A Letter To Dan Turner

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Dear Mr. Turner:

I doubt you’ll ever see this.  Mine is just one more angry, bewildered voice in the internet wilderness.  Angry and bewildered because of the “punishment” meted out to your son, Brock Turner, who assaulted and violated an unconscious young woman.

But I saw your letter to Judge Aaron Persky, just like nearly everyone else with access to the internet.  And as I read it, my jaw dropped further and further until it was fairly well positioned solidly in my lap.

I don’t even know where to start.  “Tone deaf” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

You write:

“Brock has an easygoing personality that endears him to almost everyone he meets.”

I’m sure.  His victim probably would have found his frantic, violent endeavoring to penetrate her quite endearing indeed, had she not been – you know – unconscious.  I wonder how “easygoing” he was as he ripped her bra from out of her dress to get at her.  Tender.  Gentle.  Endearing.  Yes, your son sounds goddamn delightful, sir.

“As he got older and progressed in school, he needed my intervention less and less as he is gifted in his ability to understand very complicated subject matter.”

Yet he obviously couldn’t grasp the relatively simple concept of NOT RAPING SOMEONE.

And why is that, Mr. Turner?  For all your drilling Brock on his spelling and coaching him in the sports in which he excelled, you seemed to have failed to impart some crucial lessons in respecting women, respecting boundaries.  And we need look no further than this sentence to realize this:

“That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

20 minutes of action.  This is so repulsive and evil that I gasped when I read it.  It says everything we need to know about you and your son.  Reducing this heinous, reprehensible CRIME to snarky innuendo.  Your boy got his 20 minutes of “action,” ho ho ho.  Back slapping all around.

How does that happen?  How does someone manage to completely FAIL to see rape for what it is?  She was on the ground, passed out.  Your son yanked up her dress and drove her unconscious body into the dirt as he attempted to get what he felt he deserved.

What’s the price his victim has to pay for that same 20 minutes?  You don’t seem to want to even consider that.  Because poor Brock is so “devastated” at being a convicted rapist that he can’t even enjoy a steak anymore.  Brock doesn’t enjoy his steak, while his victim has to spend the rest of her life battling fear.  Fear of intimacy.  Fear of other men.  Fear of what others think of her, now that she’s been picked apart like carrion by your son’s defense team.

“Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”

Let me spell this out for you in the way you helped Brock spell out his vocabulary words every week:  THIS IS NOT ABOUT ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION.  THIS IS NOT ABOUT SEXUAL PROMISCUITY.  This is about your son’s forcing himself on someone who was INCAPABLE OF CONSENT.  Rape is not about sex.  Rape is about power.  Rape is the need to degrade and dominate someone.  It has nothing to do with how much either of them drank.  It has nothing to do with how she was dressed.  This was not some tipsy tryst at a party.  This was your son raping a woman behind a dumpster.  Process that.  Comprehend that.

You paint a nice picture of Brock.  A chipper, aw-shucks kind of kid from the Midwest who worked hard and got into Stanford, only to find that Stanford was a hotbed of temptation that turned him to dark practices like binge drinking and “promiscuity.”  The media certainly helped with that, talking about Brock’s swimming stats and running the same beatific image of him, which I won’t post here, because it’s more important to see this picture, that’s only been seen in the past few days.

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I know this guy.  I know this red-eyed, entitled look.  This is the guy who’s felt obligated to assess me, my appearance, and my desirability since I was 12 years old.  This is the guy who grabbed my crotch in the bookstore, then ran out before I could even process what happened.  This is the guy who followed me down Massachusetts Avenue calling me a “cunt” because I wouldn’t flirt back with him.  This is the guy who violated me.  Most women I know and love also know this guy.

The fact that you call this “20 minutes of action” says it all.  Grab a woman, get what you want from her.  Action.  No regard for her whatsoever.  He learned that attitude, just as you most certainly learned it.  That’s cultural.  This is what is meant when we talk about “rape culture.”  This is not some hysterical posturing geared towards demonizing all men.  This is addressing the very real problem of continued, systemic disregard for women.  Attitudes like yours are not isolated.  The question is can they be unlearned?  I hope so, for your sake, and for that of your son’s, and for women everywhere.

Pass The Trazodone

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So, after a really gnarly anxiety attack yesterday, we’re on a new regimen.  We’ve added a med, readjusted another med, and – hopefully – in tandem with the regular exercise and recovery meetings, I’m going to get this shit under control again.

