Category Archives: College

I’m ready. I’m cookies.

I’m going to let you in on something I’m not at all proud of.

In college, I was a huge dick.

I’m not even exaggerating. I had my moments of NOT being a dick, but overall? Huge, huge dick. I thought I knew everything, and I was drinking, like, constantly, and when I wasn’t drinking I was crying or throwing shit around or overreacting about something and being a total theater queen or going on and on and ON about something and the sheer fact that people that knew me back then still want to talk to me kind of amazes me, to be honest.

Yup. Me. Pretty much.

Yup. Me. Pretty much.

Now, I know. College-age is a shitty time for a lot of people. We’re just babies when we’re that age. I look at kids that age now and I seriously think, “OMG, you are just a BABY” and usually I forgive them a lot of things because that’s a really tough age. You’re away from home for the first extended period of time in your life, and you’re experiencing a million billion things for the first time, and you have all this crazy-ass heady FREEDOM, and some people handle that better than others.

And some people come from a very, VERY small town, where their graduating class was 60 people (the same 60 people, give or take, that they started kindergarten with 13 years earlier) and their parents didn’t give them a curfew because why give someone a curfew if they’re not allowed to go out at all anyway? Curfew was whenever I got home from school, and it ended whenever I LEFT for school the next MORNING. And then they got to college, and there WAS no curfew, and there were all these PEOPLE, some of them MAN-PEOPLE, and there was ALCOHOL (even though a person was seventeen) and some of us may well have gone a little crazy. For quite some time. Years longer than was necessary, actually. As if it was ever necessary.

I think of Buffy a lot when I think of myself at that age. (I look to Buffy for a lot of life lessons, actually. Don’t we all? If we don’t, shouldn’t we?) I think of Buffy telling Angel, “I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies.”

I think a lot of us in college were cookie dough. Gooey, poorly-behaved, self-absorbed cookie dough. Waiting to become whoever to hell it is we’re going to turn out to be.

It just takes some of us a little longer to bake, is all.

In college, I had a friend named Josh. Josh and I met in my sophomore year and his freshman year. I believe we met in a playwriting class, or were perhaps introduced by David, who knew everyone who was anyone. It’s been a long time. And I was gooey cookie dough, remember.

We had a lot in common. We were theater people. We were readers, which was perhaps even more important; our mutual Stephen King obsession was HOURS of conversation. We were both writers. We both enjoyed movies, and picking them apart into little teeny tiny pieces afterward. He introduced me to Kevin Smith films, which I will never be able to thank him enough for.

Problem is? Cookie dough.

I don’t think I appreciated him enough. Because I was a dick. Because I was so mired in my own shit and my own broken brain that I found it very hard to pull myself out long enough to give even a moment’s thought to anyone else, or what they might have been going through. I think I put on a good enough front; I don’t think people walked away from me thinking I was a sociopath – at least most of the time. I’m sure some people did. Those people were probably the smart ones. (Smart ones: I’m better now. I promise. I spend most of my days thinking of others now. I most sincerely guarantee you this.)

Not long after I graduated, Josh and I got in a fight. Well, no. That’s kind of strangely overstating what happened. I’m not going into detail; it’s no one’s business but the two of us (and the third person involved, I suppose, even if he was involved tangentially.) I got angry at him for something that, in retrospect, was very small. Words were exchanged. I remember very well the last exchange I had with him, which was on our terrible inter-collegiate email: I told him I would neither forgive or forget what had happened, and I would never, ever speak to him again.

I am quite old-world in my vendettas. If someone is dead to me: they are dead to me. There’s no gray area, here. I erased him from my life. I erased three years of friendship; I erased three years of spending time together almost every day, of longhand letters back and forth in the summers, of constant conversation and sharing of ideas and writing and our lives. I took a big old Pink Pearl eraser and I got rid of all of that. Because I was angry. Because I felt betrayed. Because, as stated? I was 21, I thought I was always right, and I was a dick.

And seventeen years have passed. And we didn’t speak. For seventeen years. Because DEAD TO ME.

We had mutual friends; I knew he was teaching, and writing, and that was about it. I didn’t want to know anything else. No interest. I would have made a very good Italian widow, forking the evil eye and spitting when my enemies passed my doorstep.

And then, through a twist of very, very weird fate, we ended up with a mutual friend on Facebook (who was not a mutual college friend, but a mutual friend we didn’t know each other knew.) And Josh reached out to me.

This panicked the shit out of me.

Didn’t he know he was dead to me? What the hell with this? I waffled back and forth on what the hell I was supposed to do, here. Ignore him? Delete the friend request? Send him a message telling him thanks but no thanks and THEN delete the friend request?

Then I thought, Amy. Amy, it’s been 17 years. You need to be an adult about this.

Also, I don’t know if you’re aware, but carrying a grudge? It’s a very heavy weight. And you carry that alone. No one helps you carry a grudge. No one can. It one of those loads you HAVE to carry alone.

I accepted the friend request. I sent him a message that was probably ruder, in retrospect, than it should have been, telling him I was ready to forgive, and move on. I was bristly, though. I don’t trust easily, once trust has been broken. This comes from years of practice with broken trust. I’m a wary little wombat.

We’d been tentatively in contact for a while when he said he was coming to town for a conference, and did I want to have dinner?

Yeah, you think being friends with the guy online scared me? Invite me out to meet in person. You know I have social anxiety. Rachet that up with this kind of baggage, and I was MANIC.

But I thought it out. Like a grownup. Like a fully-baked cookie. And I thought of that heavy-ass seventeen-year-old grudge riding my back like a jockey who didn’t make weight, whipping me when I wasn’t going fast enough and muttering hateful words in my ear.

Yes, I said. Yes, I will meet you for dinner. Yes. Let’s do this.

