When I was in high school I got into a lot of trouble. I was young, immature, and doing stupid stuff all the time. I was in detention a lot, mostly for being out of uniform because I wore combat boots with my plaid uniform skirt and I always wore black socks instead of navy blue or my shirt was pulled out just a little too far so it could be considered untucked. I didn’t really mind detention because it was a place to get all of my homework done in peace and quiet. The one detention I am proud of was for throwing another girl up against the lockers. Now I know this is probably not something most people would be proud of, but to me, then, and now, it still is.
I threw that girl up against the lockers because she walked up to my friend after religion class where my friend had just asked us to pray for her cat who had been run over by a car and whispered in her ear “I ran over your cat”. To this day, I do not remember that bully’s name or why she would say something like this to my friend, but in that moment my reaction to someone hurting my friend was to throw her into the lockers. I served my detention for fighting in school. Sometimes people just need to be shaken and told that it’s not okay to say mean things to other people.
Years later I still have this kind of loyalty to my friends. Years later I am also still the one a lot of people look at twice because I wear Doc Martens with my jeans or my sleeveless band t-shirts to the gym. And most importantly, years later I still don’t care what other people think about me. I like me. If other people like me, that’s great, but if they don’t, I’m okay with that too. Just keep it to yourself. It’s really not my business if you like me or not.
Last week a friend of mine shared a post on facebook of a picture collage of a bunch of famous people who have had mental health issues and died. It was to break the stigma attached to mental health and was a positive post. Some woman who she didn’t even know but was a friend of a friend of a friend asked her if she had mental health issues in a comment on this post. I read it and asked myself “who does that?”
I know who does that. It’s the same people who call me weird because they don’t understand why a middle aged woman still loves punk rock and wears doc martens with her jeans. It’s the same people who think that their worth as a person is based on how much money they make or what kind of car they drive. It’s the same people who are not okay enough with themselves to just be themselves, flaws and all. My favorite parts of people are their scars and their imperfections because that is what makes them truly unique.
My dad has a scar on his forehead where he went through the windshield of his car when he crashed racing to be at his friend’s side after his father died. I loved hearing that story growing up, not because my dad was hurt but because he was going to be with his friend who needed him. That story taught me how being loyal to a friend in need is important. I was driving to the hospital to see a friend who needed me over the weekend when my phone rang and my friend who posted the facebook post asked if I knew who this woman was who commented. Apparently the bully and I went to high school together. It would be really funny if it was the same bully who picked on my friend years ago, but it wasn’t. It was just another mean girl who grew up to be a mean woman and bully people on the internet. In that moment I did the same thing I did as a teenager, but instead of throwing a girl into the lockers I commented back to her on facebook and asked her if she had Asperger’s Syndrome. If she does I can totally understand why she asked the question and she would have gotten a pass. That wasn’t very nice of me either, but sometimes people need to be shaken and told that it’s not okay to be mean on the internet and attack people publicly. My husband has commented that it’s possible that both my father and I have Asperger’s Syndrome because we don’t pick up on social cues and focus on what we are interested in very intensely. Personally, I think we are both just sarcastic assholes who are loyal to our friends. She never responded and she deleted her comment so mine went away with it.
I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom…
I would consider myself a kind person. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes before I open my mouth and I know that everybody has their own stuff that they are going through but that woman just really needed someone to put her in her place and I don’t mind being that person every now and then. Yes I was being childish too, but sometimes my emotions get the best of me. I had just been in a situation the day before where some people were passing judgement on me for dressing like an angsty teenager when they don’t know me as a person at all. I am still sometimes an angsty teenager and that is what makes me unique.
I thought my days of detention were over years ago, but alas they are not. My husband put me in detention after I told him this story. I guess sometimes when you act like a teenager so much you better accept being treated like one sometimes. Hey at least I got some writing done in my detention!
**I wrote this story while drinking lots of coffee and listening to The Interrupters “Fight the Good Fight”
When my husband and I were first married we lived in a little house in a neighborhood that was headed into economic hardship. We lived directly across the street from a condo complex that included government subsidized housing. There lived little old ladies, single moms with gaggles of small children and our favorite resident who we called “Cracky”. She was a middle aged woman who rarely left her front porch but had many visitors. She spent most days – both warm and cold – sitting in her front yard with a tumbler full of booze in her right hand and a cigarette in her left. Mullet and mustache sporting men moved in and out monthly, some leaving in handcuffs and at least one in a body bag.
Cracky was a regular source of entertainment for us during our first few years of marriage. We watched as she drank her days away, hosting parties with loud classic rock blaring from her front windows. We had little choice in watching her antics since she was always louder than our TV and there were always some form of lights or fireworks illuminating the front of her home. When we heard sirens in the neighborhood, there was never a question of where they were headed. We saw at least three bodies removed from the house in black bags, mostly by ambulances, but one in an unmarked minivan. I had no idea the coroner’s office employed outside contractors. Maybe she found a discount service.
She had a grown son who lived with her on and off. One day we watched him pack a bunch of camping equipment and head into the complex. We saw him return every so often after that, but he never stayed long. We made up stories about him moving to the woods and living off the grid in pure paranoid stoner fashion. We were pretty sure he only came home once a month to bathe.