The last few years dumped a whole lot of awful on me.  I thought that I could handle it just doing what I was doing.  I was horribly, laughably wrong.  I’ve been in a depressive, paranoiac swirl (sounds like a good ice cream flavor, if you’re totally losing your shit) since October, when I got badly triggered by a series of events (and anyone who thinks that “triggers” are bullshit can have all of these seats, and should remain in them until further notice).  A lot of the time I was able to manage, but I shouldn’t just be “managing.”  It’s a joyless way to go about your days, boy fucking howdy.

So I’m on this new medication now.  I can’t say for certain what it’s doing.  I feel a little less like running down the street screaming, but that’s probably psychosomatic.  There’s a lot of behavioral stuff that I need to incorporate over the next weeks and months as well.

I’m in this place where the worst case scenarios in my head are intruding into my actual reality.  RUDE.  I can stave that off at work, because cold, hard data is something I understand and take comfort in extracting and manipulating.  The SQL Management Studio and Excel are my boon companions.  But being at home invites aaallllll the neurochemical uglies.  And it’s become increasingly hard to keep them down in the root cellar where they belong.

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I know how a lot of people feel about medication.  I’ll just say that I’m not here for anyone who wants to scream BIG PHARMA at me right now.  I’ve been worn down to an emotional nub since moving into my mother-in-law’s house in 2010, and if you don’t believe that caregiving can actually mess with someone’s brain, well, Google is your friend, but here’s a good start.

Even with my mother-in-law gone, I’m struggling to put myself back together.  I’m still afraid to make plans.  And I can’t keep the panic at bay anymore, not without help.  Take an imaginary stroll in my stacked heels before you judge me or how I’m choosing to get my life back.

Sorry.  I’m tired.  I’m angry.  I’m angry at my brain for, you know, not being able to DEAL.

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We’re heading into summer soon.  I want to have a nice summer.  I want to go to Maine like we do every July and not be a panicky mess.  I want to take day trips to Salem and New Bedford.  I want to go to my annual Database Nerd conference and be a poised, knowledgeable nerd.  I want to be someone that Coombsie doesn’t have to walk on eggshells around. And damn it, I got Walker Stalker Con to go to.  The Governor is going to be there.  No, not Charlie Baker, because fuck that guy.  THE GOVERNOR.

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So, here’s hoping I’m going to stomp this down for a while.  Pass the Trazodone.

In which I manage to NOT make an ass of myself in front of Peter Murphy

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I have spent decades now listening to Peter Murphy.  Bauhaus, and his solo material, was the absolute PERFECT soundtrack for a theatre major with gloomy tendencies.  I would listen to “The Three Shadows” (from The Sky’s Gone Out) and giggle with the glee that only comes from someone who’s been raised on a steady diet of old horror movies (thanks, Ma).  I immediately related to the inherent humor of the Bauhaus catalog, as well as to the aesthetic.  And in Peter Murphy I saw nearly every Shakespeare protagonist AND antagonist.  He was Richard III, prowling menacingly.  He was Puck, mischievous and mincing.  I was completely and totally enamored of the whole thing.

I bought a huge Bauhaus poster which was kind of a centerpiece for my dorm room.  I still own it; it’s a bit battered but holds a similar place of honor in my band’s practice space.  It has amused my bandmates for a while now.

 

I’ve seen him countless times since 1990.  He brings that command every single time.  And that voice.  My God.  Sonorous and deep and unbelievable.  I never get tired of it, ever.  And so when I learned of his Stripped tour, and the Boston date, I immediately bought tickets.  Like, no question.  BUT.  I also learned that for an extra bit of cash, one could arrange to meet Mr. Murphy, talk to him, have his undivided attention for a bit of time.

I felt a little squicky about paying extra for the “VIP” thing.  Part of me thinks it’s sort of pretentious, and part of me just wishes that I could talk to someone like Peter Murphy based on my own achievements.  You know, if I’d done something more with music or my writing so I could be a celebrity in my own right or something.  Which is also pretentious.

Ultimately I had to ask myself: “If you have both the means and the opportunity, why WOULDN’T you do it?”  And I also thought about David Bowie, and how he was now unavailable in human form, and – again – if you are presented with an opportunity to THANK someone for helping you navigate through all manner of problems AND causes for celebration, wouldn’t you do it?  I decided I would.

Now, the big problem that faced me once I made that decision was how I was going to hold it together when meeting him.  We ALL know about the Howard Jones Fiasco Of 2015 by now (and if you don’t, you can read all about it here).  If I erupted into uncontrollable sobbing while meeting Howard Jones, what would possibly transpire while meeting Peter Murphy, a much larger influence?  I consulted friends, particularly those who knew me when I was at Peak Freakishness (’88-’92).  A sampling of responses:

John W.:  You will need valium.
Katie D.:   Dude. If you don’t cough up the $$ to look God Himself in the face and touch His splendor, Acid Puppet* will be very disappointed.