Then I panicked quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly, sorry, people I panicked to) for days about this, because, well, it’s what I do.

We met for dinner after work the other night at his hotel. I put on my brave face. I can do this, I thought; I can do this. This is dinner. We eat, we don’t talk about touchy subjects, I am light, I am breezy, I am Monica leaving a message for Richard, I CAN DO THIS SHIT.

And there was Josh. And Josh looked the same, only like a grownup now. Seventeen years will do that to a person. (Seventeen years – a seventeen-year-old is only a year younger than I was when I MET him. That length of time – a bit mind-boggling, really.)

I’m not going to go into detail. We didn’t have a grand adventure; we didn’t take a billion photos. (Or even one, actually. I know. I’m terrible about photos.) We spent the evening reconnecting. We spent the evening drawing back what I’d erased, all those years ago, when I was 21 and I knew everything and was, as mentioned, kind of totally a dick.

There were waffles and a waiter who was possibly with the mob and coffee beverages and terrible music and the sharing of war stories and eclairs that were sexworthy and talk of books and movies and shared stories of the meeting and geeking out over famous people and laughter over possibly inappropriate things.

And guess what, you guys?

It was awesome.

It was awesome because we are the same people who connected all those years ago, but also better.

Because we’re ready, you guys.

Josh and I? We’re cookies.

And as we said our goodbye, much later than I’d planned because I’d had the whole evening mapped out in my head and I was SURE it would be awful and we’d have nothing to say to one another because I (shock! awe!) freak out sometimes, and gave each other a super-fierce hug, I felt this weird thing.

A seventeen-year-old grudge disappearing, that weight being gone, is a nice feeling. A light one.

A better feeling?

Forgiving your dicky younger self for, well, some of the dickishness? An even lighter one.

The best feeling?

Having an old friend back in my life.

The lightest feeling of all.

(Thanks, Josh, for not giving up when you most definitely could – and maybe should – have. Thank you for understanding I needed to keep baking, and for being patient enough, and kind enough, to wait. You’ve baked into a most fantastic cookie, my friend.)

Hey, baby, check out my big old sexy amygdala.

Happy Saturday! I’m at work right now. I’m writing to you from the PAAASSSTTTT. Like a GHOST. Aren’t you so scared? Yeah, thought so. I’m fear-inspiring.

It’s going to be a long day – work, then meeting friends at the theater who are coming in from out of town to see the show we’re doing right now (Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention – I saw a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago and it was wonderful, I can’t wait to see it with all the bells and whistles! And, also exciting to see my friends, haven’t seen them since right after Christmas!) then home and I will collapse into bed like a dead person and sleep and sleep and then back to it on Sunday, blogging and blogging and blogging and then ushering for the matinée performance and then coming home and MORE BLOGGING so I can get ahead of the game a little, because next week is a busy one, too. WHOO! Aren’t you exhausted just thinking about it? I am.

OK, so I don’t know how much I have in me, and this is kind of probably bigger than me, but I thought it was interesting, especially in an election year, so let’s see how it goes.

I found this article the other day about our minds, and why we might be predisposed to be either liberal or conservative. I don’t think it’s the best article – it seems lacking in a few things – but it does raise some interesting points.

It wouldn’t surprise you that Dad calls these the elephant and the asshole, right? Probably not.

The author, Chris Mooney, wrote a book that really doesn’t hide his feelings about whether he rides a donkey or an elephant to work – The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality – thinks that we are more apt to be liberal or conservative based on where we fall on the Big Five Personality Test. I think we’re discussed this test before – it measures extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.

(Before I get going, here, this isn’t a conservative-bashing post. I promise. I may not be a conservative, but I know at least one good one. So I’m not insulting them here. Totally not. Read! You’ll see!)

According to Mooney, four of the traits tend slightly to measure your tendency to lean left or right, but one is the most telling of all – openness. How open you are to new experiences versus how concrete and black and white you see things. The more open you are to new experiences apparently means you’re more apt to be a liberal, while the more black and white you see things, you’re more apt to be a conservative.

(A couple of other interesting things – conservatives tend to be more extroverted than liberals and have more friends, apparently, and liberals tend to be more neurotic. Heh. No, no, not ME. ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME RIGHT NOW?!?!?!?)

There’s a test at the bottom of the link where you can see where you fall – five questions, I got two that made me tend more toward conservatism, one that didn’t matter, one that made me more liberal, and one (the big, important “open to new experiences one” that’s supposed to be the only real one that matters) that says ZOMG AMY YOU ARE A LIBERAL.

Interesting, right?

There’s also this article, which says (and it’s also hinted at in the Mooney piece) that conservatives have larger amygdalas than liberals. NO THAT’S NOT DIRTY. It’s a part of our brain that controls fear and primitive emotions. They also tend to have smaller anterior cingulates, which are the parts of the brain that control courage and optimism.

Look how sciency this is. Don’t you feel so impressed? I know I do.

So this article is saying that conservatives tend to be more fearful and less optimistic, which I guess would be why they want more structure in government, which is what conservative politicians tend to offer. And liberals, alternately, see things a little rosier, so are a little more apt to go for less governmental control. Right?

Aw, beagle with rose-colored glasses! This is a liberal beagle.

Both that article and this one hint at the fact that this is why fearmongering works in politics, and tends to work more efficiently with conservatives. (And that it’s a shitty tactic to use, no matter who it’s used on.)

Now, I find this all fascinating, but I think it leaves some things out. Sure, our brains might come into play – genetics, maybe, how we’re made. I like that idea, that even in the womb, we’re little liberals or conservatives just waiting to make our mark on the world. But I don’t think that’s all there is.

