubbing each other in my living room, but whatever.

To his credit, he was gentle on me and didn't tell me I was a horrible human being. He even admitted that, in the same situation, he wasn't sure what he would do either. Still gripped with my shame I spun on my heel to face him.

"Oh my God. I didn't even check to see if she was dead! Do you think I should? She could just be there, DEAD right now!"

At this point we were standing at the counter, about to pay for my movie. The cashier held it in mid-air as she gazed at me, horrified. "I'm sorry," she said, "but I feel the need to tell you that what I heard you just say sounded really, really bad."

"Oh. You think I killed someone don't you?"

She gaped back at me.

I didn't even explain, I just grabbed my movie and left shouting over my shoulder: "You have my information in the database! In case you really think I did anything which I didn't!"

My friend turned to me incredulously as we rushed out. "Now she is really going to think you killed someone. Why did you say that?!"

"I don't know!" I cried. "I don't know why I say most of the things I do!"

"Well, look at it this way: now the cops will show up and you can point them in the right direction."

The cops never showed up, so this girl is an asshole too. She missed her chance at being a decent human being SO I'M NOT ALONE. It did make me think though and realize that: 1. I can never go back into that Blockbuster again, and 2. I needed to grow the fuck up and stop being a whiny little girl.

Sometimes during this challenge I have moments of unexpected greatness. I've blown myself away (in a really humble fashion) with how I've handled this trial. More often, however, I'm a drunk midget and I don't want to be a drunk midget any longer. I want to fill those big girl shoes and work it. It's as simple as JUST DOING IT and setting my can of mace down for awhile.

This post is filled with many analogies and even a Nike slogan, so I know it's confusing. My point is: figure out the kind of person that you are and own it. Make mistakes, but learn from them. Never, ever allude to murdering someone because people don't forget that shit and I'm probably going to get arrested.

Most of all, tell your husband that he is right. Because he is. This time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


My Mom called me this afternoon and asked if she could interview me for class. "It's a piece on welfare abuse. Could I ask you a few questions?" I was honestly flattered she wanted to interview me, and since I was spending my day in one of Brett's old work shirts, drinking coffee and youtubing cat and baby videos, I was grateful for a bit of brain stimulation. "I think I can make some time this afternoon." I said carefully, because I never like to make myself appear too available. "Or in 5 minutes. Whatever you prefer."

My Mom sighed deeply. "I'll call you in 5 minutes."

I stretched my legs, refilled my cup and 5 minutes later my phone rang. I didn't answer because I was still putting sugar in my coffee. My phone rang again and I picked it up and sang out a long 'hellooooooooo!' She wasn't pleased.

"Where in the hell did you go in 5 minutes?"

It was my turn to sigh as I licked a crust of sugar off the end of my mug. "Mom. I am a very busy and important person. I can't tell you where I was. It's top secret."

"You're a jerk."

"Well, I'm feeling like you are not being a very professional interviewer right now."

"Melissa Beth!" she cried, exasperated. "Ok, fine. Interview starts now."


"Mom? Are you going to ask me any questions?"

"What do you think I should ask? I don't know how to interview people. I'm a nursing student. You're the writer. Just come up with some questions and then answer them for me. Let me grab a pen..."

"Soooo, you want me to interview myself?"

"You've never had a problem talking before."

"Wow. I'm really surprised CNN hasn't hired you to be a hard hitting journalist. Your skills are amazing."


I took a long pause, slurping my coffee into the phone as I pondered her question. Finally, choosing my words carefully, I offered: "It's bad."

She declared the interview was over.

Before you think I am a total and heartless bitch, I actually love my Mom very much and we laughed about the "interview" on the phone for a long time. We're barely 19 years apart, and I know that the way we interact is hard for some people to wrap their minds around. The first time I brought Brett home he looked on in wide eyed- horror as my Mom and I traded zings across the table. In my family, calling someone "a little shit" is a way of saying you really, really love someone. Cooking my family a big dinner one night I dropped a pan on the floor, badly burning it. My Mom has not fixed the burn, instead fondly pointing to it and calling it the time "Melissa ruined everything." Fuck the pictures of me on the walls. That's my real mark.

About an hour or so later I found myself at my in-laws for Sunday dinner and 7-loads-of-laundry-because-it's-free night. We all cooked together, meaning I read the Sunday funnies out loud while drinking wine at the table as they cooked. Tonight I was amazed at how natural it has come to feel hanging with my in-laws alone. I've always loved them, don't get me wrong, but they were always, intrinsically, his. In marriage sometimes the lines are drawn. You love the other side, but not as much. You fight in hushed whispers over where to spend holidays, who to vacation with, etc. Luckily, we haven't had a marriage like that, but as fond as I was of my in-laws they didn't actually feel like mine until Brett moved away.

And then here I was, stretched out on their rug, cuddling their dog as they made me a delicious dinner.

Reverting to childhood much?

Over dinner as we laughed and ate and enjoyed one another, they both gave me some pretty huge compliments that made my face go all weird. I never, ever know what to do when someone says something about me that is truly kind. The first time Brett told me he loved me my face turned to gummy and I think I looked like I had a stroke on the left side or something.

Super attractive.

Tonight, my in-laws basically gave me a thumbs up about where I am in my future career and who I may be becoming as a woman. They even complimented my skin, which was great because I had spent all night in a gay bar and was struggling to conceal a giant stamp of a bunny on my right wrist. It was just...nice to hear that I'm doing ok. I'll admit that I need vocal affirmation once and awhile. I'm not a robot. I need to hear that I am loved, liked, ok, doing well, exfoliating properly. It's a basic human need, and as long as I don't indulge it unhealthily, it's normal.

They may not be super jazzed that I insist on being a writer, and my Mom may not be thrilled that she has such a sarcastic daughter- but they claim me and love me, and it felt really wonderful to be someone's kid tonight.

There are times I demand to be taken seriously, and I wear heels and pearls and I'm bitchy and efficient and tired, tired, tired. So it was great to check in with the ones that sustain me while Brett is away...and let them parent.

My Mom ended up staying on the phone with me long after our very successful Katie Couric-style interview. She read my newest blog out loud to me on the phone and had to stop several times because she was laughing so hard. (To be fair, my Mom laughs at everything, so I'm not claiming to be the next Tina Fey or anything, ok?) Hearing her laugh through the phone, I actually started to cry a little bit from happiness. I was sitting in a slant of sunlight. I was wrapped in beloved cotton and had a delicious cup of coffee in my hands. Someone that loves me was laughing over something I had created.

It was a pretty perfect moment.

Today I was more than a wife. I was a daughter.

I can't forget that that is where I started...and will always, always be.