I was bound and determined to NOT explode into alternating paroxysms of sobbing and giggling.  I was going to try and be my Usual Charming Self™ and hope for the best.

Unless he was mean to me.  Would he be mean to me?  I’m not as committed a goth as I used to be.  I’m 45.  I work as a database administrator.  I dress in what would probably be described as a fruit salad of vintage, business, and art teacher attire.  My complexion is just as pale as ever, though, so there’s that.  But would he just eye me up and down and decide I was some sort of old-ass poseur?  I fretted and obsessed to the point where Coombsie said, “Peter Murphy poops like everyone else.  Also – you’re paying money to meet him.  HE’S GOING TO BE NICE TO YOU.”

The show itself was, of course, fantastic.  In fact, I think this was the best I’ve seen him.  But as it got closer and closer to the end of the show, I started kind of squirming.  It didn’t help that there were a couple of Committed Goths™ behind me snarking about how so many people in the audience looked like “they were social workers and shit.”  Well, database administrator actually, but I suppose that’s just as dull.  And I was going to Peter Murphy shows before you were even born, so…eat my (not black velvet) shorts.  I guess.  I’m feeling bad enough, ladies.

But in the end, I got to go upstairs with the tour manager, and two other women who paid for VIP passes (Anne and Gwen).  Anne very much looked the part of Committed Goth™, and Gwen looked like someone I would work with.  The manager instructed us to have a seat in this little…balcony alcove thing, and that Peter would “be with you shortly.”

Peter will be with you.  Amen.

I pulled out my vinyl copy of Peter’s first solo album.  Gwen’s eyes widened.  “Oh my God, where did you get THAT?”

“I, um, bought it.  When I was a teenager.”

Anne turned to us.  “So let me ask you – how did you know about this?  The VIP thing, I mean.”

“Oh, um, well…I saw it on his Facebook page.  I actually agonized over whether or not to do it.”

Anne said, “I only found out about it TODAY.  And I was like…okay…this is going to sound crazy, but the David Bowie dying thing made me realize – and not that I’m saying Peter’s gonna die soon – that I should do this.”

“Oh, my God, yes….I thought the SAME THING.”

And then there he was.  Peter Murphy.  “HELLOOOOO.  Let me kiss you all!”

What.  WHAT.  I…

He embraced Anne, kissing both cheeks.  Then it was my turn.  OH GOD.  Then he kissed and hugged Gwen.

Anne gave him some artwork she’d made for him.  He seemed pleased.  I put my album on the table for him to sign.

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He assessed me, my outfit.  “LOOK at you, darling!  Look at this TWEED!  Fantastic!”

From there it was babbling.  But good babbling, and a lot of it from him.  “How did it sound out there?  Oh, this place is wonderful.  It sounded wonderful onstage.  They’re great here.  You’re Irish, aren’t you?  My father was Irish. You have an Irish face.”  He then began speaking in a fake brogue to me.  “Are ye married?  Have ye any babbies?”

“Um, no.”

“AH, well, you’re young still, ye are.”

“I’m in my forties, though.”

“WELL NOW, you could STILL have ‘em.  I mean, it would be HARD, but…” he trailed off.  It was exactly the sort of weird improvised conversation I would have had with my theatre major friends.  It was amazing.

“Your hair, though.  I’ve been admiring it.  The color.  Take off the hat, would you?”  I obliged, even though I knew I would have hat hair, because PETER FUCKING MURPHY.  “Oh, that’s lovely.  I wanted to do just that, you know.  The two-tone.  But it washed me out, you know?  I would have to wear twice as much base because I was so pale.”  He patted my head.  “Beautiful.  Love it.  Love your whole look.  Now then – pictures!  I want a picture with all of you beautiful ladies.  I’m married.  I live like a monk, you know.”

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And then it was nearly over.  I gave him a big hug, and said, “Thank you…for everything.”

I DIDN’T CRY.  I DIDN’T PEE.  I’m terribly proud of myself.  It more than made up for the Howard Jones thing.

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* – “Acid Puppet” was this weird art puppet thing that my roommate Katie and I bought at the Rattlesnake Festival one year. It was so freaky that we named it, well, Acid Puppet, and whenever I’d go to Katie’s parents’ house in Orlando, I’d bring it along just to torment her little sister:  “SUUUUUUUUSSSSANNNN.  It’s AAAAACID PUPPET.”  I was 20 years old, btdubs.