See, when I was young, I was around all conservatives all the time. I don’t think I knew a single liberal. I know you probably think of New York as a hotbed of liberalism, but upstate? They’re as conservative as they come up there. Gun-totin’, camo-wearin’, tobacco-spittin’ conservatives. I was brought up to believe that liberals were bad. Want to guess what Dad thinks about liberals? Yep. Dirty hippies, all. Lazy, dirty, hippies.

So I went off to college. In a big city. Downstate. You know what downstate means, right? LIBERALS LIBERALS DIRTY LIBERALS! And it just so happened that the first year I went to college was the first year I could vote, and ALSO an election year. The first Bill Clinton election year, actually. Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ross Perot. Aw, remember little Ross Perot, all spitfirey and wee? And weird. Also kind of weird.

Seriously, just on looks alone, look at your options. (Also, Bill Clinton? I have such a crush on the man. Even now. Sigh.)

Now, Bush was the incumbent. The incumbent usually wins, right? But Clinton. Do you guys remember how he was kind of cool and magical and, well, shit, hip? (Let’s be frank, Perot wasn’t winning that election. It was cute he was trying, though.)

I was 18, I was in college (I had escaped from my horrifying small town and wasn’t being bullied anymore – I had never felt so free in my life), and I started what I would do every single election year up until now, and will undoubtedly continue to do for the rest of my life – I researched the shit out of those two candidates. (I researched Perot a little, too, but kind of gave up. He was a weirdo. I didn’t want a weirdo running my country, and it felt like throwing my first real vote away.)

I looked at where the candidates stood on the issues. I thought about where I stood on the issues. And I realized – shit. I need to vote for Clinton.

Then – shit. Dad was going to FLIP. DIRTY DIRTY HIPPIES YOU GUYS.

I voted for Clinton. And man, did my dorm celebrate when he won. It felt good. It felt like we were a part of something big. Have I mentioned enough how much I love voting? Probably not enough. Probably not ever enough. Voting is my favorite thing. I’d vote daily if I could. On anything, really.

Oh, and Dad? FURIOUS. SO EFFING FURIOUS. “I didn’t raise a liberal” and “How could you do this to me” and “DIRTY LAZY HIPPIES WHO PLAY SAXOPHONES ARE RUNNING THE WORLD NOW BECAUSE OF YOU.” (He still blames college for “ruining” me. Not even kidding. Because I was SO WHOLE BEFORE I LEFT FOR COLLEGE. Gack.)

Anyway, this has been a really long tangent. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think it’s all genetics. I think it’s also the people you surround yourself with; it’s what you read; it’s what you watch (listen, don’t even tell me that Tina Fey’s take on Sarah Palin didn’t have an effect on the 2008 elections – yes, Obama probably would have won anyway, but people were pretty fired up about Palin for a while until she started…well…talking, and then Tina Fey came on and, well, were you going to vote for the candidate who could “see Russia from her houuuuse?” No, didn’t think so); it’s the social issues you think are important. I go down the list of where the candidates stand on the issues and I weigh it against where I stand on the issues and I vote for the person that most closely aligns with me.

Seriously, even one of the news channels accidentally used a photo of Tina Fey instead of Sarah Palin around that time. People couldn’t tell the difference. In other news: people are not bright.

So, sure. Maybe it’s genetics. But it’s kind of the old nature vs. nurture thing, isn’t it? Would I still be a liberal if I’d chosen to stay close to home, married someone from there, raised a big old farm family or something (gah gah gah can you even imagine how bad I’d be at that? I mean, sure, there’d be animals, but you’d NEVER get to play with them. You’d have to WORK. And also EAT them. No thanks), was surrounded by all conservatives being all shouty about how the liberals are ruining the country? If I hadn’t moved away, been surrounded by my people, most of whom, yes, were liberals, would I have swum like a salmon upstream and been the one little liberal in a town full of conservatives? I don’t know. I wonder about that. Who you are is made up of not only DNA, but experiences you have. People you meet.

So I’m undecided on this whole thing. I think it’s nice to think it’s hardwired, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. What about you? Think we’re genetically predisposed to be dirty hippies? Or do you think it’s more something we pick up from the people we know and the experiences we have?

This is every liberal ever, when Dad thinks about them. Also, I think he imagines this is all the men I date. HA! Fooled YOU, Dad. I DON’T DATE!

Oh, you probably want to know if Dad’s calmed down about this, right? Well, yes and no. There’s not as much shouting. (About that, anyway.) He’s accepted it. Our joke now is that our votes cancel each other out, so that seems to make him feel a liiiittle better. Oh, and also I found out that (I told you all this, I think?) his mom’s whole side of the family were super-liberals, going back back BACK. So apparently his mom and dad used to squabble about politics all the time. So don’t even tell me, DAD, that I’m the only one EVER with YOUR DNA that voted Democrat, don’t EVEN.

Happy Saturday, all. Have a lovely spring weekend. It’s Tulip Fest here this weekend! Because we’re all Dutch here! Nice, right? Here are some Albany tulips for you. Aren’t you so cheered? Sure you are.

Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.

They keep sending me friend requests on Facebook. I got another one last night.

Every time they do, my stomach tightens. I have trouble breathing. My heart speeds up. I start to shake.

Block friend request. Block friend request. Block friend request.

Why the hell would I accept a friend request from them now? When twenty years ago, they blocked each and every attempt I made?

This post has been a long time coming. I knew it had to be written. But it’s a lot easier to be a clown than it it to be serious. It’s a lot easier to leave the mask on than it is to drop it and show what’s behind it. I was raised to not show your weakness; to hide your pain. This is like standing naked on a streetcorner for me.

I don’t even know how to begin. Or to end. Or, hell, what to put in the middle. I’m a wreck just thinking about it, to be honest. But I thought, if even one person who’s going through what I went through reads it, it’ll be worth it, right? If even one person reads it and can relate, or reads it and sees someone else struggling with it, and can help them, then it’s good that you relived it, for one night. It’s good that you dwelt back there, back where things were so dark. And I promised someone I’d write this, to explain myself. I like to keep my promises, when I can.