A lot of hard work and a little entertainment
Occasionally Cracky got social while drinking on her porch. She came across the street to chat with my husband and dad as they installed a paver walkway from the driveway to the porch one morning. My dad commented that he thought she was drunk at 10 am. He didn’t know Cracky like we did – she had been loaded since half past 8. She spent twenty minutes hitting on my dad while my husband tried to ignore there was a drunken, half-clad woman tripping all over our yard. I think she finally noticed my dad’s wedding band or her drink was running low because she headed home pretty quickly. Later that day our neighbor told us how he had woken up from a nap one day and she was swimming in his pool – uninvited. I made a mental note to lock our gate.
She returned the following summer when we had a garage sale and offered me a nickel for every item for sale, even a leather jacket with a $10 neon orange price tag attached to the lapel. I offered her a nickel if she would remove herself from my driveway and stop scaring off potential customers. It was again before 10 am and she could barely keep her body above her dollar store flip flops. That was the first and last garage sale we even had.
We once put a couch at the curb that had seen better days. I don’t know when those better days were since it had passed through at least four houses before finding it’s way to our basement. It was worn and ugly and had been around the block more times than the ice cream truck. It sat at our curb for approximately 10 seconds before Cracky recruited her son and another dude from inside her house to drag the entire sectional across the street. Apparently a twelve year old couch is cause for a celebration. The couch sat in the center of her front yard as party guests arrived over the course of the afternoon. A bonfire was lit, the coolers were opened and we heard several very out of tune guitars playing “Smoke on the Water” until the sun came up the following morning. We thought the party was over, but apparently a white trash celebration over a dumpster find lasts longer than a Hindu death ritual. Luckily the last guitar string broke within the first day and they resorted to the classic rock radio station for their listening entertainment. It took a summer thunder storm to break up the party. We watched as the guests stumbled over themselves trying to drag the soaking wet piece of furniture into the house without spilling their beers. A few weeks later I came home to see the couch sitting in Cracky’s front yard. This time it was closer to the sidewalk with a giant sign on the front that read “FOR SALE”. I guess she had to pay for her Five O’clock Vodka and Marlboros somehow. I walked over and offered her a nickel.
It’s been awhile since we have moved from that old neighborhood, but I like to think that Cracky is still sitting on her porch, drink in hand, listening to some Sabbath. I’m guessing she is slinking around today, swimming in some poor sap’s pool while they are at work and digging through their garbage for little trinkets to sell to passersby on her sidewalk. I have yet to find a neighbor even half as colorful as Cracky in our new neighborhood.
This is my brutally honest face…
People who know me know that I tend to be pretty direct. I don’t beat around the bush. This is either a gift or a curse, depending on how you look at it. I like to think of it as a gift. This is probably because I don’t really care much about what people think of me. I have what you would call a healthy ego. If I was worried about pissing people off and them disliking me, it would certainly be a curse. It’s not that I want to hurt people’s feelings, I am just pretty comfortable with the truth, even when it sucks. I would rather hear the truth, even if it stings a little. I would also rather give the truth than blow smoke up someone’s ass. So if you are going to ask me a question, you better be prepared to hear the answer. And that answer will not be coated in sugar or decked out in glitter.
I come by it naturally. My Dad also speaks his mind. The difference is that my Dad is generally likeable. I, on the other hand, am an acquired taste. He also speaks the truth but does it in a kind way and usually with humor. He may not sugar coat it, but it is at least wrapped in a pretty package. Then there is my Mom, who never wants to hurt anyone’s feelings and is cautious with her words. You would think I would have learned a little something growing up in a house with these two but apparently I am pretty hard headed. Tact has never been my strong suit.
Does this mirror make my butt look fat?
The thing is, most people know the answer before they ask a question. I have never asked my husband if my pants make my ass look fat. I own a mirror and I know when my ass looks fat and when it doesn’t. The culprit is rarely the pants. It’s normally the bag of cookies and repeatedly skipping out on the gym. Regardless of the reason, the question did not need to be asked. I don’t ask these questions mostly because I am just going to end up mad at my husband for lying to me when I catch a glimpse of myself in a window later that day. These are the questions that also get me into trouble when I am asked. My answer to this question is almost always “it’s not the pants’ fault. Your ass is fat”. This is not a popular answer. The problem is this is a question that people ask, but they don’t really want a truthful answer. Sorry, I am comfortable with the truth even if you aren’t. Don’t ask me a question if you are trying to reassure yourself about something we both know is false. I am just not nice enough to lie to you. Seriously, I won’t do it.
The term for someone who doesn’t pull any punches is a Dutch uncle. The first time I heard this term I had to read it twice. Even after looking at it again I still saw “oven”. My brain really does belong to a fourteen year old boy. Uncle or oven of the Dutch variety both seem to be pretty unwelcome. Both may also leave you gasping. There is no equivalent female terminology. I guess the consensus is that women aren’t so ruthless. I guess they haven’t heard enough truth bombs from Dutch aunts.
I think everyone needs a friend like me – someone who will tell you like it is even when you don’t want to hear it. I’m probably not the person to talk to if you are fishing for a compliment or looking for affirmation that you can do something that we both know you can’t. Don’t ask me if you should sign up to bake cookies for your kid’s bake sale the week after you gave your mother-in-law food poisoning. I’m not the right person to come to if you want to know if cutting your bangs was a good idea after you already did it. We both know that’s never a good idea. But if you want to know if you should date the guy who lives in his mom’s basement, ask away. If you need to know if getting a tattoo of the “artwork” your kid drew is a good idea, I’m just the Dutch uncle to ask!
In honor of this last day of black history month this post was written with the help of Fishbone playing very loudly in my office.