An Open Letter To Open Letter Writers

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I think it’s my turn now, right?  I’m 45.

Listen. I struggled. Nobody knows how I struggled.

I spent my early twenties in a riot of part-time jobs, “underground” theatre, and literature classes and the whole period reeks of skunky Rolling Rocks, unwashed flannel, and ennui.

What was minimum wage back then? Fuck if I know. I was drunk.

When I got my MFA (in Creative Writing; my BA’s in Theatre – I win for racking up the most non-lucrative degrees), and had to deal with Sallie Mae for the first time, I looked at the debt I’d accrued, did some mental calculating, and figured I’d be done paying my loans in about 20 years. It was horrifying. It was depressing. So I probably got scuttered and went home with a bass player. That’s what you did BACK IN MY DAY.

I’m not going to scold Talia, or Stefanie, or Sara Lynn (but I will give props to her outstanding eyebrow game). I’m 45. I carry tweezers in every goddamn bag I own. And those tweezers aren’t for MY eyebrow game, I’ll tell you that much. The other day I had a hot flash so bad I had to roll down the window and stick my head out of it like a Golden Retriever. Everyone’s got shit.

Now get off my lawn.

Limping along…

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Well, I haven’t written anything here since November. That’s pretty terrible.

I have been entirely too much in my feelings since October. I’m still putting on a good show on Facebook, where it’s fairly easy to compartmentalize and show only what you want people to see. The fact is that I have been battling a pretty ugly bout of depression for the last 3+ months.

Depression lives deep inside me at all times, kind of the way the chicken pox virus camps out near your spinal column. It never totally goes away. Like Churchill’s “black dog,” it slumbers until something rousts it, and it lurches out, yowling and slobbering, and right now it’s taking massive amounts of my energy to take it for a walk and put it back in its crate.

It’s situational, for the most part, and while the circumstances that brought it on are largely resolving themselves, I still have days where I feel like a discarded Dunkin’ Donuts cup in a dirty snowbank.

That’s about as much analogy as I can muster right now. But that was pretty good, right?

So, since the developments last fall which left me emotionally upended, I’m slowly but surely doing everything I’m supposed to. Reaching out, cultivating some really solid friendships with amazing women, staying sober, checking in with the therapist and the psych nurse…and mmmaybe buying crap I don’t need here and there. Fuck it – I spent my bonus this year on totally responsible, adult purchases (a winter coat that practically doubles as a sleeping bag, and Bean boots); I can buy this utterly ridiculous dress that I fully intend to wear at my band’s next gig:

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Even though it’s a sweater dress, and sweater dresses look good on NO ONE, I am going to wear the shit out of this. I DON’T CARE.

And I suppose I need to start writing again.

A Requiem For “Cute”

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I had a hot flash on the Green Line a couple of nights ago.

I say this because I need to own it. A hot flash. Like – sweat pouring down my back, face on fire, felt like I was gonna hurl – hot flash.

I don’t get them often. I’m not full-blown menopausal…yet. But I’m pushing it, you know? I’m 45. Things are dropping, drooping, and drying out. Also, now, evidently, heating up, although not in a way that I at all enjoy.

I’ve been joking about the chin hairs for a while now. I have a pair of tweezers in every handbag I own. But with the introduction of hot flashes into my world, it’s time to admit that I am not a young, cute thing anymore.

And when I say this, folks, it’s not to invite an outcry of “BUT YOU *ARE* CUTE OMG STOP!” Because listen – I am 45 years old and I left “cute” somewhere back in 2007, and even then it was getting a little threadbare. “Cute” is no longer in my wheelhouse.

When I say I’m not “cute,” I mean that I am making a conscious decision to leave it back in the early 2000s or whatever. Maybe even back in ’95, truth be told, around the time I was still wearing, like, mini-kilts and carrying a Hello Kitty backpack….to GRADUATE SCHOOL.

I was faced with my not-cuteness not too long ago, when I was introduced to one of my husband’s coworkers. She was cute. I was….well, I won’t go so far as to say “matronly,” but I was rocking a semi-mature look that day. Big comfy sweater, stacked heels, tasteful jewelry. And I was feeling moderately okay about myself up until that introduction. Then I immediately felt like a dowdy, dumpy she-beast. I looked at her calf-high boots and her sassy little dress (Size 4, maybe? 6, tops?) and suddenly felt as if I’d outfitted myself in a pup tent purchased for half-off because it was the display model. And I wanted to slink away muttering “Bargon wanchi kox paa, Solo! Hoo hoo hoo hoo…

I had to ask myself WHY – when I am ordinarily so pro-body-positivity and adamant that I should not be comparing myself to other women (particularly women who are a good 10 years younger than I am, because that shit is just not fair) – I immediately start in on the self-hate. Yeah – I know it’s conditioning. It’s practically hard-wired and/or arguably some kind of Paleolithic instinct to size up another woman as “competition.” Or something.