I told someone on Twitter recently that the people that are the funniest often have a really dark backstory, and they’ve learned humor as a coping mechanism. I think that’s true, for the most part. Are there people who are just funny, without having that well of private pain to mine from? Sure. I’m sure there are. But the ones that make me laugh the hardest seem to be the ones who understand that laughing keeps the demons at bay for a little while.

I’ve mentioned this before, here and there. But not in detail. Because it’s painful, and I try not to think about it. My parents are all for forgiving and forgetting. “Move on!” they encourage me. “They all have!”

Can’t. Not who I am. Would love to. Not capable.

I went to a very small school. Sixty people in my graduating class. We knew each other from kindergarten to senior year, with only a few new kids coming and going here and there. What got stuck to you stayed with you. Nothing disappeared. Everyone still picked on the girl who threw up in her desk in fourth grade. Everyone knew the teacher whose wife killed him when she found out he was a pedophile. Everyone talked. Everyone knew everything.

I was bullied, to the point of almost taking my own life twice, from third grade to senior year. That’s nine years, in case anyone’s counting. Nine years doesn’t seem like that long, now. I’ve lived here for nine years, and it’s flown by, for example.

But when every single day of attending school is complete and utter torture, nine years can seem like an eternity. I know this, because I lived it.

I’m not even sure, looking back, what my most heinous offense was. Being intelligent? Not having stellar social skills? Not being as attractive as the popular kids? There were other kids who fit all of these roles, but they weren’t singled out. Like I said, it’s a small school. Once the kids start, they don’t stop. They were sharks and there was blood in the water. You don’t ever have to tell me that children can be cruel. I know they can. I’ve seen it. I was there.

I was shoved into lockers on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. My books were knocked onto the floor if I dared carry them in my arms; I had to wear a backpack everywhere I went. My locker was blocked by sneering classmates if I attempted to go to it before school, between classes, or after school, so I had to either carry a full day’s books with me at all times, or get a hall pass to go to it during classes. I got gum smashed into my hair. I was invited to parties to be the brunt of elaborate pranks. I was called up at home for the same reason. I was tricked into answering questions like “who do you have a crush on?” and then the answer would be spread around the school and the boy would come up to me and laugh in my face. I was shoved down so many times that my glasses got broken and I sprained ankles and wrists from falling down stairs. I was attacked in gym class by whatever sports equipment we were using that day. I was shoved down and stood on in the aisle on the bus. There’s more. Do you need more? Because I have more.

And, wherever I went, no matter what time of day, no matter where I was going, they’d constantly catcall. “GEEEEEEEEK.”

Which is ironic, as it’s one of the things in my life I’m most proud of now.

Now, you’re wondering, why wasn’t anything done about this? How did this happen for nine years without anything being done?

It was a small town. Everyone knew everyone. The kids in charge of the harrassment? Their moms worked at the school. Their dads taught there. Their parents were well-known.

Plus – I never said a word.

My parents told me to turn the other cheek, at first. But then they got tired of me complaining about it, so they told me to be friendlier. That it was my fault; that, if I had a better attitude, it would stop, and the other kids would all want to be my friend. Because of this, I didn’t think it was ok to speak up. I thought it was shameful. I thought I was an embarrassment to them.

Years later, my father asked me why I didn’t fight back. I could only look at him in shock. I wanted to scream, “YOU NEVER GAVE ME PERMISSION!”

I love them. They were doing their best. I’ve forgiven them. They had no idea what this was doing to me, or even the extent of it all. It must be a very hard thing, to be a parent. You must often feel very helpless.

I did fight back, once. Not on purpose. I kind of lost my mind, is what happened. One of the worst kids – the one that, if I think back, I’d like to go back in time and murder, cheerfully, with my bare hands, while little Amy looks on and laughs – called my name in gym class. I reflexively looked up, and he was about three steps away from me. He threw a basketball square into my face. This smashed my glasses into my face, making them fly off onto the floor and shattering them, and also causing major cuts and bruising (because listen, glasses used to be made of GLASS.)

They were new glasses. They were, for the time period, somewhat cool. I was FURIOUS. He walked away, high-fiving his friends. I LAUNCHED myself at him, screaming. I was the kid from A Christmas Story. Nothing I said made any sense. It was just a stream of profanity laced with hysterical crying. I clawed at his face. He just stood there, half in shock, half laughing.

I ended up getting transferred out of gym class not long after that, to another gym class for the rest of high school. As far as I know, nothing happened to him. He just said it was an accident. His mom worked at the school, and he was very good at acting innocent. He’d had years of practice at that point.

Did I have friends? Yes, a couple. One of them is actually still a good friend now. Did they know it was going on? Yes. But they didn’t dare do anything about it. Because if they did, the collective eye of the popular group would turn on them, and they’d be in the crosshairs. It wasn’t worth it. I didn’t blame them then. I try not to now, either. I know how hard it was, going through what I was going through. How could I ask another person to potentially bear that cross for me? How could I ask the boy I was in love with all through high school to risk dating me, knowing he was courting social suicide? I couldn’t. We were children. We were just children, and our reputations were very important to us.

Did I function? Yes. I did. I was in clubs, I acted in shows, I went on dates, I went to church. I lived my life. I just knew, the whole time, that someone could be waiting around the corner for me, so I was very, very cautious where I stepped. I jumped at my own shadow. I was walking around shell-shocked before I even knew what the term meant.

