When we were kids our great-aunt Olly used to give my sister and me a roll of dimes and a pack of granny panties every Christmas. They were so enormous that we’d pull them up to our necks and pretend they were strapless leotards while we mimicked the dancers on Fame.”
– Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy
I posted a couple #throwbackthursday photos on Instagram the other day, that’s the only reason I can think of to explain why this memory reentered my consciousness.
Names have been changed.
One morning when I was in seventh grade, there was an influx of rumors that my friend Stacy got fingerbanged by another notoriously surly girl Agnes at Roller Palace over the weekend. It was seventh grade, Roller Palace was dark as shit and it had an abundance of 1970s plywood booths, so this seemed plausible.
Me, being the socially unaware dipshit that I am, decided to inquire about this the second I had an opportunity, which was at lunch over chicken nuggets and milk in front of a lunch table full of tweens.
Now, to the extreme credit of Stacy, I don’t remember her or anyone else saying a damn thing. I think we just moved on. Justifiably as soon as I booted up AOL at 3PM, I got greeted with an IM from Stacy who was pissed as shit.
Stacy threatened to send me to peer mediation for spreading rumors about her and Agnes.
I would cut a bitch for the chance to relive this experience as a 27 year old. You’re going to call our middle school guidance counselor, and divulge that you may or may not have engaged in lesbian finger banging in a roller rink?
At the time this was the most frightened of anything I had ever been. I thought our peer mediation session would somehow end up on my permanent record. I’d be doomed to spend life begging for change with a cardboard-scrap sign in Chinatown. So I just apologized profusely, probably in chat speak and begged for my freedom.
For years I felt awful about the situation, I blamed myself for spreading a rumor about my friend and for lowering myself to bullying. But mostly I was confused as to how I was tricked into bullying someone, not in the more comprehensible manner of following the crowd, but by a complete lack of understanding of social norms, as well as more than a bit angry I got strong-armed into recanting by a possible roller rink fingerbanger.
While trying to figure out why my emotional response to this memory was injured pride and a desire to fight a twelve year old, I realized:
I NEVER SPREAD A RUMOR ABOUT HER. In fact, I did the OPPOSITE of spread a rumor, which was ask her about it to her face without malice or prejudice. Was it tactless? Yes. But it most certainly wasn’t covert or even mean spirited. It was so much of a non-event to me that someone would be fingerbanged and/or gay I didn’t think twice about inquiring point-blank, and it didn’t even occur to me anyone else would think differently. Granted this is the key skill involved in not being a douchebag, but it is also the key lack of skill involved in being a child. A reported lesbian fingerbanging was somewhat exciting in the same way that the staff opening the “school store” (a storage closet) on Tuesdays and letting us buy pens was exciting, it was a small departure from the everyday. The only parts I questioned were the location and the partner (and 15 years later, I still wonder.)
There is no moral in this. I am more amazed I felt bad for fifteen years for being a bully when I should have felt bad for being dumb as fuck. In another universe there could have been a learning opportunity here, where I realized I could not apply my own beliefs and levels of comfort en masse, to literally everyone around me. But, middle school. It only managed to be an experience full of anxiety and abject confusion that I learned nothing from for a decade and a half.
I was watching NatGeo where I picked up this little elaboration on the mating habits of the praying mantis: not only does the female praying mantis bite the head off the male after sex, she will sometimes do this prematurely so that the male’s death spasms will pump his sperm into her more quickly. She then feasts on his dead, headless body, not wanting to waste the source of nourishment for her eggs.
If you were born a praying mantis not only would this bitch not make you dinner, she has so little time for your shit she will decapitate you so she can use your lifeless body as a turkey baster and then eat it.
A friend once told me, two things are certain: everyone dies and everyone shits their pants. I love a good pants shitting story, because I feel they are a surefire way of sorting the men/women from the boys/girls; there are people who feign dignity either from ignorance or conceit, and there are people who from foresight or misfortune have accepted our collective fate and embraced it. I would much rather hang out with the second group of people.
The Ryan’s Steakhouse Incident
If you didn’t think a heart-warming pants-shitting tale was possible, prepare to be delighted. The Ryan’s Steakhouse Incident will make you feel closer to your partner and your steakhouse waitstaff. It is like Eat, Pray, Love with more poop.
Jo March from Little Women
To be honest, I always wanted to be Beth. Poor, lovely, helpless, blonde Beth who died before any of her less attractive qualities could be revealed. That was womanhood to me, being pretty and offending no one. But in the back of my mind Jo always stood out, because she was a writer which was what I wanted to be. As time has passed it’s become clear that if Beth is the ideal of femininity I sometimes struggle against, Jo is Leslie Knope riding on the back of a lioness holding a collection of arguments by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For all Beth’s saccharine pronouncements of love and beauty in the world, and her sacred place as the moral center of the March household, it was Jo selling her hair that moved me the most, even as a child. Jo was the only one who got shit done. While the rest of her family were running around with chickens with their heads cut off, bemoaning the financial future of the March household, Jo actually did something. She didn’t ask permission, she didn’t look for praise or sympathy, she just saw what needed to be done and did it. With that kind of drive, is it any wonder why she lacked patience for Laurie, who was a bit of a pansy anyway? Jo demonstrated a sense of self-determination I truly admired, but took years to appreciate, and taught me being viewed a stubborn, manly, bitch was more than worthwhile trade off for actual accomplishments.