And this is when I have to remember AAALLLLLLLLL of the times I’ve looked back at pictures of myself at various ages and remember that, at every age, I thought of myself as a monster. 13. 15. 18. 25. 36. 40. And when I look at those pictures now, I don’t see what I saw then. And it’s like, I don’t want to have to be 60, looking back on myself at 45, and doing this EXACT SAME THING ALL OVER AGAIN. I’ve spent entirely too much time saying things to myself that I would never dream of saying to my closest friends. That has to stop.

But let’s get back to “cute.” I am not claiming it for myself anymore. I am not going to feel BAD because this isn’t what, or who, I am these days.

There’s a poem by Louis de Paor in which there’s a line (an cailín a bhfuil áilleacht an bhróin ina gnúis) that translates roughly to: “the girl in whose face is sorrow’s beauty.” This is something that I have claimed for myself, as DRAMATIC as I know it sounds to some people. But fuck it; this is what has replaced “cute” for me. It has rung particularly truthful in the past few years, as crisis after crisis has knocked me on my ass. For a time I was looking at myself in the mirror and thinking how HAGGARD I looked. I’m not haggard; I am goddamned beautiful from sorrow and stress and uncertainty. Radiant, even.

But cute? No. And that’s okay.

My (heretofore unlikely) friend

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It started, I think, with a stupid tweet about her last name. I think I asked her why, in an environment where the men always have the upper hand, was her last name hyphenated? Shouldn’t her mother, Shirley Phelps-Roper, exhibit submission to her husband in all things?

I was tweeting to Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Fred Phelps and the social media “voice” of the Westboro Baptist Church (you know – the “God Hates Fags” folks).

I don’t even know what compelled me to come up with this. I’d been reading her Twitter page for some time and was simultaneously outraged and fascinated. I knew I wasn’t up to the task of arguing scripture with her; I’d watched the WBC in action enough to know that they had biblical justification for EVERYTHING they did, and having not been quite so immersed in bible study as the Phelpses, despite 12+ years of Catholic education (which they would have sneered at anyway, because – sigh – “Catholics aren’t Christians”), I couldn’t whip out chapter-and-verse from memory the way Megan could. This was a girl who had a KJV app on her phone. You simply couldn’t shout “BUT WHAT ABOUT JOHN 3:16?!” at any member of the WBC; they’d know then that you hadn’t read beyond that verse, and were therefore biblically ig’nant (“…he that believeth not is condemned already.”). And on that point, they were pretty much correct. Let me tell you all right now: most people cannot, and should not, go to the mat with the WBC in terms of the bible; it’s like walking into the annual James Joyce Conference having only glanced through the Cliff Notes of Ulysses.

Despite what people believe about the Phelpses (that they’re a group of backwater, inbred imbeciles), the fact is that they are a shrewd, very well educated lot. And despite the persistent rumors that they’re actually running some kind of elaborate scam, making all of their money by suing counter protestors, the adults in the church are gainfully employed (mostly in law or medicine), and are expected to contribute a certain percentage of their income back into the church. It should also go without saying that they’re not a decades-long performance art piece funded by the Democrats in order to make Christians look bad. None of these rumors are true.

Anyway – I’d read her tweets and sputter and fume and try to find SOME way of getting at her. I was not one for ad hominem attacks; as horrifying as I found the WBC, to call them names seemed counter-intuitive, seeing as part of what was so horrible about them was the way they flung the word “fag” around. And at any rate it didn’t seem to matter what anyone said to Megan; her responses were always measured, and bemused. Which of course was even more infuriating. And yet I began to harbor a grudging respect for her. I saw, in the midst of the gay-and-Jew-bashing lunacy she’d been brought up to believe, a lambent intelligence and wittiness in her. I began to think, “She is WAY too smart for this.”

And then I thought: “I really hope she gets out of this.”

I stopped picking fights with her. I was just one of countless people challenging her belief system, or mocking her, or just trying to figure out why her family did these batshit crazy things. And I went on posting bad 80’s videos and coming up with brittle bons mots like I do.