I spiraled into a depression so deep I couldn’t see my way out of it. I don’t see how anyone couldn’t, going into a war zone, day after day after day. I had a plan to kill myself early on in high school; I chickened out at the last minute. I had a more well-thought-out plan at the beginning of senior year, and, were it not for an occurrence that I still can’t explain, one that smacks of some sort of – divine intervention? cosmic coincidence? grand plan? – I would not be here writing this today. It was minutes away. I can’t talk about that. Sorry. That one’s mine.

A way out might have been to downplay my intelligence. That seemed to be what offended them most. However, strangely enough, that never crossed my mind. Everything else under the sun did – getting a boyfriend, changing the way I looked, talked, dressed, acted, everything – but suddenly acting less intelligent never even popped up on my radar. Thankfully. Because I probably would have done it, in order to make it all stop. In order to conform. And then I wouldn’t have had my escape hatch.

College was the light at the end of the tunnel. A big college. Where I could reinvent myself. Where I could escape everyone who’d ever known me, and where no one would know me as “Geek.” Where I could be whoever I wanted, because I was starting fresh.

No one told me that even when you start fresh, your demons come with you. I was a child, still. I didn’t know.

I graduated valedictorian. And in my speech, I actually addressed them, as far as I was able, by telling them their glory days were behind them and it was all downhill from there, for the majority of them. They laughed at me. As they’d been doing for most of my life.

So I squished that lonely, lost, afraid girl down as far as she’d go and I went far, far away. I didn’t talk about high school. I was a new person.

And, much to my surprise? I made friends. ACTUAL friends. Who wanted to spend time with me. Who did kind things for me without expecting anything in return. I didn’t know what to make of this. I wasn’t mentally capable of wrapping my mind around anything like this. I stopped going to classes because my lessons were in making friends. The lessons everyone else learned in elementary and junior high and high school? I had to learn them in college. I was playing catch up. I almost flunked out because I wasn’t doing what I was there to do. But this seemed important, too. This seemed like an important job, one that I was behind on.

It took me a while to realize that most of the time, when people laugh, they are laughing WITH you, not AT you. I started craving that like an addict. I honed humor like a knife. I wielded it like the same. It became my thing. I was the funny one. I liked that; it gave me a purpose, it gave me an identity. I didn’t realize until years later I was funny because it was helping me deal with the fact that there was still a very injured little girl inside of me and I’d never dealt with her. I’d just hidden her away, like a dirty secret. I didn’t tell anyone about her. I closed her in a very dark room and told her to be very quiet, in case anyone were to notice her.

I also thought I made these new friends because I was someone else. Because that girl wasn’t good enough. Because I was very young, and because I didn’t know better, and because I didn’t hear her screaming, even though I told her to be still.

It took almost twenty years for me to look in the mirror and not number the flaws and hate what I saw there; almost twenty years for me to look in a mirror and not see myself through the children’s eyes who tormented me. I can finally see myself through my own eyes, and while I don’t always like what I see, at least I see it clearly.

I’ve not forgiven them for what they did to me. Will I? I don’t know. I find it ironic they keep sending me friend requests on Facebook. Maybe they’re sending them ironically and want to see what I’m up to so they can gossip. Maybe they’re honestly wanting to be friends. Maybe – and, somehow, this is the most painful option of all? – maybe they’ve forgotten what they did altogether. Maybe those nine years of torture to me were nothing to them. Maybe they meant nothing. Maybe I meant nothing. Maybe they saw it as childish pranksterism, nothing more than a good laugh.

I don’t go to class reunions. When I go home to visit, I don’t like to leave the house, since most of them still live in town and I don’t want to risk running into them. I keep in touch with a handful of people from my graduating class, a very select few who have grown into adults that I want in my life. I try to remember that the children that tormented that sad, lonely little girl then are adults now; that they’ve lived a long lifetime, and they’ve probably changed. I try to tell myself I could benefit from forgiving. That this would be a burden best left at the roadside. That I’d be lighter, were I to leave it behind.

I can’t do that. I don’t know if I will ever be able to.

I identify so deeply with children who commit suicide due to bullying that I find myself weeping over the news reports. I hear about a school shooting and I immediately think, “What did the other children do to the shooter?” rather than, as a normal person might, “what was wrong with the shooter?”

What’s the solution? Well, bullying is taken much more seriously now than it was back when I was experiencing it. It’s not ignored anymore. Officials can’t afford to ignore it; school shootings and suicide rates are up and it’s also just plain bad PR. I don’t know if the programs to stop bullying are helping. They probably aren’t hurting, put it that way.

I know others out there had it as bad as I did. I know others had it worse. I know what I went through probably seems small and petty, maybe even to some of you reading this. And, that’s fine. Because the last thing I want – the absolute last thing – is your pity. That’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing this because it needs to be written. I’m writing this because someone I respect a great deal mentioned that I was being a bully toward someone a while ago, possibly halfway in jest, and I immediately froze up, thinking, has it come to this? Have I become those children? Have I done to someone else what they did to me? And when I reacted strongly, and he was surprised, I couldn’t imagine why he was surprised. Then I thought, oh. Because you haven’t told anyone this. Because, for all of your oversharing, this isn’t something you’ve told. Because you’re still ashamed of it. Of course he’s surprised. I promised him I’d write this, and like I said, I like to be the kind of person who keeps promises, when she can. I’m writing this to get it off my chest. I’m writing this because maybe a parent has a child who’s going through this and is at a loss as to what to do. I’m writing this because it’s my way, like Jenny in Forrest Gump, of throwing rocks at the house where my tormentors lived – futile, but a move toward healing, nonetheless. I’m writing this because, as I mentioned, maybe someone going through a similar thing will read it and recognize themselves.

If that’s the case: it does get better. I know, what a cliche, right? But it does. It doesn’t seem like it will, but it does. You can cast off who you are like an ill-fitting suit of clothes, if you like, and step into a new skin. Or, even better, you can find your people. They’re out there. They’re waiting for you to find them. You just have to get through the storm in order to do so. And the storm is bad. I’m not going to lie to you about that. But don’t end things completely. Don’t do that. Please. Whatever you do. There’s help, and there’s hope, and your people are waiting, and there’s going to be a you-sized absence, if you’re gone. One that they don’t even know about, but one that they feel. Please know that little tiny thing you see way off in the distance is the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s being held by the future-you and your people, and keep working as hard as you can, and do anything you need to, to get there.

Most of all, I’m writing this to give a voice to that little girl I had to keep locked in a dark room for so long. I let her out, finally, about a year ago. I could finally let her out. And you’ve can’t imagine anything so freeing. I’m not all the way there. I don’t know if I ever will be. I hear locker doors slam and I have a PTSD reaction. I hear people laughing when I enter a room and my first, immediate thought is that they’re laughing at me behind my back. I still suffer from depression. It’s crippling, at times. I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to move. Yes. I’ll always be damaged.

But I’m not broken. I take pride in that. I came through the fire and I got burned and I carry the scars, but what really matters is, I came through the damn fire. And I did it all on my own. I’ve found my people along the way, but the person who made it through those flames is the person writing this.

So yes: I have poor social skills and hate large social situations where I am expected to socialize as I am always, in the back of my mind, expecting there to be another shoe to drop, the joke to be on me, no escape route. I cry easily. I wake up on a regular basis from high-school nightmares. I am sometimes so filled with misplaced anger it spills over onto those I love the most. I try to get as much joy as I can out of every single minute of my life, because I know how fleeting and ephemeral joy can be, and I have lost years of it to make up for. I am so shocked when someone wants to be friends with me that I immediately mistrust them. I hide behind a variety of masks, almost all of the time; I only really drop them when I trust you completely, and since I almost never trust anyone completely, I’m almost always wearing some sort of mask. When someone does something nice for me I’m moved beyond what’s rational because it doesn’t happen often and I don’t know how to react when it does. I have made some colossally bad judgment calls over the years, some of which have screwed me over so royally I’m still reeling from them. I’m damaged. I’m banged up and bruised up and my corners are all bent and spindled and I’m missing some pages and there are some things I just won’t talk about and there are some things I just won’t do. Yes. I’m damaged. But we all are, in our own ways, aren’t we? It’s what makes us unique. It’s what makes us.

I didn’t write this for your pity, because I don’t need it. As damaged as I am, I’m not broken.

And even if I am?

Sometimes things that have been broken come back stronger than you’ll ever imagine.

We’re all allowed to dream of the next time

I was thinking about someone I used to know today as I was driving to work. Mostly, I was thinking, it’s been almost twenty years since I’ve seen him, and in this day and age, with social media and such, it’s funny when someone just drops off the face of the earth, you know? And he did. And I still miss him. Twenty years later. Funny, right? Twenty years, and I still remember the time I spent with him like it was yesterday, like I’ll turn around someday and there he’ll be.

I don’t know what brought him to mind, I mean, today of all days. He pops in, now and then. I don’t know how better to explain it. Twenty years is a long time, and I can’t say I think of him every single day. That would be lunacy, wouldn’t it? But some days he’d fresher than others, and then some days it’s like I’m drowning in him. And today it’s an especially watery day, for no reason in particular, really.

He was someone I was friends with when I was just graduating high school. Our families had recently become friends, so it was one of those “we got thrown together and expected to socialize” things. Those never work out. I was, if it’s even possible, even more antisocial then than I am now. And even worse, he was this totally popular kid, so of course I went into it thinking, oh, great, he’s going to be an ass. Only he wasn’t. He was just the nicest, most intelligent, most thoughtful guy. A poet. A musician. A dreamer. So funny. So kind. And we had the best conversations, and just spent hours laughing and listening to hours upon hours of Pearl Jam and Nirvana and sharing things that, upon retrospect, it was strange that we shared, because we hadn’t known each other very long. It was just one of those friendships that clicked, you know? And I think when you’re that young (I was seventeen at the time) you think those kind of friendships will always happen, that you have just a lifetime of those friendships to look forward to, that things will only get easier, friendship-wise, from there. Only they don’t. They’re kind of precious things, and should be really celebrated when they come into your life. And held onto. Really just held onto with all you’ve got.

He was having a really hard time with some things, when I moved away for college. It was one of the biggest worries I had as I left, leaving him behind. He was a year younger, so had another year of school before he could leave for college. He was planning to attend the same university I was, and we were both excited about this prospect. I wrote to him a lot, for a while, even though I was very, very bad, once I got to college and discovered the wonders of underage drinking, about keeping in touch with people. He responded a few times. His letters were sad, and short, and I couldn’t see him in the words. Do you remember doing that, back in the days of real letters, written with real pen and ink on real paper? Looking for the person you loved in the strokes of the penmanship and the scribbled-out bits and what was said and what was left out? I was worried.

He visited once, on a college tour with his mother, and I got to see him for a bit. He seemed…quiet. And lost. And sad. Not quite there. Distant. My heart ached for him. I wanted him to see how wonderful the college was, how much fun we’d have once he got there. I talked it up, the things we could do, the friends I’d made, how freeing it was to be out of our small, suffocating town and somewhere where no one knew who I was, how it could be the same for him, how he could reinvent himself, once he was there. He smiled, but it was a shadow of the smiles we used to share, and I had a very, very bad feeling about…something. I wasn’t sure what. Just something. I told him to please, please call me, write me, whatever he needed, if he needed me, for anything. He promised he would.