There came a point when I realized I hadn’t heard anything about her in months. Curious, I popped over to her Twitter account. Her profile picture had changed. Where it had been a shot of her sandaled foot coyly stepping on an American flag, now it appeared to be of a fence bedecked with little white lights. Her bio, which had been the usual Sturm und Drang of “USA IS DOOMED BECAUSE FAGS” found on other WBC Twitter pages, read: “You’re just a human being, my dear, sweet child.”

Huh.

Her tweets were her typical biblically-sound wisecracking up until around November 2012, at which point they stopped altogether until February. That tweet simply said “Hi,” and included a link to a short essay on Medium explaining that, after a period of crippling doubt and tremendous self-reflection, Megan and her younger sister Grace had left Westboro.

I was floored. And almost immediately, I felt compelled to send her a little message of support. I knew that at this point, she’d had no contact with her parents, siblings, and other family members still at Westboro, as it’s understood that if you leave, you are persona non grata (“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”). I couldn’t imagine how isolated and lonely that would make me feel. And I don’t even remember what I said, but she thanked me.

And so began my rebooted online relationship with Megan Phelps-Roper. I didn’t want to come off as a creeper, so I kept it light at first, until I found myself leaping to her defense when others were still railing at her. I’d send them the link to the Medium piece. Some of them would then apologize to her. I reached out to Grace as well. I told them that if they ever found themselves in Boston, they had a friend here. And somehow, they believed me. Which couldn’t have been easy for them, given that they had been raised to believe that the world outside of the WBC was evil, that those not in the church were hated by God and not to be trusted. And here I was, a 40-something former Catholic who was maybe still praying the Rosary now and then (it SOOTHES me, okay?!), who had a “gay boyfriend” and enjoyed all manner of filthy entertainment, saying “Come on over! I’ll bake a pie!”

I mean…

Suddenly, it seemed that Megan and I were actually friends. Like – she has my cellphone #/knows personal bidness about me/drops me a line to check on me if I tweet something depressing. Friends.

I dug through bins in my dark, dank basement looking for a paper I’d written in graduate school about Emily Dickinson’s influence on Marilynne Robinson (a writer we both admire) so I could scan it and email it to her. As I pulled it out and stumbled around my basement yelling “Ah HA!” – triumphant – I had to pause and reflect on how I’d gone to the trouble of doing this for someone who, not just a couple of years ago, had so confounded and enraged me. It’s hilarious. It’s utterly insane. It’s amazing. Friends.

I find myself checking in on her like a meddling auntie – Are you okay? Don’t be sad. Well, BE sad, but be hopeful. When are you coming to visit? – like she doesn’t have people in her own family (those who’ve also left WBC, as well as those on her dad’s side of the family that she’s now connecting with) to do this for her. But I feel compelled nonetheless. I see the things that some people still say to her, and I cringe. She is, of course, an adult, and certainly “used to” the verbal assault by now, but it cannot be easy to see, every day, the anger that still erupts from her past actions in the WBC, almost three years after leaving.

Several weeks ago, I got a message from her saying she was going to be speaking in town, and could we meet up? After a lot of back-and-forth and juggling of calendars and such, we finally were able to meet for dinner (as an added bonus, I also got to meet the very lovely, and very ripped, Lauren Drain). We spent a good few hours laughing. Laughing about some of the more absurd signs the WBC has produced (my personal favorite is “Bitch Burger,” which Lauren and Megan found hilarious). Laughing about not knowing how to pronounce half of the stuff on the menu. Laughing like a group of people who’d found some common ground, and were just genuinely enjoying one another’s company.

But there were some tough moments, too. What strikes me now about my friendship with Megan is how we both came out of dependencies which had us painting ourselves into corners. We both had to come to terms with how something that had provided a means of coping, and a way to define ourselves, had ceased to work. For me, it was alcohol. For Megan, it was the WBC. Not knowing how else to maneuver through our lives without these things, we remained stuck, and fearful. And when something becomes too painful, you have to make a leap of faith that you can move forward, and then make the move.

Of course, my quitting drinking didn’t result in my family never speaking to me again; I don’t want to make light of the very real sacrifices Megan, and the others who have left, have had to make in order to do the right thing. But the other thing we spoke at length about was gratitude. Megan has learned that people outside of the WBC are not evil, that many in fact have been unfailingly kind and generous. And even with the daily pangs of missing her parents and siblings and friends who remain in the church, her life is largely one of enormous opportunity. She travels. She has a boyfriend whom she absolutely adores. She is incandescent with possibility. And she is grateful.