A few weeks later I got the call he’d run away from home. California, my mom told me. There were more problems going on in his life than even I’d been aware of. So, rather than hurt himself – which he’d come close to doing, a number of times, something I knew, but he promised me it was in the past – he removed himself from the situation, without even sticking around to graduate from high school, without even waiting it out to see what college had to offer. He got as far away from the East Coast as he could without leaving the country. Gone. Just, gone.

I never heard from him again.

I heard he had a child, very young, just a year or so later. So that kid would be – good gracious, eighteen now? Really? Older than I was when I even met him? Time really is a thief, isn’t it.

Every year or so, sit down and crack my knuckles and flex my Google muscles and search and search and search, looking for a trail. I’ve never found anything. Not here in New York, not in California (which might not even be where he ended up, it might just have been a way station, I don’t even know that much) not the name I’d heard he gave his son, not anything. I can find his brothers and his sister, I can find his parents, I can find other people walking around with his name that don’t wear his face. But not him. And I can’t contact his family about him, for various reasons not blogworthy. I’ve asked my parents. They think he got into drugs, fell in with a bad crowd (are there really such things, outside of movies of the week? Bad crowds?), but that’s really all they know about it. My father went so far as to say he wouldn’t be surprised to hear he’d died. I won’t even consider that. I can’t. I just know he’s disappeared into the ether. He’s a ghost. He’s a figment of my teenage imagination. And even if I found him, he wouldn’t still be that boy. That boy died out, twenty years ago. That boy got hurt so badly he took off and left himself behind, reinvented himself somewhere else from the ground up. He’s a man, somewhere; a man I don’t know anymore. A stranger. A stranger who might not even remember me, honestly. I might be the only one carrying around this slip of friendship like a tiny tattered flag.

But he’s a stranger with a little bit of my teenage heart walking around inside of him. And I’d like to find him. I’d like to let him know I’m sorry I didn’t do more, I’m sorry I had to leave just when things were at their worst, that I didn’t even know that they were at their worst because I was dealing with some worst of my own and was frighteningly self-centered due to that fact. I want to apologize for not being there. For not being the friend he needed. For missing the last twenty years of his joys and his heartbreaks. I want to let him know that I remember, and that I’ve always remembered, and that I’ve been carrying him around, everywhere I’ve gone, for two decades of my life. He saw the Pacific Ocean with me for the first time. He went to Italy with me. He was with me the night I found out Kurt Cobain died, and I sobbed, thinking of those nights spent talking and talking as Nevermind played on endless repeat in the background.

I miss my friend. Grown-up me misses him as much as teenage-me did, twenty years ago. Some things never quite leave you, you know?

I have this picture of him in my mind; he’s frozen in time, a perfect seventeen-year-old. And he’s laughing, and his eyes are shining, and the sun’s coming in behind him, and he’s lit like an actor on a stage. And he looks happy. So fleetingly, hauntingly happy. It’s how I choose to remember him, on the days he weighs most heavily on my heart. Days like today.

So let me be maudlin, just for a bit longer: Paul, you’ll always be that perfect seventeen-year-old to me. I’d say your whole name here, in the hope you’d find this and contact me and it’d be one of those stories you read about in the newspaper’s Lifestyle section, or something, but I don’t know that you aren’t hiding from that name behind another name, and I don’t want to hurt you any more than my neglect and inability to see your pain twenty years ago already did. I hope you’re well, and I hope you know more joy than anyone has the right to in their lives, and I hope you kicked your demons to the curb a long time ago, and stomped on them with a steel-toed boot for good measure. And someday, I hope to meet up with you again, and I hope when I do, we still have that weird one-in-a-million click, where people just are right together, you know? You don’t get it often. It’s a shame to let it go. It’s a shame to let it get lost. I want to mingle my laugh with yours again. I want to see you laugh again. I just want to see you. It’s something I want, almost more than anything else, some days. Today is one of those days.

I’m just missing my friend today, you know? Once in a while, it sneaks up on you. Even twenty years later. I’m willing to bet, twenty years from now, I’ll still have moments I’ll hear a breath of laughter and turn, quick, thinking it’s him, I’ll catch him, he’s there, he’s found me, I’ve found him, we’re found.

Happy weekend, everyone. Tell your people you love them, ok? I can pretty much guarantee that neither you, nor they, will ever ever ever regret either the telling or the hearing of it.

Guest Post: To Be or Not to Be (a Sneaky Fucker)

Hi. It’s Amy. What do you mean, what Amy. THE AMY. THE ONE WHO WRITES THIS BLOG. Come on, that isn’t even funny.

In honor of Sneaky Fucker Week, this is…LUCY’S FOOTBALL’S FIRST EVER GUEST POST. ZOMG. I know. I KNOW. I could NOT be more excited. Well, I guess I could. I mean, I could get a million dollars or something, and I can’t even imagine how exciting that would be. Or a pony. Or a UNICORN. Or a UNICORN AND A KITTEN AND A RAINBOW. OK, now I’m just getting overly excited so I have to get a cool drink of water. 

Anyway. This is a guest post by MR. ANONYMOUS. MR. ANONYMOUS is so-named because he would not like his name associated with this post. And, out of respect for him and love for Sneaky Fucker Week and total and utter excitement that someone wanted to GUEST POST ON MY BLOG YO, I of course respect that decision.  I will also not pass a single judgment, nor say a WORD about this person or this post, because what if I accidentally said something that revealed his secret identity like that Canadian TV show My Secret Identity that had Jerry O’Connell in it when I was in high school? I’d feel just terrible and no one would ever want to guest post here again. I would totally get kicked out of blogging summer camp.

Oh. Obviously there’s some naughty use of the big bad eff-word round there here parts today, pilgrims. Kiddos, go watch Nick Jr. or something, ok? Thanks a milli0n.

Here is MR. ANONYMOUS’ Sneaky Fucker entry. It is a tale of Sneaky Fuckery thus-far unsurpassed in our project. Take heed! TAKE HEED!