The easiest route to take sometimes is one of outright dismissal. A lesson that my father has repeatedly imparted on me and my siblings is this: “Consider the source.” And I get that the majority of people reading this don’t feel they particularly need to do this when it comes to the Phelpses, the Drains, the Hockenbargers, and the others who make up the WBC’s membership. That’s understandable. The protests, the signs, the indoctrination – these are indescribably awful to those of us who weren’t born into this and can’t for the life of us imagine how it’s in any way good or right. And it isn’t good or right, but yet that’s what they believe. What they’ve been taught from birth to believe. And that’s something I’ve frequently said about the WBC: “They’re not EVIL; they’re FRIGHTENED.” And fear can make one do some pretty – well – batshit crazy things.

Sometimes I send a tweet or two to Shirley, Megan’s mother. I’m always polite, the way one is with a friend’s mom, even though I completely disagree with her church’s doctrine. I know that someone who’s raised a person as frigging delightful as Megan simply cannot be a terrible person. I’d like to think that someday I’ll get to meet Shirley, too. In an interesting moment at dinner, Lauren looked at me, then looked at Megan, and said, “Your mom would TOTALLY get along with Lisa.” I didn’t find that insulting in the least. And if I do get to meet her, I would tell her that as far as Proverbs 22:6 goes (“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”), here – in Megan – is no failure.

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Semi-manageable funk gonna give it to ya.

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I’ve spent the last couple of months in what I can only call a “semi-manageable funk.” Depression and anxiety have been my lifelong companions, and yet it’s always such an unpleasant surprise when they suddenly team up and give me a beatdown behind the school. They’ve taken my lunch money AND my Game Boy, psychologically speaking.

A large part of it is situational. But the situation has unleashed the neurochemical beasties that I mostly try to keep padlocked in the cellar, kind of like Deadite Henrietta in “Evil Dead II.”

ed2-henriettamonster1I’m managing. I’m taking my medication dutifully and as prescribed. I’m seeing my therapist a bit more often, and staying away from the garbage food as best I can. But I’m living in a sort of perpetual state of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s just that at this point, so many fucking shoes have dropped I may as well be living in a DSW.

I have this recurring dream when I’m in this state. I’m in college, there’s like one day left before I go home for the summer, and I haven’t packed up my shit. My roommate has everything organized and ready to go into storage, and my stuff is EVERYWHERE. I have no boxes. I’m sitting in the middle of piles of clothes and records and I KNOW that I’ve got to deal with this, but instead I just sort of poke around, getting more and more panicked.

I had the dream again last night, only this time I was also coloring my hair and was walking around the room with a glopped-up head, wondering why I’d done this since I only just went to the salon the day before (which was true, in my waking life) and thinking that Daryl, my colorist, was going to be RIPSHIT. And then the fire alarm went off, and I started frantically searching for a shower cap amidst all of my CRAP so I wouldn’t have to face everyone in the dorm looking like I had a freshly-slaughtered bunny rabbit on my head. Then I woke up.

So, yeah, you can maybe sort of comprehend my mental state right now.

Understand – I’m posting this as a way of “checking in.” I’m not looking for pity, sympathy, or platitudes. ESPECIALLY that last one. I’m doing what I can, and what I need to do, to navigate through this, rather than around. It’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before; it’s just that I’m allowing myself to NOT pretend I’m Miss Jolly Rancher, impervious to the slings and arrows my own brain is producing as some kind of back-asswards means of coping with what’s going on around me. I was the class clown long enough to know that while this is a marvelous means of getting people to want to be around you, it leaves you high and dry when the jokes can’t write themselves.

Here’s what I’d like – for the Universe or whatever to cool its jets for at least a week and stop dropping these suckass bombs in my lap so I can at least enjoy the fact that it’s almost Halloween. That’s probably a tall and unrealistic order. Things will happen as they happen, with no regard for me, my feelings, or my pesky little control issues.

But it’s almost Halloween. There’s that.

Love & Anger

0

In the year-plus since my mother-in-law was moved to a memory care center, we’ve been kind of…giddy…I guess you’d say. We’re certainly not happy that her Alzheimer’s has brought her, and us, to this stage. But now that we are no longer in charge of her daily care, we’re experiencing this sense of “WE MUST DO ALL OF THE THINGS!” Because we spent so much time having to turn down invitations, or scheduling any outings well in advance so as to make sure that family members could fill in for us, everything is suddenly POSSIBLE, and so we’re giddy with all of the possibility.

Just in the last couple of weeks we’ve been to King Richard’s Faire, to a family BBQ, to the theatre with friends, and to Maine. Which maybe doesn’t sound like a lot to most people, but when you’ve spent most of your evenings and weekends pretty much completely housebound, getting to do two things in the same week is an embarrassment of riches.

The problem with this is the effect it’s having on our cats (Foot Foot and Mephisto, also known as “The Assholes”). They have grown quite used to having us around all of the time. And they’re NEEDY. You would not think this, as cats have the reputation of giving no fucks about the people with whom they live. The Assholes are not like this. We rescued them as ferals, and “socialized” them to the point where they are psychotically devoted to us (well, in point of fact Foot Foot is psychotically devoted to Kevin, and Mephisto is psychotically devoted to me). They greet us at the door, they hit and headbutt us when we are not paying sufficient attention to them, and they engage in unprecedented displays of assholishness when displeased.

The Assholes

The Assholes

So we’ve been out a lot lately, and this displeases them.

We went to see The Decemberists the other night. They were playing at a venue out in the “Waterfront District” of Boston (an area which used to be pretty bleak and remote until it was determined that it was the New! Hip! place to live in recent years, and has been developed accordingly). We dickered somewhat on transportation. We both work in town, sort of in-between Back Bay and the South End, so a trip to what used to be known as just Southie (which is NOT the same as the South End, so don’t get those confused if you find yourself visiting here, folks) is something to be strategized. We reckoned that we could leave the car where we usually park (the garage under the Christian Science mother church), walk to the Back Bay Orange Line stop, take the Orange Line to the Red Line, get off at South Station, and have a pleasant stroll down to the Pavilion. A mile-and-a-half stroll, to be exact. But whatever – we’re healthy, it was a nice evening, so this is what we did, rather than drive to the lot across from the Pavilion.

Have you seen The Decemberists? They’re really good, and as my family in Montana likes to remind us, Colin Meloy is from Helena. They’re really good, and they play for a long time. Like, a good dozen songs from the outset, and two encores. Awesome!

Two things kept me from completely enjoying myself. One – I had contracted the gack which had been going around my department for days prior to the event. I had begun to expectorate like an opened fire hydrant, and was getting hoarse and chilled. Two – we had been away from the house, and The Assholes, for well over 12 hours. As the set went on, I felt myself getting more and more sick, and more and more concerned about The Assholes. And when I say “concerned about The Assholes,” I mean “concerned about what The Assholes are doing to express their displeasure at us.”

The Decemberists premiered a new song! I thought, “This is so good! I love them! I wonder what The Assholes are doing!”

Colin Meloy made a joke about Donald Trump! I thought, “He’s so funny! I bet we both shopped for Christmas presents for our grandparents at Hennessy’s! I practically KNOW HIM! The Assholes are probably SO MAD at us!”

They played The Rake’s Song! I thought, “Oh, wow! So many DRUMS! The stage lighting is all RED! That’s what The Assholes are feeling right now! RED, RED RAGE!”

By the time the show concluded, it was almost 11pm. If we’d parked right across the street, we probably could’ve been home by 11:30. But we had to walk back to South Station, wait for a train, then wait for ANOTHER train, and then walk to the garage under the Christian Science mother church. We didn’t get home until 12:30…..some 17 hours after we’d left the house, and The Assholes. As we got out of the car, I said, “They are going to be SO MAD. So, SO mad.”

“Yeah. They are.”

They were practically right at the door when we opened it. Mephisto looked wild with righteous indignation. Foot Foot glowered. I promptly rushed into the kitchen to fill their bowls, and chattered and cooed, saying, “I KNOW we were gone a very long time, but I TOLD YOU THIS when I left this morning.” I left them eating, and went into the bedroom to change.

And that’s when I saw them. Two perfectly-formed, perfectly-placed turds on my side of the bed, just under my pillow.

It could have been either one of them. But I’m going to guess it was Mephisto.

Assholes.

—————

Hey! So one of the things I did a few weeks ago was go to this software conference I go to every year. We have a band where we play covers, only we rewrite them so they’re about the software. That’s me on drums.

I didn’t suck nearly as bad as I thought, and The Assholes didn’t poop on anything when I got back, but that’s because Kevin was home with them.

“Masshole.”

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Here in Massachusetts, some of us are celebrating the fact that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has seen fit to make “Masshole” an official word:

Masshole Syllabification: Mass·hole

Pronunciation: /ˈmasˌhōl/

noun

US vulgar slang

A contemptuous term for a native or inhabitant of the state of Massachusetts.

Now, I have a problem with this notion that this is a “contemptuous term.”  Perhaps outside of the Commonwealth, it’s used contemptuously.  Around here?  It’s a badge’a fahkin’ HONAH, kehd.

Further, I feel like it’s much better explained with visuals.  I’ve started a few:

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index
They really should’ve asked me first, that OED.