In this very blog where I am now guest posting, a statement was made in a post’s comments postulating two mating philosophies in the animal kingdom…the first was the alpha male…survival of the fittest, etc.  The second was, and I’ll let Andreas tell it, “The second strategy is to be a Sneaky fucker. This consists of avoiding any direct conflicts with the alpha males, and keep to the periphery of the harem of females. Then, when the leading male is busy fighting off any competing males, the Sneaky fucker male can sneak in and – well – fuck. And as long as he’s out of the way by the time the alpha male is back, he doesn’t risk getting into a fight.”

When I was a boy…

All the best stories I ever ignored always started out that way, so let’s skip ahead a few years.

When I was in college. . . (cue dreamy swirly colors and harp music.  The scene blurs, the picture undulates, out of focus to slowly resolve on a 21 year old man-child.)

When I was in college I wasn’t the strongest or the most athletic.  I didn’t have the best moves or lines, and I didn’t have daddy’s money or a hot car.  I was a lanky (lanky is what the emaciated kids call skinny) 6’ tall and 150 pounds dripping wet.  Maybe 155. And I scored.

I was a sneaky fucker.  Maybe not a straight up traditional sneaky fucker, I was well-liked, in a fraternity, involved, moderately attractive…but certainly I could not be counted among the alpha males, and certainly I was sneaky.  So I suppose it fits well enough.

Without really understanding it myself, I had developed sneaky fucker skills that played to my strengths…skills that allowed me to surpass my alpha rivals in terms of sheer number of conquests.  But…it was like playing in the NFC West.  You can win every game in the division, but really, who’d you beat?

Rule one for sneaky fuckers: Lower your standards.  To win the NFC West, you play the 49ers, the Cardinals, the Seahawks, and the Rams.  In other words, you are the Farmer Ted of NFL Football; the king of the dipshits.  By lowering your expectations you may not get the best looking girl with the most amazing body and money dripping from her pockets…but you WILL get girls.  So while Mr. Three Sport Athlete is busy jumping through the hoops that Alpha female is putting in his path to “glory” (hoops that invariably include “be true to me and only me”, you can be retreading the tires of your uncle’s 18-wheeler with your used condoms.

Survival of the fittest applies to Sneaky Fuckers too…but in reverse.  The idea is, if you’re running from a cheetah, you don’t have to be faster than the cheetah, you just have to be faster than the other people running with you.  The sneaky fucker in this analogy catches the trailing antelope, perhaps, but he catches an antelope.  How would it work in “the wild” if cheetahs only ever killed “the best” antelope?  There’d be a lot less dead antelope and a lot more hungry cheetahs.  Don’t be a hungry cheetah.

The low-hanging fruit is sweet too, why even get the ladder?  Being sneaky isn’t always about “sneaking”, it’s about understanding the way things work. Pick that dangling cherry.

Rule two for sneaky fuckers: Everyone wants what they can’t have. I’m not saying feign disinterest. Nobody remembers the sneaky fucker who kept to himself.  I’m saying be openly contrary.

My college roommate was neither a sneaky fucker nor an alpha male.  He spent a lot of time being the big brother that no girl wanted to date. He was so nice…so supportive…so walked on.  I was distant and sarcastic.  I rolled my eyes and shook my head.  I was unsupportive, borderline misogynistic and indolent.  And somehow…that made me impossible to resist.  The reverse idea here is, “I won’t belong to any club who would have me as a member.”  The sneaky fucker is the club in this analogy, and the girls have no prayer of gaining entrance. That idea is enticing; somehow it’s enticing even if the club or person in question is really not all that spectacular.

For example:

Kelly was dating a guy. He was never around, but they wrote to each other.  He was a law student at another university and Kelly told me when we hooked up, that whatever “we” were. . . he was the guy she wanted.  I didn’t really care.  Kelly was not “the one”.

We hooked up a couple times. Eventually her conscience got the better of her and she called me to tell me she no longer felt comfortable having sex with me because it felt like cheating.  She said she wanted to date.  I said no.  She said, “If we’re not dating, then we’re not having sex.”

I think she expected this to decide the matter.  She seemed uncertain how to proceed when I said, “Okay, I completely understand.”  And I did.  I didn’t want her to compromise her principles to have a purely sexual relationship with me.  That seemed like a lot of pressure for something I didn’t really want that much in the first place.  The law school student was turning into a real douche (maybe even more of a douche than I was), but I just wasn’t that into her.

She called me a day later and said, “I changed my mind.  I’m okay if we just have sex.”

I told her I wasn’t going to wait around while she vacillated between yes and no.  The offer was off the table.

Not giving a shit (at least in college) is like this bizarre intoxicating love potion to the opposite sex. There were a few repeat offers made. A sneakier fucker than I was probably would have capitalized on them.  But I had moved on to other girls that I didn’t give a shit about.

That said, it’s not all about not giving a shit and aiming low.  Remember, sneaky fuckers, no matter how beautiful the girl, there’s someone out there who’s sick of her shit.  And when you capture that girl, you should probably watch out.

She doesn’t seem to care as much about you as your last girlfriend did.  She doesn’t call very often, or care if you go out with your friends. Sometimes she agrees to have sex with you…sometimes she’s just not interested.  She gets a lot of attention, and seems a little irritated when you continually express your jealousy.  And that is irresistible to you (see above).  So you fight harder and more desperately, cling tighter and eventually chase her off. She’s dating the quarterback now.

And that is called karma.

In closing, there was some sort of weird fraternal code that prevented me from ever catching my friends’ girlfriends on the rebound and consoling my way into their pants…it’s probably the only morally decent code of conduct I can point to from my college years, but I did know a few people “from around” that benefited from that approach.  It’s totally a sneaky fucker thing to do.

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